Saturday, November 29, 2008

Barbarians at the Gates

Wal-Mart Worker Dies After Shoppers Knock Him Down

Wal-Mart worker dies after being bulldozed by bargain-hunting Black Friday shopping stampede

The Associated Press

A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday when "out-of-control" shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5 a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

OK. There are so many things blatantly wrong with this that I hardly know how, nor where, to begin casting forth the much-deserved vituperations. I don’t get angry about much, but this certainly does it. While the trampling incident is shocking and tragic, the most sickening part of this was that customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death.

They kept shopping?!?

What on earth is wrong with those people?! I’m sorry, but have we come to this? Has the desire for a “bargain” dredged up from the distant past a barbaric form of greed that overrides more civilized, respectful sensibilities? The rampaging herd mentality is one thing (commercialism in one of its ugliest manifestations), but for the angry crowd to continue shopping, shopping of all things, in light of the tragedy that they themselves caused defies any logical explanation beyond the fact that humans are, at least in terms of social economics, far less evolved than they pride themselves to be. The barbarians aren’t at the gates; they’re at Wal-Mart or wherever bargains are to be had.

Now, perhaps I’m being harsh. As we all know, people aren’t really responsible for their own actions, so maybe the sales bear the ultimate responsibility for the man‘s death. As you read further in the AP article, you see what sort of deals drove the crowd into it‘s blind fury, items including a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.


DVDs for nine dollars.

How could the crowd be at fault when tempted with such deals?

From time to time one reads a new story of similar tramplings associated with emergency humanitarian food drops in the developing world. While these incidents are also tragic, they’re somewhat more understandable in the sense that they involve a core life issue like, say, starvation. But for such a tragedy to happen in the context of non-critical material goods (even at bargain prices!) indicates a lost way, a reign of greed, a profound social illness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


A cold and blustery evening here in Norfolk with an ever so slight chance of snow. Yep. Snow. Not bloody likely here in the Tidewater, but nice to consider nonetheless. Perhaps it's not as impossible as one might think. If Virginia could happy go blue this election, snow here in November is suddenly probable. To complete the cold autumn evening effect, a pot of hearty beef stew is slow-simmering away in the kitchen with a Harvest Yankee Candle flickering away in the living room, casting moving monstrous shadows on the walls, much to the interest of the cats.

The evening's agenda consists of little more than wrapping up dinner and getting some more reading done. I wrote at length in the journal earlier this evening and may pen a few more lines before I return to the Che biography, which I am very much enjoying. The quality of this book is such that I would happily take a day off from work for the purpose of reading all day. It's a rare book that incites such a degree of interest for which one would happily burn valuable vacation time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rainy Afternoon

Home from work a couple hour later than planned. The steady rain puts me in the mood for a nap, but that can't be incorporated into the agenda as there's much to do this afternoon and evening before I get started with the cooking. I dearly love days like this: dark and dreary with a delightful rain. Few things put one in the mood to curl up all day with a book or scribble for hours in the journal about nothing and everying. At least for me, there's something about rainy days that spurs on the creative/intellectual processes. to make coffee lest I succumb to the temptation of sleep.

Morning Coffee

Just a few quick lines before I ready myself for work. We're having a bit of dense fog here in Norfolk this morning with more rain on the way for later today, tonight, and tomorrow. If all goes as planned, I am going to take off early from the office, hopefully no later than noon or shortly thereafter. It has been a long week, so I am looking forward to starting the weekend early. Besides, a friend will be coming over for dinner tonight (that's the plan anyway) and I need to tidy up the apartment and make a run to the grocery for a few things. to ready myself for the day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Selection

It took but a little deliberation after Sunday's post to select the next book: I decided to go with the Che biography. I had planned that afternoon to read only the introduction and maybe begin the first chapter, but when i got into the book I ended up reading well into the night and only reluctantly stopped due to the necessity of sleep for an early day at the office on Monday. As today is a holiday from work with little on the agenda, I plan to spend quality hours with Che. I am impressed with Anderson's writing style: lively and engaging, full of detail, yet far from tedious. My current assessment is that this is going to be a very good book and I regret having waited so long to read it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lazy Sunday

I’ve done little today other than read. Hours spent curled up in a chair with a book and a coffee near at hand. Such a delight, this. Early this afternoon I finished up Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and am giving some thought now to the next selection. I’ve narrowed the possibilities down to two, both revolutionary in nature: Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, or John Lee Anderson’s biography of Che Guevara. Most likely I’ll spend a little more time browsing the bookcases here at home to see if anything else catches my eye. While I would be happy with either of the two finalists, I rather enjoy a book leaping off the shelf and saying “READ ME!” Not literally, of course. If such was the case, that particular volume would summarily be flung from the window at the end of a broom.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday Morning Update

It’s a quiet Saturday morning here in Norfolk. Autumn, my favorite time of the year, is in full swing. The dogwood outside my study, backlit by the rising sun, glows a brilliant red, with green pines beyond creating a delightful contrast. Change is in the air. The weather is forecast to be mild today with a chance of rain later on. While it would be an almost ideal day to get out on a day trip/photo expedition, pager duty with work will unhappily keep me close to home. While I need to go to the office today to work on a few things beginning to pile up on my desk, I’m thinking that I will forego that and enjoy the time here at home. Such free time is a treat of sorts as I’ve worked so many weekends this year.

So much time as passed since I last posted regular entries on here that I don’t quite know where, nor how, to resume the conversation. And I’m equally unsure how blogging fell by the wayside the way it did. I suspect a combination of factors was responsible. Shifting interests, lack of time, and just plain ol’ laziness. As is often the case, I tend to fall headlong into such endeavors until I’m forced to take a break due to sheer exhaustion. Photography captured my attention for a while, but has since been placed on the backburner until I‘m inspired again to pick up the camera. Probably the same this is true with my blogging habits. During my time away from here, I have noticed a sort of inverse relationship between blogging and journal keeping. While my posts here all but ceased, there was a marked upswing in the handwritten journal entries, the result of which was a number of Moleskine notebooks filled with much of the random prattle that used to appear on here.

Speaking of journaling, I thought I'd post an image of such for everyone's viewing pleasure. This is a shot of my "thematic journal" (which has since been converted to more of a daily journal format) taken earlier this year. The notebook is a Moleskine and the fountain pen a Lamy Safari. Fountain pens were an experiment this year (had never really used one before) and I've become quite enamored with them, though their use has necessitated a modification in my writing style, meaning I've had to write larger than usual. I still use my favorite micro-fine point gel pens from time to time depending on my mood. My biggest gripe about the fountain pen and Moleskine combination is that some inks tend to bleed through the thin paper of the Moleskine journal. While this is frustrating to a point, I do enjoy the experimentation it entails. And the unworkable inks...well...they make good Christmas gifts. :P