Remember the 90s?

24 Feb

There’s no arguing that 90s culture has found a resurgence in a big way. Between the subtle and not so subtle fashion trends that draw inspiration from 90s grunge and flannel to florals and day-glo, like Jeremy Scott’s most recent collection pictured below, to the return of some of my favorite shows from growing up (Nickelodeon’s “The 90s Are All That” = Love!) you can see signs of it everywhere.

Eat my sweater!

But the literary theory lover in me keeps speaking up as I re-watch Clarissa explaining it all and I’m starting to question what it is about 90s culture that just seems so right right now.

I wonder if this is just a “Fashion 360⁰”, where we grow up and wear what we wanted to wear when we were 10. After watching a couple of episodes of “Clarissa Explains It All,” I found myself unsettled by how much my brain was registering Clarissa and her friend, Sam, as mini hipsters. In other words, I was confused by how familiar their fashion was to what I’ve seen people wearing now. In reality, of course, the situation is reversed. These kids, around fifteen when the show began, were dressed at the height of progressive 90s fashion. That same fashion is being revamped and sold by big name designers and then eventually, filtering out into mainstream clothing availability like the trend-setting American Apparel or the trend-relevant Target. (I recently bought an ankle-length button-down floral dress that, while being current, made me feel a lot like Amy Grant.)

Why does fashion feel so important? Fashion doubles back on itself all the time, re-inspecting those layers of past-self-representation and mining them for new fashion gold. But is there something that fashion was responding to in the 90s that we are finding ourselves trying address again in the current?

Are we still "The Now Generation"?

Buzzfeed.com just posted the article “48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture The ’90s,” that had the above Lisa Frank clothing campaign and it really caught my eye.

Are we still “The Now Generation”?

Another picture that article displayed a handful of “high-tech gadgets, built to fit easily into your backpack” that are laughable when compared to that computer-in-your-pocket existence of smart phones and that ad is probably less than 20 years old. In my lifetime, which I recognize as being relatively short, we have been witness to an astounding revolution in technology.

The 90s saw the birth of that all being accessible and it’s hard to detach my first memories of the internet with America Online and the intellectual explosive from the bright colors of Day-Glo and Lisa Frank; that’s all just as easily juxtaposed with the gritty realness of grunge rock and the death of Kurt Cobain. The 90s remain as a weird amalgamation of extremes.

And maybe that’s why I find the 90s so attractive. Sometimes, we look back to the 50s or 60s, and coming up the 20s, trying to idealize the past. We appreciate that past because we feel like we can understand it, that it was a simpler time. Maybe the 90s, are still close enough that we can identify instead of idealizing. Maybe we can see the 90s as the decade that introduced causes that were both easy to believe in and yet feel easy to digest:

Girl Power

Because who doesn't like Girl Power when it's sexy and sings catchy pop tunes?

As usual, I’m not sure that I’ve really come to a conclusion on this topic. I know I appreciate the influence of the 90s on our current culture and that we are reveling in its glories from a comfortable distance.  Even though feminism packaged inside sex-appeal may give us plenty of problems now, the easy-going openness of the 90s feels starkly in contrast to the Tea Party politics and Arizona white-washing. Were there negative politics in the 90s? I’m sure but I wasn’t really aware of them yet; I’m older and, with the internet, it’s harder to avoid it.

In that weird world of extreme contrasts that are somehow permeable, the loudness and brashness of Day-Glo and DIY zines allowed niches to disappear into. And maybe that’s what we’re looking for as we look back through those cultural markers of fashion, the ideals that somehow seem embedded in them. So, do we really remember the 90s? We’re just far away to know what we feel to be the capital-T-Truth of that time while it’s already glossed over with a fine sheen of nostalgia.

And also, RuPaul is definitely here forever,

RuPaul as Obamas

RuPama? Ruobama? Via

and makes a pretty convincing first couple.

Love is for Sharing

14 Feb

they look friendly enough...

I never really dated growing up. I always thought it was because I was the fat kid but recent clarity on looking back shows, I wasn’t all that fat. But I was shy and I was weird; I’m sure my story isn’t all that odd.

My first kiss was Truth or Dare at a band party in seventh grade and my first real kiss was backstage at the children’s theatre I spent all of my free time at until I moved away from it. My theatre friends and I all flirted and played around but it was never serious. I tried the best I could to date a guy I met at my friend’s Quinceañera but he was a bit old for me and, thankfully, called it off before it turned into something it shouldn’t have been.

The only “boyfriend” I had in high school was a guy named Justin. For two weeks, I sat with him at lunch and watched him play Magic: The Gathering. We kissed and he told me about his cats and his knives and, upon the realization that he loved them both equally, I called it off when I realized we didn’t have that much in common.

And thus, I was left to bemoan my existence, like so many do, on every Valentine’s Day. It was at that time, back in the days before Facebook, when I still didn’t know what an Internet Browser was and thought the only grand portal to the World Wide Web was America On-Line, I would sit down and write a letter to all of my single friends.

I asked them all to join me in my loneliness, to join my Lonely Hearts Club (which I thought was truly original and ingeniously derived from a certain Beatles album) and eat garlicky food and read melodramatic poetic quotes with me on Valentine’s Day. I sorely wish I still had these so I could quote some to you.

It was around that time that I needed love too because, when I was sixteen, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. My world was set askew and amidst all this, still trying to be a kid, my friend and I had a long conversation about what love meant. (I had said “love ya'” when hanging up the phone or saying bye and he really questioned whether or not I meant it. And, true to who I am, I took him far more seriously than he had bargained for.)

Since then, I make an effort to tell everyone I love that I love them. Chances are, if I count you as a friend, I do love you. Because love is for sharing, not hiding away and later wishing you could tell someone you loved them just one more time or at all.

But look, I’m older (we all are) and all day I’ve seen people post to Facebook about the triteness of the holiday and how stressed out they are. And I’ll admit, since officially entering my later-twenties (I know, smallest violin moment here) I’ve become a bit more reserved about telling people I love them. Those same social rules and regulations that tell us that THIS is the ONE day to share love have also told me to hold back fro sake of seeming too weird.

xkcd always says it best...

not that hammers wouldn't be helpful...

And I have to admit, I still feel like whipping together a new version of my old email. Even though I’m engaged, that long-suffering single girl who wants to throw her arms open to the world is still in my heart, and honestly, I hate some of these traditions as much as the next person.

Every gift-giving-day that Daniel and I have been together though has ultimately been tackled by the keystone that always saves our relationship and makes it as awesome as it is: conversation. We decide in advance, no matter how un-romantic it may seem, what the holiday is going to mean to us this year. What we can afford, what we want, and what we’re going to do is always arrived at after we talk to each other openly and honestly. And while it might not yield too many surprises, it never looks much like the head-banging-anxiety portion of this:

Instead, it looks a bit more like this:

From the movie "Up."

Just a couple of best friends learning how to grow old together.

And that’s how I view Daniel, more than a boyfriend, a fiance, or whatever, is my best friend. So, if you don’t have a significant other in your life, I suggest you look to your friends because as much as Valentine’s Day is now about my relationship with him, in the past it was so very much about my relationships with all the special people who made each day a little better and a little easier. Mostly, it still is.

I may not be a relationship expert or be saying something you haven’t heard anywhere else, but I’m always a big fan of love and spreading it around.

You know, if it’s welcome 🙂

A World Without Winners

10 Feb

As always, I’m sorry for the radio silence. To those of you who still choose to read when I have time to up-date, I’m really thankful! Having said that…

Last weekend, Daniel and I went to go see the new movie Chronicle. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, here’s the trailer:

In short, it’s a story about three friends (who weren’t always friends) who make a discovery, end up having supernatural powers, and what happens from there.

It’s not the most original plot, I’ll admit that, but it’s well done. It’s poignant, genuine, and (kinda barely spoilers alert) despite the fact that those powers inevitably bring out the best and the worst in these kids, they remain sympathetic characters throughout.

This fact won me over more strongly that I would have suspected and I had to ask why? Why? I talked to other friends who were not won over and, moreover, had a fraction of the emotional response that I had. Why is it that I am so obsessed with other people’s reactions and my own? Because, sometimes, I feel like I don’t understand how people aren’t more affected by the negativity we are bombarded on a daily basis.

Another reason, for sure, is that I recently read this article about Tyler Clementi and the tormentors who drove him to commit suicide.

The article, The Story of a Suicide by Ian Parker, is a simple and well-written piece that humanizes the aforementioned tormentor and forces the realization that, like many situations in life, there is no clear cut line between who is “good” and who is “evil.” However, there are are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will be ready to tell you there is without knowing the full situation and without caring for the truth. My feeling is that this is because the truth, often, is hard to define and unsatisfying to hear. Why is it so much easier to believe the worst of people? To pick a whipping boy and demonize them past recognition?

To some degrees, both Tyler and his roommate were victims not of any one crime, but of a social situation. They were both quick to judge based on what they felt were fair markers of understanding who a person is: ethnicity, sexuality, and economic class. They avoided actual direct communication and researched each other via Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Where Tyler could have used more support, his roommate, Dharun, received support where he shouldn’t have.

Now, I’m not saying that I think everyone deserves to feel victimized all the time or that that Dharun is innocent of the crime for which he’s being accused. But one of the hardest lessons to learn at any age is how to take full responsibility for your actions. Human beings are excellent at crafting excuses and blaming other people. We’re also excellent at underestimating the effects of our actions.

Which leads me back to my previous concerns. How much of the negativity that surrounds us is our responsibility? How much to we rely on others to create our environment?

Living in a society that is so entrenched in the media machine, it’s easy to accept what we’re fed about the news and the world around us; this includes everything from entertainment to news. It’s easy to believe what others tell you to believe, whether or not it’s who’s a good singer or who’s the best candidate. It’s harder, though not by much, to find answers for it ourselves.

There are clear examples on all ends of the spectrum. From Lana Del Rey‘s SNL performance debacle, that some viewed as a rough first performance while others believe it was the most insulting waste of public broadcasting time, to the ridiculous spanning points of view on gay marriage that start with believing it’s a basic human right and range to The Marriage Protection Act and believing gay marriage would somehow lead to bestiality.

Clearly, one of these examples far outweighs the others in importance, but the point is that no matter the seriousness of the subject someone exists to tell us often and loudly what they think we should believe. And unfortunately, we are easy to judge, easy to hate, and easy to self-righteous bigotry.

Famously, sources like Fox News are scrutinized for openly lying to their viewers to the point that their viewers, who are often religiously faithful, are wary about simple truths. This is not a biased statement.

This brings me back to my subject title. I believe that, in some ways, we are intent on creating a world without winners. A world where every success is only judged by the severity of its critique. As with Lana Del Rey, more and more, we criticize the arts for producing bland and boring but largely because of the fear that any tiny failure could be not just “Tomorrow’s Headlines,” but “10-Seconds-From-Now Headlines,” and Tweets, and Facebook status updates, and on and on.

I find it hard to separate these unimportant criticisms as feeding our larger problems. If we spend our time throwing insults at a TV, or by posting them anonymously online, aren’t we slowly inuring ourselves to this negativity? Do we stop noticing how much hatred we speak? Do we draw the lines between constructive honesty and real complaint or do they all start to bleed together? Because I know that, even as an adult, it’s hard for me to distinguish sometimes.

I’m not innocent of this myself. But I know that, as someone whose heart sinks at the piercing negativity I see others breed, I pause before I speak negativity. I hope to never (or as rarely as possible) be the reason that someone else has a bad day.

So what does this have to do with “Chronicle” or the article about Tyler Clementi? Well, maybe this blog post is just another ramble that I needed to clear my head. But both this movie and that article have reminded me that if there is so much I can’t control about this world, there is at least one thing I can control: how I treat people. Both the article and the movie remind me that each day is another opportunity for me to reach out to an old friend, to smile at a random person on the street, to focus on my small circle of the world and make that as good as possible. Because you never know what the person next to you might be dealing with.

I like to think that, if there is a purpose to life, it’s to make each others lives easier because life is, so very often, very hard. I’ve been called idealistic, optimistic, and naive because of this. I’d like to think I’m just not an asshole.

Link

What Art Does

12 Jan

What Art Does

I love this artist’s attempt to give an accurate representation of the faces of Occupy Wall St. More pictures and an interview at the link.

I’m a Jew on Christmas (and all those days after…)

27 Dec

Hello my intermittent companions/readers!

The holiday season is still making its final hurrahs and while many are thinking about gifts to return and the ongoing onslaught of emotional baggage, I’m thinking about this whole holiday culture.

The winter holiday season is a time many associate with familial traditions but more and more the mainstream conversation is circling the divide of the religious and the secular. Year after year, we argue about the “reason” for the “season” and whether or not saying “Happy Holidays” is somehow betraying your hatred for all things Christmas or just trying to include everyone in a generic statement of positivity. Having said that, let me place myself within this context before I go on.

I identify myself as Jewish and Agnostic (while verging on Atheist) and yes, that means I’m coming from an already complicated an ill-defined starting point. However, I grew up simply as a Jewish kid in a household that was only ever casually religious. And, as we all know, it’s often the way we grew up the more accurately sums up what we think the holidays should be. This means that the winter holiday, for me, was/is Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or Hanukah, or this website gives you sixteen different ways). I celebrated by lighting candles, opening presents for eight nights, eating fried food, and wondering why we didn’t have a Christmas tree or Santa but not really caring why.

Of course, as I got older I was taught to care by my friends. Why don’t you have a Christmas tree? Why don’t you celebrate Christmas? A simple explanation that whole CHRIST part of Christmas was really a Christian thing worked for awhile but then I grew up and suddenly even that got more complicated.

At some point, I entered the realm of discourse of adults that believed that Christmas exists on two different levels: the Church’s religious Christmas and the average American’s secular holiday tradition. The CHRIST part of Christmas had become relatively meaningless to most people (hence the prevalence in some areas of “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” advertisements) and so I was prompted to ask, why wasn’t it meaningless to me? Why wasn’t I comfortable participating in Christmas and all of the secular aspects of it because religion seems to be less and less of a Christmas calling card.

It’s really hit me hard this year. For the first time since I was a small child, I’ve asked myself: why don’t we have a tree? Do I want one? If the aspect of Judaism that I most relate to is the cultural and historical community that I come from, how does it’s religious traditions have any more/less ownership of me than the others? I mean, let’s get real, Hanukkah isn’t really a major holiday for the Jews. However, thanks to the gift-giving zeitgeist that is contemporary secular Christmas, it has become the Jewish holiday-cousin of Christmas.

Afterall, Christmas itself isn’t even really Christian. It seems every year a couple of emails go around to remind us that.

So, even that which divides was born as an amalgamation that was an attempt to unite. 

Which I guess is what was bothering me to begin with. In year’s past there American culture has gone out of its way to make sure to honor everyone during the holidays. The de-emphasis of Jesus and the re-emphasis peace and brotherhood as an effort to unite during the holidays was always refreshing and welcome. 

But this holiday season, my TV shows disappointed. Even Glee, which has episodes that forefronted their Jewish and Atheist character’s different beliefs, ended with those same characters cooing over a telling of the Jesus story (again, the capital R “Reason” for the season). Frankly, it was disappointing.

Christmas has come and gone, gifts have been given, and many of us have headed back to work. We’re edging up on the New Year and I’m left feeling just as ambivalent as before.

Because here’s the real thing that bothers me. Christmas, and any other holiday, is only what you make of it. This year, no matter how much I wanted to celebrate any holiday no matter what it was, my family was hit by tragic circumstances (a family member is still in the hospital). In addition to that, my fiance got one day off from work and we won’t be able to visit family for a few months yet. 

This is reality. And maybe this is why people fight over what the holidays mean, because like anything else in life they are constantly changing. But for whatever reason, this is the time of year where we tell ourselves it’s okay to take a break on yourself, to think of hope, to spread love.

When it comes down to it, I don’t care why you choose to do it. If it’s because you feel compelled by the story of the birth of a savior, the story of a magically burning lamp, the story of a people and its principles, or if it’s purely because it’s cold outside; if you choose to focus on peace and spread love, you are choosing to bring people together. And that’s enough for me.

So, for all that 2012 will hold for us, I hope it holds more reasons to focus on those aspects of life that bring us together instead of those that will force us apart. Because no matter what religion or philosophy I believe in, I believe that there is a goodness in people that can work wonders.

My Post-MFA Malaise

22 Nov

Hello there blog-reading world! I’m back— but this time, I’m making no apologies and I’m making no promises.

Why?

Well, I’m trying to be realistic. In the six months since finishing my MFA, I have been on a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations that has left me confused and excited, determined and depressed, and all of this at once.

malaise

Because identifying the problem is the first step...

I had this idea that Grad. School would give me the tools to achieve all my goals but not just that, that it would help me understand what those goals were and how to achieve them. In some ways, it did and others it didn’t. I understand the academic world, and really the adult world, more than I did and got to know myself as a writer but I was always able to step away when I wanted to because, I was a student after all.

I had my heart broken a few times, by friends and colleagues, by the business, bureaucracy and bullshit that comes along with it all. I realize every day a little more how much of an idealistic I am.

It wasn’t until I had the experience of getting my first “real-world” job (and then a second) and was caught up in its own milieu of problems, that I’ve had the distance to really recognize this.

But what I think I’ve really learned is that as a writer, as an idealist, as a human being, it is our job every day to fight for ourselves.

And as if every day wasn’t enough, the most recent episode of “The Simpsons,” titled “The Book Job,” discussed over here, was a handy reminder of this fact.  The story itself was fun and Neil Gaiman’s guest role was funny but what caught my attention and tugged at my heart, as always, was Lisa’s shining moment of addressing her own disillusionment.

Lisa Simpson is often held up as an avatar of what it is to be the idealistic woman of our generation and, in this episode, also what it is to be a writer. We watch as she scorns those who write for *gasp* profit and sets off to write on her own, for the sheer love of it, and fails.

Which brings me back to where I am. Because of all the things that the MFA program did teach me, it didn’t prepare me to be my own business. Which, in the long run, is part of being a writer. Promoting oneself, sending out to get published, finding others to collaborate with, and any other aspect of writing is a full-time job. One that can feel impossible to maintain on top of those jobs you must keep to pay the bills.

On top of that, there is a strong sense of isolation. My years in Michigan have left me feeling profoundly isolated, even more-so than the semester I spent in China the year after my mom died. It might be because of the ridiculous weather here. It might be because I am, for the first time, confronting the realities of things like “adulthood” and “career”. But it might also be that artistic notion of finding my voice and myself that, once you think you’ve found the answer, that answer immediately becomes less and less satisfying.

So, I’m trying to identify myself as a writer again and, for the first time, it’s up to me. Maybe this anxiety I feel is what people criticize as the phenomena of people not knowing how to write outside of the workshop. Or maybe I should trust everyone that says it’s okay to take some time and I shouldn’t be pressurig myself but really? There’s so much I want to do and so much I want to write that I don’t know where to begin.

Today, I’m choosing to begin here. And hopefully, I’ll keep to it this time.

Why the New Facebook IS Worth Complaining About, Kind of.

22 Sep

Yesterday, like everyone else, I logged into Facebook and was a little disconcerted to find everything in disarray. Things simply were not where I expected them to be and suddenly there were status-updates scrolling on the upper right that were also updating on the main part of the page and, well, that seemed a little pointless.

And oh! The blue tags.

Yes, I was annoyed. And so were others. As quickly as I thought to be annoyed memes were sprouting legs:

(I found via Urlesque.)

And this:

(Grabbed off FB, no idea where it originated, let me know if you do, overusing, commas, done.)

But as quickly as people started to complain, other people started to complain about the fact that we were complaining.

Evidence:

(Self-citing image is go!)

Yes, now I feel put in my place.

But then reality set in. People choosing to take the high road used status updates to proclaim that they couldn’t give less of a sh*t about the Facebook change because guess what? Lots of really shitty things are going on in the world.

Another 14 year old boy, who once believed that “It Gets Better” killed himself because the bullying wouldn’t stop.

A man, who many believed to be innocent, was killed by our justice system.

And this headline “Mexican drug lords dump 35 dead bodies on road as they wave guns at passing drivers,” from DailyMail.co.uk, is horrible without even having to hear the rest.

Those things are awful.

They won’t stop being awful.

I will be sad about them today, tomorrow, and for years to come. This news makes me want to jump up and do something with my votes, but also leaves me feeling sad and helpless.

Do we trust our politicians? What exactly are they calling class warfare?

The sad, and sometimes devastating, reality of our world is overwhelming. This is just a part of life.

But for many people, so is Facebook.

And whether you like it or not, Facebook is often how I find my news and I know I’m not the only one. I didn’t know about Troy Davis until one of my friends posted about it. The majority of what I know about the Libyan Revolution has been through linked information on Facebook. When there was the earthquake on the East Coast, I could pinpoint the location based on where my friends who posted about it were updating from. It’s also how many people during the last storm season let family abroad know they were okay.

I could go on but let’s say that Facebook is more than just “social” networking it’s a finely woven web of communication. I rely on it to find out about the well-being of my friends and the world.

And so what if it annoyed me when they changed their interface yesterday? It made it harder for me to find out about everything that really is important. It was annoyance that I could wrap my head around. It was an annoyance you could feel empowered by. You could say:

Facebook is annoying me. Facebook is making my life harder. Facebook is something that I can blame and feel productive.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s a fleeting moment of frustration that we can quickly learn to laugh about.

(Click to embiggen, go here for more.)

Whereas all those other things? They’ll never be funny. They’ll always be sad. They’ll leave us feeling frustrated and helpless and maybe even scared of the world we live in.

So don’t belittle the small battles we fight, no matter how meaningless they sometimes are, they fuel us to keep fighting the big battles. And man, we’ve got plenty of those on our plate.

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