Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's in the Genes

Another guest post by recurring contributor: Michael Ginsburg

On August 16 th , 2012, roughly two weeks before I left for my first year of college my grandmother passed away. The relationship I had with her ​​was unparalleled to anything I've ever had, before or since. From the weekly dinners at her house to the letters she sent me every single day at sleep away camp, my grandmother will always have a special place in my heart. Because of this, I did not only feel obligated, but also compelled to write a eulogy and speak at her funeral.

The first line read "out of all the crazy writing assignments, I have never had one quite like this. In fact, I was not even assigned to write The most difficult piece I've ever attempted; rather I gladly welcomed such a challenge." And a challenge it was. How do I capture a brief yet thorough snapshot of my grandmother and her lasting impact?

In writing this eulogy, I decided to take stories from each part of my life growing up. I started with elementary school, writing About grandparents' day. I wrote About how nervous I was for the "embarrassment that would ensue." However, after only an hour or so in, all of the kids in my class had their own abandoned grandparents and gravitated towards my grandmother, instead. Her charm was felt by all, not just me.

The next story was from my middle school days, and how she would write me every single day while I was at sleep away camp. I vividly remember receiving a letter, written in cursive hand from her-she never missed a day-many accompanied by a care package full of her famous chocolate chip cookies.

I concluded with memories from when i was in high school, and I recounted her avid attendance of all my athletic events, big and small. She knew that, simply, her presence would motivate me to succeed both on and off the court.

But what does this all mean-over three years later-why is it relevant? After rereading the things I wrote years back, I realized that quickly I was not just describing my grandmother, rather my younger sister as well.

While my grandma may have liked me a little (a lot) more than my sister, she did a much better job at imparting Lauren onto her mannerisms. I thought about how my friends, at all ages, would gravitate towards my grandma, and smiled to think that it is just same way with my sister. I thought about how my grandma would write me everyday at sleep-away camp my sister never fails to text or snapchat on a daily basis. I thought about how my grandmother in the stands always motivated me to be a better version of myself, and likewise, how I try to set a good example for my sister every day.

Lauren, as you grow up, you continue to impress me more and more. The qualities you exemplify and characteristics resonate—even correlate—perfectly with our late-grandma. You know how to brighten any gloomy day, just as she did. There's nobody I'd rather spend time with in this world. If only everybody could live life like you do, the world would be a much better place. You are mature beyond your years, and I could not be prouder to be your older brother.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Parasailing, high, above the water.
Gotta beat the sun past the horizon.
Spent all of my weight on the lotter-
-y, stained brown by the land of the Mayans.
Lay in the sand, Montezuma's revenge.
Nowhere to move, couldn't possibly stand.
Been making peace since the time of Stonehenge.
Slowly eat what we take from the land.
Survey the scenery take it all in.
Jump off the cliff, you'll swim the Atlantic.
Surely, a life can't be devoid of sin.
Better, a life catering to a whim.
Schrodinger's says, craps or not 'til they're rolled.

Cash and green felt could yield untold fortune.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chapter 5: Meet Josh

I didn't meet Josh until weeks after this story took place, but he didn't stop telling it for months. It's about time you met another recurring character:

She knocked on the door with a rhythm best described as promiscuous.  Before Josh could answer, she had already cracked it open, tiptoeing in. Lauren knew his roommate was away for the weekend, but she pretended she was surprised, anyway.

"All alone tonight?" She asked, mischievously, as she approached his bedside.

"Yeah," Josh lamented, he could taste her breath from just a few inches away—peppermint. She could stand to lose a few pounds, but, after all, so could he. Her wavy, strawberry-blonde hair is what got him.  The extra deep v-necks certainly didn't hurt, either. Not to mention her relentless attempts at flirtation.

I'll spare you the details of what happened next...Josh wasn't having a lot of sex back then, but he was having some—which was certainly better than none. Lauren was just another in a series of mildly regrettable life choices, and that was okay.

He wasn't looking for a girlfriend, anyway—too expensive. Besides, 18-years-old was no time for commitments. Let's be honest, none of these girls (yes, at 18 they were still girls and boys, not women and men) wanted commitment anyway.  The words "dating" and "girlfriend" were all but taboo. Instead, there was a lot of talk of "hooking up" and "girl friends."  What's the difference? Just semantics, if you ask me.

He didn't realize this yet, though—how could he? So, as Lauren refastened her bra and scurried out of his tiny dorm room, he stared at the ceiling in amazement. The rules here were totally different—and as a result, so was the game.

Welcome to college, Josh.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Who Knew Social Media Could Be So Anti-Social?

We are addicted to our phones.  They’re the first thing we reach for when we wake up, and the last thing we put down before we go to sleep.  They’re our constant line of communication with outside world—all of it—for better or for worse.

The internet has brought with it a wealth of easily accessible knowledge and opportunity for the average consumer, but with that has arisen a new challenge for humanity: we must discern whether the information with which we are constantly bombarded is valuable or not.  Yet, this task is not as simple as it might seem at first glance, because often the decision of whether or not we absorb new intellectual material is a passive one.

The notion of mindlessly perusing[1] Facebook as a source of diversion is, just that, mindless.  We spend countless hours inhaling a collage of seemingly arbitrary media, whose quality is questionable at best, and ignorant or offensive at worst.  Admittedly, I'm the one posting half of this shit.  Nevertheless, we are often completely dissociated with the alternative of spending time doing something else—anything else.

The fact of the matter is that people have survived without iPhones for the entirety of human existence.  We pride ourselves on our ability to learn, analyze, create—our ability to actively seek psychological satisfaction.  The internet, at first, was the key that opened a vault of knowledge that, for most, was traditionally hidden behind lock and key.  Yet, it seems that we have come to a point where our dependence on virtual reality has compromised our social tendencies indefinitely.

We have, in effect, replaced social diversion of all forms with one that from a practical perspective is markedly inferior.  We forgo news articles written by professional journalists, and, instead, settle for tweets written by otherwise unremarkable strangers.  Instead of meeting face to face, we meet on FaceTime.  We consume every void moment[2], competing for likes and retweets, perpetuating an artificial social responsibility that we created for ourselves.

Suddenly, people have become more concerned with if it looked like they were having fun in their photos, than if they actually had a good time.  Similarly, we have convinced ourselves that studying and acquiring an acute knowledge[3] of this virtual reality is a valuable use for a shockingly large portion of our time.[4]  This is not by the explicit fault of anyone’s own, however, but rather, by our implicit ignorance of this problem's overwhelming pervasiveness.

As a result, without even realizing it, we've allowed social media to consume our lives.  I think it's about time we do something about it.

[1] I fear, I may be one of the minority who describes their admitted Facebook overuse in such rhetorical terms.
[2] Before Candy Crush was a thing, people read books on the toilet!
[3] This acquisition of knowledge is more commonly referred to as Facebook stalking.
[4] I got a Facebook account when I was 13 years old—if I spent two hours a day on Facebook until I was 80, I’d have logged about 48,776 hours on the world’s most popular social media outlet, by my best estimate (that’s more than 5 years).