P.S. I totally took a selfie today.
The news on Google today was flooded with photos from the 2014 Met Gala Best Dressed. I humored myself for about eight seconds of perusing posed shots of celebrities in fancy clothing before I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore. It’s like when you cut sugar out of your diet and you no longer can stand the rush from sugar. I can no longer even fathom what thrill people get from these kinds of things.
I used to look at outfits and appreciate the creativity, flow, contrasts, etc. of each piece. If it were a school assignment, sure – I’d whip out all of those elegant words from the bank and I could fool anyone. But today was completely different and I felt nothing for the outfits. Nothing positive. Actually, I felt disgust.
I’ve been applying for several travel scholarships lately in the hopes of scoring an award to either a global sustainability class or a service project in one of the least attractive corners of the world. I constantly want to push forward and do something. That something generally involves putting time, effort, and money into working with impoverished people in this world who are the voiceless, working bodies holding every society together.
In other words, when I saw those outfits, I saw the faces of the people who grew the cotton or mixed the dyes.
I saw the anguish, the integrity, the bleeding hands.
I did not see the floozy in the gown or the million-dollar smile.
I did not know the name of the celebrity, but I wished I’d known the names of the servants who created her.
From a million miles away.
With several million dollars less.
And what has that celebrity done? Relative to her potential? ZIP. ZILCH. NOTHING.
NOTHING, as far as relative goes. NOTHING when you can buy up an entire fleet and take world problems by storm. NOTHING when you have the voice and the potential to be heard by so many sheep who blindly follow.
What can the peasant do? Keep quiet, keep humble, keep working.
This all happened so perfectly in timing with my spontaneous decision to see the movie Noah. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect – I just know the imagery looked intense. Well, quite frankly, I had two impressions: 1) WOW, that was creepy and 2) WOW, that didn’t seem accurate.
And it wasn’t.
I’m no expert on the book of Genesis, but it’s short and I’ve been around it since I was little enough to get the main ideas. With a little help from reviews, I was able to back up the reasons for my reactions. First and foremost, Noah was played out as a maniac trying to kill, kill, kill. It was all supposed to be showing his devotion to the Creator’s will, but you know how Hollywood takes ahold of things and runs with it. Now, there were also some technical things wrong with the film, like how Jepath was not the youngest son but rather Ham was, or how Lamech didn’t die when Noah was a child. But there were also some points in the film that were clearly strategic in capturing any kind of audience: the overlaying of Creation with Evolution. Admittedly, I know enough people who insist both coexist that I actually really liked the implications the directors made – but I also know a lot of Christians did not like said implications and took offense to Hollywood selling the Bible for profit.
It’s true, though; one could justly say this group’s scriptures have been misrepresented and sold. It has been work-shopped questionably and beyond the entitlement of “artistic license”. From the “rock people” to the dramatic, wordless visions from God, Hollywood was really just pitching a highly animated sci-fi movie – and how ironic, right?
But perhaps one benefit that came from this is the message it gave. Now, people will argue the message of Genesis is that humans left their god and ran astray, so they were all wiped out – save for Noah, his family, and a bunch of animals meant to repopulate the earth. In other words, disobeying the Creator is the big no-no. Well, in this version of Noah’s story, it’s about what humans have done to the planet and less about how they’ve forgotten their god (although it does come up time to time). Noah’s obedience to God is supposed to show why he has been chosen, but he just comes off as crazed until he learns love with discretion. Meanwhile, the Flood is allegedly occurring to cleanse “evil” and to save the “innocent”, meaning the animals. It’s like an eco-friendly, modern Noah story. Save the planet, or you’ll have nothing left. At least it’s a positive message, although missing the Biblical mark by a substantial bit.
So Met Gala. Noah.
These two ideas finally collided in my mind.
The evil-doers in Noah were transfixed on themselves, on their power, on humanity’s greatness, on their ruling over everything below them, on their image in the eyes of others and not in goodness,… They were eating other humans and holding absolutely no values, bloodthirsty to be at the top just as they were when the Flood came and they scrambled over each other to the highest peak to avoid the inevitable. Because they thought they were great. Because they had raised themselves up and not appreciated or ever understood the foundation on which they were standing to begin with.
Wow, just like our society today.
Dog eats dog, climbing over each other to the top, striving to save that extra buck so you can get that much farther ahead. Idolizing things that should not be idolized, like celebrities who bring nothing of good fortune or true inspiration to a wholesome life. Meanwhile, we take for granted our foundation, the one as simple as who grows our food. Do you know how few people could survive without that anonymous web of peasants laboring below us?
“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” – Proverbs 28:6
The toil, the labor, the strife peasants pour into providing riches to the already rich… that’s just an example of these same themes. False pedestals hold false idols, and becoming a sheep to the wrong flock drags you down the road of foolishness. You can no longer hold what is important in your mind. You become materialistic and take advantage of the downtrodden. But the world balances itself out and nature/God/whatever will always have the last say. “…for a piece of bread a man will transgress. A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him” – but he is often already poor.
Yes, celebrities and those who idol them are poor and sickly.
It’s the impoverished, the righteous, and the downtrodden who live righteously who are the richest, the ones who are safe from the transgressions of the world – the ones closest to being the modern Noah.
Iconic shot from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
TIFFANY’S IN CLEVELAND AND A HISTORY ON ENGAGEMENT RINGS
Out of all of the news that could have been talked about yesterday, the majority of things pressed through my ears and under my eyes were about the new Tiffany’s & Co. opening up at Eton Chagrin Boulevard in Cleveland. Reporters dubbed this as an exciting moment for Cleveland, evidently more important than the war in Syria. Women everywhere have been generalized in the news as lovers of the Tiffany’s box, as Hollys enthralled with the very idea of a sparkling rock. How is this good news for Cleveland? It’s not. Absolutely not. In a dead, burned out city struggling to get back on its feet, a diamond store doesn’t fit in the least. Cleveland is third on the list of large American cities with a high percentage of low income families. Stores like Tiffany’s only perpetuate the stereotypes and materialistic mindsets of young people who grow up thinking a diamond is in the future of any successful lifetime.
So what is the origin of the diamond engagement ring anyway? The first type of ring worn by couples was recorded in Greece, but there were no pre-marriage rings. Couples’ rings in Ancient Egypt were a simple band representing an eternal ring and doorway of life. The Romans had the first true betrothal rings, likely taking the idea from the Egyptians. These rings were used to signify ownership. (Yes, ladies, so be super excited to get that ring from him… It means he owns you but notice how he doesn’t wear one.) Not only that, but women had two rings: one nice one for in public, the other made of iron so they could do housework and not ruin the public ring. Sometimes there was a key included, not to symbolize unlocking the heart like many want to believe but rather to suggest unlocking wealth. Charming? Not. The ring then faded out and wasn’t revived until after the Dark Ages, mostly for the use of royalty and not for common folk.
But where did diamonds come into play? It wasn’t until the 1400s that royalty giving rings caused nobility to pursue more expensive gifts, such as diamonds. This tradition didn’t really take off until the 1870s when African colonies were being ripped to pieces to gather diamonds and sell them to the world. Sure, this made diamonds more affordable for the common folk to buy now, but only after depreciating their value. Rings, however, never really kicked off the way we know it until the 1930s – during the Great Depression. WWII made wedding rings more popular for men who wore them to remember their wives.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
Yet the real reason why 80% of women are given diamond engagement rings and girls everywhere are so childishly infatuated with the “tradition” is supported by a long line of ownership, greed, and… of course, the Entertainment Industry who has continued to popularize the idea and make a diamond ring an attractive possession. Just think of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The movie, based loosely on a book, stars Holly (Audrey Hepburn), a ditzy, greedy, wanna-be socialite woman…that now so many women today idolize? The story includes crooks, crime, and corrupted relationships. If you take away the glamor of the picture, there really isn’t anything attractive about the story. In fact, here’s what my pessimist person takes away from the movie: Holly is a horrible person, she only cares about money and things to make her seem wealthy whether she is or not, she has no care in the world for the feelings of others, and she strives to marry rich men for their money without any shame to admit it.
While everyone lusts over the aesthetics of this movie (well, mostly of Hepburn and the diamonds in the shop window), I begin to wonder if anyone really pays attention to the storyline at all. Tiffany’s, from my perspective, is symbolizing a tyranny of greedy, unnecessary, flashy things. Silly Holly is sucked into this world of Tiffany’s and acts like something she is not, just like any not-so-great, not-so-rich, and not-so-nice woman lusting over her way too big diamond ring or necklace. Paul is finally someone who breaks through her bad run of men and manages to – somehow – fall in love with Holly. Here’s the irony of it all: Holly realizes what wench she is at the end, when Paul tosses a Tiffany-engraved ring on her lap. Sure, there’s some Tiffany’s in it…but the ring itself was from a Cracker Jack box that her ex-husband had.
Read the signs people: Diamonds = greed, stupidity, and a perpetuation of a stereotype. The Cracker Jack ring signifies how meaningless diamond rings are, especially in today’s world. Diamond rings don’t prove love; they prove the ability to be swindled into wasting a lot of money on a Blood Diamond, on a piece of greed, on a shiny rock. What are we, parrots? (No offense, parrots – you probably have a lot more common sense than most people.)
MY VIEW ON ENGAGEMENTS
In today’s world, marrying in your early 20s or sooner is not logical (unless you have unplanned incidents that might sway your plans). Today is too competitive. We young people have to build a career – one that defines us and easily changes us – before we are actually able to settle down and make those kinds of decisions in our lives. Furthermore, the idea of marriage has become such a fickle, disposable thing in modern times. It’s left people with the impression that it should happen quickly and that it comes without significant consequences. But marriage isn’t about a wedding day or a honeymoon or jewelry; it’s about finances and, well, that’s really probably the heart of it. It’s about survival and how teaming up can increase your chances.
Think you’re ready for marriage because you’ve been dating the same girl since high school? She’s been eyeing up jewelry and dropping hints? Don’t fall for it. You have to both be prepared. If she’s so infatuated with the idea of it, chances are she isn’t ready. If you have any qualms, don’t be tricked into it. I see too many guys getting dragged around by overly eager, silly, ignorant girls and it angers me that these kinds of people are out there perpetuating the stereotypes the media consequently lays on me of needing shiny things to feel like I have self-worth and am loved or whatever they get out of it. I would rather see that money donated to a cause I care about than invested in a stupid ring. I hate the thoughts of weddings for the same reason. (“Oh, let’s start a life together! And blow ALL OF THE MONEY WE DON’T HAVE in the first 24 hours!” – NO THANKS.) My motto is: If she isn’t willing to marry you without any rings at all, then she doesn’t really care about you let alone love you.
And for the record, I don’t even know what a Tiffany box looks like. Hmpf!
My grandma and I were making a trip out to Ohio yesterday when I stopped at Get Go to fill up one of our Audis with her Fuel Perks. Get Go and Sheetz have always had my admiration for how they create savings for customers as a way to keep business in their favor. With fuel prices always rising and falling, saving at the pump regardless of the prices is an attractive choice. I’ve long given up watching the fuel prices and accepted that driving a car with Premium petrol requirements and fueling up at competitive stores with competitive prices is always going to leave me paying a hefty bill. I’ve also driven enough in Europe to realize our fuel prices are – relatively speaking – outrageously low, even in California. Still, how to maximize your dollar at the pump?
First, let me just say: I am actually a fan of rising gas prices. Before you grumble too much, consider what these prices are implying: Sure, you can argue it’s the oil industry being the king that it is and taking what it can from the common people. But doesn’t it also come down to demand? Not only do prices rise when we keep burning up gas at higher rates than we usually consume and/or extract it, but the prices are able to rise with our increased dependency on fuel. I think it should cost an arm and a leg to fill up your car. That’s a tiny sacrifice we make for a life of luxury that we don’t deserve and which is in turn destroying the planet. So let the oil giants live like kings for the time being. Their luxuries are short-lived, but also their investment in the business is incredibly genius. They benefit from our dependency, stupidity, and greed as a society. That makes them no less of a criminal than all of the other enterprises that thrive off of society’s demands.
But let’s talk about saving money. Part of that comes from making good choices for the environment, too. Sure, sometimes the green solution is the more expensive solution – but it’s the right solution. And it doesn’t always have to be more expensive. Sometimes it’s a matter of living with less, or just knowing how to spend less.
First, I am notorious for my miraculously low to non-existant electric and gas bills at my apartments in Cleveland. How do I do it? By living the same why I live in the country in Pennsylvania. For the life of me, I don’t understand why city people drive as much as they do. They have public transportation AND you can find five of the same stores within a five mile walk! You’d be lucky to find a house that close to where I live, let alone a sole store… but we still make do! Furthermore, city folk are all about working out. They pay for gym memberships, drive the the gym, then do the same work that they could do if they made better lifestyle choices on a daily basis. Talk about hypocrisy!
So how do I keep up my country, fuel-efficient, healthy ways in the city? First of all, I always pick do-it-yourself before anything else. Without a question, you can guarantee I walk up every flight of steps, walk to any store within a predefined radius, carry my own groceries in reusable bags, buy only what I need as I need it, buy things that are not only made or grown locally but that belong in the local climate, and I let the outdoors dictate my indoor climate as much as I can. That means I open and close windows during the summer to utilize the cool night air and the breeze without the need of fans or air conditioning, and in the winter I seal my place up and keep it as cold as I like. If you’re going to spend money on sweaters and socks, you might as well use them! I hate artificial lighting, and if you’re going to have a place with windows that let heat escape, well you might as well use those too! I do everything by natural light, save for some moments when I light candles or do turn on the electricity.
I cook my own meals from scratch and I grow most of my ingredients or harvest them from the patches of woods I find around Cleveland. I am appalled that there are people in Cleveland who have asked me, “Wait, what’s compost? You do that?” I know down to the cents per kilowatt how much energy I’m using and I maximize this energy as much as possible. If I’m making tea, I’ll use the steam off of the hot water to heat something else. If I’m baking, I’ll use the cooling oven to reheat other things or just let it dissipate to heat my room or even my socks before bed. I’d use a wood fire to cook in Cleveland if I could. Also, I prefer to take baths rather than showers. This allows me to run less water (although water is fairly recyclable in urban settings). After my bath, I use the water to hand-scrub my clothes which then hang to dry on my drying rack. I dream of the day that I can run all of my products off of a self-installed solar panel array. I also think bikes are one of the best inventions of all time.
But this doesn’t answer the question of how to save money when I’ve gotta roll out my Audi and drive somewhere, like when neither a bike nor public transportation are suitable to haul my large hockey bag across seven states for my indulging in sports. This is when I invest in Sheetz and Get Go. Back to the pump at Get Go: I’m filling up only half of a tank on my grandma’s 50-cents-off-per-gallon discount and thinking, What a waste. But my grandma is very particular about not letting the gauge go down too far and I know I’ve got to use it or she will complain. Still, 50 cents off on only eight or so gallons? I turned around to see a family with a huge truck tanking up, then unloading small gas cans and filling those too. You’re not supposed to do that because that’s how you’ll make the system bankrupt, but they do it anyway. Alas, my everlasting internal battle: social honesty or environmental responsibility? I’d have to choose the honesty here. I couldn’t milk a bargain that way without feeling guilt for how I was jeopardizing a widely-welcomed system.
However, filling up your truck – that is fair game and it’s a smart move. I’m used to using Fuel Perks on my GMC pick-up truck, all 20-some gallons of it. That’s why my tiny eight-gallon fill-up felt particularly illogical next to the F150 two pumps over. But then I started recalling warnings from my parents about not using the Fuel Perks until a lot has been saved up and I realized that’s only true in a certain regard. Honestly, you’re going to save the same amount of money regardless of the discount, right? That’s just it, though: it’s a rate. The rate may be the same, but your purchase size is what affects your savings. So no matter if you’re saving 20 cents on a eight gallon fill-up or 40 cents on a 16 gallon fill-up, you’re saving the same amount despite the different rates. What my parents were really trying to tell me is save up a lot of savings… then make a big purchase. In other words, we rack up savings here and there, then buy a large quantity of fuel to expire our savings. My little fill-up used up those savings on an unjustifiably small (if you’re not my grandma) quantity of fuel.
So do some math, weigh your values, and take the effort to do what’s right for your wallet – and the environment. The point of this entry is really just to get you thinking about your daily choices and how it’s affecting your health, your planet, and your wallet in different proportions.
I have finally arrived in France after a long time traveling across Asia and Eastern/Central Europe. The last bits of my trip brought me through Venice and some other extremely touristy cities in Europe. As I sat back in some cafes, I observed the behavior of many tourists. The ones who stand out the most are always the photogenic Asians, the loud Brits, and ignorant Americans.
This isn’t my first time in France, but I am again dumbfounded by the cults of young women who flood the south of France, Paris, and fashion capitols across Europe, dying to “experience the culture” and indulge…but in what? In clothes, food, and boys. I’m not saying that my student group in IES is full of people like this; in fact, I’ve been quite impressed by the mix of people genuinely exploring the area for diligent work and culture experience. No, I’m referring to past experiences and current observations outside of my group.
Did you know there are H&M stores all across Europe? That many European youth in fact strive to be American-dressed, American-fed, and American-serenaded? Yes, while young women and other adults across America are dying to “experience France”, the youth over here are having quite the opposite desire. But what is the draw to France? Why do so many young women I know at home take French lessons, study journalism and fashion, read silly magazines, and eat at fancy restaurants so they can show off how to pronounce the names of foreign foods? It’s NOT a LOVE of FRANCE. They don’t care about the culture, about the politics, about the dirty facts about poverty and immigration and daily life in the not-so-fancy corners of the country. Not at all.
These are today’s youth who LUST over the IDEA of France, the images you see in those glossy magazines, the zombie-like models totting clothes that look absolutely ridiculous but that we are TOLD looks “fashionable” (ha!), the wine and the cheese… They want to lay in the sun and bask in what THEY view to be life in France. They turn their noses up at the most pungent of the cheeses and instead settle for things within their comfort zones. They avoid foie gras or pieds de cochons, or anything mildly ambitious that goes outside of their comfort zone.
These people, my friends, are the future generations and the people who spoil the image of American tourists for the rest of us. This ignorance plagues me and the vanity makes me nauseous as I sit at a cafe and juxtapose life here to my days passed at Luna Cafe at school. I dress to fit in, to respect, to not stand out. I don’t dress to make a scene, to become the new “It Girl”, or whatever it is these silly girls lust over these days. I have had quite enough of friends who come here for the boys, for shopping, for not speaking the language, and for picking through McDonald’s and other American treats. For shouting and being obnoxious and getting attention. For staring at themselves in the mirrors and taking photos of themselves to plaster online so everyone can tell them how adorable and “French” they are.
Please, indulge in the Love of France and not the Lust.
I believe in animal rights, albeit I despise groups like PETA that blow small truths out of proportion and generalize entire industries. I feel like PETA takes it about twenty steps too far. However, I can’t help but to acknowledge some of the points the activists make and some of the faults they do manage to uncover.
It’s May, and so the hot topic has been Derby Day. I was never a fan of Derby Day because I associated it with cruelty towards horses, thanks to my mom’s standpoint growing up. But my friend challenged my opinions on derby racing when I came to Cleveland. We were getting gelato in Little Italy a couple Kentucky Derby’s ago and I was appalled by the gaggles of city people lined up to watch a 2-minute race around a track. I grew up with horses. My first job was in the stables. My mom rides western with me and paid for dressage lessons when I was younger. I understand the deep relationship one builds with a horse and how one should respect these beasts, all their power, and realize how much work it takes to care after one. Sitting in that room with those Clevelanders, I knew none of them knew the first thing about horses. How could city people care so much about a dumb race? I’d never seen people at home pay attention at the bar when the screen was on. I remember sitting in Sharky’s one year and everyone was more fascinated by the Pirates and Orioles baseball recaps. And is my mom right about the cruelty that those animals undergo? I decided to look into it further.
One of my good friends from home actually owns an eighth of a race horse. Yet her family doesn’t care about the races, just about the bets and the money it brings in. I decided first to search about what makes the Derby so exciting and if anyone else feels the same sort of animosity towards it as I do. I came across a post on Angelfire called “The Kentucky Derby Really is Decadent and Depraved”. I feel like the author makes some good points. For example, a quote on what makes it so popular:
“I despise the Derby for the same reason I despise 21st Century R&B and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They thrive by circulating so much hype around nearly non-existent substance until the hype becomes the substance. Of course what I call “hype,” Derby fans call “tradition. … Let’s not forget that all this tradition comes from the Deep South. Yup, from the countryside that brought you cotton plantations, the Confederacy, country music, and grits comes little men riding big horses in a circle for less than two minutes. Sell hot dogs in the stands and whiskey at the bar and you can garner enough fat alcoholics with no real lot in life to become obsessed with it. Instant tradition.”
This would explain why so many Clevelanders seem hooked at the bars and over social media. They don’t care about the actual event, it’s just about the bets, the celebrities, the stupid meaningless stuff – and the hype. To confirm this opinion, I read a few blogs and recaps from Derby parties. Nearly every single commentary was the same. People might add a comment like “Those hoses are so pretty and strong!”, but mostly it was blathering on about mint juleps, overdone outfits, and southern tradition. PAH-LEASE. Even PETA recognizes this. I love the introduction from the PETA Files, which sums up my sentiments perfectly:
“There is a certain kind of person, it seems, who enjoys dressing up like a deranged escapee from some historical theme park and swilling mint juleps just to watch horses run around a dirt track for a couple of minutes.”
So, with the mystery of the hype solved enough for my satisfaction, I now began to wonder if my mom was ever out of line for finding horse racing cruel towards animals. I asked her last week if she thinks PETA over exaggerates. She agrees they do, but that they have some truths that shouldn’t be ignored. Maybe some animal cruelty situations are localized, but the point is they still exist and that horse racing still supports it. Searching some more, I found another person sharing bitter feelings about a party she attended in Maine with people who knew nothing about the race but supported the hype and didn’t blink once at the thought of what happens to the losing horses after the race. She describes this night in “Why I Hate the Kentucky Derby”, where her date casually informed her that the losers from the race she watched would be sent to slaughter for the meat industry. She even recaps the life of the horse who won that day, Real Quiet, and mourns his death as not a steak but as a tired breeding stallion whose genes were used to continue the age-old tradition. I was still skeptical of tales of stun guns and horse meat until I watched some videos of horses being stunned and of trucks driving hours on end to take horses across the border. Furthermore, the disappointed date provided an article from William C. Rhoden of the New York Times which seems legitimate enough for me:
“The most significant source of racehorse deaths is the slaughter industry, one driven by overbreeding and demand from the lucrative global meat market. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered each year in Canada and Mexico to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia.
Breeding operations produce thousands of so-called surplus thoroughbreds. What happens to the excess, the often anonymous horses? Some are sold to owners who take them overseas. Some wind up racing in Japan. Some wind up in slaughterhouses.”
PETA claims 80% of people are opposed to horse slaughter in the US, yet it evidently continues to happen. PETA also reads of endless statistics about horse breeding, horse deaths, poor animal treatment, and all of those things I don’t have to bore you with. My main point – which I think I’ve made – is that Derby Day is a loathsome event, yet so many people blindly worship. I find it pathetic. I believe in knowing what I support and, if these sheep weren’t so ignorant, I should hope they wouldn’t support it as well. Alas, ignorance and stubbornness, the leading follies of humankind.
So all you Team Derby people out there, have fun dressing up, choking on mint juleps, and pretending to be southern for a day while you lose your money along with the life of your bet horse.