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Stop Saying Gen Y Is Entitled

via the Huffington Post

Let’s talk about this.

It’s a cute post that’s been circulating on Facebook this week as the apparent answer to why generation Y is unhappy. Spoiler: because our expectations are inflated. This is total bullshit. Like many people who write about Gen Y/Millenials, this writer (artist? MSPainter?) misses what the anger is about.So let’s break it down:

A second GYPSY delusion comes into play once the GYPSY enters the job market. While Lucy’s parents’ expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it’s just a matter of time and choosing which way to go.

Wait, what? How many people actually did this? When I walked out of college in 2007 I was terrified that I didn’t have a job lined up yet. When we got our first round of entry level jobs we were grateful and happy and hardworking. Hey it was the first step to a real career! We were going to make it! No minimum wage jobs for us anymore!

“Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better –

A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn. 

When Occupy Wall Street happened people dismissed the protesters as a bunch of over educated debt dodgers who just needed to get a job, dammit, and stop complaining. As if there was nothing wrong with the system we live in. Bullshit.

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The system we have now is to maximize profits as much as possible for the top tiers of any industry at the expense of labor. My generation has less spending/saving power than my parents’ generation. Federal minimum wage is still at $4.50 and if you’re a server that could drop as low as $2.50 an hour (because your tips are always guaranteed to remain a constant $2 an hour). Wages have stagnated across the board compared to the actual cost of things.

So when Gen Y complains that things aren’t fair it’s because they entered the workforce during a shitty economy that’s the result of shitty decisions made by the generation hiring them. Gen Y is pissed because asking for things like health benefits or wages that match cost of living or retirement funding are things their parents got when they entered the workforce. We assumed we’d be getting a similar package, something that would enable us to do what our parents and grandparents did: settle down, build families, buy houses, save for retirement. Maybe take a vacation once in a while. Wanting these things isn’t aspiring to the unattainable. It’s wanting very basic things.

To compare. I am 29. I got married at 27. We do not have kids. I’m a full time grad student now, which I’m paying for out of pocket after working full time as a teacher and saving for a year for tuition. My husband joined the Navy to get a full time job with benefits that will later pay for college because he didn’t have the resources to put himself through on loans and the wage jobs he could get did not pay enough to make rent.

My parents at 29, had two kids, full time jobs, and a house. They had a rough time when my dad went back to school for his MS and then later PhD but at least he got a stipend and some help from the university. Enough that they could make a third kid happen. They were poor, but they weren’t so poor they couldn’t feed, shelter, and clothe three children. 

That’s what Gen Y is complaining about when they say things aren’t as they used to be. It’s not just that we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or whatever lame idiom you want to use. It’s that many of us are putting off significant milestones (getting married, buying a house, having kids) because we’re in so much debt, everything is expensive, and we’re not getting paid enough to cover it all.

Stop talking about the reasons why Gen Y is so narcissistic or entitled and maybe start listening to what they’re saying. The system is fucked up. The older generations just can’t feel the water boiling.

Things I’ve Done Since My Last Post

  1. Moved apartments.
  2. Cried about new apartment.
  3. Backpacked in the Tahoe Basin.
  4. Cried about backpacking in the Tahoe Basin.
  5. Swore that next vacation would include drinks with tiny umbrellas.
  6. Started grad school.

Updates will be more sporadic than before, but eh, it’s not like many people are waiting with baited breath for my posts anyway. ;)

The Teacher Becomes the Student

Whatever it takes to be a teacher I don’t think I’ve got it. In the past year I’ve been teaching English as a second language to mostly adults and some teens. Now in my final two days as a teacher, can say that I will miss my students but not the job.

Teaching is fucking hard.

I’m sure it’s a story you’ve heard before, from other teachers but it’s really not that easy. Every day, every hour is a new presentation of material and by the end of that lesson my students are supposed to get it. Imagine giving a PowerPoint presentation to new clients every hour on the hour, each with a new topic (one is stocks, the other is bonds, another is retirement funds). Now take away the projector because your school doesn’t have the budget for that. Granted, the tiny whiteboard and the markers were an upgrade from School number 2 in Vasylkivka, but you get the idea.

As a teacher, you’ll spend all day trying to get your students to turn in their best, and making them feel terrible when they don’t. You will be given stupid excuses every day for why someone didn’t come to class or why they didn’t do their work. You’ll have to fail people and tell them they need to repeat everything they just did.

When you teach adults, you get the extra bonus of chastising high-ranking men nearly twice your age because you caught them cheating on your final.

When you’re teaching foreigners you’ll become the person they ask about EVERYTHING:

Teacher, why are there so many homeless people?

Teacher, how do I get my baby a social security number? (I don’t know. I don’t have kids!)

Teacher, where can I find a farm with fresh milk from the cow, not cleaned?

Teacher, why does/doesn’t America do/not do something about (fill in the blank)?

There are some nice things about teaching, specifically ESL. I don’t need a certificate for my job, so all things considered, it pays me pretty well in relation to other jobs I would have gotten (>cough<Starbucks>cough<). I can make my own hours when it comes to grading so I make the most of the money I’m given for class and prep time. (Prep time pay is, I’m told, a requirement of California; it doesn’t apply to all states.) And some of my students can be pretty awesome. I feel especially proud when they turn in an essay that shows huge improvement or they are able to discuss a complicated topic and keep up with me. Or when they tell me I’m their favorite teacher, after I’ve given them their grades. You also meet some pretty cool people that do interesting jobs. I’ve taught colonels and judges and economists. I’ve taught poor kids from Colombia and rich kids from Saudi Arabia. I’ve taught daughters of diplomats and sons of farmers. It’s never dull.

But with three years of teaching under my belt it’s time to move on. I’m not cut out for teaching small children (too impatient) and I can’t tolerate the amount of bullshit I have to listen to from grown ass adults anymore. It’s time to head back to school myself.

OMG Pacific Rim. OMG Pacific Rim.

You know what I haven’t seen in a while? A movie that wasn’t based on a sequel, a reboot, a remake, a reimagining, or a Tolkien book.

Seriously. Here are the movies I’ve seen in the past year in a theater. The ones that were original scripts are in bold.

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness (a sequel to a reboot of a franchise based on a TV show) 
  2. The Hobbit (the first in a trilogy of prequels to a trilogy based on a series of books) 
  3. Silver Linings Playbook (based on a novel of the same name)
  4. Skyfall (the third movie in a James Bond franchise reboot series which were based on books)
  5. The Dark Knight Rises (third in a trilogy that was a reboot of a franchise based on a comic book)
  6. Prometheus (prequel to a franchise) 
  7. Brave
  8. The Avengers (first in likely a series of movies based on other solo movies based on comic books) 
  9. The Hunger Games (the first in a trilogy based on a trilogy of novels) 
  10. The Grey (based on a short story, “The Ghost Walker”)

In the year and a half since I’ve been home I’ve seen 11 movies in the theater. And only two of them have been original stories: Brave and Pacific Rim.

You could argue that there were plenty of original stories I didn’t see, and that’s true. But I have a general rule that I refuse to pay $15 and up to watch a drama or comedy on a big screen when I can wait a few months and watch it on Netflix at home. So I end up limiting my movie going experiences to big summer action movies, the ones where that IMAX screen really pays off.

It seems silly to praise a movie for just having an original story but seriously, go take a look at the top movies in the last 10 years and you’ll see how many of them are prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, or based on some novel or comic or TV show. Hollywood has been mining whatever intellectual property they’ve got for all the money it’s worth. (Possible Hollywood conspiracy to make us all tired of DC/Marvel/Star Wars? HMMMMM.)

And I’m so, so tired of it.

I loved Pacific Rim even though it’s kind of a mediocre movie. It followed a predictable plot. You know right away who is going to die and who is going to live. You know what the ending will probably be. You’ve seen this movie in various incarnations since Independence Day.

But it was oh so good. I go a little fan girl when I see a favorite character from a book or comic or cartoon show up on film. But after 10 years of that, it’s nice to go back and look at how we used to do big action movies. When basing your story on a book or a short story was kind of novel. When making a Spider-Man movie was a big risk.

It’s nice to go back to that era with Pacific Rim and, even knowing how things will turn out, still be surprised and awed. It’s nice to go see a giant fighting robot movie with a chick and the chick is not a token babe there for hero protagonist to bone (>cough<Megan Fox>cough<). Mako Mori has her own motivations, her own back story. Heck, she gets more development than the hero, Raleigh Becket. They don’t even kiss! Someone actually thought through some characters in the movie? Get out!

You don’t need me to hash out the plot. You should go because the movie is visually stunning. You should go because it references every fun mecha/kaiju movie/anime you’ve ever seen. You should go because it’s got a fun summertime popcorn movie plot. And it comes with free air conditioning.

Pacific Rim: Bravo.

 

Sexual Harassment Makes Me a Sad Panda

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For those that are not in the know, Ramadan is upon us. If you’re like me and teach a bunch of Saudi/Turkish/Middle Eastern students you know that this means 40 days of grumpy hungry people glaring at you because they haven’t eaten since sun up.

I have a lot of sympathy for my Muslim students during this time. Going to Catholic high school I remember fasting for Lent, but it was never this extreme: no food, water, gum, or anything from sunrise to sunset. And then I got an email from my company telling us all this:

“One purpose of the fast is to cleanse the soul of impurities, so any sexual behavior/thoughts are also excluded.  With this in mind, students appreciate more conservative dress during this time. (Following our >edited< dress code should suffice, but you can consider being more conservative with necklines/hemlines, etc.)” 

Um, really? What year is this now?

After fuming for a couple hours I fired an email off to my boss letting him know this was sexist and sexual harassment and I couldn’t believe anyone at our company would think that this was cool to send out. He apologized, but it still bothers me because so many people saw this and thought it was OK.

We’ve come a long way with equal rights for women but the amount of sexual harassment and sexism I deal with on a daily basis is shocking and saddening. I already have to put on a stiff upper lip when my older, male students decide that I’m not worth enough respect to come to class on time. Or that they can get a second opinion on my grades. Or that winking at me in class is OK in an American school.

Newsflash company woman, I am already incredibly concerned about how I look in front of a room full of men who are used to male teachers and women in full-body cover up. You’re suggestion is insulting because it’s clearly targeted at only female teachers (never seen a man worry about hem or neck lines) and implies that we’re not already dressed modestly enough. It makes me want to show up in a slutty miniskirt and crop top just to show them.

So thanks for making me feel even more self-conscious as I get ready for work today.

Independence Day

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America was never a place I was supposed to live. But due to circumstances of my parents’ marriage and a fun story I’ll share someday, I ended up as a natural born American citizen. In light of my country’s birthday, and considering I get down on the U.S. a lot, here are a list of things I’m grateful for as an American:

Voting.

The Constitution.

The ability to walk into a bar and order a drink.

Access to all type of food.

Wearing whatever the fuck I want.

Twenty-four hour everything: drive-thru’s, gyms, pharmacies, grocery stores.

Abundance of electricity and water at all hours of the day.

Garbage collection.

Street cleaners.

Graffiti artists that don’t get caught.

Police, firefighters, and medical personnel.

Acceptance as a tourist in most countries around the world.

Education to both boys and girls.

American literature.

American film, especially the over-the-top action movies.

General agreeableness between regions and classes.

Macaroni and cheese.

 

Prop 8 and DOMA Are Dead. Good Riddance.

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At least the Supreme Court ruled on two things well this week.

Well, sort of.

While the Voting Rights Act is a mess, at least we can celebrate that Prop 8 and DOMA are dead. Sort of. My straight marriage remains unaffected, while I’m super excited that my family, my friends, and my coworkers can have the benefits I’ve been enjoying for the last year and a half.

Well if they’re in California or one of the other 12 states that now grants marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The good news about DOMA coming on the heels of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell being repealed, is that there’s a good chance the military will now have to recognize the spouses of their lesbian and gay service members. This is because the Supreme Court decided that legal marriages between same-sex couples have to be recognized by the federal government, and that benefits like pensions have to granted to all spouses of federal employees. This is good, because it means more couples will be able to access the commissary, Tri-Care (or whatever it is now), and a bunch of other perks like getting to see your loved one off, access to the base, notification as next of kin, hospital visitation rights, etc. Also, the military has historically been one of the first institutions to adopt any kind of integration and it kind of sets the standard. After all, how can you tell a man or woman that their marriage is worth less than yours when they put their life on the line to defend you? Doesn’t make sense.

However, couples can still only get married in 13 states, not all 50. What is up in the air is how those other states will have to treat same-sex marriages performed in New York or Iowa. While Prop 8 is dead, the effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling are really limited to California. In their ruling, they basically stated that only the State of California can defend Prop 8 in court, not private citizens. So it went back to a lower ruling, which was Prop 8 was illegal for a number of reasons.

Had the Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was illegal because it’s against the federal constitution to deny same-sex couples marriage, then that would have overturned all other state bans on gay marriage. Alas.

Still, today is a day for celebration. America is moving closer to equality, and I am so happy to be living through this historic time.

This Post Brought to You by the Color Orange!

NBC’s Today show has a great segment up about Alex, Sesame Street’s newest character.

Alex is a muppet whose father is incarcerated. He’s  part of an online toolkit to help children cope with incarceration, but is not a regular part of the Sesame Street TV cast.

Why have a muppet with a dad in prison? Well for one, Sesame Street has a long history of including all types of people (one of the big selling points when it came out over 40 years ago was how integrated the street everyone lived on was) and addressing all types of situations. What’s shocking is just how necessary it is now to have a muppet. The number of people in the U.S. currently locked up is somewhere around 3 percent, meaning that there are a lot of kids out there with parents behind bars.

According to Today’s report, there are more children with parents in jail than there are children with parents who are deployed in the military.

What to do about it all? Well, we could take a look at our penal code for one. There are many people behind bars for non-violent, drug-related offenses. Human Rights Watch said in 2003 that one of the reasons for the increase in incarceration rates is the war on drugs.

Do non-violent drug dealers and users really need to be locked up? Would probation serve? Can we maybe, scrap some of these drug laws and take a more humanistic approach a la Portugal?

And I won’t even get into how racist the application of law is in the U.S. as it has been covered much better in many other places. But let’s just leave it at, it’s highly suspicious that people of racial or ethnic minorities make up two-thirds of people in prison on drug charges. HMMMMMMM!

One thing that the government could take a look at is serious prison reform. Considering how much concern politicians have for the good of the family unit, they could, perhaps, take a moment from blaming the gays and start looking at how incarceration affects family life instead.

 

 

 

Why You Need to Watch The Venture Bros.

Now that Game of Thrones is over for another nine months and I’ve devoured season four of Arrested Development, I can turn all my focus on the comedic splendor that is the Venture Bros.

For those of you that don’t watch (and shame on you), the Venture Bros., is a show that started out as a parody of Johnny Quest. The concept at the time seemed to be, What if Johnny Quest grew up? In comes Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, former boy adventurer and son of larger-than-life super-scientist, Jonas Venture. Now, Rusty is all grown up, doing his own, er, super science and he drags his two teenage sons, Hank and Dean (who originally stood in for the Hardy Boys), on his adventures with his bodyguard Brock Samson.

What began as a simple show to make fun of boy cartoons of the ’70s and ’80s grew into a fantastic world of super villains, super scientists, secret agencies, magic, and other crazy stuff. The writing is just fantastic and the character relationships are as intricately woven and complex as any you’d see on GoT.

The major theme of the show is failure, and I think it provides a lot of insight into modern American psyche. The show often looks back on “the good old days” during the space race in the ’60s. At that time in American history the future was looking bright. Our place in the world was clear. We were going places. Hell, we were goin’ to the MOON! Like a newly graduated college kid, we were optimistic that the party wouldn’t end. The Venture Bros., tears into this nostalgia at every turn. The Ventures live in a decrepit compound built by Jonas during the height of Futurist America. Jonas is revered for his contributions to the world of science and as a man with a lust for life. Now that that time is over, the world seems more grim. Rusty, the once promising future Dr. Venture, can’t get anything right. While he seems like a perfectly capable scientist, he just doesn’t seem to have the motivation to be the great man his father hoped he’d be. And most of his projects for the military all end up being unethical and morally reprehensible.

But the disillusionment with this modern world is most obvious in Brock Samson. After excelling in the Army, he was recruited to the Office of Secret Intelligence (OSI for short, and a stand-in for GI Joe). At first, Brock seems to be truly dedicated to his job as a servicemember and a spy. Later, he becomes the bodyguard of the Ventures and grows to love the family as his own. But after seeing too much weird stuff, he quit and killed time in Canada, until being brought back into the game by S.P.H.I.N.X. As a S.P.H.I.N.X operative, Brock found the freedom he wanted to right the wrongs in the world without any of the red tape. But by season four he seems particularly exhausted with his life as a spy, and his life in the Venture world in general, going so far as to keep Hank from joining S.P.H.I.N.X because he doesn’t want Hank to end up like him. And really, why would any one want their children taking after them in this world? In the Venture universe, characters are stuck living in the ’60s and the only one that seems to notice how crazy it is to live like that is Brock.

Despite living in the past the characters do move forward. This season, Hank has proven that he’s learned a lot more from Brock than anyone could have guessed, and Dean is turning into a real scientist (he’s come a long way from adding water to dinosaur sponges).

So maybe there’s hope for the next generation after all.

The Trouble With Remakes

Hello, Clarice.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is not a Star Trek movie.

Let me explain. In 2009 JJ Abrams made an action movie called Star Trek. As other critics have explained, at great length, Star Trek was not made for die-hard fans who’ve followed Kirk and Spock for decades. It was made for the faux geeks and the neo-nerds whose only knowledge of Star Trek is the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty.”

The faux geek claims to love Star Trek and will talk about the different characters like Scott and Sulu. They know about Red Shirts dying on away missions and they know that Kirk gets freaky with alien ladies. They know about running gags like Checkov’s terrible Russian accent. They know about Shatner’s epic rage yelling “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” In his Star Trek films, Abrams hits all these shallow notes. He delivers a movie of nostalgia to an audience that never watched the show he’s referencing. Abrams makes great action films wearing Star Trek skin.

How do I know? Because there are tribbles. Aside from Klingons and Vulcans, tribbles are probably the most recognizable Star Trek species. And they just have one, laying out on the desk, as if to remind you that you are indeed watching a Star Trek movie. The tribble is nothing but an in-joke that everyone gets.

I would not claim to be a Trekkie. But I’ve watched enough Star Trek to understand and appreciate the themes of this sci-fi classic. Characters on the shows spent a whole lot more time walking and talking than running and fighting. The captains always kept their cool. They debated with their commanding officers. They teased out knotty issues like what it means to be human, the origins of life, and violating the Prime Directive (i.e. playing God). Star Trek was a show about humanity exploring the galaxy, yes, but at the same time, Star Trek was a show about exploring what humanity is. If we no longer have nation, religion, or race to divide us, how do we define ourselves as a unified planet?

These are not the themes explored in Abrams film.

Like his first Star Trek movie, Abrams uses images and ideas that are floating around in present day America to tell his story. In the first movie we had brain worms and torture and the courage of our military. In the second film, we have shady politicians building giant war machines, terrorist attacks, preemptive strikes, stand-ins for drones, and corruption from within. While Roddenberry’s original series may have touched on U.S. politics at the time, most of the overarching themes of the show were about humanity as a whole. Roddenberry may have used American ideals like equality and justice, but he also dropped American values like capitalism and self-sufficiency. In the Star Trek world, we might be united, but we also don’t use currency and we rely on each other to get by. These socialist aspects of Federation society are glossed over in Abrams’s version.

In this movie, The Enterprise is taken away from Kirk for violating the Prime Directive. His command is given back to him with orders to track down and annihilate a fugitive hiding on a Klingon planet with special torpedoes that no one seems to know anything about. The running theme then becomes disobedience for the sake of morality. The fugitive offers a chance to bring in the old sci-fi ideas about the meaning of humanity, civilized vs. uncivilized societies, war vs peace, etc. Instead, Abrams uses the fugitive as a stand in for any Big Bad. The themes go nowhere. But Kirk and Spock save the day, we got a laugh about the tribble, and someone yelled “KHAN!” and that’s all that matters.

In this way, Abrams has made a fantastic action film full of explosions and tension and courage and brothers-in-arms friendship. But really, Star Trek Into Darkness is fan fiction. Sure it may look like Star Trek on the surface, but it’s just another action movie at its core.