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Posts Tagged ‘Opinions’

eBay Sucks!

Every once in a while, I sell stuff on eBay.  I’ve been doing this for a few years.  Most of my inventory has been comic books.  Most of the stuff I buy on eBay are comic books.

If you are a buyer on eBay, you probably haven’t noticed many of the changes that have occurred the last couple of years.  However, if you are a seller, you are painfully aware of them.  And if you are like me, YOU ARE FED UP!

That’s it.  I’ve had it.  I’m moving my inventory somewhere else.  Ditch eBay, I say!!  Everyone move to eBid!!!

It all started with fee increases and fees and fees.  Fees to have a Store. Fees for extra pictures. Insertion fees to list items.  The fee that eBay takes off your final selling price.  Ug.  For a long time, it was worth it because eBay was essentially the only player in town if you really want to auction stuff off on-line.  Everyone knows about eBay.

Last January, eBay instituted a new policy that does not allow sellers to leave feedback for buyers. 

WHAT?!!  EBay wrote some sort of BS nonsense about allowing buyers to feel more safe to leave negative feedback.  This policy leaves sellers flapping in the wind!  We have nothing to protect us from random, undeserved negative comments.  We can work as hard as we can to try and fix any problems our buyers may have (I offer returns on most items).  But now a buyer doesn’t have to worry about getting negative feedback if they want to stick it to a seller.  In my opinion, an eBay transaction is a mutual transaction, and this policy screws the sellers.

Finally, the last straw.  Apparently this was announced a few months ago, but I didn’t realize it.  EBay no longer allows sellers to accept check, money orders and cashier’s checks for items.  Long story short, we are basically forced to use PayPal (and a couple of other smaller online payment centers) for items.  EBay wrote some sort of BS nonsense about this allowing for more secure transactions for sellers.  Which is CRAP.  Every seller used to be able to choose what method of payment we accepted.  If you only wanted PayPal and didn’t want to accept checks and money orders, that was fine.  Just say you only accept PayPal.  Or cash.  Or glass beads.  Whatever.  It worked.  I’ve had plenty of people send me checks and money orders.  Never had a problem.  But now, unless we want to violate eBay’s new policy, we can’t do that.

WHAT?!! 

Oh right.  Guess who owns PayPal?

EBay.

EBay owns PayPal.  This policy has jack nothing to do with protecting sellers (or buyers) and everything to do with eBay’s bottom line.  Which, you know, eBay has the right to do.  It’s their business.

Well, guess what?  It’s my business too and I am taking it elsewhere.

I’ve found some great resources this week to help me find new auction/selling sites.  There is a great little “Mashable” article called “17 Alternatives to Buying and Selling on EBay.”  This article lists a bunch (17) other sites and gives some information on each of them.  Sweetie found this great site:  http://www.online-auction-sites.toptenreviews.com/

That site lists 10 different auction sites and does a side-by-side comparison of things like types of sales, seller fees, reliability, etc.  Nice site.

I searched around for other sites last January.  The problem was, and still is, this:  While there is plenty of inventory on many of these sites, when I browse through the auctions, I don’t see a lot of active bids.  These sites NEED MORE BUYERS!!  I think we need to get the word out to people that there are other options besides eBay.

It may be a bit of a struggle.  Like I said, there are no disincentives to buyers on eBay.  They don’t have to pay an extra fee.  But what you may not realize is that 1) sellers may be slightly increasing their prices to make up for the selling fees, and 2) over time, inventory will go down on eBay because more and more sellers are leaving.  One of the stores I used to keep track of on eBay shut down last January after the new policies took effect.  I think more people will leave this month.  And I think that buyers will soon get the word that there are other alternatives.

For now, I think I’m moving over to eBid.  The setup is very similar – there are auctions and “Buy Now” options.  There are stores and feedback.  And, right now, they are offering Lifetime seller subscriptions for $49.99.  Lifetime.  Set up a store and there will be no more monthly fees every single month.  Ever.  There may be some other fees, but they are nothing compared to what eBay has been charging.  Wow! 

EBay may someday learn that their money-grabbing efforts are so extreme that they will  backfire.  I don’t feel bad for them at all.

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Milk

Big Sis, Mom, and I went and saw the movie “Milk” together last night.

Before last night, I thought Heath Ledger might be a good pick for Best Actor Oscar this year. Now, I think it would be a shame if the award went to anyone other than Sean Penn.  Nice job Mr. Penn. 

My father spent most of his life in San Francisco.  We lived briefly in the Bay Area before settling into the Central Valley.  I spent my childhood (and adulthood) visiting my family in San Francisco.  I knew about Harvey Milk.  But of course, I didn’t really know Harvey Milk.  Just the public story of (really, I guess I’m giving away a spoiler here but I suspect that anyone who knows Harvey Milk knows what happened to him and people who would never go see this movie may not give a damn)…….

anyway—- the public story of the openly gay man who was elected to public office in San Francisco and then assassinated by a former fellow Supervisor.  Assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor Moscone.  Ever been to the Moscone Center in San Francisco?  That is who is it named after.

I want to write a thoughtful, coherent blog.  I thought and wrote and tried to write a coherent piece.  But really, why do I need to?  Why can’t I just express the things I am thinking?  This means I am going to spend more time blabbing about how I feel about the issue of gay rights in this country than blabbing about the movie or Harvey Milk.  Sorry to people who want to know about the movie or Harvey Milk.  I do support and suggest reading up a little – it is a pretty significant piece of history. 

Why not?  Can I just freewrite a little, of a sort?

I guess they had to start with Milk in his 40s (oops – 39) if they were going to use Sean Penn for the whole movie.  I’ll have to rent the documentary to learn more about his earlier years. 

What a tragedy.

What a loss.

How hard was it for gay men to come out of the closet in 1978?  Bold for Milk to ask that, but probably too much to expect. 

Why doesn’t someone in France pass a stronger law (do they even have one?) against dog shit on the streets?  I know – totally random thought.  But there it is. 

Why is a consensual relationship between two people who love each other wrong?  Even withstanding every word in the Bible. 

Why can’t people who never ever ever go to church but who have argued with me using quotes from the Bible just admit “I don’t like homosexuality.  It wigs me out.  I think it’s wrong.”  Why do non-Christians suddenly start to lecture me about what God wants? It was bad enough coming from my southern Baptist ex-boyfriend.  It’s worse coming from an atheist. 

Speaking of the Bible, what about the 10 Commandments?  I went to Catholic cathecism for a few years.  We were required to learn the 10 Commandments.  It requires that the Sabbath day be kept holy.  How many Christians work any day of the week when they need to?  Don’t priests and pastors get paid for preaching on Sunday?  Isn’t that working?  (ok- technically, the Sabbath is not Sunday, but many priests and pastors I know work 7 days a week sometimes).  How many Christians are disrespectful of their parents?  They may honor them in some ways but disrespect them in others.  Isn’t that God’s law?   Why aren’t there campaigns and initiatives on the ballot to make disrespecting a parent against the law?  Why don’t we outlaw work on the Sabbath?  Shouldn’t Christians get these laws to be obeyed universally before picking and picking and picking and picking and picking and attacking and attacking and attacking homosexuality?  I don’t get it.  Why don’t we tell people who are jealous of other people that they are breaking God’s law about coveting? 

Have you ever held and hugged a man who tried to commit suicide, mostly because of massive internal conflict and struggle due to his sexuality?  Someone who tried to live a life as a heterosexual?  Someone who had enough self-inflicted agony that he doesn’t ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever need someone else in this world to tell him his way of life is Wrong?  You go stand next to that man and try to tell him you can “cure” him.  That his homosexuality is a bad choice.  That he can be fixed.  Easy as pie.  1, 2, 3.  Should I have said “yes” to him when he suggested that he just marry me and maybe it would all be ok?  Hell no (and he knew it).  He deserves an ecstatically happy life with a partner of his choosing in a world that accepts him the way he is.

What a bizarre parallel that this movie was released the year that California voters approved Proposition 8.  The movie depicts the battle in California against Proposition 6 – which would have required the mandatory firing in California of any teacher who was gay AND any public school employee who supported gay rights.  The whole “they will teach my children to grow up gay” argument which I think was a last-minute tactic that the supporters of Prop 8 used in 2008 to help it pass and rescind the right of same-sex couples to marry.  Which just makes me ask – ????????….uhhhhhh…..where did all the gay people come from if we’ve been living in a man-woman-marriage world for so many years?  Could it be because it is natural and not because it was taught to young people by conspiring, sneaky gay people??

I’d hate for viewers of this movie to walk away and think that all Christians are like Anita Bryant.  Look her up if you need to.  We are not all like Anita Bryant.  I could explain and explain the theology and the reasons why many Christians don’t oppose same-sex marriage and why we try to focus on things like not killing other people and not sleeping with someone else’s spouse.  But I don’t think it should be that hard to understand.  Not all Christians oppose the fundamental right of two human beings to love each other if they want to.   Those of you who think all Christians are like this – KNOCK IT OFF.  It hurts my feelings. 

Rhetoric is powerful.  Many people who oppose gay rights honestly think they are doing what is right and best.  But the rhetoric of the argument can incite vicious people who are filled with such bigotry and hate that they will advocate violence.  The motives behind Milk’s and Moscone’s assassinations were more complex.  There was a job at stake – the provision of family – obvious serious mental collapse.  But how many gay men in San Francisco were beaten in the 70s?  The 80s?  How many Matthew Shepards are there across the country in this century?  Harvey Milk was shot five times, including twice in the head.  Does any human being deserve to die like that? 

Did ANYONE who saw the movie hear a piece of music that was exactly from the movie “And the Band Played On?”  There was a scene – Harvey was talking to Scott and we only see Scott and there is music in the background.  And I swear – with the cello part and all – it was exactly from “And the Band Played On.”  Coincidence?  Or Danny Elfman’s homage to that great movie?  My sister was amazed I recognized it.  I told her I re-watch that movie almost every year.  And not just because Phil Collins is in it. 

I’ve written before about miscegenation laws in the United States.  All these people who oppose same-sex marriage.  Do they understand that it wasn’t until 1967 and the Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia that the Supreme Court finally said – oh yeah – all you states that have laws against interracial marriage – those are unconstitutional.  You can’t do that.  I know that people who make the religious argument don’t understand or agree with the comparison.  But what if you wanted to marry someone of another race – with no qualms or worries – and a bunch of people told you “You are wrong.”  And then the laws of your state said “We won’t recognize your marriage.”  Whether or not you agree with the reasons – what if it was against the law?  You have no say.  You love someone of a different race.  You can’t get married.  1967 – just TWO YEARS before my parents of two different races were married.  Granted, they didn’t plan their wedding in a state with a miscegenation law on the books.  But what if they wanted to a couple years earlier?  They could have been arrested. 

As a happily married heterosexual, I sometimes think – well, in another generation this battle will be won and we’ll be looking back at anti-same-sex-marriage laws with the same sense of history.  But that is not good enough for good people who want to be married now – or who want their existing marriages to be legally recognized.  For that reason, I think, I cannot stop myself from going on and on about the subject.  Again I ask – why aren’t we passing tougher laws against real crime?  Why aren’t we focusing on real issues?  Why are people afraid for the future of America because two people who love each other want to live their lives in peace?  If we have to change everyone to be a certain way or live a certain life, why don’t we spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and sins? 

We all deserve better.   All people deserve the same basic civil rights.  We all should have come much farther (should that be further?) by now. 

It’s late and suddenly it is Christmas Eve.  I’ve been absent from blogging and now I write about something not related to Christmas.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe it is about the spirit of hope and love.  Harvey Milk spoke of hope.  What better time to look forward in hope?

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If I have to keep track of Sarah Palin for the next four years, I will to document what a horrendous candidate she would ever be on the national stage.  Bumper stickers of Palin 2012 are supposedly selling briskly and women who oppose Palin are being screamed at on conservative blogs.  I read a blog comment that stated the following:

Sarah Palin represents everything the feminist establishment has labored towards for decades. Her real flaw? No ‘D’ after her name…

Now, it may surprise some of you to hear this but I have never considered myself a feminist.  I remember telling this to my first-year college roommate during our first week together.  She just gaped at me.  She was astounded.  She said I was the first woman she’d met who said that.  But there it is.  There are certainly women’s issues that I support.  But I don’t hold onto an entire platform of women’s issues that I feel I must champion.  I appreciate the opportunities I have been given in life.  I appreciate my own ability to battle through a profession surrounded by men.  Yes, there are a good number of women who are environmental analysts.  But we work with engineers (civil, structural, traffic, you name it), city planners, private developers, attorneys, and elected officials.  In my many 10-plus years of project meetings, I am always outnumbered by men.  Sometimes I was the only woman in the room and got to endure being called “Sweetheart” and hearing a pig of a man laugh around the room and say “You know how women are!”  ha ha  But my struggles were my own and I don’t expect anyone to fight them for me or make them any easier. 

That being said, I guess maybe it is because I am not a feminist that I want to hurl my lunch at the thought that Sarah Palin has any attributes that the “feminist establishment has labored towards.”  No wait.  I’m pretty sure that statement would make a lot of feminists hurl also.  There are a lot of individual reasons why individual women in this country do not like her.

I didn’t support her because I don’t agree with many many of her positions as described in the McCain/Palin literature on their website and as reported through the last couple of months.  And her fatal flaws are her two-facedness, her back stabbing tactics, her lack of worldly knowledge (I’m not saying the woman is an idiot. I am saying she hasn’t bothered to care about anything outside of Alaska politics for…..years/ever), and her massive, massive demagogy.

Demagogy.  From merriam-webster online: 

a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power

From Wikipedia:

Demagogy refers to a political strategy for obtaining and gaining political power by appealing to the popular prejudices, emotions, fears, and expectations of the public – typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist or populist themes.

Now, to a certain degree, this type of tactic is commonplace in national politics.  But I really feel that Palin’s rhetoric in the campaign kicked the hate up to a whole new stratosphere.  And this type of behavior from her didn’t just come from being “handled” by the McCain campaign.  Back in September, when Time magazine was introducing Palin to the country, they talked about her past campaigns.  From council to mayor to governor.  Time reported the following:

But in the first major race of her career — the 1996 campaign for mayor of her hometown, Wasilla — Palin was a far more conventional politician. In fact, according to some who were involved in that fight, Palin was a highly polarizing political figure who brought partisan politics and hot-button social issues like abortion and gun control into a mayoral race that had traditionally been contested like a friendly intramural contest among neighbors.

(Article is here: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1837918,00.html)

Demagogy.

And while national speeches and ads often attack the opponent, the hate and furor reached a new high with Palin’s vicious rhetoric.  According to the new behind-the-scenes Newsweek article on the campaign Palin started some of her attack rhetoric before the McCain campaign had finalized a plan to even raise the issue.  And then this:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied.

She would give speeches and attack Obama and people in the crowd yelled “Kill him!”  Did she chastise those people? No. 

Demagogy. 

This woman should never be allowed to return to the national stage.  Even though I think any strategy to put her back out there would implode on itself and discredit the other ideologues in this country who think she is so fantastic.  Even so, it would not be worth it.  She doesn’t deserve one more second of attention outside of Alaska. I don’t know who these people are who are so ga-ga about the idea of Palin in 2012.  Surely, in the entire country, there are more qualified Republicans who can still engender excitement and enthusiasm in the “party base” or could even, heaven forbid, be appealing to Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike the way John McCain was (once upon a time).   She is not a worthy candidate outside of Alaska.

But don’t take my word for it.  Listen to Bill O’Reilly.

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One of the reasons my Sweetie likes The Daily Show is because of the time the staff takes to show political pundits contradicting themselves.  They manage to find material/quotes/video of pundits who say one thing on one day and something else on another day.

Now, this is not a big surprise to me.  I came to a revelation years ago listening to Rush Limbaugh.  Rush got his talk show start at a Sacramento radio station and there used to be huge billboards around Sactown promoting him.  I have been a listener of KFBK News Radio for years, partly because they had the best traffic updates in the morning.  So, I’ve listened to a lot of their shows.  Tom Sullivan (who was, I think, best man at Rush’s wedding) is the afternoon host these days.  I know people who used to be devout listeners of his show when he made the Big Time and who became (for a while) huge dittoheads of Limbaugh.  They would use Rush’s latest rants to argue political issues with me.  So, from time to time I would listen to Rush so that I could hear for myself what he was saying.  And I made two observations:  1) Rush gets so worked up with his rants that I am convinced he is going to give himself a heart attack on the air someday, and 2) Rush is, first and foremost, an entertainer.  He, like many TV and radio talk show folks, is not working for a non-profit.  So, at the end of the day, what is the bottom line?  It is NOT – hey let’s look at the opinion polls and see if we swayed anyone on this issues.  The bottom line at the end of the day is: What were my ratings today?  It’s all about being fiery enough and holding people’s attention enough to keep them listening.  That fattens the ratings and the paycheck.  I’m convinced that if you talked to most partisan commentators and told them “Starting tomorrow, you have to switch views to keep your job” (with no repercussions – like – the audience wouldn’t even remember what you said today, ala 1984) – I think a large number of them would.  Do you listen to these people rant?  Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Ann Coulter, anyone who ever uttered one word on Air America (yuck).  Pretty useless, all of them, as far as productive commentary.  Give me NPR any day of the week. 

So, given that partisan pundits just want exposure and ratings, it doesn’t surprise me that they can spin any story to support their rants.  Even if it contradicts yesterday’s rants.  What surprises me is that more of their listeners don’t call them on it. 

Now, the hypocrisy that I am speaking of today was pointed out on the Daily Show a while ago.  I sent the clip to my Sweetie (who had already seen it), but I did nt distribute it anywhere else.  I figure – there is so much political hubris floating around, people would get sick of me adding to it.

But today, again, I read someone’s blog who is complaining about anyone making a fuss over Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy.  And who complains about anyone passing judgement on Palin because of it.  Now, that statement I agree with – AS LONG AS WE DON’T KNOW THE FULL STORY.  Sure, there are probably times when parents make crappy decisions for their kids (hi – I hired a hooker for my 16-year old son).  But, isn’t it a wee bit hypocritical when these complaints come from people who talk all the time about their conservative Christian values and who make judgements about people who take a stand on more liberal issues (as this blogger did just a few days before – he made a judgement call against people who stand up for an issue without knowing anything about them). 

Well, I call shenanigans hypocrisy on you!

And everyone else who does the same thing for the sake of partisan politics.  Just cut it out, will you?

Because I see this issue is still coming up, I am finally going to share this clip for anyone who has not seen it.  The Karl Rove part about experience and the O’Reilly part about teen pregnancy are brilliant and hilarious.  The last part is ok, but I would mainly recommend the first three minutes. 

I think the takeaway lesson here is – don’t use these people to help you make your own arguments.  And – watch out for hypocrisy in your own rants.  I know we can’t always avoid it.  I admited when I was so passionate about an issue here on this blog that my logic and reason could be compromised.  But I can also admit when someone with a different political conclusion has some good/great/valid points in his/her arguments.  Does that invalidate my opinions?  No.  It informs them.  Is that so bad?

For the record, O’Reilly responded to the clip on his own show.   He is correct that The Daily Show edited his comments to fit their mocking point.  But when I hear so many people out in the world doing the same thing (condemming one group of people and supporting another ON THE SAME ISSUE- based on politics), it irritates me.  You can see his response here: 

http://blog.indecision2008.com/2008/09/09/bill-oreilly-slams-jon-stewart-sometimes-a-teen-pregnancy-is-just-a-teen-pregnancy/

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Sweetie and I watched the movie “Into the Wild” a little bit ago.  It got me thinking about a lot of things.  Then, someone commented on an old blog of mine, and it stirred up the thoughts even more.  I wrote this observation:

“I think some people want to be understood. In that case, they may need a good, non-judgmental ear. I have found, in my life, once I stopped focusing so hard on myself and feeling so isolated and incomprehensible, it was ok to let people understand who I really am.”

I felt I wanted to follow up my own thoughts on the movie and expound on these thoughts.  I’m trying to write without rambling for 26 pages.  Let’s see if I can do it.

Spoiler Alert:

If you want to see the movie and want no spoilers whatsoever, you should stop reading.  I don’t think I can write what I want to write without talking about important parts of the movie.  Consider this your spoiler alert.

Basically, this kid leaves home to wander the country for a couple of years with little to no money.  He lives off of odd jobs, the kindness of strangers, and (in the wilds of Alaska) off his own hunting and gathering skills.  This is what the IMDB summary says:

Based on a true story. After graduating from Emory University in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life.

That sounded intriguing to me.  Of course, that is not the full story.  What you learn while watching the movie is – –  he was estranged from his family and never told them where he was during his travels. He lied to the people he met about his identity and his background.  And ultimately (end-of-movie spoiler here), he dies in the wilderness in Alaska.  Unknown and disputed is how exactly he died – did he eat a poisonous plant or just starve to death?  Also unknown were his motivations at the end – did he go to Alaska to die purposefully, or was he really ready to go back home/into civilization?  How bad was his upbringing?  Don’t know.

This is not a commentary on this kid’s life.  There has been a lot of comments made about his own motivations and behavior.  Was he selfish? Was he arrogant?  I don’t know.  I just watched a movie.  I didn’t know the kid.  What I am commenting on are very universal human behaviors that this movie made me think about. 

I started thinking about things like emotional pain, self-absorption, truth, alienation, and communication.  And I thought of a couple of universal behaviors:

People don’t see what they don’t want to see. 

And. 

Too often, people tragically become what they dislike.

This kid said he was looking for truth.  Truth was the highest ideal, the most important thing to him.  His parents had lied to him and that was bad.   But, apparently, truth is all relative.  He wanted truth because his father lied to him.  But what does he do?  He lies.  He lies about his name.  About his family.  About why he ran away from home.  He met people along the way who cared about him and felt somewhat responsible for him (by helping him out).  And he lied to them.  But he never seemed to realize that one particular truth about himself. Or maybe, he saw things in such degrees of gray that his lies were ok. 

His parents inflicted emotional harm on him.  The film never shows him being physically beaten, so let’s just stick with emotional harm.  Which, as most of us know can be as, or more damaging, than physical.  I had a friend who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as an adult due to the abuse she suffered from her mother as a child, and it wasn’t physical abuse.  The wounds of the psyche take a long time to heal.  You would think that the children of abusers would be the last people on earth who would abuse another.  But, sadly, human experience shows this is not true.  Some learn to equate abuse with love and, in some warped sense of logic, abuse their own children.  This kid inflicted all sorts of emotional pain on the people around him in the name of “truth.”  Was he being true to himself?  Yes.  But, did he even take the time to acknowledge other people’s pain?  No.  And that is what bugged me.  He didn’t have to stay in Slab City with Jan and Rainey.  He didn’t have to agree to be adopted by Franz  (especially since his parents were still quite alive).  But he didn’t even look hard enough to recognize the pain that his actions caused on these people.  To say “I’m sorry I have to do this for myself, but I do care for you.”  Maybe he did in real life.  But again, I think this behavior is universal.  I was thinking, after I watched, this is universal in young people who are so tuned into their own selves.

He didn’t listen well enough to recognize the pain that Jan was sharing with him about her own son.  I don’t think she was trying to use Chris as a surrogate for her own son.  But, as a young kid who was doing the same thing, would it have killed him to say one encouraging thing to her?  And would it have destroyed him if he had shared his own tale of pain and abuse with others?  Did he just like giving the impression that he was a Zen-like, totally together, relaxed dude to other people? I don’t think so.  I think he honestly felt like his pain was too great and too embarrassing to share.  Though I don’t understand how, in the year 1992, being an illegitimate offspring can be that devastating.  Hello?  Was it 1882?  No.  It was 1992.  Not a nice thing to find out, but not something that would destroy your future in this country.

And that leads to the other universal behavior this kid displayed:

Self-absorption is a black hole

Ultimately, self-absorption can lead to your own destruction, and that is one of the most selfish things a person can do (which is what self-absorption is all about…….I know…..duh).  Does every human have that right to destroy him/herself?  Notwithstanding the will of God, yes (But there is a reason that suicide is classified as a mortal sin. And if you think that isn’t a grave matter for Christians, consider the fact that I may not have survived my teenage years if the idea of that mortal sin didn’t scare the beejeebies out of me.  Which, yes,  goes a long way towards proving Umberto Eco’s point of the church exerting control over its parishioners, but that is a long discussion for another day).

I’m not saying people are not entitled to some self-pitying moments.  Of course that will happen.  I’m not even saying that most people don’t recognize this behavior in themselves.  Including me.  We see it.  We know it.  We are not stupid. 

So, what are some solutions to these problems??  I came up with four ideas (Just ideas.  As the saying goes in Dogma: “It’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier”): 

Experience.  Brain chemistry.  Discipline.  Communication. 

How am I qualified to share this with you? I’m not.  Too bad.  I’m writing anyway.  That’s what we writers do. 

#1. Experience:  I think, the more you experience life and learn about other people’s experiences, the more you can put your own troubles in perspective.  Unfortunately, the only way that can happen is if you live long enough to learn about other people, other places, other experiences.  Whether by choice or not, Chris didn’t have enough time to learn perspective.  And he wasn’t listening enough to the people around him who were trying to offer him some.  But I think most of us, if we look, will find there are people in our lives who can offer perspective.  My father was vital at this for me after I went away to college and learned to appreciate his long, often rambling lectures.

Because, #2.  I think brain chemistry plays a huge part.  Perhaps the biggest part.  My buddy years ago (oops – I moved that story to the end.  Sorry) went through a lot of shit, yes.  But it was shit that other people have been able to get through.  It was stuff he was already in counseling for and was trying to work through.  But, for all his self-discipline and attempts to help himself, I don’t think he could overcome some basic short-circuiting in his brain.  For that, he needed some medical help, and I don’t think it was a cop out for him to submit to it.  Sometimes, those misfires in our brain can overwhelm everything else.  Never underestimate that, or think that you know yourself well enough to know what all the neurons and chemicals in your body are telling each other.  I don’t see it as a weakness.  It is a simple physiological fact of life.

#s 3 and 4.  Discipline and communication. 

I think of the scene in “Moonlight and Valentino” when Sylvie yells at Rebecca”  “Your time of self-absorption is up!!”

Wow.  That was tough.  Did Rebecca have an incredibly tragic reason to be self-absorbed?  Yes.  Was Sylvie correct though?  Probably, yes.  This is not to say that people don’t have reasons to be tragic.  But what was the harsh truth that Sylvie was pointing out?

There comes a time when we need to stop being dominated by those little and big tragedies in our lives.  Not forget them all.  As I pointed out, Tears for Fears has one of the best lines ever in “I believe there are wounds time can’t heal”.  But, the way the movie showed it, this kid could not stop dwelling on the bad things in his family life.  Forget about the fact he said he loved his sister, but then left her alone with the parents he despised. 

I think there comes a point you have to learn how to make friends with your ghosts (I hate to point out another movie reference, but this reminds me of a powerful scene in Uncommon Valor).  It’s easier to deal with your own demons when you learn to recognize that your human existence is not unique in the world.  We have many wonderful things that make each of us special.  We don’t need our tragedies and foibles to define how others see us.  Because, as you also learn as you get older, most people have seen similar things, and it’s not really a big deal.  Not to them anyway.  Wow.  That was a tough one for me at first.  But after the shock, it was the best realization of my life.  I’ve said it before.  Initially, this is a harsh reality.  But once I finally got used to the idea, it offered a refreshing release from my own demons.  I’m not so damaged that anyone would be shocked to know about me!

Unfortunately, just like treatment for substance abuse, working to heal oneself doesn’t succeed until the person in pain recognizes the problems and……seeks help.  Vital point.  For me, it was as simple as learning some basic skills.  I was great for years at recognizing and self-analyzing my own problems.  Was I good at overcoming them?  No.  Not until I learned how to communicate with others.  Not until I learned to stop despising simple things like crying and talking honestly to other people.  Wow.  What a realization.  It was hard to come by.  It was hard to overcome them.  I had to – sometimes still have to – exert a lot of effort and discipline to overcome my old tendencies and to let myself cry (though my husband would be surprised to hear this).  To reach out to other people for help.  To offer up my own open ears and heart to other people.  You would think that would be easy.  Sometimes, it’s the hardest thing in the world.  But, if you are the kind of person who relies on others, as Rebecca relied on Sylvie’s friendship, you owe it to other people to sometimes be a giver instead of a taker. 

Using that logic (back to the movie), did Chris need to snap out of it since he made a decision for himself to be on his own and not rely on anyone else?  Of course he did.  He needed to snap out of it for the sake of his own life, which was promising and which he could have used for many things…..to promote wilderness issues, or to write a book to share the truths he worked so hard to learn.  The movie did make it seem like this is exactly what happened.  That he had an awakening moment.  He dried his tears and he set out to leave the wild.  He was stymied by a raging river and he didn’t know that he needed to walk just a little ways down the river to find a path out.  Then, it was too late. 

And maybe that is the point of the movie.  Figure it out before it is too late.  Or, figure it out in slightly less isolated surroundings. ??  With a telephone and food around.  I wish that kid had the opportunity to take what he learned in the wilderness and leave more than just a few scribblings in book margins and boards and old paper. 

Why do I get so worked up about it?  Maybe because of a bad experience I had years ago being smack dab in the middle of a good friend’s suicide attempt.  I can tell you that brought a lot of esoteric, philosophical, high-falutin’ concepts into stark harsh reality for me.  It was real.  It was scary.  It was something I was completely not qualified to deal with.  And it left me knowing that I never wanted to see someone fall that far over the edge again.  Maybe I get worked up because I have spent so much of my own time working my ass off to try and improve my own emotional outlook.  Or maybe because, cynical old cuss that I am, I just want people to be more happy.  I know I’ve probably set a record for rambling but, of course, writing things out helps me process my own thoughts.  And since I started sharing them a little, I thought I might as well finish the thought.  I can offer no other justification than that.  Thank you for indulging me.  And to paraphrase Saturn, you get a big cookie if you managed to read through this whole thing.

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…I have in the past railed against a sometimes excessive use of litigation by environmentalists. And I understand the argument that, if you can’t demonstrate the success of Recovery Plans for endangered species to restore a healthy population, then what is the use of a Recovery Plan? And what is the best evidence of success? To remove a species from the list of threatened or endangered species.

Which is what happened this year for the gray wolves in the contiguous 48 states (they were never listed as threatened or endangered in Alaska). Having watched the process unfold since the Recovery Plan was first formulated…….having written my own recovery plan of sorts for the wolf for a senior project in college……..I did count the move as a measure of success. I did.

I get it. And in the case of the wolf, some of the Fish and Wildlife Service folks who have been working on wolf reintroduction for many, many years claim there is good reason to delist them. But delisting them is one thing. Actively opening up hunting season amongst a group of people who hate this animal is quite another. You can just see the licked lips and cocked guns of the men waiting to (legally) bag themselves a wolf in the lower 48 states with management turned over to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. And it isn’t a pretty picture. There are better ways to manage the population.

And logic can be known to fly out the window for me when I am dealing with a topic that can either warm my heart or boil my blood. I can admit that. And this topic can, and has, done both for over 20 years for me.

So, ha. I’ll count this as a victory for the wolf. From the news article:

A federal judge has restored endangered species protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, derailing plans by three states to hold public wolf hunts this fall.

A victory for my animal. Not the entire environmental movement. Don’t attribute motivation to me that I don’t have. This is an emotional issue for me and it is limited to this one animal. Whatever the battles in court, the wolf will eventually be delisted permanently. Is it too much to ask these states to not try and hunt them into extinction the moment that happens? Go back and work on it Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Haven’t we learned any lessons from our past actions here in the United States?

Wait………what was I talking about?

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….the things some people say and believe.

You know, I’m not really going to try and chime in on the particulars of the Jena 6 case. Truth is, I didn’t know about the previous incidents before last week, so I don’t know all the facts of the cases. I don’t.

But I thought someone made a very telling statement to the news crews on the day of the protest march in Jena. On the news that night they interviewed people who had traveled in buses to attend the march. Then, they interviewed several people in town who were awaiting the arrival of marchers. One woman stated this:

“We live in the 21st century. They’re not going to let people get rail-roaded!”

ummmm……

What planet of brotherly love do YOU live on? Pull the wool away from your eyes, dear. She didn’t object to the marchers, but she seems to think there is no reason why any group of people would need to stand up and make a case for racial justice.

And that, my friends, is exactly why we still need these types of marches. Not to make a case for or against particular people. Not to be angry. But to say to folks in this country – there are a lot of places here where people of different races are not on a level playing field. And doesn’t everyone deserve that?

I honestly don’t think all the marches in the world will change the heart of racist people. These people are going to believe whatever they want to believe. Maybe because they are afraid. Maybe because they seek power. Maybe because they’ve been brainwashed. Who knows.

But I think people need to look around and realize that inequities still exist. Everywhere. I’m not singling out the southern portions of our Nation. Or the big cities. Or the impoverished. Many places will have problems. I spent about 10 years in a college town in California. Lots of ethnicities in town. And lots and lots of highly educated people. Lots. But they couldn’t escape the brutality of race-related problems. Insulting graffiti on homes. Fights in the schools. Alleged racial profiling by the City’s police department. I spent a lot of time talking to a friend of mine who knows the amount of times her two sons (she’s white, her kids are black) were pulled over by police in town – for invisible infractions. For the sheer sport of it, it seemed. Years of this behavior, so that it got to the point that her law-abiding sons were afraid of the police. And finally moved out of town. She’s been trying to complain to the police department for years. The community itself held a march in 2006 protesting alleged racial profiling by the police department. It may not be as bad as other parts of the country, but these problems still exist, from one end of the nation to the other.

Now, I’m not as sensitive to racism as my father used to be. Bless his heart, if someone seated us in a restaurant too close to either the front door – or to the kitchen – Dad would get this grumbly look in his eye like “We’ve been singled out!” And you couldn’t win. If we went to a Chinese restaurant – we were singled out because my mom is Caucasian. If we went to any other restaurant – we were singled out because Dad is Asian. He never actually said it, but there are several restaurants dad would not let us return to after a perfectly good meal. But keep in mind – Dad grew up in the 1940s through 60s. He had seen his fair share of hardcore hatred and discrimination. That tends to wear on a human being.

So, I’m not that sensitive. And I think things have much improved since my father was a young man. But I don’t believe we live in a lovely place where no one gets railroaded anymore. It’s not an equal playing field by far. And people shouldn’t live in oblivion.

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