Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Taking a break from blogging until April 1st. Stay healthy folks.

I own an Akebono cherry tree, and I have it planted in my front yard. During early spring, it produces flowers just like you see in the above picture. I can't wait for it to bloom. Every day, the buds on the branches become just a little more pronounced. That's how I know that spring is just around the corner.
I'm taking a blogging break until April 1st, which is the Insecure Writer's Support Group post for the month. I hope you get lots of blooms this spring coming up in your yards. I know I plan on getting to work in the yard soon. I love me some flowers.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The guy who hoarded hand sanitizer and wipes is just practicing your beloved capitalism even if it pisses you off.

This guy who has a bunch of hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes (among other things) that he intended to basically cash-in and make himself rich is being pretty much vilified online since the New York Times wrote about his money-making scheme. Now, he's stuck with all of his product because Amazon, Ebay, and other outlets banned him from price-gouging online. Interesting turn of events, right?

The thing is, I'm seeing another issue at play here. The American dream has shifted, folks, and what it has morphed into is not the same as it was for generations past. Now, Americans of all shapes and colors basically want lives of leisure and play. And play is basically five things: vacation with new experiences, eating good food, having sex, maybe raising kids, and learning/participating in art. That's it. That's what the American dream do that ALL of the time, every day, forever. I gotta actually sounds really nice. Especially if you can accomplish that early and just sail into old age doing that on and on and on forever until you drop dead.

But here's the rub: it takes a ton of money in our modern world to live that life of leisure, especially if you want all the "trimmings." The "trimmings" here are people who buy your groceries for you and stock your fridge, clean your home, and basically do all the crappy work like toilet work and laundry so that you can continue to be on vacation, experiencing music, having sex, doing art, learning, etc. And there are fewer and fewer paths that actually deliver the above to you.

The old mantra of "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "achieve the American dream" by yourself, doesn't work for anyone anymore. All of the good ideas for businesses have been taken. The people who have examples like, "My grandpa was self-made because he saw a need for furnace filters back in the day when they invented furnaces, and he met that need." Well...duh...thanks, Captain Obvious. But those opportunities have long since dried up. If a man were to make furnace filters today, he'd die poor because you can't compete. It takes something like Covid 19 to crush everything to death to create a "need" so that someone like the above guy can actually achieve the American dream. And then everyone accused him of price-gouging, which (to be truthful) is fair but that's just capitalism, and now he's screwed with a bunch of product he's going to have difficulty unloading.

The Covid-19 outbreak is remarkable in so many ways. Yes, it shows the weaknesses and shortcomings of preparedness as well as the fragility of our economic and supply chain. But it is also a fantastic way to see how truly impossible it is for people to get that "American dream" and live a life of leisure where you eat grapes while someone is fanning you in an exotic location while still in possession of your youth. To make the kinds of millions that would facilitate that lifestyle is incredibly difficult and nigh impossible for many folks until an emergency comes along that creates opportunity. In fact, I'd say that true "hand over fist" money-making opportunities might only exist in an emergency these days. During regular (read as normal) times, the most creative people will only improve their financial situation marginally, buy a modest home, and still have to work until 80 to retire. In other words, they work, pay taxes, and die like everyone else. And a lot of the young folk today are saying "I ain't playing that game," even though life is totally going to kick them in the privates and force them to play the game (which is why the new generation is very anxious and depressed). Hell, I don't blame them. If I'd been told their version of the above American dream, I'd be depressed right now too. That's what terrible lies do. They create false expectations that don't meet reality and the only way to make ends meet is to become a crook.

Don't any of us think that the above guy in the picture might have gone a different route with a business if it were easy for him to do so? I'm sure he wouldn't have chosen to hoard a bunch of stuff in a crisis and then sell it for a huge margin if it weren't so obvious that this is exactly how he could make a fortune. If he could make a fortune doing something legit, he WOULD HAVE DONE just that. But there is no easy way to make a fortune that doesn't require a ton of work and a ton of luck (and yes you've got to have both). And people want easy money...that's part of the American dream too. I used to shovel driveways for $5.00 with a foot of snow. Kids these days won't even lift a finger for less than $40, and then they just roll their eyes and groan while setting their phone on the counter. "DDDDOOO I NNNNEEED TO? REALLY? Won't you just give me the money?"

Anyway, you might ask, what do I think of the above guy? I think he's scum and should be caned like they do in Singapore to people that litter. HOWEVER, in this country where every old white man has told me since I was a youngin' that, "Boy, if you know what's good for you, you'll pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop complaining, and put that nose to the grindstone and makes somethin' of yourself!" I would like to say, "Price-gouging and predatory capitalism is your creation. Let's celebrate this asshole that you created and price gouge you. Let's see how you like it. You made this bed, now sleep in it." In other words, I actually think the guy is in his right and should be allowed to take people for all they are worth. That's how the rules were set, and not by me.

Capitalism just sucks, and yes I will continue to play the game. But it especially sucks when it's hypocritical. No one likes a hypocrite. I honestly don't understand how more people don't see how hypocritical our entire system is. Sigh.

Have a nice Monday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Why do people spend so much time virtue signaling online?

If you don't know what "virtue signaling" is, I'll define it for you. Once I do, I think you'll recognize it in your own life on your social media feeds. "Virtue signaling" is an expression of moral outrage that smacks of feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others. In short, it's an attempt to show other people that you are a good person. In my own personal bubble of "friends," the act of "virtue signaling" appears very strong with those who have extreme liberal views. It makes me wonder if they have a problem with self-esteem, or if they feel like they are (in fact) not good people. The answer is probably somewhere in-between.

Still having trouble figuring out what I'm talking about with this term? Want an example? Take the good looking thirty-something man that says on Facebook, "Women please be proud of your bodies no matter how they appear. You are lovely whether you are fat or thin, white or chocolate, and in any shape or size. You are all beautiful." But then you actually know this guy and he dates only thin models or women who have smooth legs that exist nowhere in nature outside of a dolphin (and wear high heels and have long flowing hair and makeup). And yes, the same guy dates only white women. Yet he is chased after by dozens of women, because yeah...he's good movie-star good looks. He could have anyone he wants, so why not take the Lizzo look-alike? It's because what he's saying online is a hypocrisy. It is not the truth, because fat women actually don't (and never did) have a chance with him at all. It's the "do as I say, and not as I do" type of person.

I've noticed that one of the things about virtue signaling is that it actually does not require the person saying anything to live by what they preach. Additionally, the person that is engaging in "virtue signaling" generally comes across as pompous and bossy. I think most of us would want others to just privately act on one's convictions without the hope or expectation of acknowledgement. However, a lot of people in the modern world have no self-identity within themselves and depend on an external source of validation in order to obtain any kind of life happiness or satisfaction.

And I think that's the ultimate answer to the question I posed in the headline: why do people spend so much time virtue signaling online? It's because in the modern world, a lot (and I mean LOTS in all caps) of people are relying upon external validation for their self-esteem. Through virtue signaling, they get reassurance that they know what they stand for, they point out to others that they are a good person, and they (maybe) identify with a wrong that harmed them personally and are pointing it out to the world so that others avoid being damaged in the same way.

That's what I think, anyway. As to why people collectively worldwide seem to possess low self-esteem, I have only a few theories. The most prevalent one is that the Earth is extremely overcrowded (population explosion times infinity). Because of this, scarcity of resources is becoming an everyday thing as is the inability to distinguish oneself from another because anything you have to offer is a dime a dozen.

The term "spoilt for choice" comes to mind. This is a British phrase that means, roughly, that there are so many things to choose from that it becomes impossible to choose, which can create anxiety. Remember elementary school and not wanting to be the last one picked for a dodgeball team? Well society is essentially a dodgeball team on a grandiose scale. Whatever is doing the picking, whether it is for a job, for a lover, to be a model, to be a singer, to be a famous one wants to be in the picked over pile. But because there are so many of us, the pickers are "spoilt for choice" and (I hate to say it) but a lot of us just end up on the bottom of the barrel rotting away. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, I think Earth's ever increasing population does a disservice to us all by collectively devaluing the actual cost of a single human life with each new baby that comes along. That's not to say that I don't like babies. I adore them as much as the next person. I'm just trying to state the obvious that when a population goes from a million to ten million and to a hundred million, each individual in that population is worth less (in terms of what value they bring to a society). This is why we all have to join unions to get collective bargaining power: a single person alone is no threat at all to the employer.

So maybe virtue signaling in the end is an attempt to restore some of that lost value damaged by unchecked population growth. However, (and for whatever reason) it always makes me think for a little while that the people who are doing it are smug. It makes me want to ask, "Who gave you the power to tell others how to live?" I don't like it, but I don't think it's going away anytime soon. Just my two cents on a Wednesday.

Curious: do you virtue signal online? Please leave your answers and thoughts in the comments.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Hikikomori is a Japanese term that means reclusive but it also describes adult children who have become parasites slowly killing off their parents.

There's a strange worldwide phenomenon that's happening in developed countries. Coddled children are forcing the extension of their childhood through, essentially, what I would call "emotional blackmail." They are living with their parents (or parent in many cases) through their twenties, through their thirties, through their forties, and basically into their fifties until the parent keels over and dies (they worked themselves to death or spent all of their retirement money on their children and live in miserable conditions trying to scrimp by).

At that point the offspring (who is a full blown parasite at that point), either tries to find a new host to exist upon or finds themselves writing the finale of a personal life story that does not have a happy ending. Take your pick from homelessness to addictions of every kind to severe mental illness brought upon by the mind-bending fear of trying to exist without the benefit of a slave (a parent in most cases) to take care of their every need. How did we get here as a society? Maybe it began with parents who felt pain at saying "no" to their kids, and a revolution in parenting where children were made the most important fragile things (blessings) in the household. Couple this gentle hand with a real world that has no fucks to give about anyone (I hold the opinion that life even in America is incredibly brutal and many don't want to admit it) and is in many ways, merciless, and it was a disaster just waiting to happen. And now, it has.

Hikikomori is a Japanese word, and I feel like the Japanese having an actual name for the phenomenon are at least aware of the truth, even if it is an uncomfortable one. In Japan, "parasite" adult children are a national scourge. As high as 20% of people above the age of 60 must help support their children and grandchildren, but the figure is probably much higher because most people prefer not to talk about it. I've read story after story of a parent who is aged 70 beginning a day at 4 a.m., doing laundry, making breakfast for everyone, then leaving for a part-time job at a factory because her earnings are a necessary supplement to the family income. Meanwhile, they have a 52 year old hikikomori who just stays in the room all day long and plays video games and socializes on the internet. These "adult parasite children" retreat from society and into a world where they can forever be a child.

Many of the stories I've read talk about these "52 year old" parasites as having lived a pretty decent life. And when I say that, I mean they spent their youth living a life that was full of partying, games, socializing, art, learning this and that but only when they wanted to, flitting about with casual sex partners, and just being carefree. Decade after decade passed, with them always thinking that maybe they'd find "the one" or they'd settle down after they dated a few hundred more people. And "the one" is someone that would allow them to live their lifestyle, i.e., pay for it, but whom would never cramp their style. Never demand that they be monogamous or that they commit to any kind of actual restrained behavior. No...those things would be considered "psychological abuse" and not make a person a "fit" partner. So yeah...they lived passing the years thinking that something would come along that would be just right because...after all...there is a certain narcissism especially among the physically pretty that makes them believe, "I am the prize." But here's the thing: they actually weren't and never were. The parents knew this from the very beginning because they were raised in a different era. But in today's world I too frequently come across young people who believe exactly this: that they are the prize to be won.

Hikikomori is a scary thing to wrap one's brain around. The solution to "Hikikomori" seems to be a systemic change to the political and economic framework of developed countries away from capitalism and onto socialism. Providing things like food, shelter, medicine, and every challenge that capitalism expects a person to pay for through work. Because work is unpleasant, is traumatizing, takes away from socializing, and crushes self-worth due to the fact that you have to obey someone else (and smile while you are being disciplined if you come up short)...many of the "hikikomori" are unsuited for it. So society can lower the difficulty of just existing by providing everything, and then the hikikomori will be okay and can play video games or do art or listen to poetry (I guess) and look up at the stars and attend free concerts.

You may wonder why I think this is scary? It's because I wonder if a change ever does happen, who is going to pay for it? I certainly don't want to. I don't want to be that 70-year-old man getting up at 4 a.m. to go to a factory to earn money for a deadbeat adult that doesn't want to work. So yeah, it's frightening. And it hits especially hard, because I am friends with "hikikomori" here in America. We just don't call them that, and I finally realized just before writing this post, that this is exactly who these "friends" are.

People and their kids, man. I used to want a family, but now I'm so glad that I never had kids. I also wonder how my father was able to raise both my brother and myself with such a tremendous (and unusual) work ethic. He was a task master for sure, and we had to work on the farm all the time (I was 18 before I finally escaped the farm because I found work in town). Maybe that was the key...all those long days spent in the fields doing back-breaking work in ditches and moving pipe and harvesting. We would spend days from sunrise to sunset just making enormous hay stacks and slinging those things all day long. They were kind of fun to climb, though.  It was such hard work, and I can't imagine any of the kids I see today being able to do any of it.

We've all heard the saying, "Spare the rod, spoil the child," right? Well an entire generation of baby boomers on down through millennial's are doing/ did just that and now...all of those chickens are coming home to roost. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Life is endlessly fascinating to me."

Happy Monday.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Cosmos Possible Worlds starts on Monday and I can't wait to see it.

It's been a while since I've seen the first season of Cosmos (about six years). Oh how time flies. I was so impressed by it, that I asked Neil DeGrasse Tyson himself about whether or not they'd have a season two when I met him in 2014. You can read about that interaction HERE on my blog. Well, a lot of time has passed, and season two got completed a few years ago but got delayed due to an accusation levied at Mr. Tyson for sexual misconduct (Me Too everyone?). I'm not sure if anything ever came of that. What I am here to discuss is my excitement for Cosmos season two, even if it is appearing on the National Geographic Channel and not Fox (which is where the original aired).

I remember getting emotional watching Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Back in the day it was one of the first television shows I loved as a kid. The messages that were telescoped into my brain were something like, "humanity is capable of being so much more than what it is." 2014's Cosmos: A Space Odyssey is a worthy successor to the kind of STEM education that we saw in Sagan's original. In the very least, it should get people who watch it to look around our world and understand how it works, rather than just say, "God, therefore done." Without trying to provoke Christians who visit my blog, I just want to say, I respect your devotion and your faith, but please try and understand that the cost of blind faith is really quite high.

So here are my hopes for the second season of the series: two narrators (NDT and perhaps a woman?) That would be great for diversity, and NDT can sometimes get into a bit of melodrama. A second host may pull some of that back from the edge. I'd like better animations or live recreations. And I'd like fewer recaps following commercial breaks.

Anyone else planning on watching Cosmos: Possible Worlds?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It's March and the Insecure Writer's Support Group has a great question about family holidays and traditions.

I'm participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group today. If you too are interested, then please go HERE to sign up. I've been in it almost since the beginning, and I remember that it was started by science fiction author, Alex Cavanaugh

Sometimes I write a blog post that has to do with writing, and at other times I just answer the question (which is what I'm doing this month :)).

March 4 question - Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

This sounds like a fun activity, but I honestly have never incorporated any of these, not that we really had any in my small family anyway. The reverse to this (though) is that I've incorporated made-up holidays and traditions from fictional books I've read into my Dungeons & Dragons games that I play with some gamers usually on Saturday nights (provided everyone can get together...these days it cancels quite often). I know that's not the same thing, but there've been some really fun holiday ideas in some of the fiction I've read. However, I haven't incorporated any of those into my actual stories because I don't want to steal from another writer, legalities not withstanding. And that pretty much sums up my answer to this question. Now I'm off to read your answers.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Onward opens this week and I can't wait to see it.

Friday, I'm going to see Onward. It's the latest offering from the Pixar studio, and I've been a fan of Pixar films for so long now that I just automatically go and see the newest one. If I'm being completely honest, there have been a few (in the single digits) of ones that I didn't enjoy all that much (Good Dinosaur is one, but it's still a decent film). However, none of these were ever bad enough for me to think that I won't have a good time watching anything that Pixar has to offer.

And with regards to Onward, it looks particularly good. It has Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as voice actors. These are both people I follow on Instagram and deeply enjoy, although their busy lives leave me boggled at how either them (or any A-list actor) connect emotionally with any actual human beings that live in their orbit. Maybe this is why they (as celebrities) get paid so much: so that they can actually afford to get away from the attention that their fame showers upon them. One can only hope that they can enjoy lives that are worth living.

Onward on its surface looks like an excellent buddy flick, with two brothers using a magic spell to spend just a little precious time getting to know their deceased father. It promises to have lots of humor, and I'm expecting them to completely stick the landing in the same way that Coco left me in tears, thinking about what I had lost in my own life. Pixar has always been talented at connecting with me on an emotional level, and I expect nothing less from Onward. In fact, I expect to be thinking about it most of next weekend.

Happy Monday, friends.