Sunday, May 23, 2010

Future Shock and Today's Reality

When Toffler wrote about Future Shock, many nodded sagely and then proceeded to murmur for years about how we were all survivng the realities of Future Shock.  Of course, we were doing no such thing at all. It is only now that we are beginning to see the first real waves of Future Shock lapping at our toes and inundating our tangible assets and long held beliefs.

Future Shock is here.  Why is its coming now as a surprise to us? Why were we so totally unprepared for what is now upon us?  Is it just that the American, and perhaps the human mind, has an ferociously short memory and limited powers to envision changes we do not want to see?   Whatever our age is, we are facing a future with a radically altered road before us.  For those over fifty, this comes as a traumatic shock at a time when we are past our prime, with the spectre of downsiing and loss of employment bringing real terror.  Regardless of our personal circumstances prior to the recent melt down of the American Dream, it was always out there, shiny and new, with a possibility, howeeer remote, that we could reach the shores of security and material splendor.  Not so today.

Fot the young and early middled age, their worlds have taken a decidedly unpleasant turn, but they will adjust, and after a period of financial losses, may begin to rebuild again, in a way trhat is not open to older Americans.   The most fatal thing that any of us can do is stay in denial of what has happened and the simple, indisputable fact that the landscape has permanently and irrevocably altered.

The new landscape is an opportunity to look with fresh eyes, at the world around us, knowing that our old ideas no longer apply, if we can summon the couage to see it that way.  We must not allow Future Shock to become Future Paralysis.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ugliness Growing in the American Heart

     There is an ugliness, a viciousness, growing in the American Heart. Emboldened by racist attitudes within the Tea Party movement, more and more Americans are proudly speaking words of racism.  Recent comments by many Republican politicians echo this divisive, bigoted, sentiment.  Not since the Civil Rights era have we seen so many open, blatant expressions of racial hatred. Now, mainstream Republicans and Tea Baggers are sounding more and more like radical white supremacists. Racial slurs have become common, and America's Soul is being scarred by this toxic hatred.

     Less than two years ago the election of Barack Obama as President brought hope that America had grown up and put it's long standing legacy of virulent racism behind us at long last. There was a hope, a feeling of unity among many Americans of all races. Today, those feelings are being overtaken with sadness and horror as we see the ugly well of American racism spilling out bucket after bucket of racist poison onto the land.

     So great is the Republican rage at losing power that they will use any means to obstruct, undermine and neutralize President Obama at every turn. Stirring up feelings of racism is a tool that they have embraced, all the while denying it. By tapping into old racial resentments of economically squeezed white Americans, Republicans see a viable way to win control in the next election cycle. Race has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with our current economic woes, and scapegoating gays, Jews, non-whites and a black President is absurd.

     The financial crisis was brought to us exclusively by white guys at the top of the foods chain, not by blacks, minorities, or the average citizen. It's the mentality of Wall Street that has been allowed to operate unchecked and unregulated for too long that blew up America's prosperity. That, and disastrous trade regulations supported by the average Americans desire to buy cheaper and cheaper disposable foreign goods. In this regard, we are all responsible for part of America's economic collapse.

     When President Reagan disbanded the Air Traffic Controllers no one said a word in protest, and so began the destruction of the American workers' security. Never before had a President simply disbanded a Labor Union. In doing so, a signal was sent that anything goes, and soon jobs began to go offshore in staggering numbers.

     Once, not long ago, we were a country that embraced diversity, at least in theory, We saw ourselves as a just society; one that had navigated the rocky passage of desegregation, integration and racial divisions that were fundamentally unAmerican. Once we were moving in a positive directing that was healing the racially tinged wrongs of the past. Then this week Virginia passed an extremely racist proclamation celebrating the Confederacy, and politicians quickly answers any objections to it, with deliberately, pointedly racist comments. It is an outrage, not just to black Americans, but to all Americans.

     It is obscene that a new generation of black children should be exposed to such racist comments in this day and age. A minority of bigots and politicians are playing on the public's fears and poisoning the American Heart and it must stop. Racial, Ethnic and Gender bigotry have no place in a 21st century America.

     We must each of us, speak out when racist comments are made, by anyone, anywhere. Not doing so makes you a coconspirator in the attack on the American Heart. Voting Republican in the fall will send a message that racism and hatred are acceptable, don't send that signal. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Moments in Spring . . .

      Here in northern California, spring has come, softly and sweetly. The sun is out, the clouds are puffy and gentle breezes send ripples through the long grass. Gently swaying branches are adorned with new leaves and some are crowded with white or pink blossoms.  Sun filters through the trees, casting pools of light upon the ground.

      Spring is a time when grass grows quickly, especially this year, because we have had so much rain and so little sun during the past couple of months.  When the sun finally did appear, grasses and plants with their ample supply of life giving moisture burst forth and sprang into creative overdrive. One day the grass was  short, and just three days later it was long, having been fed on pure, vibrant, sun energy.  Photosynthesis is having a field day and the result is an almost tropical explosion of life and vitality.

      When cutting the grass, I always leave a large patch of grass uncut, because I like seeing nature being nature.  I enjoy seeing the long grass fronds sway in the breeze, catch the light, and move with the rhythms of the Earth.  If the town I live in didn't require you to cut the grass, I wouldn't cut the grass at all.  Right now, in my front yard, which is mostly plants and large flowering bushes growing iiunder large trees, the grass is cut. 

      In my backyard, nature is still happily being nature, unmolested by the human hand.  Blackberry bushes and Ivy are waking up and extending their territory as quickly as they can. These fierce colonists, in time, will be tamed, or they would strangle everything else, except the grasses, but for now, they grow freely.

      Do yourself a favor and find a patch of long grass to be with for awhile, it will refresh your spirit and gladden your heart.  Sit and watch as it moves slowly back and forth. Listen as it makes the soft sounds of growth. Feel the silky grass fronds and think about all that grasses have meant to humans since the dawn of time, and what they still mean to us today. Grasses have and do sustain us, in the form of wheat, rice, barley, rye, corn, oats, bamboo and other grains.  Take a few moments to think about, and celebrate the glorious tenacity of Grass.

Happy Spring!   Enjoy this page celebrating Spring -->    A Moment in Spring

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

IMAGI Animation Studios Close in HK and LA . . .

      It is with sadness that I mark the passing of a truly innovative, creative, and quality conscious film company. IMAGI Animation Studios of Hong Kong and Los Angeles has closed it's door due to financial pressures.  The consequences of the current economic downturn were exascerbated by poor ticket sales ($23 million worldwide) for their latest film Astro Boy, the film's worldwide sales were only a third of the production costs.  The news of IMAGI's demise was announced on Feb 16, 2010.

     IMAGI appeared to have a bright future, the studios had success in 2007 with TMNT, a film that played well in the US and worldwide, grossing over Worldwide: $95,608, on release.  At the time of their closure IMAGI had several films in production.    IMAGI's closure put more than 400 artists, aniators, CG workers and others out of work in Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

      The reason I mourn IMAGI's passing is because, like Walt Disney in the early days when Walt was in control, quality was a prime concern at IMAGI. Their 2007 movie TMNT was a CG triumph that raised the bar for anyone making CG movies.  Today, media companies who focus heavily on quality are rare, and with the passing of  IMAGI, they become even rarer.  IMAGI had picked up and carried the torch of Animation excellence, that Disney Studios dropped, er, um,  threw in the dust long ago, under Michael Eisner.  Now that Eisner is long gone, perhaps Disney Studios will step up and embrace the mentality for excellence that was once the hallmark of Disney Animation.

      IMAGI management says that they will continue to move toward creating new movies, using lower cost animators and production faxcilities in China, but at this time, there is no concrete plan to do so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google, China and Change . . .

      Google has pushed back against China and has defied the search censorship by Beijing. Google has closed and moved their base of operations to Hong Kong. The website now referes Web users to  

       It will be quite interesting to see how China will counter this move by Google. The uncensored searches available to Chinese citizens will undoubtedly a revelation to many whose news of the world has always been carefully filtered by Beijing.  It brings to mind the old phrase "How you gonna em down on the farm after they've see Paris".  It isn't just political and world news that will spin some heads in China, it is also social, medical, fashion, technological, religious, movies, music, sports, consumer and environmental websites that will alter long held perception of the west and the world.

      While China has moved to block social network sites like facebook, myspace and twitter, the efforts are doomed to failure because of the inherent nature of many western non-commercial website. The basic model for many of these sites is social in nature, and while they may not be interactive like the SNS that are banned, many have message boards and all have e-mail addreses, not to mention the thousands of webcams around the world.  Western websites are visually rich,  and so, even without being able to read English, French, Spanish or Italian a great deal of information can be gleaned from the pictures of  life in the west.

      Chinese web surfers may have limited access to giving feedback on many western sites, but, what they learn in viewing these sites, will change perceptions of the west.  It will also change what young Chinese websurfers will consider as their place in the world, and what they will want to see made available to them in China.  Whether Beijing likes it or not, the days of China's long blackout of outside influences, is over.

      Google's move to Hong Kong is not surprising. Hong Kong has been both China's western face and China's window on the west for a long time, and the departure of the British has not altered that reality, Hong Kong remains uniquely Hong Kong. Many of the former Hong Kong companies have relocated in Vancouver, Canada, and others have entered into inter-continental relationships and have expanded into the west.  This kind of collaberation is already shifting perception in Asia and the west.  Google's expanded presence in Hong Kong is sure to have a substantitive impact on China and South-East Asia.  

       Does Google's move signal the beginning of a more independant mood among tech companies who have a substantial presence in China?  Can and will China allow Google to proceed with their plans unchecked, or will Beijing push back hard?  These are questions that remain to be answered, but one thing is for sure, China and their relationship with the world is changing.  China;s aggressive aquisitions in Africa and Latin America, as well as other countries is placing Chinese workers and China's business practices and customs, around the world.  China is currently attempting to gain a monopoly on the World's Copper supply.   

      The Dragon has awakened, the question now is whether the Dragon can roam the World and still control the contents of its own nest.

America awakened with less fear today . . .

      This morning America awoke with less fear, less stress and brighter prospects for a secure future than ever before. The long battle to provide acessibilty to health care has been won for average Americans. Now when one is faced with the loss of a job, it will simply be the job on the line, not an entire family's health care, home and sense of security, as well.

       The fear of losing ones health care has been a straightjacket that has imprisoned American workers and their families for decades. It was a fear that paralyzed millions and kept them mired in jobs that were often stuck in a stagnant inertia, stuck in a place where advancement was just not going to happen for the worker. Now, with the terror of being uninsured removed, American workers will have far more career flexibility. They will be free to explore other employment options without fear of losing everything they have worked for all their lives.

      Companies will be able to move forward without being held hostage by their company's insurance carrier, because companies will have more options for insuring their workers effectively. Entepreneurs will be able to strike out on their own, secure in the knowledge that affordable health car is something they too will have access to. Americans will be free to seek employment from smaller, local firms that do not offer health care, because the employees will be able to purchase insurance for themselves at an affordable rate. Unions will be better able to negotiate contracts for their members with health care being more flexible and accessible for all. All of these things are good for American business and American workers alike.

      Parent's awoke this morning with far less fear about the future of their children, especially their children who suffer from chronic or life threateniong illnesses. Parents of college students will be able to keep kids on their insurance until the students graduate and enter the work force full time, or are financially stable enough to buy their own health insurance coverage. Teachers will have the security of knowing that students in their classroom will have access to needed health care.

      America awoke with a lot less fear this morning.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One Day Till the Vote . . .

       Only one day till the U.S. House of Representatives votes on Health Care Reform. One day till we find out if there is commom decency and common sense are at work in Washington.  If the measure fails, the answer will be a resounding NO!  Many are more optomistic however about the outcome, and expect Health Care reform to pass.

       I believe that when the votea are cast tomorrow, a number of Republican Congressmen will stand with Democrats and approve Health Care Reforrm.  My guess would be somewhere between 5 and 10 votes from the Republican side, but the number could go even higher.  Everyone I have mentioned this possibility to says that I am an idiot, and that it is an absurd idea.  I am not so sure, because there are three other forces at work here besides political pressure from the GOP.  There is the pressure from spouses and family,  there is the common decency of doing what you know in your heart is right,  and there is the component of self-interest that may know voters really do want Health Care Reform.

        The fact that Republicans didn't stand up for Health Care Reform in past votes means nothing, because it may be that some Republican  Reps were simply avoiding months of GOP pressure and harassment that they knew would follow a Yes vote.  How they will vote tomorrow is the real deal..  It will not be a surprise to me if Republicans of conscience, decide to stand with Democrats and the American people and vote to pass Health Care Reform.

        Despite all the political analysis, polls and dis-information being so abundantly thrown around these days,  Voters will punish those who take a stand against Health Care Reform when the polls open next November.  I'm betting that at least some Republican Reps are savvy enough to see that simple reality.

        Come tomorrow, I will either look like a savvy political analyst, or an idiot, either way, I hope to be looking at Health Care Reform as the Law of the Land.