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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Viewing the Worls with blinders on . . .

      Most Americans have little or no awareness of what is going on in the rest of the world.  Nightly News on the major networks ignores all but a scant few stories, and in covering those, focuses only on the impact to Americans. It is as if America is reality and the rest of the world is simply background noise.  The nightly BBC News is far more dilligent in reporting World News, but there too, many important developments are often ignored.

     How is it possible to effectively function in the world if we are completely ignorant of it?  This is a question that we all need to ask ourselves. Unless we demand actual News instead of the nightly Infotainment now being passed off as News, we are doomed to slip further and further away from understanding the world we live in.   The Internet gives us a wider access to information, but not necessarily in English.  Because Americans for the most part, are monlingual, if it isn't in English, we can't and don't read it, further isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.

     Popular Internet News Aggregators like the Huffington Post do a good job on U.S. political News, but are woefully inadequate in their coverage of World News, in fact thir entire World News section fall far short by any realistic standard of journalism.  Entire continents are summarily ignored, with only an occassional cursory reference framed in how it impacts American interests.

      It is no wonder that American students are so woefully ignorant of basic geography and even the names of other nations.  Sure we occassionally rally round disaster in places like Haiti or Chili, but we soon loose interest as the reality of the situations begin to sink in and the headlines stop, leaving scant if any coverage at all after a week or two. How does America expect to function in a World that it does not even acknowledge?.

      Basic World literacy must be aquired if we expect to prosper as a nation in the 21st cenbtury and beyond. Our current Information blackout of the rest of the World does not serve us well, and will become an increasing liability over the next several decades if we do not wake up and get connected.  The entire World is in flux and changing rapidly, just as the U.S. is changing. 

      Europe is galvanizing it's strength as the EU comes into its own. China and India are growing rapidly as their populations shift from rural farming to urban wage based populations. Capitalism and entepreneurship are spreading around the world, and the U.S. is still asleep at the switch. Africa is being ravaged by AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, as well as grinding poverty and corrupt governments. China is moving to take advantage of these conditions and is rapidly expanding their interests in both Africa and Latin America.  Did you hear about any of this on the Nightly World News?  I doubt it.

        The time has come for us to demand actual News from the News. I urge you to write, call, e-mail and blog about the need for Real News, because if we do not, the consequences of our inattention will be a  disater. We will have no one to blame but ourselves, because, this iis a disaster we could have easily avoided, but we were too complacent or lazy to address the problem.

       The irony of this situation is that if the average U.S. citizen became more aware of the rest of the World and paid attention to what is going on the World, things would improve for America. We would be far more popular in the World, and far better prepeared to roll with and benefit form the many changes that will inevitably come as the World remakes itself in the 21st century..

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Memories of a long ago St. Patricks Day . . .

     Forty-eight years ago today, a young girl and her two friends ran out into the street at South Boston's  St. Patrick's Day Parade to shake the hand of Senator Ted Kennedy.  That girl was me, and my friends Sara and Katie were as amazed as I was to see our encounter with Senator Kennedy in a photo on the front page of the Boston Globe.  Being Irish kids from Massachusetts, this was a very big deal for high school girls like us.

     Although my family knew the Kennedy's and Tip O'Neill was a familiar face in my life, being my friend Kathy's uncle,  and a regular visitor to her folk's  seaside summer house, but, meeting Senator Kennedy on our own was quite a thrill.  Living on what was called "the Irish Riviera" made prominent politicians a common sight in the 1950s and 1960s.  There is something quite wonderful about being Irish on St. Patrick's Day in Boston, New York or Chicago. The outpouring of Irish Pride is a sight to behold, especially when you consider that many millions of Americans are at least part Irish.  And as they say, on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish.  Green beer, hot crossed buns, corn beef and cabbage fills the air, Leprechauns and pots of gold fill the imagination, and the soft lilt of brogues, both real and affected tickle the ear, it is a grand, grand, day!  Erin go Bragh!

      So here I am, these many years later, thinking about Ted Kennedy and the struggle to pass Health Care Reform that is currently set to be voted on in just a few days. Health Care for All Americans is a goal Senator Ted Kennedy worked toward his entire adult life.  It is impossible to think of  Health Care Reform without thinking of  Teddy and his many contributions.  In 1962,  I was starstruck by a tall, young, Senator Ted Kennedy.  Today, I am just deeply grateful that he chose to spend his life in service to the American people.  There will never be a St. Patrick's Day when Senator Kennedy will not be in my thoughts, as I remember his life and work, with sincere gratitude.

Thanks Teddy

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jobs, Finding One or Creating One . . .

     The jobs outlook for 2010 remains dim and it may get even dimmer.  Companies have re-engineered themselves and in the process, have discovered that they can operate just as well or better, with a smaller work force. This is a realization that was going to come even without the recession, because technology over the past 20 years has radically shifted the needs and capabilities of most businesses.  While this appears to be bad news for the work force, it may not be in the long term.

     Never in the past 50 years has it been as easy for a person to start and run a business as a one or two person venture as it is today. Even service related businesses can outsource labor to local subcontractors and the self-employed. Thereby spreading jobs and income more efficiently, causing the businesses to prosper. .
    Many of today's long term unemployed will find themselves faced with the choice of continueing to be unemployed or face reality and start a business. Fortunately, the Internet provides and endless source of free information and education that can make this doable, even by those with no prior experience, if they are committed to succeeding..  The drop in real estate prices and the closure of many businesses  will make many commercial rentals far more affordable than they have been in decades, as landlords will be motivated to fill their vacancies.

      All across America we will see small, local businesses and entepreneurs begin to fill needs and niches with new kinds of businesses. In many cases there will be a revival of many old style businesses.  We as a nation have becomed mired in a web of local regulations that have made it difficult to bootstrap one person businesses, this will change somewhat, out of necessity.  Americans at all income levels will downsize their economic expectations and demands for the superfluous. This is a good thing, because we had gotten way out of hand, and it was killing us, individually and as a nation.  

      Our days of rampant consumption are drawing to a close, by necessity, and with them, there will be an abandonment of the "just throw it ot and get a new one", mentality that has been the hallmark of the Amrerican consumer for the past  forty years. As Americans relearn how to "make do", there will be an increased need for "fix it shops", handymen, and repair people of all types.  Seamstresses, cooks, home economists, and others with practical skills will again be in demand. 

     Due to the new trend in frugality that America will experience, a whole host of businesses will grow up to support our desire to preserve what we have, and use what we have wisely.  By the time this recession is over, there will be a new generatrion that won't even remember the overwhelming excesses of their parent's and grandparents' generations.

    All in all, the pain that America is going through now, may eventually save us as a culture, as people and as an economy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sanity Returning . . .

    The vocal and vicious partisanship that has gripped our political system seems to be winding down a bit, at least for the moment.  It is as if everyone shouted and blustered until they were all blustered out.  This lull is a welcome break from the frenzied, bitter feelings on both sides. Everyone said what they had to say and now the air is beginning to clear a little.  Everyone knows where they stand and perhaps it is possible to move on to actual dialogue and cooperation.
    This has been an interesting period, because so many average Americans have come forward to voice their views, hopes, frustrations and fears. After decades of keeping a tight lid on our public emotions, it was actually refreshing, and I think liberating.  When things are actually spoken aloud they are much easier to examine, reconsider and understand in new ways.  Not since the 1960s have Americans been this vocal about the things that bother them.

     Perhaps now, we can sit down together and find some common ground and actually address some of the problems we face as a society and as individuals. Once all the wild emotions are spent, all that is left is the reality of what we think and feel, and these things can be worked through and worked out.  Of course things will heat up again as we navigate our way through health care and financial reform, but the levels of hostility and emotional outrage are not likely to reach the level they were at just weeks ago, our rage energy has been spent.   

     So here we go . . . moving on, a little less like petulant children than we have been in recent months.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walking Through Life . . .

     Life is an amazing journey that we each walk in our own way. There are as many different paths through life as there are people. I decided to share a few things here that I have learned on my own journey. We all have wisdom to share, but too often, we keep the most important lessons to ourselves. I hope you find some of these insuights helpful.

    Things change all the time. Big things, little things, inconsequential things and important thing, always changing, always in flux. The biggest challenges we face are recognizing the signs of change and being flexible enough, alive enough, to allow change to roll over us without crushing us. It is human nature to cling to what is familiar, but it isn't always the best thing to do.

     Living, fully living, requires that we are willing to make decisions as necessary. Situations come up all the time that we feel totally unprepared to deal with, that is just the nature of life. In some ways, we have been raised with Fairy Tale hopes and expectations of life. Too often, we are unprepared or unwilling to face the harsher realities of life, even when they are right in front of us. This is a huge mistake, because we can have Fairy Tale happiness, but to do so, we much be willing to face life on life's terms, with courage, tenacity, and an open spirit.

Tipping Point

    We are living in a time when many things are shifting and changing rapidly, the once solid ground under our feet has turned into a field of jello. Staying on our feet and maintaining our balance takes a lot of effort and skill.  It isn't just you, it is the times we live in. Once, not so long ago, Americans were more sure of who they were and where they were going, as individuals and as a country.  We were more secure, more prosperous, and more complacent.  But that was then, and this is now. Today, we are scrambling with finances, challenges and persoanl and national identity.

     Scary as they may be, these are necessary times, because while we were sleeping . . . the world around us changed, and we hardly noticed.  We have gotten a wake up call, and how well we answer it will affect the rest our lives, our children's lives and grandchildrens lives.   

      Whether you like President Obama or not, you should be grateful that we have a President who "gets it". The sense of urgency with which he is taking on big issues like health care, financial reform, education and terrorism, are all necessary, and their reform is necessary NOW.  There is no time to waste, no time to bicker or play politics, because while we do, the EU, China, India, Russia and Latin America are moving forward and eyeing our piece of the pie.  Granted our piece of the pie is too big, and some reduction in its size is both necessary and unavoidable, that is just a fact.  But, unless we want to left with only crumbs, it is time to wake up and start making smart decisions, not partisan, delusional or childish ones.

     It is time to demand that our representatives, businesses and financial institutions wake up too. No matter what your political affilliation, work for change and cooperate with others working for change, because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate.  If we allow ourselves to stay mired in our petty, partisan,  bickering, the world will pass us by, and our children will wake up to a world where the U.S. is irrelevant.
     So, let's stop hitting the snooze button and get up, get dressed and start acting like adults, not bickering children. We must start making the hard decisions that are necessary to put the U.S. back on a solid footing.

blog  articles and content Copyright Granny Root 2010