Spread the Word, Shake the Interweb

Today started as one of those days that was bound to be memorable.  The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, and the air was not quite to cold.  The world smells of briskness and new life, even if it is just a last flash in the pan before winter.  The world is waiting for all of us to scamper about, flinging limbs, in some final furious effort to enjoy ourselves before winter hibernation.  And I myself am ready to fling.

But there are other vibrations about as well.  Thanksgiving is coming up, the first marker of the holiday season, which is supposed to be all about gratitude, love, and sharing.  And what better way to begin the early edge of that season than with Blog Action Day, a day to really educate others on a single topic and hopefully do something about it. This year, the focus is on poverty.

And what can we say about it?  We are, after all, going through a financial crisis.  Many of those who were not feeling the bite of poverty now are.  And how are we, on the whole, responding?  Many of us are looking to the government for support.  Some of us are looking to each other, which is a start.  But I personally haven’t felt the bite too much.  And what have I been doing about it?  Very little.

I can remember first moving to Boston and being completely strapped for cash.  And yet, every week, I would put a little something aside to give away to people who might need it.  It might have been a small donation to a food pantry or a shelter.  It might have been just paying for a friend’s lunch.  But I remember those small expenses as something I couldn’t really afford, that I gave anyway.

Now that I’ve been steadily employed for several years, the savings all go somewhere else.  Sure, I make a much more sizable charitable donation every month, and I do still set aside some time to volunteer.  But by percentage, it’s nowhere near the same amount.  When you’re making ends meet, you don’t worry about setting aside money for health care or as savings.  Now that I actually have money and can afford nice things, I feel I’ve become much more materialistic and scroogy.

So where is the line drawn?  At what point do I stop spending for myself and start spending for others, or vice versa?  And how much do I try to save, even if in trust for those who will need it later?

American Gladiators! Babies! RAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!

As both Alex and my Shelly reminded me over the past few days, the second season of the New! IMPROVED! American Gladiators has begun. Monday night was the opening episode of the season, but if you missed it, there’s another airing this Friday at 8/7 central. Or, you can watch it online at the NBC website. Which I am doing now. There’s tons of New! IMPROVED! stuff going on for the second season, but I was most impressed with the fact that Laila is having a baby. (RAAAAAAAGHHHHH! Power+Strength = Intense Baby Labor! and PAIN!)

That brings me to another point – what’s with fake advertising/spoofs and babies? Take the ‘I feel great ‘ Nutrigrain commercial:

Or the Powerthirst ad:

What makes babies funny? Is it the number of babies? Babies everywhere? 400 babies? Would AG be funnier if they could add more babies? Or is it just the ridiculousness of too many babies that gets our funny going, a ridiculousness that goes along with every aspect of American Gladiators?

AG has learned from last season’s mistakes. This time around, it’s not only about preening, machismo, and trash talk. It’s about serious stuff, serious issues that people face every day. It’s also about overcoming obstacles. No, I don’t mean the ones in the Eliminator. I mean a single mom who put herself through school (she’s allowing herself to be bludgeoned and ‘tested’ for her daughter), a man with one leg (he has a bendy metal thing instead, kinda like a hook-leg instead of a peg one) and a deaf man (Don’t worry, he’s not mute – he can still give a loud, man-beast yell). Yep, we’ve really got the cream of the crop this season. Maybe next season, they’ll make all the contestants live and train together in some tiny apartment and see what happens. The Eliminator would be replaced – instead, there’ll be one in-apartment event called ‘The Bathroom’.

Deep Autumn

There is something enticing about the cusps of the year, the melding of summer and winter into one through the transition periods of spring and fall. Short little crocuses burst up from beneath the snow and ice, and even the trees pulse with quickening life, sap and rivers flowing rapidly, equally fluid. Even the sky melts into a sort of liquid spattering that falls gently to earth. The soil beings to breathe under the gentle rain, exhaling misty puffs smelling of last year’s leaves and the white crispness of newly thawed ground. It is in spring that we cast of the old layers – old life, old ideas, old desires – and attempt to do a spring cleaning of ourselves, reaffirming what is most good.

Autumn, the true depth of autumn, seems even more alive. The first edge of winter, hanging in the air, lends a sort of danger to the season, an alert crispness present at all times in the cooler temperatures as well as the quality of the air itself. The air becomes drier – the night skies, completely clear. It is in autumn that the stars shine down on us the most awesomely, like so many splinters of reflective broken glass. It is in autumn, with the nights growing longer, colder, and also more vivid, that we begin to understand who we are both as inviolate individuals and the complex interweaving of humanity that refuses to be untangled. It is in autumn that we begin to suspect our true worth to our fellow man, and to wonder at the existence of others.

As a lover of fairy tales, children’s stories, and literature, I was intrigued by this article on the relative value of different stories.  In an era of reality television and rampant blogging, what is the relative worth of personal opinion, truth, and individual experience?  Does the artfully crafted short story which make never be published or read by a wide audience, have more or less worth than the serial Japanese cell phone novel with minimal details and broad themes that will be read and reread by millions?  Who determines the standards of the writing craft, and what should be read as ‘serious’ writing?  Are there truly new forms, or are flash fiction and the aforementioned cell phone novel only the use of new technologies and realization of a shorter attention span?  Should we even be trying to create something new, or should we resign ourselves to doing what has already been done as well as we can?  Finally, with all the lives that have been lived before mine, what comparative worth does my perspective have?  Can it be crystallized and distilled for preservation?  Should it be?