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


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.