The California Dream & Its Rebounding

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I love California. I lived there only for a little over a year, and I reminisce over the great times I had in my relatively short stay. I lived in the San Francisco bay area, and life was great. Born and raised in often-bleak and cold New York City, and back again now, I was amazed at the friendliness and neighborliness that I was embraced with. First moving there, I had my defenses up socially against many retrospectively amiable encounters. I made friends in every location I went, from the coffee house to the bar. Actually, one of my best friends I met at a local bar, and we have been like brothers ever since. That’ll be another blog in itself.

Back to California. Unfortunately, the Golden State is in a sharp decline, as you probably well know. Cali is the world’s 8th largest economy, but that number may drop in mere months to come. Currently, California has a 12.2% unemployment rate, far above the national rate of 9.8%. Analysts predict that next year California’s jobless rate will continue to rise, even as the rest of the nation starts improving. Job growth, or lack of it, seems to be the most significant factor in this analysis. Employers are trying to get by their own economic struggles by utilizing as few workers as possible. The often romanticized dream of heading west to sunny, beautiful California to escape life’s woes seem to be reversed.

Poverty rates in Los Angeles have reached 20%, and even the seemingly secure government jobs have been cut by 60,000 employees. Schools in California have become so ill-budgeted that they are ranked 47th out of the 50 states. They have cut their “Healthy Families” program, which aided over a million of the poorest residents. Guardian.co.uk stated, ‘Neighbouring Nevada has launched a mocking campaign to entice businesses away, portraying Californian politicians as monkeys, and with a tag-line jingle that runs: “Kiss your assets goodbye!” You know you have a problem when Nevada – famed for nothing more than Las Vegas, casinos and desert – is laughing at you.’ and ‘The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America.”‘

However, even when all hope seems to have been lost for this state, optimists can see some evidence of the light at the end of the tunnel. California is always at the forefront of ecological issues, as well as health matters, despite its current state. Politics may be improving as the state that boasts Hollywood will get some “star treatment” when great minds from the world over take on Cali’s issues head-first. Californians set standards of living for the rest of us with their wholesome diet and global environmental concerns. When Cali finally comes out of this mess, it might be a better place than before this recession. California will not fail, I believe, because Californians will not allow it and failing is not a part of the California and American Dream.

Marriage, MLB Style

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What if marriage was a commitment only as deep as a Major League Baseball contract? Marriage doesn’t seem to hold much dignity anymore, and half of us who pop the question will try to back out a year or two later. Divorce rates are higher than ever, and only appear to be climbing. People change (she got into a car accident and she isn’t attractive anymore), feelings change (I don’t think I love you anymore), and people’s knowledge of other people’s feelings change (when we got married, you didn’t tell me that you had a fetish for midget feet). Like the old adage goes, “The only constant is change.”

The MLB knows this fact. Teams pick top prospects for a certain length of time and pay a significant chunk of change, and in return, these players better produce. Pitchers better keep their ERA down, batters keep their RBI up, and Alex Rodriguez better throw up a few hundred home runs a season.

So, why can’t we sign 5 or 10 year marriage agreements, instead of forever? Why can’t we use baseball-like statistics to determine the value of a marriage contract between both parties? A gal who wants to become a mother of a red-haired kid with blue eyes and the potential to have an IQ over 140 would look at free-agent, red-haired professors. A prospective professor might be looking for a female nymphomaniac, so the aforementioned gal better be a freak. This could be a great 5 or even 10 year contract. Love would not need to exist, because each party has a reason for signing in to begin with.

I do not necessarily think this is how marriage should be. I simply wonder what the outcome would be if this were possible.

Idiocracy

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If you have seen the movie Idiocracy, you should be able to follow my ramblings here. If not, here’s a short recap: Luke Wilson plays as Joe Bauers, an army soldier graphed as being the Army’s “most average” soldier. He is lazy and happy with his position as a librarian at his army barracks library. His superiors have a machine which allows a human to hibernate in their exact state for a long period of time. They choose Bauers and some prostitute to be the guinea pigs for a one year pilot test run. They are forgotten and emerge 500 years later to a horrifying world where everyone is incredibly stupid. No one can read or write, Fuddruckers has been renamed Buttfuckers, everyone drinks Gatorade and waters their crops with it (Why? Because it has electrolytes.), and Carl’s Jr has authority over child custody, among other things. Bauers is then the smartest man on earth and fixes many problems, and becomes President of the US.

What I am trying to get at here is that to me it seems that we are slowly heading towards an idiocracy of our own. Sometimes it seems we are heading there rather rapidly. Don’t get me wrong, we are a lot more knowledgeable than we were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we are smarter.

From television, which on this movie was portrayed by a show where one guy gets kicked in the nuts over and over again, we now have a slew of reality shows on the air that are pretty goddamn ridiculous. There are shows which host some celebrity personality who gets 10 to 15 attractive members of the opposite sex to choose from for “love”. He or she then slowly eliminates the players, because if they can’t win a simple challenge that requires superb concentration, perfect balance, quick thinking, or stamina like a Navy SEAL, they must not “love” the celebrity enough. Then one of the players is famous enough now after their quick exposure on cable television to be entitled to their own spin-off of the “love” and “reality” show. And then this same cycle continues, until I, myself, get my own program and get to choose the love of my life from 15 gorgeous women. Holy shit, I can’t wait.

In Idiocracy, one of the largest problems facing the United States was heaping piles of trash. I see this as an analogy for our increasing conversion from delayed gratification, as taught by our forefathers, to instant gratification. Throw the trash over there now, the pile is still manageable, when it becomes a problem we’ll face it. I myself am a faithful follower of the instant gratification religion. I had many credit cards, which I maxed out, and now I’m stuck with these bills. And to prove that I’m an idiot, I have no regrets about maxing every credit card out.

Also in the movie, Brawndo, the thirst mutilator, which is basically Gatorade, is used instead of water for nearly every purpose, except flushing the toilet. People thought that crops could be grown by sprinkling Brawndo on them, because it has electrolytes. Carl’s Jr, or Hardee’s here on the East Coast, serves people one size portions, such as “extra big ass fries” or an “extra big ass taco”. These parallel our society today, because water is scarcely consumed as much as needed, while food is over-consumed. Water is free most of the time, and we need at least 8 glasses a day, and that’s without being overly active. However we choose soft drinks and beer and Slurpees when we thirst. As Americans, the majority of us, including myself, overeat. If a certain portion is put in front of me, that is the portion I am consuming at that sitting. I eat so fast sometimes that I stuff myself for twenty minutes, then it all hits me at once, and I’m miserable as shit.

The easiest thing to see in Idiocracy is that everybody is absolutely stupid. No one can read, write or talk properly. Things are constructed without following blueprints. Simple tasks become impossible to everyone, for they lack the cognitive skills needed to carry them out. We, today, are pushing proper education aside. When our economy struggles, the first thing to lose funding seems to be the Department of Education. Many in my generation who are still in their teens and early twenties have already had children, without making sure life will be better for them then it was to the parents. Kids these days have so many diversions from homework such as the internet, television, going to the movies or the mall, or many other choices.

All this said, I am happy to live in this day and age. I can be a hypocrite as I preach “delayed gratification” but practice “instant gratification”, for I like buying now and paying later. I hate those reality shows, but still catch myself pausing extensively at each one as I flip the channels. I also have many close friends who have not reached twenty five and already have a child; some have two. I do not tell them that it is bad timing or a wrong decision to keep the child, because I have seen how much joy they can get when they play around with their own kid. I eat what I want, when I want, and who needs water? Soda’s got water; it’s the main ingredient.

Ironically Opposing Ironies

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I was bored today, and this is the thought that came to my mind. What we have come to think of as liberty in America, ironically, seems very confining and restricting. For example, to keep us safe, we have various laws put in place limiting or prohibiting the usage and/or ownership of different things, from potentially harmful drugs and chemicals, to possibly dangerous guns and knives. To keep us healthy, strict guidelines are put into place and must be followed when it comes to food and health care, especially meat, dairy, and produce products, along with hospital standards. To maintain literacy and competency among Americans, we are required to get an education that meets government criteria, and obstructing someone else’s education is not tolerated. To secure our freedom, our military must adhere to strict standards, and likewise, unfortunately, we are no longer allowed to carry weapons (like bombs) on planes, let alone use a cellular phone while in flight. All these restrictions may make people feel that we aren’t quite free at all, especially if there is one that is disagreed upon.

I’m not disagreeing with any of these policies; I am just trying to point out the enormity of the number of laws and guidelines that is required to keep us safe, happy, and free. I use that bit of irony so I can smoothly transition into this next bit of irony that really got me thinking. Obligations can be liberating. That’s right; it’s kind of an oxymoron, like slowly making haste. However, thinking about it, at least the way that I did, being committed to something frees you from having to reason sensibly. Obligating yourself to a cause may save you from needing to make a choice between two rational decisions about the cause, such as whether to continue supporting said cause or not. Marriage, which is almost always viewed in conjunction with loss of freedom, can be liberating. Aside from liberating any pent-up energy (like sperm), a good spouse can help relieve you of any burdens and issues that you may not be able to, or want to, carry on your own. You can share what is bothering you at work, which is important enough in itself. Another example, obligating yourself to goals, such as a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, when followed religiously, can free you from having to make a decision between two foods, or walking to work or catching the bus.

In conclusion, it seems to me that for any freedom that is to be granted, obligations need to be proposed and adhered to; For any obligations, while there may still be some underlying restrictions, there are also liberating freedoms that make themselves available, as long as you optimistically look hard enough.

Right or Wrong?

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Right or wrong? If something is one or the other, who decides? I believe that we are born with a broad sense of what is right and what is wrong, and different factors like our environment and our parents nurturing help us further determine to ourselves these ethical decisions. However, what if anything was not really a matter of right and wrong? What if things just happen? Let’s take for example our war on terror after 9/11. We feel anger, even hatred, towards Osama and the other initiators of this deed. I am a New Yorker, and at the time, I almost personally went looking for his punk ass. We are doing what we feel is “right” in going to the Middle East and establishing some sort of justice. But, if you think about it, terrorists do what they deem is right when they perform these acts of terror. Actually, they feel it is so right, and they believe in their actions so, so much, that they are willing to die for their beliefs and for their people. In America, there is a very mixed consensus as to how we should react and carry on. We as a country cannot agree unanimously on any actions we should take, and our soldiers may die for our country, but how many Americans will go to the extent that some people go to for their country or religious beliefs? Martyrdom for us Americans seems to be an absurd option. Oh well, I’m losing my train of thought here. Until next time………