Learning vs. Brainwashing

How would I have turned out if I had never watched any television show, movie, or read a book that describes how people are supposed to be?

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Environmentalism for Goonies

…don’t know where the title came from but I like it!

  1. Is environmentalism a privileged person’s cause? Isn’t it more pressing to be assisting hungry children or the homeless? Partly yes, partly no; climate change is causing untold numbers of humans to go hungry because of failing crops or become homeless as catastrophic weather events intensify and increase in frequency.
  2. How do we educate about climate change without making people so scared or angry or frustrated or bored that they turn off their emotions and go back to buying their daily Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice in a non-recyclable coffee cup and using hundreds of plastic bags annually to encapsulate their grocery store vegetables?
    • Speaking of the latter clause: Buy reusable grocery and vegetable bags!!! Extra plus: THEY DON’T SQUEAKImage result for YAY gif 

      Short break for feminism:

    • How much could we learn if we removed the shopping-related portions of magazines and replaced them with information? I believe in style and fun ways to express yourself through clothing and, albeit not personally, makeup. I am just interested in pursuing this thought.
    • How much more could I learn or even earn if I traded time spent applying makeup doing something else? How about curating outfits (starkly posited: think of the typical men’s costume of a suit while women spend literally hours decking themselves in the perfect blend of color, texture, baubles, scent, etc.)

Back to environmentalism (last thought for now):

3. Yes, it costs more to buy organic and biodynamic and pasture-raised and cage-free and cruelty-free and not-tested-on-animals and biodegradable. However, if you can afford it (which you probably can… at least some products, which also probably taste better or are better for your bod), think of it as both voting and making an impact. Each product purchased acts as one vote towards the values associated with the product and/or the company itself. In regards to making an impact, your organic cotton rounds are polluting the world less than cotton balls, and that extra money spent is going to help someone affected by climate change by lessening its impact, even by a teensy tiny bit. This is not to say that I personally believe that buying organic = donating to climate refugees. However, it’s certainly not a terrible habit to get into.

bath bomb

A soft buttery light casts my still-being-furnished bedroom in a calming tone. It’s not as chilly as it usually is, thanks to my landlord offering a space heater in the interim before she can hire an electrician. I clutch my newly purchased bath towel and let it lick up the remaining water droplets while it leaves a snuggly after(taste?)

Then I realize: I am so proud that I own this lovely, lovely towel that I bought for not quite an hour’s labor, which functions as a drying device and mobile nest, whose shade is easy on the eyes yet stylish… this towel that I received in an exchange with the fruits of my first post-college job, which I actually like and is showering me with many lessons both cushy and spiky!

I love my towel! And this milestone towards independence!

Puppy staying cozy in a towel

Did I mention… IT’S ALSO ORGANIC?! 😉

You Know You’re a Feminist When…

You let yourself sneeze (into your elbow!) in public. Isn’t that almost the stupidest thing you’ve heard today? Hear me out: This is something that most men take for granted- that they’re allowed to make noise and exhibit a slightly grotesque bodily function in the presence of strangers. I know that, for years, I made sure to stifle my sneezes in school out of a misguided respect for others. Now I know that that way of thinking is totally ridiculous. We already have to put up with physical manifestation of societally-expected restriction like bras, high heels, and Spanx– Free the sneeze!

Musical Autobiography

This semester I’m taking a MEGA-RAD class called The History of Rock and R&B. It’s everything it sounds like, including weekly viewing sessions, a class Spotify account, and this first assignment! It was painful to realize how much I’d have to leave out if I wanted to write this in two pages or less, and as it’s ungraded, not try that hard so I could siphon my effort into other, more pressing tasks (like a real-life job interview, waddup.) However, I couldn’t help but make it snazzy. Here it is.

(Ok wait, a note: I’m rueful that I didn’t mention my family’s jukebox machine. Among thousands of other anecdotes… oh!)

Much of my confidence can be attributed to early exposure to The Queen of Soul, who encouraged me to demand R-E-S-P-E-C-T around the same time I was learning to write in cursive. Listening to “Pet Sounds” during Sunday morning board game sessions primed me for a deep appreciation for revolutionary harmonies while innumerable listens to The White Album led me to impersonate John Lennon for a sixth grade biography project. Records were constantly spinning in my house growing up, and since coming to college, music has remained a large part of my life. Over time I’ve changed roles from classical clarinetist to a klezmer frelyekh fanatic, exchanged my Coldplay poster for one featuring Simon & Garfunkel, and moved from car radio DJ to avid harmonizer. However, I believe that the reasoning behind my high school superlative of “Most Musical” will be remaining solid for a long time to come.

I began exploring my infantile musical potential through Kindermusik. Learning to clap along with rudimentary rhythms and sway to the beat served me quite well in the decades following that formative experience. After graduating, the piano became my next challenge. Like many kids, I loathed the weekly lessons and oversized musical notation of the Alfred book series. In retrospect, it was valuable for learning the basics of how to read and play music. A brief third grade stint with the recorder led to the adoption of the viola for a year (too much arm strength required) and finally to my current instrumental sweetheart: the clarinet. We’ve been together for about 12 years, participating in everything from school bands to NYSSMA to Area All State festivals to pit orchestras to Veeblefetzer, Wesleyan’s premier klezmer band. I also enjoy eking out songs by ear, my favorites being those by CSNY, Disney, the Beatles, and even top 40 hits.

My ears have heard more than I could ever identify, let alone write about. I feel very fortunate to have grown up with a constant stream of 60’s and 70’s music illuminating the house. When I received my first iPod nano as a gift in sixth grade, Earth, Wind, & Fire’s Greatest Hits were the first to be uploaded. The first song I ever bought on iTunes was Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”. Middle school brought several sticky-sweet pop artists such as Mariah Carey and Katy Perry but they were tempered with fresh first tastes of David Bowie and Peter Gabriel. Around this time, my interest in Broadway musicals was taking off, with my repertoire including shows such as Wicked, The Lion King, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, and the Fantasticks. Later, Spring Awakening and In the Heights would be the productions that topped Sophie’s top ten albums list before years of post-high school showtune drought set in.

Just as I entered ninth grade, Coldplay became a huge new musical realm to explore. Ingrid Michaelson’s lyrics prevailed over geometry vocabulary in my memory after discovering her flawless catalogue. Although any mention of it now makes me groan, an intense interest in the then-mesmerizing television show “Glee” introduced me to hundreds of classic hits such as “Like a Prayer” and “Losing My Religion” through their a cappella covers. I began attending concerts near (at Saratoga’s wonderful outdoor amphitheater, SPAC) and far (journeying to Boston, New York, and beyond.) Listening to Regina Spektor delicately catapult her balm-like yet piercing songs of Russian childhood and modern love made a formidable impact. Reveling in the deliciously melancholy sounds of Of Monsters and Men in a mediocre Albany bar was also a milestone that capped senior year.

Since coming to Wesleyan, I’ve explored as much music as I had throughout the previous eighteen years of life. Just a few artists I’ve fallen in love with include James Taylor, CSNY, Bon Iver, The Staves, Van Morrison, and Paul Simon, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended performances of the latter four in London within the last year. During sophomore year, I began an insurmountable project to listen to Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time, which has brought both great joy (finding Albert King, Manu Chao, and finally being able to relate to my parents’ undying devotion for The Boss) and a disappointing lack of understanding about the greatness of others (Steve Earle, Merle Haggard). Meeting a lovable, certified musicophile in September also greatly increased my passion for music. In addition to introducing me to a more holistic way of embracing music, from singers to record labels to producers, he’s helped train my ear to be more patient by experimenting with new genres and sounds. Now, as a student in the History of Rock and R&B, I’m thrilled to see what the next chapter in my musical autobiography will bring!

i s r a e l : part two

This trip, in many ways, felt like sleepaway camp. As opposed to the simple “free trip to Israel” many of us imagined before landing halfway around the globe, this Birthright experience allowed me to develop several strong emotional bonds. I connected with my fellow travelers, who live across the US from New York to Laramie to Provo, in conversations spanning from introductory small talk to intense queries about the validity of relief when natural disasters reduce population size (Halley is a superb thinker.)

When traipsing around Israel, I felt a novel sensation of being intensely and barely Jewish at the same time.

Standing atop Mount Masada at dawn to witness the sunrise, looking out to the Dead Sea, surrounded by a mixed, mixed assortment of fellow Jews was astounding. Then, to hike over that mountain and imagine the thousands of years’ worth of events that had transpired atop the fortress, ranging from daily dove-tending to heart-rending massacres of Jews against Jews… this was so much more than a free trip. It required you up at dawn the first morning after a two-ish day day of travelling across the globe to get on your hiking boots and walk up a mountain. You were allowed the gift of meeting Bedouin nomads, drinking their coffee, and meditating on more stars than you’d ever seen while cloaked in the darkness of the Negev desert evening. Seven young Israelis ranging from soldiers to students to engineers accompanied you for five days. At first you were doubtful about their value, but after just a few days, you found yourself making silly faces with them and sincerely sorry when they left.

Even now, I’m not sure how Jewish I feel, or how to sort out the web of politics, history, and sorrow that the Jewish state has both endured and waged. However, I do know that because of this trip, I see Israel in a new light that’s framed with more understanding, support, and pride. I’ve strengthened my Jewish identity by holding onto the aspects of the religion I truly cherish such as universal respect, love, and the belief in education.

For the first time since high school, this trip gave me a huge community of young Jews to befriend. (I tried to enter the Wes group but it never felt right.) One of my favorite parts of going to Temple has been and will always be the multi-aged, family-filled community I can’t help but grow to love. Even though I’m far from most of my tripmates here in Connecticut, the idea that they’re all over the country is comforting, leading me to the thought that, when I do find a job and live somewhere, I can find another Jewish community to integrate myself into. Another home. To a lesser extent, I also now feel that Israel is another home for me if I wish it. That’s another incredible takeaway from ten days in a place steeped in meaning.

i s r a e l : part one

How do I begin writing about a ten-day trip across a country with as much history, conflict, beauty, scents, and sights as Israel? Well, I’ve gotta start somewhere. How about

Before landing in Tel Aviv, I was so wrong about many aspects of this trip.

I prepared myself to fight the various types of Judaism-related brainwashing they’d attempt on us all. On the right (0) to wrong (10) scale, I was wrong by 8.

I imagined the Israelis who’d accompany us for five days would be difficult to interact with and mostly sent by the organization to make us fall in love and settle in Israel with them. I was wrong by 9.

As someone not intimately involved with current events, I imagined Israel would feel something like a war zone: safety not guaranteed. However, with our two personable medics/security guards and itinerary that took us mainly to rural parts of the country, I hardly felt unsafe. While we were hiking close to the Syrian border (still many miles away), we heard four distant booms akin to those from the Hunger Games. A bit unsettling but barely. We later learned from UN peacekeepers that those sounds were from Israeli military exercises. So in the end, I don’t think I was ever very close to danger. Wrongness level: 9.25.

In terms of company, I didn’t think much about the others joining Elior and I on our trip through the holy land. I purposefully chose to join the 22-26 group over the college-aged groups because I thought they’d be more mature and better partners to explore the controversial, highly complex land that is the birthplace of humanity. Turns out I was right- this was a CRITICAL choice in elevating my experience. However, I didn’t foresee how much I’d bond with them on a level approaching that of sleepaway camp.

One aspect of the trip that I wish I hadn’t been wrong about was the food. I didn’t anticipate the daily buffets of plentiful cabbage and schnitzel, but had been hoping for more colorful and place-relevant dishes. True, we were offered roasted eggplant, various forms of sub-par shakshuka, and some okay hummus at these buffets, but it was at the markets and stands where the flavors really burst forth. Dare I admit that the hummus I tasted in London was better than the vast majority of the Israeli varieties I sampled? Reality check: I went with a group of 39 other young adults, on a practically FREE trip, for ten days. There’s no way I could’ve asked for higher quality food on the regular. Ultimately, I did expose my little tongue to some wonderful Middle Eastern flavors and for that I’m grateful.

At this point I’m still overwhelmed with the amount of information I wish to write and explore, so I’ll ease it by providing some pictures.

Nudge of Inspiration: Style as Anti-Violence Activism

In the words of the extraordinary Jender Anomie,

“There’s this really good quote I found online about being ‘femme’ that is totally relatable: ‘Every morning, getting dressed is a process of quantifying an apathy to violence, potential, mediated, or openly hostile, for the day.’ For me, coming across the public every day can be quite a dehumanizing experience because people think I’m somehow obscuring myself with costume, which often incites insults or comments. I really feel, however, that the opposite is true. If I were to attempt to blend in, that would be the true obstacle. I would struggle to remember just how unique a person I am. ‘Dressing up’ means all I need to do is just look at myself. It’s right there where I can see it with my eyes and feel in my hands how today I created something beautiful. It really means I have to believe in myself, even if I want to give up because people are gonna say things and I am gonna have to deal with it.

Colorful and frivolous clothes are my main channel of communication to the world, and they say, ‘Warning, I don’t back down!’ It’s the only language I’m confident at speaking.”

 

Check out this brief yet stunning piece of art on Rookie.

This particular poem, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation

Poem of the Day: The Truth the Dead Know

BY ANNE SEXTON

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.


In the second stanza, “I cultivate/ myself” declares a mastery of language. I can only hope that I’ll be able to speak that clearly in my life, being able to attend to situations with words that fit like a glove and offer aid in times that leave us speechless.

“They lie without shoes/ in their stone boats.” What is it about the lack of shoes that so firmly grasped my attention?