It’s the End of the World As We Know It (Oh, Shut Up)

The sky is falling! It’s a plane! The British are coming!

Oh the Interwebs just love their daily dose of hysteria. To be honest, I rather dislike the news. To clarify, I dislike the news media culture. Learning about what goes on in the world outside of my little bubble is great. I love to learn and I enjoy, to a degree, hearing about how messed up humanity is. As George Carlin would say “It’s entertainment! Live a little!”

But to go back to news media culture and why it sucks – it’s ratings-driven. HBO’s The Newsroom offers a really neat – if overly dramaticized – view of the politics and backstage workings of newscasting. Jeff Daniels plays the highest paid news anchor on TV, who seeks the good old days of hard-hitting journalism. It’s reality. The powers that be of the news media culture know what we want to see because they have skillfully manufactured it. They spoon feed us stories of terrorism, poverty, political scandals, showing us how dark and miserable the rest of the world is (and how lucky the first world is). And then they give us pieces of hope, where they shower us with stories of found puppies, revitalized children, and stupid renditions of that awful, awful “Harlem Shake” trend.

It’s the end of the world, folks! Have you heard? North Korea’s gonna’ nuke us! Duck and cover, kids – they gonna’ go Gangnam style on our asses. Haven’t you seen that Olympus Has Fallen movie? Did you see how easily those Koreans took over the White House? It’s totally plausible. Secret service agents are obviously inept. They’re trained to mindlessly run out into the front lawn to get mowed down by superior Korean weaponry. Gerard Butler, save us!

Olympus Has Fallen - secret service agents mowed down by North Koreans

Shown: Convenient stupidity of unimportant characters for purposes of plot progression.

And to hell with international politics – have you heard that Roger Ebert passed away? A moment’s silence please for the king of film criticism.

Silenced yet? Give yourself and Mr. Ebert a thumbs up.

All right, moving on.

In happier news, the Craigslist Killer has been sentenced to death! Yippee…? Yeah. You see?  The news is depressing. Death, death, death. Well, death sells. If modern executions were broadcast on television, you could bet that that would get some of the highest ratings of anything in the history of “entertainment.” However, that’s actually a topic of discussion for another time.

Now that I’ve raised your spirits, here’s R.E.M.’s music video of “It’s the End of the World.”

What do you think of the news? Informational? Entertaining? Trash *cough*FOX*cough*? What’s your favorite recent news story?

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The Vacation Hangover: Why Short Academic Breaks Suck

Spring Break is the worst. No sooner do you strip into your beach clothes and fling your nubile body into a sea of bad choices than you find yourself (no worse for wear, of course) stranded back in the Land of Higher Learnedness. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – as long as you’re thinking what I’m hypothetically thinking, which is probably likely if you frequently think in Oscar Wilde quotes and dirty limericks –

“Yet another display of the ingratitude of our lazy, worthless youth. Higher education is a privilege! It is only possible for you to experience this opportunity of enlightenment because of the work of my back-breaking generation, young whipper snapper. In my dinosaur-wrangling days, we didn’t even have a spring break! And the only purpose of summer break was so that we could earn our dues working in the fields. You and the rest of you worthless ingrates don’t deserve a break from all the ‘work’ you do flushing your education money down the bloomin’ toilet.”

Yes, I hear ya verbatim.

The technically 9 days of break that we get is not enough for us to relax. It’s like telling us we can sleep in and then waking us up in the middle of REM sleep. This does not a motivated student make.

I got 99 problems and yep, short breaks from school are one of them. Why do we even bother with a few days interrupting the academic year? I’m not quite sure how semesters do it – does spring break split up your semester? With quarters/trimesters, spring break marks the end of the winter term and the beginning of the spring term. Even then, spring break is more of an unsatisfying tease than some long romance. Darn those Bacchus-worshiping Greeks and Colgate University swim jocks. Spring break isn’t freedom. It’s our 30 minute recess before we shuffle back to our cells. According to a comment on this article, all spring break is now “is a bunch of immature, drunken, TOO sexually active teens, and of course rapist on the side line just awaiting another drunk girl to attack.”

Spring Break Drunk at the Beach

Not pictured: Predatory man awaiting anything (expect aspirin)

What has this world come to? Tsk, tsk. O the moral fiber of our country ruined by this one week of bad decisions and illusory freedom. Ha! And for many, it’s just a week of sitting in front of the TV/computer catching up on episodes of Parks and Recreation and re-enacting the days of the freshman 15. And some people are vying for another miniscule breakduring the fall! Do these fools not understand? Do they not see the economy of it? What is better – mini-breaks throughout the year or one lo-o-o-o-ong break over the course of the summer? Either that or give us summer-equivalent breaks throughout the year. Yes, someone get on this now. No more one-weekers – that’s communist crap. Give us three months of breaks at a time! That way, we’ll be refreshed and completely slated clean for those soul-sucking faculty members to try to actually learn us some good edjumacation.

It’s so crazy it just might work. Maybe.

How was your spring break? Feeling refreshed and raring to get back to the daily academic grind? Got any good spring break/vacation stories? (Don’t worry, your shenanigans can’t possibly be traced back to you). 

Keep calm and read on:

First World Problems Are Not Real Problems (Hold on a Sec)

Before you scroll away, take note: this is not about the self-righteousness of the privileged and the armchair activists. This is not a shame piece on those who deny their privilege. This is not a solution to the unhappiness of the world. This is a perspective.

One Point Perspective Drawing - Civilization

First World Problems Are Not Real Problems

Does this mean the “first world” has no problems? No.

Does this mean the “first world” should be happier than the “third world?” No.

In popular culture, the term “first world problems” has become a joke dealing with the material luxuries and excesses of our culture. And when I refer to culture, I do not mean the culture of a specific ethnicity or country or borough. I refer to the culture of our civilization as a whole – not the concept of civilization, but our civilization as it is. The “first world problems” meme is something of a misnomer. It is misleading and yet it is completely accurate. You see, this idea does not deal with the deeper illnesses and shamefully hidden lesions of our culture, the true problems of the first world. We laugh at instances of “first world problems,” such as not being able to text because your fingers are too cold or forgetting your WiFi password for the dozenth time. At first, we laugh because we can relate. And the smirk dissolves into realization. We laugh because it’s true. And then we realize it is sad.

Our culture is not a happy one. Many of the inventions that were created to make our lives easier and more fulfilling simply do not. They were created – manufactured – for extrinsic reasons: money, fame, power.

But not contentedness.

“Nowadays People Know the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing.” 
– The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

There are some in our culture who have immersed themselves so deeply into the narrative of material paradise that they allow themselves to pretend to be happy. That is not true emotion; that is denial. It is a lie. I value the wisdom of accepting each individual’s reality, but on one condition: that the reality does no harm. The reality that we have been baptised in within the soothing cathedral walls of our culture is not harmless – far from it. These murky waters that we both wade in and drink from have clouded our minds. I am no unclouded messiah, no trained physician, nor am I the first to ever question the methods of our civilization. (In fact, I am only just beginning to explore the notion – and what an interesting excursion it is becoming). However, I do see that we are sick. None of us are immune and it is more than what a few teaspoons of cough medicine can fix.

Some people become sanctimonious, lamenting the supposed unhappiness and unnatural suffering of those in “less fortunate” countries. And I have bought into the sanctimony more than once, but I’m slowly getting my money back. Customer service may prove to be a bitch, but I am definitely going to get my money back.

“Finish Your Food – There Are Starving Kids In India”

Well, there are starving kids in Indiana, too. Finishing my plate of peas and carrots isn’t going to fix that problem. We are not all that better off than those “poor, dirty, backwards India folk.” At this point, the privileged saints of our culture froth at the mouth at such a blasphemous remark. “You are so ungrateful for what you have.” Am I? Yes, it is wonderful at the end of a lovely day at a higher education institution to be able to go home – a home with a roof and insulated walls; a home with central heating and clean, hot water; a place with electronic entertainment devices. I can drive to the grocery store in a sturdy, warm, cushy vehicle and get enough food to stock an underground fallout shelter. (And have enough food left over for a family reunion weekend).

But does this make me happy? No.

And does that answer make me ungrateful? No.

“First world problems” are not real problems. But it does not mean we do not have them. We are just more skilled at denying them.

What do you think about the idea of “first world privilege?” Can it be used fairly (without shaming)? Is it a responsibility of the “privileged” to better the world?

Read on:

How Not To Fall Asleep During Physics

Physics is great. Dropping your phone, crazy hair getting static-y, meteorites plummeting into Mahther Russiaeverything is physics. Not to mention – Newton’s the man.

Sir Isaac Newton: Like A Boss

Like a boss.

Physics is not the problem. Monotonic professors in poorly lit rooms are the problem. But even that is shifting the blame.

A college professor’s job is not to entertain their students. [Aside: Please excuse me for using “their” as a gender neutral term. I’m lazy and I dislike how jarring “he/she” looks.] Their job is to enlighten the future of America and inspire them to be model citizens for country. More or less. Therefore, I appreciate teachers – I really do – even the ones who don’t give a crap. I’m not one to judge.

However, when you have to wake up at 6 AM, watch your brain turn to goo in a logic and reasoning mathematics class, and then go straight to physics, things aren’t going to look very pretty. You see, by this point, your morning has been shot to hell and you’re inclined to be a Grumpy McGrouchster for the rest of the day. But you won’t be openly hostile to others because you’re a stand-up guy/gal, who saves all the stress and fatigue for when you slip into bed and then cry into your pillow until dawn – before starting the cycle over tomorrow. O first world problems.

All in all, what I’m saying is it’s hard to stay awake in class sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the subject. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the professor. It does mean that waking up early and going to morning classes make me tired and ancient professors with soft, milquetoast voices make me even more tired. I need toothpicks to keep my eyes pried open.

Because I’m ever so enlightened and generous, here are some ways to stay awake during [insert sleep-inducing class here]:

  • Doodle
  • Plan out your weekend
  • Text madly
  • Write poetry
  • Scratch out your doodle ’cause it was crap
  • Text merrily
  • Think about how much you hate Andrea from The Walking Dead
  • Pen the next great American novel (or Chinese novel – whatever floats your boat)
  • Try to come up with a blog post that isn’t obviously phoning it in

Or, if you’re one of them rebels who couldn’t care less:

  • Wear sunglasses
  • Pick a seat in the back of the room
  • Place hand on chin
  • Fall asleep

Disclaimer: Not recommended if you’re a snorer. Pleasant dreams.

How many hours of sleep do you usually get? How do you stay awake in class? Tell us your tactical secrets. (It’s the Internet. Your secret’s safe.)