Our money is boring

August 31, 2010

In comparison to the world monies, our currency is fairly drab. It’s all one color, all one size, and have no women (except for that Sacagawea dollar) on it. Further, it is difficult for those who are visually impaired to tell each note apart. A $20 and a $50 feel exactly alike to the blind.

New paper money has been tossed back and forth over the years, but nothing seems to really push us in the right direction towards a change. Designers Dowling and Duncan recently showed their concepts for new money, and we think they are pretty fantastic. Check them out!

Reflections on Restoring Honor

August 31, 2010

Normally, I find Glenn Beck to be just mildly annoying. He’s like a mosquito that buzzes in your ear – not biting, not landing – just perpetually floating without fail and creating an annoying hum in your ear. However, Beck’s resent actions are totally inexcusable. He is having a rally in order to restore honor to our nation. When I first heard of this idea, I thought, honestly, that it was a joke. A talking head from spin central is going to restore my nation’s honor? I’ll get Hugh Hefner right on restoring my modesty while we’re at it.

The first problem with this is obvious. My honor is not in need of restoration. Neither is that of my nation – not, at least, in the sense that Beck believes. He claims we are only as honorable as our virtues – a word he uses, dare I say, liberally – are in proper alignment. Acting more like a man at the pulpit than at the podium, Beck plays the sensitivities of his followers. He evokes humility when it looks best – calling up soldiers – both of the current conflict and wars past when convenient. My heart broke for them because not only had they served our country and lost, without doubt, something significant in each instance, but now they seemed to be losing something more. In the closing prayer, I man who had lost his face in Vietnam was paraded out after having the more grotesque details of his injuries retold by Beck. He told a story of loss in the name of defending freedom. He prayed to God that our troops be protected. The whole time he was standing there, Sarah Palin, failed governor and current talking head, was standing behind his left shoulder shaking her head in agreement. Beck stood to his right. He was bookmarked by two terrible people who spend day and night cooking up ways to brainwash the people into giving up their babies to warfare, giving up their shores to drilling, and giving up their dreams to inequality. I kept thinking, “This guy deserves better than this.” Though I’m a peaceful person, I don’t think there was anything wrong with this man’s honor – or that of the nation he served in the military – and I think it is pretty fucking smug of Beck to assume so. Using people is not bringing honor to them. If you really want to honor our veterans, Mr. Beck, help us get out of our military conflicts so no more of them have to become memories that never walk through the doors of their family homes again. Just today I saw a news snippet of a nineteen-year-old child who died in Iraq. The honorable thing to do would be to really learn from all these casualties we keep racking up and work to stop them. The only silver lining to this event is that the money raised – after Mr. Beck and his crew’s expenses – went to a very worthy charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

The second reason I’m coming down on Beck has to do with Mr. Beck’s own integrity. He’s a liar. He said – on national television – that the date of his rally wasn’t chosen for any particular reason other than it was the only free day in everyone’s schedules where the stars aligned. Bullshit.

I don’t really care that Beck chose to have his ‘Restoring Honor,’ rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s, ‘I Have a Dream,’ speech. I don’t care that it was in the same location as Dr. King’s famous speech. I do care, however, that Beck claims that the logistics of this event are just coincidence – the result of open nooks and crannies within the bowels of conservative crony schedules and surprisingly open venues. There is no way – no way – that it just happened to be that the anniversary of the most remembered and cherished speech of the civil rights movement happened to be the same day when nothing much was going on in the spin factory and the Lincoln Memorial was free. What’s appalling isn’t that Beck thought to utter this lie in the first place – he’s a snake and that’s what snakes do – what’s appalling is that he said it on national television with a look on his face that said, “I know you’re going to believe me even though this is bullshit.” I mean, he should have just come out and said, “Yeah, I know this is an important day. I want to put my mark on it – whether it is a shine or a stain.” At least that would have carried the weight of honesty.

Beck tried his best to seem holy, but to me he just came off as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He evoked the word God more times, I believe, than the Rev. Dr. King in his famous speech. It seemed semi-sacrilegious to me – like using God to advertise Foldgers Coffee, or “The View,” or something like that. He made God seem like a patriot – on our side (America’s side) and our side alone.

The most terrifying thing about this event, though, wasn’t the man of the hour. It was the misguided nonsense he was spewing out into the atmosphere. It wasn’t the fact that the media was lapping up his nonsense. No, the most terrifying thing about this event could be found in the reflecting pool at the national mall. Beck’s followers, ready to take his message anywhere to anyone, gathered in staggering numbers. There stood apostles of a fake messiah, waving handmade signs and sporting Beck-inspired t-shirts. I didn’t feel honorable watching this unfold on television. All I felt was shame.
YouTube Preview Image

Waiting for Superman

August 30, 2010

There’s a new movie coming out called Waiting for Superman and it makes me terribly nervous. It’s a documentary centered around our failing education system brought to us by the director of An Inconvenient Truth. I have quite a few friends who became educators and I have a parent who is a teacher, so I feel fairly knowledgeable about the inner workings of the system. Now, the movie doesn’t come out until September 24th, so I hate to pre-judge, but I can’t see it treating teachers fairly. Media produced about our education system tends to do one thing: demonize teachers. No parent, no government, and certainly no student is to blame when it comes to falling test scores or discipline problems. The phrase “education is failing our students” becomes a war cry for those looking for change.

But, we need to consider the system as a whole, and not just a part. Certainly there are dysfunctional teachers out there. And in our continuous cutbacks towards funding these careers, we’ve devalued the position more than ever. Teachers no longer go to four year colleges where they learn techniques to become teachers. They fall into it after leaving a banking career or when their communications degree doesn’t get them the advertising position they were hoping for. We don’t train our teachers like we used to.

However, we have to look at the countries we are comparing ourselves to. The comparison is always made, first, to China. In China, only the top students even go to college. You’re told what you’re good at and are trained accordingly. We can be just as good as the Chinese. We just have to give up some of our free will to do it. We also have to deny college educations to the majority of our population. The way the Chinese view it, college isn’t for everyone. They educate those who show the most promise and find alternative life options for those who aren’t educationally inclined. We, on the other hand, create Phoenix University for those who can’t handle a real university setting.

So, maybe we don’t want to be China. Maybe we want to be the Netherlands! In the Netherlands, the culture is very insular and values are more consistent. Their schools don’t have classrooms where half of the students speak a different language. Their parents value education, and help their children from an early age. Learning is a value there.

Here, we value education like we do everything else; in word only. We say that education is the key, but we don’t help our college graduates find work. We stress the importance of children getting the best education possible, but we pay the providers of that education less and less, while expecting greater results. We threaten job security and pay stability based on the performance of children who come home to YouTube and Playstations instead of books and homework. We’ve stripped the innovation out of the education system and tied the hands of educators to provide insight and teach the skills children actually need to succeed.

I’ll be interested to see if Waiting for Superman provides solutions for our problems beyond increased testing and better training for teachers. I’m proud to say that I had an incredible public education where I learned about thematic elements and foreshadowing. If the trailer is any indication, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath.

Take this job and… Quarterlife Work: Freelance vs Corporate

August 27, 2010

Do you like working in your underwear? Do you prefer a 401K and dental coverage? Quarterlifers have more opportunities than ever to find unique paths of employment. What are the pros and cons of each? Our diverse panel debates freelance and corporate avenues of work. Music by Industrial Jazz Group and David Kraut.

Dude! You Are Getting a Dell!

August 27, 2010

You might remember this catch phrase used by Dell Computers for its commercial ad campaigns during the early 2000’s. The actor was so popular he was fondly labeled the “Dell Kid“, got a spread in Tiger Beat and was being courted by Spielberg. Then he got caught smoking pot and his career went into the same. You would have thought the Austin police department would have been more forgiving. (See Matthew McConaughey, naked bongo, the Bush twins, public intoxication, George W. and DUI) But, whatever. This little article is more about the computing side of things than the various addictive attributes of today’s cultural icons (See President Obama, smoking, Michelle Obama and Illinois practicing law ethics disbarment).

I did, indeed, get a Dell this past week. Like all quarter lifers, I was pretty much raised and reared on electronic gizmos. Nintendo, Internet, Cell Phones, DVD, etc. Yet, 20-somethings take’ em for granted. The day my computer was to arrive, it was like Christmas. Because of the tracking software program at Dell, I even knew the hour when the little package was to arrive. When I heard the big diesel engine of the FedEx truck it was like Santa’s reindeers’ hooves on the rooftop. I ran outside, scribbled something like a signature and off I went inside with my new toy.

Boy how things have changed. The last computer I got came in three separate boxes, one for the uber monitor, the desk top and sundry things, and lastly the key board. The monitor box was big enough to make a fort out of. Which I did later on. Yes, this was just Christmas 2003 and some of us mature at different rates.

Well, my current wonder of technology came in one box, the size of a hefty attentive boyfriend’s gift of Valentine’s Day chocolates. Inside were three back up disks, the laptop and a power cord. I plugged it in, heard the musical charms of a computer booting up and five minutes later I was up on the Net with the capacity to surf porn so fast Superman would get a blister. I kid. Really I do. There is no way Superman could ever get a blister, he is the Man of Steel.

I took a moment to pause. Dude! You have it easy. All this tech stuff makes life so convenient, so complex at times, but a lot better no matter what. And Dude! You don’t even appreciate the changes that have occurred in your short life. It is almost too easy. Standing on the shoulders of giants and such. So in a zen moment of clarity, I put the new plaything away. I had been without a computer for a week and I thought I was going crazy. But, life went on. Maybe the same could be done with the cell, the texting, cable, etc.

And up ‘til this posting I turned them all off. A full week without any of the things that seemed to be so important. I actually like that I carried around a nice little leather notebook, pencil in hand and was not only able to survive, but enjoyed the tactile sense of writing, the lack of audio intrusions of cell phone beeps and the constant eye pollution from the television.

Sure, I am back up, reentering the world I cannot totally Robinson Crusoe away from. But, this time I refuse to reload into the Matrix. Dude! I got a Dell, but it and all of its electronic cronies will not own me.

I indeed did get a Dell this past week. Like all quarter lifers, I was pretty much raised and reared on electronic gizmos. Nintendo, Internet, Cell Phones, DVD, etc. Yet, 20-somethings take’em for granted. The day my computer was to arrive, it was like Christmas. Because of the tracking software program at Dell, I even knew the hour when the little package was to arrive. When I heard the big disiel engine of the FedEx truck it was like Santa’s reindeers’ hooves on the rooftop. I ran outside, scribbled something like a signature and off I went inside with my new toy.

Boy how things have changed. The last computer I got came in three separate boxes, one for the uber monitor, the desk top and sundry things & then lastly the key board. The monitor box was big enough to make a fort out of. Which I did later on. Yes, this was just Christmas 2003 and some of us mature at different rates.

Well, my current wonder of technology came in one box, the size of a hefty attentive boyfriend’s gift of Valentine’s Day chocolates. Inside were three back up disks, the laptop and a power cord. I plugged it in, heard the musical charms of a computer booting up and five minutes later I was up on the Net with the capacity to surf porn so fast Superman would get a blister. I kid. Really I do. There is no way Superman could ever get a blister, he is the Man of Steel.

Long story short. I took a moment to pause. Dude! You have it easy. All this tech stuff makes life so convenient, so complex at times, but a lot better no matter what. And Dude! You don’t even appreciate the changes that have occurred in your short life. It is almost too easy. Standing on the shoulders of giants and such. So in a zen moment of clarity, I put the new plaything away. I had been without a computer for a week and I thought I was going crazy. But, life went on. Maybe the same could be done with the cell, the texting, cable, etc.

And up til this posting I turned them all off. A full week without any of the things that seemed to be so important. I actually like that I carried around a nice little leather notebook, pencil in hand and was not only able to survive, but enjoyed the tactile sense of writing, the lack of audio intrusions of cell phone beeps and the constant eye pollution from the television.

Sure, I am back up, reentering the world I cannot totally Robinson Crusoe away from. But, this time I refuse to reload into the Matrix. Dude! I got a Dell, but it and all of its electronic cronies will not own me.

Stuck in rotation

August 27, 2010

I watch most of my media via the internet. I still have rabbit ears on my 40in tv and instead plunk my money into a faster internet connection. With Hulu, Comedy Central, MSNBC, and Netflix I stay up on most pop culture. Downside? There are far more repeated commercials. For a period of time I was getting ready to drive to Cisco Systems and do something terrible to their advertising department to make the commercials on Rachel Maddow stop. I love Ellen Page as much as the next person, but I could only take so much.

For a commercial to stand out, it has to be particularly excellent. There are plenty of Geico commercials in my Hulu rotation and most of them I could live without. However, the newest commercial completely got me.

YouTube Preview Image

I love it. Its so simple but evert time I see it I fall over laughing. Its like Narcoleptic Kitty or Sneezing Panda. Every time! Props to the (no doubt quarterlife) minds that thought this up.

Now a brief message to Friskies. No Friskies! Your commercial freaks me out! This kitten runs around an adventureland of animals it would like to eat. I love bacon, despite the adorable weee piggy. But I don’t want to go to Universal Studios and visit Bacon Land.
YouTube Preview Image

One day our media will be devoid of advertising. Fewer online streams play them and with DVR you can just skip them. I don’t think I’ll miss commercials, but in the mean time, I’m happy there are still some that make me laugh.

Thanks Mrs. A.

Happy Together: a Review of The Dollyrots’ A Little Messed Up

August 27, 2010

The first taste I got of A Little Messed Up was at a small, dank bar on the edge of historic Ybor City. It was a rare Floridian freeze – the temperature had dropped below forty and all the natives were looking for warmth in the form of companionship and whatever flowed on tap that night, me included. Though the space was dense with people, a chill still mingled through the air and filled the empty spaces between our coats, jeans, and bodies. That all changed when The Dollyrots hit the stage. They started with a cover of Melanie’s Brand New Key and kept favorites from their first two releases coming. At times, it felt more like a sing-a-long than a show, with the crowd joining in for every song.

There came a point, though, when bassist and lead Kelly (after heckling the crowd about how her youth soccer league kick their youth soccer leagues’ collective asses) announced they would be playing a few new songs from their album that they pinky swore would be coming out soon. I felt my cynical spirits lower – the party was over and the promotion was beginning. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They started off with Some Girls, a super-catchy number about romantic disinterest. Somewhere in the back of my cerebral space, that song was stuck – on loop – until their album’s recent release.

The rest of the record is just as addictive. Though this album definitely has a harder edge to it than their previous releases, it is without a doubt a pop album with a lean to punk rock. In fact, I’d venture to refer to it as bubble gum punk – bright, bubbly, and catchy as hell. You can tell it is a trio of people who enjoy playing music for the sake of playing together. It comes through in every note.

There’s nothing too technically impressive about A Little Messed Up, but the total package works well. The album is cohesive without being boring – each song has its own feel while being distinctly Dollyrots. Harder, rougher tracks like Bigmouth take you on a virtual time warp back to simpler, more direct time in girl-fronted rock – - think of The Breeders circa 1993. Kelly brings it with great licks on the bass, and Luis delivers completely on guitar. Don’t get too nostalgic, though, because pop-explosions like Om Nom Nom will throw you slamming into the present digital age and have you wondering if it is possible for lolcats to write lyrics. The album’s first single, California Beach Boy, isn’t that memorable, but it is a nice change-up to a summer filled with images of “California Gurl” Katy Perry ejaculating whipped cream on sandy shores.

The album has nice flow, too, with the sweetly sobering Rollercoaster gliding into the midst of the album without being a downer. It provides a good shift in tempo – allowing for some calm in the middle of the storm – without being a disruptive break from the party. It is calming without being disarming.

The album also includes two covers: The Turtles’ Happy Together and Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover. Covers are a strong suit of The Dollyrots, and these are no exception. This little couplet of songs that throw back to a simpler time is a perfect end to the album. These two songs put the listening experience to bed like a nice rock n’ roll lullaby.

All in all, The Dollyrots have a good time on this album, and I think it’s nice of them to bring us along for the ride. Turns out, A Little Messed Up is absolutely fine.
YouTube Preview Image

How much did your $10/hr education cost?

August 20, 2010

The Seattle based Crosscut.com recently discussed the myth of the for-profit culinary school. It got me thinking, if these trained chefs are out $50,000 and making $9 an hour, I wonder what my educational proportion is.

As quarterlifers, we graduated college at the most unfortunate time. Having difficulties finding work after graduation, many of us went straight to graduate school, hoping to make ourselves more marketable. But much like those culinary school grads who spend two years chopping at an expensive school, we also came out to find jobs below our expectations.

Culturally, we value education above experience from a philosophical standpoint. However, the real world values experience over knowledge. Quarterlifers with MBAs and MFAs and PhDs are finding that, despite their years of learning and the high price tag that went with it, they still have to start at an entry level or junior position.

There has to be a change in the way we value and talk about education. Not only for collegiate levels, but for elementary and secondary levels too. College is no longer the bastion of success and ends up frustrating our graduates when employment is no easier than before. We need to take a page out of the book of the Bauhaus where knowledge and apprenticeship were combined to give students skills and intelligence about their prospective fields.

If I devoted every dollar of my paycheck to my student loans, it would take me close to 4 years to pay them off. I’m not sure how much more marketable my degrees have made me, but they’ve certainly taught me plenty about finance.

And then they came for me.

August 17, 2010

Keith Olbermann always does us proud

watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0&feature=player_embedded

Bars, Porn, and Liquor

August 17, 2010

As the political stratosphere explodes with debate over the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, the NY Daily News gave us a better perspective of the sacredness of that spot:

“Many come to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to pay tribute to pain and unspeakable tragedy. They’re welcomed by solemn memorials and a visitors center amid the noise of reconstruction.

If they’re so inclined, they can also buy porn, play the ponies and take care of all manner of personal business within steps of the former World Trade Center.”

Avowing to protect the sanctity of anything is a sign of outdated thinking. Preservation is for those who either can’t or won’t adapt to change. The National Organization for Marriage used the same argument to strip gay couples of their right to marry. Allowing one group of individuals their rights does not always change who you are. Sometimes it should. Sometimes, your definition of marriage, or religious freedom, or sacred should change.

Next Page »