Monday, March 24, 2014

Adventures in moving...Nature's Own Alarm Clock

And...once again, it's been awhile since I posted.

I had thought that once I got the move accomplished, I would be back to blogging on a regular basis. I was, as it turns out, wrong.

It isn't that I haven't had things to say. Or time to say them. But, adjusting to being in a new place, getting settled in, and everything that entails is taking more mental and emotional energy than I expected it to.

And, it isn't that I'm not happy to be here. I'm very happy to be here. It's just...oh, I don't know. Different. Even though I've moved back to the general area where I grew up, it's taking some readjusting to my surroundings. To adjust to living with different people. Even though I know them, I haven't lived with them before, and the rhythms of life are different from those I'm used to.

I have made some progress in getting settled. I'm getting quite a bit of work done on my writing projects. I (finally) got to the library to get a library card and checked some books out. So, I'm feeling on pretty strong ground on those accounts.

And...speaking of ground, steady and not, one of the things that has thrown me for a bit of a loop is the fact that last week on Monday I was awakened at 6:25 a.m. by what I have come to think of as Nature's Own Alarm Clock, also known as an earthquake. It isn't the first time that has happened to me, goodness knows. I've been in several large quakes, albeit not always close to the epicenter of them. Growing up in Southern California and then living in Central California, there were plenty of quakes through the years. But quakes in the center of the state are not the same thing as quakes in Southern California.

This one, which you might have seen referred to in the media as the Shamrock Shake, since it happened on St. Patrick's Day, was close enough and big enough (at 4.4 magnitude) to wake me up from a deep sleep and, frankly, frightened the crap out of me. I think that's because it took me so by surprise. At any rate, since then my anxiety level has been a little higher - although that's getting a bit better now. There for a couple of days, though, I was jumping at every little noise. Ridiculous, I know, especially for someone who has always lived in earthquake country.

Although, for some reason, ever since the quake, I feel like I've been welcomed properly back to the area. So, you know, it doesn't have to do that again any time soon as far as I'm concerned.

At any rate, I'm not making any more predictions about when I'll be back to regular blogging. I hope that it will be sooner rather than later, so watch this space. There are some things that have been in the news that I really want to talk about. I also have some things to say about getting reacquainted with the old stomping ground and the things that have changed since I lived here before...and the things that have, amazingly, remained the same.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The cult - and culture - of popularity...

I really need for these "most popular" lists to just go away now. The gist of them always seems to be that just because something is popular, that it is necessarily worth of everyone's attention.

Well, no.

But, you're probably wondering what brought this tirade on. It's this article, from a site called Scribd, which got together with Parade magazine (which is sort of like the Reader's Digest of newspaper inserts) to find out what was the most read e-book in each state in the United States.

Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, but I've never heard of most of these books. I've read exactly two of the books on the list - Prayers for the Dead, by Faye Kellerman, which is the most-read e-book in Connecticut; and Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, the most popular e-book in Wisconsin. I've also seen the film made from the most popular e-book in Missouri - that would be The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot. Also, I do recognize a good number of the authors' names on the list. But I have to admit that, just from the titles, I don't think most of those books would be very interesting to me.

The thing is, I don't see the usefulness of lists like this. I'm not interested in reading something just because everyone else is reading it. I want to read books that are of interest to me. Yeah, I might see something on this list, or on another "most popular" list, that I was not aware of, and read it, or see a movie, or listen to a piece of music, depending on the topic of the list. And that's fine. But I don't appreciate having something sold to me on the basis that I should be interested in it just because other people seem to be interested in it.

Maybe that's a flaw in my upbringing. I was raised to believe - and I do believe - that popularity does not equal worth. Take television programs, for example. I understand that a lot of people watch so-called "reality" shows - things like Survivor, The Bachelor, and the various competition shows. I have no interest in most of those. In fact, to be honest, I've never watched most of them.

I used to watch Big Brother. I think the concept is interesting as a sociological experiment, and so I tuned in for a couple of seasons. But, when it became clear that the emphasis of the competition was on seeing who could lie and deceive the most, and that this was seen as just "playing the game" and a good thing, I tuned out. It just got ugly. As far as I've been able to tell, the same is true on shows like Survivor. They make it look like lying, cheating, and being generally a rotten human being are acceptable ways of treating one's fellow human beings. I can't support that by watching.

But, these shows are popular and so are considered a good thing, when they clearly are part of the problem, culturally speaking. I really think US culture has gotten meaner partly due to the popularity of shows like this. And so, as far as I'm concerned, popular does not equal "good" or "valuable".

Now, I'm not saying that the books on the list I linked at the beginning of this post are not good or not valuable. Some of them might well be very good. But I am saying that the implication of such lists - that because something is popular, everyone should be equally interested in them - is a false premise. It's like saying that the music at the top of the Billboard charts is always "good" music simply because people are buying that music. This is also a false premise; people are often buying that music because it has been successfully marketed, and not because it has any intrinsic value.

Personally, I have a difficult time with the idea that I should like - and buy - Justin Timberlake's music, or Lady Gaga's music, or anyone else's music, just because other people do. Or that I should read the books on the linked list just because a lot of other people have read them. Or that I should go out to the theater and see 300: Rise of an Empire just because it topped the box office last week.

Okay. I'll stop kvetching now. But, really, I guess the overarching theme here is that you should go out and find what you like, rather than letting a "most-popular" list, or a best-seller list, or even a blogger like me, tell you what you should read or watch or listen to. In my case, I might make suggestions. I might even say, look, I think you should see this or read that or listen to the other. But you should also feel free to say, "Eh. That doesn't sound like something I'm interested in."

Thursday, March 06, 2014

When I go to Boston, I'm going to wear trousers and not a skirt...

This is just insane. Insane, I tell you.

The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that it is legal for people to take pictures looking up a person's clothes. The reasoning for this decision included that the women had no reasonable expectation of privacy because the individuals in the case were riding public transportation in Boston. Additionally, the court ruled that a crime had not been committed because those photographed were not nude or partially nude at the time the photos were taken.

Apparently the statutes under with the perpetrator was prosecuted were poorly written, and there is also talk that the laws will be changed. As far as I can see, that's too little too late, even if you accept the reasoning, which I don't. What's even worse is that the ruling was written by a woman. I'm left wondering if she would have felt the same way if she had been one of the women who had someone stick a cell phone up her skirt to take a picture of her. I also wonder if the reasoning would also hold if someone had taken their hand and reached up under women's skirts.

I think there is a growing idea among some people that a person has no expectation of privacy at all and in any manner when they are in public. As far as I'm concerned, this is a dangerous trend. This ruling takes that to an extreme in that it essentially says that it's fine if someone walks up to me and surreptitiously takes a photo of my underwear - or of my private parts if I don't happen to be wearing underwear. It also indicates to me that if someone does that to me and I don't like it, I don't have any recourse - if I caught them and kicked them in the teeth for doing it, I'd be the one to get in trouble. I'd get charged for battery, but they wouldn't get charged with assault (which does not require any touching) for doing something to me that I did not consent to. Because, you know, going out in public is not implicit consent for people to take photos of my private parts or the underwear covering them.

I'll be honest. I think this ruling is wrong-headed and disrespectful, and it makes me angry enough that I can't even think of what else to say about it. And so, I'll leave it at that, with this question: "Justice Botsford, how would you like it if someone walked into your courtroom, which is after all a public place, and took a photo of you under your robes? Would that be acceptable? Or would you get mad as hell and have the person arrested and taken away? I suspect you would not like it at all, so how can you read the law to say that it's all right if it happens to other women?"

Monday, March 03, 2014

Move accomplished...

So, okay. It's Monday. So, Movie Monday. And last night the Academy Awards were handed out. I watched the show, and thought it was okay - certainly an improvement over some past shows. And I was going to write about that.

But...I'm still sort of getting settled in after my move. I've still barely started unpacking. I've slept 8 hours last night (long for me), and I slept 11 hours Saturday night, the day of the move. So, I'm still in recovery mode after the past week, which was long and complicated and busy, busy, busy.

Not to mention that the weather on Saturday was awful. Riding in a 26-foot U-Haul truck, towing a car on a car-carrier is not fun when the wind is blowing and it's pouring down rain. Fortunately the driver, my now-ex-roommate's son, did a very good job at the wheel. Then, when we arrived at my new place, while it was not raining at first, it started pouring before we got everything inside. But, we did get everything inside eventually, although I was soaked to the skin by the time that happened. I was not the only one.

The good news is, it's supposed to be much warmer and drier for the rest of the week, so maybe I'll get everything settled and in its place within the next few days.

Meanwhile, I think I'm going to have a little lunch. It's past one and I'm getting hungry.

But, like I said, watch this space. I plan to be back more regularly going forward.