follow-up to The Lottery

So, Brent read the story and he did not get it. It did not really move him. And he wanted to know what I found so compelling in The Lottery.

I had difficulty articulating what I find fascinating in the story. I guess it reminds me of an article from the Wall Street Journal about Japanese cancer refugees. A cancer refugee is someone who has been denied health care because it costs the Japanese government too much money to treat that person. Japan has basic universal health care for all citizens. (As an aside, 45 million Americans live without health insurance.)

The Japanese government has decided that the policy of universal health care for many is more important than the increased cost of lengthening the lives of some Japanese.

(Also as an aside, until recently, doctors would not tell patients their diagnosis. Patients would just do whatever the doctor ordered.)

I suppose The Lottery epitomizes the tyranny of choosing the many over the individual. It is not stated in the story, but I felt like the town (or towns) was doing this to keep the populations low.

I went on to read, at Wikipedia, that when the story was first published in The New Yorker it caused quite a stir. Jackson received hundreds of pieces of hate mail about the story.

This viceral response to the story is also intriguing. Why did these readers respond so negatively? I was definitely upset by the story. Brent felt that the story got the descriptions and suspense down, but lacked further import.

One critique of the story I found by Peter Kosenko (from the New Orleans Review, Spring 1985) is also quite interesting:
Though it is arguable that the "primary themes are scapegoating, man's inherent evil, and the destructive nature of observing ancient, outdated rituals" this is a common misconception. The actual theme of the short story is that man creates philosophical existences that he is unable to fulfill. This is shown through Tessie Hutchinson. Throughout the story she is joking around about the lottery and carrying on like all the other townspeople, but as soon as her family name is chosen from the black box her perspective takes quite the turn. Suddenly this "isn't fair" when in all reality a lottery is by definition the most fair method of chance.
What is fair? Is life fair? My father often remarked that life is not fair and that is something that I needed to understand.

So is the story just about the lottery of life? Most people will do ok but some will end up with horrible lives (or deaths as it were.) Is it more fair that all people in Japan have basic health care or that in the United States we all have the potential to be saved as Lance Armstrong was by an individually created drug?

For me I think the reality I want to live with is a society where everyone is taken care of to the utmost of our ability. I want life to be valued highly, perhaps even above all else.


extreme ironing - ever heard of it?

Extreme Ironing. It sounds like something my grandmother would love! I have never met someone who takes ironing as seriously as Gram. Well, that is until I ran across a link to information about extreme ironing at www.boingboing.net the other day. (Click here for more pictures.)

The wikipedia site defines extreme ironing as such:
Extreme Ironing (or EI) is an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take an ironing board to a remote location and iron a few items of clothing.

EI. Cute.

The only problem I have with this sport, is that they don't actually iron...what? I think they should be required to bring a car battery and figure out how to plug that thing in. Do some real iorning people.

However, this did remind me of my Aunt's wonderful performance piece, where she had my other Aunt walk around Chicago doing mundane things in a wedding dress.

Here is a link to the article she wrote about it in the Journal of Mundane Behavior.

In Peg's piece she was documenting how people respond to seeing other people dressed strangely. I guess people would react the same way if they were say climbing a mountain and came upon a guy faux-ironing.



kids and free time

Since Brent and I are getting married one of the topics we have been discussing is children...some readers will be very excited by this development! Tee hee.

Anyway, an article was posted to my favorite blog, http://www.boingboing.net/, from the LA Times, about children being allowed to have free play time.

I think this is imperative to a child's growth...but I don't have any kids. What do you guys think about the article?

Here is a link (Click this line.)

Remember 'go outside and play?'

Overbearing parents have taken the fun out of childhood and turned it into a grind.
Rosa Brooks, LAtimes
May 15, 2008

Can you forgive her?In March, Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother, gave her 9-year-old son, Izzy, a MetroCard, a subway map, a $20 bill and some quarters for pay phones. Then she let him make his own way home from Bloomingdale's department store -- by subway and bus.

Izzy survived unscathed. He wasn't abducted by a perverted stranger or pushed under an oncoming train by a homicidal maniac. He didn't even get lost. According to Skenazy, who wrote about it in a New York Sun column, he arrived home "ecstatic with independence."

His mother wasn't so lucky. Her column generated as much outrage as if she'd suggested that mothers make extra cash by hiring their kids out as child prostitutes.

But it also reinvigorated an important debate about children, safety and independence.

Reader, if you're much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called "going out to play"?

For younger readers, I'll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house -- as long as they were over age 4 or so -- went to the door, opened it, and ... went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they "played."

"Play," incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

....(more at the link)....


"the lottery" by shirley jackson

Has everyone read this haunting short story? What a great piece of work. If you have not read it, I invite you do so now. Click on these sentences to go to the story.

Oh and I recently realized that commenting was more difficult than it should be...now, anyone can comment without signing in...just leave your name so I know who says what! :)

(Image taken in the GAO.)


how do you size people up?

"I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights." (Maya Angelou)

I have a good friend who will only date men who handle crisis well. Sometimes I drive Brent crazy because I will start shouting swear words...because I dropped an ice cube, or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. I have explained over and over that if there is a real crisis, I am very calm. He did not believe me, until we had a real crisis.

I think Maya's three things are pretty good indicators as well. I might say "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by how they handle their kids having a melt down, how many credit cards they have in their wallet, and their shoes."

What do you use to size people up?


etsy shop

Hi everyone. I just set up my new Etsy shop. I am officially starting a business. I have to get out of this 9to 5 gig...:)

Etsy is a website marketplace for selling personally made goods. I am going to start selling the putting together of Blurb wedding books. I just did my first one for my girl friend Maureen.

For a link to the book, click here.

For a link to my new Etsy store, click here.

I would love to make some books for my readers. I will even do it for free...to get some more sample books.

As always, comments and questions are requested.

(And in case you were wondering, no I did not take that awesome picture on the cover of their book! Maureen's fabulous photographer too it. Find her at www.bluebirdphotography.com.)

what the Cold War meant.

A good friend of mine just posted her personal experiences with the Cold War in this audio (and print) story. The title is "During Cold War, even a Ribbon was Dangerous." Please take a moment to listen to it. I think it really puts things with Georgia and Russia into perspective, even if you don't care about politics. You can click these sentences to go to the story.


vladmaster fun

So our latest party favor is the Vladmaster Viewmaster story. I ran across this guy's stuff a few weeks ago and ordered a set of viewmasters with a mini-cd. As luck would have it, I recently bought a Viewmaster of my own...before running across this guy's work. A description of the story we purchased is below. Now, when friends come over, we have them play with our Viewmaster! I just ordered four more stories.

Use the link above to get your own...and if you need your own viewmaster, they only cost $5.00. Nice, cheep, safe fun for the whole family. (www.vladmaster.com)

"On March 19th 1992 a recreational airplane flying low over the Cascade foothills noticed an unusual number of orange forms dotting the forest floor. Further investigation revealed 86 earthmoving vehicles, idle and overgrown with weeds, spread over five acres of forest. The Public Life of Jeremiah Barnes is a Vladmaster investigation of this occurance and the man who may or may not have been responsible for it. The story is told in dioramas built from tiny model railroad men and 55-cent plastic bulldozers. Almost none of the objects are larger than one inch in any dimension. Narration is included on a mini-cd accompanying the reels. It features sound effects, music, and a wonderful ding noise to cue the change from image to image.

This set consists of four handmade Vladmaster reels, the box to keep them in, and the mini-cd soundtrack. The story was written and photographed by Vladimir. The reels and box were designed by Vladimir. Toussaint Perrault narrates the story and also wrote and recorded the accompanying music."


Why are the Olympics in China?

The Chinese are putting on a respectable Olympics, by all appearances. But I am beginning to question the appearance more and more.

First, the gymnasts. The girls don’t look 16 to me at all. They just don’t pass the laugh test.

Then, the opening ceremonies. I feel like I was had. The fireworks weren’t real (because of safety reasons they tell us, after the fact.) And the cute little girl singing was not the girl who really sang the song. A voice over at the Olympics? And the little girl singing did not know herself, because they wanted her to be pure of spirit?

And why aren’t the seats full? Where are all of the people? What is going on? And then they try to fill the seats with people all dress alike, telling the press that they are real spectators. Come on, this does not pass the laugh test either. Naturally, they admitted later that these were all cheerleaders. But they promise all of the 6.8 million tickets to the events are sold out.

Finally, I have a strong inkling that the reports in the media that “China is doing better, this is a really big country, and they are starting to respect personal rights, give them some time” is pure propaganda, or mis-information being spread by the Chinese government.

What else is going to turn out to be fake at these Olympics?

The end point is that any news or information coming out of China should be taken with a large grain of salt at this point, even when it relates to happy things, like little girls singing.


my book blurb

We had to come up with our book blurb this week. Please post comments or shoot me an email letting me know what you think...would you buy it?

Take two parts humor, one part sadness, three parts love, and then mix together with friends, laughter, and travel: together these ingredients form the recipe for my life. Added to the mix are stories of the strong women in my family who have eloped with a motorcycle riding carnival worker, ridden a beverage cart down the center aisle of a 747 wearing Mickey Mouse Ears, and dug up the last $1000 hidden in the rose bushes in the garden to clothe her children. Zany and caring stories from a life well lived will keep you, and maybe your partner, up at night as you laugh, cry, and share in the entrée that is my life.


a worthy cause

I just donated $40 to these people and it would be great if you could do the same. I also helped them build a few outhouses this year!


From their email:
"Pardada Pardadi is located in an area of Uttar Pradesh so poor that many women can't afford pads during their period. So they typically use rags torn off old saris to staunch their flow -- a practice that risks terrible infection every period from puberty to menopause.

We are raising $5000 to help Pardada Pardadi buy a machine that makes sanitary pads and support two of the school's graduates as they start a pad-making business. The goal is to create a self-sustaining business that sells pads at around 25 rupees for packs of ten -- simultaneously bringing an affordable and sanitary option to women on their periods while creating economic opportunities for women in an area that has next to none.

If 125 people donate $40 each (about what an American woman will spend on pads every year), we can make this happen. Once we reach $5,000, we'll stop collecting money -- this isn't a charity, this is a donation of seed capital.

Thanks for your help! Learn more and donate at RagsToPads.com."