Merry consumerism to you!

christianity, Everyday, Rant

Yesterday I went to the post office to buy stamps with a coworker of mine and we ended up having a conversation with a young guy in line ahead of us about the craziness that is the holiday season in America. He pointed out the amazing difference between celebrating what we are thankful for on a Thursday, then fighting over televisions and cheap toys on a Friday. And then shopping all day online on a Monday. Then maybe giving back on Giving Tuesday if you have spare change. That’s crazy, people!

Now, I’m not gonna lie. I definitely took advantage of the awesome deals I found at my favorite online retailers. But getting a deal is not the point. Getting a new TV is not the point. Those things are not inherently bad. It’s the attitude with which we procure those items that leads to a very dark road full of angry mobs and unmet expectations. It’s the fact that we often feel entitled to 40% off and free shipping. The fact that instead of spending time with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we line up at stores so we don’t miss out on products we can always buy later. The idea that we can actually get disappointed if we don’t get our favorite pie at Thanksgiving or the Christmas gifts we wanted or the right color or the right size, when we shouldn’t expect to get anything at all. Because frankly, we don’t deserve any.

For those who celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas like I do, they know that it is a time to remember Jesus’s birth and the fact that when He entered the world he paved the way for us to have a personal relationship with God by giving Himself up for us and dying on a cross for our sins. So no, we don’t deserve any gifts. That’s a pretty big gift right there.

For those who don’t celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, that’s understandable. To be honest, the secular holiday has far surpassed the religious one and (let’s be real here) most scholars agree that Jesus was probably not born on December 25. So I get the love of all things Christmas without the Christ. There’s no War on Christmas, no hard feelings on my behalf that you don’t recognize the immense importance of the holiday (although, I would highly recommend you reading the full biblical account). But I also believe God’s gift applies to you as well. We don’t deserve anything, so we should be thankful and grateful for what we are given and take joy in giving to others.

Now to conclude this rather messy rant…I’m not asking for people to stop buying things. Honestly, it’s great for the economy. I’m not asking people to stop giving gifts to each other, because it’s often a great way to show someone you care. All I’m asking is for us to stop and think about our attitudes this holiday season. To really think about our expectations, our perceptions, and our preparation for a season full of temptations and indulgence and opportunities for selfishness. To find joy this season in the gifts we’ve already been given. And that is how you have a Merry Christmas.

Walk The Talk

Rant

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a words person. Words are more powerful than people realize. I mean, we’re the only mammals with language abilities—that’s amazing, people! But over the past year I’ve realized something that has altered my opinion of words: words mean absolutely nothing if not backed up by actions. Yes, this is a simple concept. But people seem to have forgotten that it’s necessary to support what you say with complimentary actions. You can’t just say you’re a writer if you never pick up a pen. And you can’t say you’re an athlete if you don’t go on the field. I’m sick of hearing people say that they’re pro-whatever, when they don’t actively support it. Or that they subscribe to a certain belief system, but you couldn’t tell from their lifestyle.

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Our society is full of wannabes and empty-statements. 140-character long identities that don’t last more than a second. We spend so much time cultivating our Pinterest boards and building our Facebook persona and tweeting our Buzzfeed quiz results, but we fail to live our lives in a way that really means something. We live in a world where it is more accepted to boast your personality type than your personal beliefs.

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It’s time that we as a society find our voice, and not one that is an echo of someone else’s. I don’t care if we agree on everything or can’t agree on anything. But I will respect you if your life reflects what you claim in your sociopolitical Facebook posts. If you think everyone deserves love, then show everyone love. If you think we need better care for the poor, then start sharing your own finances. If you think that health care is an issue, then start caring about the health of the people down the street. Don’t just stand up for what you believe in. Do something about it.

photo 1

It has been said that actions speak louder than words. But they do more than that. They don’t just change the black and white to color; they bring them to life in high-definition. Actions substantiate words; they give them power.

So stop saying things that you aren’t willing to live. Your words are more than just audible reflections of your thoughts. They should be reflections of what you do now and promises of what you will do in the future.

Let’s all go to Candyland.

Advertising, Everyday, Rant

Today at work I played a game of Candyland. Yes, that’s how cool my job is. My fellow creatives and I needed a mental break and whipped out this cardboard classic and let loose–well, as much as you can with such a simple game. I mean, have you made a trip down the rainbow pathway to the Candy Castle recently? It could be the most foolproof game in history; I’m almost ashamed to have once found it entertaining. Our game took a total of two minutes. Two minutes is all it took for my friend to make it from the Peppermint Forest, past the Gumdrop Mountains, through the Molasses Swamp, and into the gates of the Candy Castle. The game itself relies on neither skill nor luck–not even chance. I think even an amoeba could play it and win.

Aside from it’s simplicity, there was something else I noticed that disturbed me: they changed the game. The mysterious “they” of course refers to the brains over at Milton Bradley whose sole jobs are to mess with my childhood. To give you a glimpse into the game’s importance to me let me explain that my sister and I used to play Candyland in real life. Basically, we’d pick characters and reenact them in classic toddler role-playing fashion. So these small “changes” completely reject the cornerstones of my childhood fantasy world.

Firstly, Princess Lollipop is no longer Princess Lollipop. She is merely, Lolly. This is a travesty of the highest kind because she was my favorite and I always insisted on playing her. At first, I guessed that perhaps Milton Bradley was trying to make her more “hip” like when they made Dora the Explorer a teenager and gave her long hair and sparkle pumps. But then I realized that poor Lolly wasn’t getting a promotion on the social ladder, her title was actually stripped from her by Queen Frostine who, in attempt to stay young, is now called “Princess Frostine”. On a side note, does that mean she and King Kandy got a divorce? I’d like to play that board game…

Secondly, they removed perhaps one of my favorite–and the cutest–of all the Candyland characters: Jolly. He was plump and purple and utterly ridiculous, but who can argue with that adorable face and those crazy eyes? What did he ever do to deserve a complete removal from the game? The characters don’t even do anything and are purely decorative. This makes no sense, Milton.

Yes, this game is purely a device to teach children color-recognition, but part of me still feels gypped. One of my fellow players couldn’t have said it better, “I won and I’m still mad.”

I encourage everyone to explore the Candyland Wikipedia page to experience more frustration. Click here for that.

By the way, the rights for a Candyland movie have been sold and Adam Sandler is the man behind it. Is this news sweet or sour? You decide. Other than the fact that the game provides next to no starting material for a plot, my only question is what role will Sandler play? Maybe they’ll bring back Jolly…

Me Against The World

Rant

THE WORLD:
If I haven’t found The One, I’m not trying hard enough.
If I don’t have a boyfriend, I’m running out of time.
If I’m not interested in a guy, I must not be interested in guys.
If I’ve never been on a date, my standards are too high.
If no one asks me out, I’m not putting myself out there.
If I like being single, I must be antisocial.
If I’ve never been in love, I must be heartless.
If I’m not looking, I must be crazy.

MY WORLD:
If I’m not looking, it’s because I want to be pursued.
If I’ve never been in love, it’s because I know what true love is.
If I like being single, it’s because I know I don’t need a man to be happy.
If no one asks me out, it’s because God is protecting my heart.
If I’m not interested in a guy, it’s because I’m waiting for a man of God.
If I have high standards, it’s because they are God’s standards.
If I don’t have a boyfriend, it’s because God has something better planned.
If I haven’t found The One, it’s because He’s not of this world.

Learning Higher

Rant

I don’t think people these days realize that there’s a difference between a degree and an education. Most seek the paper and forgo the knowledge. They do just enough to get the grade, pass the course, fulfill the requirement, and they could care less about actually learning. That’s why “education” means nothing to some and everything to others. It’s no longer a prize or a privilege—it’s another box to check.

Years ago an education was something only few could obtain and now everyone feels entitled to it. Some are “forced” to pursue higher learning (as if that guarantees success) and they feel cheated when their diploma bounces at the bank.

I write this because, as I near the end of my formal education, I have started to count the things I’ll miss: being surrounded by scholars, being introduced to new thoughts I would never have encountered on my own, having the ability to take a course on film theory or logic or intellectual history… Ultimately, I’m going to miss being surrounded by ideas. It pains me that many of my peers could care less about the opportunity they have been given. They just want to get out and graduate and probably couldn’t tell you much about the courses they’ve taken or the professors they’ve had. Believe me, I want to graduate too, but that’s because I want to put my knowledge to work. I want to practice the skills that I’ve spent four years developing. I want to explore the world and add to my treasure box of concepts and theories.

To me, my degree is a passport, not a destination.

Teenage Wasteland

Rant

It’s amazing how much TV you miss when you don’t have a TV. It’s also amazing how much you realize that a lot of shows on television today truly suck. I don’t have a TV in my dorm room and, even if I did, my residence hall is the only one on campus that doesn’t get cable so I’d be out of luck anyway. Throughout my time in college I have discovered that I never really needed a television in the first place. Half the stuff on TV these days is complete and utter crap–at least the stuff on during the day. I feel like Prime-time and HBO are the only things worth watching anymore. Case and point: Secret Life of the American Teenager. It’s more than a train wreck, it’s a like watching ten train wrecks while listening to the sounds of raccoon’s dying. I don’t understand how any teenager’s life is as screwed up as the ones portrayed in the show. Not to mention that their parents are almost more immature than their kids are. What makes me sad is that they act like life is supposed to be that way. Refer to the show’s title to see their outrageous claim that they are revealing some sort of big secret. I beg to differ. It doesn’t seem like the characters on the show are keeping any secrets at all. That’s probably the reason they are getting into all these dramatic situations. Just stop telling people your secrets, people! At least Degrassi: The Next Generation has class–please note that my working definition for class has been significantly altered considering the state of TV these days. However, if that’s really a portrayal of the “next” generation, what will the “next next” generation be like? I can only imagine a world run by sexually frustrated adolescents employed at the local mall kiosk jacked up on cocaine and just looking for that certain special emotionally-dependent person to fulfill their need for negative attention and take them to the senior prom. We are surely doomed.

And don’t get me started on Snookie.

A Not So Jolly Holiday

Random, Rant

Mary Poppins is a tease.

Has anyone else been thinking this? I mean, come on. Poor Bert. He’s the perfect guy and Mary steps all over him. He’s just trying to live an honest life with his one-man band, playing street corners and occasionally hitting up the night life at the rooftop clubs. All he wants is for Mary to notice him, but she takes his love for granted. Ms. Poppins’ blatant disregard for Bert’s feelings can be seen during their impromptu sidewalk chalk date when Bert expresses his adoration for her:

Bert says wonderfully romantic things to Mary–things any girl in her right mind would die for. He declares that Mary makes his heart feel light and the sun shine bright. All of creation blooms at the sound of her very name. When he holds her hand his heart nearly bursts from his chest! He’s in love and he doesn’t care who knows it! Bert is a true gentleman: he doesn’t pressure her to go to a bar and get wasted; instead he takes Mary out to a tea party in a magical chalk world and they ride ponies at the carnival and pet the animals at the petting zoo. He even choreographs a dance for her with penguins in cute matching outfits. What more could a girl ask for?

But no. Mary Poppins has Bert in the ultimate friend-zone. For someone who is practically perfect in every way she can certainly be a bit dense sometimes. Aside from the fact that Bert has no realistic prospects and they would most likely be dependent on the British government to support their future family, he is the perfect boyfriend. But, instead of giving him a chance, Mary shamelessly leads him on, calling him a true gentleman, a diamond in the rough, and an all-around “good guy” without any intention of dating him. She’s not even impressed when he takes her up to his chimney and shows her his sensitive side. On the rooftop he puts in a last-ditch effort to win her love by explaining that he may be on the bottom-most rung of life’s ladder, but he his proud of his trade and is a leader in his community (PLUS: the boy can dance!). Wake up, Mary! Love is a-knockin’! 

But no. Mary is not impressed. She flys away on her dingy old parasol, leaving him to wallow in his self-pity and soot. Ouch! Bert should have realized that playing the nice-guy card wouldn’t get him very far with Mary. Maybe he should have ditched the kids and the penguins and taken Mary to the pub instead. Maybe he should have taken advantage of her cheery disposition like many of the men in the world do. Maybe he should have given up his dreams of stardom and joined Mr. Bank’s bank so he could support Mary’s frivolous lifestyle. Or maybe Mary should have just realized that she could do far worse than Bert. I guess Mary is like all other girls out there: she won’t realize what she has until she loses it. And Bert moves on.

Disney Rant 2

Rant

I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad. –Ariel (Little Mermaid)

It seems that whenever Disney pops up in my posts it’s so that I can tear the corporation apart. Believe me, I love myself some Disney (I was basically raised on it), but every so often I realize that some of their messages are a tad questionable. There are tons of blogs and videos explaining that it creates unrealistic expectations of love for young girls and then of course, there is the overwhelming representation of broken households, but few stop and look at the lyrics of the well-loved classics. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are fabulous and deserve every award they have received (I even own the Disney Greatest Hits volumes 1, 2, and 3). It hasn’t been till recently that I have actually started looking at the messages within the lyrics (thanks to @disneywords). And despite their uplifting and inspiring nature, sometimes Disney is just plain wrong.

Let’s correct Miss Ariel. Sorry, Honey, but plenty of places that make good things are bad and bad for you. Take China for example. They make almost everything you buy – that’s pretty good – but, then again, they’re constantly a military threat. #2: The people that do the advertising for the Dove Campaign for True Beauty could be considered good people, promoting real beauty of all shapes and sizes. However, the agency also does ads for Axe for Men which promotes the objectification of women. Finally, Roman Polanski makes wonderful films – award winning films – but he is no longer allowed in the United States due to his questionable activity with a young woman.

Looking back on my small list, I realize I probably picked the most egregious examples to attack little miss Ariel. I just wanted to point out that she is naive. Then again, I guess Disney likes to celebrate that sort of idealist youth who believes in the good in everyone. That’s pretty cool. But Ariel would have kept her voice a little longer had she known the truth.

A luxurious ideal.

Rant

I returned last night from a week-long mission trip in Haiti. It was a remarkable experience that I don’t think I could truly put into words. I didn’t realize how much I was affected by my time there until this morning when I went to the gym, trying to get back into my daily routine. Everything was back to normal, I woke up at the same time, ate the same breakfast, and made it to the gym as always, iPod in hand, ready with the same Workout Playlist I had listened to every morning. But, as I ran on the treadmill, I was completely caught off-guard and overwhelmed with a sense of injustice and disgust. The ten flat-screen TV screens ahead of me relayed shallow stories of pop culture, materialistic advertisements, and the ever-present issue of politics. As I watched a clip from one of Lady Gaga’s music videos I couldn’t help but think that while she reeks of ostentatious “glamour” there are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in Haiti (and other parts of the world for that matter) who couldn’t even dream up the images filling the screen. I looked around the room at those working off a few extra pounds or merely trying to stay in shape. The people of Haiti don’t have the luxury of needing to workout, let alone would they have the energy to do so. They are more concerned with gaining a few pounds than losing it. These observations may seem a bit blown out of proportion, but not if you really think about it.

There are so many things in our lives, possessions and obsessions, that are not only unnecessary, but flat-out luxury items. Most of what we do, what we own, and what we even think, is a luxury item. However, not all luxury items are wasteful or sopping with self-indulgence. I have come to realize that my love of writing is a luxury in its own right. The fact that I even get to pursue it, even as a hobby, is something that others may never have the means to enjoy. I’m not saying that passion is something to feel sorry about. What really grieves me is that the people who have the luxury of passion often take it for granted. So much is wasted because we perceive what we have as ordinary. We look in the mirror and think, “I’m average”, when we have unlimited resources within us that need only be tapped, resources that can be utilized to make the world a better place, or at least a little more bearable. I interacted with scores of children in Haiti and each and everyone of them holds the potential for something great. I touched future authors and artists. I held hands with the businessmen and ballet dancers of tomorrow, the politicians and patriarchs that could start a movement. Most will never be able to realize their potential because they don’t have the luxury of reaching it.

There has to be a way to extend their reach.

The Price of Knowledge

Everyday, Rant

Sometimes I feel that professors purposely make errors in their textbooks so that they can print a new edition the next year without having to do any additional writing. Although it is a good way of generating money (or a steady consumer base for a poorly-written textbook that would otherwise go un-purchased), I find it frustrating when I pay $110 for a textbook that has typos riddled through it.

I experienced this with my science for non-majors professor last year. Not only was the cover of her self-authored textbook generated with WordArt, but the images used to illustrate the scientific principles we were supposed to be learning were from ClipArt. To top it all off, prepare yourself, she cited Wikipedia not once, but numerous times as a legitimate source for her findings. Clearly, this woman put a lot of effort into her work and I got the honor of absorbing her poorly-written knowledge for the low, low price of $110. I sucked it up and bought the thing, knowing that I could not pass her course without the book and its accompanying workbook. I eased the pain of the purchase by reminding myself that I could sell it back at the end of the year and recoup some of the expenses. Instead of highlighting key concepts and theories, I spent most of the semester underlying and reporting typos. Finals week came around and I ran to the campus bookstore immediately following my final. But I could not sell it back, oh no. I was informed that it was now considered useless because my professor was releasing a new edition the following semester. Turns out she wrote down every typo I mentioned and popped out a crisp new version. I have decided to never make that mistake again and that is perhaps the only valuable thing I learned from that course.