Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Giving up the Blame Game

Several years ago, I think there was a story about a wealthy man who promised a class of impoverished students free college tuition if they graduated from high school.  You're probably thinking that this deal was “money in the bank” for those students—problems solved.   Not really.  A majority of the scholarships went unused.  I was shocked by this outcome, but it shows that money doesn’t fix everything.  Apparently, the students faced some obstacles that were just too large to conquer. 
This situation reminded me of a book I read.  It’s a riveting memoir about a dysfunctional couple whose children grew up to lead relatively normal lives.  Check out the book video featuring the author and a piece of her story:

I often wonder why some kids make it through difficult circumstances and others flounder.  Despite growing up in extreme poverty, Ms. Walls (from the book video) had one critical element going for her—encouragement.  Although her father lived a risky and eccentric lifestyle, she often heard him say something like, “I knew you could do it, Mountain Goat!”  They shared a unique father-daughter relationship and the various family members seemed to love one another. 
While we may live in the world’s greatest country, I believe we can do a better job of preparing our young people for the future.  In your opinion, what’s the most important trait, quality or skill we need to instill in the next generation?             

Monday, March 21, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

Seriously, we have a problem.  Track with me for a moment.  Do you think we’re out of control with our cell phone usage?  I think that once we combine walking, with texting and falling into fountains, we’ve gone over the edge—literally.
Now, I’m not the most tech savvy person.  I don’t own a smartphone and, I admit that frugality plays a role here but, those data plans just add more expense than I’m prepared to shell out.  I’m not trapped in the dark ages—l  can text and take and make phone calls.  I rarely use the camera, alarm or calendar.  I like paper and pencil so my event planner is a wall calendar.  (Did you just snicker?)  In short, my phone is devoid of the ultra-sophisticated Internet and Apps, and I am probably the last of the pencil-and-paper breed.
 It’s sad to see people use every waking opportunity to entertain themselves with a cell phone.  An occasional call is fine, but when over half of the time is spent on the phone while a child ambles silently alongside— it’s time to hang up.  I’m guilty of it, too!
Technology can be great when used in moderation.  That’s the key.  Let’s  make a resolution to do better and the first step is to admit there is an issue.  Thinking about your daily cell phone usage,  respond to the sidebar survey question.  By the way, if you need a definition for “out of control,” just go ahead and check “Definitely! Send help!”  
Remember our drive-the-speed limit challenge?  (See Feb. 21, 2011 Post: Is Change A Comin’? )Well,  here comes another one. Ready?  Can you refrain from non-emergency/non-essential phone usage for one week? That means no games, surfing the Net or here’s-what-I’m-doing-now tweets.  Calls to friends are fine, as long as you’re not in a store or with another person.  
 Embrace the silence, think or chat face-to-face (not  Facebook!) with the person next to you. Initially, it may feel awkward but I promise that you won’t go crazy, unless…nevermind.   You can do it! Let us know how it goes.        

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Cell phones.  What did we do without them?  I’ll tell you what we did.  We pulled over into a gas station lot and popped a quarter into a payphone.  Whenever I leave home and I’m not too far down the road, I will literally turn back to retrieve a forgotten cell phone. I bet you do that, too.  Initially, I purchased my phone for emergencies, but now I use it for more than that, and judging by the conversations that I overhear, so does everyone else.
Do you remember the early phones that looked and felt like bricks?  Some of the really old phones came in bags and the whole contraption stayed in the car.  Today, nearly every cell phone has bells and whistles and they’re so much more than phones.  They're also event planners, alarm clocks, calculators, music players—the list seems endless.
Speaking of bell and whistles, consider the wide variety of ringtones.  I heard one ringtone that sounded like an approaching freight train and after the phone rang, the owner apologized.  To me, it wasn’t obnoxious, it was funny.  But I wondered why the owner picked that ringtone?  Perhaps he had a lifelong love of trains. I like ringtones that sound like animals—barking dogs, agitated chimps, human voices—anything that’s different and unexpected.  Of course, my ringtone is just the regular one that comes with the phone.    
I think if my ringtone sounded like a baaa-ing sheep or even a song from my favorite singer, I ‘d get annoyed and bored  by it pretty quickly. Here are a few ringtones that might be amusing for a little while:

So, do you have a funny ringtone or can you share a really funny one that you've heard?                    

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Defines You ?

Is there one animal that defines you?  What about the lion for its courage, or the bear for its strength—maybe it’s the cheetah for its speed? 
We often use make-up, clothes and hair styles to guide how we want the outside world to view us.  Sometimes we take this practice to the next level.  Females pierced their ears lobes and later, men followed suit.  Men got tattoos and woman followed suit, then both sexes expanded beyond ear lobes to… just about everywhere! 
Perhaps the next level of self-expression is body modification.  People are visiting establishments where there are technicians who insert devices beneath the skin to create this new body art.  One man who performs these procedures on “patients” manufactures his own tools because there are few medical instruments that satisfy his surgical needs.  Of course, as with piercings and tattoos there is a wide range of personal expression using body modification.  Check out this video to see how one man chose to combine piercings, tattoos and body modification.     

Interesting, huh?
So, if you could wear a symbol, special tattoo, or piece of artwork on your forehead for one day, what would you choose to define yourself to the world?       

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Past vs. the Present

I might be dating myself, but children’s TV shows have certainly changed through the years.  I bet today’s kids couldn’t sit still for ten minutes to watch the shows that I watched as a child.  My favorite shows from the past now seem simplistic and subdued compared to today’s TV programs.  For instance, do you remember the hypnotic Gene London Show?  It came on television decades ago.  A kid could really relax with that kind of entertainment.  Gene London narrated the stories and I watched with bated breath as he sketched the illustrations right before my eyes.  Here’s a clip of the enchanting world he created:

Fast forward to 2011.  One of the TV shows that surprises me is Yo Gabba Gabba, especially the singing,  the lyrics, the costumed creatures, the human characters— the whole shebang!  What a difference several decades makes.  If you’ve yet to see the show—think energetic, English-speaking Teletubbies, with a be-good-and-have-fun message.  Apparently, lots of folks appreciate the show’s colorful costumes, catchy lyrics and lessons about caring and sharing.  I can’t argue with the appeal of that combination.  So, is Yo Gabba Gabba the new Sesame Street?  Ask me again in twenty years.   I think longevity is one indicator of a great television show.  Can this one last?  Take a look at a portion of Yo Gabba Gabba and decide for yourself:             

What’s a Gabba Gabba, anyhow?    

The real question is:  What’s your favorite childhood television show and why?