Elf on the Shelf

th-1When did Elf on the Shelf become a thing?  I never even heard of this growing up.

I remember having an elf.  I called him Mischievous, and I made up stories about him.  I remember riding the bus with a slightly younger girl and telling her stories about the magical elf.  I have no idea where I got it or where it went.  This wasn’t a Christmas thing; as far as I recall, I did this year round.

I think elf on the shelf is a cute idea, and Pinterest has some great ideas on how to do it, both nice and erm… naughty.

I asked my Facebook friends about Elf on the Shelf and got quite a few mixed reactions.  So what do you do when you need an answer?  Ask Mr. Google, of course!

According to Mr. Google (and Wikipedia), Elf on the Shelf came about because of a  2005 book by the same name, written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart.  The book came with an elf, and al la Cabbage Patch Kids, had a section where you named your elf to “adopt” it.

The original idea was that the elf was to play hide and seek, hiding and spying on kids for Santa.  Pinterest makes it look like a lot of people set up scenes with what their elf was doing and how it got in trouble.  Either way, I find the idea both cute and creepy simultaneously.  Apparently my Facebook friends are pretty evenly split too.  Big Brother was mentioned numerous times.

So where do you weigh in… cute or creepy?

1984- A Review

thI finally finished 1984, by George Orwell.  While I wouldn’t say it’s an easy read, it is an interesting one.  It took me about two weeks to get through, and that’s mostly because it’s not a book I particularly wanted to read in order to “relax.”  Some classics have nice language, but are boring stories.  This book has an interesting story and is well written.  There are times it’s either more or less interesting, but overall, it’s a book I recommend reading, at least once.

I talked a few days ago about my thoughts on how scary the society’s attitude toward language is, so I won’t return to that.  The book had a fast paced plot with accessible language and good writing.  The problem with the book is that the subject matter is too weighty to read it primarily for relaxation.  Last time I read it, for whatever reason, I had to force myself, and I lost interest halfway through.  This time, though I read it from the beginning, it kept me pretty riveted.

I believe that this book is timeless because it deals with concepts and ideas, a reality that could happen, rather than events.  Yes, the book is laid out in a dystopian future (published in 1949, it was the future), but the book isn’t primarily about the plot.  This an extreme example of where society could go.  It’s an extreme example of losing one’s humanity.  If you’re controlled, suppressed, made to think and act a certain way, you lose humanity.  Throughout the book, whenever they talked about the “lower classes,” the Proles, I thought, “Well, can’t he (the main character) just go be a Prole?  That’s what I’d rather do.”  The thought of being watched and controlled is intolerable to me.

What scares me most about this book is that I see little things happening here and there.  From the beginning, I’ve said that I’d rather be less secure on an airplane than go through so much security.  I’d rather be less safe than know the NSA is watching and listening.  I’m okay with life’s uncertainty.  In theory, what’s going on isn’t so bad.  But where does it stop?  If our rights erode a little bit at a time, how long will it take before they’re gone?

These are my questions… I’m unfortunately not political enough to have good answers.  I want freedom to think and act and be as I choose.  Our system of government evolved so that certain people could represent the rest of use.  But are they representing us anymore?

The sad truth is that those in power will always want more power.  And they get it by saying it’s for our own good, something that sounds good enough at first that those of us who just want to live our lives will buy it.  At first.

Read 1984.  Discuss it with people.  It’s a good book whether you look at it as purely a work of fiction, as a warning, or a reality.

So Many Wonderful Words

thI tried to read George Orwell’s 1984 once before, and I couldn’t get into it.  I don’t know why I picked it back up a few days ago, but it called to me.  I’m enjoying it much more this time around, and the concepts in it are really making my brain work.

I’m only about 75 pages in, but I’m going to discuss concepts from the book, so if you’re not familiar with it or don’t want me to ruin it, stop reading now.

Still with me?  Good.  Today I was reading the part where Syme excitedly discusses with Winston (the narrator) about the destruction of words.  NewSpeak, the official language of Oceana, is all about decreasing the number of words.  After all, Syme explains, if you have fewer words, it’s harder to commit ThoughtCrime.  If you have fewer words to work with, it’s harder to think for yourself.  Why have words like terrible, awful, rotten, evil, or bad, when you can just say ungood?  Why have wonderful, amazing, beautiful, astounding or lovely when you can just say good, plusgood, or double plusgood?  After all, isn’t it more precise to use those words than other ones that have shades of meaning instead of just one?

What a terrifying concept!  Words naturally evolve, and certain words go out of fashion, seldom used.  Betwixt has outgrown its usefulness, as has fortnight and mayhap.  But the words aren’t banned; they still exist.  I can use them if I want to.  I can look them up, write them down.  I’ve read those words in old speeches and historical romance novels.

In Oceana, the act of writing something on paper is subversive.  Having thoughts of your own is subversive.  I can write in my journal everyday, or not at all.  I can blog about anything.  Phil Robertson can say what he wants about religion and gay people, and no one will arrest him.  People will argue about it on Facebook and Twitter, in person and by posting memes.  Some support him, some are against him, and others don’t care.  But every person arguing a point has the right to do so.  No one will arrest anyone on any side of the argument.

The bleakness of Oceana is it’s least terrifying feature.  The poverty and hopelessness are nowhere near as depressing as Big Brother controlling speech and thereby trying to control thought.  Syme further talks about taking the classics and changing them into something acceptable, and once they’re changed, they won’t be anything like the original.  His thought process is perfectly logical, presented reasonably, and utterly maddening to me.

I am anti-censorship.  I support the right of people to present vulgarity as art or entertainment, because who am I to judge?  Freedom means freedom; not just freedom for what I approve of.  The only censorship I believe in is the right for parents to censor what their children watch/ read, and my right to choose, turn off the channel, ignore.  Yes, there are things I dislike, but once censorship starts, where does it stop?  People should be informed about what they read and watch, but then have the right to choose what they like and what they don’t.  I don’t have cable.  I don’t want to pay for Jersey Shore and Desperate Housewives, Honey Boo Boo, or Toddlers and Tiaras.  So I don’t.  I have Netflix, not cable.  That’s my choice, and if you want to watch any of those shows, that’s yours.  We both have rights.

I’ll take the right to think and speak and produce art in any form I choose over any type of outside censorship.  If I don’t want to be controlled, then I don’t have the right to control others.

What’s wonderful about all this is that you have the right to agree or disagree with anything (or everything) I’ve said.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

(Just a Little) Paranoid

“Big brother is watching” is something I say often.  I admit it; I’m a little paranoid, and I don’t like the idea of being watched.  It’s not that I have anything to hide; in fact, outside my head, I lead a fairly boring life.  It’s the idea that someone could watch if they wanted to that freaks me out.  It’s not enough to stop me from doing certain things.  I carry club cards and let stores collect info on my purchases.  I have a Facebook account.

However, I’m not so sure about this new Google privacy policy. Starting March 1, they will be collecting information on your searches.  You can disable it, and I’ll include the instructions in a link below.  On one hand, it makes good sense to allow companies to collect information.  Information helps them make better products and target the consumer.  On the other hand, do I want to allow Big Brother in my business?  Is this an inevitable result of technology?  Or something I should do my best to block?

The fact is that I don’t have the answers, just lots of questions.  I’m sure Google doesn’t mean to be nefarious, and that the information that I spend waaaaay too much time looking at the various “fail” websites isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of, but…  I’d find it nearly as creepy to have some guy with bad breath and a Steve Urkel laugh standing over my shoulder looking at what I’m going on my computer.  Just sayin’.