I Don’t Know Why I’m Writing This

You ever look at your Twitter feed and be like, “Oh my gosh. What should I care about first?”

It’s overwhelming, all the things that suddenly demand our attention.

Even this post, my blog in general – Here I am, demanding your attention for fear this should fall on deaf ears or blind eyes or ignorant minds.

And I think this recent weirdness, which is unavoidable with the advancement of the Internet and our growing understanding and reinvention of it, plays a role in preventing ourselves from finding out who we really are.  At least that’s my perspective.

I’ve grown up with computers throughout a majority of my natural born life and it’s still this phenomenon that I find is always changing, a phenomenon everyone pretends to be so sure about and really has no idea, just a superficial knowledge.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know what I’m complaining about. All I know is that I needed to put something out there to ease the tension in my mind. I’ve recently realized I need to be somewhat involved, if not constantly involved, in some sort of creative output. I’ve recently been getting frustrated with my primary output, music, because I feel it takes too long for me to get my ideas out and put them together. But more often than not, music has always been my therapeutic fallback, reliable through and through to quell the unease in my heart. Writing comes a close second. When I really feel moved by something and want to speak, words come easy to me. I can write or type things quickly and then have something to show for it within a reasonable amount of time. I haven’t delved into fiction in awhile, but I’ve been thinking of taking it back up again. Baking and cooking is also a favorite of mine. It’s a type of creation that relies on effort, skill, and feedback from the tasters, yourself included. Is this good? Do people like this? How can I do better? Do I like this? Am I proud of myself? Was this too easy? Too hard? Did you know Elliott Smith worked in a bakery for a time?

But to get back to the Internet – It’s this popularity contest, you see?

Sometimes I get into these writing modes and I just free write (with a PEN and pages of notebook PAPER!). But I can’t help but make it lyrical sometimes, even tossing in a more than a few rhymes. I think it could best be described as a stream of consciousness to what I’m feeling or what’s going on around me, but it’s too long to be a song. There is no verse or chorus or bridge. And I just go on for pages and pages with no end in sight until I tire out or resolve whatever inner conflict seems to be dwelling inside me. But anyway, one night I came up with this line that I remember just tumbling out of my pen: “Computers extend high school” and looking back, I just feel that’s so true. We’re constantly being updated with the intimate intricacies of people’s lives, rumors, gossip (whether it be personal or political), trivial pictures and videos, bombarded with news headlines that all start out as “BREAKING“, stupid .gifs, suddenly finding out I can stream ‘The Fox and the Hound’ illegally from YouTube, having my attention span broken again and again like I’m procrastinating a homework assignment I don’t even have. But what am I procrastinating? Life? Is that it? Is that what we all do when we reach for our phones perhaps like a smoker reaches for a cigarette? A alcoholic reaches for a drink? (etc) Have you ever tried to go a day without eating bread or just eating fruits and vegetables or no meat? Have you ever tried to go a day without looking at your phone? It’s hard! What is the defining factor of addiction? What bands am I supposed to be caring about? What shows am I supposed to be watching? Will there be a Buzzfeed article that will tell me, conveniently illustrated with reaction .gifs for every cleverly concocted line?

I never know what to look at first because I get so easily overwhelmed that I cannot care. That used to happen to me in high school a lot. I would get so overwhelmed and stressed with my workload that I would just say, “Fuck it,” and take my time doing would I could and if I couldn’t get to everything, “Fuck it,” and that was that. But that was high school and this is the rest of my life. See, and the kicker to all of this is there is no way you can cut any of this out of your life because this is the norm, this is the status quo. You have to be Internet savvy these days for jobs, networking, communicating. People are getting rid of their TVs, their house phones. This is the new hub of communication. Most of my icebreaking when meeting people well-known or otherwise has all gone down on Twitter. And now we’re back to square one: I am stuck in an endless cycle of social media, an information avalanche that I cannot break out of without destroying my online presence which since 2005 has sneakily become a part of who I am because it has influenced nearly everything I do and say. I would be a Luddite to protest the ingenuity of technology and to cower into the cave where our neanderthal ancestors once dwelled, disconnected from the 1s and 0s of our postmodern time.

I cannot live as a person unless I have some ball of electricity buzzing at my center. Perhaps what I’m describing is a transcendent sensation and words cannot do it justice, but for the time being that’s as accurate as I can describe it. That electrical light went out today for a few hours and I felt completely and utterly helpless.  No direction to turn, nothing to do. TV is not satisfying, music is not satisfying, reading is not satisfying, menial housework is not satisfying, video games are a bore, it’s too much effort to do anything. I become unmotivated and stoic, begrudgingly sipping water and nursing this sore throat I currently have with tea and honey. If I were to drive, where would I go? If I were to purchase something with my slowly decreasing funds, what would I buy? I take no pleasure in obtaining material goods unless I have a proper use for them. I need a finish line in my life or I cannot not get up, will not get up. Call it purpose, the desire for experience, or whatever other name you see fit.

When it comes to the dreaded job search, I am overqualified or not experienced enough and when we are given the tempting promise of entrepreneurial life we know it is just fruit from The Tree of Knowledge – something forbidden we think tastes so sweet but is actually more trouble than it’s worth, at least to me. I feel restricted and tied. I am trying to make a sound but it’s as if I haven’t even opened my mouth.

This is 23-year-old me, struggling to make peace with my world around me and it’s hard. It’s confusing. I am trying to move forward, yet I feel like I’m just spinning in a circle. I am trying to get somewhere not knowing where that is, other than knowing it is somewhere other than here. Strange to think our time for “Coming of Age” has passed when I feel as though it hasn’t even begun.

The Kid In The Corner With The Eyeglasses On

I’m 23 years old and sometimes I still get that feeling I don’t fit in.

There’s an awkwardness that accompanies me everywhere I go.

An uncertain hesitation that constantly occupies my mind.

Some days it’s easier to sweep under the rug.

I think belonging and acceptance are quintessential to life

because think about the times when humans roamed the Earth as nomads;

We were part of clans, tribes, families. We traveled, laughed, cried, suffered, and died together.

We were part of a community that aided our physical and mental selves.

It’s a different type of loneliness that I could probably cry in the dark to.

There’s always two sides to every coin,

three sides to every story,

and an infinite number of feelings that get so easily trampled on by the slightest movement.

A moving rainbow swirling in and out. A spiral.

The “cool” factor so convincingly persuades me that high school never ended. It’s still ongoing:

There’s an in-crowd to every clique, to every clique a flag

waved in your face – A reminder you don’t belong.

With all our resources tapped out,

when we stand in the dark naked

staring ourselves down in the mirror,

trying to reach out and touch our own soul,

who are you then?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Building For The Future: GoldieBlox

GoldieBlox

Oh my gosh. Have you guys heard about GoldieBox?! It’s the newest company on the market of building games for girls, with hopes of opening them up to the world of engineering at a young age. These cool inventions also come with a read-a-long book series that follows the tales of protagonist/girl inventor Goldie, as she creates inventions to help her friends. When playing and building with these toys, these little engineers probably don’t even realize is that while they’re having fun, they’re also working on improving spatial skills, engineering principles, and creating self-confidence in problem-solving [GoldieBox].  Plus there’s more than one way to complete a project, so girls don’t feel restricted to one right answer. This is what I’m talking about when I go on about how pop culture can influence society. Toys are part of pop culture!

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine

Engineer, founder, and Stanford ’05 graduate Debbie Sterling created a whole line of engineering toys for girls to help inspire them and spark their interest at a young age. How genius! In fact, “she has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math” [Engineer Girl]. The line has been very successful and reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. I had the chance of catching her short interview on ‘CBS This Morning’ and was inspired in the 5-10 minutes Ms. Sterling spoke about her wonderful idea. Drawing from her own personal experiences, while at Stanford she realized how much the engineering field was dominated by men (Female engineers only make up 11% [The Mary Sue]) and when suggested by her high school math teacher that she major in Engineering, Sterling was embarrassed to admit at the time, she didn’t even know what it was. Interestingly enough, she also descends from a line of strong women pioneers as her grandmother was, “one of the first female cartoonists and creator of ‘Mr. Magoo'” [Engineer Girl].

More Than A Princess
More Than A Princess

GoldieBox started out as a successful Kickstarter project in 2012, which then developed into a thriving toy business.  It raised, ” over $285,000 in 30 days…and has been featured in numerous publications such as The Atlantic and Forbes” [Engineer Girl]. Before the Kickstarter project went live, Sterling was told, “‘construction toys for girls don’t sell’ and ‘you can’t fight nature'”, but like all great success stories the people who dared utter those statements were proven wrong. When asked why people love Goldiebox, the response was perfect, “‘I think it’s in part because the passivity of the average girl-marketed toy is frustrating to so many people from all walks of life. We’re not interested in condemning femininity or suggesting that a girl shouldn’t be a princess if she wants to be. We’re about giving girls the freedom to use their entire brains, whether they build a rocket launcher, or a parade float, or a catapult. It’s up to them'” [Intuit Small Business Big Game]. Isn’t that AWESOME?! See this super cool commercial featuring the Beastie Boys’ “Girls“:

As an interesting side note, Sterling/GoldieBlox was recently sued by the Beastie Boys for using this song for their “commercial” without proper licensing [SF Gate]. Granted, I understand that Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), “requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising” [GoldieBlox] but this isn’t some heartless company trying to sell beer or cigarettes or cell phones, this is a company that has the potential to change and influence an generation of girls to believe they’re worth more than the bombardment of pink packaged toys they constantly see in every toystore. Something as great as GoldieBlox can help break gender lines for an entire generation. Surely MCA were he alive would’ve realized the honor in contributing to that. Not only did GoldieBox transform a sexist song (namely, the last verse) through empowering lyrics encouraging girls to build things, and besides the fact that hip-hop is a culture primarily BASED on sampling and reappropriation, Adam Horovitz (a.k.a. Ad-Rock) is married to world-renowned feminist, riot grrl pioneer, female advocate and musician Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin, and Le Tigre. What a confusing move. I won’t say anything more as I do have great admiration and respect for both The Beastie Boys/Ad-Rock and Kathleen Hanna. But come on. I think the commercial is a great bit and the song was an excellent choice, both catchy and easily recognizable just trying to motivate young girls to believe they can be more than a princess.

Debbie Sterling was actually in the audience of Stanford graduates when Steve Jobs made his famous, now viral Commencement Speech [Huffington Post].  And because of that it should be no surprise that after hearing that speech firsthand, she was been so successful at passionately pursuing the project and tearing down barriers. Sterling has been quoted as saying, “we don’t have a national shortage of princesses, but we do have a national shortage of engineers” [Intuit Small Business Big Game]. I stand by her and her ideas and wish her all the success in the world.

On a personal note, as a young girl I was raised to think outside the princess bubble.  Sure I had Barbies and dolls and played dress-up from time to time. But I was constantly showered in books, encouraged to write, draw and paint, and at the age of 4 or 5 began watching Star Trek Voyager with Captain Kathryn Janeway in command. She served as a positive female role model then and continues to hold that role today in my life as 23-year-old young woman.

I watched the Magic School Bus, Bill Nye The Science Guy, played computer games that taught me musical instruments of the world, how to problem solve, and how to read. I was told that instead of being a cheerleader, I could be my own cheerleader and was actively involved in piano lessons, gymnastics, karate, soccer, basketball, and softball. I was a die-hard Yankees fan at the age of 7 and independently picked up a guitar at 14. Perhaps these are all things not part of a stereotypical girl’s childhood. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if it is or isn’t. What I know is that the way I grew up and the things I did and the fact that I was allowed to follow my interests made me the woman I am today. I think it is important that Ms. Sterling is focusing on trying to open up an area for young girls they didn’t even know existed, and making them feel welcome and inclusive in world that has for so long been dominated by boys. Sterling says, “The biggest challenge is one of alienation and not feeling understood by your peers. It’s important to stick to your guns and maintain your perspective” [Huffington Post]. I believe Sterling also understands that how a girl or any child grows up and what toys they play with/gravitate towards, is the beginning of a lifelong process which helps cultivate interests and can determine the direction of their futures.

Sterling is helping to encourage and inspire an entire female generation that they can excel in fields that have so long seemed out of reach or vacant by their fellow female friends. I can’t wait to see how far GoldieBlox gets and wish them all the best. I hope parents and teachers alike embrace this wonderful new product, along with the future little engineers in hopes that they’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed learning about it. The future can sometimes seem bleak but when I hear stories like this, it makes me beam from the inside out. To echo Rosie the Riveter, “We Can Do It!”

“For the past 100 years, construction toys have inspired our boys to be thinkers, builders, and inventors. Our girls deserve the same…I created GoldieBlox because I believe that every girl is more than just a princess” – Debbie Sterling [Intuit Small Business Big Game]

Declining American Education

Now that there are no quickly escalating international or domestic crises to report, the media has come around once again to discuss our declining education system.  But this is commonplace in the show business of entertainment news, is it not? So as a recent ‘finished product’ of the American education system, I feel as though I have a valid right and proper experience within the system to discuss such a topic.

A report was issued yesterday documenting our nation’s educational decline based on a global survey of test scores in various subject material – Reading, Math, Science, etc.  If you’ve even so much glanced at a television screen within the past few years, you know this is nothing new. I admit, I have not looked into or specifically researched how these scores were gathered and compounded into statistical data or what kind of testing this report is actually based on (probably standardized), but in any case I do not believe that matters because either way you slice the pie, I believe the problem is the same.

In reaction to this report, US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is quoted as saying in this NBC article, “We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators”. As a public high school and liberal arts college graduate, I have to say I only agree with the first point, “We must invest in early education”. Yes we must, but in a different way than implied here. Not to literally invest with dollars, but mentally invest with a cultivated, genuine, authentic interest in learning, reinforced by a foundation of positive pop culture – A foundation which our nation desperately lacks. The rest of the Duncan’s quote is representative of a flawed thinking that plagues most American adults approximately aged 40+.

With all due respect, individuals who tend to hold nostalgic views towards how the US educational system ‘used to be’ when compared to other countries need to drop their sentimentalism and focus on the now.  In this case, the past does not hold the answers for you.  The solutions you seek cannot be solved by pouring more money into a program that is already receiving more funding than the countries who have come out ahead of us this report, namely China and Japan (Morning Joe. Msnbc. New York. 3 Dec. 2013. Television).  You want to know what is really wrong with American education?  Lack of interest. Kids don’t care anymore! They haven’t for a while now. It’s that simple. Not only have I bore witness to this sobering fact but I have also personally experienced it within myself during my years being a part of this broken system.

I don’t mean to sound like teenage killjoy but it’s 2013 and we have to start thinking progressively in order to save the human race from its rapidly approaching downward spiral towards self-annihilation. Let’s talk about parents for a minute because that’s once facet of where the education conversation tends to end up. Okay, parents.  Facebook-using, iPhone-addicted, Candy Crush-playing, Words With Friends-attached parents.  Not saying parents don’t deserve a break every once in awhile. Sure it’s nice to unwind with a little social networking/game playing BS at the end of the day. Who doesn’t? But think about what your kids are learning from this behavior. These technological distractions that are totally within the realm of social acceptance are now the new drug of today. If parents are not neglecting their children with it, they are giving it to their children to calm them down and shut them up.  Hello, Huxley. Hello, Brave New World and behold our Soma of today! If we grew up as a society regularly drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, snorting cocaine, or injecting morphine from childhood how would our test scores be then? Think I’m overreacting? How long have you been on the computer or your phone before reading this? How long will you continue to be on until you turn away from it, because we don’t even shut things off anymore.  Technology can be used as a very positive thing, don’t get me wrong. But it is how and how frequently we are using it that is in my opinion, frightening.

Our youngest generation is submerged in a whirlwind of technology, entertainment, and instant gratification. They’re drowning and they don’t even know it. We are too and until we accept the fact that we are drowning, we cannot help those who already are. This problem is as much personal and individual as it is national. Because what Secretary Arne Duncan suggests: “raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators”, it won’t do us any good. Raise academic standards? So that everyone fails even harder? Make college affordable? So more kids can get in to escape their parents an drink copious amounts of alcohol and still get their degree? Recruit and retain top-notch educators? Well, if the kids don’t want to learn in the first place how the hell is that going to help you?

My generation is apathetic, self-centered, and self-destructive.  We drool for hours watching Jersey ShoreReal Housewives, and Tosh.0 which offer no ideals, no philosophic inquiries, suggest no introspection, evoke no emotion rather than spend any time watching things like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, any episode from any Star Trek series, or even 5 minutes of current events on the news. We fuck around on Buzzfeed for hours, Instagram our food, Facebook our daily schedules, and tweet celebrities we know will never tweet us back. We listen to Top40 radio as we aimlessly drive around in our parents’ cars wasting gas. We’re living on our own though we can’t afford it and we drink to excess every Friday and Saturday. We’re running from something but couldn’t tell you even in our highly inebriated state what the hell we’re actually running from. Well, fucking around on Buzzfeed won’t cure cancer, Instagramming food won’t make you more self-aware, Facebooking your daily routine won’t write that paper for you, and tweeting your celebrities begging for a follow just wasted 5 seconds of your life and at least an hour’s worth of self-inflicted sadness that you’ll never be able to figure what it’s from.

We need to scrap the dated national school system we’re in and start focusing on improving everything around us because as long as our education placement ranking declines and crumbles, so will the world around us. We need to find something to care about.  Because what happens once your iPhone battery dies and there’s a power outage? Then there’s nothing but you and yourself and maybe your books if you haven’t forgotten how to read. We are human beings. We are the most advanced species on our planet.  How can we let it come to this? How can we let it come to steady decline when we have already gotten so far? Tap into the history of founding fathers. Tap into the history of the Roman Empire, the Egyptians. Read about Indian philosophy and thought. Come to realize that all the wars ever fought were for nothing and that every book ever written and every discovery made throughout the course of time was paramount to the development of the human race. And now the torch is within our grasp.  We must carry it forward, not extinguish it out of ignorance and carelessness.

Now that world has all been discovered and we have no place left to go but the stars we need to unite, put aside our differences, and embrace our mind for what it’s worth.  Learn something worth learning, teach something worth teaching. Your iPhone does not hold the answers for you. It is the embodiment of marketing, fulfilling a need you didn’t know you had because it does not exist. It is a want and it is unnecessary. Education is necessary. How else are we to move ourselves forward if we’re surrounded by apathy and degradation? Yesterday, a high school freshman on Facebook posted a status that read, “dear board of education, so are we”. And my inward reply, “How sad,”. But here my outward reply is, “So what can we do to fix that?”

Let’s do something meaningful. Let’s accomplish great things. Otherwise, why not kill ourselves now? Why wait?

A Kickstarter Campaign Worth Pledging Towards

I think the first time I met Jenipher was this past May at a Saves the Day secret show at The Warehouse Motor Club in Middlesex, NJ.  As is the 21st century norm with making new acquaintances, we soon followed each other on various social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to keep in touch.  It was after we became cyberfriends that I had the pleasure of bearing witness to her constant doodle creations posts and artistic blossoms of positivity. These little breaths of fresh air always seemed to brighten my day.  With whimsical, funny, little doodles constantly gracing my news feed, you’ll find no objection from me. Jen is really unique in her ability to take a phrase or saying and splash it with color and give it a character or two to play a part, whether it’s something silly or a statement meant to calm and encourage.  She’s making doodles to accompany the ups and downs of life. And like all great creative minds, something that originally played a part in helping her get through a personal rough patch is now on the brink of growing even more to reach a much wider audience. (This is the part where YOU come in)

A few days ago Jen launched her very first Kickstarter campaign, determined to raise enough money to self-publish, “an encouraging, vibrant, SUPER honest, COLORFUL book to inspire tweens, teens [and women of all ages]!”  Over the years, Jen has realized how much drawing these doodles have helped her and others overcome the pressures of teenage struggle, adulthood, and just life in general while slipping in the a good-humored laugh once in awhile.  From her Kickstarter page she proclaims, “My goal is to write a super honest, encouraging, vibrant book with the intent to help teens feel less alone in this world. BUT a book that women [and men?!] in their 20’s and beyond can enjoy as well! By using MY story, and LOTS OF colorful illustrations, my goal is that others realize they aren’t alone on those dark, lowest of low days!” I think that’s so cool. As a musical artist/songwriter, I can totally relate. Nothing beats making a connection with someone through your creative output, especially creative output that was primarily intended for your own personal self-therapeutic needs.  Songs and doodles are similar that way.

What I also really like about her project is the fact that she wants it to be, “something RAW and HONEST and not all sunshine and butterflies….I…have created a book I’ve never seen in ANY bookstores. And one I WISH I had growing up!” Yes! I wish I had it growing up too! If this book is anything like the doodles I’ve seen, then absolutely, yes. Teenage Roe was no strange to dark, strange, and emotional turbulent times.  Many times we find ourselves in a ‘hindsight’s 20/20’ situation.  ‘Oh, if I only realized when I was younger’, ‘I wish I could’ve told my teenage self what I know now.’ Well until the invention of time machines, that’s not a very realistic future.  But what Jenipher’s book can do is be a tool for teenage girls and young adults now who are still in the dark and haven’t seen the other side of the tunnel yet. With a book that promises to cover, “Body Image, Depression, Eating Disorders, and Ambition”, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate book for girls to read today. Life is naturally full of ups, downs, struggles, and triumphs.  The social, cultural, and political landscapes we must trudge through day in and day out are not easy.  Whether you’re a grown man or woman, teenager, or young adult sometimes having someone or something telling us everything’s going to be alright in the end makes all the difference.

Check out her Kickstarter campaign or go to www.doodledream.com for more info.

Also see Nightly Doodles on Blogspot here and Etsy here.