Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You're so much cooler than the cool kids

I had already planned this post but finding the statement from A&F CEO Jeffries was the perfect way to make my point.  My last post I talked about the people who are bullied becoming the bullies.  Today it's about those of us who were the outcasts and how "different" is "better".

I'm a female so that already comes with its own issues of being made to feel "less than".  I was kind of lucky because my dad believed I could do anything, my maternal great-grandmother had been a rebel and renaissance woman and both my mom and her sister were very headstrong.  When "women's lib" came along the women in my family were half-way there.

Today the most prominent community we are trying to help is the LGBT, but they're not the only ones who get picked on.  The smart kids, the too tall kids, the too short kids, the too fat kids, the too skinny kids, kids with glasses, braces, curly red hair or purple mohawks, kids who shop at Wal-Mart and kids who shop at Hot Topic, arts kids, math kids, etc. etc.  And that just looking at the 5-17 year olds (K-12) and the crap they put up with at school.  Later on in life it is the adults of any counter-culture who don't have someone physically in their face every day but who get all the subliminal messages from TV, movies, magazines, the media that we just don't fit and that makes us somehow bad? wrong? TARGETS!

Here's the thing though.  Is the flock "right"?  I don't think so.  I think they're scared but societies and cultures have provided them with armor of physical strength, "beauty" and set goals so they feel like they are more "right" than you.  Consider this though...why are they trying so hard and why do they never feel like they've accomplished anything.  Going to their graves they will still feel like they have fallen short because that's how the game is played.  The people who run the game always have a twist that will prove that you're not quite "perfect"...yet.  Of course you never reach "perfect" before you die so you die believing you have somehow failed.  You know how you failed?  You failed at being YOU!

Look at people trying to live up to the game.  Are they ever truly happy?  None of them that I have met.  They're too busy trying too hard to fold themselves into a shape that The Fates never intended for them.  Those of us who seek to find out who we were born to be actually feel accomplished when we discover another talent we were born with.  Me!  I started writing when I was 14.  I didn't realize then what it released in me and how much it opened me up, allowed my wings to unfold and the joy that filled me with.  I got away from writing for a number of years and spent those years trying to fold myself into society's and my significant other's shapes.  It hurt...physically.  I smoked to much. I ended up with heart palpitations and anxiety attacks.  I cried a lot.  Now that I am free of that and not only writing but discovering my other arts and all the artists around me, I'm happy.  In fact I have found joy and peace on this plain.  I don't have to wait for some reward in the afterlife.  It is in the here and now.

Go find you bliss.  Go find you.  While you're young and stuck in the hostile environment of school, find the people like you who don't fit.  Create your own community. You probably have already-in the music or art room, in the shop, at math or science club.  These are sanctuaries where you can heal each other and give each other strength.  Remember you are emotionally stronger than your tormentors.  You're character in solid.  Theirs is weak because it depends on living by someone else's rules.  Yes, you have to still be nice.  In my house the rules were "No hitting.  No kicking.  No biting. No pushing.  No lying and no yelling"  Besides when you nice back, they don't know how to deal with that.  That's why they pick on you.  Because you don't play by their rules.  You can depend on yourself.  Your friends are real and you can trust them.  With you and your friends it is not about competition but about collaboration.  You know how to compromise...not your core self but when trying to meld two or more ideas.

You are the people who will change the world. You are the people who are creative enough to go searching for the best solutions to all kinds of things.  Because you refuse to let go of your imagination you will not just be a better artist but a better scientist, better mathematician, better engineer, better architect.  You will design the best green energy source.  You will find homeopathic remedies that actually cure without causing other problems, you will figure out ways for the world to work together. The sheeple have been trying it their way for a long time and it still doesn't work.  Divide and conquer, segregate and control lives everyone going to their graves unfulfilled.  They may have money, a big house, a fancy car and have traveled the world but they have neither joy nor peace.  The time for the "other people" to try it their way has come.  So be YOU!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Choose your battles wisely

Wisdom is something that has been deeply discounted over the past few decades.  Humans have been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.  During the last revolution in the 60's and 70's that included the Vietnam War protests, the racial civil rights movement and the women's movement, for the most part these groups used some smarts in picking their battles and how to fight them.  Dr. King's marches were very effective.  Woodstock made an excellent statement for the peace movement.  Even things like the Kent State sit-in that resulted in the deaths of four unarmed students made bold statements about groups within the society that were over being at the mercy of a small minority of "powerful" people.  Yes, those years were violent times on our own soil.  They were kind of mini-civil wars that occured in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.  There were groups and people who were extremists but I get where they were coming from and they did do some good for promoting the common good of "their people".

Today people are not being wise and the zealots are more crazy then emphatic about their causes.  "Christians" are trying to force people to follow their rules which is unconstitutional.  There is a resurgence of white supremacy and attempts to completely undo the progress women had made in the 70's.  This is not wise.  Men need to realize that they can do a better job of living and working with women by their side rather than under their feet.  As far as the race issues?  This country, albeit stolen from its indigenous people, became a melting pot.  That didn't just mean of various euro-Caucasians. It meant we became a patchwork quilt.  Whites need to accept that they brought black people here against their will. In our conquering, we overran Puerto Rico and opened the doors to mainland U.S. to them.  Asians and South Americans, all are part of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning for freedom.  Get over yourself.  This wasn't your country, nor was your religion part of the culture here to begin with.

But that's not my point here.  Today I read about a group of atheists in UT who are pushing buttons with local businesses trying to get their t-shirts printed.  People it's call respect and it is a key ingredient of freedom.  The shop that refused to print your shirts has the same freedom and rights that you do.  They have the right of freedom OF and FROM religion.  They choose OF!  Get over it and go find another shop that will take you job.  Don't waste everyone's time and money and make EVERY atheist in the country look bad because you're a douche bag.  The same goes for my LGBT friends.  I love you but bullying businesses to cater your wedding, book you the honeymoon suite or sell you a dress only makes the whole community look just as bad as they bullies we are trying to call out, trying to protect ourselves from.  Go find another business that will work with you.  Granny Christians Bed and Breakfast is not the only quaint little, romantic seaside inn on the South Carolina coast.

Listen, this country has gotten itself caught in the chokehold of mega corporations.  However, thanks to some new SEC rules, potential entrepreneurs can crowdfund their business ideas.  If you're a woman there are tons of resources out there for you.  "Minorities"?  Same thing.  Find the money and start your own damned business.  Go buy that big old Victorian down the street from Granny Christian's and make it the Big Bold Rainbow Inn - "the perfect honeymoon hideway for all your fabulous queers".   Atheists?  Come on there has to be people around you who excel at layout and design and others that either know how or can be taught how to run a silk screen machine.  This is the point...Don't waste time and energy beating up the people that are against you.  Go out there, do it better and you win.  What looks better in a headline?  "Gays take Granny of life savings in honeymoon suit" or "Larry and Al open swank b&b in Myrtle Beach"?  See what I mean.  Listen if you can't find someone to do it for you then do it yourself.  It helps you and it helps all the communities you are a part of.

Choose your battles wisely.  Are you helping or hurting the cause?  If its more hurting than help then sit down and really think out your strategy.  Don't be a bully and don't make people suspect me of being one too because I associate with you.  K?  Thanks.  

Catholics and the "marriage fight"

First and foremost, let's get specific.  The "marriage" that religious people are talking about and "marriage" that governments are talking about are two completely different things.  One is a rite that takes place, usually, in a religious edifice, presided over by a clergy person.  It, in and of itself, does not require any legal documentation.  All the rituals can go on and the two people can leave the rite "married".  However, they will NOT be able to file a joint tax return, put the other on their health insurance at work, be able to make any legal claims to property if they split, etc.  THAT is the "marriage" that comes under government/legal jurisdiction.  THAT is the "marriage" that results in clergy people also becoming Justices Of The Peace so they can sign the legal document presented by the couple and allows them to say "By the power invested in me by the state/commonwealth of where ever" at that end of the ceremony.  That legal marriage doesn't have to happen in a religious building.  It can happen at City Hall and all the couple has to do is agree that all the information on the license is the truth, sign the license and have it witnessed by the JOP and a notary.

That said, let's get down to the Catholics and their fight against marriage equality.  They've been talking a lot of pure, unadulterated shit!  "Biblical marriage".  "Natural law".  Do your research.  Biblical marriage by Catholic standards takes that "do not be unequally yoked" part to its extreme.  Example?  Even since Vatican II, my parents have been living "in sin" in the eyes of The Church for over 58 years.  Why?  Because my father had the gall to not only fall in love with a Methodist but he married her in her church.  They didn't have their marriage "blessed" by a priest because the minister who married them said if they were going to do that to just go get married in a Catholic church because what Rome was saying was that what the minister did didn't "take".  My mother had no intention of converting to Catholicism or even attending the pre-Cana classes.  So my folks were real rebels.  My father was excommunicated for marrying my mom.

Today my father is still deeply in love with my mother.  It is tearing him apart to watch her fail a little more each day.  In her way she still loves him but the dementia has her just trying to remember what time or day it is. It's hard on both Dad and I to watch the woman who always remembered everyone's birthday, anniversary, and name's day now have trouble remembering where she was yesterday.  My dad tries so hard to make her happy, comfortable and cared for but he gets frustrated because she's not there to make sure the bills are paid on time or cook dinner.  He wants the girl he fell in love with back.  But the church still says she is not his wife and that I am a bastard.  How sick and twisted is that?

My paternal grandmother never had an issue with this situation.  In fact she encouraged my dad to start going to church with mom and I but he had a very high respect for her.  Irish matriarchy and all.  Plus they had literally saved each others lives from my grandfather when he was still around.  But after Granny died my dad did start going to church with Mom.  In fact he joined the bell choir, went to study groups and eventually joined the Methodist church.  They found two nice plots in local non-denominational cemetery.  They decided since Dad's family is buried in a Catholic cemetery and my mom's family is in a different one, neither in the area where we live now they'd go local and be planted side-by-side.

So dear Catholic Church, come clean.  Your bullshit about same-sex marriage being non-biblical, against natural law is just that.  You're not about love.  You're about procreating your brand of religion.  I don't think "God" or "Jesus" have any real issues with my parents.  I think "Jesus" would have gladly presided over their wedding.  I know that The Great Spirit is giving my dad strength and that his love for my mother, me and my kids is still true.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The throw-away society

Yesterday I received yet another request to sign a petition to help out the cause the creator thinks is important and that they believe will make the world a better place.  Most times individuals and organizations target me pretty well.  Even this one on the surface sounded like a good idea to get behind.  Another case of the "little guy" getting beat down by "The Man".  Workers at Guitar Center are disgruntled since their employer was taken over by the evil Bain Capital.  Their commissions have been cut and their benefits have dwindled.

On the surface this sounds really bad.  Initially I was ready to support them in their effort to unionize and fight "The Man" and then it hit me...Guitar Center is just another big box store that has done serious damage to small business in America.  It is just another contributor to encouraging the "throw away society".  The one that has put so many tinkers, cobblers, milliners and tailors out of work and filled our dumps with tons and tons of materials that didn't have to be there in the first place.

Starting with my childhood, I remember Mom rounding up everyone's shoes to take to the cobbler for new soles and heels.  As long as my feet didn't grow too fast, my mother could make a pair of Buster Brown oxfords last an entire school year despite the fact that I walked about four blocks every day going to school, coming home for lunch, going back to school and coming home.  I also wore those same shoes to church every Sunday.  They took a pretty good beating.  Today I have a couple of pairs of shoes I really like but the soles are shot.  I keep holding onto them hoping I find a good cobbler to get them fixed.  It killed me when my kids were younger constantly throwing out shoes that were too shot to even put in the Goodwill box then having to go to the nearest Payless to buy more.

As far as repairing clothing, my Mom was fortunate to be gifted with the talent of sewing.  Not only did she fix torn garments she also made a lot of my clothes.  My friends moms were the same.  McCalls and Simplicity made a lot of money from parents and grandparents who were handy with a machine.  In fact, Wheeler and Wilson manufactured sewing machines in Bridgeport, CT.

Speaking of manufacturing in the U.S. sadly even the factories became throw-aways.  Today throughout my home state there are many vacant hulks that are in desperate need of demolition.  They are beyond repurposing as they have stood far too long with broken windows and failing roofs leaving the interiors unsafe for habitation.  My question is, how did the state allow the former owners to just bail and not take their buildings down or sell them?  Sadly many of these decrepit manufactories are in larger cities and only served to become hangouts and hiding places for gangs and drug dealers.  Some have been torn down but were replaced by retail spaces that sell tons of throw-away cheap goods manufactured outside of the U.S.  In CT, the huge Scovill brass mill became a mall and when the sponge rubber plant burned in Ansonia it became Target.  In the latter's defense the company did stay in CT and moved only two towns over and I'm as guilty as the next guy of shopping at Target.

Back to Guitar Center and why I didn't sign the petition.  Any musician worth their salt will tell you that most instruments are like wine, if well cared for they will improve with age.  One would much rather play and/or listen to a vintage violin, trumpet, piano or guitar.  Musicians who cherish their instruments will come to the stage or march down the street with woodwinds and brass that look like they just came brand-new out of the case.  Many of them still own the instrument they first learned on.  Would-be musicians in poor countries would give anything to be presented with the instruments we take to the landfill.  But big-box and mail order companies have hopped on the band wagon (pardon the pun) of convincing first world musicians at least in the U.S. that constantly replacing a worn or damaged instrument with a brand new (cheaply made) one is the way to go rather than having their current one repaired.  This puts all the great instrument manufacturers, repair people and musicians with a true knack for matching a person with the right instrument in the application line at the large-scale retailers.  The big box brick and mortars have also damaged the sheet music business too as they don't stock much and no one in these places knows how to special order anything.  If the musician or vocalist is lucky enough to have some lead time to secure their music thankfully J.W. Pepper is a great mail order company but if they're in a pinch, there are not many local shops that can help them.

I challenge Guitar Center employees to pool their resources, find an open space in the area (gods know there's plenty thanks again to the throw-away mentality), talk to a bank and do some crowd funding and open a new store.  A store that offers quality instruments and a wide selection of sheet music.  Let the staff that excel at sound production open a different store that sells mics, amps, etc.  Have the new instrument store offer high quality service and repair or open a third store in town.  Work with the music departments in all the area schools including colleges to educate kids and families on instrument selection, care and feeding.  Have a booth at area arts festivals.  Offer an exchange program that will get gently used equipment into the hands of schools or musicians on limited budgets.  As for benefits-there are insurance co-ops for small businesses.  Research options to be able to offer healthcare for the whole staff.  Prove to yourselves, the community and to large-scale retailers that your business is the better choice.

We've gone beyond trying to get "the man" to see it our way.  Now it's time to take this country back from Citizens United.  Small business and American manufacturing was what made this country great.  Now we are just a consumer society for the rest of the world.  We've even sent our customer service overseas.  Job creation should not be more minimum wage retail jobs.  We need to bring back trades.  Yes, you will pay more for things made here but considering some of that cost is to cover manufacturing processes are safer to the employees and the environment than in other parts of the world, put your neighbor to work in a job that allows him to pay rent and eat healthy and pays U.S. taxes...well you look at the benefits.  If I could actually find a piece of clothing manufactured in the U.S. and buy it in a local mom & pop store, I would save the money to purchase it over one made overseas. The same goes for TVs, computers, and phones.

I challenge you, at least once a month, try to find a local business to purchase or have something repaired at.  Avoid the big box store or buying it on-line.  As someone who works for a manufacturer...buying a product on-line may seem convenient and cheaper at the moment but if you have a problem with your purchase, taking care of it will become costly and time-consuming.  If you had bought it at a store, you could have returned to the store for help, repair or replacement at no cost to you and had it taken care of in a timely manner.  Let me share an example with you, not even of my employer's product.  A family member purchased their first new guitar at Sam Ash.  Admittedly Sam Ash has spread over 16 states since its humble beginnings in Hicksville, NY in 1924 but the beauty of this company from my experience is that they still operate like a mom & pop.  About a year after purchasing the student line of Ovation's, the guitar teacher noticed the bridge was lifting off the body.  The guitar was taken back to Sam Ash, the store more than happy to honor the warranty.  First they thought that it could be repaired but learned it could not so it was shipped back to Ovation.  Not only could the manufacturer not repair it, the model had been discontinued.  They shipped the current version of the guitar back to Sam Ash very quickly.  The family member was only without their instrument for a few weeks. I would be very curious to see how Guitar Center would have handled that with the Ovation 12-string the family member purchased from them or worse, with an instrument purchased from an on-line dealer.

Post your experiences and let me know if you take the challenge and how it turns out.  If you are contemplating starting a business or recently have started one, also post.  I'll help pimp you out and grow that business.  Peace out.