Monday, February 22, 2010

Once the Middle-Class

As the economic __________ (you fill in the blank) begins to recover millions of people have been left without jobs. And according to the NY Times, they can plan on waiting even longer. Really this is according to all kinds of economists and news outlets from each political spectrum. Fox is probably just saying it's Obama's fault because, well, everything is his fault. In reality, it always takes longer to start hiring people back after a recession, even after a company has started to make stable profit. It takes time, for one. For another, there are plenty of companies that are looking at the bottom line and that's it.

So why include this [slightly] opinionated piece as a part of a blog for this class? Why bore you and further saturate the internet and everything else you read with stabs in the dark at economics? Well, in short, it is because the people that I have mentioned above are not the poor. They are the new poor. They are those who have lived comfortably in suburbs all over the U.S. They were people who drove the SUV that became such a quintessential part of suburbia. They are people who work hard. They are people that have never had to live off public funding in their entire life.

Some people just like to look at the numbers, the charts, the statistics on piece of paper. I like to look at human beings. You can have the most impressive mathematic formula around, and you can plug anything into it and believe you are going to get an accurate picture of, say, what bracket these newly poor humans will fit into. Some people call this kind of thing "empirical." But if we look at the human factor, the human variable, we will see people that once worked for themselves so that they and their families could have a good roof over their heads...we will see these people at food banks that are running out, without health insurance (at all), filing or hoping for extensions of unemployment, the list goes on.

Retrospect on this time will be nothing short of amazing, if not a fully taxing task. All the empirical data in the world may indicate this or that about money in the bank, but it won't show you a thing about what these people's lives will look like, how this will change culture, and whether or not the middle-class living in this place called suburbia will ever live up to its name.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This American Life...On the Radio

As an avid NPR listener, "This American Life" is one of my all time favorite shows. I realize just how rare this might seem--a 23 year old that loves a "radio program." Tons of my friends give me a hard time for being or at least acting like "an old man." They ask where my paper and my black coffee are. I have them here next to me at this very moment. But really, if you like to listen to (not just veg out and watch) something especially interesting, something intellectually stimulating, and something that is simply entertaining then you should brush aside the supposed stereotypes of NPR listeners or people that "still" listen to the radio or, even worse, a radio program.

Still, some may ask, "Do they even have radio programs anymore?" And I must answer, "Well yes, yes they sure do." And one of those said programs that would be well worth your time is "This American Life" brodcast on NPR every Sunday night at 6pm. If you live in the Atlanta area, it's 90.1 fm "on the dial(as us old-timers say)." This radio show just made its 400th show and they deserve some recognition.

As it pertains to this class, if there is any contemporary media that examines American life, or what it means to be an American, or common national sentiment of the time, or completely random stories about Americans (and trust me the list goes on), than it is this radio program. They present narrative and counter narrative; they examine this crazy relationship we have with technology; they share stories and give examples of the extreme diversity of the US; they encapsulate it all, and they do it so well.

More specifically, last week's program was about several kids that had grown up in suburbia that had stumbled upon an old artifact: an old abandoned house stocked with newspaper clippings, love letters, and all kinds of other things from the American past. The last name of the family that left it behind was named Mason. The Mason's left what seemed like absolutely everything behind and simply abandoned the house. The suburban kids were sure that this house was haunted and that some crazy old man lived there and so on. Come to find out, at least at the end of the story, the family that lived there was, in there time, the modern suburban family--not much different than the kids that stumbled upon it in the first place. And this suburbia was, as our book we are reading in class asserts, one from much earlier than the 1950s!

So all my radio listening that keeps me away from my school work, at times, actually met that work somewhere in the middle! And truly, tune in to "This American Life" next Sunday, kids young and old love it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stars and Bars

The American Suburbs are an interesting space. There have been plenty of movies made about them, notably "American Beauty." And the number of TV shows, novels, the list goes on is even more immense.

I, myself, have grown up in a suburb for most of my life. And they are peculiar places. At the same time, I would say they are close to American Beauty's portrayal. At least not the ones that I've grown up in. You may be saying, "how little you know" right now and you may be right.

Either way, they are quite the interesting place. The SUV, the "Suburban" is rather hilarious when you think about how huge of a truck it is and just how many suburbanites drive them. A suburbanite driving a Suburban in's just too much. But that's kind of what is "quintessential" about many peoples conceptions of suburbia--whether they beautiful in an American way or not. Who knows?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Conquering Space

It seems conquering space (and I enjoy the ambiguity of the word) has always been the American way. And it is rather incredible to think about the "progress," the historical push forward, the evolution of the technologies used to conquer. From the American Axe to the iPhone. From the mill to the spaceship. From tangible land type of space to outer space. Ok, I realize the iPhone can't be cited for "conquering" but it could be for "consuming," that is, consuming every moment of some peoples' lives.

I do not indulge myself too much in science-fiction but it is interesting to think about the future of technology, human relation to it, and the possible narratives that will stem from this. For now, we only have speculative forecasts of this future and the same kind of narratives. In Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," you'll find the future, one that always seems post-conflict/war/nuclear fallout, to be even more confusing than the present. There isn't much difference that the main character can tell between android and human, partly because the androids have been made so well, and narratives the populous at the time has is one involving catalogs of real and fake/electric farm animals to place on top of your residence. Sounds a little crazy if you haven't read it, maybe even if you have.

But still, Nye lays out a rather detailed history and lists of the narratives/counter-narratives for the past. This also helps us understand how this effected and still effects the present. The detail, skill, and academic research done by Nye proves to be an especially informative examination. But with past and present under my belt, it makes we wonder about the future.

With the world becoming more and more technologically advanced--not just the United States, though it may be pushed along in a significant way by the US--it should make anyone wonder what the future human relation to technology will be, whether the United States will lead the march to that future, and what will the narratives and counter-narratives entail?

Perhaps, with our long line of conquering space, the new frontier will not be as much West as it will be straight up.