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Magic

I’ve always believed in magic. The kind of magic that allowed a little Spanish woman from Honduras, my grandmother, to divorce her ogre of a husband and single-handedly raise two daughters on a seamstress’ income in the United States of the 1970’s, despite only knowing limited conversational English.

I believe in the magic of making something from nothing, just as my grandmother did when she stretched each dollar to ensure that her two princesses were always well-educated, impeccably groomed and treated to those mainstays of American culture…ice cream, movie outings and hamburgers, every once in awhile.

I believe in the magic of supplication. Of asking for help and summoning assistance…be it from God…or one’s family…or one’s own inner reservoirs of untapped fortitude in order to endure the otherwise unendurable. I believe in the magic of family that supports one another in those times of great need, like my grand-uncle helped his sister those many years ago.

I believe in the magic of time travel, for when my grandmother tells me of those days, the past comes alive and through the windows of her eyes I can see every tear, every fear…every unyielding hope that brought her from there to here. I make that journey with her and know that magic exists.

I believe in the magic of filling a grandchild’s Paterson-poor holidays with a treasure trove of toys bought through scrimping, saving and layaway plans. In the magic of multicolored lights, popcorn tins, a glazed ham in the oven and the symphonic strains of friends and family swirling throughout the living room of a tiny third story apartment, stretching it beyond its limits and, for that day, transforming it into the grandest of palaces.

I believe in the magic of inheritance. For that same woman’s magical strength of will has been passed down from mother to daughter to me. I believe in the magic of the undying dream, which resulted in a much sought-after home for my mother and a much sought-after son for my aunt. I believe in the magic of the seemingly impossible and the magic of transmutation, for I became what I ought to have been through the same magic that’s swelled through the veins of three generations of my family’s women.

I believe in the magic of recording this for posterity’s sake, so that this magic never disappears from the world. I believe in the magic of sharing and the way that sharing can make ideas flourish and spread like ivy…so I share this fable, born of magic but grounded in truth with any and all who will listen. I share this magic with you.

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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation…

Hey guys, kind of a departure from my usual entries, but I just finished writing this for my Intercultural Communications class and thought it turned out pretty well. So, if any of you were ever curious about my opinions regarding pop culture and the media, here you go ^_^

 

American pop culture as related to my generation is rooted in instant gratification, excess and nostalgia, usually a very white-washed form where minorities are still relegated to secondary roles. Since our realities are so inextricably linked with the act of mass consumption, originality of thought has become a rarity as evidenced by the stream of endless movie and television remakes. Instead we focus on the same ideas being re-hashed over and over again in slightly different forms or use technological storehouses to revisit days gone by. Netflix makes it simple for all sorts of shows from yesteryear to be seen at the touch of a button; because my generation’s collective memory is so thoroughly entwined with the media, childhood memories become indelibly linked to television shows. Still, this nostalgia comes equipped with rose-tinted glasses that somehow cause us to bypass the incongruities of those shows that we glossed over as children, such as all-white casts with one or two token minorities thrown in for good measure.

Our virtual worlds mirror our perceptions of the real world, and so my generation has been collectively conditioned, from childhood to see minorities as supporting characters in the sitcom of life, thrown in to affect a very controlled form of “diversity,” amongst a cast of mostly whites who function as the “major players.”

 

 

In advertisements, Americans have been shown to be happy, bright-eyed, optimistic, prosperous and “All-American,” (read: white as Wonder Bread). Although this has changed somewhat, most people throughout the world still see the stereotypical blonde-haired, blue-eyed American cowboy, or buxom model made popular by characters such as the Marlboro Man and actors such as Pamela Anderson (who isn’t even American).

On the other, less glamorous side of the spectrum, Americans are connected with excess. Excessive gluttony for food, entertainment, surgical enhancements, tanning, brand names. We are connected with a type of caricature of ourselves. In our zombified media-inundated world of excess, even other human beings become a commodity. In America, everyone is your friend. People send you requests for friendship on social networking sites after sitting in a class with you and scarcely exchanging two words, just to add you to their collection. We collect people like trophies and never really listen to them or form any significant connections; another reflection of our excess.

When I met a Japanese/Korean young man from Germany at a party, he spoke about his experiences in America as compared to his native Germany, saying he was surprised by how unattractive he perceived the women to be compared to the women in Europe. He cited larger bodily proportions that he was surprised by, because he thought they would be skinnier and prettier. Perhaps in the media he’s been exposed to regarding American women, what he saw was a model or actress and associated her appearance with that of all American women. This very same type of image wreaks havoc on many American women’s self-esteem. We are bombarded with glamorized advertisements about every type of delectable junk food, yet concurrently, are also flooded with images of skinny, traditionally “beautiful” women who force many young women to choose between enjoying the meal of their choosing or starving to fit into a cage of someone else’s creation. And yes, whose creation is it? Is it our collective creation perpetuated by a few top tier advertising and media moguls? Is it a dark, inherent need for self-destruction? Certainly that must be one of the motives behind our lust for reality television, our need to stave off the darkness associated with our own self-destructive needs by focusing instead on others’ very public acts of self-destruction for our own amusement and distraction.

We derive much entertainment from the media, and as mentioned earlier, media and reality have become indistinguishable to my generation. This is even evident in the title of “reality tv,” although most audiences are at least partially aware that this is a controlled, skewed version of “reality,” it appeals to our psyches as an extension of our mundane lives. We take these experiences with us, even though they are not ours and relay them to friends and co-workers as if they were.

We are constantly connected through the pervasiveness of social media, through our phones, iPods, laptops, and tablets, we are literally always connected, needing four of essentially the same object in different forms. Consider that you might pay for a phone with internet access, while your laptop at home, which is also portable, like your phone is also capable of internet access, as is your tablet, even your kindle reader and your video game console. Why is internet access so necessary now? Because media and reality have merged. We live and breathe through our experiences which we relate through Twitter and Facebook. Life has become a series of text messages for most of the younger generation, and what are they texting about? Reality television. The new video game or electronic device they bought. A Facebook game they need more tokens for. Even our work hinges on technology. When the company e-mail is down, messages are unable to be relayed and production literally shuts down. Even the securing of a job hinges on one’s internet access and competence with a computer. Our recreation likewise centers around technology as well.

 

In conclusion, we cite all these developments as technological advancements and therefore as advancements of the human species and our global culture. One must ask themselves, however, have we truly advanced, and if so, towards what? We have moved from a culture that connected with one another, to one that connects with technology. It is a colder form of communication, one that lacks depth or emotion. Consider how many misunderstandings are caused by misunderstood meanings in text messages. The subtleties of communication are not applicable in such a context. Though we are slightly more culturally aware, racism is still perpetuated through stereotypes and relegation of minorities to supporting roles in many television programs.   We need to take the best of this generation, the minor improvements we have made towards cultural inclusivity, expand upon them and merge them with the type of close-knit familiar communication evident in yesteryear. We can still use technology without being slaves to it or having a phone as an extra appendage. When my power was out, which happens often where I live, I spent time in a candlelit living room listening to my grandmother tell me about her life, her stories, the rich depth of her existence on this plane. And it was amazingly enriching and entertaining! More than any cheap form of filler entertainment like vacuous reality shows or the self-entitled Twitter ramblings of some acquaintance I barely know in real life. It was real. If we can somehow form an appreciation and recognition of that type of “realness,” lasting and genuine advancements in exchanges, especially intercultural exchanges, are sure to follow.