Monday, June 23, 2008

from Russia, with love...

About to take off for summer study abroad in Russia. I'll be in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Samara. While I don't speak much Russian, I have taken the time to learn some essential phrases. Ya nie gavaru pa'ruskee (rough spelling estimate) should mean I don't speak Russian. I predict this one will be particularly helpful. Hopefully, I'll pick up more along the way, and depending on my experience, learn Russian formally in the future. It's an amazing language, as endearing as it is foreign.

I'm most excited about meeting the Russian people. Much of Russia was closed to foreigners until about ten years ago. I'll be one of the few Americans to see the country regarded as our enemy for most of the last century. CRAZY. It's a extraordinary opportunity that I won't take for granted.

Anyway, I'll try to post a few blogs during the trip. There should be plenty to write about but limited computer access. If nothing else, fuel for many eye-opening revelations.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I can't believe what a wimp I've become. Summer, according to all my friends and previous experience, should be the one time of the year when it's okay to sleep until noon. One month of summer down and the latest I've slept is probably 10am. Seriously.

It must be a result of zero night life. Back at home, life adopts a new level of boredom, the highest echelon of doldrum. So, without adequate incentive, my sleep schedule never adjusted to summer. I still wake up at 7am. It sucks. I can't even run at that time because, recently, it's already ninety degrees Fahrenheit outside!

It should be cool because I love mornings. Waking up early gives the illusion of a longer day, providing more time to do whatever--usually sit around the house, contemplating the future and wishing for a shorter summer. So sad.

On the bright side, I'm on the final stretch before Russia. That should catapult my summer back into the fuckin' awesome level.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I respectfully ask you to get the fuck over it

The homogeneous tendencies of our society are wearing me thin.

It's true, I am relatively opinionated. My closer friends know my opinions on many things--I voice them frequently--but due to my latest advertisement of my view on Starbucks has stirred up plenty of counter-argument.

Taking into account that, over the course of the summer, nearly half my friends have found employment at the coffee giant (seriously, how many people can this place afford to employ?!), most of the feedback is negative. However, even those whose wallets don't receive compensation didn't generally agree. Some do, most don't.

This is fine; however, it brings back to the forefront of my mind the great opposition people have for different lifestyles. For example, I recently became a vegetarian. When I announced my decision to my friends, they responded negatively. They couldn't understand my motivations, but more importantly, actively tried to dissuade me.

This is where hypocrisies kick in. People commonly point to diversity as a guiding principle, but generally don't see it in terms of lifestyle. Diversity means outward differences, not personal lifestyles.

It hurts. To look at the people close to you and realize you don't have as much in common as you thought, alone, afloat in a sea of opposition, can be painful. If nothing else, my experiences have taught me something of what it means to be an oppressed minority.

It isn't right, but I can see some of the uses. Creating a homogeneous society keeps conflict low. There's nothing to fight about when everyone believes the same thing. However, restricting beliefs stagnates society and leads to violent resistance to change. And change is necessary. A society must be able to adapt to cultural alterations that can come from a variety of sources. A society that prevents change will perish.

So, what I'm asking is for greater acceptance. You don't need to agree with everything someone does, but you should be open to change. Change will come, whether the doors are locked and windows closed or not.

My opinions hold importance--to me. If you don't agree, I accept that, but don't try to change me. If I see the need, I'll change myself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

suck it, Starbucks!

I recognize that my posts tend to be general and abstract. This one is not.

I hate Starbucks. Like a plague of rabbits, they have multiplied until they sully every street corner. Most of my friends question my hatred, seemingly irrational as it is. However, to me, Starbucks represents everything wrong with today's Western society , compounded by combining it with coffee.

I love coffee and coffee shops. I practically live on caffeine during school and find coffee soothing any morning--even in the 80 degree Arizona mornings.

But Starbucks had to ruin it. Now coffee shops all mirror the fast-food style counter and chairs, stifling differences in order to connect with the "Starbucks consumer," a breed who can not cope with irregularities or individuality in their coffee consumption experience. The Starbucks-style coffee shop extracts social interaction and local pride from the picture. They strive for international conformity and don't even offer free wifi, a coffee-shop staple!

When I go to a coffee shop, I want a hub of community interaction: local artists displaying their work, locally purchased furniture, alternative music, political conversation. Sure it's idealistic, but I doesn't have to be. I've frequented many coffee shops that provide all those things along with an atmosphere conducive to creativity and free exchange; places that emphasize the experience and not the five dollar drink. But they are slowly dying. No, people prefer the in-and-out, I'm-too-busy-to-care, just-give-me-caramel-flavored-caffeine-before-work experience.

So, when the day comes, I will weep for the death of the bohemian coffee shop. But for now, I fight back the only way one man can in a capitalist society: the money vote. Money spent at a Starbucks is praise for their soul-less, corporate agenda. My bank notes will never grace that sold-out counter. The battle for independent coffee rages and I find myself on the front line--anywhere, a block from a Starbucks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

quiet the voices

Creativity is illusive, abstract, and even frustrating at times. To be creative requires time, inspiration, and insight. For me, it's a constant battle.

However, recently I've realized the battle is as much a struggle with others as with myself. Too often I reluctantly pass up an idea because I'm worried about how it will be received; not so much a fear of failure, but a hesitance to expose myself to friends and strangers. I doubt I am the only one. Society has conditioned people to place heavy emphasis on personal expression. We are defined by our work.

In a world with countless individuals struggling to show their creative value, have we created a threshold of expression that limits whose creativity has value and whose doesn't?

People should express themselves regardless of their creativity's value to others. Expression has personal value, quieting the restless mind and providing mental therapy. When the mind's voices quiet, I can achieve greater creative flow than when the voices distract me with their chatter: "Who will see this? Who will value this? Is this how you want people to see you?" Enough. I will create my own idea of value; disregarding monetary worth and public acceptance. People can judge, but I don't care.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

other ways

When does suffering benefit those who suffer?

In preparation for study abroad this summer, my class has been studying the book "Russia and Soul," by Dale Pesmen, examining what it means to be Russian. One of the main topics Pesmen focuses on is suffering and its connection to group solidarity. Suffering not as individuals, but as a group. Through individual experiences and interviews, Pesmen constructed a picture of what life was like in Russia in the post-revolution 90's--a time when most of Russia was closed to foreigners and journalists.

During the Revolution, life became very heard for the people of Russia. Many blamed the government, foreigners and the times; but through their suffering, gained a greater ideal of what it means to be human. Suffering brought the people together, uniting them in their struggle and creating the idea of dusha, or Russian soul, we have come to associate with them as a people.

In Western society, we lack this level of solidarity. Too often we see ourselves only as individuals. Individual greed over the consideration of others has continually spawned the evils of times, and while a solution to this problem seems all but impossible, it is clear we need something more. Something to bring people together, uniting interests and dissolving personal struggle.

Perhaps this is why we can not unite as a country at war. While many people have suffered as a result of the Iraq War, it is not universal, and therefore cannot be addressed by the people in a unified way. No one wants the suffering and sacrifice already invested to go to waist; however, the shady atmosphere that brought war and the investigations that followed cause many to question our reasoning. Americans have trouble deciding why we are at war in the first place. For security? To aid others? For oil? Opinions proliferate as growing disillusionment seems to form the crest of sweeping government change--or so we hope.

I place my hope in the idea of change. Change that we can rally around as a nation. Change as a symbol of a more united people and an end to the stagnating ideals of preserving the status quo. However, change is only a symbol. My generation must determine how to use it.