Sunday, June 7, 2020

We Can't Get There From Here

A couple of months back I posted my first blog in a long ass time.

It came from a place of frustration, anger, hope, and timid optimism that maybe, just maybe, it might be possible to reclaim our sanity and return to simpler times.

Then, the world fell apart.

We were forced, not by our government, but by a microscopic virus, into our homes where we stayed, frightened at first because of the unknown, and the catastrophic toll it had the potential to wreak and the lives it could take.

But as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, social media was alive with the unrest felt by many.  Fear had given way to anger and skepticism, and finally full out blatant rebellion against, of all things - science.

Americans had taken a pandemic that had proven itself deadly the world over and turned it into a political argument.  Because that's what we do nowadays.  We draw lines in the imaginary sand and bash one another and call names and insult one another's intelligence if we don't see eye to eye.

ESPECIALLY when it comes to our broken, outdated, two party political system.

But moreover, we have a media problem in this country, and hear me when I say it's not the news media that is the problem. If you can't watch the news and think for yourself what makes sense, what doesn't, and what is being sensa!tionalized for highest ratings, I humbly suggest that you review and sharpen your critical thinking skills.  We all should do that, periodically, and the reason why?

Social media.

In case you live under a rock, not everything posted on social media is true.  Not all of it is fact.

"Well, no shit, Sherlock!" you might say.  "I'm not fucking stupid!"

No, neither am I.  But that doesn't mean I haven't been fooled a time or several.  That doesn't mean I've sometimes been too lazy to do my own fact checking and shared something that misled viewers, simply because it aligned with my beliefs and what I felt was true.

Let me say that again.

I have shared things without fact checking simply because they aligned with MY beliefs and I FELT they were true.

That random meme that stirred something in my soul.  That random article that stirred me to outrage.

We don't live in the same world that we used to.  Many of us spend large chunks of time devouring media, whether it be on our phones, tablets, or television screens.  Anyone with an email address and a message can create a profile on any number of platforms and start speaking up whether what they have to say is useful or true.  What's more, and far more damaging - is that social media has become the latest battleground in a virtual war that most people don't even realize they are participating in.

A virtual civil war, in the case of this country, that is threatening to spill over into reality very, very soon.

And whether you are an active participant posting your PRO or ANTI rhetoric in the forms of memes or articles, or a bystander who quietly reacts and leaves an occasional comment, or the person who just scrolls on by and says and does nothing, YOU ARE PLAYING A PART.

I know I keep jumping around from point to point without actually making one, but trust me, I do have one, and this is it:


We cannot continue to see one another as JUST a political party, a sexual orientation, a skin color, a religion, a profession, or any other identity assigned to us because that is how we present ourselves or how other people perceive us to be.

In case you didn't know, Facebook sold all of us out years ago and our data has not only been bought and sold the world over, it wasn't just to make sure we were seeing the latest relevant advertisement in our newsfeed.  Those quizzes and games that you give access to your profile so you can find out who you were in a past life or what your personality type is or what fruit you are asked for permission to access your profile, your friends list, and god knows what else but you clicked through it without reading eager to find out what kind of potato you are.

And that app or quiz or game scraped all of the data off your profile and in some cases, your friends' profiles, and maybe their friends' profiles.  And then all of that information was fed into a supercomputer owned by a company called Cambridge Analytica who used AI and algorithms to psychologically profile all of the people it had data for.

And then that company sold that data to parties that most decidedly have NOT been using it to sell you cheap leggings and subscription boxes.

Rather, the parties in question used that data to galvanize, polarize, and metastasize people like you and I against one another.  The parties in question are doing it now, with every fake profile and page that they have carefully crafted on every platform available, based on what those psychological profiles told them about people who use social media.

The moral of the story?

Stop perpetuating the division.  It's okay to believe in something or someone and show your support by sharing it and speaking out about it.  It is NOT okay to attack, belittle, or bully someone either directly or indirectly simply because they disagree or choose to live a different lifestyle or their truth is different than yours.  YOU are in the wrong.

And I am guilty of being in the wrong too.

This is a call to everyone to start taking responsibility for what you post, what you share, and how you interact with EVERYONE online.  The universe doesn't revolve around you, or me, or the political figure or celebrity that represents what you or I agree or disagree with.  A keyboard and a screen and whatever amount of virtual distance separating us as individuals does not make us right.

Remember, we live in what is supposed to be a civilized, free, and democratic society.  We have a responsibility to act accordingly and not let fanaticism and radicalism steer us into ruin.  If our leaders won't set an example for us, it us up to us to do so.

Start now.

Before it's too late.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Once Upon a Time On The Internet

Few things bother me more these days than the grim reality that is social media.

Once upon a time it was a fun escape into virtual anonymity where people expressed themselves genuinely and from the heart.  We wrote the things.  We shared the things.  We expressed support for the writing and sharing of the things.

Then life got busy for me and writing, blogging, and most other things that I enjoyed in my free time took a backseat.

Now, nearly 9 years later, I'm ready to make a comeback to blogging and writing, but the landscape of the internet has changed beyond what I remember.  It's like I have an outdated road map and they put in a freeway, a strip mall, and three Chuck E. Cheeses while I was away. 

Hell, I can't even find the blog that was attached to my Etsy store right now, so I'm guessing that got tore down to make way for someone else's craftiness.

I had a point when I started this rambling mess... what was it again?

Oh.... that's right.

The Grim Reality That Is Social Media.

You just checked your Facebook five minutes ago, am I right?  It's probably why you are reading this now if I haven't yet lost your attention and you are already back to Facebook, scrolling through the incessant hodgepodge of  misinformation, malignancy, and memes.

I can already tell I'm on the verge of losing some of you.  There is way too much text here.  No pictures!  No flashy videos!  No GIFS! Just words, endless words that I've at least thoughtfully broken up into shorter blocks of text to make for easier reading.

What happened to reading, anyway?  Why is it that we tune out after so many sentences and scroll on to the next shiny meme?

I blame Facebook.  Hell, it's got me trained well.  If it doesn't get the point across with a picture and a short phrase that makes me laugh, or piss me off at its message long enough to hold my attention, I just keep right on scrolling.  We've even got flashy backgrounds to put behind our posts now to hold people's attention.

Because words are no longer enough.

We can now reply with GIFS.  Who needs words when you can slap a sticker on a reply and call it good?  Even the simple "like" feature has turned into more, and by the way, Facebook's algorithm for tracking your reaction to posts isn't what you think it is.  More on that another time.

What was my point again?

Oh yes.  Words.

What happened to communication?  What's more, what happened to open minded, thoughtful, mature conversations with people you do not know personally (and people that you do know personally for the matter)?  What happened to respect of other's beliefs and values no matter how different from your own they may be, as long as they aren't harming you or anyone else?  What happened to problem solving and working together to tackle common issues?

Social media happened.

That lovely black hole that is Facebook that used to be about virtually poking your friends and tending your virtual farm and sharing pictures of family and friends has turned into a stinking cesspool of political divisiveness, ignorance, and hate.

Of course, that cesspool is broken up with the food porn, the baby pictures, and the cat memes that everyone came there for to begin with.  But go to the comments of any news post and watch how quickly people turn into assholes towards the poster and one another.  Watch them take something with no political connotations whatsoever and make it about politics.  (Thanks, Obama!) <--- see what I did there?

Watch them hate on each other over who they perceive each other to be based on their profiles.  Watch them, in some extreme cases, meddle in one another's real world affairs - in some extreme cases getting people fired or ruining their business based on a comment they made on a Facebook post or a picture they shared on their own wall or a status update that just didn't sit right with someone else.

Are you still with me?

Are you still on Facebook despite the ugliness?

Yes.  So am I.

Isn't it about time we changed the narrative?

I've got some thoughts on that.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.  Welcome back to my little corner of the Internet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Blogs of Christmas Redux - Cartoon Classics

Welcome to the 12 Blogs of Christmas!  Last year, some of my favorite bloggers and I got together to bring you 12 blogs filled with holiday magic and cheer.  We enjoyed them so much that we decided to share them with again this year, so be sure to visit everyone, and enjoy the 12 Blogs of Christmas Redux!

Cartoon Classics

What is your favorite Christmas cartoon?  When I think of Christmas, I think of those magical evenings leading up to the holiday when my sister and I settled down to steaming mugs of hot cocoa and Christmas cookies while we watched favorites such as the ones you'll find mentioned here.  

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Marie Patchen
Stop-motion animation is one of my favorite formats for Christmas cartoons.  I must have been spoiled by all of the good classics: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jack Frost, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and of course, The Year Without a Santa Claus.  Being the huge fan of fantasy and magic that I am, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus quickly took its place among my favorites when it first aired in 1985.  I think it is because it finally confirmed my suspicions that Santa Claus is not only magical himself, but he also rubs elbows with some pretty powerful immortals.  He would almost have to, given the fact that he delivers presents to all the kids in the world in one night.  Not to mention the fact that he's been kicking around the North Pole for hundreds of years.

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Amberr Meadows
As soon as the holidays come around, I'm always eager to see my favorite Christmas cartoons. One that I really love and have watched every year since childhood is Mickey's Christmas Carol. Technically it's a movie, but it's a cartoon movie, so I think it counts for the theme. Naturally, I'm a little old to get all gaga over a child's movie, and that's where my kiddo comes in handy (aside from being a spoiled, precious princess). I can still enjoy all of the classics from my childhood, because I feel it's my duty to pass on the tradition. It's too bad she won't stay young forever, but I'm hoping to enjoy the same things with my future grandchildren. Merry Christmas, everyone!  
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Tasty Traditions to read Amberr's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  

Frosty The Snowman

Ciara Ballintyne

 I watched this cartoon every year as a kid. So many years later, I can't even tell you what I loved about it. I still remember I hated the greenhouse scene where Frosty melts. But I watched it anyway - maybe kind of like watching Dumbo even though you know he gets taken away from his mother? My brother would do that when he was very little. Perhaps it was the magic hat. I wasn't quite into fantasy when I was heavily into this cartoon, but it wasn't far behind. Clearly I have a magic fetish. Yeah, that must be it.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’ to read Ciara's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too

I hated most Christmas cartoons when I was a kid. I became depressed over the fact that the snowman was banished to the North Pole just so he could survive to see another winter. It annoyed me to no end that Rudolph became loved and admired only after Santa found a use for him. I was all but convinced that those little Whos were faking it when they sang around the giant tree in the middle of the square. I mean, come on, who sings loud enough to be heard at the top of a mountain? And when the Grinch doled out that ridiculously oversized slice of roast beast to little Cindy Lou Who all I could think was, “How are all of the Whos going to get a piece of meat when the Grinch is slicing portions that large? Maybe they should get someone who has actually been to one of these celebrations to carve the damn meat.” I did like the Grinch’s facial expressions, though, and also that Grinchy song.
Although there was something in almost every Christmas cartoon that irked me to no end, there was one that made me truly happy - Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. It is an adorable movie about Winnie the Pooh and all his friends. They write a letter to Santa, asking for items like an umbrella for Eeyore and a single snowshoe to help Tigger bounce in the snow. Unfortunately, the gang gets greedy and spends so much time upgrading the list that the wind changes so the letter has zero chance of making it to Santa. Pooh takes matters in his own hands when he decides to play the role of Santa, since the whole thing was kind of his fault. Sounds awesome, right? If you haven’t seen it yet then get on it!
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Christmas Drinks to read D.C.'s part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Erica Lucke Dean
 Ever since I was a little girl, watching the Christmas specials on TV was an annual ritual. My sister and I would wait on pins and needles as the clock ticked down to show time.  I loved them all, but I will forever have a special place for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and his band of misfit friends.  In fact, it was inevitable each year when something in our stocking wasn't quite right, Mom would tell us it must be a misfit toy. We never complained about the doll that was supposed to talk, but didn't...or the Teddy Bear with a missing nose, because surely Santa brought them to us because we were the special children who would love the misfits as much as if they were perfect toys.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Somewhere In My Memory to read Erica's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Justin Bogdanovitch
Tim Burton is still considered an acquired taste. If you love Tim Burton, you'll see his version of Sweeney Todd, even though Johnny Depp's singing voice has a range from A to B. At this point in Burton's career, and with a lot of help from Depp, he's what Hollywood calls an auteur, someone who can wake up one morning, call a Studio and say, "I'm thinking of remaking Planet of the Apes, with Marky Mark. I'll make it Burtonesque!" And get the picture greenlit. Now, that picture was a head-scratcher, a blip, in Burton's career, but he's allowed to make his films because of the great ones that came before, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, from 1993, is one of those great films. If you haven't seen it, go see it. It's a Christmas cartoon movie adapted by the late, great horror writer Michael McDowell -- if you haven't read his The Amulet, you're missing out -- who also wrote Beetlejuice. Both films written by McDowell had a whimsical beating heart among the kooky characters and fantastical situations. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, stumbles his way into Christmas Town and falls in love with the Christmas philosophy and tries to take this back to his minions. Hilarity ensues! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Justin
Please visit Justin to read the 12 Holiday Faux Pas -- Part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas  :-)

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Karen DeLabar
I don't know what it is about the Muppets that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, maybe it’s the fact that they themselves are fuzzy, but every time I see them, I smile. So what more can a Christmas loving girl ask for than her favorite fuzzy puppets putting their spin on the classic A Christmas Carol? I love how they integrated my favorite Muppets into the timeless roles of Marley, Bob Cratchit, etc., and paired with Michael Caine as Scrooge, this rendition is perfect in my eyes. However, I do think Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat (one of my personal faves) steal the show with their sarcastic wit as narrators. Here is one of my favorite songs from the movie (I love when the little caroler gets hit and his face scrunches up... is that wrong?).
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Holiday Movies to read Karen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

I'd like to take a moment here to tell you all that it's been a rough year for Karen, who has been battling TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) as a result of a strep infection.  Please visit her here to read about her storyThe good news is, Karen is a fighter and on the road to recovery.  The bad news is that no war is won without casualties, and the family is struggling to recoup its losses, especially financially.  A donation account has been set up to offset the extensive medical expenses that have accrued over the course of Karen's battle.  Please considering donating.  Every bit helps!

The Year Without a Santa Claus
Kelly Stone Gamble
 My favorite is The Year Without a Santa Claus.  I love Heat Miser (maybe it's the flaming red hair) and still can sing every word to his song.  I'm too much. 

Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Books to read Kelly's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Santa's Workshop (1932, Walt Disney)

Maureen Hovermale
Check out the doll getting her hair done on the assembly line. The moment before it gets curled looks like a normal day to me. Lol! 

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas Day!   

to read Maureen's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Melody-Ann Kaufmann
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Charlie Brown gets depressed because he feels that Christmas has become too commercial. He wanders through each day of the season seeking some meaning in all of the hustle, bustle, and marketing hype that has become so common at Christmas time.  In the end it is Linus who takes to the stage to share the Christmas story.  Charlie Brown finds that Christmas has exactly the same meaning it always had and that if you look hard enough you can see it is still there.  The whole gang is reminded by Charlie Brown’s perseverance of the Christmas Spirit which they had been too busy to share.  It really is a classic in terms of reminding us to slow down and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.  Sharing what comes from the heart is more important than sharing what comes from the wallet.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Favorite Christmas Toys to read Melody-Ann's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

A Chipmunk Christmas

Natalie Kenney
My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Chipmunk Christmas (Alvin and the Chipmunks). There's something about those squeaky little voices that brings me back to my childhood. I actually had the record (yes, vinyl) of this song and played it over and over until the grooves wore down. And every time I watch the movie, I still want a hula-hoop!

Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Yummy Cookies to read Natalie's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Raine Thomas

 My favorite Christmas cartoon of all is definitely the original Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We used to look up the time it would air every year (waaay back before DVR) and then sit down as a family to watch it. My parents would also read the story to us on Christmas Eve, making sure to imbue it with a similar tone to Boris Karloff. But the cartoon has the song! “You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch...” Classic.
Please visit 12 Blogs of Christmas: Songs of the Season to read Raine's part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

Be sure to visit the rest of the blogs in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  You can visit by clicking on the link underneath a person's picture or at the end of their cartoon recommendation. 

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!