Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Future of America: Yo Gabba Gabba

Go Tell It on the Mountain
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here. 
  As children, we are always told to follow our consciences. We are told that if something we are doing doesn't "feel" right, the action should be immediately abandoned. However, the root of conscience is truly a human desire to be obedient--our parents lay down the rules of action when we are children, and our following these rules contributes to some kind of prize, some kind of reward. Our minds are as moldable as play dough at this early age, and once the play dough hardens, the shape to which it was molded by our early caretakers guides us through the rest of our days. A lot of psychology, I know. But psychology is really the secret to the workings of humans, not to mention one of the coolest-sounding "-ology's" by far.
     During the first half of the twentieth century and before, early caretakers were first and foremost immediate family members as well as teachers. The media had some influence, but not a lot because there wasn't much media geared towards the early childhood demographic, or  not much media at all for the majority of the time.  However, after about mid-century, media's influence on the early childhood age group increased and increased up to the present day, when shows such as "Yo Gabba Gabba" and "Handy Manny" exist. Such television programs are meant to help teach character traits that parents would normally teach their children, but it can definitely be said that they take this responsibility a little too far. Therefore, the children of today are hit with a nuclear bomb of morals not even the greatest saint could fulfill. Can you live your entire life without lying? Can you never say a mean thing about another person? Can you find the good in everyone you meet?
     Do you think these expectations are a bit too idealistic? Well, that's unfortunate, because such is exactly what children of my generation are being trained to do.
     A very similar phenomenon occurs in Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. Our main character, John Grimes, is the son of a preacher (the one who doesn't practice what he preaches--I mentioned him in that post about Facebook) . A battle occurs within John, a battle waged against what he learned in childhood and the truth he has come to know as a teenager. You see, his father taught John that  one must  hate all white people and  follow God by never showing pride, but John is quickly discovering that being proud and having respect for certain white people is exactly how he can obtain a better life. The roots of the aforementioned are taught to him when the white principal of his elementary school compliments John on his handwriting at the age of six, making the boy feel almost invincible. Such psychological battle pervades the entire novel.
     Is being proud at times negative? Yes. Were all white people trustworthy in the 1920s? No. However, some pride is necessary for success, and some white people could be trusted, and this trust could launch someone towards success. Likewise, we must recognize that a generation of people whose consciences defile them whenever they hurt someone's feelings or tell a small lie is a generation of people who cannot reach success in the real world.
     I'll give you a final example: you know how both parents and a large majority of children's television focus on the importance of sharing everything? Because keeping things for yourself is very selfish and naughty and will get you coal from Santa Claus. Well, sharing everything has another name in the adult world, and that name concerns something utterly unsuccessful: communism.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Totally Top Ten Tuesday (Numero 6)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wondrous individuals at The Broke and the Bookish and participated in by so many wondrous book bloggers. So with no further ado, I henceforth give you...

Top Five (Yeah...I know...I'm slacking) Books 
That Made Me Think
  1. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan | Oh. My. Goodness. Of all the books that have won the Pulitzer these last few years, this one must be among the most deserving for oodles and oodles of reasons. Among those reasons are the genius narration style (some of the book is told via Powerpoint slides) and the characters, but especially those characters. What moved me was Egan's way of creating a Paradise Lost for each one, then making the reader feel like the character is on his way to finding said paradise once more.
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens | Yes, this is a big and at times notoriously (and by "notoriously", I mean "obnoxiously") boring book. But no, it's not only for English literature professors who sit around all day drinking tea and hanging out with their cats. Again, characters are what play the main role here, and Dickens' genius is how he manipulates those characters into showing their true identities. Not to mention the fact that the story line somewhat parallels the Occupy Wall Street saga. Not to mention the fact that Christopher Nolan used it as inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises...yeuh!
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | I know that I've been raving on and on about this book ever since I finished reading it about one year ago. However, the level of my infatuation only has this novel's deserving of that infatuation to blame--how can a book effectively narrated by Death not deserve it?   
  4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Living in a primarily Caucasian community, this novel made me think a hell of a lot about stereotypes. How interesting that its main character is one of the most not-stereotypical Dominicans the literary world has ever known. 
  5. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck | The happenings of a California coastal and industrial town give you more perspectives on the art of human life than you can ever dream of. This is why you are my honorary bro, Mr. Steinbeck.

And now, the philosophy. You are honestly living under a Jupiter-sized rock if you don't know the significance of today. As far as 9/11 goes, it is my true and sincere belief that the time for pure mourning is over--we must never forget those who died on that fateful day, but also know that the significance of this event in World History does not stop at over three hundred casualties and the United States hating Iran who hates America who hates Pakistan who hates America and all the intricacies of international affairs. Instead, there is deep, emotional meaning in this day, like the emotional meaning explored in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Emotional meaning like personal accounts of how the event broke a family apart, pieced a family back together, or made a family in itself. And it is only with the exploration of this emotional meaning, not lists of casualties, that the lives of the lost can be celebrated forever.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Go Tell It On the Facebook

Go Tell It on the Mountain
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here. 
I admit that I am a furious Facebook user. There are times when my one and only goal is to reach home so I can turn on that magical computer and type in  "www.fa" (the site is visited so much, my browser has the URL saved.) Of course, there can definitely be a bunch of professional-sounding excuses for this obsession, such as "A writer is always curious about the lives of others!", "It gives me inspiration for my writing!", "It helps my school club organize meetings!", or even "It's better than committing a crime!" Well, actually doing schoolwork or writing is also a lot better than committing a crime as well. How I frustrate myself sometimes.
     The truth is that I could achieve much more if these frequent visits ceased. What is it about the website, however, that makes its signature shade of blue inspire comfort and excitement within me (yes, I know how creepy that sounds, but it really is true.) The answer, in my opinion, is that Facebook lets individuals lead a double life.
     Now, I'm not talking about one of those "I'm a lawyer by day and stripper by night" kind of double lives. I'm talking about living a double life as Gabriel Grimes does in James Baldwin's classic novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain. This tale uses their relationship with God to depict African Americans experiencing the Great Migration from Jim Crow (oodles and oodles of discrimination) in the South to big business in the North. Grimes's relationship is a deep one, as he is a preacher who was turned away from the whore houses and whiskey bottles of Satan by a holy epiphany when he was but twenty one. Through many troublesome years his mother prayed for this event, but the heartbreaking truth is that said prayers are in vain even after Grimes has been "saved". This is because Preacher Grimes develops the habit of not practicing what he preaches. Gabriel's sister, Florence, realizes this as she learns of her brother abusing his children, abusing his wife, having an affair, and not supporting his illegitimate child. Despite Florence's knowledge, though, most people still are under the impression that this preacher is always guided by the very hand of God, destined to lead those who follow him into eternal glory.
     Gabriel keeps the holy image by painstakingly applying cover-ups to any evidence of Satan in his life. If only he lived in the Information Age--on Facebook, you see, the process of doing this would be as easy as picking what he posts on his profile.
     An inner, psychological reason for my love of facebook is therefore that I can construct a personality I desperately wish was my own. Through the pictures I post, statuses I write, comments I make, and pages I like, a persona of myself is created that is not perfect, but flawed in perfect ways. And I am extremely sure than many more individuals than just myself are guilty of this action.
    An obvious way to improve my own life, then, would be making my persona on Facebook the real me, to think of everything I do as something my three hundred friends could know about with a single click.