Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Essence of Planned Obsolescence

While shopping recently, I reached for refill blades for my favorite razor, only to recoil my hand in horror.
As the image shows, the razor itself + one blade is a bit over 4$; however the cost of 5 refill blades is nearly twice the cost of the razor at 8.23$.

Are you shitting me? So, essentially, you're trying to make me believe that it costs twice as much to make thin ass safety blades with their strip of aloe and tuck them in a nice cute box as it does to make the actual razor of plastic, metal, and whatever else plus a blade. Really?!

I'm not buying it--figuratively AND literally.

I stood there in the aisle appalled at the thought of this. Annoyed at the nerve of the makers. Enraged at planned obsolescence. Though companies could make products that would last longer, they choose not to so they can make more money. And with replacement blades that actually cost nearly twice as much as the original blade, you can be damn sure they are making tons of money.

Planned Obsolescence worked well for the country when we need to economically pull ourselves out from the economic clusterfuck that was the Great Depression, but then WWII came along and wartime production was big money. Planned obsolescence is actually defined as instilling in the buyer the desire to buy something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than what is necessary." This works wonders in the realm of beauty products for women.

And when in the hell did we decide that women needed to shave so much? Who in the hell decided that it was ultra-feminine to have damn near no body hair. Babies and pre-pubescent kids lack body hair. Adults have hair sprouting out of more places that anyone would like to admit. But that's real.
As a fully grown adult with kids, a busy life, and not one extra penny or thought to spend on bullshit, I have an issue with this.

Here's a pic of the beautiful, amazing, elegant Sophia Loren with an evening gown on and unshaved pits.

And here's an article of several women with unshaven pits--some athletes and some awesome amazing movies stars, such as Julia Roberts and Helen Bonham Carter--gasp!

I mean, I read an article  some time back that suggested that some things we believe we need are relatively recent inventions -- things like antiperspirant, mouthwash, and yes, shaving the pits. (As a side note, there's also an article purporting that we're doing things wrong nowadays, things like bathing daily or multiple times a day and pooping while sitting.)

So back to these pits and razors. As I stood in the store still staring at the prices, I suddenly remembered I still had some unused razors at home. They aren't the super fancy kind (but they aren't the manly Bics either.) When I was younger and in such a rush, I used to cut my pits and legs something fierce while attempting to shave. I'm older now, married, and have kids, which means the bathroom is my sanctuary, my safe place to steal time away from the hubbub of life. I'll keep using my less fancy blades and take my ever-loving time in the bathroom doing so.

Me thinks me doth protest the bullshit that is planned obsolescence.
You should too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reflections on Dr. King, Society, Race and Life

I used to hate that I was from Memphis (and loathe that I'm from the South). As a child, I felt ashamed that my city was the place that killed Dr. King and took that wonderful, transformative man from his family and from the world. As I got older and began to understand the full weight of American history, especially the history of Blacks in this country, my shame often turned to anger. As I aged, I understood better that my city didn't kill Dr. King but evil citizens who were in my city killed Dr. King. And while there is plenty of evidence to suggest collusion with city leaders (which would suggest that the city did help to kill him) and even the United States was found to be responsible for his death, the city itself did not kill Dr. King, and the assassination didn't stop his work. The more I studied his assassination and history, I also realized that if it hadn't have been Memphis, it would've been another city. It just so happened that it was my city. I still don't like it, but I've learned to reconcile it.

I've often found myself angry the more I learn about history. I LOVE learning new things, but I often feel cheated from knowledge that I should've learned years ago.
I often wish I could wave a magic wand and make evil disappear from the world. But that's not reality. So, I study more and more so that I'm informed and aware and can pass that knowledge on to my boys and anyone else I encounter.

As I child, I revered Dr. King and all that he stood for. He fought so bravely against forces larger than himself, against seemingly insurmountable entities, against a system of oppression hellbent on keeping blacks and the poor under the boot heel of the majority race and class.  From a very young age, my parents exposed me to the truth of our history in this country. Dr. King was a central figure in my lessons. I admired him because my parents did, because it was what I was supposed to do.

As I aged and continued to study history, the militant teen in me began to gravitate towards the methods of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, better known to most as Brother Minister Malcolm X. I took the view that Dr. King had been too meek, too pacifist, too conciliatory, too nice in his approach for equality. Brother Minister Malcolm X promoted taking equality "by any means necessary"--including violent means, if that was what was required, or at least be prepared to meet violence with violence. I became angry that Dr. King was lauded by most while Brother Minister Malcolm X seemed only lauded by a few. Dr. King had a federally recognized day (except in Arizona and New Hampshire until the 1990s--ThaHell!?); Brother Minister Malcolm X had his date of birth and date of death that's barely remembered and certainly not celebrated nationally.

As I began to truly study rhetoric and the power of it, I realized that while both men had strong rhetorical skills, Dr. King was clearly more powerful. It takes amazing ability for your words and actions to move a people. He wasn't a pacifist. He was damned intelligent, a damned skilled rhetorician. He was talented and learned to achieve things within the set of circumstances he was given. It's easy to take a hammer to attempt to knock down a wall. It takes amazing skill, talent, fortitude, tenacity to attempt to convince the wall that it needs to fall.

Each year, around Dr. King Day, tons of people and publications write observations reflecting on where we are, would he be proud, what issues would he stand for today? In the long view of history, I think he might be proud in some ways, but overall, I think he'd weep. We are now refighting battles that he (along with so many others) struggled to secure. Once a victory is secured, society cannot stop and just rest and assume that the right will always be there. We must continuously work to maintain the rights, but we should not have to start the fights anew decades later. But that's what happens when people stop paying attention, when schools stop educating kids and start worrying about whether the kids can pass tests, when we become complacent, when we stop having fire in our bellies, when we stop knowing that everyone should be equal and treated the same in ALL matters of society. We took our eye off the prize, and now we're rebattling when it should just be maintenance battles.

As I reflect on this Dr. King day, I am grateful for my parents' lessons for me that began when I was so young. I'm grateful for what Dr. King and Brother Minister Malcolm X stood for. I'm grateful for the many people--named and unnamed by history--who fought, bled, were tortured, and died for me to be where I am. I am grateful for my education so that I am aware of where we came from (my family, my race and this country as a whole) so that I can try to see a clearer view of where we should go and how to help my boys get there. I'm grateful for the opportunities I'm granted, the friends I have (of various races), the things I've accomplished.


Despite many opinions to the contrary, we are NOT post-racial. We ARE better off in some ways, but don't confuse the accomplishments and achievements in some areas as being indicative of everything being better. We are better, but we have SOO much further to go. Starting with making sure cops know that using people (esp. black teens) for target practice is not ok even if no policies explicitly state not to do that. Why should a policy need to state "don't use human faces, esp. of only one race as targets"?  What happened to the damn silhouette head/body? Start by making sure cops don't instantly view blacks as aggressors. (Cops using blacks as target practice might have something to do with this.) Start by making sure ALL cops are aware of actual laws, esp. Tennessee v. Garner. Start by overturning the decision that said that cops can pull you over and search you if they think you've broken a law, even if that law doesn't actually exist. Start by having honest conversations about history, agreeing on the facts of what has and has not been improved, so we can have open and honest discussions about where to go.  But that would require willing participants, and let's face it: there are still tons of hateful people who'd rather not.

So, where are we? Where am I today?

My own admiration of the man and myth of Dr. King has come full circle even as I continue to struggle to reconcile where the country is compared to where ideally we should be by now. I'm still angry at the past and many current events. I sometimes feel that the only reaction is to scream out "FUUUUCCCKKK!" because no other words will suffice. But then I remember that I'm not where I am by accident. Achievements weren't gained by accident. It's not happenstance that societal situations are remaking activists and social justice warriors for the 21st century.

I no longer hate the city that raised me. I no longer hate that I'm from the South. I embrace them both. I walk proudly in my being, my beginnings, my existence because were it not for Dr. King (and even his assassination), I might know what I know, be who I am, and cherish what I have.

Thank you Dr. King for your work, effort, dedication, tenacity, and accomplishments.

Just F*#@ing Ban Them

It is becoming painfully obvious to anyone paying attention to the full scope of things that this country is NOT equal under the law. People of Color do not have equal protection under the law (we never have), we do not receive equal treatment in the courts, and we damn sure don't receive equal treatment by all cops. Laws do not apply fairly to everyone and now, citizens are taking it upon themselves to help police with their jobs and that's only making things worse.

Open and Concealed Carry Laws have never been applied equally.

On May 2, 1967, the Black Panther Party walked into the State Capitol building in California carrying loaded guns. This was completely legal. At that time, California was an open carry state. The Black Panthers were merely exercising their Second Amendment Rights (as we have so frequently heard from groups of armed men and women all across the country in recent years). Their actions, prompted CA assemblyman Don Mulford to draft the Mulford Act, which was later signed into law by then-governor of CA, Ronald Reagan.

Fast forward forty plus years later to August 2014 and John Crawford, III is walking around a Wal-mart in Ohio, carrying a toy air rifle that he intended to purchase before leaving the store. A 911 caller claims Crawford is walking around the store pointing the gun at people, which was a lie as the surveillance video footage indicates. Cops arrive on the scene, approach Crawford from behind and fire. He dies. Another shopper trying to get away from the shooting collapsed, had a heart attack and died. Let's note here: Ohio is an open carry state.

Fast forward just a few months later to November 2014 and young Tamir Rice is sitting in a snow-covered Ohio park playing with a toy gun. (Note again, the state.) A 911 caller calls to report the person playing with the gun. The caller notes that he believes the person to be a child or teen AND that he believes the gun to be a toy, but he cannot tell. Neither the suspected young age or the toy factor are relayed to the cops. Cops arrive and within seconds Rice is shot dead.

Now, what's the difference between the incidents with Crawford and Rice and this demonstration of Open Carry Texas in March 2014 in a Target store? Is it because Open Carry Texas has more than one person walking around with guns inside a store where other people are trying to calmly shop and get on with their lives? Is it because the men are walking around with AR-15s? Or is it something else?

Now, let's fast forward to January 2015. A 62 year old Clarence Daniels carrying a concealed weapon walked into a Florida Walmart; Florida is a concealed carry weapon state. A white male saw him adjust his concealment before entering the store, so he followed him. Once inside the "concerned citizen" pounced on the older man and put him in a chokehold. TWO other "concerned citizens" jumped in trying to help. The entire time, the older man was screaming that he legally can carry his weapon. The "concerned citizen" and others paid this no mind and continued to "detain"him until cops arrived. They even took his gun from him, which I suppose was their point in the first place. Paying no mind that many other citizens (including children, parents, other shoppers, and workers) could've been injured during this takedown. Paying no mind that it might've been possible that Daniels was legally carrying his firearm. Paying no mind that maybe, just maybe Daniels might've even been a cop. Once the cops arrived on the scene and it was all sorted out, the "concerned citizen" was arrested for assault though nothing happened to the other "helpful, concerned citizens" who also piled on top of Daniels.

Now, what could've possibly been different between the situations of Rice, Crawford, and Daniels and that of the men of Open Carry Texas?

It seems that each day I check my news sites, I find yet another incident of someone (usually a person of color) being killed or seriously injured by cops, cop types (security guards and "door shakers") and even "concerned citizens." Each time I read yet another story like this, I can't help but wonder "if only military and highly trained armed units of police forces (including diversity, mental health, etc. training) carried guns, then incidents like this wouldn't happen.
Toddlers wouldn't accidentally shoot their moms while mom and the kids are out grocery shopping.
Grandmothers wouldn't shoot their grandsons who were spending the night while their dad is at work on the third shift.
Wives wouldn't shoot their husbands who were coming home to surprise them with breakfast.
Police chiefs wouldn't "accidentally" shoot their wives twice while cleaning their guns.
People "preparing for protests" wouldn't allegedly shoot themselves in the head.
Schools and buildings wouldn't be shot up time after time after time after time. Hell, even the Amish communities aren't safe from the gun violence.
And on and on and on and on it goes.

I frequently tell my students that you can't stack the deck to make your argument. You can't offer example after example after example and assume that the examples themselves make the argument. You have to prove the point yourself.

However, I also believe the saying "if you see hooves, think horses NOT zebras." Based on the preponderance of evidence, I'm starting to see that not only is there an issue with equality under law, but there's also an issue with guns themselves.  Greatly restrict the guns=far fewer gun-related deaths.

I wonder what the stats of gun-related deaths were before the mass increase in the number of states with open-carry? I have to believe that when there was more restriction on any and everybody carrying and having guns, then there were fewer gun deaths.

This gun carry .gif was quite interesting.

I'm all about the Constitution. I support it. However, the more I study history, the more I believe that the Second Amendment was NOT intended to allow any and everyone to carry a gun. The Second Amendment and its drafters could NOT have imagined assault rifles and high capacity magazines. The Founding Father could NOT have imagined school shootings

Incidents like these I've described will continue to happen unless changes are made. We're so worried about the planet (and we damn well should be), but we're so concerned with what sort of planet we might leave our children and grandchildren, but if we don't do something better, there won't be any children or grandchildren left alive to deal with whatever shitty planet we leave them.

Pay attention.
Be informed.
Have an informed opinion and stand on those principles.