We the Underdogs: Capitalism and Democracy

I think most of America’s problems stem from two things.

Firstly, we are supposedly a capitalist country and democratic republic.  And yet, it seems as if capitalism and democracy, by their very nature, are diametrically opposed. Until the people that are supposed to represent us stop taking campaign money from business lobbyists and religious organizations, we can never hope to realize the freedoms we thought our constitution protected.

Capitalism is (supposedly/ideally) is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire (freedom). Legally it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production its’ result is the free-market.(source)

Closer to the truth of the matter, yet still idealistic, may be the Wikipedia definition:

An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital assets and goods. In a capitalist economy, investors are free to buy, sell, produce, and distribute goods and services with at most limited government control, at prices determined primarily by a competition for profit in a free market. Central elements of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, and a price system.

What capitalism seems to mean in America now, though, is closer to Jafar’s idea of the golden rule:

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It feels like everything is crony capitalism,

I found it rather interesting (in a sad and ironic way) how Ayn Rand described capitalism.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

That’s all swell, but we really don’t have separation of church and state either. But this will never stop until politicians are disallowed from taking campaign money from lobbyists and churches. Until that happens, politicians will always be more influenced by what their contributors want then by what the people want.  Some people debate the meaning of the “separation of church and state” mentioned in constitution.  Some people, myself included, feel that parts of the constitution are obsolete. Sacrilege!  But I do wonder, how “ironclad” can it be if it can be “amended” so much?  I think regardless of what was intended then, I think today one can not write legislation for a whole country based on one religion, and with many politicians in the church’s pocket, that’s pretty much exactly what’s happening (think about how they’re trying to jam prayer back into school and force women’s reproductive rights issues.)

Anyway, it’s my opinion…my belief…that between the capitalism that keeps the poor poor–

Attempts at eliminating minimum wage and claiming it will “help” the poor (one can only guess at the ass backwards logic behind that one).  Forcing taxpayers to subsidize their profits by footing the bill for all the Walmart employees  on welfare or food stamps as a result of their pitifully inadequate wages, and let’s not forget the government bailing out Big Business–

–and the religious conservatives bent on forcing us all to follow their rules and code of morality through legislation (lobbyists giving money to influence representatives…and here money comes into play again) the majority of America is in a stranglehold.  Basically, if we’re not CEOs of the gas companies, we’re the schmucks who pay 3.69 a gallon because we have no real recourse.  After all,  our representatives’ campaigns are probably being financed by the gas company.  This is a very simplistic generalization, but you see what I’m getting at, and I am not the only person who feels the weight of being low man on the totem…    

Let me finish up by leaving you with another Ayn Rand quote to think on:

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.

Yup…we’re doomed.

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Everything You (N)ever Wanted to Know About Chiggers

Mosquitoes are a big problem for a good portion of the year, from when it begins to regularly warm up, until it frosts over in the fall.  And if you live in certain parts of the country, chiggers can be a big nuisance as well.  And there is a lot of misinformation and wives tales about chiggers, so I’ve compiled a short list of points of which I wanted clarification or verification.

Chiggers do not burrow under your skin, as many people believe, nor do they feed on animal blood. They actually feed on the fluids in skin cells. To get the fluids, they attach themselves to a skin pore or hair follicle and inject a digestive enzyme that ruptures the cells. The enzyme also hardens the surrounding skin tissue, forming a sort of straw for sucking the skin cell fluids. The whole process irritates the skin, causing an itchy red bump that continues to cause discomfort for several days. Chiggers are only about 1/50th of an inch (0.5 mm) in diameter and so are too small to be seen with the naked eye. This invisibility is the reason so many people believe chiggers burrow under the skin.

One commonly known remedy for chigger bites is to apply nail polish to reduce itchiness. This does not kill the chigger or treat the bite in any way. It simply seals the area off from the air, which keeps the sore from itching so badly. If you want to apply something to relieve itching, it’s much better to use a salve or cream that contains antihistamines.  (source)

 For humans, itching usually occurs after the larvae detach from the skin. (Wikipedia)

This summer I received a frantic call from a customer who thought his steps and sidewalk were being invaded by chiggers (sometimes called red bugs).  After listening to some more details I was able to diagnose over the phone that it was not chiggers but clover mites.  (source)

Feeling crawly?  There are a few reasons that could be, ranging from allergies, reactions to products, and, of course, biting insects or arthropods.

“Well, my bites don’t look like chigger bites,” you may say.  Sometimes chigger bites may look as innocuous as mosquito bites.

roslyn-lake-chiggers_1597

Or…. they may look like a porcupine exploded on your ankles and you spent the better part of a day pulling out quills.

chigger370_1

Generally, the adult chiggers eat vegetation; it’s the nymphs that tear some people up.

 They crawl onto people and move upward until they encounter a point of constriction between skin and clothing, such as around the ankles, behind the knee, or at the waistline. Chigger bites produce a hardened, red welt which begins to itch intensely within 24-48 hours after exposure to the mite. Consequently, people may not associate the irritation with the fact that they were bitten while walking outdoors a day or two before. Delayed irritation following a “bug” bite is also common with such pests as mosquitoes and ticks, as well as with the contact dermatitis which results from exposure to poison ivy/poison oak.

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Let me just reiterate…in case it wasn’t clear the first time, chiggers do not burrow under your skin.  For some reason, that is a myth a lot of people are loath to let go of.  For my part, I’d rather NOT think of bugs under my skin.

Chiggers can’t burrow. If left undisturbed, they’ll keep eating for several days. Even when attached, however, they’re easy to brush off — especially when taking a warm, soapy shower

People typically don’t feel chiggers, even when the mites insert their mouthparts. Humans’ first clue that chiggers are around usually comes 6 to 8 hours later, when the bites finally start to itch.

So, anyhoo…you’re very welcome for that grody public service announcement.  Hope it helped clear up any nagging arthropod questions you may be having.   Til next time…

Peace out.

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“This is Bat Country!”

Been back on a Fishdom kick lately.  You know, that game where you match little  shapes, the object of which is to clear each level. In some of the Fishdom games, if you connect a certain number of like shapes, you get a “power-up” in the form of a bomb that blasts away all shapes in a given radius.  I played the game for a while many months ago, until I basically got all played out on it, and just recently picked the game back up again, as a nice addicting little diversion.

And now every time I close my eyes I feel like I’m in a Hunter S. Thompson book or something.  Not, not really.  Actually, my first irrational thought was that I had somehow spent so much time camped out in front of my little Netbook screen that the game images were burned into my corneas.  Because when I close my eyes or blink, or walk into a dark room, I see crabs.  Little blue crabs.  And sometimes anchors or cornucopias.    I see them in a sort of bright black, negative image, like the floaters you might see from staring at a bright light or the sun.

Eek! I’ve got crabs!

So I did what any self-respecting quasi-hypochondriac would do…  I Googled it.   And it turns out what I’m experiencing is not an unheard of phenomenon.  It even has a name.  The Tetris Effect.

People who play Tetris for a prolonged amount of time may then find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or the buildings on a street.  In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of habit. They might also dream about falling Tetris shapes when drifting off to sleep or see images of falling Tetris shapes at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes.

The Tetris effect can occur with other video games, with any prolonged visual task (such as classifying cells on microscope slides, weeding, picking or sorting fruit, flipping burgers, driving long distances, or playing board games such as chess or go.)

source: Wikipedia

Mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for Tetris Effect was another related concept called Game Transfer Phenomenon, where residual thoughts, feelings, or impulses remain after playing a video game.  I have experienced this phenomenon first-hand, with no small measure of amusement, I assure you.  When I see movement in the tree branches in my periphery and my first impulse is to shoot at it with my non-existent sniper rifle, part of me wonders if I shouldn’t be glad I don’t actually have a rifle.

Anyhoo… while I was reading and assimilating all these interesting new tidbits of useless knowledge, I did not happen to see any information to indicate when I could expect to close my eyes and not see little crabs.  And I still can’t decide whether or not I should be annoyed by this.  Hmm…

What’s your “magic number”?

Well, the tallying is done, the numbers have been added, the results you’ve been waiting for (ha) are here…

But before I tell you my magic number– and I hope by now you realize I’m not talking about sex partners–  there are just a few points and “disclaimers” I want to mention.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used Wikipedia as my main source for lists  of horror films.

1) these lists are, like all of Wikipedia, peer edited, and by their very nature, not a complete list of every horror title in existence.  They are arranged by decades, and in my own observation and tallying, I noticed that even in a given movie series, not necessarily all films were represented (For instance, Cube Zero was on the 2004 list, but the original Cube movie was not in evidence on the 1997 list.)

“Where are we? And who the hell are you?”… That must have been one hell of a party…

2) My final total is likely to be an underestimation rather an overestimation.  While I may have falsely counted a film or two, thinking that I saw it, and sometimes I even got the feeling a given film was listed under two different decades, the were probably more instances of films I did not count as “seen”, having not recognized the title, or having forgotten that I’d seen said film.

3) Again, in regards to film series, I counted one hash mark for each film of a given series if I knew without a doubt that I had see them (like all of the Alien films, for instance.)  On the other hand, films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th have so many sequels and remakes, that I had trouble remembering which ones I had seen and which ones I hadn’t (and the older the films, the less accurate my memory is.)  For this reason, I counted only the ones I was relatively certain I had seen.

Friday the 13th “part 137…”

4) Some films were included in these lists that some might consider “questionable” in terms of their qualifications as “true” horror films.   For instance, so-called “horror-comedies,” like Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland were listed (I counted these, ) and even Michael Jackson’s Thriller video was listed, considered a “short film (I did not count this.) To a certain extent, the definition of what constitutes a horror film may vary from person to person.

oh, yes… and 5)  As I really doubt I’d recognize any of the films or titles beyond this point anyway, I only counted from present to the 1930’s.  As to films I may have started to watch but never finished (if you’ve ever seen The Item you’ll know what I mean; I have a high tolerance for stupidity in the name of entertainment, but even I have my limits…), there weren’t that many of them so it probably doesn’t matter either way, given the margin of error for this little experiment.

And so here it is: the number (roughly) of horror films I have seen in my 31 years…

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The Girl Who Loved Horror Movies

Once upon a time…

there was a girl who loved horror movies.  She was never really into romantic comedies like a lot of other girls, although if she got interested in a movie, she’d watch it even if it wasn’t “horror.”  She loved to write too.  Can you guess what she might have liked to write?

Eventually, she grew up to become a young woman who loved horror films.  Once time she wanted to figure out how many horror movies she had seen in her life, so she found up a fairly comprehensive list on Wikipedia and went through each decade, year by year, tallying the films she knew or remembered having seen.  Of course the list was not 100% accurate, but it gave her a good idea.  At the time, she had seen over 300 horror films.

But then, tragedy struck…  she lost her tally sheet, and stopped keeping track of the new films she saw.

Now…

 this young woman is a wife and mother who loves horror films…  and she has decided to take another stab at this list.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion and findings of the experiment (I know you can hardly contain your excitement.)

Poltergeist

It’s Cancer, Charlie Brown

WHOA! Hold the phone. Everybody out of the pool!  My trip down memory lane just took a wrong turn!  More like it was derailed.

Was on the interwebz looking up some of the old cartoons that I remember from my childhood so I could show some of them to my toddler.  She especially loves anything with music.  So we got through the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and that Garfield Christmas show.  So I went on to look  for A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I hadn’t found the whole episode, but had stumbled across some Charlie Brown episodes I didn’t remember seeing as a kid.

*spoilers for Why, Charlie Brown, Why?    Yes, I actually put in a spoiler alert, cuz you never know who would be pissed if I ruined the ending of this kid’s cartoon for them.

And that’s how I ended up watching Why, Charlie Brown, Why?  Charlie Brown shows have always had their melancholy moments.  Charlie Brown is usually outcast or made to feel unloved in many of the episodes, and there are whole passages where there is little to no dialogue, only a strange piano music (that reminds me of the Cosby Show.)  So as I watch this particular show/episode, it opens with Linus noting the peculiar amount of bruises on his little friend’s arms.

Ooookay.  Well, these kids talk about some weird shit sometimes, and in an even weirder adult manner.

The little girl, whose name is Janice, mentions she never used to bruise so easily.

Noooo.  They wouldn’t do an episode about that…

References to her feeling ill and thinking she has a fever.

Uh-oh.  

I stopped right there and looked up the episode on Wikipedia.  Yup.  It’s about cancer.  Airing in 1990, it is considered the first animated series to tackle the subject.

“Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”

Granted, as I continue watching, I note that the explanation of Janice’s leukemia is vastly simplified.  I understand the show is addressing the issue to a fairly young audience, but it occurs to me as I watch that it does children no good to have this issue sugar-coated.  For instance, when asked if she will die, Janice explains that there are treatments for leukemia and she thinks she’ll get well.  Sadly, we as adults know that this is often not the case.

The process of her treatment (chemotherapy) and the effects it has on her health also seem a bit simplified as well.  But I guess in such a case, it would be left more up to each individual child’s parents to decide how much explanation their children could handle in regards to the subject of terminal illness.

To the writers credit, they also attempt to address issues that are tangential to the idea of a child returning to class after having undergone chemotherapy, such as ignorance, bullying, and insensitivity. For instance, Janice returns wearing a pink ball cap, having lost her hair.  Linus ends up having to defend her when another little boy teases her about her cap and her baldness.  Linus grabs the kid and shakes his fist at him, all the while yelling at him about how he has no idea what Janice has had to go through.  The  other kid, properly chastened, apologizes and tries to make up for his meanness by complimenting Janice’s hat.

There is also a segment of the show that also seems to touch on Janice’s siblings and their feelings of loneliness and jealousy over the “attention” that Janice is getting because of her illness.

In the end of the episode, Janice returns to school once again after some more treatments and she whips her hat off and her head is full of hair again.  Guess this is supposed to signify she is “all better.”  End of story.   Well, yes.  Vastly simplified.  No mention of remission or recurrence.  But, hey, it’s for little ones.  Or maybe the show’s writers should leave the heavy topics to the parents.

What’s your opinion?  You can check out the episode HERE.  It’s not very long.  I realize now there are many shows that tackle serious subjects for a younger audience, and I would guess that the newer shows and ones like these each have their merits.  Weigh in, if you like.

On another note , there are clearly some episodes of these old shows I missed.  Maybe that’s for the best.

When the Interwebz Attacks

Until now, the perception has been that you can say anything you like on the internet, without any consequences. Recent cases… show that is getting less and less true.

I’ve blogged…at length…about sex in video games and the experiences girl gamers face.  Some of these experiences are amusing.  Some of them are even funny.  Some are just plain irritating.  And anyone that has spent even a modest amount of time in online pursuits where there is some sort of interaction through either comments or live chat, has likely had at least one or two negative experiences with trolls or people that are just flat out ignorant asshats.  These are people who either intentionally look for others to harass, or  just feel free to say whatever half-formed thought crosses their half-formed brains due to assumed anonymity.  Maybe they think they’re “just having fun” or perhaps it makes these pitiable human beings feel better about their own ineffectual and pathetic lives to be able to take a virtual shit on people who might normally kick their asses in real life.   And some of them are just plain assholes.  Mean.

And these people will use whatever dirty epithet or blasphemous racial or sexual slur they can think of to insult you and tear you down.  It’s their only real weapon in place of something intelligent to say.

But even knowing all of this, even experiencing a lot of this, I was still shocked by the vicious cyber attack on Californian blogger, Anita Sarkeesian, after she launched a project to make a web video series about video game tropes and  women.  Not just the ignorant and inflammatory comments, but the fact that this woman was the victim of a concentrated effort to vandalize her Wikipedia page and organized efforts to have her YouTube videos flagged as “terrorism.” Additionally, she became the target of threats of violence, rape, and death.

Now, if you follow some of the comments made on the videos, you’ll notice that even people who supported this woman in a respectful way were subsequently flamed by some of the other commenters.

I am really floored.  Do all the idiots congregate in one place (comment boards on the internet?)  Or is it that most of the normal and good people (not all, mind you, but most) know there’s no point in even wasting time trying to argue with these narrow-minded, disrespectful morons?

It appears that Anita Sarkeesian has not only offended most of the remaining misogynists in the world, but even worse,  she has offended video game nerds by “insulting” their beloved games.  And by “video game nerds,” I don’t mean just “people who like or play video games.”  (After all, I play video games.  So does my husband and a lot of my friends.)  I mean those people who are so sad and pathetic that they live vicariously through their video games.  You know who you are.

Now, while the very existence of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church should clue me in on the fact that there are still evolutionary throwbacks in humanity’s pond, I have to admit, even I am still stunned that there are so many socially and intellectually stunted people in this world.  Watching the news everyday is depressing enough without this happy horse shit.

I wonder what it was about this woman that pissed so many people off.  As my step-father used to say “opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one.”  I’m sure she is not the first person out there to spark a feminist debate about video games.  Is it just because she is semi-well known?  If I was more well-known, would I receive nasty remarks and threats of violence for this post?  Maybe I should ask WordPress to create a Widget exclusively for keeping track of death threats.  To hell with overall views and “followers.”  You’re not popular until you’ve received death threats from the dregs of society via the internet.  Bring it on (and I’ll happily ignore and delete them as per my comment regulations!)

On a more serious note, given the disappointing and disturbing trend in the past couple of  decades or so of the legal system’s increasing support of people’s unwillingness to take responsibility for their own actions, part of me hopes we will begin to see repercussions for online harassment.  Because that’s what it is.  Aside from rude remarks, some people seem to think they have the right to threaten and verbally assault others by dint of being online, and that having “freedom of speech” gives them the right to act like total assholes, when if they said some of this stuff to people’s faces, they’d get arrested or punched in the mouth.  If you ask me, some people could really still benefit from a punch in the mouth…

Cuz this is what would happen if you said that shit to mah face!

But maybe that’s just this humble female blogger being a “bitch.”