Thursday, May 31, 2007

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Last week the boyfriend and I crossed the Atlantic and landed on the beaches of Spain for a weeks vacation. This was a trip we planned a few months ago which celebrated 3 very important (well to us) 30th birthday, the boyfriend's 30th birthday and our 2-year anniversary. So, for 4 full days, including the 2 days of travel back and forth, we were completely engulfed in the Spanish culture while holed up in a small beachtown 30 minutes south of Barcelona. I am hesitant to reveal the name of the town as doing that would drive up tourism, raise the prices, make hotels harder to book, etc. So for now, you'll just have to take my word.

Upon our arrival, we did the best we could trying to speak the language (some of my 3 years of high school spanish returned) and not stand out as complete tourists. I am sure that me cluthcing my camera and snapping away at everything in sight didn't help our case. In addition to trying to speak the language, we intentionally slowed down our pace. I mean really, the beach wasn't going anywhere so why should we speed-walk there?

We noticed several things while we were there. The first being that we were completely surrounded by people who looked relaxed, refreshed and happy. And I am not just speaking of the tourists who were on vacation or the workers trying to make money off of the tourists. I am talking everyone. Construction workers. Labor workers. Bus boys. Everyone. The second thing we noticed was that everything, from souvenirs shops to restaurants to banks to clothing stores all shut down from 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock for siesta. The man who walked the beach selling drinks and snacks was also no where to be found during 2 and 5. And the last thing we noticed was that we were 2 of 3 Americans who seemed to be in the town for the week. Which I have to admit was a very nice change. Being away from the mother ship is always nice. The boyfriend and I immediately looked at one another and realized we are living the completely wrong way of life. We work 12-hour days 5 days a week. Pressure and stress is extremely high. Big cities are polluted. And overall, there is very little reward or satisfaction when working this hard.

The only english speaking channel we were able to get on the hotel television was CNN World. About 90% of the coverage revolved around America, the war, Iraq, the a$$hole who runs our country, Iran, the feud on 'The View' and who won 'American Idol.' When watching all of this and seeing a different point of view it made me realize how much of a joke other countries think we are. And after hearing and comprehending these different points of view, I have to say that a small part of me cannot blame them. I even agreed with them.

On our return trip home we had a layover in London. Our plane sat at the gate and waited for a group of 44 college students who were on our flight but delayed from their flight coming in from Paris. After all 44 loud, obnoxious youngsters boarded we were off. But not before one of them felt the need to announce to the entire plane she had a 'fcuking panic attack trying to run and make the connection flight.' Yeah, thanks for that. Students made several trips to the drink area of the flight carrying back trays of alcholic beverages for themselves and their friends even after meals and drinks were finished being served. Clearly, they were intending to get drunk. Who has a strong enough stomach to get drunk when turbulance hits at 30,000 feet? And lets not forget the chick sitting directly behind me who was clearly raised in a barnyard. She put her feet up on the armrest of the chair diagnally across from her. And she didn't know the person sitting in that seat. Her leg was spread across the walking aisle and needed to be moved everytime someone tried passing.

Upon our touchdown at JFK airport, through the applause of the 44 obnoxious, loud college students came the comments 'Thank god we're home. Just spent the last 2 weeks trudging around Europe.' Know where I was 2 weeks ago? Working 12-hour days at my job! You know, the one in the real world.

By far, the best 'Welcome back to America' came when walking through immigration and then again at the baggage claim. At immigration, you are apparently not allowed to be on a cell phone. If you think about it, it makes sense you not speak on a phone when a goverment official is stamping you into the country. That's common courtisy. But according to the rules at JFK, they don't even want you on a cell phone while being couralled in line waiting to get stamped into the country. And yet there are no signs posted anywhere enforcing this rule. The extremely large, over-weight woman working the customs line who feels the need to have attitude and yell at everyone demanding respect (no joke) does not count as a posted request to enforce this rule if you ask me. Seriously. Lose the attitude (and a few pounds). Your job is not that hard. You stand there, point and tell people which line to go to. Calm the fcuk down. You are a nobody. Just like everyone else standing in line. And you are also no more important than anyone standing in line.

At baggage claim as everyone pushes their way closer to the carosel as they push people out of their way cause no one else's bag will be there but theirs is where I saw by far the best welcome back. Directly across from the boyfriend and I was a middle age white woman. Standing next to her was a 20-something African American male. As her luggage approached she grabbed it and struggled lifting it off. The 20-something male grabbed it to help her and she yanked it from his grasp as if he was going to snatch it away and run through customs. A dirty look followed as opposed to a 'thank you.' so much for lending a helping hand.

Now, please. Do not get me wrong. I love America and am extremely grateful to have been born and raised here. Is all of this my extreme jet-lag talking? Could I possibly have the post-vacation blues? Yes to all of those questions. But come on. Is it any wonder why so many others hate us? Look at all of the ammo we give them. and take a close look around the next time you visit somewhere else that isn't America. The equations just don't add up.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Weighing the Options

The literal definition for the word 'democracy' means to 'rule by the people.' I am fortunate enough to live in the United States, a country run by democracy, ruling by the people. Although I enjoy the benefits of a democratic nation, I often wonder just how often it actually works (anyone else remember the 2000 presidential election?). I question the phrase 'the people have spoken' and its accuracy. Does this make me an anarchist? A rebel? I would hope not. I like to think of myself as someone who challenges the system and has the ability to view things from more than one angle.

When in a position to practice my democratic right I often think of two quailities I would like the person I am choosing to possess. The first quality I look for is experience. The second is talent. There are times when a person possess both of those qualities and yet I do not have an ounce of respect for them what-so-ever. Working in the creative field, I often encounter that last situation more times than not.

I often wonder when exercising our democratic right when a person throws his/hers/their requirements out the window and rely strictly on popularity. Let's use the example of 'American Idol' (cause come on, we all knew where this post was leading with it be Thursday and all).

I am the first to admit, I am now 30-years-old and watched each week from the choosing of the top 12 until last night. I don't have time for all of those episodes with the horrendous auditions. I can hear examples of that while riding the subway to and from work each day. I am, however, not a die hard 'A.I.' fan. I jumped on the bandwagon late. Had no part of season 1; tuned in to season 2 with around 5 contestants left; watched all of season 3; skipped season 4; and fizzeled in and out of season 5. For some reason season 6 caught my attention...specifically Melinda Doolittle. She caught my attention so much so that I found myself frantically dialing her numbers each and every Tuesday night.

I don't think there has been any contestant, in any season thus far who displayed the amount of talent, consistancy, range, graciousness and amount of humbleness as Melinda. And I loved saying her name. Did I form a small puppy-dog crush on the 29-year-old-back-up-singer-now-gone-diva? A little. But more importantly, here is a person who displayed the characteristics I look for when practicing my democratic rights.

A reoccuring theme I have noticed with this show is that when it comes down to the top 5, talent and experience are generally thrown out the window and popularity rises to the top. The demographics of the show really begin to shine through. The cute, bubbly 17-year-old (which the main demographic voting can relate to) and the all-American attractive looking male (which the main demographic voting all want to kiss) start coming out on top. Seriously, how many 15-year-olds can appreciate the talent and range of Melinda? But my girl took it like a pro after last nights results and didn't even shed a tear.

Popularity is often the deal maker when the public is left to chose. Does this sort of practice often reward the wrong people with fame, power and recognition (remember last years winner)? Any wonder why some people in public office are the way they are? Or, go back on their word once elected to power?

I think it is high time to weigh all of the options and forget about who is closer in age or might look better in your fantasies. This country has failed in choosing a President in 2004 and again in choosing this years idol. So, R.I.P. 'A.I.' The basis on which the winners are chosen has disappointed me one too many times.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Speak Out and Sing

Not4nothin has been gone...for a while. The reason for that was because I felt I really didn't have anything profound to say. I have never used this site as an online journal of my daily life. I like to consider it more of an opinion site. Specifically my opinion and observances on things surrounding me. Why speak when everything coming out of your mouth should be coming out from a lower orifice?!

Well, it wasn't until about 2 weeks ago that the boyfriend and I popped in our latest rental from Netflix and watched 'Shut Up and Sing' that I felt I had something to say again. 'Shut Up and Sing' is a documentary following Emily Robison, Martie Maguire and Natalie Maines (better known as The Dixie Chicks) as they made their controversial comment speaking out against the president and war in Iraq. It documents the actual comment (which took place while on stage in London) and the 2 years following the comment.

I was familair with the comment (they were ashamed that the president of the United States was from their home state of Texas) but I had no idea of the backlash this comment caused. People burning, destroying and throwing away their Dixie Chick albums. Country music stations refusing to play any of their songs in an attempt to satisfy listeners who threatened to stop listening to their station if they did so. A drop in concert ticket sales. Death threats. An FBI escort to the stage at a concert in Dallas, Texas (their home state) because of the treat of being shot while performing live on stage.

Many thoughts entered and exited my mind as I watched this documentary. 'Yes, there are still people in this country who go to this extreme when dealing with an issue like this.' 'Yes, there are still people in this country who exude an extreme amount of hate when dealing with people they do not know personally but think they do.' 'Yes, there are actually people in this country who support the war and are a part of the president's 26% approval rating.' 'Remember Not4nothin, you no longer live in the section of the country who think this way.'

First of all, there is a well known amendment to the Bill of Rights which states, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' The irony is that this is the very first amendment. Now, I will say that the people protesting the Dixie Chicks comment have just as much liberty in protesting the comment as the group had in saying it. But nowhere in any document of the United States government does it say that death threats, hatred and passing on that hate to others is an acceptable form of retaliation or freedom of speech.

Lets look at one other celebrity who has spoken out against the war. Madonna. Her video for 'American Life' had to be altered becasue it originally featured a Bush look-alike catching a cigarette lighter which morphed into a grenade and exploded in his face. The result? An altered video and low album sales. To be followed up with the highest grossing tour in 2006 for a female artist ever.

I guess the main issue which boggles my mind is how quickly people in this country, and possibly even the world, can put people on a pedestal only to break them down and begin the process all over again. Especially when people do not live up to others expectations.

Examine the dixie chicks. 3 all-American white women, married, children, talented, easy on the eyes, independent, from America's heartland. Practically banished from the country music world because they had an opinion that differs from what is expected. And had to guts to voice it. I wonder what would have happened had a male performer, say Garth Brooks, made a similiar comment. Would there have been such an extremist backlash?

I stepped away from watching the movie as a complete pro-Dixie Chicker. I knew nothing of the group or their music but have a new found respect for them. I recently read that Natalie Maines, lead singer, was in NYC attending a performance of Broadway's 'Spring Awakening.' I am an avid theatre goer and told myself had I been at that performance and seen Ms. Maines I would have walked right up to her and said, 'I am a New Yorker and never bother celebrities but I needed to come up to you and say thank you. Thank you for having a voice and representing those of us who obviously have not been heard.'

Rock on Dixie Chicks. You may have lost some fans along the way but you have also gained one. Speak out and sing!