Walmart = God

NYC

This image was one of the first things to greet me upon my move to New York City this past August.  I had been having a hard time emotionally adjusting to the move, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After seeing it, I wasn’t sure I could survive in New York, or that I even wanted to.  I just couldn’t understand; I mean, what the hell is wrongwith these people??!

What is that devestating, life-changing image, you might ask? Well, that is the image you will see if you try to google map “Walmart NYC.”  Notice something missing?  Oh right….there are none!

I hail from the heart of the Walmart empire.  It’s been a huge part of my life since the day I was born.  You need diapers?  Walmart.  Food?  Walmart.  Toys, games, electronics, furniture, music, books, art, accessories, dishes, appliances, crafts, paint, auto stuff, gardening stuff, holiday stuff, decor, jewelry, fish, or anything else ever made under the sun in the history of mankind?  Walmart.  And the best part?  It’s cheap.

Yeah sure, Walmart treats its employees like crap, but they knew what they were getting into when they applied.  Walmart is a business, and business is about making money.  If they can do that without having to treat their employees well, and the employees just sit back and take it instead of finding other jobs and forcing Walmart to be humane, more power to them. Harsh? Maybe, but that’s business, and that’s life.

I don’t understand why New Yorkers are so against Walmart.  I suppose it’s because they’re fans of all these “Mom and Pop” shops, and Walmart would make those obsolete just as Borders and Barnes&Noble have made small bookstores disappear.  But that’s what capitalism is all about. The strong survive while the weak are weeded out.  And Walmart is definitely at the top of the food-chain.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never live to see the day a Walmart opens in NYC.  I take solace that in just a couple years I will be back within the borders of the regime, happy as a clam as I “Save money. Live better” once more.  For now I will have to subsist on trips to the Target in Brooklyn and the Kmart in Penn Station.  These Walmart wannabes have nothing on the real thing, but they’re the closest thing I have, and for that I shall hold them close to my heart and cherish them forever.

And this is why the rest of the world thinks we’re all crazy….

Apparently a US pastor in Kentucky allowed churchgoers to bring unloaded guns to church this Sunday to “celebrate their right to bear arms.”  The purpose of this was “to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns.  If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today.”  The service ended with a handgun raffle.

What Mr. Pagano failed to mention is that American citizens have more guns than any other developed nation and—*gasp* huge surprise—far more gun related crime.  He also failed to mention that the Second Amendment refers to a “well regulated militia,” not individual citizens, and that the term “bear arms” has been used since 1330, and is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as  meaning “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight.”  Again, nothing to do with the individual.

The lack of gun control in America is an embarrassment.  I could go to a gun shop right now and buy a handgun if I wanted to, no questions asked.  Yes, they’re supposed to do a background check, but I doubt it would be too hard to find a dealer willing to bypass that step and give me the gun that day.  I really don’t understand the people who defend their “right” to have a gun by saying they need it to defend themselves.  According to a study by David McDowall of the US Department of Justice during the 1990s, guns were used in self defense an average of 64,615 times per year, while guns were used to commit crimes 2,674,851 times.  That means they were used to commit crimes 41.4 times more often than they were used for protection.  Hmm, doesn’t seem like quite a strong argument anymore….

The bottom line is that gun control is incredibly lax, children are getting hurt in the crossfire by forgetful parents who leave guns out, and in all actuality, no one really needs guns (save for police officers and military members).  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “in 2006, about 68% of all murders, 42% of all robberies, and 22% of all aggravated assaults that were reported to the police were committed with a firearm.”  Just think of how many lives could be saved if people wised up and realized that intelligent regulation is not a bad thing.

Brainwashing is scary…

A rant by one of my coworkers, AC, about a Christian who had tried to convert her after seven years of not speaking with her got me thinking about the religious people in my life.  I’m an atheist; always have been.  Most of my family and friends are okay with that as they are either also atheists, or are just not really all that involved in their religion.  There is, however, one girl whose life is ruled by religion.

I met Nat when she moved to Illinois in ninth grade.  We hit it off right away and became very close friends.  She and her family were fairly religious, but nothing that seemed too extreme, and we got past that issue by never talking about it.  That all changed after high school.

Nat was really intelligent–bookwise, anyway, common sense is another matter entirely–and she could have gone to almost any college she wanted to, finances permitting.  However, she decided that she didn’t want to go to college right away.  She wanted to enter RMC: a bible-fixated “school” in northern Illinois.  I use the term school loosely, as they didn’t actually learn anything useful to them in the real world.  None of the classes they took would transfer to real colleges or even help get them to get an internship/job.  They were basically paying close to $8000 a year for bible study.  True, they had some media and music classes on the side, but the content all revolved around religion.

I didn’t understand her motivation to go there, you know, seeing as how I think religion is a scam, but it was her parent’s money and her life, so I shrugged and let it go (not without a bit of difficulty).  But when we met up during Christmas break, the change in her was astounding.  She was the most devout, brainwashed person I had ever met.  She was completely unaware of what was going on in the world because the only internet access at RMC was at the church (not in the dorms) and they were encouraged to only use it for “school-work” and not bother with silly things like current events….

I didn’t hang out with her much that break because when I did, I had to follow the rules which the RMC had laid out for her:

1)  You could only listen to music if it was played by a Christian band and had significant Christian overtones in the lyrics. (I’d rather have my eardrums burst than listen to that crap).

2)  You could only read books written by Christian authors and with clear references to Christianity.

3)  No shopping in Victoria’s Secret or other such stores.  Those are for sinners.

4) You had to attend church on Wednesday and Sunday, and youth group for whatever part of Sunday was left after the service.  No exceptions.  And no staying out late any other night of the week.  You should be home praying.

5)  No dating.  Dating is wrong and only sinners do it.  You should only “date” one person: the person you marry.

6)  You are not to socialize with homosexual people unless you’re trying to convince them that they’re living in sin and need to be “treated.”

There were many other rules which I can’t recall off the top of my head, but they were just as insane as the rest of this list.  Nat and I have drifted apart a bit since she started going there and I feel somewhat sad about that, but what else can you do when your friend is willingly part of a cult?  Luckily she was rejected for a third and final year at that place, as they said they had “helped her as much as they could.”  With a little time and perspective, here’s hoping she’ll join the rest of us in reality.

Kat Von D. Tattoo artist, entrepreneur, and so much more

Whenever the question “Who is your role model?” comes up, most people expect you to give a fairly traditional answer, such as “My mother/father/other relative,” “George Washington,” “MLK,” “Hillary Clinton,” etc.  My answer to that question is far from traditional, however, as my role model is Kat Von D.

Katherine von Drachenberg (Kat Von D for short) was born in 1982 in Mexico to Argentinian parents and emigrated to LA when she was four years old.  She got her first tattoo in 96, gave her first in 98, and hasn’t stopped since.  She became well known while working on Miami Ink before leaving to start her own shop, High Voltage Tattoo, and star in LA Ink.

Those who know me in the real world as the proud owner of two rockin’ tattoos might assume that I idolize Kat Von D simply because she’s an amazing artist.  They would be wrong.  Yes, I adore her work (it’s my dream to get a tat by her someday), but there’s much more to this girl than art.  She’s a shrewd, motivated businesswoman who never let hardships get her down.  She had dreamed since she was a little girl of owning her own tattoo shop, and she made that dream come true with blood, sweat and tears.  She never graduated high school (something I would never, ever condone), but she learned from experience how to be the best at what she did.

Now, before you all get on my case for being a hypocrite, given my earlier post about how important college is, let me just say two things:  1) That pertained to people I dated.  As much as I love Kat, I don’t swing that way; and  2) Tattooing is one of those few careers that you actually can’t go to college to get better at.  Sure, you could take art classes, but a cloth or paper canvas is a bit different than a human one.

Kat’s drive is what has taken her to the top, and I’m hoping my own will do the same.  The corporate jungle I’m going to enter in a couple years isn’t quite the same as the tattooing world, but the basics of business and success are the same no matter what career you pursue.  With a little luck and a lot of hard work, here’s hoping I can channel my inner Von D.

Baseball and Fashion. No common ground, right? Or maybe not….

Picture A: The STL Cardinals moments after winning the 2006 World Series.  (Just thinking about it still brings a grin to my face)

Picture B:  A lineup of the models from Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2009 show at the Lexington Avenue Armory.  (Interesting, but doesn’t elicit quite the same reaction as picture A)

On the surface, it seems like these two pictures have absolutely nothing in common with each other.  That’s because, on the surface, they don’t.  But if you dig a little deeper, and look into the minds of the people obsessed with one or the other (or both in some rare cases), they turn out to be not so different after all.

I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, commonly known in the sports world as Baseball City, USA.  Baseball is much more than a sport there; it’s a lifestyle.  You eat, sleep, and breathe baseball.  Your favorite seasons are spring, summer, and fall because they mark the beginning, middle, and end of baseball.  You hate winter simply because there is no baseball.  You spend the year dreaming of a “Red October,” and if the dream doesn’t come true, you immediately start dreaming about next year’s season.  If you’re under 27, 2006 was the best year of your life.

Ask me almost anything about baseball and I’ll know the answer, but I’ll readily admit that I don’t know much (re: anything, really) about fashion.  That’s the forte of my coworker EK though, eerily enough, our male coworker MT often gives her a run for her money…..Anyway, I’ve never had much of an interest in it, as I found it much too girly and useless (have you seen some of those “creations?”  They’re hideous! Who would wear that?!), but EK has given me a bit of a new perspective.  It’s not so much about how it looks(though looking good is a definite plus), it’s about making a statement and pushing conventional boundaries.  What seems ugly and out of place today could be the norm tomorrow.  If no one had ever pushed society to think outside of the fashion box, all us girls would still be wearing corsets, petticoats, and reasonable heels.  Not to mention, some of the creations are quite inventive as they make use of architectural elements as well as blending the traditional and the modern in ways never seen before.  It’s actually all quite fascinating.

Alright, so baseball is a lifestyle and fashion is interesting and inventive.  That still doesn’t explain how they’re similar.  The fundamental connection between them is actually quite simple: passion.  Without this one little word, neither would exist. Go to any baseball game or fashion show and tell me you don’t see passion in the faces of the people present.  It’s those people who make these two worlds rotate, and make the industries successful.  I may not understand EK’s obsession with brand names or her ability to rattle off the long, awkward European names of many designers, and she’ll likely never understand why I have Game Day loaded on my computer from the time the game starts until it ends, or my ability to rattle off the names and stats of players, but I think we can both understand the passion in the other’s face when we get to talking about what we love.

Is college really that important?

My answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”  And not just any college, but a 4 year college at the very least. Honestly, I had thought most people would think the same, but I found out today that I was wrong.  Sometime during an extremely entertaining mass mailing, the subject of who my coworkers and I would or wouldn’t date came up.  EK and I were of the opinion  that if someone hadn’t gone to college, they weren’t worth our time.  But Chin and AC were adament that college was overrated.  And so began the duel of young vs. old 😉

I simply can’t understand why someone who is intellectually able to go to college wouldn’t. And if someone is intellectually unable to go to college….well, that’s just plain pathetic in my book. I understand if finances don’t allow you to go to the best of the best (I’m in that situation myself) but go somewhere that’s not a complete joke and work hard while you’re there.

Chin made the argument that maybe some people don’t want to go to college because they would rather “educate themselves.”  I don’t think that’s possible.  You can read anything you want, memorize as much as you want, and be more booksmart than any college graduate, but the college graduate learned critical thinking and debating skills, and had to look at things from a viewpoint that was likely different from their own.   They learned how to work in groups with people they hated, and suck up to teachers who seemed pitted against them.  No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to simulate the same situations outside the classroom. Reading about an opposing view isn’t quite the same as being faced with someone who actually believes it.  And sure, you can surround yourself with intellectual, college educated friends, but what are the honest chances that you will get into a deep, lengthy discussion with them about the foundations of democracy, symbolism in Emily Dickinson, or the principles of microeconomics which shape our economy today?

In my mind, college is also about dedication.  I consider myself a highly motivated individual who knows what I want out of life.  I look for the same thing in a potential bf.  Not going to college signals to me that the person is lazy or simply doesn’t care about the future, and that is a huge turnoff.  It didn’t help my perception that the only person Chin had dated who hadn’t gone to college was her abusive ex-husband…..

I have very little sympathy for people who claim they never went to college due to “life difficulties,” but maybe that’s because of my background.  My parents had me when they were 17.  Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly planned.  Yet, they didn’t let that stop them.  Both of my parents received four year degrees, my mother went on to Vet school to earn her DVM, and my father went back and earned a Masters after she graduated.  And they did all of it without the financial help of my grandparents.  If they can do it, so can anyone else.

Fatty…..

To help make the days go faster, my coworkers and I love to tease each other.  One of our favorite ways to do this is to call someone “fatty” whenever they eat, well….anything.  Today, a girl lamented that she had gained two pounds (there goes her anorexic figure, lol), and my immediate response was, “it must be all those cupcakes we’ve been eating lately, fatty.” The nickname’s harmless, and since we’re all skinny no one takes offense, but it got me thinking about how society has conditioned us to view our bodies.

A health teacher asked my class once: “Would you rather have cancer or be fat and unable to lose weight?”  I couldn’t decide.  Neither could my skinny friends.  We’d been skinny our whole lives.  The thought of being anything else was frightening.  In our society, thin=beautiful and fat=disgusting.  Even today, I’m not sure I can make that choice.  Of course no one wants to have cancer or to be morbidly obese–that’s a death sentence in and of itself–but I can’t even imagine being chubby.  In fact, I think I’d rather be anorexic than a little overweight.  Scary.

The worst part about all this is, I know I’ve been “brainwashed” by society to think this way.  Being obese is a sign of poor health, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little chubby other than that our society thinks it’s ugly.  Being thin is probably a bigger health hazzard.  And yet, the thought of gaining just 5, 10, or 15 pounds is enough to make me cringe and gag.  Sigh.  Gotta love what modern society has done to us.