Thursday, November 27, 2008

Small Sacrifices

Moms cutting personal spending to buy children gifts
Aaron Crowe
Nov 26th 2008 at 9:00AM

Filed under: Kids and Money, Shopping, Recession

Beyond giving birth, moms make sacrifices for their children. Maybe they do without the regular trip to the hair stylist so their kids can go to the right preschool. Or they stop watching soap operas in favor of cartoons or a trip to the park.

This Christmas season, more moms are sacrificing for their children by not buying things for themselves and instead spending the money on toys for the kids, according to a New York Times story.

The Times reports that in September and October, sales of women's apparel fell dramatically compared with the same months the year before. They were down 18.2% in October, compared with an 8.3% drop for men's apparel, according to the SpendingPulse, a report by MasterCard Advisors.

A survey of shoppers' intentions by the NPD Group, a consultant firm, suggests that such cutbacks may continue through the holiday season. Some 61% of mothers said they would shop less for themselves this year, compared with 56% of all women and 45% of men. The survey suggests that mothers, more than any other group, would also spend less money overall and postpone big-ticket purchases.
Reyne Rice, who studies toy trends for the Toy Industry Association, told the Times that mothers do at least 80% of the holiday shopping in a family, and in past recessions they have been the first to do without. They tend not to get a new coat for themselves, Rice said, so they can provide for their children.

My large family cut back Christmas spending when I was a teenager by picking names out of a hat, and it's a cost-saving method that big families continue using today. Another idea is to only buy Christmas gifts for the children, and to spend time with your family instead of trying to buy them all gifts.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job hunt at

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Everyday of the Year

Gifts You Can Give Year Round

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Praise ~ ~ ~
Appropriate mention, right in front of the other fellow,
of superior qualities or of a job or deeds well done.

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Consideration ~ ~ ~
Putting yourself in the other's shoes and thus providing
your genuine understanding of his side of the case.

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Concession ~ ~ ~
Humbly saying at just the right point,
"I am sorry, you are right and I am wrong."

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Gratitude ~ ~ ~
Never forgetting to say "Thank You"
and never failing to mean it.

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Attention ~ ~ ~
When the other fellow speaks, listen attentively.
If his words are directed to you personally,
meet his eye squarely.

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Inspiration ~ ~ ~
Plant seeds of courage and action
in the other person's heart.

~ ~ ~ The Gift of Personal Presence ~ ~ ~
In sickness, in trouble, or in great joy, there is nothing quite equal to your personal expression of sympathy or congratulations. Resolve to give these gifts each day. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you will receive in return


Character cannot be developed in

ease and quiet. Only through experience

of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,

vision cleared, ambition inspired,

and success achieved.

~ Helen Keller

Craft Addict's Creedo

1.I will not stuff craft supplies in every corner of my house
2.I will not keep 9 projects going at one time
3.I will not pick up more buttons,lace or fabric when I have a ton at home
4.I will not let my crafting area look like a condemmed area.
5.I will not relegate the kitchen table to crafts.
6.I will not attend craft shows just to get more ideas.
7.I will not stock up on more craft supplies just because they are on sale.
8.I will not go off on a tangent when anyone mentions that little word 'import'
9.I will not let my crafting distract me from fixing dinner.
10.I will not stay up all night crafting.
11.I will not save dryer lint,empty cereal boxes,detergent scoops etc.
12.I will not buy every craft magazine I see.
13.I will not make promises I cannot keep...see you at a craft show

Submitted by Jo

Craft Card Making Scrapbooking


Talent does not mean that you have to be an artist who paints
masterpieces, or a gymnast who does flips. Talent resides
within you right now, in many different ways.

Caring for others is a talent, teaching is a talent, making people feel
welcome is a talent, solving problems is a talent and parenting
is a talent.

Never underestimate your talents and try not to compare or wish for
the talents of others. Focus on and accept the talents you have,
and you will find great fulfillment in life.

God Must Have Known

God Must Have Known...

God must have known,
that I would need someone as kind as you,
to be my friend, to warm my heart, to love me through and through. God must have known that life would be much brighter with you here,to bring me smiles, to share my joy, to comfort every fear.God must have known how much I need someone to truly care...and so God brought you into my life--the answer to my prayer.--

Gail Kittleson

The Coffee Prayer

Lord, as I sip this coffee
and give thanks to you
I ask for strength
to do the things I need to do

Courage to deal with things
I have to face
and guidance to follow
in your grace.


"I believe that to truly Love, is the ultimate
expression of the will to live.
A heart that truly loves
is forever young."
~ Unknown ~

Kelly's Second Life

Immeasurable Miracle

As a child you think of playing outside, enjoying the sunshine, and riding bikes. I appeared to be a happy, well adjusted and healthy child. I had no idea the exhaustion I felt, throughout my childhood, would come to a bigger event that would bring turmoil and happiness to everyone that knew me and loved me.
I had to beg my dad for a place to stay. Richard, my best friend and now husband, had gone to my mother and father for me because I did not have the nerve. In the summer of nineteen-ninety, carrying my fifteen-month-old son Randy in tow, I went home. I got a job and a babysitter for Randy. I did what was asked of me for the first time in my life. I had a hard life during my times away from home. Nineteen-eighty nine, I had my right kidney removed due to lack of medical attention and a very bad infection from kidney stones. That was just the beginning of it all.
Richard and I decided to start our lives together. We bought a house in Killeen, Texas, in May of Nineteen-ninety two, where we proceeded to continue with our family. We introduced our daughter Rachelle Nicole in June of the same year. I had pregnancy jaundice, low liver
counts and continual problems with her pregnancy and the ones to follow. Everyone dismissed
this with being pregnant. We had Brittani Faith and Richard E.Johnson IV. After my pregnancy with Brittani, I had my gall bladder removed. Under normal circumstances you would not think anything of it. Normal healing time is a couple days, took me two months.
Characteristically known to have the personality of a red headed Irish mule, I avoided doctors. Every time I went to one they said, “I need surgery or I was pregnant.” One winter, I had caught the flu bug that was going around and just could not get rid of it. The decision to go to the doctor was not negotiable with my husband, and sure enough this is what we heard “Well your iron level is really low and you might need a transfusion. I need you to come in every week for the next six plus weeks for more tests.” Yet once again as tests came back negative for several diseases, it was dismissed as being only my imagination. I was not getting any better in two thousand and one I was admitted for a new battery of tests, which did change our happy home into a messy wreck of nerves.
I have a wonderful doctor, Dr. Sing; he still is my acting doctor. I had ultrasounds, MRI's, X-rays, and the Endoscope, a tube that has a light on the end that they stick down your throat and see your insides. The final test was the clincher though. Dr. Sing sent me down for one complete test, where they put me into a twilight sleep, stick lidocaine into my side and inject dye into my liver to see what it wanted to do. Well it was a complete success. The worse news anyone could have in their life. There is nothing that we can do for you at this hospital anymore. Wow! After hearing those words what do you think? Well floods of thoughts were racing in. The biggest one was what in the world is my family going to do? What do we tell the kids? How do we tell the kids? We were told that I had a rare liver disorder. It was not auto immune, and they
did not know what caused this disease. I became known as the lady with Idiopathic Hepatitis. Idiopathic meaning no known cause, hepatitis meaning that liver disease nobody wants ever. My liver became a mushy sponge in my body, not filtering out the bad material and contaminating the rest of my body.
Right away my doctors and nurses starting to call around to see what could be done. I was recommended for a liver transplant at Baylor Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas. They are a
wonderful group of doctors. I loved them all, accept one thing, a week worth of more medical
tests. Get up, blood work at 6a.m., seventeen tubes of blood every morning. MRI's, CAT scans, X-rays you name it I had it. Final evaluation day, visit with the doctor again, you had to love Dr. Russell for his candidness, the man did not hesitate to put the cards out on the table. My husband and I were told, you are a good candidate for a liver transplant, BUT, “yes that big word.” I'm going to tell you though, you can die, it's no guarantee it will work. You might get this and it works for a month, and you die. You might live for a year and die. I am sitting here thinking ok and I want to do this WHY? I knew why I would do it. I had four wonderful children back at home hoping and praying for a miracle.
I went through the process of evaluation and was sent back home. For two grueling weeks Richard, the kids and I sat there wondering if I would be accepted and put on the transplant list, United Network for Organ Sharing. I was accepted and put on the list in the year of two thousand and five. Going from bad to worse I had just hoped to go home, my heavenly home. I oh so prayed for it. I had no energy, because my liver was so badly damaged at this time I ate only lemons for the flavor, nothing else had any flavor. I ate ice cubes because at least I felt like I was eating something. I had medications that made me forget things, made me irritable. I lay in bed and could not even go out to eat dinner with my children, help them with their homework. My gums were bleeding profusely I sat for hours, planning my funeral, what casket would I get, oh heck with that cremate me and throw me into the Atlantic. Yes, that kind of humor did not help things.
I knew there was a very short time left. I was angry at my life, at God, and at the world. I wanted my children to be happy, to enjoy life, and I was determined. Hopefully they can get some good out of this bad situation and understand why I had to leave them. Mustering up what little energy I had left I took to the task of cooking them up a feast. Thanksgiving evening I started to make pumpkin, cherry and apple pies. Cheesecake that would make your mouth water, they would have the best I had to offer, their hearts enveloped in the love I had to share.
Well, God, as always has other plans for our lives, and when we least expect it. Thanksgiving eve two thousand and five will be the most remarkable eve of any Thanksgiving to compare. I got my call, the one that said, “You need to be at the hospital as soon as possible, we have your liver!” I listened in disbelief for 30 minutes while a man on the other side of the phone talked to me. I think he kept saying do you understand? I'm pretty sure my reply was yes. I was asked if I wanted to do this. I said, “Do I have a choice? Without five people being sorely disappointed, I did not have a choice. Richard and I said our goodbye's to the children, and left on our 3 hour ride to the hospital.
I had my surgery, received my new liver, not without complications. I had awakened from surgery with the belief I had been under only for the hours of the surgery. I was mistaken. There were several complications with the first liver having been a half liver and I did not have the part to connect the half, as my old liver was a mushy mess. I was then put into a medicine induced coma. Several surgeries and ten days later, I was brought out of my coma with a new whole liver transplant. I ended up with diabetes and on insulin. I had to get strength back and walked with a walker for several weeks. I take anti-rejection medication every day of my life so I can be sure I’m around for my family, a very small price to pay. The situation was quite demanding on our family and friends to help out, but they never gave up hope. Although I was separated from my home and my children for a three month evaluation, I kept them always close to my heart.
Some people believe there are no second chances in life. I always believe in happy endings. I survived an illness that should have killed me, but God had other plans for me. He wanted me to go home to my family. He wanted me to share my story with others and inspire the world to look for brighter days. Now I know that no matter what tomorrow brings, that I have been blessed. In all that I do, for however long I may have I will cherish the smell of fresh rain, the crispness of the morning air, and returning to my house full of warmth and love.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mel's To Do List

1. Try everything twice.

2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down. (keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches ;)

3. Keep learning : Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain get idle.
"An idle mind is the devil's workshop."

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh,
spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.

6. The tears happen: Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves.
LIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love: Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever.
Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve,
get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, to a foreign country, but NOT to where
the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity. I love you, my special friend.

11. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.
And if you don't send this to at least 4 people - who cares? But do share this with someone .

Lost time can never be found.

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The invention of the motion movie camera

So I've spent a bit of time reading the class thoughts on Thomas Edison and the controversy over the motion picture camera as well as Milies' work. I have to say I completely understand and sympathize with these men behind the scenes, but from my experience in the business world, that's the way it is, and still is today. I actually contemplated about keeping my trap shut on this one so as not to invoke a word war, but then again, since I've somehow earned the title of "troublemaker", I guess I have to work on establishing my title. ;P

The thing you have to realize about Edison, is that although he was a bright man in a mathematical sense, he was also a visionary and first and foremost an entrepreneur (say that 5 times fast with a mouth full of crackers). By today's standards, work behind the scenes isn't credited to the guy who stumbled upon it, rather the front man and thus gets most of the credit. I find the fact that Dickson is even mentioned as having worked with Edison on this invention an impressive thing by today's standards.

Let's take a look at the world of computers and Bill Gates. Anyone who's seen Pirates of Silicone know that dear Uncle Bill wasn't the first guy that came up with the idea of computers, heck, he's not even the second. It was actually those Apple techs that began to suggest the idea of an operating program for the computer in the first place. Why does Uncle Bill get all the credit? Because he was the first to produce the goods in a manner in which consumers understood and he was smart enough to yank the smart chains to get the product on the market before Apple. Does that make him a bad person? Well, without Uncle Bill, you may still be walking to this class on campus and playing around with a "Lisa" on your free time (google Apple's version of Lisa if you are far too young to remember what a flop this was).

The point is, is that it's all business, and it's not pretty, but without it, we wouldn't have all the amenities we have now. Edison didn't invent the light bulb as many people assume. What he did do was invent a version of the bulb that lasted longer and was able to be produced at a rate and cost that consumers could afford. He didn't invent the first telegraph, he improved the design so that you could send out multiple messages at one time. By all rights, he doesn't deserve the title of "inventor", but because he was first, because he threw his patent card out on the table, and because he was astute enough to seduce the best engineers and designers the world at that time had to offer onto his payroll, his name remains forever legend in our world.

Do I feel sorry for Dickson for not getting rich off of the design of the camera he mostly invented? Absolutely not. Stephen made an excellent point on this. He said something to the fact, and I'm paraphrasing without looking back that "I don't expect to get credit for cleaning up industrial waste, the company I work for does. I don't care I got paid for it". This answer hits the nail on the head. It's hard to look back at that time and envision a world where you worked for an average of $.50 a day and that was good money, but it was reality. Work was sometimes hard to come by, and your family had to be fed. You'd be amazed to see what people will do when it comes to putting groceries on the table - and yes that includes eating a bit of crow to get a paycheck from the jerk that gets to take all the credit for your work. If it's any consolation to all you classmates seething for revenge on this fact, consider that it was often mentioned that Edison was believed to be a "communist": and "atheist", which was about as controversial back then as labeling someone a child molester these days (sorry just couldn't think of a better current analogy to make the connection) - these are issues that "front men" deal with everyday. Something goes wrong, whether you were involved or not, and it's your fault. The idea here is that it's not always a bad thing to be the guy behind the scenes not getting the credit/blame for the company's product.

George Melies I have a bit more sympathy for, but then again, as any good businessman knows, it's a dog eat dog world. If you want to succeed you have to think ahead of your competitors and you have invest some money to make some money. If he sunk all his hope into making it rich off of his film, then he certainly should have knocked on some banker's doors and obtained the funding to copyright the dang thing. Hollywood does this everyday, and as you will all remember, the introduction to "securing rights" to stories for movies. This incident is no different than as it is today. Some guy bigger than you knew it was worth having, sent his "thugs" out to steal the deal and made it happen before you knew what was going on. Certainly a crap of a deal for anyone, but then again, without this process, would the movie making industry be what it is today.

I've also read some remarks about Edison being too cheap to obtain a patent that would prohibit anyone outside the states from working on the invention of the camera. Although, I can see the point now, you again have to consider the world back then. $150.00 was a lot of money back then when the average joe was banking about $.50 a day. By today's standards, I'd imagine (and I'm ball-parking here), that this cost would have exceeded $150,000.00. Also, in the day, as we learned from our text and in class, that the idea of "moving pictures" wasn't immediately embraced as anything more than just a passing fancy. No one really saw the impact it would have on the world, and I don't think it was until the introduction of various camera techniques by savvy cinemaphotographers (remember the soup and child experiment with the emotionless man) that the common welfare started to take notice of it's abilities, therefore why throw money at a fad? I think it is this stumbling along process that perpetually keeps the wheels of technology moving forward.

If anything, I think we have learned from our forefathers the lesson of covering our wide hides. Today people are running out and copyrighting or patenting everything from catch phrases to backpack coolers. Now I really don't think that any of these ideas will grip the world and change it forever, but then again, maybe Edison thought the same thing when he passed by the opportunity to patent the motion picture camera.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Opportunity for Happiness

"Plenty of people miss their
share of happiness, not because
they never found it, but because
they didn't stop to enjoy it."
~*~ William Feather


Feeling grateful or appreciative
of someone or something in your life
actually attracts more of the
things that you appreciate
and value into your life.

Christiane Northrup

Love and Kindness

Love and kindness are

never wasted. They always

make a difference. They

bless the one who

receives them, and they

bless you, the giver.

~ Barbara De Angelis

The Road To Happiness

The road to happiness lies in
two simple principles: find
what it is that interests you
and that you can do well, and
when you find it, put your
whole soul into it -- every bit of
energy and ambition and
natural ability you have.
~ John D. Rockefeller III

Monday, October 6, 2008

Conrad L. Hall - cinematography genius

Sunday, October 5, 2008
10:15:46 PM CDT
Feeling Thoughtful
Hearing Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Conrad L. Hall - cinematography genius

Ridley Scott once said, “The landscape and proscenium is a character that plays a part in telling the story.” Conrad Hall is one of the few gifted cinematographers that possessed the ability to make the set come alive and compliment the actors with his eye for monochromatic color and lighting technique.

Born 1926 in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, to writer James Norman Hall, co-author of the Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy, and a Tahiti/Polynesian woman, Hall quickly took to following in his father’s footsteps by studying journalism at USC in 1947. Finding that his grades didn’t meet his expectations, he stumbled onto a Cinema class where he studied under Slavko Vorkapich, a Yugoslavian writer who had immigrated to Hollywood in 1922. Vorkapich was a master of visual montages and favored pure visual expression – telling of a story though scenery as to involve the viewer into the story. These were lessons that Hall took to heart and carried with him throughout his career.

Upon graduation in 1949, Hall and two fellow classmates – Marvin Weinstein and Jack Couffer, collaborated to form and independent production company titled, Canyon Films. The problem with this relationship was that each member wantedto wear the director’s hat, and directing as a committee wasn’t an option. Therefore, in an effort of fairness, they wrote “producer, director, and cinematographer” onto three slips of paper that were placed in a hat and left for chance. This luck of the draw sealed Hall’s fate and gave the world a visionary master.

Halls early works in television and films were shot in black and white, inflicting him with a deep passion for black and white filmmaking because, “It gives your imagination more of a sense to go out and figure it out. You don’t get the ocean painted blue; you get it painted with words.” It is this love that inspires his cinematographic style – monochromatic scenery that compliments the actors in their task of telling a story. An example of this process can be seen in his work on The Wild Seed (1965). The viewer is drawn to follow the camera’s eye as Hall pans it from the character reading a letter to another listening intently, giving the audience the indication that the feelings between the two character’s are changing. It was ultimately his work in the black and white medium that invoked his confidence in his cinema photographic abilities, and continually encouraged him to push the envelope of normalcy throughout his career.

Hall developed a reputation of being a risk-taker early in his career, leaving directors to wonder, as George Roy Hill once did, if Hall was the optimal choice in cameramen talent available. “I worried about the producer’s decision to hire some hippie from Tahiti to film a western,” Hill confesses in his commentary on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Of Hall’s work to this point, this particular piece really provided him the opportunity to shine. Director Hill was stricken in the middle of this shooting with a back spasm condition that left him incapacitated. Not wanting to get pulled off of the production, he swore the secrecy of the cast and crew and continued to give direction from a gurney fashioned by the stunt crew. This disability forced the director to trust in Hall’s vision, and he proved his trustworthiness by eventually taking home his first Oscar in 1970 for Best Cinematography.

An astute viewer will quickly be able to point out Hall’s talent contribution in this piece; within the dimness of a small farmhouse a beautiful woman begins to undress for bedtime. Quickly she discovers an intruder in her room. The intruder cocks and points his gun towards her urging her to finish undressing. Notice the lighting to the left of the camera casting a light onto the actor making her look angelic, the shadow of her profile spills upon the adjacent wall. The intruder is shot close-up so the audience can view the look of pleasure in his eyes as he prods her to continue undressing. “Let down your hair,” instructs the intruder. You begin to notice a subtle change of lighting from the actor’s left as the camera closes in on her performing the task - appearing a little less angelic and becoming seductive, as it brings out the brown highlights of her hair. Still the intruder directs her to continue, and although her hair casts shadow over her eyes, you see just a slight twinkle, and your eye is drawn to her luscious lips. As the camera pans down you see her gingerly untying and unbuttoning the last of her modesty, but never once does the camera show you her personal flesh – this Hall leaves to your imagination, as well as a sense of wondering if the character is deriving a little too much pleasure from the violation. When you study the scenes Hall captured in this moment, you begin to develop a love affair with the actor, as Hall did, and realize that those feelings are invoked out of the true love Hall had for this actor whom he eventually married. A love affair with key cast members continued to follow him throughout his career.

It is often assumed in the business that sooner or later any good cinematographer will attempt their hand at directing. Hall wore this hat for several years while directing commercials, but never derived the pleasure or success he received from his cinematography work, so he returned to his spot behind the camera for The Black Widow (1987). With the target of his career goals directly in sight, Hall turned his attention towards the mastery of his craft, and began to turn his focus from monochromatic color to props and lighting to help convey the feeling of a story; an example of this technique can be seen in his work on A Civil Action.

As the movie opens, you hear the main character, Jan Schlichtmann, monolog on what dictates a great lawsuit candidate. You begin to take notice of the character pushing an injured man throughout the halls of justice. The lighting, florescent by most office standards, casts a bright shine to the marble walls and ceramic floors that envelope the hall and create a cold professional like setting. You pick up visions of bystanders stopping to take notice of these characters walking throughout this sterile environment and into a courtroom, where eventually Schlichtmann begins to dote over the injured subject in an attempt to sway the feelings of the court. These visions and dialog teach the audience that Schlichtmann is a man who is self-absorbed with a passion for the finer things in life. As the scene shifts to a local bar where Schlichtmann and his associates are celebrating their victory, the camera spans across a deep blue lake that later the viewer comes to understand, represents the main character of the story – polluted water. Back in the city, where our self-absorbed character is found performing a little public relations work at a local radio station, you witness visions of flash-backs occurring throughout this task, and you see the character enjoying life to its fullest moment; dancing with beautiful ladies, an elaborate menswear store with an extensive collection to be had at will - beautifully lit to accentuate the pleasure the character derives in his material goods, and a gleam in his eyes as he takes pleasure in his “most eligible bachelor” status. These visual cues that Hall uses to introduce the personality of the character are a vital element in telling this story. As the drama unfolds, you witness Schlichtmann systematically loose all he had attained in an attempt to win the lawsuit. Hall gives special attention to these sacrifices in the scene where Schlichtmann and his associates sit in a now empty office. Rain is pouring outside and Hall catches it with lighting that produces shadows of “tears” against the back wall. “Nobody calls anymore,” Schlichtmann states, “not even the creditors.” Hall emphasizes the disparity of these characters as they argue about a settlement. Thunder takes out the lights, and the actors are left in the dark with nothing but the shadow of tears illuminating their presence. This is a technique Hall eventually became famous for.

When you begin to study the magic of cinematography, you begin to wonder if the images seen on-screen are the visions of the director or of the cinematographer. Certainly, if you invest some time to learn about the movies you watch, you began to hear commentaries from directors, all too quick to take credit for a visual effect. Although it is true that there is a fine line between the role of director and cinematographer, it is the director that comes into the project with a vision of how he wants to tell the story. It is the cinematographer’s job to fulfill that vision – but it is also his job to enrich this vision as well. It is a marriage between the two, and once chemistry is formed between director and cinematographer, you often find them seeking each other out in order to collaborate on future projects.

Hall was introduced to director Sam Mendes on the set of American Beauty, and it was later in the video HBO First Look: The Making of ‘Road to Perdition’ that he professed, “I had a love affair with Sam in Beauty. He’s such a great director. When he was going to do another film, I said ‘I’m with you’.” This love affair was reciprocated by Mendes who acquired a great respect for Hall after working with him on his film directorial debut. “The fact that I ended up working with a 74 year old hippie from Tahiti, who had shot Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…I kind of relished everyday that I had with him because I think he’s a master. I think that cinematographers like that come along two or three a generation,” Mendes gushed. The marriage worked and it was magical.

Mendes has developed a reputation as a director who doesn’t need complete control. He does have a strong hand on how he sees things, but allows the cast and crew the flexibility to spread their wings of creativity. This is just the nurturing relationship that Hall needed to further develop his mastery and his efforts can be seen in his final work on Road to Perdition. Hall’s final masterpiece encompassed every element of visual mastery he had developed – monochromatic detail, lighting that reflects upon the rain outside mirroring images of “tears” on the scene, additional footage bringing focus to props that help tell the story, and seductive shots of key players that encourage the audience to develop feelings for the characters.

In the scene titled “Two Fathers, Two Sons,” shortly after the elder Sullivan has thwarted an assassination attempt placed on his head by Connor, Sullivan realizes that there is a hit placed on his eldest son. Quickly he rushes to his home and bursts through his front door to find his eldest son, sitting at the table in shock. The camera slowly pans into Sullivan, breathing heavily from his hurried excursion, looking at his son in despair. Hall has placed focus lighting slightly to the lower right of the actor so that it accents the shadows of the frown on the actor’s face. This lighting technique draws emphasis to the moment of fear this character experiences. Killing is his job, but now he stands as a victim of his profession. Lighting disguised as moonlight plays an integral role in telling this pivotal moment in the story. Sullivan looks up toward the staircase and back onto his son. The emotions portrayed on the actors face indicate that Sullivan knows what he will find atop the staircase, yet he rushes toward it with a glimmer of hope. Rather than have the camera follow Sullivan to the bathroom where he will find his youngest son and wife dead by assassination, Hall pans into a close-up of the eldest son, sitting calmly at the dining room table, as he listens to the screams of terror that erupt from his father’s lips.

This piece was the fourth and final time that Hall met up with actor Paul Newman. Newman, a legend in his own rights, was notoriously known for his deep blue eyes. In Cool Hand Luke, he was instructed by the producers to make sure he emphasized on Newman’s eyes in an effort to swoon his fans. Hall took these directions to heart, and continued to obtain shots of those trademark blues whenever the two were linked in a joint venture.

In the scene titled, “natural law”, Sullivan and Rooney sit alone in an Irish Pub discussing Sullivan’s oldest son who has just witnessed his father perform a hit for his surrogate grandfather. “If it wasn’t this, it’d have been something else. You can’t protect them forever,” states Newman as Rooney. Notice how Hall’s love affair and previous experience with Newman play a role in this scene. Hall pulls the camera slightly over Sullivan’s shoulders allowing the focus lighting to catch the blue color of Newman’s eyes. It is within this moment of cinematic magic that you realize that this character, which once appeared as a gentle soul, possesses the capacity to kill one of his own in order to maintain control. Of the many images Hall has managed to capture in his career, this one moment brings tears to your eyes when you realize that the loss of this great actor and cinematographer brought a little more darkness to Hollywood Boulevard.

Looking back upon Hall’s cinematography career, one can’t help but feel slightly nostalgic when remembering his work that spanned nearly half a century. This “hippie from Tahiti” earned the respect of Hollywood by taking chances and pushing us further outside our zones of comfort in our expectations of visual storytelling. He left us with his imagination and gifted ability to compliment a story with lighting and visual camera effects that will forever be studied and challenged by student cinematographers and enjoyed by audiences around the world.

The Paradox of Technology

Sunday, September 7, 2008
4:43:24 PM CDT
Feeling Bitchy
Hearing Megan...nagging....

The Paradox of Technology

At least once on any given month, I either read, hear or view on the television some controversial debate on how kids these days have been bred to be unintelligent, mindless drones who have the talent to do little more than operate the video game control or the computer mouse – all somehow induced by the technological age. The most ironic humor I find in the whole matter is the fact that I wouldn’t even know this information had I not tapped into one of these technological resources to hear someone bantering about it in the first place

Over my lifetime, I’ve spent a great deal of time observing people. Not that I have to by any means, just consider it a hobby of mine. The thing I notice about people with convictions about anything of controversy is that they all have an opinion on how society should change things to make our lives better. I am of the personal mindset that opinions are like orifices; everyone has at least one, more people have two, and you really don’t want to know what comes out of either one of them. However, since you asked, I’ll try to quickly puke out a few thoughts from my head.

The idea that generations of children are quickly becoming inferior to their past constituents is nothing new. Step into any retirement home and carefully listen to the banters of WWII and Vietnam veterans and I think you’ll see my point. The paradox of this is that their parents were saying pretty much the same thing. “Kids these days are spoiled by technology.” What do you want to bet that your grandparent’s parents were saying the exact same thing about the automobiles? On the other hand, who do you think these generations are going to when it comes to programming their cell phones? Obviously their grandchildren, with their fluent abilities to text a 4 sentence message in less than 5 minutes. It’s not that kids are any different today than they were 40 years ago; it’s that we don’t like change, and we’ll do anything within our means to slow down progression.

I am a child of the Generation X, with all the amenities bestowed on a generation to be a part of the “in between” changes best noted in our historical textbooks. My children often delight in rolling their eyes when I whip out my LP of Purple Rain, or fail to depart with my 1988 NEC VCR that spends more time in a repair shop than my entertainment center. It’s not that I’m not “hip” or “into the time”, it’s just that the thought of throwing away $800.00 because it’s slightly out-dated brings me to tears. Long before cordless remote control televisions, there were models that shouted trip hazard as cords dangled from the TV to your viewing area. Before those days, there was Mel, who regularly sat right next to the floor console television ready for the prompt from dad to change the rotary channel or bend the rabbit ears for better reception. My generation was blessed with after school programming primarily shot in black and white. Within half an hour, “The Beaver” figured out that girls weren’t so bad, and Eddie Haskel would get his just desserts in the end. We didn’t spend our entire summers playing with the neighborhood kids, we took time out to improve our Frogger scores and watch the latest episodes of “The Cosby Show”. Happily I’m here to report, that children from my generation did not all become the defunct degenerates our grandparents said we would become. Many of us now hold prominent jobs in society, heck; even a few of us are trying to cure cancer.

The point of technology is to better a person’s life, not to consume it. Some believe that true knowledge only comes from old dusty books; I personally find nothing wrong with surfing the web for information and ideas. I did the library thing and I must admit that before the World Wide Web became the trafficking industry it is today, librarians at my local branch were seriously considering charging me rent. The library just wasn’t open long enough in a day to satisfy my curious mind. The internet affords me the opportunity to spend time with my family while satisfying those needs; sort of like holding your child’s hand while you’re shopping. (This means, that if you find me online at 3 am when I’m finally left to my own devices, you’ll understand what I’m saying about library hours ;) ). Some profess that the internet isn’t an accurate means of information, well, here’s the newsflash – every book isn’t either. Just because information comes in the form of a hard copy doesn’t mean it is true – you have to consider the source. If all print was factual, my children would never be timed out, my computer would have crashed from the Y2K bug and I’d now be attempting to find a means of going to Mars in search of Elvis.

Children aren’t anymore “stupider” than they were in past generations. They just know different things and have different ways in which to obtain their desires. If these new generations were so “stupid”, why the heck would their grandparents call them every time their computers didn’t work? I actually found myself in a similar paradox of technology in my algebra class. The teacher stated that “kids these days don’t know how to perform math equations in their head and often turn to calculators to find the answer to 9 x 8.” Oh heck yeah I had my little pride feathers all puffed out until it occurred to me that they were using these calculators because they were intelligent enough to operate the darn things in the first place. Why the heck would you spend an hour walking to the local grocery store when you could get there in less than 3 minutes by car? It’s not laziness that comes into play here – it’s just a more logical and intelligent way of accomplishing a task. That knowledge comes from the willingness to learn and try new things.

The joy of learning and knowledge comes from within. It’s not inbred; it’s something we discover from the guidance of our parents. I myself am expertly skilled at using the dictionary, simply because I was directed to reference it every time I had a question regarding the English language. These days, I simply utilize the internet as a faster means of obtaining the same information. On the bonus side, I can expect the information I find online to be more to date than the American Scholastic Dictionary I bought from a door salesman 4 years ago.

Here’s my point:

It’s not technology that has made our children “stupid”, it is the lack of parental influence. If you want to change your future, stop complaining about it and start becoming an inspiration. Encourage your kid to pick up a book and read just for the fun of it. Model the behavior in your own life by practicing what you preach, why not just read along with them? Invest some time in communicating with your child and never be afraid to investigate further if something doesn’t seem right to you. Stand up to the responsibility of joyful reproduction by taking the role of parenting seriously.

The difference between an alcoholic and a social drinker is control. Control is learned by cause and effect, and I’ve yet to meet a child that can distinguish between the two without good parental guidance. Sure, we all have busy lives, but if you’re too darn busy to take time out to fulfill your parental responsibilities, then you better invest some income in some good birth control. Children are fascinating creatures and quick learners. If your toddler crawls over to your hot oven, touches it, and receives 3rd degree burns from the experience, I guarantee you he won’t be doing it again anytime soon. Human behavior doesn’t adversely change as we grow older; we still learn from our experiences and build off the foundation of our parent’s guidance. Set parameters for your child; one hour of TV after your homework is finished or one hour on the computer after your chores are done – children thrive on discipline and boundaries, as long as they don’t cross the lines of abuse.

Parenting is a huge responsibility, but one with the greatest reward. If you establish a consistent environment that nourishes learning and curiosity, and you guide them to resources that enable them to find answers, I can guarantee you that your child will be successful in his academic career and open to learn new things from new teachers year after year. When you establish behavioral boundaries through mentoring and cause and effect you prepare your child for his experience with the next English professor who attempts to teach your child how to make an extended analytical argument. Rather than idle aimlessly within the screens of Wikipedia, he will at least know how to tap into other knowledgeable resources in an attempt to complete the assignment, while hopefully aspiring to change the opinion of this Professor.

Citizen Kane; Directing a Classic

Friday, September 5, 2008
2:19:06 PM CDT
Feeling Cranky
Hearing Rain Rain Rain

Citizen Kane; Directing a Classic

Citizen Kane would not be considered the film classic it is today without the talented direction of “wonder boy” Orson Welles. Armed with his experience in radio and theatre, a fresh inked contract with RKO Pictures giving him full artistic freedom, and his Mercury Theatrical Players, Welles tells the story of a publishing tycoon’s lifelong search to find a mother’s love.

Although the plot leaves much to be desired, the talent of the actors’ pacing and theatrical style engages the audience in a sensual and believable journey. An astute viewer will quickly recognize the theatrical staging of players turned slightly toward the camera or the blocking of secondary actors around primary characters or objects the director wants the audience to focus on. Strong facial expressions, clear diction and voice projection coupled with over the edge melodramatic performances commonly seen only on stage give detail to the characters in the story. Director Welles taps into his theatre talent by dictating long shot takes that indulge the actors’ comfort zones and one take scenes that force the actors to ad lib dialog in order to maintain pace.

While it may have been Welles’ lack of filmmaking experience, or his “kid in a candy store” artistic privileges that nurtured his never before seen directorial approach to this masterpiece, his work on Citizen Kane has forever left its thumbprint on American filmmaking and set the standards for auteur directors the world around.

Mel's Review of Pulp Fiction

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
11:57:12 AM CDT
Feeling Thoughtful
Hearing My head throbbing

Mel's Review of Pulp Fiction

Movies define our perception of reality. Within this realm of knowledge, the question comes to mind about the responsibility of the entertainment industry to scrutinize and perhaps even to censor their own works based on common sense and morality. Should an artist censor his work in an effort to be a responsible role model to society? The movie Pulp Fiction brings this very question into focus.

Scene three finds main characters Jules and Vincent in a bad situation. After accidently shooting a hit while sharing some comedy relief with him, the two are faced with the problem of disposing a blood drenched car and the remains of a body. Jules calls on a friend for a place to hide while they think of what to do. The friend, thinking nothing of the murder that just occurred, spends a great deal of time, worried about what his wife will think when she comes home in an hour. He’s certain if they are discovered his marriage will end in divorce.

This scene sets the tone for the film. Life is nothing more than accidental. Death is a comedy, and when your friend parks a bloody car in your garage with a dead body, you should really be more concerned about your wife’s reaction, than legal intervention. Looking back at the world to 1994 when this movie was released, one must wonder if the writer of this film had any influence over our desensitization to violence today.

Films have the power to entertain, to enlighten and inspire us, but with this power should come the responsibility of leaving the world a little better than before.


Monday, August 11, 2008
11:53:18 AM CDT
Feeling Angry
Hearing Kevin being a snot....again!


A day that begins with gratitude is a day that you'll be able to fill with positive progress. When you're sincerely appreciative of where you are and what you have, you'll greatly expand your own possibilities.
Begin with a thankful thought. And connect yourself with the abundance that is all around you.

There is always something for which you can be sincerely thankful. And the simple act of being thankful ignites a productive momentum in your world.

By focusing your thoughts on the positive aspects of your life, you cause their influence to grow. Be grateful, and your gratitude happily creates even more things in your life for which you can be grateful.

The appreciation for what you have gives more value to all that you are. The blessings you enjoy are blessings precisely because you see them as such.

Tap into the great reservoir of real value that is already available to you. Live with gratitude, and you'll create even more reasons to be thankful.

Ralph Marston


11:49:01 AM CDT
Feeling Cranky
Hearing The vaccuum running......again!


Even a small kindness can have a big impact. Because kindness, once it is given, takes on a life of its own.
Even a small kindness can reach far, far beyond you. Because kindness is multiplied as time goes on.

Do you want to quickly and profoundly change your world for the better? Kindness is a powerful way to make that happen.

No, not every kindness you give will be immediately appreciated or acknowledged or passed along. Yet genuine kindness is impossible to deny, and even when it seems to accomplish nothing, kindness does indeed have an impact.

In fact, the less effective kindness seems to be at first, the longer and more profoundly its power will be felt. For in one way or another, kindness always makes a difference.

Live with kindness and you live with strength, with confidence, with positive effectiveness. Live with kindness and you make your world a better place to be.

Ralph Marston


7:42:37 PM CDT
Feeling Thoughtful
Hearing Molly talking about her Baby Alive


How great it feels

This is a day to get things done. Make a list, and get
Started checking off the items as you complete them.

The most effective power you can have is power over your own
Actions. Instead of hoping or plotting to gain power over
Others, make use of the power you already have over

Identify a difficult situation and get to work untangling
It. Choose a compelling possibility and make progress toward
Bringing it to life.

This is a dynamic moment that responds to your input. Put
Thoughtful, positive effort into it and you get valuable,
Meaningful rewards out of it.

Leave it to others to do the complaining, blaming, fretting
And worrying. Focus your efforts on positive pursuits that
Will make a real difference.

The best way you can spend this day is in getting something
Accomplished. Get positive, get busy and truly enjoy how
Great it feels.

Ralph Marston

Influence the world with your thoughts

Saturday, July 26, 2008
10:53:37 AM CDT
Feeling Determined
Hearing nag..nag..nag

Influence the world with your thoughts

Give, and you will have. Teach, and you will learn.
Listen, and you will be understood. Live with kindness, and kindness will live with you.

Respect, and you will be respected. Be truthful, and it will be nearly impossible for others to deceive you.

Keep a generous spirit, and your life will be filled with abundance. Seek to bring out the best in others, and they'll give you the best that they have.

Give your genuine encouragement to those who thirst for it most, and you'll be encouraged beyond all measure. Speak positively of your world, and your world will be a rich and fulfilling place.

The world you influence with your thoughts, words and actions is the world in which you live. Always be your best, and that world is a great place to be.

Ralph Marston

Be Your All

10:17:28 AM CDT
Feeling Determined
Hearing I just called to say I love you - Stevie Wonder

Be Your All

So often we aren't fully ourselves, We keep our true thoughts, feelings,hopes and dreams quiet, subdue our style, even let gifts we were born with go undeveloped. But they are what makes you special. You are not like everybody else. You are you. Be that person. You are wonderful!

Evaluating Our Relationships

Saturday, July 26, 2008
10:01:56 AM CDT
Feeling Determined
Hearing Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Ashley
Evaluating Relationships

Evaluating Our Relationships

There comes a time in all our lives when we may need to evaluate our relationships making sure that they are having a positive effect on us rather than dragging us down. Without realizing it we may be spending precious time and energy engaging in friendships that let us down rather than cultivating ones that support and nourish us along our path Life with its many twists turns and challenges is difficult enough without us entertaining people in our inner circle who drain our energy. We can do so much more in this world when we are surrounded by people who understand what we´re trying to do and who positively support our efforts to walk our path.

We can begin this evaluation process by simply noticing how we feel in the context of each one of our close relationships.We may begin to see that an old friend is still carrying negative attitudes or ideas that we ourselves need to let go of in order to move forward.Or we may find that we have a long-term relationship with someone who has a habit of letting us down or not showing up for us when we need support.

There are many ways to go about changing the status quo in situations like this having a heart to heart with our friend showing through example.This process isn't so much about abandoning old friends as it is about shifting our relationships so that they support us on our journey rather than holding us back.

An important part of this process is looking at ourselves and noticing what kind of friend we are to the people in our lives.We might find that as we adjust our own approach to a relationship challenging ourselves to be more supportive and positive our friends make adjustments as well and the whole world benefits.

The Illusion of Memory

Sunday, July 13, 2008
1:07:20 AM CDT
Feeling Thoughtful
Hearing Who invented the darn sports channel?

The Illusion of Memory

The unusual amount of rain that we’ve been having has kept our daycare students indoors more often than most of us enjoy dealing with. Energy levels run high in pre-school students that should be exhausting themselves playing chase and kickball, leaving myself and the staff trying to find activities to preoccupy their time waiting for the playground to dry.

After reading the chapter on memory, I began to associate many incidents that we’ve had on the job where each of us have had to report a problem to a student’s parent, and how each time a story was told, the story became a bit more different. One assistant elaborates on something that she believes was said that I don’t recall hearing in the same room. Another assistant insists that they observed something completely different than the other two observed. I decided it was a good day to play a game of telephone in order to observe some of the issues we had been introduced to in our text.

The kids gathered in a circle, with each of the assistants and me between them. I came up with a phrase to pass along the line; “If the sun comes out to shine we might be able to go out to play this afternoon.” I whispered it quietly into the tiny ear of the child beside me. Carefully I watched the message being passed from student to student, from teacher to student and finally to the last student. The student twitched his nose a bit and looked quizzically at me before finally saying; “Spongebob will get fries at noon?” After that, I understood the point.

The human brain is an incredible control center. Not only does it regulate the body’s systems, it also stores and analyzes a large amount of information. Taking cues from the body’s senses, the brain can determine what a particular sound is, what shirt someone wore yesterday, what pineapple taste like, what a flower smells like or even assist the body in finding the bathroom in complete darkness – all of these things are possible because of the information stored within the memory. Not only are everyday actions stored within the memory, but events, people and places are able to be recognized by this incredible organ.

Family stories, passed from generation to generation during holiday dinners come from the vast data banks of the human memory, but what you might remember of an incident might not jive with what Uncle Harry is sharing with the rest of the family. “Misinformation has the potential for invading our memories when we talk to other people,” suggests Elizabeth Loftus in her article on Creating False Memories. “Memories are easily modified when the passage of time allows the original memory to fade.” It’s not that Uncle Harry is trying to embarrass you in front of your cousins, it’s because over time he may have forgotten pieces of the event and his mind is naturally trying to fill those gaps with assumptions about what could have happened. These are known as “false memories”.

The mind classifies memories based on duration, nature and retrieval of information. Sensory memory is what is initially perceived by the senses. The ability to look at an item and remember what it looked like with just a glance is an example of sensory memory. It deteriorates quickly unless it is further processed by the mind for storage and retrieval at a later time. Short term memory allows a person to recall something within minutes without rehearsal, but its capacity is limited to about 4 or 5 items. Long-term memory encodes information semantically for later retrieval. If that information is not utilized and rehearsed (often through re-telling of the information) it can deteriorate considerably. Later efforts may produce fragments of the information, and in an effort to retain fluidity of thought, the mind may form hypothesis on those missing pieces causing the person to slightly alter or altogether change a given incident.

This phenomenon is most notably recognized in an experiment conducted by Loft and her research associate, Jacqueline E. Pickrell. The scientist asked 24 individuals to recall a childhood event that had been recounted by their parents, older siblings or another close relative. They submitted a booklet containing three events that had actually occurred, and one that had not. The participants were instructed to elaborate what they had recalled at different time intervals, and it was discovered that the more often the individual heard the false story, the more they believed the event had actually happened and that they could actually remember it happening. Experiments such as these, give strong indication that memories are influenced by other witness accounts and continued interrogations of the facts.

Our judicial system still relies heavily on eye witness accounts and signed admissions of guilt from suspects under the stress of interrogation. Although it seems ridiculous that an individual would accept guilt for a crime he didn’t commit, it happens on a regular basis. I had a client that admitted to guilt of a rape crime in order to plea bargain for a shorter sentence. With a baby on the way and his wife without income, he felt he had no other alternative. Most odd about this story was not the fact that the parent had conveyed it to me, but the grandparent. Over time, the father had admitted the guilt so many times in his mind that he had grown to believe it was true. Even though the witness later admitted the incident was consensual and she was just lashing out because he wouldn’t leave the wife, in his mind, he was as guilty as the day he admitted the crime.

Memories may be the only thing we have besides our DNA to pass onto our children, but we must remember to take the time to document them for our future generations, or our great-grandchildren may stand about, scratching their heads wondering why Spongebob got fries at noon.

The Mind in Motion

Thursday, July 10, 2008
3:20:33 PM CDT
Feeling Frustrated
Hearing Happy Feet

The Mind in Motion

The human psyche has always held a childlike fascination for me. From the earliest moments of my memory I began to question why. It seems I’ve always wanted to know why people do the things they do – why does my mother constantly obsess about cleanliness? Why does my father have “itchy feet”? Why do my daughters (or for that matter, my sisters and I) vary so vastly despite our similar genetic make-up? Questions like these plaque me as often today as they did as a child and I still find myself searching for answers. This was the primary reason why I wanted to study the subject over the summer – so I could focus all my academic attention on finding these answers. Answers to human behaviors are what I expected to discover through this course, what I wasn’t prepared for was the study of where the behaviors stem. For some reason I was under the impression that those questions were best answered in the realm of Philosophy and a whole different entity from Psychology. What I’ve discovered is that the two sciences often dance around one another in search of answers.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to do some hard soul searching about not just human psyche, but about myself, my beliefs and my own mortality in this one given reading assignment, and I found it to be an overwhelming demon I wasn’t prepared to address. The assignment was easy enough for the average college student - choose an article from the teacher’s list on human behavior, write a report about it and what you’ve learned in the class thus far. For an overachieving, anal retentive student such as me, it became a challenge that my mind wasn’t prepared to accept; the idea that there is no human soul, no God, and no underlying reason for my existence. That we are nothing more than a series of firing neurons inhabiting the planet and not much different than any other living creature that exists on the earth was a hard pill to swallow. Not only did I read one article, I read everyone I could get my paws on without paying for and some additional astonishing texts on the subjects as well. Each piece of information left me grappling for more answers to my reason of existence than I had before.

Most relevant to my “rude awakening” was the opening statement made by Nobel Laureate Francis Crick in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis;

“The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

Of course, the cover itself attracts the utmost attention from any “white and nerdy” wanna be such as myself with the words “Nobel Laureate.” Who in their right mind would want to question the opinion of such a highly regarded scholar? Certainly not I, nor anyone else hoping to follow in his footsteps. This alone was an overpowering statement for me.

I grew up Catholic, and although today I can’t promise I fully subscribe to all the beliefs the religion teaches, I can assure you that the basis of the ideas still hold a firm foundation within my psyche – there is a higher power and a higher reason for my being. Suddenly, I’ve been informed by someone I respect that these ideas are nothing more than the dreams of a sleeping animal and its vague attempt to justify its existence. I never thought of God as “the man behind the curtain” - one that watches my every move and judges my every action, but I also never considered him more than a fantasy that stemmed from my neurons. Every emotion, every feeling I have about my beliefs in God can be traced to nothing more than the neurons possibly “tied to a specific place in the brain.” I now find myself caught in the crossroads of understanding and stupidity, wondering if I was better off taking the road well traveled – the one marked “don’t need to know”.

Humans, as a species, tend to be thoughtful creatures, but (assumedly) unlike most animals who simply exist to live, feed, and reproduce, humans actually contain the thought capacity to ask why. Not only do they have the capacity to question these facts, they have the ability to derive theories on why it is. When answers don’t point to logic, human’s turn to higher powers for explanations. Why is the sky blue? Because God wanted it to be blue. These answers are acceptable to children whose narrow vision of the world doesn’t extend beyond their parentscomfort, and most adult not caring to explore the idea further. We find ourselves in a quandary for answers when bad things happen to us; why did my dog die? Why did the tornado hit my house? We blame God for these shortcomings and curse him for not protecting us from harm. If God is such a loving, all-powerful being, why did he let these things happen to me? Answers don’t come from hours of quiet prayer or dedicated prayer sessions with your mother of pearl rosary. We convince ourselves that our “higher powers” must have reasons for the tragedies bestowed upon us – perhaps a test of our faith or an opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of an afterlife in heaven. Not only do people subscribe to it, they live their life and die according to it.

Science has a way of answering questions. If one is bold enough to ask why, one must be strong enough to accept the answer and the possibility that it may lead you to a dark corner of the world you’d rather not travel. This is where the dance begins between Psychology and Philosophy. The study of Psychology focuses its interest on human behaviors and the mental process. The questions come from the science of Philosophy. If one begins to wonder why the brain works the way it does, one has to explore its reason for existence. If one begins to wonder why we exist if not for a higher purpose, then we must explore why we think the way we do. Contrary to my previous assumptions, there is little room for splitting hairs in this matter. How do you explain why a person believes in something they’ve never seen or touched? Where do those beliefs originate? These are the questions conceived by the dance.

Technology affords scientist the ability to explore the human brain without destruction of life or invasive surgery. fMRI scans paint the picture of neurons that fire when religious devotes are deep within their trances indicating the possibility that God’s existence lies not within the human soul, but the human mind. Chemical releases between the neurons send signals to those parts of the brain that process emotion and emotional memory explaining away the euphoria these monks experience when they are “close to their higher powers.” Most interesting about the research is that this modern technology failed to find a consistent area in the brain that was stimulated by these practiced faiths; scientist discovered the left prefrontal cortex activation in Buddhists monks during meditation, frontal lobe activity in women while speaking in tongues, and increased activity in the central brain region of nuns recalling communion with God. Is this the proof that God exists only in our minds? Well, the nuns don’t think so, and most people you bump into will profess some sort of religious faith despite this factual information. Why does religion play such a large role in the lives of our society? Should one dare to accept the possibility that God is nothing more than emotional response? If this is a possibility, one must further concur that there is little difference between the reasons of existence of the coyote as compared to the human. Both exist simply because the species was strong enough to survive the evolutionary process of natural selection, rather than to serve a higher purpose. This is a reality that the human superior ego cannot accept.

The thought of retribution becomes a driving factor in morality and religion. Generations of humans have raised their young to believe that good deeds were awarded by salvation at heaven’s gates, while bad deeds were punishable in the pits of hell. These fear factors alone encourage society to do the right thing in accordance to their beliefs of “ultimate consequence”. Rules of humanity are painted within the pages of a religion’s bible – honor thy mother and father, do not take the Lord’s name in vain, thou shall not kill - all ethical guidelines that have shaped our society. This is what justifies our superiority; we are civilized simply because we subscribe to a set of ideas on living within our faiths of what is honorable and just and fear punishment if we deviate from these ideals. Is it morally correct for science to attempt to take this away from society?

More spectacular in the theory that God lies only within the human mind, is the idea that there is no human soul; no afterlife of existence after death, no reunions with lost love ones in a better universe. If faith builds morals through the belief that the immortal soul will be rewarded for good behavior, what is the reward for living without fear of eternal damnation? Would society revert to its primitive behavior without this divine intervention or would the value of human life increase because human’s understood that there would be no “do over’s” in the form of reincarnation, eternal afterlife and God’s final comforting embrace? For now, we can only devise theories on how we as a species would react if science could one day affirm this possibility without doubt. Until then, I remain the hopeful optimist, believing in the idea that there is a higher purpose for my being, a reason I was granted a breath of life, and the possibility of an existence beyond the realm of reality I understand today.

What I Learned in Professor Coffman’s ENG101-INT Class

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
10:27:29 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing I swear I know this movie by heart!
Mel's English Class

What I Learned in Professor Coffman’s ENG101-INT Class

English was never a difficult subject for me in high school – don’t ask me why, to this day I could barely tell you the difference between an adjective and an adverb – but I effortlessly seemed to excel in the subject. I can only reason that it must have been a gift from the good Lord above.

As a college student, I reckoned that the time had come to pay my dues to the English department. Now I was prepared to be a “student”, to learn the ways of the literature masters and apply my knowledge and love of reading and writing to the task. Perhaps now I would finally learn how to appropriately utilize an action verb in a sentence. A month into the semester, I was wondering what the heck I was doing in this class and what I was going to get out of it. What I expected was a lot of reading of classic literature and essays attached to each one; detailed analysis of published works, lots of long lectures regarding the works of Twain or Dickens and dry diatribes of Poe’s poetry and their effects on American literature. Instead, I found myself in a position of self analysis and working harder for an answer to my limitless questions than I had ever had before. Not only was I expected to do the work; I was expected to know how to do the work – and better my skills with each passing assignment.

Oftentimes I found myself extremely irate that I couldn’t just get a simple answer. “Why can’t he just answer me?” or “why can’t he provide a little more clarification to this assignment?” was often heard cursing from my lips by the spectators of my plight. Anger propelled me to look beyond. I wasn’t about to accept a bad grade and I was determined to do whatever was necessary to ensure this fate didn’t befall my college transcriptions. I began looking outside the box for answers; asking questions from those far more experienced than I, utilizing the internet for answers they didn’t have, and stumbling through large publications on writing and literature. In doing so, I learned far more about my writing skills than I would have if I had spent listless hours examining the work of the Dead Poets Society. I learned quite a lot about myself and my writing style and I worked my carcass off to get there. Perhaps that was the professor’s goal to begin with.

Looking back on all the assignments I had completed for this class I see consistent growth in my work. Much like a baby who finally discovers he can walk without his mother’s hand, I began to see clarification and distinction within each written assignment. Particularly useful was our assignment on rhetoric analysis. At first I found no common sense reason why it was necessary to count each syllable, each word and each sentence in a paragraph until I applied my “white and nerdy” knowledge to the assignment and set it onto graph format. Suddenly, I discovered there was a rhyme. There was a reason and there was a lesson to be learnt. All of the things we were introduced to in the beginning of the semester started making sense; clarifying written work, replacing vague words with specific, invigorating the piece to retain audience attention, structuring the sentences to communicate the specific and poeticize the piece to establish a fluidity of thought - everything my work was lacking.

If it was my goal to improve on my writing skills, then in all honesty I can say that I’ve met that challenge. It did not come easy, but then again, most lessons in life don’t. I know I have to focus a lot more attention on my writing patterns, but at least I can now progress with confidence in a strong foundation of CRISP.

Stylometric Analysis of Mel's Writing

10:21:15 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing Darn Bee Movie!

Stylometric Analysis of Mel's Writing

Comparing Apples to Kiwis

At least once a semester during my educational career, I am complimented on my writing capacities and asked where I obtained the skills and how I developed them. Although flattered by the compliments, I find myself stifling the corresponding Homer Simpson look that comes rushing to my face as I search for an answer – I haven’t a clue what to say, and I certainly don’t want to look like an idiot after they’ve so generously pruned the feathers of my pride. I try to mention one or two things about me that may contribute to the fact; I like to read, I like to learn about new things, I strive for the “white and nerdy” award of the year, but the fact is, I don’t know either. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a pent colon and a tetra colon, and most certainly couldn’t directly point them out in someone else’s work unless you first showed me what I was looking for.

Writing comes as naturally to me as riding a bike, but that sounds like a pompous thing to say – even in print. There’s just something about the way words flow through my mind’s eye; perhaps like a singer who knows they’ve hit a note off key, or a painter who knows to change his brush strokes to emphasize the focus of his piece. Each letter, each word, each sentence written, comes together to tell a story. The gift is the ability to do this well. The great is the ability to do it well andkeep you coming back for more. I don’t consider myself a “great writer”. Heck, don’t even consider myself a “very good” writer. I know there are areas in my ability that require improvement, and I hope that one day, with a little hard work and a lot of guidance from gifted teachers; I will honestly earn the flattery.

Asking me to compare my work to one of my favorite authors is like asking me to compare an apple to a kiwi. Both fruits are sweet to eat, but honestly, isn’t it easier to bite into an apple rather than cut into the furry meat of a kiwi? Exactly how many lunches have you packed a kiwi in? That’s the exact dilemma I found myself in during this project.

The Big Apple

There are many great writers I could have focused my work on; Hemmingway, and his ability to bring color and texture to life, Twain, and his ability to make a muddy river look like an adventure, or even Stowe, and her ability to show compassion to a world she’d never known, but I chose instead to focus on the one writer who not only held my hand through my rebellious teenage years, but also walks with me today and serves as my foundation for inspiration – Stephen King.

Now, I suppose I’m not the first student to ever profess my admiration for King’s work. Television and movies spun off his written works provide those with even the worse case of bibliophobia a taste of King’s talent, and consistent publications (from one who professes to be retired) keeps his fans lined up at the check-out counters of their local Barnes and Noble. There is a reason for his popularity – he’s darn good at what he does. From the minute you read the first page in any of his novels, immediately you find yourself addicted and wanting more. It’s not the gore, or the creature under the bed; it’s the storyteller. I get just as excited reading his work on writing.

The first time I “met” Stephen King, I was still in middle school – about the same age my oldest daughter is now, and a few years after Carrie was put into publication. I spent most of my summer months off school racking up flyer miles as a patron of my neighborhood library (who, to this day STILL remember me). Every few weeks the library would feature the work of an author, and when King’s turn to shine hit the display shelf; I decided to indulge my curiosity in an attempt to discover what the hoopla was about. Comically, the librarian asked me if my parents would approve of my reading choice (obviously a substitute librarian who had yet figured out why I spent so many hours hanging out there in the first place), and that only fueled my desire to read his work. I was seduced into the net and I haven’t hit the waters of ignorance since.

Few artists step into the arena of fame without paying a hefty admission; King is no exception. Long before Carrie was accepted by a publishing company, he paid his dues utilizing his college education by teaching English at a public school in Hampton, Maine. If the saying “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger” is true, than these dues have showed their worth. Every piece of work from King gives his readers another view into his personality, his experiences, and his education. Effortlessly, he sculpts these words into works of art that keep calling back his readers for more.

The Comparison

What I found exceptionally odd while doing this assignment is exactly how low his readability score was. Expecting to find that his written work fell within high school graduate level, I was taken aback to learn that he scored well below this mark. Using the SMOG method of analysis, King’s work fell into the 9.3 level; about the 3rd semester of ninth grade reading. My work fell into the 10.85 level; almost 11th grade reading level. At first, I assumed that the numbers were way off, until I remembered an article I had read in the local paper claiming that the average American could only read at an8th grade level. It would make perfect sense that an astute author would degrade his work in order to capture the attention of his audience.

Another statistic that drew my attention was the difference between King’s word/sentence ratios compared to mine. Analysis confirms that King uses fewer words in his sentences (20.98) than I (23.84); another tool the author may be utilizing to meet the needs of his readers – shorter sentences retain attention. In our age of fast paced technology, readers quickly lose interest in long paragraphs and wordy sentences containing verbiage seldom used in common American conversation. “Hit ‘em where it hurts” seems to come to mind in this thinking – make your point known as quickly as possible and move along.

A Second Opinion

These differences made me wonder about my writing skills compared to someone I hadn’t spent a lot of time in bed with. I began to wonder if the similarities in my writing skills compared to King’s were because he caused such an impact on my literate life. While surfing the net, I became attracted to a piece of work not published as an essay, rather as a transcription of a speech. Although, different as the comparison appeared on the outside (the piece was written to be spoken, while both King’s and my work was written to be read), I found more similarities between the chosen piece and my work, than I had with King. Reading and speaking bare striking similarities; both are intended for communication purposes, and both need to be done well in order to retain the audience’s attention. I felt the comparison was imperative to my quest of becoming a better writer.

The recent media coverage regarding Mormons has weighed heavy on my mind for the last few weeks. Who the heck were they and why the heck did they allow their children to marry much older men? I happened across a speech given by Mitt Romney entitled, “Faith in America”, that spoke about his beliefs as a Mormon and also about his potential candidacy for President and how his religion played a role in his actions. I actually found myself compelled to feel empathy for the man and agreeing with some of the statements he had to make; a task I believed that King himself could not accomplish.

Obviously larger in context compared to my writing or the excerpt from King’s Bag of Bones used for the analysis were, each of the pieces averaged almost identically in the syllables/word ratios; indicating a similar fluidity of verbiage style and patterning. The most surprising difference of all was Romney’s SMOG analysis; 11.85 (almost high school graduate level) compared to either mine or King’s. I suppose Romney’s quest for Presidential candidacy could bear some effect on this score – one would expect that a potential President would be intelligent enough to communicate on a college level.

Making the Change

If my inspiration is to emulate the works of King, I have to learn to make every word count. My focus needs to be on shorter paragraphs and wording while refining my verbiage to account for the difference. I believe another area I need to center on is the reader; paying more attention to the point, and coming to it in a consistent and effective manner.

King has once been quoted as saying that his talent lies not within the story he tells, but in his ability to lead readers to the darkest closets and convince them to open the door. From the very first paragraph, the reader develops a relationship with the characters that don’t often end with the closing of the novel’s back cover. King fosters these relationships by his descriptions of the players, the setting (oftentimes a small, non-existent town in Maine), and the history surrounding each one. It is truly an art; a seduction between the author and the reader that I desperately need to learn if I want to aspire to be as great as him.

Spare the rod and spoil the child; "Experts and their useless advice"

10:08:26 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing The Bee Movie....again!

Spare the rod and spoil the child; "Experts and their useless advice"

People assume that I read a lot of parenting magazines because of my career. The truth of the matter is that I haven’t cracked a binding on one of those magazines since the last time I was at the doctor’s office. It’s not because I’m not interested in the latest baby carriage design or the newest line of children’s wear; it’s because over the years I’ve grown tired of listening to “expert opinions” on how I should rear my children.

Any time an act of senseless violence from a child hits the media, everyone wants to know what went wrong in the discipline department; why didn’t his parents teach him better? Although, I will admit that part of the problem is a relaxed attitude regarding discipline among parents, it’s not the entire problem. The biggest part of the problem is the media’s intrusion upon parental choices of discipline – particularly the use of corporal punishment. Parents should have the ability to use any disciplinary tool they feel is necessary at their discretion, without fear of outside involvement; providing it doesn’t surpass the boundaries of humane behavior and is never dispensed in anger.

Before Dr. Spock wrote the first Baby and Child Care book, most parents took home their bundle and relied on relatives and experienced friends for advice on “behavior modification techniques”. Afterwards, “experts” started appearing on the scene by the truckloads with “new and better ways” to rear your children; if you raise your voice to your child - it’s verbal abuse. If you deny anything from your child - it’s considered neglect, and God forbid you ever invoke a little old fashion corporal punishment – that’s considered physical abuse. Who are these people and what exactly makes them “experts”?

Beneath our designer clothing and material possessions we are nothing more than mammals. Advanced as we may be, our basic instincts still tell us when we are hungry, when we are thirsty and when we should not put our hands on an oven door (yeah, I learned this one the hard way). From the moment a baby is born, he possesses primate characteristics necessary to survival - the ability to tightly grasp an object, particularly hair, is a natural reflex passed down by our primitive generations to ensure our children’s safety within his ability to hold tightly to his mobile mother. To deny the use of these instincts in a child rearing capacity is like attempting to run a marathon without a pair of sneakers - sure, it can be done, but you aren’t going to get very far without some serious injury. Utilizing these instinctive reflexes can really hit the matter home; for every negative action there is an equal reaction – put your hand on a hot stove; you get burnt – and you figure out real fast that you don’t dare attempt to touch the flames again (another hard lesson learned by yours truly). Somehow throughout the generations, we have forgotten the lessons of our forefathers. We assume we are more evolved and thus should utilize logic rather than instinct to discipline our children. Have you ever tried logic on a screaming toddler?

My youngest daughter is an extremely head-strong individual. As a toddler, everything that didn’t go her way evoked a temper tantrum that could make Linda Blair flinch. Once during a trip to Menards, she grew extremely irate when she discovered that she couldn’t take home the car shopping cart. Calmly and without anger, we attempted to reason with her why we couldn’t take the cart home; “The other kids won’t have anything to ride on when they come here”, I said. “We have to leave it here so the workers can clean and polish it for you and get it ready for your next visit,” my husband suggested. She wasn’t buying it. After 40 minutes of reasoning, we decided it was in everyone’s best interest if we simply plucked her out of the cart and took her home regardless of her protest. That’s when the storm rolled in. Instantly she began clawing, screaming and hitting her father - twice he almost dropped her, but never once did he raise his voice in anger. You could barely hear his calm voice assuring her that he understood she was upset, but that sometimes we can’t always have everything we desire. Well, that was all she heard – can’t have what I want - and the rest was history. Bystanders turned and gawked; most of them in disgust, a few of them in sympathy (probably fellow members of the “head-strong” children’s club) as my beloved toddler caught her father with a quick left hook that sent his glasses flying onto the floor and shattered in a million pieces. Amazingly, he never lost his temper – but you could see the “just wait till you get home” look in his eyes as he blindly continued out the store to our vehicle.

Obviously the heat of the moment is not the opportune time to evoke a disciplinary action, but I can also attest to thefact that your toddler will not remember why you are disciplining him an hour and a carton of smokes later. Any choice aparent makes regarding discipline in a situation such as the “Menards incident” will conjure a negative reaction from an audience influenced by the latest media trend. If I “use my words” to express my dissatisfaction with the behavior before I’ve completely cooled off, I might sound tripe or terse – that could be construed as verbal abuse. If I deny any outside playtime, that could be construed as neglect, and if I decide a quick pop on the rear will convey the message until I’ve “come to my senses,” well – you get the picture. Doing nothing about the behavior only teaches the child that you accept what he’s done. The fact is, that as a parent – I’m damned either way, and if I’m going to hell at least let me do the driving.

Parenting is a “learning moment” that never ends once the child hits 18 (much to the dismay of my father). No matter how much experience you have under your belt, you never cease to learn new things when the siblings come around. Every child is different. Each has their own personalities and triggers that help shape their moral behavior. A parent knows their child better than anyone else. If you’re going to hold them accountable for their child’s behavior, why not allow them to do what they feel is best to correct it providing they don’t violate the boundaries of humanity? An astute parent can realize and accommodate these differences and discipline in accordance to their own personalities as well as those of their child. There are no wrong or right answers in this job, and the “experts” certainly can’t pin a “cure all” on a child they’ve never met.

So the next time you find yourself witnesses to heinous behavior from a “head-strong” child ask yourself: Am I their parent? Do I know the child and is it my responsibility to discipline them? If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider looking the other way and allowing the parent a moment to correct the problem. Experts don’t have all the answers and neither do spectators influenced by the media. As a rebellious teen I was introduced to the phrase, “you broke it – you fix it.” If you’re going to blame the parents for their children’s actions – at least allow them the ability to apply the superglue without fear of chastise.

Even the Soul Hungers

Saturday, April 26, 2008
2:57:27 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing The sound of an excited wind

Even the Soul Hungers

Despite years of comfortable living, I still find it easy to remember what it was like to be hungry. These abilities provide me a sense of empathy when I meet someone struggling for their next meal and I find myself compelled to help them fill that need. That urge to assist was strong in me the day I noticed a Vietnam vet holding a sign on Perryville road that simply read: “Vet will work for food”. Tears blurred the road ahead of me insisting I run through the nearby McDonalds drive-thru in order to obtain the nourishment this man sought to have. Believing I was about to give hope to this struggling man, I rolled down my driver’s window and handed him a bag that contained a quarter pounder with cheese meal and a coke to wash it all down. In my days of struggle, a meal like this to me would have been like a fillet mignon with a side of mushrooms to a rich man. Topped with a Coke, life simply could not have gotten much better than that. Instead of the grateful “thank you” I assumed to receive, what was said to me afterwards took me back about eight paces. The vet simply looked upon the gift, grimaced and said, “I can’t eat that. It will tear up my stomach”, and turned to look back onto the street, hoping some other Good Samaritan would better accommodate his request than I. Instantly I was flooded with emotions of hurt followed by anger. I asked nothing of the man. Neither to mow my lawn or paint my house nor to wash my car, and yet, I had discovered that this man, so hungry that he would challenge the laws of panhandling in hopes of obtaining a meal, looked down on me with disgust. I simply had to understand why. His reply was shocking: “I want a steak and a bottle of bourbon”. It was then that I had realized that his hunger stemmed not from his gut; rather from his soul, and that his desires, much like my own, were left starving.

Generations of parents have wanted more for their children than they had for themselves, and without these inborn desires we would not have automatic washing machines, automobiles and indoor toilet facilities. The days of ration books and scarce food supplies has been replaced by the abundance of genetically altered plants and cattle that afford most of us a basic meal to nourish our bodies. We live in a plentiful world that affords us the opportunities to decide where to live, how many children to produce, and what careers we want to work in. Certainly you’d believe that we’d be far happier than our parents before us, but surprisingly, we’re not. For all we have attained, we still continue to search for better ways to fill an empty chasm with things money can’t buy and we teach our children to value material goods by our actions.

Christina Onassis (1) spent her entire charmed life looking for answers. Born the daughter of shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, she touted a tax free income of one million dollars a week. This budget allowed her to indulge her tastes in the finer things life had to offer. Despite living in Switzerland, if a fresh diet coke was her fancy, she simply contacted her private jet and instructed them to obtain ten cases at $3,000 a case from the American bottling company. The finest clothing, jewelry and furs were but a phone call away and every eligible suitor from near and far called on her hoping to be her next husband. None of these facts ever enabled her to have the things she wanted; an honest and true enduring love. It was this sad legacy she passed onto her only child.

Most people believe that if they only had “just one more thing” that their life would be better and they would be happier. I often cross the border of personal space by asking strangers; “What would you do with a million dollars?” Not surprising are the answers I get from them; “I’d buy myself a yacht and travel the world”, one elderly man explained to me. One woman told me, “I’d buy myself a cottage and have a little vegetable garden”. Every answer seemed to point towards the “me” and none of the answers seemed to point to personal fulfillment. Certainly with such a large sum of money one would believe that even a minute portion of this fortune could be spent on someone less fortunate, but no one ever seems to consider that until I bring it to their attention. Money is simply a tool that enables to us obtain the material things and necessities we desire, but each of us must condition ourselves to realize when enough is enough and learn to push away from the table of prosperity and turn our attention towards helping others.

The more we get, the more we seem to want. It’s not a fulfillment of a need; it’s a desire to obtain all that we believe we deserve. Desires compel us to excel and to make our lives better, but it seems that once we’ve obtained these goals, instead of feeling accomplished we continue to feel empty and void. Will a yacht to travel the world or a cottage by the lake ensure our happiness? Certainly not. But the challenge of getting there and the potential to fulfill the goal is what should excite and propel us to move forward. What we have to begin to learn as a society is not only to take pleasure in what we have accomplished, but in what more we can accomplish; to fill our emotional voids not with material possessions, but with morals and matters of the heart.

The “one more thing” we strive to achieve doesn’t come wrapped in a neat little box and no amount of money can secure its purchase. Mother Theresa once said, “Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own” (2). In our desires to obtain “the next big thing” we have neglected our neighbors, our state, and our country. We fail to make time to visit the dying, to give the homeless a moment of our time and the lonely the gift of a visit. We continually assume that someone else will accept the responsibilities we fail to acknowledge and in doing so, we deprive only one person of a fulfilled life; ourselves.

Giving to others is the greatest joy we give to ourselves. In doing for others, we nourish the one thing our desires secretly wish to fulfill; our souls. Without this we merely live in a shell of existence. Adam Smith (3), perhaps best known for his published work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, believed that when people sought their own prosperity and growth their efforts would serves as an “invisible hand” that benefits all. Although his quote was regarded in terms of economic prosperity, the message speaks loudly to the soul’s prosperity as well. I once viewed a movie titled, Pay it Forward (4). In the story, a child’s social studies teacher gives his students the assignment of doing one thing to change the world around them. While most of the students came up with ideas on how to better the environment, one special student came up with a simple idea: Bestow one good deed on three people and ask them to do the same for someone in return. If we can devise ways to improve the quantity and quality of the foods we eat, why can we not devise ways to improve the moral lives we lead? Perhaps in the simple act of taking time out of our busy lives to better someone else’s by a basic kind human gesture we will find the means of fulfilling our greatest desires and make our world a better place for the next generation.