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Words for Thought


When I finished college in late November, unemployed and living at home, I started watching “it gets better videos” to cheer myself up. Yes, I’m aware it is more than a stretch to compare myself to a struggling gay, bisexual or questioning youth, but the simple credo, “It gets better,” has held me loosely together as I stumble from one unpaid internship to the next.

Spring is the air and inspirational graduation speeches are flooding the internet. Although some of them are wonderfully candid and inspiring, the advice they give comes from on high. These people have achieved success and so no matter what they’ve gone through in the past they no longer have that intrusive beast, doubt, perched on their shoulder. They may think they still have it, but the doubt of a successful person is not the doubt of a twenty-something with only the vague outline of a dream.

My friends have been trickling out of academia for the past year with varying results. The best advice I’ve heard so far came from my friend Leena. She graduated last year and simply stated that she wished someone would’ve been real with her and told her that life is hard.

And to this I will add, life is hard and it is okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be angry with the situation you’re in. It’s okay to say, “I could’ve been a contender!” with great angst and sadness every time you feel like you’ve wasted your undergraduate years studying something that isn’t going to make you any money. It’s even okay to be mad when your friends get internships and jobs before you.

Inspirational speakers say things like, “do something you’re proud of everyday” , “find something you love in the job that you can get” , “make something that matters.” To that I say, it’s okay if you don’t.

To the class of 2012, I herby give you permission to not believe in yourself all the time, to feel bad about not following your dreams, to not even have dreams and to feel like your life is one terrible mistake after the next. It’s okay. You are not alone.

Life is hard. There is no yellow-brick road leading to your destiny. You can’t achieve things just by wishing really hard, sometimes you can’t even get them by working really hard. But, if you’re lucky you have at least one person telling you not to give up. And they will reach down into that abyss you are wallowing in and tell you to get a hold of yourself.

Life is hard, yes. But it’s not just hard for you, it’s hard for everyone. Don’t let that bring you down, allow it to empower you.

What I’m trying to say is that you should not stress yourself out by feeling bad about feeling bad. (Because you will.) You need to allow yourself to admit, “this sucks,” when it sucks. But at the same time, you need to look in the mirror, make direct eye-contact and tell yourself, “it gets better” and you need to say it like you mean it, because then maybe you will.

For my entire life I have fallen in love with books only to be disappointed when they make their debut on the silver screen. Even the best movie adaptations (think Fight Club) pale in comparison to the book.

And how could they not? There is just no way they can compete. Books don’t have to fit into a 2-hour timeframe, the author can control every vision you see in a much more precise manner than a director can. A picture may say a thousand words, but only a well-crafted sentence can say precisely one thing to everyone.

For years I have lamented when my favorite books turn into movies and I end up hating the movie for being a lesser version of the book.

Finally I have figured out the anecdote: Read the book after watching the movie. 

The movie is like a teaser, a vague synopsis of the real story that can only lie within the written word. But I already know the ending, you might object. And to that I respond with what if you could take your favorite movie, the one you’ve watched a thousand times, and turn it into a week-long experience? What if all of your questions about motivation and what the character were thinking could be answered?

It’s there, it’s in the book.

I went to see The Hunger Games before I read the book, in fact, when I went to go see it because I didn’t even want to read the book. I loved the movie in a way that no one who had read the book could have because it was different. It changed their baby and sped things up and made a book into a movie.

But I liked the movie so much, I read the book and I didn’t care that I knew what would happen in the end it was like uncovering a treasure trove. I got to know the character’s thoughts, I got to read every little detail, I savored every extra moment that went above and beyond the movie.

And I think I might do this for every popular book from now on. Watch the movie, enjoy it –– then read the book and enjoy it too.

 

Today is my father’s birthday. Let’s refer to him as Papa G.

Here is a picture of him and I together when I was still a little larva human:

 

As the photo clearly demonstrates Papa G is a registered badass. And if you aren’t able to tell that from the gleam in his eye then let me elaborate by listing things my dad has done for me:

– Carried me inside his jacket and ran from a swarm of angry bees.
– Taught me how to use the riding lawnmower.
– Built every single computer I have used, ever. (I’m going to count the fact that he helped design the processor in this laptop).
– Jury-rigged a garage door opener with a big red button on it.
– Crawled into the wall of the house to make sure there wasn’t a badger inside of it.
– Let me use one of his old aluminum pole for Festivus celebrations.
– Built tree-houses, swing-sets, castles, play-kitchens and countless other things.
– Fixed everything –– before I even considered it to be broken.
– Sent me photos of me and my friends that he took unbeknownst to us from a telescopic lens.
– Essentially paid for my entire college education.
– Grew artichokes from seeds in Oregon weather.
– Asked me what I ate for lunch pretty much every day since the day he created his own Skype account.
Papa G is the kind of guy who will state what is obviously happening or about to happen in a television or movie out loud to you, with wonder. He likes to grow vegetables. He likes to ride his bike and he likes to fix things. Most importantly he has loved me from day one even though when he met me I was a mere red-faced fat baby that looked like a frog.

And so today I wish him a happy birthday and thank him for everything he’s done for me.
 

 

Forget Republican primaries, it’s voting time in the UWC.  This vote has nothing to do with the mostly harmless presidential branch of government. This one counts. This one is for the House of Representatives. That’s right people, we’re putting someone in da’ House.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. I’m just want to remind you to vote.

I know that sometimes people divide their voting habits into two categories: Presidential and everything else. And although I’m glad you vote every four years, usually it’s the “everything else” that will affect your day-to-day life.

The President can only change so much on his own. There are three branches of government and it’s important that we decide who represents us in congress as well as who is in that coveted corner-less office.

Oregonians have it made. We don’t even need to leave the house to vote––they mail our ballots directly to us. All you have to do is make a mark in black or blue ink, seal two envelopes and stick it in your mailbox. Presto democratic process achieved.

If you honestly don’t know who to vote for consider reading about the candidates online or in the voters pamphlet. If you can’t be bothered I suggest just writing my name in on that little blank line. I must warm you my last name is long and I am completely unqualified. But, hey, I am looking for a job.

Last Saturday was the Miss America 2012 pageant where 53 hard-working ladies competed to obtain scholarship money to further their educations.

These future doctors, lawyers and politicians had to sing, dance and parade on stage in a bikini to win.

A friend and I watched with utter dumbstruck fascination. We concluded that all the white gowns were probably going to double as wedding dresses. Also that it is strange that Miss America has to wear a crown at all of her public appearances.

Miss America gets to do a lot of cool things: meet the President, speak at important events and travel the country promoting her chosen platform.

The thing is she has to do this while wearing a crown.

In other words this intelligent, confident woman seeking a higher degree looks like a little girl playing dress-up.

Regardless of your opinion about the fact that these women were judged on their looks as well as their talent, it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage and let the world see your every flaw. It’s a very elaborate and public job interview –– kind of like running for president, except theoretically the presidential candidates  are not judged on how “pretty” they are.

This year’s Miss America is Laura Kaeppeler. Like all the ambitious Miss Americas that came before her she doesn’t need a crown to prove to the world that she is worth being heard. And confident women everywhere shouldn’t have to wear one to get people to listen.

Enough with the fun and games, It’s time to talk about something serious. My topic of choice is book publishing, specifically why are they still printing records when they should be producing mp3s?

What I’m getting at is that producing a physical book is out-dated, cumbersome, and consumes resources and capital.

Don’t get me wrong, I love books. I slept with books in my crib. My Mecca is Powell’s City of Books. But the thing that I like more than books is reading and in today’s modern world there are simply better ways to read. Just like you wouldn’t carry a record player or Walkman around anymore to listen to music you shouldn’t have to carry around a heavy, clunky book.

And you shouldn’t want to. E-readers provide you with a slim light-weight device that can hold more books than will fit into most people’s houses. You can download books right to your device, you can share them with friends, you can check them out from the library. You can do everything you would with a regular book only faster, quicker and without reading a book covered in coffee and food stains.

Talk about a reading paradise. And a reading paradise should be a publishers paradise.

Case study: I rarely bought books before I got my e-reader and I would never subscribe to magazines because as a college student I was constantly moving from place to place.

But now that I have an e-reader not only are books usually $10 cheaper in ePub format but when I buy one I don’t have to think about moving it up and down three flights of stairs every 3 months. Better yet I don’t have to worry about managing my magazine subscriptions because all i need is a WiFi connection and they download directly to my device.

So you have more people buying your product and it costs less to produce it? I haven’t taken a math class in four years but I’m pretty sure that sounds like winning.

And with less money at risk maybe publishing houses can branch out into more experimental genres and publish more books? If they don’t budding authors are apt to self-publish and make a million dollars without the middle man.

The losers of course will be the factories that print books and the stores that sell them. Just like the monks who transcribed books by hand were out of luck when the printing press was invented. But the thing about humans is that they like to adapt.

Yes, this new way of reading will require an “entry fee,” to buy a device that allows you to access the books. But over time competition will drive down the cost of e-readers and many people already own other devices that read ePub files like computers, or smart phones.

We should stop wasting time worrying about the demise of the physical “book,” and embrace ePublishing and all it has to offer. We’re on the cusp of something great.

I am very excited about the future of publishing. Because the winners in the long run, aside from trees, will be everyone that loves to read.