Posts tagged ‘Life’

It has been over a year since I added a post to this blog.  Things got a little crazy, and then I couldn’t get into my blog to be able to make changes, but all of that is resolved now (or least as resolved as it can be!).

Anyway, I’m back and I’m sure I have some things to say.  Just don’t know what they are right now!  I think this is going to continue to be a place where I can expand on things beyond what I would normally put on Facebook.  After all, who really wants to read through an overly-detailed description about someone else’s vacation?  This way, it’s here, if you want to read it you can, and if you think it’s bullshit, so be it!

I will be posting as I have time.  No pressure to write every day or anything like that.  Just going to write when I can and when the mood inspires me.

See you soon!

About once a quarter, NPR mounts a writing competition called “Three Minute Fiction.”  The rules are fairly simple.  Create a piece of original fiction, no more than 600 words in length, and have it meet some specific criteria put forth by the current round’s guest judge.  In previous rounds, the criteria have included things like using a specific list of words, including certain events, or even requiring specific wording.  The current incarnation falls under the guidelines of the latter, specifically dictating the wording of the first sentence:

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.

A simple proposal, but full of possibilities.  I really enjoy writing to that moment when the possibilities are endless.  Sometimes it is harder than others, but the journey along the way always teaches me something, whether it is about myself or the world around me.  I have been spending a little more time working on the creative aspect of my writing, and have joined a local group of writers to help foster the spirit of creativity.

As soon as the competition is over, I will post my short story, entitled “Full Circle” in this forum.  I look forward to any feedback anyone might have!

A long time ago, the first cave people sat around the fire after dinner and grunted at one another, and drew pictures on the walls with the ashes from the fire.  Thus was born “Home Entertainment”.  Stories told and retold in the oral tradition were eventually written down, and books were added to the mix. Granted, along the way, people got up and demonstrated the stories by repeating the actions, creating Theater, but that quickly moved out of the home and into the public arena.  However, the idea of theater at home was so appealing, that once Radios were introduced, the Radio Drama  became a mainstay of Home Entertainment.  Television added pictures to the sounds, and improvements in sound technology brought us to the Home Theater System of today.  Technophiles are not happy with just a run-of-the-mill Home Theater Surround Sound System.  They also need game consoles (yes, consoles, plural, because one is just never enough).  Which leads me to my living room.

Christmas is over, and, for the first time in a long time, we did not have a mega-media Christmas. Past Christmases have included the Playstation 2 (granted, that was a while ago), the DVD player, the XBox 360, the Wii, the Blu-Ray player, and the second XBox 360. This past December we added the 3D Blu-Ray player and the active shutter glasses, although since we got that mid-December, my husband is not counting this as Christmas gifts.  (He did use the money that was allocated for my Christmas presents to buy said player & glasses, so maybe they really belong to me . . . ) Add to the above-listed assortment the Media Center PC my husband built about a year ago, and we have so much entertainment coming out of our ears that we have no idea what to do with it all or what to watch next. Do we play XBox? Watch shows on the DVR? Play 3D movies? Stream Netflix on any of the many compatible devices? Pick up the toys and go bowling in the living room? Or train our tigers? Or maybe we should just snuggle up on the couch with the PC and our favorite vampires and theoretical physicists. . . .

I decided this year that I was going to go “old school”. I bought books. Not Nooks or Kindles or iPads, Books. The kind with pages made of paper that you have to manually turn. Those things that give that distinct old-world smell to used bookshops tucked away in England. Books. Ironically, a lot of this seems related to my new “job” as a volunteer at our local library. I started a few months ago and realized how much I missed reading. There is a lot to be said for being able to curl up in a comfy chair with a book and have the author weave a story with vivid descriptions of people and places and have your mind construct those for your based solely on the words in front of you. Anyway, I had made a killing late in the fall when our local Borders closed, and I had tucked away much of that stash to be given as gifts later. Then I took advantage of the bonus offers emailed to me by Barnes & Noble and the free shipping they offered all season long for B & N members. The end result is a dearth of shelf space in our living room, where once again books are competing with discs.

I think this is a good problem to have. So much of our society (and especially the younger generations) have grown  so accustomed to the instant gratification that technology provides, that many people have forgotten the joy that reading can bring. Yes, it takes much longer for the story to play out in a book than it does on the movie screen (and who would sit through 30 minutes of watching Lisbeth doing research for her job?), but delayed gratification has a lot of merit. It teaches us that things don’t always come fast or easy or cheap. Sometimes, just sometimes, the greater joy can be found in those things that take effort and cost and sacrifice. We have so much more appreciation for something we have worked for than for those things that are just handed to us or that we only have to push a button to get . . .

I hope all of you find some delayed gratification this year!

One may be familiar with the concept of the armchair quarterback or the Monday morning quarterback, but over the past 45 years, the aftermath of the Super Bowl has changed considerably.  The Monday morning quarterbacks discussing the various aspects of the previous day’s game (and identifying what their particular team could have/should have done differently to bring about a more satisfactory outcome) have been replaced by the Monday morning Ad Executives.

When I went to work this morning, I expected to hear discussions regarding last night’s Super Bowl.  The Steelers fans would be talking about how their team just did not pick up enough steam soon enough, and while they played their hearts out during the second half, if it had only come sooner or lasted longer, they would have won.  The Packer fans would be talking about how amazing it was that they were able to fight off the Steelers in the second half despite a plethora of injuries to key players.  But no.  The vast majority of discussions centered around the Super Bowl commercials.  What was your favorite?  Which ones did you like?  Which ones just did not work?  Everyone seems to know how and why the different ads worked or didn’t work.  Fox Sports has even gone so far as to allow web viewers to vote on the ads, giving a “thumbs up” to the ones they like and the “thumbs down” to the ones that just don’t do it.  And just in case you were lured away from this great American tradition by the likes of the Puppy Bowl, Enchanted, or Netflix (or you were just in a cave somewhere), you can screen the Super Bowl ads here.

Personally, there were a couple that caught my attention.  As a parent, the Volkswagen/Star Wars commercial has to be my favorite.  For pure fun, I like the Bud Light “Product Placement“, Bridgestone Tires, and Doritos “Healing Chips”.  I thought there were a few too many upcoming movie ads.  I can understand the studios wanting to put their new releases into the minds of the public, but it just seemed like a little bit of overkill, considering that these same movie trailer commercials will be airing on every station day and night for the next one-to-six months, depending upon when the movie is released.  There were a few ads that really didn’t work for me.  I could have skipped both of the Eminem ads.  I felt the tea one was lame, and the Chrysler commercial was somewhat ambiguous, in that it was hard to tell if Eminem was endorsing Chrysler or the city of Detroit.  Actually, many of the car commercials were just humdrum – not a lot of entertainment value, just “here’s our new car and this is what makes it special”.  And none of them really seemed that special (aside from the aforementioned VW ad).

Over the past 45 years, Super Bowl ads have evolved from just putting a product in front of one of the annually largest TV viewing audiences to being part of why that audience is so large.  The comment that seemed to be repeated the most this morning was, “I didn’t really have a great interest in the game, I just watched it for the commercials.”  In truth, there was a point during the evening that I was in my son’s room, putting away clean clothes, and racing out to the living room only when the action on the field was coming to a stop.  All of this begs the question: What is the future evolution of the Super Bowl ad?  I foresee a day when a DVD of the ads is available to order as soon as the game is over, with the proceeds going to some charity or cause endorsed by the NFL.  Or, possibly a TV special, airing a week or so after the game, that consists of nothing but Super Bowl TV spots.  Of course, if that ever happens, only the football fans would watch the game.  The rest of us would be free to watch the Puppy Bowl, or whatever else tickled our fancies, and set our TIVO’s up to record the commercials.  Just don’t hit that “skip the ads” button.

Things are tough all over.  Any day of the week one can pick up any newspaper or turn on any local or national news program and it won’t take very long to find a story that focuses on the economy.  Often one can find several stories.  Regardless of the source, every town, borough, hamlet, village, city and burg is doing its utmost to provide services to the population in a (hopefully) fiscally responsible manner.  Many time hard choices must be made, and not all of them are popular.  A friend alerted me to one such situation in a small town in England.

Stony Stratford is what we would call a suburb.  It is part of the larger city of Milton Keynes, in Buckinghamshire, similar to how Oak Park is “in” Chicago, but is still its own town.  The Milton Keynes city council has been trying to figure out ways to cut the budget and save millions of British Pounds over the next several years.  In December, a proposal was put forth that included shuttering the local library in Stony Stratford.  Now, as Stony is part of the larger local community, residents would certainly be able to visit other libraries in the vicinity, but that was not good enough for the town.  In the span of just over a week, residents swarmed the library and checked out every single book.  Over 16,000 of them.  The citizens wanted to show the council how vital libraries are to the community, so in a planned protest, the citizenry methodically checked out over 300 books per hour until the shelves were empty.  People checked out as many books as they were allowed, and continued to spread the message: “Go to the library and take out the maximum of books on your card (15).”  Postings appeared on the local government website and a “Save Stony Stratford Library” Facebook page has been stood up, with (as of this writing) over 700 people “liking” the page.

Now library closures are nothing new.  Do a Google news search on “library closures budget cuts” and you will get results dating back over 15 years and beyond.  Stories appear from all over the United States about local municipalities and state governments slashing monies allocated for libraries.  Libraries are often considered “non-essential” or “non-mandated” services.  It’s not like a town could close the fire department or the police department, but a library . . ..  During portions of my childhood, my mom was a single parent, struggling to make ends meet.  While there was always money to put food on the table and keep the roof over our heads, there was almost never money for extras like books, but we never went without.  At least once a week, Mom would pack us into the car and take us to the library.  We would spend an hour or two looking for books and reading books.  We would always come home with a stack of new titles that we would devour through the week.  By the time I was in grade school, I am sure I had read almost every children’s book in our local library.  As I got a little older, I was allowed to ride my bike to the library and would do so often.  When I was in college, I spent time in the library not only for research and study, but also just as a place to go for some quiet personal time.

The point is, lots of different people use libraries for lots of different reasons at different times during their lives.  Children can learn to read and hone their reading skills without bankrupting their parents, given the cost of children’s literature.  Students can do research and find titles for reading assignments.  Current and past newspapers and magazines are available in print or in a digitized version.  People who have no means to do so at home can use public computers to access the internet, apply for jobs, and find information to help put them in a position to better themselves or their situations.  Some local libraries loan DVDs, CDs, and even e-books.  Libraries are not only integral to the community, one could argue that they are essential – maybe not important in the same way as the police or fire departments, but just as important in their contribution to the community.

The people of Stony Stratford have voiced their opposition to the elimination of their library.  Make sure the same thing does not happen to you.  When tax increase referendums come up on the ballot to give more money to your local library, vote YES.  Find out what volunteer opportunities are available, then go and make yourself available.  Take someone with no transportation to the library.  Spend quality time with your child during the Story Hour.  Make so much use of your local libraries that the politicians who want to close them in order to save money will not have any way to support their positions.  And when you hear of libraries being threatened with shuttering for budget reasons, get angry and get active.  Our libraries are much too integral to be pushed aside.