Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Art of Food and Pleasure

In Àlit’s last article, Olivia pointed out the sharp divergences between Italian and American lifestyles, offering a few food-related examples to illustrate this remarkable contrast. Let me point out a few other interesting disparities between our gastronomic culture and that of our friends in Europe.

- French and Italian restaurants open at eight at the earliest (and by open, I mean start taking reservations at that time – no earlier). In France at the least, most diners arrive at nine; in Spain, adults often don’t arrive at the restaurant until ten or eleven. After arriving, you take your time to satisfy your hunger, and leave late enough that there's no extra stops for last-minute ice cream on the way home. The rush to get to dinner, the hurried waiters asking for orders five minutes after you’ve sat down, that extra midnight snack when you get home? Nonexistent.

- The French go shopping everyday at the fresh produce marché, and purchase exactly what they’ll need - and no more – for the next twenty-four hours. They don’t gorge on the food in the cabinets, because they need to make what they have last. There is no rushed bi-monthly grocery shopping spree at the nearest supermarket, but a half an hour each day to take time and decide on the best quality food.

- Nearly all Europeans, rather than snack, enjoy three long multiple-course meals a day, with little in between. While “grazing” (snacking very lightly) throughout the day, eating every three hours, is ideal for the metabolism, let’s be honest: most of us Americans take it too far, and eat much more than we need to feel satisfied. Europeans, on the other hand, hardly know the meaning of snack – and are thinner for it.

- French meals – dinner in particular – call for many courses and several hours, as do those in Italy. Le dîner is a four–course, sit-down event (l’entrée, le plat principlal, le fromage, and dessert) Wine or champagne is enjoyed at lunch. Everything is enjoyed – but enjoyed slowly.

As Olivia told us, the discrepancies of course reach farther than just food – overall, our European counterparts lead much more leisurely lives, if a tad less “ambitious” (and I use that word reluctantly). The French, for instance, are famous for their strictly enforced limits on citizens’ working hours, and relish long vacations during the summer. I focus on food in particular only because the drastically different European outlook seems to affect the practice of eating and dining more than any other aspect of daily life.

Food is huge to European countries, much more so than in America. Gastronomy is acknowledged as such an integral aspect of French culture that it is one of the first things an American student studies in French class. Food vocabulary, eating habits, even what French students eat at their school cafeteria – it’s all taught, because it’s that important to French culture.

Europeans in general place enormous value on food, and thus treat it with respect. A piece of chocolate is enjoyed, but in moderation, and the eater takes the time to appreciate its taste. Does this sound anything remotely like a New Yorker dumping a bag of M&M’s into his mouth while sitting in the subway with his laptop open, and simultaneously talking on the phone? No. Good food is appreciated, and Europeans give it the focus and attention they feel it deserves.

Take note: Europeans fully dedicate themselves to their food, and science backs them up on this habit. Studies have shown that those who eat more slowly feel more satisfied, and ultimately weigh less. Those who scarf down meals are prone to obesity and shortened life spans. We all know the Mediterranean diet (the eating habits of Greeks) lengthens lives and slims waists – but what we often forget is that following such an eating plan goes beyond replacing butter with olive oil or meat with fish. It requires taking time to savor our meals, with friends and family by our side. It is not a diet – it’s a lifestyle. And it happens to be a lifestyle that the Europeans have mastered.

Now is when I point out that America is an extremely fat country – whereas Italy, France, and Spain are not (see the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano). Could this have some relation to our grab-and-go eating culture, our weakness for all things fast and easy? After all, our tendency to munch down this and that at our desks or on the train could hardly be beneficial to our health.

Perhaps if we slowed down for a second and took the time to fully savor and enjoy our food, we would be all the more aware of what exactly is entering our bodies – and consequently won’t feel the need to eat as much for the same feeling of satisfaction? I certainly think so, but let me know how you feel.

- Meredith

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Comparing Two Cultures

I recently returned to California after spending a few weeks vacationing in Italy. Although each Italian city I traveled to had its own, unique flavor, they were all quite different from the United States. At first it was hard for me to put my finger on what exactly made Italy “feel” so unlike my country. Finally, I realized that it was because the entire mindset of the country was different.

The United States is a “fast” country. We pride ourselves on being efficient, hardworking, and always focus on getting things done. Quickly. Businesses churn out as much as they can for the cheapest price and people devote their lives to work. This directly contrasts with Italy. The Italian culture is much more laid back, relaxed and “slower”. People take their time and do not like to rush. They would prefer to take things one at a time and completely enjoy what they’re doing. Time and time again my travels in Italy proved this. For example, one morning I went to an Italian bakery to purchase some pastries for breakfast. Upon walking in, I found the baker sitting down, sipping coffee. “Come back in a few minutes,” she told me, “I’m having caffé right now.”

Nowhere in America would that have happened. A storekeeper would never have risked losing a customer just so she could sit for a few more minutes drinking coffee, while she was supposed to be working! The Italians are not as focused on making money and being productive. This is evidenced by the month of August. In Italy, the entire country shuts down in August as everyone goes on vacation and takes a month off work. Most shops and restaurants are closed for the whole thirty-one days. Imagine that happening in the U.S! The entire country closing down for over four and a half weeks?! Inconceivable.

The relaxed Italian culture is apparent from daily life. Just watch the restaurants. Ristorantes do not open until 8:00 PM and people often come much later. Eating out in Italy is not just a quick meal. People spend two and a half or three hours digesting their various courses, sipping wine and of course, conversing with friends and family. You are not rushed when eating out, but are in fact encouraged to take as long as you would like. The dessert menu will not be handed to you as soon as you finish the main course, as it is in the United States, and people sit at the table talking for hours after finishing.

How do the two contrasting cultures and ways of life measure up against each other? As one could predict, the American economy is much stronger and more powerful than the Italian economy. We work more and harder than them. Our philosophy towards life is simply different. Americans focus on results and production. But, is this worth it? Or is it better to just relax and enjoy life, doing exactly what you want to do at the moment, even if you won’t achieve as much or be as “successful” over time. That can lead to a different debate, what defines success? What is it that is important to achieve in a life? One thing is for sure: the two attitudes towards life are utterly different. However, which one is “better”, is not something that can be declared so easily.

~ Olivia

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Propaganda in the American World

While perusing Yahoo News the other day, I stumbled across an article: Iowa Billboard linking Obama, Hitler removed. The Iowa Tea Party group had put up a sign that likened Obama, Adolf Hitler and Vladmir Lenin as “radical leaders [that] prey on the fearful and naïve”. After reading the article, I was surprised, shocked even. The billboard was a perfect example of propaganda. And I will admit that I was surprised to see something like it, here in the United States, in 2010. As I’m sure most Americans will agree, the billboard was ridiculous. Comparing Obama to Hitler and Lenin? How is Hitler, founder of the Nazi party and the man responsible for the Holocaust and its 17 million deaths comparable to our president, Barack Obama? I was horrified by this notion. Mr. Obama IS our president and we may disagree with or dislike him, but advertising that Obama will be the next Hitler or Lenin is ridiculous. In my opinion, and I hope most will agree, saying Obama is comparable to Hitler, is an outrageous lie. I’m sure the Iowa tea party group knew this, but they did not create their advertisement to publish the truth. They put up their sign to inspire hate.

This Iowa billboard exemplifies extreme propaganda, and that is what makes it different from other political advertisements. This sign did not show true statistics or facts, nor was it put up simply to dissuade people from supporting Obama. It publicized a false analogy between our president and the evil Hitler, and its intent was to shock Americans and encourage them to fear President Obama. What’s ironic is that the headline of the billboard (“Radical leaders prey on the fearful and the naïve”) is more applicable to the Iowa Tea Party group, than it is to Obama. They put up an obviously radical, shocking advertisement with the intent of frightening Americans into hating Obama. The billboard paints Obama as the enemy, and puts him in the same boat as Hitler, a man generally feared for all his evil work. The idea of someone similar to Hitler running our country conjures up terror and the Tea Party wanted to convince people that this is the case; we should all hate Obama, he’s going to be the next Hitler.

In any case, I was shocked that this propaganda had been released, as I found it so utterly ridiculous. But, did all Americans feel this way? Would this extreme and untrue billboard actually convince anyone? Can we all see through its falseness? I certainly hope so and I have faith that we Americans can see its absurdity.

~ Olivia

Friday, July 16, 2010

East Coast, West Coast

This summer I have found myself spending a considerable deal of time in New England. I have always loved this area of our country, where I had family before they moved out West five years ago. However, it was only this summer that the acute differences of the East Coast from the West dawned on me.

For starters, the uniform. In California, people gravitate toward flowy, bohemian looks, as is often the local trend. The clothes show more skin. Personal style also seems to differ more substantially from person to person. In certain areas of New England, however - Hyannisport, Nantucket, not so much the larger cities but more the quiet beach towns - one look rules out the rest. The khakis; the Ralph Lauren polos; the unfathomably white, freshly-pressed dress shirts; the apparent lack of denim - all the stereotypes run true. In the land of high-profile politicians such as the Kennedy clan (whose famed compound is located in Hyannisport) and John Kerry (whom I sighted in Nantucket), everything is clean and crisp and, I have to say, pretty good-looking. It is strange, however, to see such a universal style of dress.*

*[As for Nantucket at least, the physical isolation of the island may contribute to its striking uniformity in style.]

The homes, too. Once again, way more uniformity than on the West. The houses are overwhelmingly Colonial: white with green doors and windows, white with navy doors and windows, and variations thereof. While homes in California, Arizona, and Nevada often seem predominantly mission-style, you also see more traditional models.

Lastly, the East Coast seemed to have a significantly less whiny attitude to the weather - at least compared to me and my clan. After arriving in Hingham, Massachusetts to around 99% humidity and 110-degree heat (yes, I'm from the Bay Area, this is a complete exaggeration), I was shocked at how curly my hair was, how slick my skin was, and how eager I was to locate water fountains and air-conditioning. In seasonless San Francisco, the weather - or lack thereof - is rarely a consideration. But in Hingham, there are about a million fans in each room, and plenty of snow shovels come winter. They're tougher there; they adapt better. I found myself full of admiration for their adept handling of the circumstances.

All this, I'm sure, sounds familiar. It's exactly what you've heard before: the East is the land of the prepsters, and the West is the land of the hipsters; when Californians are wakeboarding and stand-up paddling, New Englanders are sailing; etc., etc. But what are the more subtle differences you've noticed from coast to coast? I'd love to hear. In the meantime, keep reading.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is Nothing New?

In every issue of the fashion magazine InStyle, there is an article detailing the latest buzz-worthy see-it-everywhere get-on-it-now trend, from gingham to boudoir. In the corner of this two-page article there is a small column, aptly titled "Is Nothing New?" Here the author offers three or so representations of the latest trend through history. I believe it was last summer that the most ubiquitous look was safari, popularized by the spring/summer runways. And under "Is Nothing New?" was a young Lauren Hutton wearing her usual endearing gap-toothed grin along with a safari blouse. And Yves Saint Laurent's collection a couple decades back, in which he popularized the safari jacket.
Now I want to ask our readers this question: is really nothing in fashion new? It seems that so often fashion is really just a recycling of looks of the past, perhaps with a slightly more modern twist. Everything has been seen before, and is now reborn again. Every other month fashion columns shout: "Eighties revival! Crop tops and acid-wash jeans are all the rage - again!" "Woodstock returns - fringed vests and patchouli are back!"
This love of the fashion past is reflected in the nation's obsession with the fashion of Mad Men, the show on AMC about an advertisement agency in the early 60's. Watchers drool over Betty Draper's bright red lipstick and perfect hot-roller curls, falling in love with the look of the era. Meanwhile, fashion writers chronicle their adoration of Joan Holloway's shiny pumps and her modestly-cut yet form-fitting shell dresses, touting her style as "the look of understated sex appeal." It seems that in fashion, everything before is better.
I am now holding the latest issue of Marie Claire, for lack of anything better to read. On the cover is Dakota Fanning pronouncing that she is "not a little girl anymore." Around her picture are eye-catching headlines: 293 ways to update your look. The shocking latest crime against women: honor killings have come to America. New diet plan - eat your way skinny. Under all of these features is the same theme - that since this magazine is new, its articles are all about new information, new ideas, new horrors, new discoveries. Dakota Fanning is newly adult, here is how you update your style, this is the latest kind of crime, this is the newest diet.
I begin to flip through the glossy pages. First ad: Guess models, scandalous as usual, with a retro twist: the female model wears a voluminous bouffant-style wig, and the male model is a reincarnation of Elvis, all slicked-back hair and 50's charm. Ah, and a psychadelic Ray-Ban ad boasts peace signs, "NO War!" pins, and groovy colors. Oh, and there's Beyoncé wearing Old-Hollywood earrings for a L'Oreal promo. This fashion magazine brags of spanking, 100% new content - and delivers quite the opposite.
Which begs the question: is that such a bad thing?
Technology has transformed our world into something very different than that of the twenties - or even the eighties for that matter. Computers weigh 0.00009 ounces and phones do the impossible. Meanwhile, fashion seems to be a lone time warp in our modern world.
On one hand, it is perhaps frustrating that, no, not that much of what we wear is really new. But it also seems somehow right that fashion pays homage to the past so often. After all, what other institution does the same?
It is fact that we live very modernized, forwards-looking lifestyles. But the one thing that seems to keep peering into the past is fashion. The world of fashion is incredibly unique because of its nostalgia, its profound respect for times long-gone. It is, in many ways, dutiful, vowing to remember the past. With every collection that throws us back a few decades, designers salute their predecessors. When we go bananas over retro trends, we acknowledge how much we have to learn from those who came before us - from those who didn't live in a get-it-now, insta-satisfaction environment.
There is a certain comfort in the preservation of those days in our clothes. Yet more importantly, the reason history is taught in schools is so that we do not let memories we can learn from simply fade away. And every time we slap on a Depression-era newsboy cap or a pair of Wayfarers, we remind ourselves of exactly this. We announce to ourselves and to the world that we will never forget.
Is this a laughably romanticized view of the catty, often superficial, profit-based world of fashion? Let us know; we want to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, if fashion's your thing, check out this great video of Ralph Lauren's Spring/Summer 2010 show:
I stumbled upon it shopping online a while back and fell in love with both the clothes (much of it was, predictably, inspired by the late '30's) and the corresponding music (the amazing "Ramblin' Man" by Hank Williams and the solemn "Where They Never Saw Your Name" by Eilen Jewell, both of which I have happily added to my iTunes library). We'd love to hear your favorite collections of this year or years past, and know your ideas about fashion in general.
Additionally, let us know what topics you want to hear about. We're open to new ideas and discussions.

- Meredith

Pets and Oxytocin, the Cuddle Hormone

I was reading a book the other day called The Super Stress Solution. It addressed the different cocktails of hormones in our body that contribute to or alleviate stress. One oft-mentioned chemical was our old friend oxytocin.
Oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone or, my personal favorite, the cuddle hormone, is released with a person's touch. It multiples in women after giving birth or breastfeeding, and in the brains of both women and men after a massage or an embrace. Thus, it represents the scientific side of human bonding, both romantic and between a mother and her child. It has been known in studies to stimulate feelings of serenity, happiness, and love, dampening fear and stress and nurturing trust and security; oxytocin also bears the power to prevent depression and long-term anxiety issues. Whether the standard human levels of oxytocin differ in autistic individuals is being explored, as there is a suspected relationship between the hormone and recognition of human emotions.
As is clear, oxytocin is an empathy hormone of sorts, physically fostering connections between people. This definition raises a question, however: is oxytocin only released by a human's touch? What about people and their pets - does hugging Fido have similar benefits to hugging a partner or a friend?
Studies have already proven that pet owners live longer and are less prone to depression. More specifically, scientists have shown that those of us with dogs or cats have better overall cardiac health. After holding pets, people had healthier blood pressure and lower levels of stress.
I'm generally not a touchy-feely person. But when it comes to my many pets, I can never get enough snuggle time. I find that holding my bunnies or petting my puppy makes me feel at peace and even blissful, and it causes me to wonder: is this a possibility? Could the power of pets to release oxytocin in our brains rival that of a human's? Could the touch of an animal be therapeutic? If so, does one kind of pet have more of an effect on oxytocin than another - for example, mammals versus non-mammals, big animals versus small?
It's worth a look. In the meantime, science forgotten, no one doesn't love cuddling with a puppy when times get tough. Álit encourages organizations which bring pets to hospitals and nursing homes. If you're interested in making someone's day, look into the animal-visiting program at your local hospital, and share the wealth of your loving pet with those who need it most.

Weddings: Part I

A few weeks ago, I was reading a magazine and came across an article by Hollywood diet guru, who wrote in great detail of the art of "crash-dieting" for a special event. "There are certain times we all just need to look our best," she explained, "and that's where an occasional crash diet comes in." She went on to offer an example. "Take your wedding. This is the day you've been waiting for your entire life. We all want to be picture-ready at our nuptials; after all, the big, beautiful wedding is every girl's dream."
"Every girl's dream?" Really? Because a big, beautiful wedding has never been my dream. In fact, the idea of a wedding has never been something even mildly interesting to me. And when I came across a statistic the other day, I found myself wondering why weddings even exist.
The average cost of a wedding is $27,800. Twenty seven thousand and eight hundred dollars.
Now, this number wouldn't be so appalling if you imagined an upper-middle-class couple with little debt and proper savings. But in reality, when you compare that $27,800 with the average yearly income of a young newlywed (many of whom are still paying off school debts or even working their way through grad school), and take into account our current economic climate, it's a shocker that people are still bothering with these things.
Since weddings are one-day ceremonies, and don't affect a married couple's day-to-day quality of life, one would think they would be the first thing to go in a debt-burdened country like ours. Doesn't it go without saying that a wedding is not going to make you happy? And that if a big, beautiful wedding is really your main dream in life - a dream you're willing to sink deeper into debt for - don't you think you may have some reassessing to do?
Now, don't get me wrong. Weddings aren't all that bad. They get you nice pictures. There are lots of nice things to eat. Both the bride and groom look nicer than usual. Weddings are, in summary, nice. But I firmly believe that we need to shift the category of extravagant nuptials from necessity to luxury. If they're going to cost a whopping $27,800, they need to be reserved for those who can pay for them.
I have attended all of one wedding in my lifetime that I can actually remember. And what I remember most about this wedding was not its romance or bliss. No, I remember the price tag, as the couple themselves described it: over $100,000. And before you start to say, "Ah, they've gotta be rich, if they can pay for it, let them go for it," reconsider. They were not rich. The bride didn't have a job. The groom was - get this - in grad school. And this is the fortune they dropped on a five-hour show-off marathon of celebrity photographers and exotic soup dishes.
In the movie Valentine's Day, Ashton Kutcher's character notes that "love is the only shocking act left on the planet." Correction, Ash - love is not alone. Weddings are the most shocking acts left on the planet, and for me, the least understandable.
Now, enough of my ranting. The question to ask yourself is, "Is this how I want to begin my marriage - steeped in unpaid bills and financial stress?" If the doomed-marriage deal is what you're going for, congratulations for you. But I know for a fact that many girls have bigger dreams than that big, beautiful wedding. And I say, kudos to them. Now if only we could all adopt a little sense.

- Meredith

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Throughout history, various people and societies have foreseen the end of the world. Thus far, none of these predictions have proved to be true, as we are obviously still alive. However, we have yet to live through one of the most popular declarations of the end of the world: December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ends on this date and therefore many believe that humanity will die and the Earth, as we know it, will cease to exist. This date inspires fear in many and is commonly discussed, especially after the release of the movie 2012. Some reject this belief as ridiculous and impossible. However, something about 2012 evokes feelings of uneasiness and foreboding. Although it seems unlikely, this date makes me a little nervous and I, for one, will certainly be happy on December 22, 2012.

The possibility of catastrophe reaching all of humanity on one single day is obviously unlikely, almost impossible. However, this is what some believe will happen to our earth on the day the Mayan calendar ends. While scientific evidence for this prediction is nonexistent, many people count themselves as believers in the 2012 phenomenon or at least feel anxious at the thought of this day. Why? Why should anyone believe in this ridiculous idea that has absolutely no evidence to support it. We, as humans, are fascinated by mystical happenings and peculiar things interest us. With all we have accomplished in this age of technology and discovery, we are able to believe that anything is possible. Things that were once considered beyond the bounds of possibility are now feasible. Our minds are open, even to what may seem absurd. All of us want to and can believe in the seemingly impossible, even if it is a terrifying prospect, as in the case of 2012. Always looking towards things that are magical and extraordinary, the 2012 phenomenon interests us and we simply want to believe in the unlikely.

What do you think? What are your thoughts on 2012?

- Olivia

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Why must we sleep? Sleep can be annoying. Often there are still things left to do but as our eyes close and our head begins to nod, we know that it is time to put everything else aside and crawl under our covers. We don’t always want to sleep, but we know that we need to if we plan to make it through the next day. Sleep is something that no one can avoid; an inescapable human need. No matter how powerful a person, they must sleep. Every night.

Although sleep can be irritating at times, just another obstacle we must get through in the game of time, we cannot deny that sleep is comforting. After a tiring or stressful day, all one wants to do is curl up and fall asleep. Nothing is more soothing than a bed, which provides peace and refuge from any problems that may exist during the day. A safe haven, sleep allows us to escape from everything in our life, both good and bad. In our dreams, anything can happen and fantasy triumphs reality. Work, homework, social dilemmas and stress temporarily escape us as we lie down for the night. We can always count on of sleep to relieve us of our daytime problems and overbooked schedules. From sleep, we receive comfort, relaxation and an opportunity to live in our own utopia, even if for only a few hours.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Schoolchildren and workaholics alike spend their year counting down to those three wonderful months: June, July and August. What is it about summer? Perhaps, it is the hot sun that beams down on us as we drink lemonade outside. Or is it vacationing around the world, traveling and seeing places we’ve only read about? Most children would answer that it is the break from school: no homework, no tests, no reports. Whatever the reason, it is impossible to deny that there is something magical about that summer season. We crave it the whole year and rejoice when it finally arrives.

Personally, I believe what allows summer to have its almost bewitching hold on us is its potential and prospects. No one knows what to expect from those steamy summer months. Anything can happen. Each day we wake up to the rising sun, filled with hope and anticipation. It is a time when anything and everything can and will happen. A time of goal chasing and dream catching.

What do you think? What does summer mean to you?


TV and Young Children

Apparently, TV is just about the kiss of death for young children. Kids who, at age 2, watched more television than their peers were more likely to be bullied by their classmates, have lower math scores, overeat, and become overweight. Obviously, the weight issues can be blamed the sedentary nature of watching television (children subjected to an above average amount of television at a young age are also less likely to exercise regularly in the years to come). The decrease in math scores are probably a result of television's tendency to drastically cut children's attention spans. Finally, when kids are at home watching TV, they are throwing away valuable time they could spend building relationships and learning valuable social skills, which explains the bullying - perhaps the most disturbing link with TV we've seen considering the frequency of school shootings in the past few years.
Obviously, the risks outweigh the rewards of television for young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends absolutely no television exposure in the first two years of a child's life, and less than two hours from there on out. However, I've heard many parents voice the appeal of turning on the television when they need to get something done. After all, parents cannot be watching their little mongrels 24/7, and considering the way rowdy kids suddenly, magically fall into a peaceful trance when you stick them in front of the TV, it's a option that might be hard to resist. Especially, that is, for busy parents who haven't done the dishes, finished that report for their business, or called their ailing Aunt Sally.
A babysitter might help, but not every family can afford child care. So what are some other ideas? Set out crayons and paper for the child and let them exercise their creativity. Invest in a couple safe, lead-free educational toys or board games. Take play date turns with another parent.
What I'm trying to say is that there are solutions to this conflict. It is important to attempt the perfect balance between overworking yourself and doing your children an injustice.
What's your take on TV for kids? Are you understanding of its allure for parents, or totally against it? Any other ideas on how we can solve this problem?

- Meredith

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Satisfaction: Round Two

It's always been my outlook that no one is ever satisfied. It seems as if constant, continuous ambition is ingrained in us; maybe it's Darwinian. Got the silver in the regional gymnastics competition? Now go for the gold. Got the gold? Go for the national competition this time. And so on.
The question is, how well can we as human beings separate satisfaction with happiness? How can we tell the difference?
Say an average guy, on his average day, has only two good things happen to him. First, he walks to school that morning under a perfect sun - the kind that seems to stroke your arms with just the right amount of heat so you're far from shivering, but not sweating up a storm either. He feels himself soaking up all that precious vitamin D. "What a beautiful day," he says to himself. Happiness.
That day, his teacher hands him back an important test, and on it is a big, fat A. He studied hours for this exam; he had worked hard; he now reaps the benefits. Satisfaction.
Now, when Average Guy comes home that day, which event will he recount to his family?Which will put him in a better mood? Which event really had an effect on his overall happiness?
I say the test. He enjoyed the sun during his walk, but the satisfaction gives him pride that will really stick with him. Unless he's a romantic, sentimental type, he won't mention the sun again; but he'll think back to that excellent test for many times to come.
And say, just for kicks, that he'd failed that test. He would be filled with total, utter dissatisfaction. He'd be so upset with the fact that all his studying didn't pay off, he probably wouldn't even notice how lovely the sun was that day. He'd be cranky and dark, and most of all, he'd be unhappy.
So how good really are we at drawing the line between satisfaction and happiness? It seems a very human habit to confuse two totally different departments of life. (Does anyone else find that your life's hardly a perfect pie chart; that the different sectors your life completely blend into one another, and you notice yourself thinking about what you'll wear to that thing on Saturday when your coach is talking at soccer practice?) Why would we be any better at the art of differentiating these two semi-similar states of being?
Feel free to say otherwise, of course. Maybe it's just a personal thing. Whatever your outlook is, let us know.



After enjoying a large cup of frozen yogurt from my favorite place, Fraiche, I felt satisfied. Anyone who really knows me is aware of the fact that Fraiche is my favorite food in the entire world.

Nonetheless, this satisfaction was short lived. Soon after finishing, I remembered everything else I had to do that day and rushed off: my brief moment of pleasure gone. Later that day, I again experienced this peaceful feeling of satisfaction after a workout. Once more, it disappeared shortly after arriving as I remembered the presentation I had to prepare for the following day. Are we ever truly satisfied?

Upon thinking about this, I asked my high school aged neighbor whether she was satisfied at the current point in time. After thinking for a few moments, she replied, “I’ll be satisfied at the end of this weekend, because hopefully, I’ll have finished everything I need to finish. No, maybe I will be at the end of next week after I have finished all my tests. But then, I have finals to study for. I guess I’ll be satisfied when school is out and it is summer.” Will she really be content once her summer arrives? Probably not.

Human beings are always looking to the next thing. Once we achieve one thing, we are already looking ahead to the next. There is no such thing as an ultimate prize and thus we spend our lives on a journey, scrambling to reach the next level. Once we get what we want, we set our sights on something else: a never-ending cycle. It remains impossible to achieve incessant, absolute satisfaction. Once we reach even our highest goal, something else will come along.

Some questions: Do you believe there is such thing as true satisfaction? How can one achieve it? What is it? And are you currently satisfied? Why or why not?


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kanye West and the Media that Provokes Him

Entertaining to the public, annoying to other celebrities and a dream to the press, Kanye West is a victim of the frenzied, obsessed media we have here in America. From the glossy pages of People to “”, we are taught to worship the rich and famous. The most famous of the famed are the ones who do the wildest things, the ones who throw the most extravagant parties and ones who marry (and divorce) the most people. The media, which ranges from Perez Hilton to anyone who has ever read Us Weekly, encourages celebrities to create controversy by following those who do. Would Jon + Kate Plus 8 have achieved the TV ratings it has if the Gosselins were a happy family of ten? No. Would Britney Spears’ horrific song Circus have gotten into Billboard 200, yet alone debuted at No.1, had she not experienced a mental breakdown, including shaving her head, only months before? The American public rewards those who break the rules by giving them extensive publicity. Kanye West recognizes this and simply does what needs to be done in order for him to achieve fame. Time and time again we have seen this rapper engage in controversial behavior and then come out a few days later with an apology or excuse. For example, on September 2nd, 2005, Kanye deviated from his script during a concert benefiting Hurricane Katrina and declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Understandably, this proclamation caused much attention. Later, West defended his statement by saying “he has a hard time believing that George Bush cares about anyone.” The most televised and most famous of all Kanye’s controversies may be his interrupting of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs. While Kanye faced heavy scrutiny for this, it was the event everyone in America was talking about and outshined the awards themselves. That is exactly what Kanye wants. He doesn’t care if some mothers in Ohio think he is a jerk. What he wants is publicity. And he got it.

Although these controversies have earned him much criticism and the title of “Jackass” (from President Obama himself), Kanye has actually benefited from these incidents. We as the American public have shown interest in him, which is what he or any other entertainer wants. Kanye’s song, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” illustrates his infatuation with fame and even references some of his controversies (“I’m on TV talking like its just you and me”). West is a perfect example of a celebrity obsessed by the media and getting its attention.


Saving the World

We've had comments requesting the topic of global warming. An excellent way to begin. Now, the prospect of global warming isn't generally that touchy - most everyone agrees that it's real and it's happening and it's serious. But here's our question: Do we care?
It seems harsh, sure. But often global warming is such a distant, big-picture issue that we find it difficult to really, genuinely muster up encouragement. We might attend a benefit if we're invited, and we'll nod along as Cameron Diaz lectures us about the power of hybrid cars on TV - but we can't find it in us to take action.
Here's how I feel. Looking at pictures of the Holocaust stirs up sadness. Reading about the sex trafficking business in third-world countries brews anger. But thinking about the ozone layer....personally, it doesn't really get me going.
Meanwhile, if I'm being told to take my charger out of its plug when I'm not using it, how can I stop the feeling that my changes are minor and insignificant? How can I motivate myself to alter my lifestyle for the planet if I can't see, touch, bear witness to the rewards of my actions? The benefits of helping the planet are huge. Unfortunately, they're not tangible.
There are, however, a few wonderful exceptions. The government provides tasty tax benefits for solar powered homes; there are, similarly, plenty of government-funded rebates on hybrid and electric cars. There is the fact that being "all about green" is very, very fashionable; so if you're in a big environmental campaign, you're the It Thing in your community. That's a reward everyone can enjoy; if you're in a big environmental campaign, that is.
But what about the little things, like turning off the faucet when we're not using it, and taking shorter showers? Those are the changes that are most realistic for everyday people, but they don't offer any benefits you can enjoy. Nothing much other than the thought that you're doing the right thing.
Thoughts? How can we change this and make the threat of global warming more real, more powerful so as to inspire Americans to make a difference? How can we show our people that the changes they make really are helping, and offer them attainable rewards?


Welcome to Álit

To our readers -

At Álit we observe and reflect. Thoughts, encounters, experiences, people; we believe that inspiration can be found in all of these forms and more. No boundaries.
Welcome. If there's a topic you want to discuss, anything that crosses your mind - tell us.
We're here.

- Meredith & Olivia