Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “whisky”

Dragged into the 21st Century

Did you wake up this morning the proud/confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of single malt and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite barely understanding the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of scotch. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in our house and I hope sets a certain tone with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. I know, half of my readers are men and we read instruction manuals like we ask people for directions (btw – you might have a GPS navigator on your tablet).

Finally: Have another whisky. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

Happy Hols’

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Drink And Market Responsibly.

First a confession: I spent most of my life living in two countries where the drinking age is 18. I believe it should be like that here. I went to pubs in England from the age of 15 and, as long as we behaved and drank responsibly, we were tolerated. We did drink responsibly, reserving our focus for debates about politics, justice and women.

Second, when my sons go to a bar and order their first drink, I want to be there. I want to treat them and I want to be a part of their rite-of-passage. If they are 18, I might be able to slip this in before they leave home. If they are 21, there is less chance.

I enjoy my beer (a stout if you’re ordering), Johnnie Walker Black, and wine. I was always the designated driver (first kid with a driving licence and a mother who gave me access to her car) and before I was given the keys, I was warned about drinking by parents who cared.

I work with students and I see the intense pressure they are under to drink. I see the repercussions of over drinking and the guilt and damage that follows. They choose to imbibe, but we as a society allow them, as teenagers, to build an everyday experience into a mythical and dangerous campus ritual. Over-drinking and driving, sex or drug experimentation bring life-destroying trauma and damage.

So I was pissed (there’s a pun there if you speak the Queen’s English), when I saw that Urban Outfitters decided to market a new line of t-shirts just in time for young women filling their wardrobes before a new academic year with messages that encourage drinking and is modelled by young women who are quite possibly under drinking age.

How Old Does She Look?

These so-called cool and humorous messages are no joke. In fact, they reflect a reality that alcohol use is associated with increased rates of sexual activity for teens as well as decreased condom use.

A just-published survey showed disturbing results including one out of five teens is drinking, using drugs, or smoking during school hours. Urban Outfitters know what they are doing. Most of their customers are between 18 and 24 and the second largest demographic is under 18.

Their stores will be flooded with young women buying their T-shirts and Urban Outfitters will make plenty of money. But profit doesn’t allow you to sleep at nights and I hope those who made this ruthless decision to market such a message come to realize what they have done and change it.  

And if the high-ups in the company are awake in the wee hours, tossing and turning, maybe turn on the news or open a newspaper. You might find stories that will give you nightmares, but the reality is, most of them will not even be reported. And you will be too busy anyway drooling over your stock portfolio and how you plan to spend your bonus.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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