If I Could Save Time in a Capsule

The “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” Series: Part III

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’re probably aware that I’m currently obsessed with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Somehow, within the last month, I’ve reverted back to my 6-year-old ways and now I cannot get enough of those teenagers with attitude. But, last week, just before reaching the episodes where Tommy regains his powers—one of the most important events of 1994, as you might recall—I came across something that made me hit rewind multiple times.

Source: RangerWiki

During Episode 47, “Reign of the Jellyfish,” the Power Rangers are tasked with burying their class’ time capsule in the park. Rita Repulsa wreaks havoc before they can complete their mission, but the ensuing battle wasn’t what caught my attention. Instead, it was the conversation the five Rangers had at the end of the episode that truly hit home.

Jason: You know, I hope the people who open this time capsule in the future live in a peaceful and friendly world…

Kimberly: …with no hatred…

Billy: …no prejudice…

Trini: …no crime…

Zack: …and no wars.

Then, the following day, chaos broke loose in Charlottesville, VA, amplifying the message behind this episode even louder than before. While the Rangers dreamt of peace and harmony, reality unveiled a present unlike any future they could’ve ever imagined. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists flooded the streets, drowning our nation in the very hatred and prejudice the Rangers denounced nearly 24 years ago.

Unfortunately, the dissonance hasn’t relented. Racists have found validation in Donald Trump’s reluctance to condemn their actions, and protesters find their efforts infinitely more difficult now that the alt-right feels empowered. We’re on the brink of repeating history because those in charge clearly haven’t learned from the mistakes of decades past, and many feel disheartened by the overwhelming anger that permeates almost every facet of our daily lives.

But, when all hope seems lost, it’s the final exchange in this all too relevant episode that inspires optimism.

Kimberly: Think it’ll ever happen?

Jason: If we all do our part, and try to get along with each other, yeah, I do. We’ve just gotta hope for the best.

While this dream world might seem particularly distant to us right now, we have the power to change the future. It’s our love, not their hate, which will win out in the end, but we must not lose sight of this goal. Hatred can only win when there’s a vacuum—when all those fighting for what’s good and right have given up. If we insist upon holding these bigots accountable, including Trump, they will inevitably retreat.

Source: CNN

More than hoping for the best, we must also do our best. We must spread kindness and love wherever we go. If you find yourself in a position of privilege, then you must use your platform to speak for those who have no voice. As Jason said, we must do our part and try to get along with one another. There may be countless people who wish to return to a time defined by hate and cruelty, but we don’t have to look far to see that those who seek understanding and acceptance spread far and wide.

Grand gestures aside, anyone and everyone can make a difference no matter their situation. Simply holding the door for someone can go a long way in a world on edge. Smile at people who appear upset. Start conversations with people who aren’t exactly like you. Support those who feel invisible and unloved in today’s tumultuous world. Small acts add up quickly over time, especially when we all commit to becoming the best we can be. We might not be able to cut these enemies down to size with the wave of the Power Sword, but through kindness and community, we will ultimately eradicate evil every time it rears its ugly head.

***

Read Part I and Part II of the “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” series!

MTV Presses the Rewind Button, Brings ‘TRL’ Out of Retirement—but Why?

The “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” Series: Part II

Source: ABC News

For television executives, future success seems to lie in the past. From sequel series, such as “Raven’s Home”, to reunion reboots, such as “Will & Grace”, many TV networks are turning to old favorites to attract new audiences. Yet, while nostalgia certainly seems to sell these days, MTV’s upcoming “Total Request Live” revival fails to take the passage of time into account.

When “TRL” began its initial run in 1998, life was much different than we’re used to now. YouTube was still about seven years away from its debut, internet connections were primarily of the dial-up variety, and cell phones were bulky, analog devices that belonged to businessmen and… well, Zack Morris. Texting wasn’t possible, but beepers were still popular, and killing time on the “World Wide Web” meant monopolizing your family’s landline. Without music television, video never would’ve killed the radio star.

By the time “TRL” called it quits in 2008, the world had transformed dramatically. Smartphones existed, even if they weren’t yet widespread, social media was on the rise, though it didn’t retain the same level of influence it does today, and nearly every video you could imagine was accessible on-demand thanks to Wi-Fi networks.

Now, nearly 10 years later, MTV’s already fighting an uphill battle before “TRL” even premieres.

First and foremost, the team must tackle the elephant in the studio: social media. For those of us who grew up during Carson Daly’s “TRL” days—the days before DVR and live-streaming—our idea of “sharing” was talking about the latest Britney Spears video the next morning before the first middle school bell rang.

Source: Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Today’s teens and tweens, however, will likely spend more time staring down at their smartphone screen than their TV. Perhaps that’s why the network plans to split hosting duties among five VJs during this go ’round—they need to satisfy this generation’s self-induced ADHD. How they’ll integrate social media remains to be seen, of course, but it’ll likely distract the viewers from the true premise of the show.

MTV will also have to pad the show’s latest incarnation with plenty of appearances and performances by today’s top artists if the network hopes to gain and retain the interest of these fickle viewers. Anyone can watch the hottest music videos of the day via YouTube now—a luxury unavailable to its original audience—so even the countdown alone won’t draw people in, no matter how interested they might be. Plus, anyone who’s ever watched “TRL” knows that they only play videos in their entirety when they premiere and when they retire, so if they stay true to the nature of the show, they’ll need to find a way to alleviate the subsequent disappointment.

While “TRL” was our reason to rush home back in the day, it doesn’t hold much allure for modern audiences, at least not in its original form.

MTV lost its way for years as executives focused on developing reality programming that disregarded the “M” in “music television” entirely—think “Jersey Shore” in all its spray tan glory—but the current leadership hopes to return the network to its lyrical roots. If executives can channel today’s young music lovers’ fascination with social interaction and use these behaviors to enhance the “TRL” experience, they might just attract the audience they seek.

As for us oldies? We will probably take the Carson Daly route and leave well enough alone. If you need us, we’ll be off in the corner relearning the dance moves to “Bye, Bye, Bye” for old times’ sake.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

To read Part I of the “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” series, click here.

It All Started With Warm Noodles…

The “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” Series: Part I

Smells can transport us to another time and place. We might not yet have time machines to alter our physical position, but our senses can trigger memories that elicit forgotten emotions, moving us in ways that transcend literal location. Musty buildings, for instance, will always remind me of my “haunted” college dorm, while old books take me back to the period when my mother and I read “The Amityville Horror” every night after dinner. Some smells, however, hit us unexpectedly, revealing memories we never knew we had.

For me, it all started with warm noodles.

My mother would often make elbows earlier in the day so we’d need only warm them over at lunch. On the day in question, when I removed the container from the microwave to test the temperature, the smell sent me reeling. Suddenly, I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen, doing homework after school while she cooked dinner over the hot stove. Elbows were her noodles of choice, so the faint smell of warm pasta was always in the air. It wasn’t until that moment, though, that I realized how closely intertwined those two seemingly disparate memories were.

 

Ever since, it’s as if I’ve been on an endless spiral back to my single-digit days—days when I’d listen to the radio on my Sony “My First Walkman” or ride my “Beauty & the Beast” bike in rapid circles around my grandfather’s basement. Even the quietest sound or the briefest sight will take me back to the days of stirrup pants and Dunkaroos.

But I guess I’m right in style, wouldn’t you agree? Nostalgia seems to be “in” right now, or so the impending “Will & Grace” reboot would have me believe.

Coincidentally, I’m exactly two months away from my 30th birthday, which seems like the perfect time to reminisce about my first few decades and reconnect with the moments and the memories that have made me who I am today. If you couldn’t tell by the introductory subhead of this post, let me confirm your suspicions—yes, this entry will serve as merely the first in a series of entries dedicated to “the past” and whatever that inevitably entails.

Don’t worry! I have no plans to fixate on myself explicitly. (I’m not going to make you read about my high school crush or the time I skinned my knee in kindergarten, if that’s what you’re thinking.) What’s ahead? Well, only I know, for sure. You’ll just have to keep checking back! Because I truly hope that you will take the time to “Stop & Smell the Nostalgia” along with me between now and October.

Playground Politics for the Trump Era

We should’ve seen it coming.

The moment Senate Republicans refused to hear Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination—screaming “La La La” with their fingers jammed inside their ears, no doubt—our democracy transformed into the middle-aged, predominantly male version of Mean Girls.

“You can’t sit with us!”

Republicans were determined to attain ‘Queen Bee’ status no matter who got burned in their wake. Most didn’t seem to care how such actions might undermine democratic tradition, as they were merely out for revenge against President Obama. Garland’s credentials were hardly relevant—his bid floundered before it even had the chance to flourish.

But now, as Senate Republicans once again work to subvert our country’s founding principles by stealing health care from 22 million of Americas most vulnerable citizens behind closed doors, it’s clear to see that these behaviors weren’t the exception, but instead, the new rule.

Melodramatic as it may sound, Donald J. Trump’s fledgling presidency, and the contentious campaign on which it was built, exacerbates this trend toward infantile impulsivity. After all, those drafting the latest version of the health care bill essentially established an offshoot of the boys’ club we all know D.C. to be. At this point, it’s not even far fetched to imagine these 13 men congregating in some makeshift treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign tacked to the door.

For modern Republicans, party “trumps” people, so to speak. Despite the fact that these elected officials were chosen to represent their constituents long before Trump moved into the neighborhood, they seem desperate to remain in the good graces of the curmudgeon-in-chief. Few have had the backbone thus far to speak out against Trump’s polarizing policies, not because they agree with his views necessarily, but because they don’t want to lose their seat at the lunch table.

Most Republicans are so unprepared to defend their actions, in fact, that they’ve actually tried (and failed) to curtail press freedoms within the halls of Congress. Let’s just say, these so-called leaders never would’ve survived my eighth grade history class. Our teacher, Mr. Finn, warned us that, if we crossed paths in the hallway outside our designated class time, we might still be subject to an on-site pop quiz. No one enjoys being caught off guard, but when your grade’s on the line, you’ve got to use any opportunity you can to excel.

Of course, we are talking about the party that used the national debate stage to argue about the implications of male hand size, so perhaps shining in the spotlight isn’t their strong suit.

But at the end of the day, the bell tolls for those who’ve compromised their dignity to appease the man who, judging by the true results of the 2016 election, wasn’t actually the most popular candidate in America. Delaying the vote on a bill that’s more reminiscent of a death sentence cannot and will not absolve this group of the guilt associated with their methods, either. Their colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—must hold them accountable for its content and its creation.

Trump himself deemed the bill “mean” in a private meeting with Senate Republicans—and he’s the Regina George of this entire mess, so that speaks volumes. Yet, even if the bill still isn’t as “kind” as he’d prefer, there’s no doubt that he’d sign it into law if it manages to pass. Like the rest of his cohorts, he’s determined to destroy Obama’s legacy by any means possible.

From climate change to Cuban relations, Trump will scribble his name on any executive order or piece of legislation that undoes Obama’s landmark achievements, even if it means compromising America’s future in the process. He’s all about spectacle, not substance. “Getting things done” means nothing if, in the end, everything’s come undone.

Maybe, if we promise to stick a gold star at the top of each document that crosses his desk, Trump will finally sign something that benefits the greater good.

 

Who Are You to Criticize Someone Else’s Happiness?

Every time tragedy strikes, celebrities and school choirs come together to sing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” in an effort to spread peace. When faced with immense sadness, we do everything in our power to emphasize the good and eliminate the bad. But the moment anyone expresses true happiness, it’s as if every Negative Nancy on the planet unites behind one giant megaphone to tout their disdain—those feelings of euphoria are clearly unfounded and they’re here to tell you why.

Last week, for instance, comedian Patton Oswalt and actress Meredith Salenger took to social media to confirm their engagement. While such announcements usually elicit an outpouring of “likes” and emoji-laced exclamations, Internet enthusiasts took the opportunity to hunker down behind their screens and anonymously expound their unsolicited opinions. You see, Mr. Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly in April 2016 and, because he’s been so honest and forthcoming about his ensuing grief, these commenters clearly deserve to voice their concerns before these two consenting adults proceed with their impending marriage.

For some reason, the Average Joe seems to think they’re entitled to rain on someone else’s parade just because the people in question happen to be celebrities. (Call me crazy, but living life in the limelight shouldn’t mean you must silently endure such abuse.) In this case, Mr. Oswalt’s critics chastised him for “moving on too quickly” after his wife’s death. Yet I can’t help but wonder—what constitutes “too soon” and who are these naysayers to judge?

There’s no doubt that Mr. Oswalt was crushed by the loss of his wife. His gut-wrenching Facebook posts and subsequent interviews are testament to his undying love for Ms. McNamara. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve this new love he’s found. Loving once doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to love again, timing be damned. His life was torn to shreds with no warning, so why would this man—this man who knows how precious every minute can be—wait for the rest of his life to begin just because complete strangers might not approve?

In this situation, the only other party besides Mr. Oswalt and Ms. Salenger who has any real right to their opinion would be Mr. Oswalt’s 8-year-old daughter, Alice. Judging by Ms. Salenger’s recent Instagram posts, however, she’s definitely onboard. Who are we to deny this young girl another person who loves her? More love doesn’t dilute the love that already exists. Instead, that love grows and expands until it consumes all those touched by its warmth and its light.

If you’re that interested in judging others, purchase a gavel—that way you can whack yourself across the knuckles every time you consider adding your two cents. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. No matter how transparent someone might seem online, you’ll likely never know the full story.

To put it simply, love and let love. After all, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Images courtesy of Meredith Salenger’s Instagram

Trump’s War on Women Includes Mother Nature

Women’s bodies are always under public scrutiny. We’re on display from the moment we’re born. Why do you think so many of the naked babies featured in films and advertisements are clearly girls? Even before we learn to command our own bodily functions, our bodies are not our own.

And ever since Trump and his cohorts came to town, it seems almost illegal to inhabit the female form.

Sexual assault victims, as it stands, will soon be treated as accomplices of their own attack if the GOP has anything to say. Under Trumpcare, victims will no longer have access to safe abortion services, should the need arise, leading them to take matters into their own hands or carry the child to term—an alternative to the traditional life sentence. Because rape will soon count as a pre-existing condition, victims likely won’t be able to afford maternity care and mental health services either, forcing them to pay—both monetarily and emotionally—for the sins trespassed against them.

Of course, while women are nothing more than “second-class” citizens whose only crime was being born, Trump has chosen to tackle an even greater foe of the female variety—Mother Nature. By pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump has stripped Mother Nature of her rights. And she will not remain silent.

Source: kellybdc/Flickr

While women continue to speak out against the injustices we face, it’s easy for the predominantly white, male Republican Party to brush us off as nothing more than noise. But Mother Nature? No, she will never go quietly into the night. No matter how deep their denial flows, lawmakers cannot and will not put an end to climate change by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Because it does exist. Anyone with common sense and an eighth grade education will agree. We’ve failed our planet and, in response, our planet has begun to fail us. Why do you think the massive crack in Antarctica’s ice shelf grew 11 miles in only six days? Why do you think the once-vibrant Great Barrier Reef now suffers from coral bleaching and imminent death? Why do you think koalas, polar bears and countless other animal species are struggling to survive in their evolving habitats?

It’s downright preposterous that the political party that so closely associates with the pro-life movement continues to pursue policies that imperil the lives of those who are and those who will be. They might not live to experience the repercussions of their decisions, but their children and grandchildren certainly will. Even great wealth won’t save them from what’s to come.

Remember when Cal, played by Billy Zane, tries to bribe his way onto a lifeboat in Titanic? While Mr. Murdoch takes the money initially, he ultimately throws the stack back in Cal’s face as he says, “Your money can’t save you anymore than it can save me.” No amount of money will ever be able to reverse the damage Trump’s decision will inflict.

We are all in the same boat and everyone’s the captain—if the U.S. proves to be the iceberg that destroys the world’s environmental efforts, we’re all going to go down with the ship.

Government officials and their law enforcement lackeys can continue to treat women like one collective menace to society, but they cannot punish Mother Nature without being punished in return. Climate change will persist no matter how fervently the GOP resists. We might not be able to leave this planet in a better state than it was when we arrived, but we can do everything within our power to make the future brighter for those who don’t yet have a say.

In this instance, Trump shouldn’t be concerned with the people of Pittsburgh or Paris. When it comes to Mother Nature, he should focus solely on the children of tomorrow. He has an 11-year-old son, after all. Such disregard for science should be considered some form of negligence, if you think about it. In fact, it’s downright criminal.

 

****

(This post originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog.)

The Creepy Truth Behind Determining Your Family’s Heritage Through AncestryDNA

Commercials tell consumers only what the company wants them to know. But when it comes to Ancestry.com’s ‘most advanced’ DNA test, the TV advertisements have always left me scratching my head.

For $99, the AncestryDNA kit can unlock “deeply hidden answers in your family lines,” according to the company’s website. But what’s the process behind determining someone’s ethnic background and are these tests even accurate?

Based on AncestryDNA’s description and one writer’s firsthand experience with the process, nothing about the test should be considered an exact science, as the subsequent results represent rough estimates of the given subject’s familial history as compared to the markers from others within the Ancestry.com system.

“By looking at the DNA of people with long histories in a single place, we determine genetic signatures for people who came from particular regions,” as stated on the company’s website. “Your AncestryDNA test looks for those signatures in your DNA and uses them to help predict where your ancestors once lived.”

Customers need only send in the saliva collection tube that comes with the kit in order to gain insight into their ethnicity. From this process, AncestryDNA can also distinguish genetic markers that might signal links to both close and distant relatives within its database. Those who’ve subscribed to Ancestry.com can also link their family tree so they may compare their connections to those found on their DNA match’s family trees, too.

Yet, while the entire concept seems rather innocent, albeit vague, there might be more at stake than meets the eye.

Joel Winston, a consumer protection litigator, recently published an article that outlines the dangers buried within the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy these customers likely neglect to read. Essentially, Ancestry.com becomes owner of your DNA forever. (Creepy, but true.)

Winston writes that there are three significant provisions in AncestryDNA’s disclaimer to consider on behalf of yourself and your genetic relatives: (1) the perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide license to use your DNA; (2) the warning that DNA information may be used against “you or a genetic relative”; and (3) your waiver of legal rights. (For an in-depth analysis about what this means for customers, read Winston’s article in its entirety here.)

“Customers must understand that turning over their DNA means a loss of complete ownership and control,” Winston writes. “Ancestry.com customers should also know they’re giving up the genetic privacy of themselves and their relatives.”

Beyond an invasion of privacy, Ancestry.com appears to be out to steal its customers’ rights entirely—and these unsuspecting individuals don’t seem to gain much information in return. While it’s an intriguing concept, the short-term value behind learning about your potential ancestors just doesn’t seem worth the long-term loss of your rights.

My suggestion? Talk to your relatives, if possible. They have countless stories to share. Plus, even if their accounts aren’t 100 percent accurate, they’ll still likely be right on par with AncestryDNA’s estimates, anyway—minus the personal and financial costs, of course.

****

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

%d bloggers like this: