Friday, May 30, 2008

Nation Freaking Out: US Turns To Spam, Turns Off Rachael Ray

Two news articles caught my eye this week. One story was about Spam, an inexpensive canned meat product, and how much their sales have gone up in recent months. The other story is about Rachael Ray, the cute television chef with nine-hundred teeth in her smile, and how her neck scarf got her fired from Dunkin’ Donuts commercials. Oh no - not Spam, not Rachael Ray!

The rising cost of oil and economic woes have prompted many people to make serious adjustments to their grocery list (adjustments as in people can only afford milk, dried lentils and Spam). Many neo-cons would take this opportunity to remind us how convenient shopping is these days, because we need to buy so very little. Obviously, that time we used to spend selecting filet mignon and live lobsters can now become family hour (when I say family hour, I mean packing boxes before the bank comes to throw everyone out onto the street).

Then there’s poor Rachael Ray, America’s cooking program sweetheart, selling donuts and coffee for the folks at Dunkin’. Wait a minute – is she wearing a scarf that looks vaguely Arabic? Oh my GOD. That’s right folks, Dunkin’ fired Rachael and pulled her commercial off the air because they thought her scarf looked Middle Eastern (and we all know that in some parts of America, Middle-Eastern is just another way of saying Al-Qaeda, right?). Right. Worse, her scarf could also represent those greedy, mustache twisting Saudis and their criminal gas prices. Well, it looks that way to Dunkin’ Donuts executives. So in order not to offend you (the donut buyer) with images of attractive scarves, they decided to err on the side of blatant racism instead.

Desperate times make people do strange things. They will do things like hoard duct tape, waiting to seal their windows and doors if they are ever threatened with a chemical attack. They will make the most poorly paid employee at their firm (always the receptionist) open the mail with rubber gloves, because they are afraid of packages full of weapon-grade anthrax that have never arrived. People will eat canned meat by the truckload, completely ignoring the inexpensive chicken thighs (or even cheaper, beans and rice) because they’re broke. And finally, their bosses have fired Rachael Ray because of “implied symbolism” that no one sees. It is all bullshit.

That said, I would like for you to know that I am boycotting Dunkin’ Donuts, and by hell I will put Spam in my mouth! Times are hard, but I can afford to be sane. They (you know, them) can have their canned meats and willful ignorance. For the past seven years I have seen people react to crisis by loading up on yellow ribbon magnets for their SUV’s and being afraid of things that may never happen, and I am over it (“over it” as in fuck ‘em).

If this isn’t about oil and poverty weird-ing people out, it can only mean one other thing: It’s an election year and the Republicans are down in the polls. Gee, ya think?

Green Day - American Idiot

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Please Turn Off Your Recording Devices

Capturing life through the lens of a camera cell phone is pretty common these days. All evidence of human lives being lived can be dialed up on YouTube or Live Leak (or a million other video sources) on a whim. While I enjoy the convenience, I wonder: what are real memories worth anymore?

What started me thinking about this was a quote in issue 1047 of Rolling Stone. In it, Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) asked his audience to please put away their camera phones during a performance. He said, “YouTube can’t own everything. There’s also something called memories.” He noticed people in the audience watching the band play on their cell phones, recording every morsel of activity, and forgetting to look up and live in the moment instead of the eventual download.

There is always room for cell phone cameras. Also, there is big money in being on the scene for natural disasters and stupid human tricks. In our diligence to be ready, I often feel like people forget to imprint the moment in their brain. They forget to attach emotions with what they have seen. In our haste to record, we live post-event, post-emotion. We suffer from post-life disorder.

While we have made every road to preserving our memories, we have traded our emotional memories by forgetting to simply look up and open our eyes wide. It is understandable – so many of us live our lives through lenses and computer screens. Sometimes, and because we are careful to pay attention to a recorded image, digital reality is more accessible than our own memories.

Our memories are corrupted by emotions and distractions. That is why we allow the recorded image reverence and awe, as it is a perfect record of exactly what happened as it occurred and it can be parsed frame by frame. We can then take what we have seen, pick it apart and quite accurately remove any individual opinion while sharing the video with others. In the process, I feel like some folks have become robotic. They can see something, tape it, and tell you about it later but what is lost is personality and the beautiful ways our memories are vastly unique.

Facts are always important. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the interpretation of facts based on personal experience that I miss on YouTube. Life should be spontaneous. Personal memories can’t be edited, but they can enhance reality. What a wonderful world it might be if we made an effort to edit our life less and talk about it more. If we looked away and put away the electronic devices, if we forget that life is not a deposition, maybe we might enjoy it instead of reviewing it. There are so many things you miss when you’re not in person, no matter how many cameras angles are involved. If you can help it, don’t miss the human experience in real time.

Imprint something on your brain today. Whatever you see, retain it. Remind yourself to keep it and remember that what you have just seen is from the most rare vantage point in the universe because it is your own. There is no one else who can see what you see.

Allen Ginsberg - Howl (Part 1)

This is where memories can take you. Do you want the rest? Find it.