Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why are we jaded?

I am a member of a generation that has gotten a pretty impressive amount of attention for its lack of enthusiasm, sarcasm, frustration, and crossed-arm stance toward pretty much everything that crosses its path. I was pondering the reason behind this on the way to work, and after a short walk had accumulated a pretty hefty list of causes for an entire age group to be overwhelmingly more jaded than the previous one.

I should start off by mentioning that i didn't start the morning with the question "why do I have a chip on my shoulder about the world?" but rather the question "Is there any way I could get a job at Google?" (the answer is no.) I like Google as a corporation, and I realized it's because their image promotion is directed squarely at people like me. Google is popular among recent college grads who are broke, can't find entry-level employment, can't afford housing, and honestly can't afford anything even resembling a luxury item. They're grumpy that there's heaps of new technology and gadgets and shiny objects in the world that they can't have.

Google, of course, offers the bulk of its products and services to the public free of charge. The only snag is that they post an unobtrusive list of ads everywhere you go, which most people have learned to ignore. Most of the time ads piss us off--the pop-ups that resist every blocker, the flashy obnoxious ones that induce seizures, the "you're the ten-millionth visitor" banners that mislead children and the elderly--indeed, internet-based advertising has done nothing to improve anyone's sales since its inception. But Google's ads are polite. Discrete. Apologetic, even, as though they begrudgingly post them as a means of paying the bills so they can offer you, the impoverished techno-geek, their cool programs for free. As though they want you to believe that they're philanthropists slaving for the public good and wanting nothing in return.

Which explains, of course, why Google is a massive, multi-billion dollar company. The whole image is a complete sham, but it works wonders on the jaded mind. See, poor people like folks who give away things for free. Unfortunately, though, the new generation of educated poor people expect there to be a catch, so we're reluctant to take that which is given to us. We expect the ads, the sermons, the viruses, the pickpockets, and the fine print that go along with free things. People don't give things away for free unless they expect a mighty return on the investment.

So what Google does, then, is put up the ads and plainly say "we know you're expecting a catch, and that's it. right there. Money doesn't grow on trees." They give you the illusion of showing all their cards. But oho! Turns out the last card in their hand is the one they've convinced us we don't want to see. That, of course, being that Google is an advertising company. They turn a very sweet profit off of their discrete advertisements. And they do it through trust. A Gmail user understands the agreement of ads for free products, and assumes Google is out there for them. They logically can conclude, then, that any company Google would be willing to do business with is staffed with nice people too, and, just as a favor to the generous free-stuff provider, folks click the ads occasionally. To show their support for what's going on. Well, naturally, those clicks add up and Google's clients pay up. Everybody gets what they want, especially Google.

Similar arrangements can be seen on any Comedy Central webpage, where the words "Payin' the bills" are scrawled over the ad banners. Its an apology. It makes the company look humble so you don't grumble when faced with them. So Comedy Central turns some cash for hosting ads and you keep coming to the site. Brilliant. (It goes without mention that comedy central and Google are frequented by the same sort of patronage.) Serious advertisers will pay a lot of money now to have their commercial not only seen, but given attention. Most will agree that any company that advertises via false offers, flashing lights, and flying pigs is going to go down on every viewer's "no" list. As in "No way in hell do i want whatever you're trying to sell."

So, as I was saying, I'm a member of an increasing number of startlingly jaded young adults. And i came up with some reasons why. It's really quite rational, given the context of our lives.

We're jaded because we've just spent between four and six years and between ten and fifty thousand dollars to get a piece of paper that clearly states we're just as dumb as everyone else.
Moreover, we've got proof that we're a dozen times more intellectually capable than the person the majority of our countrymen elected to be our executive leader and we're getting turned down by temp agencies.
We're jaded because we live in a diverse, multicultural, international country that is in the process of erecting walls to keep out foreigners.
We're jaded because, although we live in an age in which every magazine cover screams that a good sex life is vital to physical and mental health, our Puritanical society consistently tells us to keep our bits to ourselves.
We're jaded because big corporations have replaced edible food with corn syrup and petroleum derivatives. These same corporations keep their employees locked up throughout all daylight hours, seated, squinting at computer monitors, breathing canned hi-rise air. These same corporations fund research into the American obesity problem, which points to poor diet and lack of exercise. These Same corporations air ads stressing the importance of an active lifestyle, plenty of sunshine, and healthy food, and blame the individual's poor nutrition choices for their newfound Type II diabetes. These SAME corporations...are the only people hiring.
We're jaded because the will of the masses is repeatedly consulted and ignored by the government.
We're jaded because we're smarter than everyone ever and we're still considered members of "the masses."
We're jaded because television has been reduced to cameras following boring people around through their boring daily lives, but we still squirm through the commercial break to find out what happens next.
We're jaded because we pay a lot of money for curbside recycling pickup but we hear homeless people pick the bottles out of the bin and take them to the center for their own profit.
We're jaded because even the church has conceded that there's no meaning to life, but we'd feel silly to just end it.
We're jaded because we're capable of realizing all of this, and yet helpless to do anything about it.

Feel free to add your own!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


So i was lookin' on Craig's List today at housing in theatre-friendly cities. Y'know, big, overpopulated cities with high crime rates, few available jobs, and insanely expensive rent. The kinds of towns in or near which I would have to live in order to do the job I'm most qualified for. The kinds of towns I, along with every other claustrophobic person in the world, despise.

And y'know what? The career I've chosen to pursue directly prevents me from being able to afford housing within a four-hour commute from any of these cities. The only way I'd be able to do it and contribute a fair part to payment is to share a one-bedroom flat with four or five other people. Which, frankly...no. Sharing a room with one rarely-present girl in uni was unpleasant enough (as anyone who's heard the "Chinese food made into the bed for a week" story can vouch for) and i think i've outgrown the stage of life in which i'd be content to climb into a bunk at sleepaway camp. The only adults i've ever known of to do that are soldiers, prisoners, and the occasional renaissance faire performer.

In the Bay area its $500/month to rent a trailer park space. Not even a trailer. Just an open spot on the ground that someone says its okay for you to park in. Pay half a thousand dollars monthly for 32x10 feet of...space. Just enough room for you to back in your wheeled house and be able to hear your neighbors whispering with the windows closed.

My question is this--who the hell thought cities would be a good idea? "I have a brilliant plan--lets cram millions of people into the tiniest amount of space possible--make 'em crawl into each other's laps if we have to--where all other flora and fauna (excepting mildew and cockroaches) asphyxiate and die and the human inhabitants are choked on the stench of their own compacted bodies. Let's then make it so expensive to have a home here that everyone must work two full-time jobs to afford the luxury of crawling into someone else's lap to sleep. Then, let's make it so expensive to run a business here that employers will have to make do on the smallest number of employees possible, creating rampant job scarcity! Tada! A recipe for producing the highest per-capita rates of homelessness, anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and overall failure in the country. So why do people move here in the first place? Why on earth would anyone subject themselves to this sort of torture? Why, because its the promised land of opportunity!

And if you don't live in or around a city you probably live in Nowheresville, South Carolina and don't have all of your teeth. Which is fine, if you didn't want them anyway. Because there really aren't opportunities outside of cities. Its just unfortunate that there really aren't opportunities in them either.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

little notes

I love the feeling of having just learned something new. For a few elated moments it's as though I'm the only person in the world who knows, and I feel empowered. Like when i was 8 and learned that "s/h" stood for "shipping and handling."

Berkeley consistently has gorgeous sunsets. The locals barely notice them, they're so frequent, but i secretly wonder if they're what the tolls pay for.

I recently made a Myspace friend. I was so stunned that an actual person wanted to talk to me on account of common interests, without wanting me to buy anything, attend an overpriced concert, or put any component of herself on or in any component of me, that I very nearly clicked "disapprove." Any time it looks like someone is using Myspace for the use it was intended it must be a hoax.

"We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now." -Withnail, Withnail and I

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Subconscious Sadism

Over the past few months I've had a series of dreams in which I've lost body parts. Most recently my sleeping mind decided it'd be funny to lop off my left pinkie toe, but before that I had my tongue cut out with kitchen shears and lost a leg up to the hip. I Googled "amputation dream" and found a series of dictionary/advisory/astrological sites which all suggested I felt "trapped in an unpleasant situation" or "silenced by an oppressive home or job." i.e. I'd lost the parts of me used for moving around or speaking. Others mentioned castration anxiety (. . .) or amusingly vague and multi-purpose responses such as "you're worried about a difficult situation that you're going to have to address." and "you have a lot of stress in your relationship."

As cute as that is, I honestly think I'm just scared of losing bits of myself in the power tools at work. Knock on wood.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Open A Window

I am the anti-smell. Scented candles make me nauseated. Bathroom fresheners cause my temples to throb. Odor-eliminating sprays are my #1 migraine trigger. It Baffles me that people spray nasty chemicals into the air in their stuffy houses to "freshen" them, and then they proceed to stay in the room and Breathe that shit. Ever read the side of a bottle of Febreze? "odor eliminator" is considered an ingredient. I consider that a massive unpronounceable compound that someone figured they'd simplify. Some sort of noxious, plastic, cinnamon-inspired completely-artificial vein-inflaming horror has been reduced to "odor eliminator" on a brightly decorated spray container. Frequently these have warning labels that say "may be harmful to children or pets." but not harmful to you, you grown-up purchaser of pressurized stench. It may kill Fido but you'll come out with little more than a nagging head cold and a depleted immune system. Because This stuff is good for the air and your brain cells. That's why Corporate America encourages you to spray it directly into your nose--so you'll unlearn the dangers of huffing vaporized industrial particles and BUY MORE.

...someone put one of those stink-cones in my house. Two hours after I removed it my head still hurts and I'm dizzy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

on sports and sugar

I gotta say, I am so proud of myself for not dating a sports fan. I don't know how golf widows do it. So frequently I hear my friends' young men babbling excitedly about whatever sport is in season--how the player slammed the puck straight out of the court with the bases loaded with ten seconds left to score the winning touchdown. I see them running around, using furniture and pillows to re-enact the momentous scene, even going so far as to mimic the player's particular end-zone dance, to prove to their dearest loves that this is only the awesomest thing to happen in the history of the universe. I see my friends' eyes glaze over as soon as the word "basketball" is uttered, and I watch their default game-faces set in like a dose of Botox. You know the ones--the smile that doesn't quite reach the eyes, the frequent nod of understanding, the occasional "ooh, wow!", and the gradual development of a twitch in the right side of the face that worsens as time draws closer to the Superbowl. I listen as these patient ladies comfort their distraught mates when their teams lose in spite of everything--blame the refs, blame the weather, blame anything to keep the boy from crying. They hum the school's fight song like some grim travesty of a lullaby and stroke their greasy heads that reek of so much cheap beer.
I do not envy these women. I have no patience for sports and even less for the people who enjoy them. I do not understand people who's evenings are made or ruined according to the behaviors of people they do not know who get paid whether or not they win. I don't understand the joy or the grief of game watching. The last time I watched a football game the only thing I recall feeling was my ass going numb on the aluminium bleachers. It was not a joyous experience.

In other news, since I moved to California I've decided to eliminate corn syrup from my diet. It has gone well and i feel that i am eating more healthily than ever before. Moreover, it is very easy to avoid chemical foods out here--in fact, there are chains of grocery stores here that exist on the very premise that food should be healthful and inexpensive. What a concept. Unfortunately, when i went to the east coast this winter I was reminded that this is not the case for everyone. Entire areas of the country know nothing about the contents of their food, and have no other option for sustenance than the preservative-riddled, corn-sweetened, petroleum-based offal sold by Wal-Mart. WHEN DID AMERICA DECIDE PLASTIC COULD BE SOLD AS FOOD?

You wanna know why American children are overweight? Even the ones who don't have playstation threes? You're feeding them bright pink corn-syrupy garbage. Just because the advertisers can get away with calling Lucky Charms "part of a complete breakfast" doesn't mean its okay to feed to toddlers.

What's that? You say you don't feed your toddlers bright pink food but they're still fat, ADD, lethargic morons? READ THE INGREDIENTS. Most "whole wheat yes this is good for you" bread is full of high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, hard-to-pronounce sweeteners and bizarre chemical combinations that are not good for you. They sell it as "healthy" because its brown and the first ingredient is unbleached wheat flour. But read the rest of them. Yeah, all the rest of them. Get out your periodic table and figure out which lab-developed molecule you're eating today because Post or General Mills wanted to cut corners on raw ingredients.

General rule of thumb: If it ain't found in nature, its not food. That's not to say rocks and arsenic Are food, but let's be reasonable. Scientists invented trans fats because they thought they'd be better for you. Now they're killing people. Oops. Chances are, 20,000 years of species development has figured out a lot more about what's edible than 50 years of molecular science. I'm waiting to hear that Omega 3 fatty acids are a carcinogen or the inevitable "okay, we lied, there's no such thing as good or bad cholesterol." The country only started having pandemic obesity and obesity-related disease problems since we moved our jobs inside and started eating silicone. Somebody please pass a law. We must make healthy, chemical-free food readily available to the general masses if we don't want to watch our national IQ plummet even lower.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

observations from a window seat

Flying over the American west today I noticed that terraced hills look exactly like topographical maps when covered in snow.

You want your two year old to stop whining. We want your two year old to stop whining. If speaking gently to them is ineffectual at reaching this goal, why not try your parents' method? You can't make a child feel emotions he's yet incapable of feeling (guilt) and you can't use explanations he's yet incapable of understanding. Children are simple creatures--telling a spoiled toddler to be quiet "because its nice" is like telling my three-legged cat to stay inside tonight "Because its safe." Actions speak louder than words.

There are some seriously isolated people farming in northern Utah. I wonder if they're paranoids.

The Midwest is so square its scary. Not only is the ground divided up into big regular squares, but the roads between them are straight lines, the houses on the roads are of similar shape and evenly spaced, and the streetlights could have been placed with a ruler.

Today i got two sunrises--one from the air, which is always a treat, and another on the ground about an hour later and a time zone westward. Breathtaking. All westward-headed flights should leave at six am.

If you get to your gate two hours early, don't go to sleep. Your flight might move to another end of the airport without you noticing. That said, it is a good idea to travel in running shoes.

Nebraska+Snow=sliced birthday cake

In-flight movies these days are followed by reality tv shows and advertisements. Added to the "Snackbox" program (wherein, after having your healthy, inexpensive lunch confiscated at security, you're expected to fork over cash for a box full of junk food on the plane), the sheer number of McDonald's restaurants in every terminal, and one's ability to buy a la-z-boy recliner from the Skymall and I can't help but notice that airlines are taking advantage of the fat, brainless American in all of us.