Monday, February 16, 2009

True story or based on a true story

What we now believe is that for the majority of Americans, truth has become absolutely relative. Films tout that their plot, events, characters are based on a true story. Memoirs are the most popular genre, and newspapers and news media are generally opinions first and as I said before usually based on a "true" story. What is it that they say about every lie having a kernel of truth. Well, that is where we are now. Every truth is the kernel around which we now tell and know our stories.

Yesterday, a receptionist at my doctor's office asked about the book I was holding. "Is it good?" she asked. To which I replied, "Well, it is well written but the story is terribly sad, so I can't call it good." The book we were discussing was Irene Nemoirovsky's, Suite Francaise. "It is a story, the story of the early years of WW II in France and how the people fled Paris and how the different levels, classes of society and even the Germans reacted. The author died in Auschwitz."

"Oh, it's based on a true story, then?"

"No, it is work of fiction."


It was as though I had told her that the story which was as true to life and as close to the reality of being there as the author could make it, was actually not true. I know other people these days who hold this same position. They only go see movies or watch TV shows that are based on a true story. It is as though that's all it takes to make them believe it, the plot of the story really happened and if that's true then any other part of the story can be taken at face value, too. So the question becomes, what is the true story?

I can't be the only one who has noticed. After all, even scripted stories have tag lines like "You've been watching too much TV." when a character alludes to the way things are supposed to happen. Medical dramas, and courtroom/police shows dominate what I call spare time tv. Cable loads up hours of these shows and they in turn carry a sense of being real. And if they are real then the behavior and the beliefs and especially the actions of the characters are then real. Meanwhile, scripted reality shows go even one better. The people really are just people. So that makes what they do and say have a certain kind of validity. But they are also acting too, and extremely aware, as we all are these days of the camera's eyes.

Real CSI workers laugh out loud at the way TV shows portray their equipment and the flashy way they demonstrate their results. Last week on Medium, a news report of an arrest carried this piece of false information. "The police recovered 9 fingernails torn from the victom's fingers covered with the person arrested's DNA." This amongst real world news reports saying that DNA testing has fallen as far as a year behind in reporting results because of the glut of work.

What is the truth against this? The public actually appear to believe the story over the facts. This inability to separate truth from fiction is a major factor in our continuing stress as we try to figure out which person, newsreporter, politician, preacher, or story to actually trust.

What is it House always says, "Everybody lies." It's funny to me that the natural response is "trust no one."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On being corporate in California

In California, the budget crisis continues to be as near as the new stimulus package passage. This state expects to get something like $26 billion which it then hopes to spread like economic butter across the state's own budgetary needs. The California legislature, torn along partisan lines, keeps telling us through its actions that it really can't just decide. Yesterday's LA Times reported that in order to get some agreement both sides got major concessions for their positions that will cost you and I more out of pocket but will play into our future budgets before the whole state becomes toast. Democrats and the Governor agree that since gas prices appear to be leveling out at around $2.50, it makes sense to take advantage of our recent $4.00 a gallon mind set to raise the tax there. And since people are consuming less finally, it makes sense to encourage this trend by raising sales taxes there. Even though I am sure retailers don't necessarily like the idea. But the rest of the proposed tax hikes "will force most California adults to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more each year in a combination of higher vehicle license fees, sales taxes, and ... income taxes."

From my point of view, this only works if the state can show that the benefits of sacrificing in the long term will out weigh the short term drag on Californians who are already dealing with job losses, foreclosures, education cutbacks, and the high cost of living here.

Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democrats have another plan they want to put into play. In what is called an incentive strategy, they have added a corporate tax break to the budget that will give up about a $1 billion a year from the budget supposedly to keep those said corporations from moving out of state, and to encourage them to hire more workers, too. The only thing is, "the cost of the tax break has far outweighted the job-creation benfits in states where it has been instituted." according the Center on Budget Policy Priorities. Not to be cynical but Corporations are famous for stock piling cash and are already laying off workers across the board. A $3,000 incentive doesn't seem like enough to convince a corportation to hire someone it may cost $40 to $50 an hour or $40,000 a year to employ. And the kicker is that around 65% of the break they will get will become permanent law. Meaning once it is in place they can take the money and go on about their business as usual.

So as of tonight, Sunday, no deal is final. Personally, I don't see giving the corporations a break if the rest of us have to take on more fiscal responsibility. The news media reports however make me very aware that this all is still much more about making deals behind closed doors than thinking about what is right for all of us.

Friday, February 13, 2009

So the Stimulus is a stress test

We all want something out of this. Less the stress, I would guess. Here in sunny Encinitas, things have the appearance of business as usual even though there are a hell of lot of surfers out for February and the holidays seem to be coming pretty quickly so spending at least on the surface seems normal. But man o' man there are a lot of stores closed or closing and in the ones I visited that are Sales! closing out, people are waiting until the very last minute to make a buy.

Two things might be playing a factor in this: One, no one wants to let go of their cash and Two, a lot of people seem to be noticing that they don't really need the things on sale. It may well be a dawn of a new age. Less is more.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of concern about where the actual stimulus money is going to go and how much of it will actually get to we individuals who know we are going to need help in the near future. Are there going to be more and larger stimulus checks? Or will it show up in the form of better transportation and cheaper and more complete health insurance? Will the jobs that are supposed to appear actually be ones that people will want to work?

I asked the question other day - what is going to be the business/commerce of the 21st century? What will we produce that people need to exist healthily and happily? I think we need to broaden and deepen our commitment to the education of our future citizens. We need life long education for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the need to learn how to live intelligently with our fellow human beings. But deeper than that we have to acknowledge that the computerization of our culture will lead to more leisure or at least more extra time that we will have to know how to use creatively enough so as to be happy in the result. I know this sounds idealistic but I am a realist. We have to face ourselves and where always wanting more has brought us.

Okay, that's enough for now, I need to research and to think more before I go on.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pot Laws Finally Under Attack

Today's Sunday LA Times sports section featured this article on page three. In "The Sports world goes to pot" writer Chuck Culpepper reviewed the spate of current and recent acts of "unlawful" use of marijuana in the sports world and did a more than adequate job of referencing the literature and research that would support a real change in the way the US deals with this natural substance. First, he covered the recent cases of use by athletes. Second, he reached out to reseacher Roger Roffman, a prof at the U of Washington, who has been writing and studying marijuana use over the last 40 years. Pot has a history and a confusing story.

That’s because as the debate has roiled on and Roffman has followed it, he
has detected four sides, all of which, he said, don “blinders” when regarding
the other three. Group 1 emphasizes that most adults who smoke marijuana do so occasionally and “without really any harm,” Roffman said, “and that’s a very hard thing for us to publicly acknowledge.” Group 2 stresses that “a substantial number of marijuana smokers get into real trouble” and “derail” from functionality. Group 3 considers marijuana central to life on Earth and tends to live alternatively both culturally and politically, yet manages to function. And Group 4 entails medical users, whose approval in various states – California in 1996 – has helped soften
the stigma over time.
Meanwhile though Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, says the time for the cheap joke puns maybe past. Our writer couldn't resist cheapening his own arguements with a few snipes of his own. To my mind this is one of the main reason this has gone on so long. No one takes the complaint seriously. After all, pot isn't addictive so we could just stop toking and the problem would just go away, so goes the arguement.

The writer then goes on to discuss the way the advertising world, the Kellog and Subway and Omega sponsors, have chosen to respond to this gathering storm of a situation. Finally, he takes a serious look at the real way real people through their achievements have blown the mythology about the harmfulness of this particular drug completely out of the water.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Pot, the potential harvest . . .

from all the news about role model athletes suddenly being caught using pot to relax is arousing an amazing response from a wide spectrum of adults across the country and in the blogosphere. Take this one for example, which I found at my site this morning. It would appear that the vast underground of pot smokers is finally ready to join their brethren by coming out of the grow lit closet. It has already been noted that the overwhelming change asked for at is for the President to change the federal position in regard to the legalization of pot. And even though the response there was negative in one sense, "the President is not in favor", in quite another it was positive, as to enforcement the DEA will be instructed to stand down from its raids on medical marijuana distributors. One can only hope.

Meanwhile, my favorite story about this issue is from Japan where a group of Sumo wrestlers have been allegedly suspended for using pot to enhance their appetites.