Monday, May 26, 2014

Planned Obsolescence

For as long as I’ve known my wife (and that’s a LONG time – we just celebrated our 32nd anniversary – all credit goes to her – I just benefit from it), she has raved about some makeup that Borghese used to make – it was the best she’d ever used, and it lasted her for YEARS. But when she FINALLY needed to buy more, she discovered that the company had stopped making it. Apparently it lasted too long, and wasn’t generating the repeat sales they needed.
Conspiracy theorists have said for even longer than I can remember that manufacturers deliberately design their products to eventually either break down or become obsolete so that we have to buy another product sooner than we’d like. Cameras. Cars. Computers. (odd – why do all those things start with C?) Cell phones are the latest – I’m happy enough with my phone that I’d like it to last for 10 years, but it seems ordained to break down at 2 years (a reminder that it’s time to renew my 2-year contract as well.)
So, what is the Creator’s motivation in the planned obsolescence of PEOPLE?
(Speculative fiction is good for that – SPECULATING about the why’s, the why not’s, and the what if’s. Trying to find answers to things that we can’t really know. Guessing and making things up.)
Nothing can last forever. That which doesn’t grow eventually dies. You MUST keep moving – keep adapting and improving. Changing.
Viruses (are they living things? I don’t remember…) and bacteria have extremely short lifespans, so the next generations come at us, evolving faster than we can physically adapt to them – if it wasn’t for our minds, technology, self-awareness and science – all of which we were given BY THE GRACE OF GOD, the tiny things would have killed off the human race ages ago.
Our world changes faster and faster, and even the most malleable of us are having a hard time keeping up. Species don’t evolve instantly within a single member – it takes generations.
We evolve so slowly as a species in physical attributes, our advances happen technologically (I remember someone commenting on how - despite all our technological advances - man as an animal has changed very little – I think it was Khan in the original Star Trek.) The human race counts on deliberate innovation to stay ahead of the curve.
When you hang around long enough you tend toward stagnation (I’d say entropy, but that’s even worse.) Whether it’s a job, or a place, or a relationship, something has to change – or the situation is overtaken by the competition. If human beings lived forever (as individuals), our tendency to stagnate would doom the species to obsolescence.
What do we do about it? We certainly don’t want to kill off people at 30 a la Logan’s Run – I’ve known too many people in their 60’s who are still waiting to become adults – we would lose our capacity to learn from our (many) mistakes. Neither should we work too hard at making ourselves physically immortal – that puts too much emphasis on what kind of animal we are, and ignores our spirit. WE NEED TO BE MORTAL BECAUSE IT HELPS GIVE A SENSE OF URGENCY TO OUR LIVES. We all know this – why else would the expression “Live like you’re dying” recur so often in our hearts and culture?
Realize something – YOU are not the same person you were when you were younger – EVEN YOU have died and been reborn countless times. At least if you’re living your life and learning and growing as you were intended. Take advantage of your time on this earth – revel in your experiences – don’t live the same day over and over again.
Just saying….

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication “Mutiny on the Star-Bound”) can be found in many places, such as:
·         His Amazon Author page:

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Babies and Bathwater

There’s an expression that goes something like “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!” – if you aren’t familiar with it, follow this link to Wikipedia: das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten…
The notion that someone would throw out the baby with the bathwater betrays a lack of trust or respect of the judgment of others – the notion that someone, rather than being able to reason for themselves and pick out the good and useful from the bad and useless, would spot one negative thing about the box of thought that they’re handed, and throw away the box and all its contents without thinking.
You know – the kind of genius level thinking that happens with no-tolerance rules (designed to put school administration at the same level of difficulty as pushing the hamburger button on a fast food register.)  If there’s a rule that says you’ll be suspended for having a knife on campus, you might be wrestled to the ground if you pick up the pointy plastic-ware in the cafeteria.
This is the world we live in now, where thinking is reduced to terms so simple that it isn’t thinking at all. Reason has become a lost art form, common sense an underrated (and derided) sense. Our king (and those who would be) assume that whatever is commonly held can’t be right, especially because “those people aren’t the proper kind of people.”
There’s a style of argument that seems to rely on this type of thinking.
Argument:  “I don’t agree, since reason A, reason B, and reason C.”
Rebuttal:  “You are a _____ ist!” (You can fill in the blank.)
This rebuttal is used to make one point: the person who disagrees with me is a pariah and therefore has NO valid opinions or facts, because we all know how people like them are. The people listening are expected to disregard the argument by throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I believe even a sinner can know what’s right – EVEN IF they don’t live their life as a shining example to others. If Charles Manson tells you that stealing is a sin, does the fact that he’s a murdering sociopath mean he’s wrong?
Even liars sometimes tell the truth, no matter how uncommon that occurrence is. So think about what you hear and reason it out for yourself. Facts are facts, no matter where and who they come from.
Just saying….

William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication “Mutiny on the Star-Bound”) can be found in many places, such as:
·         His Amazon Author page:

Connect with him on Facebook at:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are You Conforming To Diversity?

In an old fable about a scorpion and a frog, the scorpion wants to cross the river, but the frog refuses at first to carry him.
“You are a scorpion,” the frog says. “You would sting me.”
“Why would I?” the scorpion answers. “If I did, we would both drown.”
So the frog agrees to carry the scorpion across. The scorpion hops on the frog’s back, and when they reach the middle of the river, the scorpion stings the frog.
The frog succumbs to the venom and both are sinking in the river.
“But why?” asks the frog.
“I couldn’t help myself,” the scorpion answers. “I am a scorpion, after all.”
(Remember “The Gingerbread Man”? I think when the fox agrees to carry the Gingerbread Man across the river and then eats him, this is merely revenge of the Carrier Union for what the Passenger Class did to the frog. And still, what did we expect? Foxes are foxes, after all.)
Are we really that trapped by WHAT we are? Defined by what GROUP we belong to? Both the frog AND the scorpion have an expectation of the scorpion’s behavior, as if to say “EVERYONE knows that ALL scorpions are THAT WAY. The frog ASSUMES it, but worst of all, the scorpion CONFORMS to it, as if the group is all he can be.
 YOU can be more than the stereotypes YOU and OTHERS try to label you with.
A true sense of the diversity of humanity isn’t about understanding various cultures – it means knowing how to treat EACH PERSON as a diverse, unique INDIVIDUAL. It also means thinking of YOURSELF as an INDIVIDUAL, not a PART of some monolithic group who MUST adhere to that group’s labels and thinking.
Don’t be a cog in any machine, or a slave to any group. Don’t conform - BE YOURSELF.
Just saying….

William Mangieri’s writing can be found in many places, including:
·         His Amazon Author page:

Connect with him on Facebook at:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Life As We Know It

Spring has come to Texas. I realize that spring officially came some time back, but those sorts of generic “Start of” dates are for people who don’t go outside and interact with the environment. Texas is a strange place, where season boundaries aren’t particularly meaningful – you can have spring-like days in the dead of winter. There are times when every day is a season unto itself, with highs jumping between the 20’s and 70’s. I prefer to wait until we don’t have a drop into the 30’s to say:
Spring has come to Texas. The birds are going nuts, Geckos are everywhere. June Bugs are already flying around (where do they wait til June?). Weeds are proliferating, so I’m out in the garden cleaning things up and planting, and thinking about all the life around me.
I’m raking up dead plants. And empty snail shells. And dead June Bugs. And part of a snake a bird neglected to finish. (Stay with me – this isn’t going to turn into a depressing diatribe on the impermanence of life.)
Life consumes life. No, I’m not an adherent of R.M. Renfield – I don’t want my food capable of fighting back once it’s on my plate. There’s a food chain (a circle, MAYBE, but chain suffices for today’s discussion.) For the most part, it’s plants being eaten by animals being eaten by other animals being eaten by other animals.
This is of course, not to ignore the more aggressive plants. Venus Fly Traps. Pitcher Plants. Triffids (oh, wait – those last aren’t real – or are they?) At least on our world, these are deviations from the norm – living animals dominate living plants (unless we’re talking about my yard.) The chain has backwaters.
At the top of the chain is the top animal – that would be human beings. How did we get there? Some people would argue that we made it on the basis of our opposable thumbs. Others would say it’s our superior intellect. Our ability to record and be aware of our history. Some would even say it’s that we have a soul.
All these things are useful, and help distinguish us from the other animals, but you put one of us in a cage with a Tiger, and let’s see who comes out on top. We would lose that battle. And yet, HUMAN BEINGS dominate the Earth.
What really puts us at the top was teamwork - our ability to cooperate, to collaborate. Yeah, I know any baboon (literally) can do that too, but we do it better. Although there are still some of us still crazy enough to choose going solo into the bush after the tiger, the majority will band together to remove the threat.
And when we’re not busy just trying to survive, we collaborate to improve the quality of life for our species. Achievements stack on achievements, and keep us the big fish in our own small pond.
That’s where we are, holed up on this blue-green ball in the middle of a lot of empty space. We haven’t been to another large body in over 40 years. I would have thought some of us would have landed on Mars (my chosen vacation spot) a decade or more ago. And by now we should be looking further out through our Solar System. AND BEYOND.
What’s out there? If Dr. Sagan was right, there should be plenty of competition for us. A challenger? We thrive on challenges, both as a nation and a species and a nation. At least some of us used to. Heroes. Pioneers. Explorers. And even though we have become horribly complacent and indolent as a whole, there are still enough of us willing to eschew comfort and climb that mountain to keep our species on top.
We don’t know whether we can be the big fish in a bigger pond, but we won’t know until we ride the falls. Who do we want to be - the villager hiding in his hut waiting for the Tiger of his imagination, or the hunting party banding together to face the threat? Yeah, it’s a jungle out there, but maybe it’s just a bunch of (non-carnivorous) plants.
Just saying….

William Mangieri’s writing can be found in many places, including:
·         His Amazon Author page:
Connect with him on Facebook at: