21st Century Top Ten

Let us try and decide what the top ten events of the 21st century thus far have been. Some events are unanimously important, like 9/11.  In fact, many say that this century began not on January 1, 2000, but on September 11, 2001. And although I recognize this as possibly being a quintessentially and strictly  American viewpoint, I would have to agree. But what about the rest of the 21st century? What other events have altered the world and changed everything around us?  What deaths, births, inventions and destructions have penetrated are radar?  Here's my tentative list for important events, personal cataclysms and triumphs aside:
    Top Ten Events of the 21st Century - In No Particular Order

  1. The Attacks of September 11

  2. The Invention of Youtube

  3. The Invention of Facebook

  4. The Inauguration of President Obama

  5. The Iraq War

  6. The Afghanistan War
  7. The Invention of iPod... and iEverything else
  8. Hurricane Katrina
  9. The 2008 Economic Crash/Crisis
  10. The Execution (recorded by cell phones and downloadable online, no less) of Saddam Hussein
The list is subjective, and the list is mine. If you don't like it, make your own list. No, really, make your own list - and share it.  

Like Butter

I'm not one of those people who believe that technology is going to be the death of civilization - and I don't recommend that you be one of those people.  Those are the same people who have basements full of canned tuna, DD batteries, bullets.  Those people are weird.  No, I'm one of those people who use technology the way one uses butter.  Or rather, the way one should use butter: sparingly.   I have a cell phone that I use for emergencies, a microwave - also for emergencies, and one little social networking site that I occasionally frequent in order to keep up on what everyone else is doing.
The trouble with social networking sites is the disallusionment that they cause amongst friends.  Firstly, they make you think you have friends.  Hundreds of them.  How many of the 'friends' that you have on Facebook know that you peed your pants at eight grade sleepaway camp, or that you still take vocal lessons on the weekend because, even though you're thirty-two, you still haven't given up on your pop star record deal dreams?  My Facebook page says that I have 197 friends.  I say that I have seven.  That's why it's important to use technology sparingly.  If I let the computer tell me how many friends I have then I'll also let the computer tell me that terrorists are planting surveillance devices in my garden which will eventually lead me to being one of those people with the canned tuna and the batteries and the bullets in my basement.  And I just don't want that.

Twelve in Twelve

One of the concerns coming from those who are slightly frightened of the direction the world is headed is the amount of jobs that the average person will be forced to go through in a lifetime.  This is due to the changing needs of a technologically advanced society.  Many of our most in demand jobs were non-existent twenty years ago.  Newspapers journalists are struggling to pay rent while online bloggers are in high demand.  Computer programers, I.T. folks, the Geek Squad, the kids at The Apple Store are all benefiting from the 21st century, and the work force is forced to keep up.
I myself am currently working as an assistant technology teacher to kindergarten, first and second graders, even though my background and true love is theatre.  And when it comes to having a number of jobs I think I might deserve the award for Most Jobs Over Shortest Number of Years.  In twelve years I have had twelve - count'em - twelve jobs.  They were:

  • Dorm Cafeteria Food Server at SFSU.  That sucked.
  • Telemarketer at SFSU.  That sucked too.
  • Pre-school assistant teacher.  That rocked.
  • Waitress.
  • Waitress again.
  • Nanny/Personal assistant.
  • Pirate (for children's parties)
  • Actor.  Yeah, at one point in time I actually got paid for it!
  • Hostess.  
  • Caregiver at a group home for foster kids.
  • Teacher
  • Fairy (for children's parties)
I guess this makes me a statistic.  Luckily for me, my goal is, and has always been, to get work in a field that has been around for hundreds of years and will always be relevant to society.  You might say that it's the worlds oldest profession...  actor!  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Instant Photogratification

Remember the days when you would wait anxiously after handing in rolls of film from your wedding, or your Spring vacation, or your graduation to the photo processor?  Remember how it felt to know that the film was ready after you patiently waited several days?  Remember how you couldn't wait until you got home to open up the packages and see what pictures came out just as you intended, and what pics failed to capture the moment.  Photos of friends with their eyes closed, blurry backgrounds, and red-eyed babies disappointed you, but they also made those perfect shots look that much more perfect.  

Well friends of the 21st century, those days are gone. 

I watched a mother take a picture of her little girls the other day, and the first thing the kids did after they said 'cheese' and waited for the flash was to run over to their mom and look at the back of her camera to see how the photo came out.  They were happy with the way it turned out, so a reshoot wasn't necessary.   What does this say about children in the 21st century?  That they are set up to expect and demand instant gratification.  And they will not be disappointed. 

And although I enjoy the digital world where convenience reigns over old-fashioned necessity, I must admit that I miss those small moments of excitement that come when you have to wait for something you want.  I miss waiting for photos to develop.  What small moments do you miss from the 21st century?

Tea Anyone?

I stood over the shoulder of a coworker in the staff lounge during lunch the other day, curiously piecing together the mystery of what she was concocting.  She had a mug that she was stuffing with big, beautiful leaves.  I was certain the leaves were mint.  Water was on the stove, just barely reaching a boil.  After about twenty seconds (I'm not one for piecing together mysteries), I asked her what she was doing.  And can you believe it?  She was making mint tea.  Just a few sprigs of mint and a little hot water and voila!  Mint tea.Now, I'm not a total technology nut who is completely disconnected from the origins of culture.  I can plant a tree and make a pie crust by hand, enough said.  But it says something to me that I've never thought of simply steeping raw and unprocessed herbs in order to make a cup of tea.  After all, that is what our ancestors did.  Obviously, in my mind, tea is something that comes from the grocery store, and not the garden.  At what point in history does this happen to modern people?  At what point in history does man lose the root of place and function for a thing?  For me, food comes from the grocery store and not the farm.  Music comes from itunes instead of an instrument.  Flowers come from a florist, not a seed.
These modern times create modern people.  Silly, lost and lacking instinct - that's me, at least when it comes to making tea from scratch.  Awareness is the first step.  I am aware, and not before long I will be blogging, tweeting and instant messaging with the computer in one hand and an organic homemade cup of mint tea in the other.

Oh, Walter

Walter Benjamin said "Century by century we are becoming more estranged."
Sounds a bit cynical if you ask me.  Then again, I too would be just a bit cynical if my short life was taken by my own hand at the age of forty-eight while attempting to escape Nazis in my home country during World War II.  
Benjamin was a Marxist philosopher as well as a deeply pained thinker as evidenced by the photo above. The concept of estrangement was surely relevant during his lifetime.  The turn of the century brought the Industrial Revolution which inevitably reduced the individual to a dollar amount to be compared with a simple machine.  Two World Wars and two nuclear attacks later Benjamin felt poopy.  But I happen to disagree with this quote.  I don't think we are more estranged from each other or even to ourselves than we were any number of years ago.  Nor would I argue that we are less estranged thanks to communication accessibilities.  I think we are the same today as we ever were or ever will be.  We are brutes and brains.  Heroes and villains.  Sworn enemies and BFF's.  We cultivate, communicate, ignore, indulge, rape, pillage, pray and play.  We always have and we always will.  No matter what the 21st century brings in terms of technology, be it ipads or iteleport, we will remain the who, how and what we are: human.  

Bitter Little Pill

There's a rumor going around on talk shows and in magazines that the greatest invention for women in the last one hundred years is hair dye.  Say it isn't so women.  If we let hair dye be our crowning glory then we will continue to give our aesthetic more power than our intellect and the terrorists win.  Might I join the masses and suggest "The Pill" as the greatest invention for women in the 20th Century?  
You would think that because the pill has been around for a good fifty years that it would be as easy to get your hands on as, say, a condom.  Instead, intelligent responsible women like myself are meant to search far and wide for a doctor who will write a prescription without requiring a doctor's appointment weeks from the actual moment when a woman is in need of said contraceptive.  This means that less intelligent and less responsible women unlike myself are more likely to say 'screw it, I'll just use a condom'. But the trouble with using condoms instead of using the pill is that it takes the choice - and therefore, the power - out of the woman's hands and puts it into the man's hands.  That means that the same woman - you know, the not so bright or responsible one lets her not so bright or responsible partner control her future.  
It's the 21st Century.  A contraceptive that is affordable and accessible for women is long overdue.  If that contraceptive is the pill, than the pill needs to be handed out like candy in the waiting rooms of free clinics just like condoms are, rather than trapped behind the pharmacy counter with the Prozac and Oxicontin. 
Say it with me ladies: What do we want?  The pill!  When do we want it?  Now!