Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Way Ticket to Mars

Remember what you learned in elementary school? Science, math, art, history, and all about the pilgrims crossing the ocean to America. I remember hearing about the explorers' stories of hardship, death, and the fears that came with arriving on a new land. It never even occurred to me, until very recently, that pioneer stories no longer exist. No more land to be discovered and explored. Have you ever thought of that?

Well then, read this:

Scientists have introduced the idea of a one-way trip to Mars for a select few brave souls. They say it will cut costs by 80 percent and force the explorers to set up a colony, and mentally and physically adapt to a new way of life. But the astronauts must get used to the idea that they will never return back to Earth. Now, I consider myself an adventurer but I always know in the back of my mind that I possess a roundtrip ticket. Maybe it's my easy way out, a sort of chicken door if you will, but it gives me peace.

I'm sure I could think of a few people on this earth that I would volunteer for this one-way trip. Let's see...a few politicians, some dictators, annoying comedians, Nickelback...just to name a few. I can understand, though, why the government refuses to send the rejects into space. It would be a public relations nightmare if Carrot Top and Sarah Palin started fighting on Mars and Entertainment Tonight found out.

But on a more serious note, think about that for a second - you leave to a foreign land, you're gone for a few months or even years, and you can never return to Earth. That's not even like entering the Congo or the Yukon where you may learn to adapt. This is a planet with different air, different ground (which technically can't be called earth), different sky, different light, different...creatures?

These scientists who are leading the campaign claim that our planet is on the path to destruction and we must explore the skies for answers, and we must do it now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. The discovery of the "new world" ended in the 1800s and we landed on the moon in 1969. So what does our generation have? Maybe this is our chance to show that we are willing to be explorers, that we are willing to step into the beyond and never come back. Others before us have left everything they had for the darkness, for a better life.

So ask yourself, would you do it? Would you fly into the dark unknown for the sake of humanity?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Off Into The Darkness

Next week is Thanksgiving, which means Christmas break starts in a month, and that means I have one semester left of grad school. Am I any closer to knowing what I want to do when I "grow up?" If you can believe it, I may be further away.

Is it normal to be less than enthused about finishing school? I feel as though my sense of apathy has increased, not because I don't care, but because I don't know how to care. I am studying public administration and am taught in my classes that I am training to be a public servant, to uphold the Constitution and to "do the right thing." What does that even mean anymore? The "right thing?" Are we only kidding ourselves?

Somehow we are taught in school, starting at a very young age, to idolize heroes and heroines throughout history that "do the right thing," to simplify historical events into a textbook, and glorify those who defend democracy and equality. (Whatever the heck that means either.) But because of the laws of time and the biases that our minds have created, we cannot look at history without a tinted lens. So who exactly were Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Revere, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Jesus? And who do we have now, for this generation?

I have always wondered what happened to the anti-government rock songs, the wild protests in the streets, the sit-ins, and the messiahs. I have come to the conclusion that there are three options: either these things no longer exist; they are among us but go unnoticed; or the strangest of all, we do not need them anymore. I want to argue for the third option, that we do not rely on heroes or their stories. Who have we become, as a people, to deny the very crutches that history has been built upon?

My professor argues we are going through a paradigmatic change, whether we like it or not. That means a change where theories, laws, science, and thoughts are transformed. The very way we think, communicate, rationalize, and reason has changed and we are just starting to understand it.


It is a rejection of Truth, ideals, language, logic, the very world we live in. One author even explains it as   a "move off into the darkness." Take language for example: look up any word in the dictionary. What defines it? Other words. What defines those? Other words. Look at race: can we truly define race as what is available to "check" in a box? Postmodernism pushes boundaries and limits to free us from the constricted world we have created for ourselves.

My professor also said that over the years he has taught postmodernism, people have become less and less surprised by its magnitude. When postmodernism first came to the scene, professional adults would engage in screaming matches and fist fights over what is "true!" and what is "real!" Now, our generation seems to gladly accept a new philosophical framework. But why? What makes us so different and willing to accept change? If we look back on the last twenty years and identify what has set us apart, our generation has literally grown up in the technological boom. We saw the dot-com business era, video games take over middle America, the internet spread to computers, phones, and televisions. We have Hollywood and the BBC at the mercy of our fingertips and control the media that we see. So are we truly controlling our world, or are we experiencing an information overload?

Question the words you use, the sayings you believe, and the stereotypes you inherently use. Try to identify the boundaries you have placed on the way you reason, the way you talk, the way you see our world. After that, ask yourself: are you ready to "move off into the darkness?"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Music Time Travel

Last night Dave and I both got home late but didn't feel like heading to bed so we put on some music. I'm not sure how it started but the music selection spiraled into an emotional trip down memory lane. We listened with nostalgic feelings to songs we hadn't heard in years and reminisced about what they meant to us. Most of what we listened to, if not all, had special meaning to us before we even knew each other. Songs that helped us through hard times, that gave us an escape at one point or another, and reminded us of exact moments in time.

Music is such a huge part of our lives. We listen to it at home, in the car, in the grocery store, the doctor's office, restaurants, in the teenager's car as he drives by proudly at two in the afternoon. We can't escape it, nor should we want to. Music has a powerful way of capturing an emotion, sometimes even immobilizing us where we just have to stop and say, "wow." Sometimes that emotion is caught so well that it stays with us for the rest of our lives. Think back to senior year of high school or freshmen year of college. Think of your first love, your first fight. What song did you put on? I can still remember driving around when I was 17 years old listening to certain songs over and over again, wondering how the world could be so big and so small at the same time. Remember that?

I remember when I received my first CD for my 11th birthday: TLC's "Crazy, Sexy, Cool." I popped it into my little CD player in my room, (actually it was huge! CD players were the size of mini fridges back then,) and listening to it for hours just dancing around my room. Never mind the lyrics were about drugs, abusive relationships, and "scrubs." (Or maybe that was the next genius album?) Regardless, I didn't care what the lyrics were about. It was more about the feeling of being connected to other people who were listening to this music, about being a part of something, and about being able to move.

Jump ahead seven years to the end of high school. Emo and punk music had taken off so Dashboard Confessional was up there with NOFX, The Postal Service, Blink 182, and anything else that you can hate the world and dance to. A year or two later, Outkast took over the radio with "Hey Ya" along with The Darkness's "I Believe In A Thing Called Love." Some of my greatest memories are from freshmen year in the cafeteria when "Hey Ya" would come on. Everyone would stop eating, hop up on the tables, and start dancing, swinging their arms around, shaking their fingers without a care in the world. In addition to the wonderful high I got from some music, that same year I was introduced to music that forced introspection and even a little pain as I thought about what I was doing with myself. Freshmen year is quite the transitional period in a young person's life and music certainly enhances the highs and lows.

Now, seven years later we are submerged into the ocean of Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, and Beyonce. Will we look back in ten years and have memories of the music today? Probably, although I find it hard that I will one day reminisce about "balls to the wall" or some other crappy rap song. But who knows? I would be naiive to predict my future emotions.

As Dave and I sat last night listening to music, not needing to exchange words, I felt like I was in a surreal, latent dream. People say we can't time travel, but I want to disagree. Put on Dashboard Confessional's "Saints and Sailors" or The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" and think back to when you first heard those songs. You will be transported back to a different time in your life with different people, different happiness and troubles, different goals and aspirations.

Ponder this as you listen to some of your old favorites: music can take us back, but can it also bring us forward?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh, just can it!

Apparently canning is back.

That means good 'ol fashioned marmalade, apple sauce, pickles, and jams. Some say its popularity has made a comeback because of the recession and people want to save money. I'm not so sure I agree with this. Call me a cynic, but I don't think that people are going to spend an entire Saturday boiling tomatoes, peeling them, making tomato sauce, boiling the cans, and then waiting for the lids to go "ping!" just to save a buck. 

I want to believe it's something more, something that may have started before the recession began two years ago. I think people are reverting back to simpler tasks and activities in their life, activities that do not require the iphone, wii, boondoggle, or dinglehopper. Canning is a way of taking control of the food you eat and the way you prepare them. It's fulfilling to say, "I made that!" or "Crap, I screwed that up."

Food is more than a past time. It is a passion, a way of life, a representation of cultures and years of history, an art form, and pure pleasure. Canning is simply another way of expressing one's love for food. And let me tell you: I love food.

I love food so much that it's hard for me to explain it to the normal person. My boyfriend, Dave, has put up with my crazy grocery shopping, high meat standards, and complaining at crappy restaurants. "Well, I'm sorry, but if I can make it at home, why should I pay $10 for it?"

There is something so amazing about knowing exactly where your food came from and how it got to your table. Have you ever sipped raw milk? That is milk that has not been homogenized, pasteurized, bleached, or whatever else they do to milk. What about a fresh tomato? You'll never eat a cardboard grocery store tomato again. 

I'm not sure if I can convey how or why I  love food so much. I know what it's like to taste an amazing dish and feel your whole body sink into itself with the first bite. I know what fish should taste like (same with cheese.) There's just no comparison! But why do I love it? I don't know if I can articulate that. makes me feel good? 

Whatever your reason is for enjoying food, keep it up. Seek out the best ingredients, the best farms, and other people who are passionate to bring a quality plate to the table. Keep chopping those mushrooms and mincing that garlic, even if it's just for you. 

Here's a favorite soup of mine that I had in Argentina. This recipe is from Joy of Cooking and it's every bit as good. (I love to top it with sour cream!)

Cream of Carrot Soup
Heat in a soup pot over medium-low heat until hot: 
*1/4 cup water or stock
*1 tblsp butter (optional)

Add and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionallly, until tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes:
*1 medium onion, chopped
*1 tblsp minced peeled fresh garlic
*1/2 tsp curry powder (optional)

Stir in:
*4 cups stock
*1 cup orange juice
*1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using a food processor or blender, process until as smooth as desired. Return the soup to the pot and stir in:
*1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
*1/2 to 1 tsp salt
*1/8 tsp black pepper

Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scars of the Recession

Today I read an article that said the young generation will have life-long scars from the recession. This means we will make less, marry less often, have less children (if any), and be skeptical of investments.  Personally I think we are lucky to have seen the recession start to finish (well, sort of finish) at this time in our lives. Generation Y had just finished college, polished up the résumé, and headed out into the big world when - BOOM! Things exploded. Suddenly the "you can do anything" catch phrase was thrown out with the business cards. People tucked money under the mattress and searched for any job they could find.

I am completely guilty of being a "job snob," if you will. I thought of myself as above many jobs and bought into the stigmas against grocery stores, fast food chains, and anything 'dirty'...ew. Well I got a wake up call. I found myself without a job in the middle of the recession, as many did, and truly did not understand the severity of the situation until I began the new application process. I went door to door, mailed in applications, emailed dozens of people a day, all for nothing. I told people, "Oh, I'll be fine! I have a college degree and plenty of work experience. And have you seen this ass? Who wouldn't want to hire me?" I laughed it off until days turned into weeks and I still hadn't found a job.

A month and a half later I received a phone call telling me to come in for an interview!

"Please come in at 11 am for a group interview."
"A what?"
"A group interview. We put all the applicants in a room and ask you questions. The doctor likes to see the group dynamics."

A group interview? Are you kidding me? Well I dressed up, headed to the chiropractic office, and saw eight other people sitting on uncomfortable metal folding chairs. I needed this job so badly but so did the other girls in the room. (Note, there were no males in the room except for the doctor.) We sat awkwardly in our skirts and dress suits staring at this 30-something man sitting in front of a framed picture of Jesus. I saw the picture and subtly glanced around the room to see if anyone else noticed it. If they did, they completely hid any reaction by nodding and smiling eagerly. I brushed passed it and listened to his introduction, complete with wild hand gestures and a face like an inspirational speaker:

"....and we believe in healthy lifestyles complete with exercise, healthy eating, family, chiropractic work of course" (insert uncomfortable laughter) "and a devout relationship with the Lord. All of our employees report to me on their healthy lifestyle and every Wednesday we have Bible study. Also, you will receive a monthly bonus for taking notes on the Scripture."

Was I the only one hearing this? Now I have nothing wrong with a healthy dose of faith in anyone's life, but I thought I was applying for a secretary position, not seminary school.

" if you look around our office you'll see framed testimonies from patients throughout the years." He held up a frame in front of all of us. "Here you'll see a local woman who was suffering from cancer who chose to try my chiropractic routine and give herself to the Lord. Take this as you will, but her cancer was gone after I was finished."

He was claiming to cure cancer?! Excuse me but I do not see a Nobel prize among all the testimonies and Jesus posters in this office.

" comes the point when I will leave the room and you can either decide to stay and continue the interview or walk out if this is not right for you." The second he left I stormed out, frustrated that my only job interview required me to pray in the office and give him weekly notes on my Scripture readings.

I left crying, believing that I had been defeated. I couldn't believe that after almost one hundred job applications I had to walk out of the only offer I had been given. As hard as this experience was, it greatly humbled me. I realized that I was not "good as gold" on finding a job and I would need to open my eyes a little. But even though I may have dropped my arrogance, I did not drop my morals and character, which I am proud of.

Several weeks later I was offered a job as a retail associate in a sports store. It was a typical "9 to 5" paying minimum wage in a depressing "big box" store. I had to wear an ugly uniform in the hierarchical work world and write down my lunch breaks.

I had never been happier.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Y Our Generation?

November 4th, 2010, two days after mid-term elections in the United States. Yes, I voted and yes, I guilted many others into voting, but I can't say I feel much of anything after the results. Republicans took over the House, some lost, some won, and the political bantering and rhetoric continues.

Will anything change? Probably not.

Statistically speaking, I may be considered an anomaly for actually voting. My generation, (Generation Y, the Millennials, Generation Next, Echo Boomers,) have been called apathetic, uneducated, selfish, self-righteous, and oblivious to the world outside. We are now told that our parents babied us, told us we could be whatever we wanted to be, never punished us. And now it is destroying us. Or so we're told. I used to get defensive when I heard my generation was called apathetic, especially when it came to politics. But now I stand back and say, "Well, have you tried to care lately?" Television, the Internet, and social media sites have created unlimited outlets for gathering information except the problem is that we are exposed to too much information. Instead of retaining, we are turning away from the political warfare and towards that which is familiar: home, friends, traveling, our simple, boring, mundane, everyday lives. Take one step outside of your home and tell me if you are greatly affected by the politicians in Washington at that very moment. I don't blame my generation for stepping away from politics and government today. Consider this our silent protest.

So what matters to us, the Millennials? Writer Pearl S. Buck said, "I can only write what I know," and that holds true for me. Some of us may be interested in starting a family as we near thirty, others may be looking for the perfect 9-5 with a benefit package to boot.

I simply want to find what I love and relish in it. It is such a cliché to say that 'life moves so quickly,' but unfortunately it does. I believe it is our duty to pay attention to events and politics that affect our life, but we must also take pleasure, pure guilt-free pleasure, in what we love. Therefore, this blog will be an adventure and a journey through food, traveling, poetry, art, fashion, and the romantic trials and tribulations of a Generation Nexter.

Until next time, I leave you with a quote from T.S. Eliot:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

-(from "Little Gidding," the last of Four Quartets)