Monthly Archives: October 2010

Masks of Multiple Varieties

A few weeks ago, I made the drastic decision of cutting off over ten inches of my hair, justifying the somewhat radical gesture as a way of promoting overall change in my life. After paying my dues to the merciless shears and sitting in a pile of my own hair, I put forth my best acting skills and attempted to convince both the stylist and myself that I was happy with the new cut. Coming into close contact with a mirror, I promptly burst into tears, mourning the loss of the long hair style I had always fashioned with pride. Reflecting upon my attachment to my hair, I realized that I used my long locks as a security blanket, seeking refuge behind the cloak of hair. Whether it be hair, sunglasses, or texting on our cell phones, each and everyone one of us seeks an item to mask ourselves from the uncomfortableness of reality.

On a daily basis, you’ll encounter people wearing sunglasses, whether it be sunny or not. The reasoning behind wearing sunglasses in these situations is not to block out the light but instead to block the looks of other people, regardless of positive or negative glances. It’s common knowledge that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and the wearing of sunglasses does little to open up those windows to the outside world. One of the biggest pet peeves of the older generation is the inability to look someone in the eyes, as almost all contact during their time period revolved around face-to-face interaction. When talking with someone in a close setting, it is important to be able to read their facial expression as a way of understanding the seriousness of the issue or the amount of compassion one feels about the topic of discussion. By masking the eyes, it is impossible to make this intimate connection with your listener, thus masking your true emotions. Whether or not people are aware of this whenever they pull their Oakley’s off of their foreheads, the mask continues to be used each and every time they make this seemingly subconscious decision.

Another subconscious decision that you’re likely to frequently observe is the so adequately named “pretending to text in awkward situations.” With over 3 million fans of the activity on Facebook, almost all of us are guilty of engaging in the act. The root of the issue lies primarily in the concept of masking emotions. Although it’s hard to imagine the stone age before cell phones, it can be assumed that our ancestors were forced to talk to people they didn’t know, actually getting to know other people before their familiar friends arrived. Now, we text in these circumstances, not wanting to let anyone know that we’re feeling awkward and wallflower-like, even though it’s painfully obvious to outsiders. Masking the feelings of inadequacy and anomie, cell phones are our new best friends as together, we take on the world one awkward situation at a time. Relying so heavily on an electronic device is a gamble. Were the device ever to fail us, we’d be forced to turn to exposing our feelings instead, which is a scary thought to some.

I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m not guilty of my fair share of masking, because I am. It’s important to realize that this is a growing problem as people become increasingly unwilling to open up to others and with the advent of technology, it becomes easier as the days go by. Let us all stop hiding behind our own personal masks – whether it be hair, sunglasses, or cell phones – and show people who we really are, weirdness and all. In the spirit of Halloween, it’s time to discard the masks that hide our emotions and true feelings, instead only wearing a disguise that can easily be removed as we wish. It’s not fair to rely on these masks to cover up what we are. That’s what costumes are for, anyways.

 

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Homecoming Weekend

With homecoming weekend behind us and the devastating loss to Villanova a thing of the past, a lot can be taken from the weekend’s events. Along with numerous other devoted UMaine fans, I braved the chilling temperatures and drizzly weather to cheer on our Black Bears as they tried to overtake the 6th ranked team from Villanova University. Surrounded by alumni and their families, as well as the enthusiastic crowd who showed up to tailgate the game, there was a deep sense of school pride that could be felt throughout the stadium. This respect for the athletes and game was threatened though when an assistant coach took it upon himself to publicly admonish the team for the deficit shown on the scoreboard.

Audible from the stadium, this particular individual loudly told the players what an “embarrassment” they were in the most profane language the man had in his arsenal of a vocabulary. Emphasizing his points, a water cooler was kicked each time an expletive was used. Repeatedly, the man would pace the field, just to come back and degrade the athletes further. As students in the audience began to pick up on what was going on, a few started to cheer at the complete ridiculousness that this man was demonstrating in his behavior. Although amusing to observe, it was humiliating to the athletes and totally uncalled for. It is fair to assume that the football team was playing to the very best of their abilities and that even the most talented member of the group would be unable to combat the forces of Villanova.

During such a difficult match, it would have been more uplifting to see this coach encouraging his athletes and supporting them in the tough game that they were doomed to lose after the first few touchdowns were scored by the opposing team. By being outspoken in his disappointment of the athlete’s performance, he not only was demoralizing the players and beating them while they were down, but also showing the audience how little he thought of the players, who, without their participation, would have him unemployed. While a pep talk was most certainly needed in the situation, one in which grotesque amounts of profanity were used was not the solution to the problem. Certainly not helping the situation in any matter was the feedback of the audience who were cheering in their utter bemusement, astounded by the actions in which this coach was taking to “motivate” the athletes.

Shortly after this outburst, the marching band had a performance in which the alumni band was invited out on the field to join in on a few numbers. Holding the alumni band banner were two young girls which made me aware of the fact that there were children – not just college students – in the audience who were exposed to the coach’s inappropriate behavior. I doubt that he had any intention of acting this way in front of youth, but regardless of whether or not that was the case, young children heard this outburst. In no way should they be taught that this is okay, and hopefully their parents were there to tell them that the coach was wrong in his actions.

Obviously I don’t have behind the scenes access to the football team and what goes on in the locker room, but I think it would be in the coach’s best interest to apologize to his team. If he wishes to gain the respect of his athletes and have them look up to him as a figure of authority, he needs to acknowledge the fact that he was wrong to denigrate the team in such a public setting. While stern words were necessary, the way that this coach chose to do so was inappropriate. Despite the loss, I still have respect for the players and think they played to the best of their abilities. The conditions were not the most prime and Villanova is a hard team to beat. Even though the coach might have been embarrassed by how the team played, I am not. Go Blue!

 

October Break is a Teaser

In the world of higher education, there are specific standards in the learning curriculum. As students at a university, we are expected to perform at a level that will make us able to compete in today’s job market upon graduation, gathering the skills we need to get the jobs we have dreamed of having as youngsters. We spend endless hours going to class and doing homework, performing to the best of our abilities. When we are granted a break from our studies, it is used by most as a time to recharge our mental batteries and regain the strength needed to get through the upcoming months of late night study sessions and long hours spent at Fogler. October break, although lovely, is a teaser for most students. In no way does the brief rendezvous do an adequate job of giving  students the respite we long for. Although it’s a ridiculous notion to propose, it would be wonderful to see a few more days added on to the currently abbreviated Fall break. After all, we’re more than deserving of an extended vacation after the hard work we have put in throughout our first six weeks of classes.

As a burnt-out fourth year student, it’s incredibly likely that in my stressed out frenzy, I hold an extreme bias in this situation. Of the wonderful four days off that we are given, nearly half of those days are dedicated to the completion of homework, leaving little time for the leisure necessary in order to gear up for the next few grueling weeks of classes. It always seems that there is more to do than there is time for, and that concept applies directly to my October break plans. No matter how well the time is planned, there is no way I could ever possibly accomplish everything that I wish, thus leaving me with a heavy feeling in my heart as I had back to the grind of classes, anticipating the short reprieve at Thanksgiving. I highly doubt that I’m alone in these feelings, and am absolutely amazed by anyone who appears to juggle academic achievement with a bursting social life.

Possibly because of my high levels of procrastination – I’d like to consider it a talent – or my inability to handle stress, I’m a complete failure at getting the most of my October break. Instead of focusing on one task to accomplish, I aim high and make a huge list of all of the things that should get done, feeling highly disappointed when my days at home are over and I have little to show for my vacation days. With a load of schoolwork weighing down my backpack, it seems that my professors don’t seem to have a firm grasp on how long October break really is. In four days, can it really be assumed that I have the time to write multiple research papers, read pages upon pages of textbooks AND catch up with my family and friends? I realize that the respected educators at UMaine have their own difficulties in balancing their social lives with their professional ones, so they should see no harm in giving us a slight break in our studies. Giving credit as it is due, I acknowledge and appreciate those professors who recognize the break for what it is and lighten the load, but as introductory level courses graduate to more complex curricula, the amount of time that is truly considered a “break” gets increasingly smaller.

It might be a while before the university decides to extend fall break, but one can be hopeful that it might be a reality for the next generation of students. The more days we can add to October break will be welcome with open arms when the time comes, even if I’m not around to enjoy the luxury. Now the countdown until Thanksgiving begins – and another shortened reprieve will start.

 

I Don’t Want Your Gonorrhea Either

Like any person who appreciates music, I found myself browsing the iTunes store last week, in search of some new songs to jam out to. What I found instead was Lil’ Wayne’s “Gonorrhea” which left me completely and utterly appalled.  By no means do I hold any harsh feelings against either the rapper or the particular style of music, but feel as if the title of the song is a bit unnecessary and inappropriate considering there is nothing glamorous about sexually transmitted diseases. Although I was offended by the name , I decided to give the song a listen and the title speaks for itself. Like gonorrhea, the song is nothing I would ever wish to be exposed to. While I’m no music critic, the message this kind of music puts on our society is a poor reflection of our culture as a whole.

After listening to the song and then viewing the lyrics, it’s clear that there is no sort of valuable message being achieved through the song. Instead, Lil’ Wayne uses all four minutes and twenty-two seconds to degrade women, promote violence and drug use, and proclaim his downright arrogance to anyone who wishes to listen. If these are the qualities that the rap music industry embodies, it’s a wonder why people pour as much money into it as they do. It’s just as easy to get the same sort of material by watching a few hours of MTV, which is free if you live on campus. Why waste valuable time and money supporting an artist who is too hung up on himself to even try to make a positive difference in the world? Instead, Lil’ Wayne would rather sing about how he doesn’t want your gonorrhea (don’t worry – I wouldn’t share it with him even if I did have it) and how much cooler he is than everyone else. I certainly don’t envision spending my days listening to such filth, and people shouldn’t lower their standards to listen to Lil’ Wayne’s music either.

As a musician, Lil’ Wayne should be taking his position of power and celebrity status and making it worthwhile. Instead of naming a song after an STD, Wayne could raise awareness to the issue, encouraging people to get tested and preaching about the health issues surrounding the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. As rap music is targeted at a young audience, the focus needs to be taken away from this notion of casual sex and STDs to a more goal oriented message. It is unrealistic to expect rap music to deliver anything of deep meaning, but “Gonorrhea” has hit an all time low of content. Although Lil’ Wayne is already respected by many youths, it would be much more admirable were the musician teaching them something valuable and meaningful instead of being famous for his imprisonment and raunchy song lyrics.

At a football game a few weeks ago, I noticed a child wearing a “Free Weezy” t-shirt, literally swaggering around the game and taking pictures of the cheerleaders. It was clear to me that this kid was a strong supporter of both Lil’ Wayne and his music and it was reflected in both his overly confident actions and the way he was leering inappropriately at women. While this raises an issue of parenting, it also shows what an influence artists like Wayne have on today’s youth. As most kids are being raised by parents who work outside the home, there is a lot of downtime which the children have to fill with their own hobbies and interests. Whether boy scouts or rap music is their outlet, they will find it, and submerge themselves completely in that particular environment. I’m hopeful that the kid at the game hasn’t heard the “Gonorrhea” lyrics yet, but chances are that he has, and will likely take Lil Wayne’s stance on casual sex and disposability of women.

It would be nice to see a popular artist sing about something with a positive message that people can look up to, instead of proclaiming “I don’t want your gonorrhea.” Is there anyone out there who really wants gonorrhea? I might be waiting a while for pop music to evolve into something worth listening to, but I’m willing to wait for something we can be proud of producing as a culture.