Saturday, October 30, 2010

New For 2010: Barbie's Rock Bottom Playset

A few weeks ago, TDG and I got into a discussion about that great bastion of American girlhood: The Barbie Doll. I explained that, as a feminist, I never felt threatened, limited or inadequate while playing with her as she had a variety of jobs, never had to choose between being pretty or smart, and was an excellent canvas upon which I could express my interest in fashion. Somehow, this conversation wandered into the territory of wondering what sorts of jobs Barbie would have in our current economy. I was inspired by our talk and by my own nostalgia so I decided to reinvigorate my love of altering Barbie’s appearance to create a few new looks and professions. With that in mind, I bring you the first in my series of Barbies Gone Bad:

Unemployment Barbie

In 2010, Barbara Millicent Roberts was a recent college grad with big dreams and a new credit card. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Barbie decided that it was high time that she moved out on her own so she accepted her best friend Midge’s suggestion that they rent an apartment together. High on the excitement of their new lives, the girls eagerly used their credit cards to purchase new furniture and d├ęcor for their apartment and began pounding the pavement for jobs.

Unfortunately for Barbie, finding a teaching job proved more difficult than she’d been led to believe and, come the following September, she was still unemployed and her boyfriend, Ken, had been shipped off to Afghanistan while Midge, faced with the similar problem of being educated but under experienced had moved out to become a trophy wife to an aging dot-com millionaire who she met while serving cocktails in a “gentleman’s club.”

Faced with losing her apartment and having her utilities turned off, Barbie did what any sensible American would do and opened more lines of credit. All was ok for awhile until her bank increased her interest rate to an exorbitant amount and Barbie was forced to turn to the government for assistance. Her unemployment check covers her rent, but not much else. Now, faced with student loans in deferment and with most of her earthly belongings repossessed, Barbie spends most of her days staring wistfully at her useless degree and crying into her snuggie. Poor Barbie!

Unemployment Barbie comes complete with an unfurnished room and a few motivational posters to keep her smiling as she contemplates turning tricks to avoid foreclosure.

Unemployment Barbie may not reach the heights of fashion to which she was once accustomed in her tear and coffee stained snuggie, but she sure does save time by never bathing or leaving the house.

Unemployment Barbie comes complete with her very own useless degree and government issued check.

-Shannon (Who hopes she doesn't get sued)

The Child Left Behind: Educating our Children out of their Creativity

As a creative person living in America, which has seemingly become a society that squashes creativity by camouflaging indoctrination as education, it baffles my mind that people are bewildered as to how our country arrived at its current state of anti intellectualism and creative decay. It seems to me that we have built an entire education system predicated on good grades and the regurgitation of knowledge, which, if you've ever watched HBO's Assume The Position with Robert Wuhl, you know that most of what is taught as American history is at best sensationalized and at worst wholly fictional.

The problem with creativity in America is that most people don't know what creativity is. Creativity is usually defined as: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc. Sir Ken Robinson, who has spent a great deal of time pointing out the short comings of an outdated educational system, defines it simply as, “the process of having original ideas that have value.” The common misconception is that creativity is localized, that it only exists in certain “gifted” people. The reason we have this misconception is because our educational system isolates creative thinking to the humanities, and fails to see that creativity is utilized in all schools of thought. Any individual at, or striving toward, the pinnacle of his discipline must be an innovator. They must create original ideas in order to evolve within their disciple and within their society.

We've indoctrinated people to think that only some people are creative, and that “I'm not one of them.”. It breaks my heart when I'm drawing out in a bar and someone tells me they can't draw, or that they use to draw but now they can only draw stick figures, and that, “You’re very talented”. Usually I'll respond that what they perceive as “talent” is nothing more than the ability to let go. The most important part of the creative process is taking chances. When I draw I take a chance, I experiment by trying something new and unknown. This is a process that comes naturally to a child. Children aren't afraid to take chances, they're not afraid of being “wrong”, because the concept of right or wrong does not exists in their pure state of enchantment.

In psychology there is a state of being called the “Oceanic Feeling”. This idea came to fruition during a correspondence between Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland. After reading The Future of an Illusion Romain Rolland wrote to Freud: "By religious feeling, what I mean—altogether independently of any dogma, any Credo, any organization of the Church, any Holy Scripture, any hope for personal salvation, etc.—the simple and direct fact of a feeling of 'the eternal' (which may very well not be eternal, but simply without perceptible limits, and as if oceanic).

This feeling is in truth subjective in nature. It is a contact." Rolland believed that this feeling was the root of all religious energy.

I would like to expand on Rolland’s idea by purposing that many of our external spiritual practices may be an attempt to fill the void that the “oceanic feeling”, which we possessed as children, once filled. And it is this specific sensation, which Rolland described as, “an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole” which may motivate many of our spiritual practices. I would also speculate that what may make artists unique is their ease at reconnecting with the purity of this spiritual state of consciousness, allowing them to commune with something wholly unknown and possibly eternal. This may be why visual artists feel compelled to draw, writers write poetry, and religious folk pray and attend church. Likewise, as appreciators of art we may be connecting with this feeling whenever we attend a gallery, read a book or watch a film. The methodology may be different but the emotional and spiritual content may very well be the same.

As a result, Freud mentions this correspondence in his book Civilization and Its Discontents, and postulated that this oceanic feeling may dwell within in the primitive ego and, as a result of assimilation; it inevitably fades to a "shrunken residue" as a child is indoctrinated to accept consensus reality. The development of the ego is necessary for a child, but I think the western tendency to overvalue the ego has lead the west to lose touch with the unconscious inner world, which is just as important. So it is possible that practicing any spiritual discipline be that drawing, writing, meditation or prayer, may aid in balancing these two worlds. Our insistence on teaching children to pass the standardized tests such as those erected by “No Child Left Behind” have superseded any space given for such pursuits and allowed creative outlets within our school system to disappear like rain forests, and as a result have robbed the children of this great nation of essential outlets for their inner existence.

I guess you could say I'm a optimist because I feel that everyone can be creative, but this is not an opinion this is a fact. We know that everyone at some point in their life has drawn, sang, danced or acted. The problem is that we've been indoctrinating people to believe that if you can't do something exceptionally well then you shouldn't do it at all. All children draw, color, sing and dance but as they grow up we steer them away from these activities by stigmatizing them with the idea of the starving artist. We narrow a child's focus by preparing them to direct all of their energy toward a career, more specifically a financially stable career, without realizing that the creative skills someone is taught in the arts can be applied to other disciplines as well. Academics and standardized testing often do little to teach a child to think outside the box and tend to terrify them into confining themselves within said box.

In his now famous TED talks Robinson told the stories about Gillian Lynne, a choreographer who is famous for "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera", and a firefighter who transcended his teachers dissuasion. In the first story Lynne explained an experience in which her school thought she had a learning disability because she couldn't sit still in class. Thankfully the doctor that her mother took her to realized that she couldn't sit still because she wanted to dance, and that the action of moving actually helped her think. That was in the 40's, and Robinson pointed out that in this current educational climate a child in Lynn's shoes would probably be diagnosed with A.D.D. The story of the firefighter is about a similar adversity, in this case the firefighter already knew what he wanted to do with his life, but a teacher told him that he was throwing his life away if that was what he chose to do with it. The firefighter went on to tell Robinson, during a book signing, that 6 months ago he saved that teacher and his wife from a car wreck, and stated that, “I think he thinks better of me now.”

These stories are the precursors to how our current educational system has descended into a banal and outdated system, that is slowly becoming irrelevant. If a school can't teach our children to read, rationalize, and think creatively, while at the same time helping them to discover their true talents, not the ones we try to map on to them, then what good are they? Robinson said that “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”, This statement seems to reiterate the fear that on our current course, creativity and innovation, will slowly become a residue in this culture, something that we use to possess but has now faded away; a residual effect of a once prosperous and advanced country. It seems as though, even though we may have good teachers out there, that the system is set up in a way to promote failure by encouraging people to go to college for all the wrong reasons. One of which, ranked highest in a recent poll, was to make a lot of money. So now we have young adults going to college, selecting majors that don't emphasize their talents, and leaving our country with more disenfranchised students becoming dropouts, unemployed with a 50,000 dollar bachelor's degree or unfulfilled by a job they may excel at, but which fails to feed their passions in life.

We can keep doing the same thing over and over again, reform after reform, or we can create a new model, a new paradigm, that encourages people to discover their talents and passions, before they attend college. I've always found it quite disconcerting that our system seems to have no payout until you pay in, but, hey, I guess that's America. What I mean by that is, to a degree, it seems as though primary schools are more occupied with getting students ready for college then getting them ready for life, and for good reason. Let's face it, with the price we pay with degree inflation, you have to start as early as possible, right? We all know by now an Associate degree is worthless, and a Bachelor's is becoming worthless, it’s really just a matter of time, as is always the case with inflation. It’s as though we've created a system that digs its own grave on a day to day basis by applying ideologies about education that are over 200 years old. Is this what this country has become? Nothing more than a banal unoriginal landscape of conformity built on perpetuating a model of unquestioned ideas and ideologies, which prevents any real paradigm shift from ever taking place? Or have we just lost focus, and don't give a shit anymore?

-The Dead Guy

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are We The Ones We've Been Waiting For?

As you all know, I'm sure, President Obama was on The Daily Show last night. The Dead Guy and I were going to try to liveblog during the broadcast, but it didn't really work out that way. Partly because of technological issues and party because I was too awestruck to react. Perhaps, I thought, it would be more fruitful to post a link to the episode here, along with some of my thoughts, and invite people to comment with their own thoughts.

To begin with, I was impressed with both President Obama and Stewart in that they seemed to be carefully displaying a mutual respect for one another. I was also impressed with the fact that Stewart was fairly tenacious in pressing Obama on issues such as the flawed healthcare bill and his performance versus his campaign promises. I do wish that Obama had been a little more direct in his answer to Stewart's questions about infrastructural changes within government and I was extremely taken aback by the president's insistence that the healthcare bill is similar to social security and civil rights. However, I think he made a good point regarding people's expectations and reality when he pointed out that there are always people who wish that change would occur more swiftly. At the end of the day however, I walked away from the broadcast with a sense of several things. One of which was that I had witnessed a historical event. The second was that I was, and am, fairly certain that John Stewart is probably the most hard hitting journalist of our time. The third is that I am very excited for October 30th and the Rally To Restore Sanity.

Anyway, what are your thoughts?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

How To Be a Dick:College Edition

Just in time for midterms! Here it is! Ten easy ways to be a dick in college.

1. Getting There: Your college has undoubtedly bowed to the politically correct police and provided several close parking spots for the “differently abled”. Don’t let those lousy cripples get the prime spots. It’s not your fault they got old or infirm. Proudly pull into one of those “handicapped spots.” and saunter to the elevator from there. Your hangover surely must entitle you to special treatment.

2. In the Common Areas: If you’re a smoker, there is prime opportunity for douchiness here! Simply stand directly in front of the door, beneath the sign that requests that you move 20 feet away before lighting up and puff away. Blow your smoke into the building, if possible, or simply blow it in the faces of those walking by. Ignore that handy “smokers outpost” in favor of the ground. Bonus points if you do this when the elderly custodian is in the process of sweeping, or if you manage to harass members of the opposite sex in the process.

3. In Class: Arrive 15 minutes late, slam the door and scrape your seat loudly across the linoleum. Once seated, make a big show of removing your jacket, sweater or coat, but DO NOT remove your sunglasses. Once fully settled, begin asking the professor what you missed, after all, you are paying for this class and deserve to be caught up properly. It’s not your fault that class begins too early for you! Demand your money’s worth. You are entitled to it. After you’re finished with getting started, it’s time for the real fun to begin. Be sure to attempt to derail any lecture by arguing with your professor over that fact you just know is right because the internet told you so. Obviously, your mastery of point and click navigating while hitting a bong is a much clearer qualification than, say, 10 years of schooling in one specific topic.

4. Discussion Time: Whenever there is a class discussion, don’t even bother reading the assigned text, it’s boring and anyway, you can ask the smart girl next to you what it was about at a later time. Instead, rant aimlessly about something which may possibly be tangentially related to the course. For example: If your class is discussing psychology, you can dismiss the professor’s serious inquiry into the differences between men and women by exclaiming loudly “I know what to do about that! Punch the bitch in the face!”* Alternately, you can wait with baited breath for the professor to utter any word regarding the U.S. Government and then use that to launch into a tirade on how 9/11 was an inside job. You’ll waste precious class time, and manage to entertain yourself in the process.

5. Cell Phone Fun: Every syllabus has a requisite warning about cell phones in the class room. Ignore it. If you get bored, you can use your phone to text, make calls, play games and even play ringtone DJ. If your phone rings while the class is having a lecture, answer it by repeatedly yelling “HELLO”. Once you’ve established that there is indeed another person on the other end, as opposed to, say, a phantom, loudly and repeatedly yell to them that you are in class. Keep this going for as long as possible. Should anyone dare to give you a dirty look, defensively proclaim that you are important and need to take all of your calls.

6. Fun With English: When assigned an essay, it’s best if you remember that our new internet rebus language has eliminated the need to actually spell any word all the way out. Save valuable drinking time by not bothering to ever type out the word “you” when you can use “u” instead. If you can’t remember the common abbreviation for a work, simply make up yur on!** Those Tchers R 2 stoopid if dey dont get wat u r pitin dwn.*** Additionally, grammar is for jerks and old ladies. No need for commas or periods in your papers the brilliance of your observations should be what is important anyway especially since you know all about how our government is cheating us and hiding aliens and you should be able to enlighten the professor at your leisure. Bonus points if you make up your own words or hand in all of your assignments in handwriting. Bonus points if you argue over your grade by telling your professor that they need to be more aware of what’s going on with the English language.

7. More Technological Fun: If your professor allows you to use a laptop in class, you’re in real luck. First, the simple act of dramatically placing your laptop on the desk and opening it is enough to help you win the dickhead award. However, since we’re way into overachieving here in college, lets up the ante and play World Of Warcraft during class. This will give you credibility when you are completing step 4. After all, nothing says “I know conspiracy theory” like displaying your tendency toward gaming.

8. Dress Code: If you are female, or wish to be seen as female, you should not waste time actually putting real clothes on for class. Instead, you should wear your shortest PJ shorts (preferably with some salacious word stretched across your ass) and your skimpiest tank top. You’ll need the extra time to add pounds of makeup, an entire bottle of perfume and your most expensive jewelry. Just add UGGS and you’re ready to go. If you’re male, you’ll want to have a variety of button down shirts with popable collars. Always pop your collar. Additionally, make sure you bathe in cologne before coming to class. This way, no one will be able smell last night’s Jager shots as the seep out of your pores.

9. After Class: Whew. That was tiring! Begin loudly packing your things about 15 minutes before class ends. Once that is completed, do not actually leave the classroom. Instead, stand in the doorway for ten minutes yelling to your buddy about how hot that chick you banged last night was, or theorize eloquently over whether or not the professor is a “cock smoker”. People will try to get past you at this point, but stand strong! You are, again, entitled to be there!

10. Cafeteria Time: Since all that hard work undoubtedly made you hungry, why not stop by the cafeteria to grab a quick bite between classes. Once there, be sure to look at the selection of food as slowly as possible. Exclaim that it all looks “fucking disgusting” within earshot of the people who made it. Select something anyway. Eat a small portion of it while drowning it in condiments and continue complaining about it. Once done, leave your trash on the table. In this economy, that lowlife who cleans up after you is lucky to have a job! If you must dispose of something yourself, place it in the absolutely wrong bin. Recyclable item? Straight into the garbage! Greasy food waste? Right in the recycling bin!

-Shannon (Who Don’t Need No Education)

*Yes, this actually really happened in a real class and no, the professor did not remove the student. Especially delightful given that it was in the context of a discussion about abusive relationships and why women stay in them.

**Yes, this also actually has happened. The student failed out.

***Actual English Translation: Those teachers are too stupid if they don’t get what you’re putting down.