Thursday, July 23, 2009

Should Twitter Be Used As A News Source? by Janus Kane

Twitter is a great resource. It has become an integral part of my daily routine and I have met some interesting people there. Without question, this exceptional networking tool has found a place in today’s society. Having said that, I have to ask – am I the only one who is a bit concerned at the fact that television news seems to be doing some of their story research on Twitter?

We hear mor and more references to Twitter on daily programming. That is not what I am talking about here. No, what I’m referring to is the actual citing of Twitter Tweets as news. I was stunned to see the evening news, last night, reference the Tweets of opposing parties in their report of the Tehran conflict. Seriously, is this what news reporting in our country has come to?
For some time now, news disseminators have been getting their story ideas from the Internet, but now it seems that they are getting the story itself there. Has the Internet become one-stop-shopping for reporters? Will television and newspaper reporting agencies now be satisfied with regurgitating the same information we can find on our own computers?

I think my biggest problem with this, besides the duplicity of it, is the question of credibility. How easily could a twitter account, or many other Internet sources for that matter, be pirated, hacked or just plain manipulated to provide false information. Call me crazy, but when I tune into the nightly ‘news’ I would at least like to preserve the illusion that the stories I am hearing about have been researched and verified by a news reporting agency that I can trust.
I realize that news reporting, like so many things in today’s society, must change in the face of the Internet age. This change, however, does not seem to be progress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chasing The Dragon - The Addiction Merry-go-Round by Janus Kane

The story, ‘The Little Insanity’ follows the lives of six 30-something people who are struggling with relationship and addiction issues. It is not that uncommon a dynamic. One of the reasons why people relate to this story is because it is familiar. Although it is exaggerated, these stories mirror the events in many peoples’ lives.

Admittedly, this story takes some of these issues to their extremes, extremes that most of us don’t experience in our own lives. This is another reason why people find the book appealing. It is comforting for us to be able to look at these characters and think, ’see, my life is not that screwed up’.

Some readers may look at these characters and think, ‘I’m nothing like these people. I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t participate in risky sex and I don’t abuse drugs’. For those people, I might say, you are missing the point.

I believe that ‘The Little Insanity’ speaks more to our similarities than to our differences. Addictions are common to more of us than we would like to admit. Addictions are as varied as the people who cultivate them. They are not all as lethal as alcohol or drugs, but they can all rule our lives in ways we might not like to admit.

As different as addictions can be, they all share one common theme: all addictions spring from ‘The Pleasure Principle’. The most common human goal is the pursuit of pleasure, or conversely, the avoidance or pain. For some of us, that equates to suppressing bad memories, for others it means avoiding boredom and for the most extreme cases it means just feeling something. We are all bombarded with these feelings every day, the most common and debilitating of them is the recognition of our own mortality.

The only question that remains is how we will deal with those feelings. Will we go to the liquor cabinet or the refrigerator? Will we flop onto a mattress in a downtown crack house or onto a featherbed with your best friend’s spouse? Will we run our family into debt with credit card purchases or drive them crazy with our need to insinuate ourselves into their lives? Perhaps we will just numb our minds with hours in front of the television or computer.

Heroin addicts have used the term ‘chasing the dragon’ to mean their pursuit of the perfect high. I believe that we are all chasing the dragon. We are all in search of that one thing that will give our lives meaning, that will make us feel, that will define our place in this imperfect world. Some of us find a healthy anchor to hold onto while others of us continue to chase the dragon. The unlucky ones among us catch the dragon, only to find out that he is mean and he has razor sharp teeth.

Until we realize that our lives are not perfect and they are not supposed to be perfect, we will constantly be in search of something to make us feel better about ourselves and our lives. Only when we stop pointing fingers at ‘those addicts’ will we be able to recognize our commonalities and become closer in our shared frailties.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moral Decline by M. J. Claire

I should begin by making it clear that I am not some bible-thumping zealot who is forecasting the end of days. However, it would take a blind man to miss the fact that our society it quickly sliding into an abyss. Without question, the recent economic downturn is not helping matters. There is also no denying that there will always be bad people who will do bad things, without much provocation.

There has always been and will probably always be rape, assault, murder, incest etc. We see it every day on the news and that is nothing new. What is new is the ever increasing challenging of what was once taboo or at least more revered. It seems that nothing is sacred anymore. The nightly news, on an increasingly regular basis, now includes reports of the murder of small children. It is almost becoming de riguer, losing its ability to shock us.

Corporate greed is now measured in billions rather than thousands of dollars. The figures are mind-boggling in their magnitude. As some people struggle through their days living in their car, others among us think nothing of bilking the elderly or indigent out of their meager savings, just so that they can pad an already overflowing bank account.

Sex, drugs, gambling, alcoholism and violence are more commonplace than ever with our children. The line of demarcation between adult behavior and juvenile behavior is getting greyer by the day. Even with the ready availability of numerous contraceptive options, teenage pregnancy is rampant. Some of those girls think nothing of leaving their new progeny in the nearest trash receptacle. There seems to be little, if any, regard for consequences.

Children today have lost their ability to be children. They are overwhelmed by racing technology and peer pressure to meet all kinds of superficial standards. Their immature minds are not able to process the violence they are seeing, causing them to lose perspective. Consider this example of animal cruelty at its worst . This girl, with complete awareness and disregard of the consequences, put a small living creature into a hot oven. Does anyone out there, after reading this girl’s defense, doubt that she would have just as casually done this to a neighbor’s infant child, if she felt it would serve her agenda?

These occurrences have gone far beyond simple ‘right and wrong’. It is a societal downslide of monumental proportions. If we don’t stop the fall, it will come crashing down on all of us. I’m not much on Biblical references, but does Sodom and Gomorrah ring any bells? We need to repair our moral compass and quickly. Failure to do so could be catastrophic, at which time, our failing economy will be the least of our problems.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Peanuts No More by Janus Kane

I purchased items from two different companies last week. They were delivered two days apart. They were similar items and were shipped by the same carrier. They came packaged in roughly the same way, with one MAJOR difference. The first box was filled with those vile styrofoam peanuts that no one knows what to do with. They are a bane on the environment but, hey, we need our packages to arrive in good condition – damn the environment. The second box was also loaded with peanuts (not the edible kind) although, wait a minute, I guess you could eat them if you had a hankering for cornstarch. Well, I’ll be, these little suckers are not made out of styrofoam at all.

I only suspected the difference (kudos to the responsible manufacturer, by the way) because, in appearance, these peanuts are virtually identical to their more toxic brothers. Only a slight color variation, and the fact that I had seen these once before, prompted me to bring one to the kitchen sink. In seconds, this thing was gone and on its way into my septic system.

Simply put, I hope the person who developed these little, bio-degradeable miracles is a millionaire, and then some. This person has found a cure for one of the most troubling drains on our environment. No longer will our landfills have to be packed with acres of non-decomposing styrofoam. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest advancements in recent history and may benefit our future welfare almost as much as the discovery of penicillin.

But, one has to wonder, what has been done to encourage the use of this better, safer, far more environmentally sound solution to the use of styrofoam? Not much, from what I can see. Are styrofoam manufacturers converting their plants to start making this new, non-toxic product? Are other manufacturers clamoring for more of this environmentally sound packing material? Has the government put a ban on new styrofoam production? These are all things that should be done, IMMEDIATELY.

Often, when you find an alternative to something that is harmful, it comes at some expense. That decadent seven-layer chocolate cake is not good for you. Your choice is to eat what is harmful or choose an alternate, less appealing substitute. Gasoline omissions pollute our air. Our choice is to accept the inevitable pollution or get our biking shorts out of the closet. Here is one of the very rare instances where we can have our cake and eat it too. So, why are we not doing it?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Dirty Little Secret - Janus Kane

People have asked me about my inspiration for 'The Little Insanity'. What was it that caused me to breathe life into six such confused characters? The simple answer is that I am a voyeur - a voyeur of life. I believe that the average reader will find the characters in 'The Little Insanity' to be all too recognizable. You may see yourself or your loved ones or perhaps just the out-of-luck guy on the corner, but you should see someone you know within these pages. There is a reason for that. Addictions are an inescapable aspect of the human condition, or maybe they are just a symptom.

Most of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, will have to plead guilty to some addiction or other. Not everyone suffers from the hardcore addictions that the characters in 'The Little Insanity' battle with and hopefully our addictions will not shorten our lifespan, but it bears mentioning that we all have them. Surely the girl with the heroin monkey on her back is at a much greater risk than the stay-at-home Mom who is addicted to buying things on the Home Shopping Network. The 300 pound food addict is much easier to pick out of a crowd than the rageaholic and the promiscuous sexual addict is more easily shunned than the parents who are addicted to living vicariously through their children's lives.

At the end of the day though, it really just comes down to a matter of degrees. That young mother may be no more able to resist the call of chocolate in her pantry than the crack addict is able to resist the dealer on the corner. The businessman who is addicted to his work may be no more able to stay out of the office than the alcoholic is able to stay out of the local bar. Once you scratch the surface, how many of us can truly deny any and all driving forces in our lives, destructive or otherwise?

Is that because we are all weak? Perhaps - we are human beings who face all manner of temptations every day. The fact that one person finds it easier to resist a chocolate bar than a baccarat table or a bottle of Jim Beam does not make them better or worse. It is just another bit of evidence supporting the fact that we are all more alike than we would care to admit.
What binds us together most closely is that we are all caught up in the eternal search for meaning in our lives. None of us are sure of where to find that meaning. Some look for it in religion, others in work and still others in the bed of numerous sexual partners. Some of us find temporary relief in carbohydrates, drugs or alcohol. Unless we have given up and fallen into depression or worse, we are probably still searching for the elusive secret - the thing that will make us feel, the thing that will get us up in the morning with the conviction that 'yes, our lives actually do have meaning', something that will carry on even after we are gone.

Some might think that I have stretched the term addiction to the point of breaking...I'll address that in a future post.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Cost of Competition by Janus Kane

Piggybacking on M.J.'s commentary from the other day, I would like to open this discussion - why is competition so important to us? Why are we so driven to compete? It does not sustain us. Competition is not a necessity like food, water or air and yet some of us crave it and hold it in greater reverence than the oxygen they breathe.

I begins early, when we are children. Many parents stress about getting their children into the 'best' schools, pushing them to get excellent grades and join and excel at sports and other groups. We soon start to define ourselves by our GPA, sports achievements or other awards. We are encouraged to; jump higher, run faster, be smarter and hit that baseball harder. Parents have become violent at their children's little league games - all in the name of good, wholesome competition, while children are shunned by their peers because they are not wearing the best shoes or designer jeans.

We continue to compete as we grow older, scrambling for the most attractive spouse, the biggest house in the nicest neighborhood, the most expensive car and the best paying jobs. To what end? The fastest man in the world must some day step aside as someone new steps up to break that record. The prettiest model must someday accept the fact that her looks have faded in the natural aging process. The most affluent among us must still accept the inevitable end that we all must face. All of their prosperity amounts to little more than a number on a balance sheet and a few luxuries that most of us will not enjoy. But, at the end of the day, they will lie, just as cold and dead in the ground as we will.

What will it take for us to realize that these accomplishments are as inconsequential in the great scheme of things as the length of grass on a perfectly mown lawn. Time will come and do its will, leaving our petty accomplishments in its wake.

Once put into perspective, there is nothing wrong with pushing one's body or mind to the limits of its endurance. Striving for perfection, whether it be faster, stronger or smarter is a worthy pursuit, as long as this drive does not cloud one's focus on life itself. But, what of the unwilling victims of this lust for perfection? Is it fair for a child to be dragged along, unwillingly, in the wake of their parents' need to be connected, albeit vicariously, to their spawn's achievements. And what of the animals that are so mercilessly pushed and prodded for our entertainment?

If an adult male wants to run himself into a heart attack for the sake of pursuing the four minute mile, so be it. Most animal competitions are fairly innocuous: cat shows, obstacle and obedience trials and dressage events. But, when it comes to blood sports and racing, where immature horses are ridden into the ground for 'sport' and animals are starved and tortured to make them aggressive, more sensible minds should prevail.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Tragic Sport of Horse Racing by M.J. Claire

The recent running of the Preakness makes me think of how we treat (or perhaps mistreat) the animals in this 'sport of Kings'. The sad fact is that the price our equine friends pay for this 'so called' sport is very high indeed.

The race track is rife with abuse and inhumane treatment of these noble animals. At what point will we realize that the ends do not justify the means? Horses sent to slaughter in droves or animals fracturing their legs in that ultimate race - is this something we can call a sport? Have we lost our conscience? As long as we are not responsible for the abuse, can we then turn a blind eye?

This abuse is taking place out in the open, not in some dank, dark alley. Take what happened to Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby. If the industry cannot even take proper care of their 'shining stars', what is happening to the rest of these animals? This is definitely not an instance where ignorance is bliss. Just because these horrors are not happening in front of our face does not mean that they should not be addressed. Is our entertainment so important that we can justify this kind of exhorbitant price?

Who out there is not crushed by the vision of this amazing animal 'Eight Belles' racing toward the finish line on broken legs? I think this is a stunningly sad commentary on the human race that we can remain complicit in such abuse just to satisfy our entertainment needs.