Change of Times – The Day the Clock Stopped.

Do you have something, an item or chotchky, that you have held onto through the years for no good reason other than because it held some nostalgic link to your past? For some unexplained reason you just couldn’t get yourself to throw it out?

My nostalgic item from college was a clock. A stupid black and white, cheap, whopping TEN dollar wall clock from Target. I bought it the fall semester of my sophomore year when I had just moved into my sorority for the first time. I lived with 3 other girls and when we were decorating our room, I bought this little cheap clock to hang on our wall. It hung above us all, above our couch in a spot where we all could see it. At the end of the semester, I moved down the hall and it came with me. Every time I moved, in college and even in Chicago, it came with me. The Clock found a spot on a bedroom or bathroom wall in every apartment I’ve had ever since. It became a staple of my room. While a lot of stuff got tossed when I moved to DC, I was sure it made the trip with me when I shipped my stuff. I didn’t know what it was about The Clock, but it made me comfortable knowing it was there. The place never felt like home until it was hanging on the wall. As the years passed, I changed but The Clock stayed a constant in my life.

It was a good cheap little clock; I rarely ever had to change the battery on it, maybe max two or three times in 9 years. That’s magical in clock lives. When I arrived in DC, it was one of the first things I unpacked. I immediately hung it on the bathroom wall and felt comforted. I noticed that afternoon that The Clock had stopped. So, naturally, I replaced the battery. It worked for about 15 minutes and then stopped again. So I bought a brand new pack of batteries and tried again. It not only stopped working, it killed the brand new batteries. This repeated 3 or 4 times before I finally gave in and said my goodbye. It wasn’t the batteries, The Clock had had enough. I paused and had a bit of a hesitation when I put it in the trash but knew it was for the best.

When I first bought The Clock in 2004, it was symbolic of the times changing. I was no longer a silly naïve young Freshman at Indiana University. I knew the campus, I was older, wiser and now I was a sorority girl living in a sorority house. I was on the verge of a lot of change and had a lot of adventures and growth ahead of me. 

Looking back, it is goofy that I had an attachment to a clock. But when I stop to think about it – it is quite symbolic of my life. It was with me for almost 9 years. It was there with me through all my college experiences. It was like a fly on my wall that witnessed many firsts and tears, tons of late night girl chats, silly sorority girl fights, hours of long studying, boy crushes, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it likely was with me from the very first time I ever met The Ex, 3 years before we ever dated. It was with me through our entire relationship and as I lived out The Year of Caryn, looking to rediscover and find myself, it was there.

I moved to DC because I felt in my heart that I needed a fresh start. I wanted to put the past behind me and start a new. I knew it was time for a new chapter in my life to begin, time for new adventures and for change. While the clock used to be a constant in my life, I’ve learned that the only thing that is constant, is change.

It’s funny – it wasn’t just a silly cheap little clock, after all. It represented almost an entire decade of my life. There was no logical explanation as to why this move was any different from the many that came before, or why The Clock was hell-bent on killing every new battery I tried. The only thing that was different was me. I had changed. I am not the same girl who bought it 9 years ago nor am I even the same woman I was when I said goodbye to The Ex. The fact that the day The Clock stopped was the very day I moved in to my new apartment, in a new city; the day I was starting over with new adventures and a new beginning, is just too wild to be a coincidence. Moving here, I told the Universe I was ready to put all that had happened in Clock Decade behind me in order to embark on this new path. Just like that part of my life, The Clock is just a nostalgic memory now. I had to say goodbye to it, move on, start fresh and buy a new clock to go on the wall. Change of times, indeed.

dali melting clock

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9/11: A Decade Later

Not since JFK’s assassination had the country experienced an event so impactful that everyone remembers where he or she was that day.  Every generation has their moment and ours is where we were on 9/11/01.  Parts of the day, and subsequent days are blurry, but some parts are so clear, it seems unfathomable that it is already 10 years later.

I was a sophomore in high school, in a suburb of Chicago, and I was in first period sitting in Mr. Cohen’s algebra class. I was in the second seat, in the second row on the right side of the room. My friend Abbey was caddy corner to my right. Mr. Cohen was an older little man who loved teaching. Always the goof, he tried to make learning math fun. On the morning of 9/11, I remember a woman coming to the door and insisting to speak with Mr. Cohen in the hallway. When he returned, he had a look on his face that was chilling. The class was silent. He was no longer bubbly, but very grave. You could hear the ticking of the clock. We knew immediately something was up. My first thought was that it was something personal to him or his family. I think he read a pre-written memo, but I could be mistaken. He stood in the front of the room and braced himself as he said, “We’ve been attacked. A plane has been hijacked and hit The Twin Towers in New York.”

I don’t remember much else of what he said, because I was confused, trying to process it. I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were at that time and I didn’t fully grasp the weight of the situation. But he continued to explain all that was known at that time. Class was dismissed immediately and we all went to large classroom with a projection screen. At first the school tried to carry on as normal, but everyone was glued to the TV watching the events as they unfolded, listening to the newscasters try to explain this breaking news, while attempting to stay professional. I remember wondering if the news was taking this story and sensationalizing it into a bigger story than it really was because it wasn’t clear at that time that it was a terrorist attack, only speculation. I was in disbelief. We were all numb to what was happening outside of our school walls. Some of us were sure it had to be an accident, why and who wanted to attack America? To our knowledge, all was peaceful and right in the world. Oh, how naïve, we were! But then, the TV anchors told us that another plane had hit the Pentagon, and then later another was hijacked in Pennsylvania. This couldn’t just be a coincidence anymore.  The school turned the main gym into a TV room/consoling room, and everyone was asking questions that no one knew the answers to. We watched together in horror as the towers crumbled.  There were people crying and running to see the social workers. Students and teachers were making frantic phone calls to friends and family.  We were released a bit early from school that day, only to go home to be glued to the TV some more. We went from worrying about who liked who, test scores, and all the petty high school drama that seemed like such monumental issues at the time, to instantly forgetting that any of it existed; at least for the time being.  It was like all of our own little bubbles popped.

I am thankful I did not have any family or friends in the Towers, or on any of the planes. We, as a nation, were terrified. The stock market did not open on 9/11 and didn’t reopen until 9/17. People were scared to leave their homes, afraid of what might happen next. People cancelled vacations and stocked up their homes with non-perishable items. Would the draft become mandatory? For who? There was so much uncertainty and confusion. My sister was supposed to study abroad the following spring, but that was cancelled. Rumors flew rampant that cities like Chicago, L.A or Houston were next to be attacked with threats of poisoning our water systems, using trains, more planes or anthrax. Whether or not there were more threats, we’ll never know the truth. Rational or not, most of the time it felt like the Government wanted to keep us scared, to justify going to or staying at war. We, as a nation, were also suddenly unified and extremely patriotic.  People launched at the opportunity to donate blood and volunteer to find victims. We supported each other.  We flew the flag on our homes and cars. We were proud to defend our country.

All the other details have escaped me into a blur. How much is truly remembered? I remember where I was, I remember watching the second tower getting hit and falling and even reacting to it in the classroom but I can’t replay the footage in my mind. I don’t physically remember watching it live, but I know I did. Some memories you can press play and watch it again; but not for me with the towers falling, the United Flight 93, or the following days.

The War On Terror began as we sent our troops in retaliation after Al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. We, citizens of America, supported this war; after all we thought we’d been innocently attacked. America used to be like a teenager. We had a false sense of invisibility. Then we were attacked, and we became vulnerable and attacked back. We put a face on terror and went after Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

Now it is 10 years later. Where are we now?  Hussein was executed on Dec. 30, 2006, and we finally caught Bin Laden on May 1, 2011. Yes, we were relieved when Osama was finally found (not in a cave, I’ll remind you) and killed, under President Obama’s Administration. I was livid when I heard people were celebrating and dancing in the streets. We were furious with our enemies when we saw footage of them cheering about 9/11, and for some people to go and do the same about Osama’s death- makes us no better than the other guys. Somewhere along the line what we were fighting for became blurry. The War on Terror suddenly became The War on Iraq and Afghanistan, or The War Where We Looked For Oil or The War On… Wait What Are We Fighting For? 9/11 changed our outlook on just about everything. How we fight in battle changed. Security got amped up to Red alert. We no longer could greet people at the gates.  Our carry-ons had 3 oz liquid limits. People began to focus their ‘racial profiling’ towards people of Arab descent and the Muslim community. We were on high alert about everything. Everything was blamed on terrorism. For weeks, even months after, people felt guilty ‘moving on.’ Since the attacks, we have spent trillions of dollars. Our economy and relationships have not been the same since.

I’ve watched special after special about the attacks. I’ve watched reports on conspiracy theories.  I see the magazine covers and news reports that happen on the anniversary each year.  I know I am supposed to remember and mourn for the nearly 3,000 that died that day.  And I do, believe me. But to be honest, and not to seem insensitive here, I feel more like each year it has turned into a media frenzy, an attempt to grab ratings with the specials. And then there are people using 9/11 as a tactic to attract readers. This bothers me immensely. Just because it is 10 years later, does not mean it belongs in your headline. Seriously, what does a CTA shooting in 1977 or Nascar themed car wash have to do with 9/11? NOTHING. I tweeted back asking this, and received no response. If not to pluck at people’s vulnerability on the subject or to grab ratings, why connect the headlines?

Every year it is the same thing, is the 10th year really any different? We are still at war. Still losing thousands of innocent lives, both our enemy’s and our own. We’re still on Orange alert and now we have unnecessary, full body scanners at the airports. We have gone through a massive depression and recession, and about 9% of people are unemployed. The only difference to me is the  amount of time that has passed.

It has been a decade, 10 full years, since our lives as a country completely changed. 10 years of fighting. We’re still at war. There is talk that there might be an anniversary attack.  Is this to scare us and keep us on alert again? Personally, I doubt the terrorists would attack on the anniversary, especially when we have our guard up.

At the same time, it is hard for me to sit here and say that the newspapers and networks do it for the ratings, because by the same token while it might feel that way sometimes, if they didn’t annually commemorate, they would be criticized for forgetting. But then I have mixed feelings as to why we only remember once a year? I know we actually think about it year round, but we only bring it up publicly on the anniversary. Anytime we meet someone with the birthday 9/11 or just hear that date, it is forever ingrained into our brains to remember. There are people who lost everything that day. Real people, not just faces on a magazine cover. While we’re not in high school anymore, the petty drama has resumed. Yes, the world must go on.  But we were patriotic and unified, what happened to that unity? Democrats and Republicans are battling it out again every day. While we may NEVER FORGET it happened, perhaps we have forgotten our patriotism, our focus, and that we all were once proud to stand together as Americans.

Where were you on 9/11? How do you feel about where we are 10 years later?

Is (news) Ignorance Bliss?

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Zite: Personalized Magazine for iPad from zite.com on Vimeo.

I remember when I was a little girl, my father used to sit at the kitchen table, with one knee bent horizontally over the other, arms stretched out, reading the Sunday paper.  While he was reading a particular section, whether it was Sports, Business, World or Local News, I would pick up a section he wasn’t reading and mimic his posture reading the paper.  I would check out Tom Skilling’s weather Q & A column, read my favorite comic strips or my horoscope, and scan for headlines that caught my interest.  When I had questions, we would discuss.  I’d read The Police Blotter to see if I knew anyone who was caught doing something so stupid, it warranted being written up and publicly humiliated in the newspaper. We would attempt to do the crossword puzzle together when we were done with the paper. I loved this time I got to spend with my father.  By time we were done, my fingers would have ink on them, and I’d leave evidence, accidentally of course, that I had read/touched the paper on the white kitchen table.  I also remember my Grandma’s hand written holiday or birthday cards she used to send.  They would always come with a newspaper clipping of The Family Circle cartoon.  That was her thing.

Fast forward to college where I studied Journalism.  I specifically remember being told the encouraging defeating lesson that newspapers are dying. The field in which you are studying to get your degree is dying.  Thus, by time I graduated, I was completely prepared for looking for a job outside of journalism.  I was aware that new forms of news were being created and that the Internet was quickly becoming/if not already had become the primary source for news for most people.

Today, my parents still get the Chicago Tribune and the local town paper.  Sometimes when I’m home, I flip through the pages briefly for any articles that might be interesting to read and of course steal the coupons. (Hey, I need to save all the money I can, trying to support myself isn’t easy!)  Like most people my age, I don’t subscribe to a newspaper right now. I get all my news from TV, the Redeye (local free daily paper) or the Internet.  I am not sure the percent, but I have heard that a large percent of the population age 18-35 get their political news from John Stewart.

Today, while watching Taxi TV in the cab on my way home, an ad came on talking about a new personalized magazine app for iPad users, called Zite.  It touts itself on being an intelligent magazine that allows you to customize and personalize subject matters.  Then it suggests topics based on your interests. That way you can read the news that only you care about. I am sure apps like Zite requires some effort on a reader’s part to set up the different topics of interest in order for the algorithms within to know what to recommend. My guess is that many people probably won’t take the time to input all their interests and possible topics they would potentially like to read about. Thus, creating a limited amount of news for Zite to deliver. I would also bet that this kind of app, like fine wine, only gets better with time.

 I do not have an iPad so I have not had the opportunity to play with this particular app but Zite I know that it is not alone. There are many other sites out there, like Dailyme and News Republic just to name a couple.  I realize that many people get their news on their mobile phones and it is the latest trend to personalize your news. We already are an egocentric country, is personalizing our news so that we ignore anything outside our personal bubble really a good idea? Who does that benefit?

When I look at a newspaper, I glance at the page and scan for topics that I want to read about.  I might stop to read about the latest research on what pregnant women should avoid, or I might choose to read about the most recent developments in Libya.  But what if I hadn’t set up my personal news source to display articles on pregnancy? Because lets face it, that is not on the forefront of my mind because I’m not pregnant!  Or, what if I had not yet looked up anything regarding the rebellion? Have you ever seen a headline that looked so bizarre you just had to click on it? Or what about those random articles that sites like MSN have alternating at the top. One of today’s random headlines was titled 25 Weird, Wild Vending Machines. Now that was one wacky headline that caught my attention, but I never would have thought to add it to my my customized news source.  In fact, all these articles would have been overlooked on my personalized news source. 

If people select their own news topics and do not even have an opportunity to glance over other headlines, what will that do to our intelligence? Even glancing gives us an idea of what other news is out there, even if we don’t read the full article.  In general, as Americans, we look like dimwits when compared to people in other countries who speak two, three, four or even more languages fluently, when we can barely speak our own native language, let alone master a second language.  The basic fundamental knowledge that Americans lack is quite disturbing.  Have you ever watched the Jaywalking segment on The Tonight Show? Click here to watch The Best Of Jaywalking but be prepared to be appalled by your fellow Americans. It is rather pathetic that people don’t know things like who our first president was, who our current vice president is, what states border the U.S., who shot Abraham Lincoln, or what the D.C. in Washington D.C. stands for.  Maybe I am making an assumption that people, like those on Jaywalking, would even download an app that provides news. Perhaps they would be too busy with Angry Birds or Flood-It or watching shows like Wipeout? 

 The Internet is the grandfather of news selectivity. I admit I use it to get a large portion of my daily news. Call me old fashioned but I still like traditional news.  I like being able to scan zig zag from top to bottom, from page to page. In newspapers alone, I enjoy flipping through the different sections and selecting which news topic I want to read that day.  I like getting towards the end and reading the horoscopes followed by the crosswords and Sudoku, which I try to complete. I like the sense of accomplishment I get when I close the newspaper and know I finished reading it.   I know technology is advancing and changing how we receive our news and information. I know newspapers are struggling to stay afloat.  But I miss those days of cutting out articles, getting The Family Circle from Grandma, sitting with my father at the kitchen table reading, or seeing the news for the day in its entirety, and having the news given to me, rather than me customize it.

They say ignorance is Bliss. But we are only hurting ourselves when we are not aware of what is going on in the world around us.

How do you get your news? Do you think personalized news is a positive or negative advancement. Knowing how far we have come in so few years, how do you think we will get our news in 5 – 10 -20 years?

Silly Fads From Our Childhood

>When we were kids, we all wanted to fit in with the cool kids.  No matter what the popular toy or “it” thing of that year was, if they had it, we wanted it too.  It became mass hysteria and group obsessions. Parents paid big money so their kids would have the latest toy. As we’ve grown up, we have learned that everything goes in cycles and fads don’t last, not even The Popular Kids stay popular forever. Recently, I was feeling nostalgic about my childhood and all the goofy fads that have come and gone over the years.

Here is what I came up with:
·      Pet Rock – Really? How was this ever entertaining? Yes, this was before my time, but how did the inventor become a millionaire from this? Why didn’t I think of that?
·     Pogs -Slammer! I remember there would be groups of kids scattered throughout the blacktop sitting in circles playing at recess. Some schools banned this because it was considered a form of gambling by “keeping your opponents winnings”.  
·      Beanie Babies – How could small stuffed animals be retired and worth so much? Why someone paid me $500 for my collection, I will never understand
·      Slap Bracelets – Tell me if you ever saw one today, you wouldn’t smile and instantly try to slap it on? And then say Ouch!
·      Tamagachis – I liked this virtual pet for about week or so until I got tired of waking up in the middle of the night or hearing it beep in the middle of class because it wanted to play or eat. The best was when the thing would leave animated presents behind when I didn’t care for it fast enough. Eventually, I think I took my own Tamagachis batteries out.
·      Silly Bandz (Is this still going on?) I was given a spoon last summer but even though I was told it was a spoon, I was still confused as to what was so cool about it. Not sure why this one caught on.
·      Tickle Me Elmo  – Mother’s went CRAZY at holiday time for these. Do you remember the madness? This was even my friend’s Bat-Mitzvah t-shirt theme.
·      Furby –  aka cute little gremlin looking toys – The gimmick here was that they could learn to talk and repeat what you said. They never seemed to work quite right but they did talk at the most unexpected times, like while you were sleeping.
·      Hypercolor Clothing – You know, the sweatshirts that changed color when you blew hot air on them? This fad lasted about as long the sweatshirts did after going through the wash and dry cycle once or twice.
·      Game Boy Not so much a fad, but early Nintendo technology. The only gaming system I was allowed to own. 
·      Pokemon Trading Cards– a competitive trading and collecting game. I never played this one but I do remember this joke from when I was a kid: Q: Why don’t you want a Pokemon around while you’re taking a shower? Answer: Because he might Pikachu! Hey, I didn’t make it up. Don’t blame the cheesiness on me.
Looking back at all the goofy things that have come and gone, why did we want to do what the cool kids were doing again?
  
What did fads do you remember playing with when you were little? Do you remember any other fads that I may have forgotten? Please share them!