Friday, December 23, 2005

An Open Letter to Hollywood Celebrities and their Cohorts

Credit for the format on this post goes to my friend at Superbee's Philosophy (link to the right). The open letter is the perfect way for me to communicate my feelings on this serious matter.

Dear Famous People,

It is my opinion (which, let the record show, is a highly informed and well thought out one) that you take your "jobs" and your "lives" far too seriously. I therefore consider it my duty to put you back into your places.

Let's start with the profession of acting. Acting, as far as I can tell, is the career choice of people who wish to do one (or more) of these three things: Make assloads of money, Get assloads of "action," or play make-believe for the rest of their lives. Now I'm not saying I wouldn't jump at the chance to make that kind of cash for being a live action puppet (well...who knows), but I don't think I'd try to convince myself that I was bettering the state of humanity in so doing. Hell, actors never have to grow up. Most of us only do that because we feel we have to. I wanna be an actor and have a big pool with a slide too! Then MTV can come to my house and I can show them where the magic happens!

I do have to admit, even though you annoy me when you make your public statements about whatever the issue du jour is, I can sympathize with your motives. You think you're helping. You want to make the world a better place and you think that since you have all of that money and influence you should speak out! Awww....that is so cute. I just want to pat you on the head and give you a cookie. I'll tell you what: You contribute money to whatever you like, but please don't associate your name or face with any cause. Your celebrity does not add credibility to anyone's plight.

Here's what I know. I've seen you doing interviews. I've heard your attempts at being articulate. Aside from a few (and that is VERY few) exceptions, you are not smart. You don't seem to comprehend the definitions of a lot of big words and your grammar is appalling (that means "surprising in a bad way," for anyone who didn't know). I've actually read that more vacant minded (read: stupid) people are better at acting. This is because they don't have all of those pesky thoughts clouding their ability to assume the role of whichever character they are playing. To you I say: Great! If you're not so bright, then you fit the qualifications for the job. Just don't think now that you've won the popularity contest you should start spouting wisdom. Those great lines you've been reading were written by people with some brains. Their job is to make you sound interesting. If you could do it yourself, you wouldn't need them.

So we've established that you are immature and less than brilliant. I suppose there's nothing really objectionable about that. You can't help it, right? So what I am writing this letter for? Good question! I'm so glad you asked.

I'm sick and tired of hearing about your lives. I will try to explain this simply: When I turn on the news, I want to hear about the world and the important events that will affect my life. I'm talking world hunger, sickness, economic/trade get the idea (I hope). I do not care who you are dating or which designer made your dress. I especially don't care when you start congratulating each other on how great you've been in this or that film. You're wasting my time. I don't want to sift through your inflated vision of yourself to get to reality. I do not want to know anything about you personally.

Here's how I see you and your industry. You are like old time street performers. The directors turn the crank on the music box. You actors are the cute little monkeys wearing vests and fezzes. I am the hard working citizen who walks by, chuckles, and decides whether to toss a quarter into the up-turned hat at your director's feet. You are a dancing monkey. You dance for me. Your job is to be cute and amuse me.

All I ask is that you keep a little perspective. You're already getting paid in mass quantities to do a job that a lot of people would do for free. Could you try to remember who the boss really is?

Yours Truly,

Monday, December 19, 2005

Panic at Midnight

In the middle of the night, she woke. She looked around, still groggy from her heavy slumber. As consciousness crept in, her mind began to whirl. Where was she? How had she gotten there? What was she doing sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings?

She felt her arms and legs. There were no ropes or chains holding her. Her hands flew to her face. She felt no bumps or bruises. Nothing to indicate any struggle. Why couldn't she remember anything? Had she been drugged?

She was laying on her stomach. She slowly began to turn over. Inch by inch, so as to not make any noise. But wait! She felt something else in the bed with her. Something warm, something solid, something was alive!

As her eyes began to adjust to the darkness, she began to make out shapes. A large rectangle across the room, illuminated around the edges...a window. Other dark shapes indicated furniture of some sort. At least she hoped it was furniture. She slowly continued her turn and dared to rotate her head towards the thing that lay with her. In the darkness, two glowing specs peered back at her. Whatever it was, it was also awake.

Her heart pounded and she struggled to control her breathing. We'd have no hyperventilation now. Was there a lamp? Why was she suddenly sure that there was? Her hand flew to the bedside table that she was equally sure existed and just like that, click! Light filled her room and her eyes.

All she could do was laugh. She immediately recognized the formerly unfamiliar surroundings. Her sweet puppy had nestled beside her during the night. Wasn't it lovely to be home for the holidays?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Comfort and Deception

In her warm apartment she thought of going North. The weather was too kind here, too gentle. She was comfortable and happy, but she had no impetus, no reason to move forward. This fact, in itself, was enough to unsettle her. She had always told herself that she would never be satisfied; that there would always be something more to strive for and to seek. Once she had done, seen, learned and experienced everything, then she could die. Until then, her purpose was to keep on finding what she had not found before. What she had found now was a warm and blissful oasis that threatened to suck her in. She had never been so happy. The heat was nowhere near stifling, yet she found herself oppressed.

Why could she not be content? Why was this not enough? Were some people destined to move forever? Was this the plight of the nomad? She did not move for lack of food and shelter, but for lack of inspiration and for lack of…well…to put it bluntly, for lack of suffering. What would happen to the starving artist when he was fed? She wasn’t ready to answer this riddle just yet. First there was something more.

In her head she pictured swirling snow. She pictured a lake covered in ice. The life teeming underneath the surface sparked an interest, a curiosity. It was frozen in time in a sort of half-life for the winter months. When it awoke it would renew its constant search for food and its constant battle for survival.

She glanced across her living room to the goldfish circling its bowl. It smacked at the top of the bowl, begging to be fed. What if she decided not to respond? The fish would be helpless and defenseless against death. She held that power in her hand. In the grand scheme of the universe, the death of “Spot” would mean nothing, but in the minor scheme of Spot, it was everything. She wondered if Spot would even notice the difference.

She couldn’t help but giggle as she though of her daily trek through campus. At a low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit the population would be wailing about the cold. She was right there with them. She knew that Spot would make it more than a day without food, just as she knew that she would survive at temperatures below freezing. She was stuck swimming in her bowl though, helpless to adapt to the changing environment.

A biting wind, the sting of sleet, cold that doesn’t leave for hours after you come inside – that’s what she craved. It would entail suffering, yes, but it would yield the comfort found only in such a state.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

15 Things

Jason Evans (The Clarity of Night - link to the right), of the recent AWESOME musical theory post, has tagged me once again. For this meme, I must list 15 preferences/quirks I have regarding books. This has taken me a few days to come up with. It's really quite difficult. Try it yourself!

  1. I take notes in the margins of any thought provoking books.
  2. I tend to be reading about 5 books at any given time.
  3. Based on item number one, I strongly prefer to own books rather than borrow.
  4. If a book is good enough, my life halts until I’ve finished it (yes, I have that luxury).
  5. I actually have a lender copy of my favorite book: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. This way, if anything happens to it, I always have my copy on hand for personal reference/emergencies.
  6. If someone makes the effort to recommend and lend a book to me, I will find a way to finish it, no matter what.
  7. I’ve always loved reading for English class. I read Beowulf about 20 times as a kid before I even realized it would be required reading in the 7th grade. Imagine my excitement!
  8. When asked for the plot of a book, I always recite it in excruciating detail. I feel like the author included each word for a reason, so I want to communicate the feel along with the major plot points.
  9. I have never listened to a book on tape. I like to let my imagination do everything and the reader will inevitably add his or her interpretation. Along the same lines, I prefer books without any illustrations. Maps are acceptable…that’s about it.
  10. I believe the sign of a good book is that it’s worn like a favorite pair of jeans. If I wear it out, I’ll get another, but I’m not going to be dainty with a book I love.
  11. I think I’d react like a 12 year old Backstreet Boys fan if I met an author I liked. (Although, I can pretty much guarantee that no other celebrity would get that reaction.)
  12. Even when I have 500 other things going on, I always find time to read.
  13. I’ve actually called work with the “sick” excuse to finish a book. (It was Harry Potter - The Order of the Phoenix, OK???)
  14. I have a list of book topics that I keep for when I finally get the time to write them.
  15. After a scary book, I still have to sleep with my head under the covers. I’m very brave.
Thanks Jason. To anyone else who feels like trying this: I dare you!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Who's Standard?

I’m about to go a little bit feminist on y’all. Please bear with me. I was discussing the frustrating and inefficient nature of corporate America with a friend yesterday. We digressed somewhat into a discussion of the social pressure for people, more specifically women, to live up to an unrealistic and unhealthy physical standard. What follows is the resulting email I sent to her after we were conveniently cut off (cell phones…lovely).

I suppose the best way to go about understanding and addressing the problem is to start with the "enemy". In this case, I would say that the enemy is actually social pressure, societal norms, the media.

Let’s look at the common response people have to their perceived failures. Often people feel guilty for not living up to these norms. Others may even feel like failures because of the implied social judgment that results from this inability (or refusal) to conform. My usual response to these perceived failures is that, "One should never use someone else's criteria to judge one's own success." This means that the world imposes a lot of ideas on us. These ideas, as they gain popularity, begin to be interpreted as fact, as truth. The only real fact though, is that these social norms and pressures are just an opinion. They're public opinion. What is an opinion? A subjective assessment of reality. Not fact, rather preference. You wouldn't tell someone that they're wrong to prefer chocolate ice cream would you? We're beginning to understand that certain social norms are just flat out wrong (the vilification of homosexuality being a glaring example of a past norm that has been identified as wrong, if there is such a thing as right/wrong, but that’s another issue for another day). So when will we realize that these norms are only that? They're not facts. They're not laws. They're just someone's idea of what's right.

I'd like to attempt a reference to Kant’s categorical imperative. The idea is to come up with a universal maxim or law that can be extracted from any single action. Let's say I decide to not pay my taxes. If this is applied as a universal law, then no one will pay taxes, and the ultimate manifestations of those tax dollars will deteriorate (roads, public health, defense, etc.). We can then say that it would be wrong to not pay taxes, because if everyone chose to do this, then we would all consequently suffer.

So now, let's try to come up with a universal maxim for the pressure from social norms. Let's say that we all decided to determine our own measures of success. Then we would all pursue our own destinies in our own ways. No one would be hurt. Most likely, we'd all be much happier. Now, let's say we all decide to adopt the criteria of "society". Everyone would be striving to look and act in ways that are contrary to our biological natures. People would be unhappy and feel like failures. On an economic level, business would suffer because no one would be eating. The restaurant industry would get the idea. So basically, if we were all gorgeous, waify model types, then we'd all be addicted to pills and champagne and have no time for our own pursuits (and contributions). No new research would occur and the improvement of the overall state of the world would come to a stand-still. But hey, we'd all look great and plastic surgeons would be raking it in!

In addition, if we all looked to someone else to determine what the criteria for success are, then no one would have the answer. We'd all be waiting, eagerly, for someone else to say what they thought. But remember, everyone is waiting for someone else to take the first step. The result: complete paralysis. Obviously someone had to come up with their own idea of success. This person was probably from a group that was historically in power and wished to preserve that power. So we've just decided to accept and adopt the very norms that have put us in a subordinate role? This is a mistake.

The solution, on an individual level, is then to set out to reach success in one’s own way. Admittedly it is difficult to tune out society, but when you feel like a success until the social verdict comes in, perhaps it is society, and not you who is wrong.