Saturday, February 27, 2010

Generically Engineered -- Writer's Poke #270

We try so hard to fit in, don't we? Wouldn't it be great if scientists could generically engineer us from birth? That way, we wouldn't have to worry about if we were enough like our peers and society. We would find automatic acceptance, as we wouldn't even have to think about how we could be more like our school chums, our cubical-dwelling neighbors, or even our church-sitting pew-mates.

I jest, of course. No one needs "generic engineering"; it seems to be built into our genes. Ironically, even people that try to be different often end up being different in pathetically generic ways. Is there any escape? In a world of 6 billion people, probably not. Even people that are "one-in-a-million unique" will find that there are thousands of people just like them.

Not to say that sharing common values and interests is a bad thing. But it's simply the process of being worn down to the least common denominator that bothers me.

How can we fight generic engineering? First, we need to eliminate strip malls. Every time a strip mall dies, let's demolish it and dig up all of the concrete evidence that it ever existed. In its place, let's create sometime unique. Maybe a park here and a playground there. Whatever, just as long as Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Old Navy never return.

Second, can we all agree that there are more important things in life than simple convenience? Walmart and McDonalds served their purposes in the 20th century, but does each town need 5 of them? How can you promote a non-generic culture when everyone shops at the same place and eats the same processed food?

Third, boycott Chinese imports. Personally, I like China, but can you imagine living without relying on all the mass-produced products that come from China? Why not give it a shot for a week? It will be uber-inconvenient, but it might force you to buy local, and to seek out new products that you would have never have found if you rely solely on any of the major retailers that import everything straight from China and other places that basically produce the majority of generic products that we now buy.

How generic are you?

"As a child, I was always playing some generic child." -- Susan Olsen

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Idle -- Writer's Poke #269

Before going to work, I like to stop off at the local coffee shop in the morning. I find it's a good place to center myself, prep for the day ahead, and catch up on some grading.

Meanwhile, hordes of older people congregate there, too, for no other purpose than to gossip, chat loudly, and drink coffee. And I have to admit it; if it weren't for my trusty headphones, I'm sure I would find them and their idle conversations to be annoying at best and depressing at worst.

This morning I happened to forget my headphones, and so I was treated to chatter about who was most likely to be voted off American Idol, how late the winter Olympics forces people to stay up past sensible bedtimes, and where to stay in Las Vegas on upcoming adventures.

I don't blame these people for being old. Unless you die, you have no control over the aging process. But I do blame them for how they apparently "live." Do their lives really revolve around TV and trips to Las Vegas? Or, is that just the kind of thing that people find interesting to chat about in coffee shops? Actually, I found the conversation about Vegas to be rather interesting, but all too often, what I tend to hear is talk about the latest reality shows on TV, and I find myself thinking that perhaps living a long life isn't all that important if it's spent watching others "live" and then reporting back to others on your observations.

How long would you ideally like to live? What plans do you have for your life, and how will you know when you've lived long enough?

"We would all be idle if we could." -- Samuel Johnson