Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Throw-Away Culture Infuriates Me

Planned obsolescence. It's the term referring to planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete after a certain period of time. This comes in the form of things that are meant to break, or things that look a particular style that will not be "in-style" for very long. Deliberately turning over the economy, this was created for industries to make more money. Wasteful.

Then there's all the stuff that's made to throw away after a single use. Coffee cups. Plastic water bottles. Paper bags you get when you order a bagel. If you stop by a coffee shop there's almost no avoiding it. It's easier to just get something you can toss after rather than bringing your cup and cleaning it out, blah blah blah. But in reality it is fairly easy to bring your reusable coffee cup. If you can afford to get a coffee every day, you can afford to buy a reusable cup to get your coffee in, saving you a few cents here or there (most coffee shops offer discounts if you use a reusable) and saving potentially hundreds of coffee cups from landfills. That's the other problem. Cups designed for hot liquids are not usually able to be recycled. So then you're stuck with this coffee cup that has to end up in a landfill because it won't compost and can't get recycled.

It infuriates me that people who clearly could use reusable items every day and help slow this throw-away culture don't; mostly because of laziness or lack of caring. What's just as bad is when you show up to the coffee shop, order coffee and hand them your reusable cup, but the other employee hears your order and automatically puts it in a disposable cup without even thinking. Now, it's not her fault that she automatically assumes she's going to put the order in a throw-away cup. The majority of people who order there do that. What's frustrating is that it isn't an automatic response to ask people where their reusable mug is. If we can't get people to care on the front end, what would happen if the employees started asking, "do you have a mug to put that in?"

In a society where the automatic response is to throw things away, how are we ever going to save the planet?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Unequal Schools

There's a community in Illinois, across the river from St. Louis, Missouri called East St. Louis. For years it has been a dumping ground for chemical companies like Monsanto. The city doesn't have the financial ability to re-do the systems that need re-doing and gets thrown to the wayside because the state of Illinois doesn't want to throw any more money into suck a poverty-stricken area, saying that the money is there--they just need to "help themselves."

As a result, sewage lines the streets and the ground is contaminated from chemical spills, sewage breaks, and trash that no longer gets collected because the city can't afford to keep up with trash collection. It's a dump. The schools that do exist in East St. Louis are terrible; they don't have enough school supplies, aren't funded enough to get an adequate number of teachers, and dropout rates are nearly at 50%. Conditions in the school and the community are deplorable, and this place exists in the United States today. Not a third world country.

I read about East St. Louis in Savage Inequalities, a book that talks about problems in the public education systems. Talking about the conditions in this place in class the other day, one of my fellow students said "This isn't a real place, right?" Wrong. This place exists. "Then it must be pretty old." Nope. Published in the early 2000's. When conditions in some place in our home country are so bad that you don't think they are real, there's something wrong. How do people not know these places exist? Better question: why aren't governments and charitable organizations paying attention to these small places that get pushed under the rug? The community is essentially stuck because they don't have the resources to do anything about their situation.

This acts as a reminder to me. Pay attention to the communities around you. Acknowledge the privilege you have and don't forget about your neighbors.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Writer Told Me

A writer told me to think about being a writer 24/7. He said that keeping your eyes open, your ears open, and being present in every day is how you practice being a writer. He said that stories you hear every day have the potential to blossom into a novel. He said paying attention to how you react to things, how you speak, and how other people carry themselves gives you insight into your own world and the potential worlds of your characters.

A writer told me to write every day. To get stuck in a routine of writing for at least fifteen minutes between the craziness of essays and the challenges of college. He said that routine will make it easier when you are eventually working on a book for hours a day.

A writer told me to fall in love with reading all over again. He said that reading books that make you want to write are the kinds of books you should immerse yourself in. He said that stories will surprise you, make you want to be the writer you've always dreamed of being.

A writer told me that it's okay to hate yourself. It's okay to think you're a terrible writer. He said that there are good days and there are bad days but you need to be willing to work hard at something and not give up, and eventually you will find your novel, your story, your calling. He said that good things will happen if you let them; that good things will happen if you work hard.

A writer told me to listen. He said to listen to what my heart wants. He said to listen to the people around me. He said to listen to the stories I'm reading and hearing and he said to write those down. He said that inspiration is all over the place, that you just have to run with it. He said this won't be easy, that it hasn't been for him. But he said it would be worth it.

Be a writer 24/7.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Back to School

There's a weird sense of adulthood that has settled in with me over the past few weeks.

This year, being in an apartment, sort of separate from the rest of the school and all, I feel this weird sense that there's so much more riding on this year than just finishing school and getting to graduation. There's an aspect of problem-solving on my own and learning how to live with other people where you're not just sharing a sleeping and studying space, but you're sharing a kitchen and food and chores. It's nice to feel so independent and to be able to make choices on my own but it also feels a bit daunting to be approaching the end of the safety net that is college.

There are a lot of things that I probably take for granted. Having the packed schedule that I get from taking college courses and having a job and such forces me into routine. I still get help from my parents for a lot. I still go to band and spend time with friends, but things just feel a little different. Only having the year left leaves me with a looming feeling. Not walking down to the dining hall for dinner every night means I don't always have a big group of friends to sit with.

Here I go again, into my studies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tap Tap Tapping on the Glass

A new semester is arriving, and I'm about to get so much new information thrown at me. Writing on my blog will have to be a regular thing, but most things novel-wise will probably have to be put on hold. I have a lot of notes but not a lot of physically written chapters. Two and a half, to be exact.

Trying to figure out whether this is going to be cohesive and somehow good before I bring anything to professors at school is the trick. I want to have enough figured out that I can explain my concept and my characters and the plot and give them a sample of my writing without them saying this is not worth pursuing. I'm asking myself if I'm following the story I want to be following. Somehow, I think this is going to do something for me. Hopefully that something isn't just nonsense.

The hardest part in the next few months--it's a tie. Between finding time to actually work on anything I'm writing and sharing my work. Mostly, I'm just hoping I can write something that people will connect to. The way I connected to my favorite books growing up. The way a book I read today may catch my imagination and make me think differently.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Futuristic World Where Fake News Rules

Before digging into writing the novel this morning, I wanted to write about a piece of my inspiration for writing this particular story.

It seems we live in an era of "fake news." Stories that are false circulated around Facebook and other social media platforms around the time of last year's election, targeting one candidate or another candidate. Websites were found that literally generate headlines and stories that are in no way, shape, or form, rooted in fact. It's pretty terrifying to think that hundreds, even thousands of people read some of those stories and believed them without fact-checking just because something in that story aligned with their beliefs or scared them into believing it.

This went even further when President Donald Trump called reliable, held-to-high-standards news platforms like CNN and Washington Post. Kicking well-established journalists out of the press room exacerbated the distrust that the President--and his supporters--had in journalism. The news stations we are supposed to trust became "fake" in the eyes of conservatives who believed what Trump said. "Fake news" is now joked about on every late-night comedy show, but it has become a scary truth. People question media outlets that were once considered reliable.

My faith in journalists has not been lost, though--it's a tough job in the first place, and now that they're being scrutinized, they have to be more careful than ever. Keeping the public informed, questioning authority--this is what the media is supposed to be doing. For now, they're trying harder than ever to keep up and i'm sure that the good journalists are fighting to maintain high standards of journalistic ethics.

So, taking this idea--what if "fake news" went too far and everything the public knew was either a lie or only pieces of the truth? This is a question that this book is going to be centered on. The importance of truth and transparency in the media is clouded.

Hopefully to an extreme that we will never see.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

In a Beautiful Place 2.0

I wrote for the Odyssey Online for about a year--and then took a hiatus because I had a lot of school work. When I returned, I found my school's page had been inactive and no one would answer my e-mails.

So, I've decided I need to keep writing. Therefore, this is the start of a re-vamped blog page. I'm going to re-post some of my Odyssey articles here so that everything is in one spot, but moving forward I'm going to post at least once a week. I've set goals in the past that have fallen through--so this is just going to replace my weekly Odyssey articles with a little less stress and a little more freedom. (And separation from the "10 things" articles that clog the Odyssey page.)

Anything in the past on this blog can be viewed at your own discretion--It started in high school.

Now, the main reason I decided to post today: I'm working on a novel! It's post-apocalyptic in time but very grounded in the world today. People have asked me what it's about and it's not that easy to explain so I'd prefer not to talk about it unless you want to talk for an hour.

I'm about twenty-five pages in and it's slow. I have a lot more planned out in my notes than what I have written, but the act of actually writing out the sentences is a bit nerve-wracking. I'm definitely excited about it but I'm also intimidated by the amount of work ahead of me. Nervous about actually coming to the end of the story, but glad I've started.

While I'm working on the novel, most of my posts will probably be related to that. Here's hoping this actually happens this time around.