Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Giver

A while back (earlier this year, I think, but my memory is being weirdly random about time right now), I read the book The Giver. I then read most of it to Ace out loud while he drove. And we had to keep stopping while I was reading to talk about the book.

If you haven't read it, I do recommend it. It's about a boy named Jonas who lives in a controlled community. He turns 12 and is given his job, which he will start to do right away and will be doing for the rest of his life. Most of the people in his community work in the fish hatchery, or take care of babies, or deliver food. Jonas gets a very different job. He's to be the keeper of memories.

Part of the reason I like rereading books (this is related, just give me a moment) is that I get to notice something I missed the first time around. Sometimes it's months later (like today).

For The Giver, I noticed this:

Jonas, who was getting the memories of all of civilization, suddenly had PTSD. And he had no one to talk to about it, except the Giver. Who would understand, but wouldn't be able to help fix it. He would have to live with the memories of war, starvation, broken bones, poverty, loss, hate, fear, and all the bad things until the next keeper of memories was chosen (sometime in his future). He would, of course, have all the memories of love, sunny days, peace, joy, riches, color, and all the good things as well.

The scene that really made me realize that he had PTSD was one where he, after experiencing war, saw his friends/the other children, playing a pretend war game. They pretended to shoot each other and die, and to them it was just a fun game. To Jonas, he was suddenly inundated with memories of a real war. And he froze up, caught in between both worlds.

This stark contrast between what the other children know and what Jonas knows is shocking. Jonas, as much as he wants to, can never regain his innocence. The reader, no matter how much they want to, can't give Jonas back his innocence. They just have to hope that Jonas can cope, because they are on the outside, looking in.

The book has an ambiguous ending. I'm not going to put it here, as there are many details I left out and you should really go read the book. And while some people have been disappointed by the ending, I liked it. It's okay to not tell the readers everything. (That ending becomes less ambiguous if you read the sequels to The Giver, but they are well worth the read too.)

The best thing about the book is that it should make you ask questions. Questions like: How much freedom are you willing to give up to feel like your life is safe? Would you give up your chance to choose? Would you give up your sense of color? Would you give up on trying to find your passion as a job to work a government mandated job that hopefully fulfilled you?

And how much of that safety would you give up to get those things back if you lost them without knowing you had lost them?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

With Regards to the Future President

I am not a particularly political person. Not because I don't see the importance, but I can only devote so much of my time to things that I have little to no influence over. Since I have very little influence in politics, it tends to be something I mostly ignore when it's not affecting me personally. I just have too many other things (that are more important to me) to do.

That said, here are my unsolicited thoughts on this election.

Just about everything I've seen on FaceBook (because I don't spend a lot of time elsewhere getting news) seems to be divided into two thoughts on Donald Trump. Either he's going to give everyone every thing they've been day dreaming about politically or he's going to personally come and lock up anyone who he disagrees with (such as Muslims, the LGBT community, and people of Latin descent) while assaulting the women. There seems to be almost no middle ground.

I don't really agree with either camp. I hope that he does get to do at least some of the things on his 100 day list. Changing how we fund education and how many bureaucrats involved in it would be great. Not granting asylum to any illegal immigrant just because they are here would be great (INS would probably prefer to actually be able to do something more than having drug dogs sniffing for drugs at the border control check points). Trying to figure out a way to actually confirm that people seeking asylum are really needing asylum would be nice. I want to trust people, but I recognize that verifying things is important in some situations.

I think that putting a non-politician in office might not be the worst thing for this country (I make no promises that it will be the best thing we've ever done, but it might not be as bad as people think). I did not prefer either candidate (I preferred none of the candidates, to be honest), but I did have some serious concerns about Hillary Clinton possibly being in charge. Which does not mean that I think Trump is necessarily going to be great at being president. But he has been elected. So, we must go forward and figure out what that means for our country.

If you are nervous about Trump as president, I understand. He's an unknown right now. But remember, he has over 2 months before he takes office. And he seems to be trying to figure out practical things that might fix some of the problems this country has. He's apparently paid enough attention to how schools work in Europe, and realized that European students do better on actually showing that they've learned something by the time they graduate High School. His education reform is based off of proven European techniques (money following the student, less bureaucrats and standardized testing) and seems to be trying to get rid of programs that were intended for good, but don't really seem to be helping.

So, I am not advocating that Trump is the right choice. I don't think that all my political hopes will be met. But, I recognize that we've made a choice as a country. And since we've made that choice, we should all grow up enough to remember that the President does not act as supreme. He's got checks in place to keep him from being a dictator. He can't do everything on his own, and Congress and the Supreme Court have a say as well.

Lets stop panicking/rejoicing as if everything will be different tomorrow.

And maybe, lets give him a chance. Maybe he'll surprise us all.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Representation

I was looking at an article earlier about the importance of representation (of any group beyond just white people, specifically white males). And it was interesting, because the latest Star Wars movie was mentioned multiple times. There was a picture of a boy holding a Finn doll. There was a mention of the fact that they didn't write Finn or Rey as any specific skin color, but they were careful while casting.

And it occurs to me that while representation (especially of minorities) in media is important, we also need to not ignore the importance of representing all the main characters when it comes to merchandise.

I know that there are plenty of tags on twitter asking about where Rey (Star Wars), Black Widow (Avengers), and Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy) are. And that is a good question. Why do manufacturers seem to ignore the female characters (All three of whom actually stayed clothed for the movies they have been in and were all major characters in the movies. Rey was pretty much the star of Star Wars:The Force Awakens.) when creating merchandise for children/collectors?

The sad reality is that the manufacturers are not the ones skipping characters. Or at least, not the ones physically making the merchandise. It's some executive somewhere who decided that they didn't need to represent all the characters in the toys, because they were marketing them to boys and why would boys want to play with a female character? (A flawed thought process, as I'm sure many of those boys would want all the characters, even if some of them happen to be female)

We do need to have more representation of minorities in movies and on TV shows. We need to not shy away from casting someone who may not be Hollywood's version of pretty, but who brings the character to life. We need writers to write strong characters and casting to cast the best actor or actress, regardless of the color of their skin. We should be ashamed that in 2016 we are uncomfortable with the idea of seeing people on TV or in movies who aren't pretty (whether they can act or not).

But we also need those executives to be held accountable for the lack of representation in merchandising. Why are they randomly comfortable with cutting their revenues sharply by not offering the merchandise that all children (and most collectors, I'm sure) want to have.

(I will admit that on my most recent walk around a Walmart, I did see some superhero shirts in the women's section and not just female superheroes. That was awesome, and a step towards understanding that women are interested in buying clothes that represent their interest in traditionally masculine things.)

Come on, random executives. I thought you wanted to make as much money as possible! Make some female action figures/merchandise to go with the males of the cast. Do it as a test, if nothing else.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Cyclical Nature of Trucking (Problems)

One of the weirdest parts about living on a truck is how often the same problem pops up on different trucks. The truck we are currently inhabiting, we've been living on for 2 weeks (and a night). In that 2 weeks, we've had problems pop up that have needed to be fixed (which is sad, in that 2 weeks isn't a long time, but this truck had nearly half a million miles on it when we moved in).

Today we delivered (Ace did, and I slept apparently soundly.). Then we came by a truck stop to get an oil change done. And have them check out the a/c (it wasn't blowing cold in the front half). And find out what the check engine light on the truck meant. We have a truck with fresh oil, temporarily working a/c for the front, and a trip to a different shop for tomorrow to try to get the rest fixed (including a part that might be messing with the alignment). The check engine light had to do with the exhaust system, which is not something to be ignored.

If this had been the first issues, I'd be less wondering if the owner of the truck finds us annoying. However, we could not have done any of this damage in 2 weeks. I know he knows that, but...

Anyway. Every truck I've lived in has had some problem pop up with the exhaust system. Truck manufacturers have worked hard to make it so that trucks actually not only don't greatly pollute the air, but in fact, will clean it. This has to do with California and it's smog problem. But, I don't think all the bugs are worked out of their systems for cleaning the exhaust.

So, tomorrow will be spent at a Freightliner (a first on type of truck), hoping that we can get back on the road soon with a fixed truck.

I am not holding my breath on it being a quick fix (it hasn't been in the past, but maybe Freightliner is better at this stuff).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Hunger Games

I've watched the first Hunger Games movie, and I started reading the book while visiting a friend a few years ago, but I didn't get to finish reading the book then. I know, generally, what's going to happen.

But it's occurred to me that Suzanne Collins has done a wonderful job of presenting a limited point of view by telling us the story just from Katniss' view point. Katniss does not know what to make of Peeta Mellark. She isn't sure what all he's doing to gain an advantage in the games. She's convinced that he's only being nice/hanging out with her before the games start because he's following orders and trying to get sponsors to like him. She doesn't know what to make of his interview where he says he loves her. She doesn't trust him, understandably, or anything he says or does. Not that I truly think Peeta is lying for most of this, but that she doesn't feel like she can trust anyone, so she doesn't.

And it's so refreshing to not know the whole story. Because in real life, we only know our motives unless someone else actually tells us why they are doing what they are doing. Motives stay fuzzy, and we can't always be sure of why someone is doing something.

Of course, the true story is about a government that forces kids to kill each other for entertainment/punishment. It's about a girl who is willing to sacrifice her life (again) for her family. It's not a warm and fuzzy kind of story. Katniss is sympathetic, but only because the story is told from her point of view. It's oddly easier to feel bad for Rue, who didn't have an older sister volunteer as tribute for her, especially since she reminds Katniss of Prim. Rue, who is 12 and knows she's not likely to survive. Rue, who makes an alliance with Katniss in the arena. Rue, who's death helped start a revolution (Although, why it took until her death to anger enough people to even start to revolt, I will never understand. 73 years of teenagers dying was okay, but that 74th year was too much?).

I can understand why this book was made into a movie. The vivid scenes almost beg to be turned into a visual medium, and not just reliant upon people's imagination. Katniss shooting an arrow into the apple in a hog's mouth, Katniss' descriptions of the capital, the entrances of all the tributes in carriages to introduce them, again, to the audience within the book, the pageantry of the interviews and the clothing that goes with them, these are all scenes that are vividly painted, but seem to be asking to be made into artwork or a movie.

I am in awe of Suzanne Collins' writing. She does an amazing job. And she makes it easy to understand the horror of being pulled into these games, of competing, and of losing a loved one to the games. She takes a horrifying idea, and makes it an entertaining read. That is impressive. And a bit haunting.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

INFJ

I have taken the MBTI test more than once in my life. It usually has been varied on what letters it gives me based on how I'm thinking/feeling that day. Except the I for introverted. I have always been an I, which does not surprise me in the least. I've joked about becoming a hermit, because I am generally good with staying home most of the time. I don't really get cabin fever unless I can't actually go anywhere. The ability to leave keeps me content with not leaving, oddly enough.

This spring (I think), Ace and I took the test. He got ISTJ, but it was fairly inconclusive for the S verses N (It was within a standard deviation of being truly neutral on that.). I got INFJ, which made more and more sense I started researching what was said about INFJ.

INFJ is apparently a very low percentage of the population (2% total, 1% of males, and 2% of females) and is the type most often mistyped because we are somewhat chameleon like in how we test/are perceived. I think it's more because we likely to answer slightly differently based on mood.

And if I stick to more of an explanation based on psychology, I am totally an INFJ. If I start moving toward people's ideas of what an INFJ is, I start feeling like I've been mistyped. But the overall explanations seem more accurate than not, so I'm proclaiming it. I am an INFJ.

All of that is an explanation of the way I blog. INFJ understands feelings from outside themselves, so they understand how they feel when they talk them out (or write them out). This is why my posts probably seem to be a bit of a word salad, thought experience thing. They kind of are. It's my way of organizing my thoughts and feelings and understanding them without bothering Ace about them all. I don't know how he feels about me doing this, but I imagine he appreciates it.

I will admit to having spent some time obsessing over INFJ information. And feeling more and more like I understand some things about myself more than ever. I've felt less broken in general and realized why I feel like I don't really connect with people easily. I've started to understand why so many things seem so personal and risky to share to others, even when I know the risk is small and who cares what someone else thinks?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennet

I watched through The Lizzie Bennet Diaries this week. I blew through them videos for the main story in two days, and today (day 3) I watched all of the supporting videos. If you haven't seen them and liked Pride and Prejudice, I suggest you go watch them on YouTube. There are 100 episodes of the Diaries, with 10 Q&A videos, 2 epilogue videos, and 33 videos from Lydia Bennet's point of view. They change a few things from the books (Mr. Collins proposes a business partnership instead of marriage, Mary is the Bennet sister's cousin and Kitty is Lydia's cat, Mr. Bingley becomes Bing Lee and loses a sister), but the changes don't detract from the story. (The biggest change is what happens between Lydia and Wickham. Well, that and Caroline Lee being the one to give Darcy hope instead of his Aunt Catherine.)

And it got me thinking about Mr. Darcy (both the one in the book and the one in the show). He comes across, to Elizabeth, as very proud and stuck-up. Lizzie calls him a robot at one point. And he does have a very old fashioned way of speaking (in the videos, period appropriate for the book). But, as he eventually shows in the videos (once he starts actually being in them), he's more shy and awkward and not quite comfortable with being in the public eye (which is weird, because he's a CEO of a company, someone who would be in the public eye). He does seem to relax around Lizzie and start showing his softer side, even before he thinks he might have a shot with Lizzie after all.

And I realized that most introverts and shy people seem to wear suits of armor to people. Mostly because they don't know what is going on in our heads. We seem distant and unapproving and judgemental, when we are really just listening and thinking and caring. Because talking can often be hard, words can be hard sometimes. And people seem to think quiet people are judging, even when we are mentally checked out.

The problem with trying to pin much of any characteristics to Mr. Darcy, I will admit, comes from the fact that we learn things mostly from Elizabeth Bennet's point of view. And her view is limited, partly by her own pride and partly from her not being present for so much of the backstory of the Darcy family and their dealings with George Wickham. Which is not to say that the book Elizabeth is an unreliable narrator (nor the video Lizzie), but that we only learn things as she learns them. We don't know what Bingley (or Bing Lee, in general) thinks of Darcy. We don't know how much of his initial insults of Miss Bennet stem from being shy or introverted and being forced into conversations and dealings with all manner of people when he's not ready for it. He does seem, in the books, more comfortable in Bingley's house (even with Jane and Elizabeth there). Anyone who might have slowly warmed up to him the first time they read the book might warm up to him faster the second time around when seeing his attempts at showing Elizabeth his warming interest.

I will admit that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does end without anyone married or engaged, but Bing Lee and Jane are dating and seem to be moving towards that and Darcy and Lizzie are dating with potential for future marriage. Lydia is single and trying to figure out what to do with herself, after her disastrous relationship with George Wickham (and her videos show, even before the relationship, how much the Lydia in the videos is trying to hide her loneliness and fear of losing her sisters behind a party girl attitude, which was her armor).

I don't know what Jane Austen would think of her characters being portrayed like they are in the videos. I would hope that she would enjoy it, even with some interesting changes. I know that I did.