Jan 1, 2012

Welcome to the End of The World - Been There, Done That

Salaam alaikum and Blessed Be, my dear readers! This year started to me as many others before: celebrating the New Year abroad. Ok, ok, maybe Hungary shouldn't count for me as "abroad", BUT, as I've had had my New Year in Paris, my New Year in Sofia, this year the New Year came at the Caribbean shores of Santo Domingo, the capital city of Dominican Republic. This time around it was my boyfriend flying all the way from Hungary to Costa Rica for the end of the year, and not the other way around, for reasons well known for those who need to know them. 

We talked about going to Dominican Republic in spring, but ended up going to Panama City due to lack of proper organizing. This time around, however, with much more time to do the planning - which is the key to everything - we made it to this lovely island, where we enjoyed the Caribbean culture and history. Yes, there were strange and odd things, like the tourist harrasing people at any step of the way, I wrote about in the last post of 2011, however all in all - particularly after taking a walk down Calle Conde - it was wonderful. I wouldn't say it was "magical", because there was so much earthy, human quality in it, that all supernatural forces were erased. Even the shores and the waves seemed like part of the effort of a nation that does know how to work it, but also know how to take it easy, not rush it, but live it.

Part of a trip - at least for me - includes the mandatory cruising of the tax and duty free stores at the airport, where I usually stock up with magazines and candy. My selection this time around included the december number of Latina - a magazine I haven't seen before, as I noted in the last post -, Vogue, Vanity Fair and The Economist. Normally I would go searching for Marie Claire, which had been my favorite magazine for ages, but as things have come by, this magazine has changed going from a smart, women's issues focused magazine to yet another shopping catalogue, with all traces of brain neatly supressed. It does upset me how the roaring "buy more, think less" wave expands to more and more newspapers and magazines, making it harder each time to actually find an article that can absorb you mentally, show you something you didn't know about, educate you, fill your braincells with useful, interesting information, and challenge you. 

After Marie Claire's plunging in quality, bigger concern with adds and pictures of clothes and accessories you don't really need, and lesser with showing the world of women around the planet, how can we otherwise get to know about them? What other way do we have to get informed from a different point of view? Which other source do we have to get glimpses of the history and the present of women all over the world? Yes, snipets can be found, but magazines are far more concerned with rags that won't last three months than the stories behind human trafficking, or efforts towards breaking new and more areas in women's labor fields. Glossy paper has become all about the superfluous and stupid, taking away any trace of thought, any trace of awareness, if not sponsored by a company or a group of them on a trendy topic, such as "Breast Cancer", or any other thing that doesn't challenge society or economical order. Anything to make you spend.

From the batch I purchased, gladly Vanity Fair kept up to the standard I set, though more leaning on the political matter, rather than foccused on the women's issues, even though this last issue had no other than Lady Gaga on the cover. I keep blinking in disbelieve how such an ugly, outrageous person can be so celebrated. Other than that, holding in my head a piece written by Joseph Stiglitz is delightful. However, before I even got around to Vanity Fair, I checked out the overly popularized and commented Vogue magazine. The magazine is an icon in fashion - as many know so - has been subject of songs, movies, books, documentries, and their Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour, quite known and celebrated. The magazine and Ms. Wintour have been also the underlying subject of the book and movie "The Devil Wears Prada" (a great movie, a terrible book, written by a disgraceful, untalented Lauren Weisberger). The magazine is certainly a stack of paper about fashion, with not much thought about any other issues - as I would have expected it to - so in that sense it came way under my expectations. Sure, "Vogue" isn't "Runway", but from no socially striking articles to no-brain articles there's quite a gap, and one that this famed magazine does not manage well at all. As you page through it, you can't see any of the "elitist" style oozing from it that the critics talk about - unless you call Kardashian-like no-brains-only-money style - but the kind of audience it seems to carter for is one you really, really don't want to belong to, specially if you have a university degree and believe in real hard work (not the maniac straining yourself for intrascendental things the magazine calls "hard work"). How can you monthly spend time reading pages that suggest you to dress like a clown, fast yourself into a toothpick and spend regardless of whether you have money or not, because "the trend" says so?

It was still interesting to see Meryl Streep on the cover, so I had to read the article on her to see if there was any mention at all about the afore mentioned movie, where she played Miranda Priestly, the homologue of Anna Wintour. Well, it made me smirk how evidently the sting of the book and the movie hasn't been overcome, as the praising of the actress was all over the place, and the moving was mentioned only passingly, in the middle of a list of other movies. It seems that "the cool people" can't put themselves past the booklet a mediocre writer wannabe composes, and keep the grudge until the end of days. Then again, who are we calling a mediocre writer, when Ms. Wintour's editorial is flat and the rest of the "articles" are blah, abundant in a language that seeks to detail luxury and a sense of grandeur, but that never get's to the nerve of things. It's all on the brands, and the mixes of humble attitude with knowing what's trendy and luxurious, but with not a word thrusting deeper into the vein, going to what's aside from the brand and the fresh oysters and "working hard".

Work hard, work hard... a phrase used up and down to describe successful people who have lots of money and still don't hit the bed before 4 am, are up in 4 hours and do this "work" thing constantly. Yeah, yeah, yeah... so, now tell me what's that "work" about. Is about organizing foundraisers and trips to bring aid packages to depressed areas, or is it sticking your nose to your computer trying to find a way to get millions of American workers to get rid of their debts, or how to create the missing 4 million jobs and make sure they stay? Is it hard work proselitizing for a candidate or a party, maybe a bill about tax cuts, or is it about waking up at 3 am to work on the fields? Or maybe it's hard work to be up until late trying to decide which picture would look better as the cover of your shallow, no-brain magazine?
So yes, there were no articles, so I paged through the magazine looking at the latest trends, what's to come and realizing once again that fashion lately has nothing that could or would hold my interest. There was then a piece (I can't call it an article) about the tendencies and how - unlike with previous times of economical crisis - the tendency isn't towards minimalism (which I like), but towards overaccesorizing. Necklaces and bracelets measured in pounds, not in units, and chandelier earrings. The lines to introduce the tendency were rather insulting, from the social and economical proint of view, basically saying "you can face the times of crisis with frugality and saving, bracing for the hard time, or you can give it the finger and put on every luxury item you can get". Okay, so we are living hard times, millions of jobs have been suppressed in the States, people have been unemployed for years, and their proposal is "overaccesorize and give the crisis the finger". The excuse to do this? "Because youth is doing it and many of them are unemployed and have no money". Oh really, so here we are, adults, trying to get a job or hang into the one we have, with bills and responsabilities to face, realizing that living on a credit card isn't doable anymore, and we need to cut the unnecesary expenses, save some so the next time the economy fucks it up we don't get it up the ass, and here comes a fancy little magazine telling you to fuck the crisis, let's go bolder and still pretend we can max our credit cards and everything will be dandy. Where are we heading to? (In Vanity Fair, meanwhile, Kurt Andersen writes about how it seems that style has remained stagnating the last 20 years, with much of the same when comparing 1992 and 2012, so that makes you think where all this "we like" and "we think" you see in these magazines actually get anywhere in a society quite depleted of resources, with trend gurus that can't get over themselves, but continue to push their own, little, outdated agenda everywhere.)

The way I see it, we are heading towards the absolute stupidization of the population, but not as part as some conspiracy, but also because of ourselves. If the magazines and newspapers dish us day after day articles and pieces of the lowest quality - and that can be seen in the very grammar and composing of many of the articles, where you would expect at least some average manage of the language - in every sense of the word. Shallow articles that not only don't grasp the surface of the matter, working the topic more as if it where a trailer of a topic rather than an article about it, but also because many of the subjects picked are not really that important. What would be more relevant, Demi Lovato's disorders or the levels of poverty reached by many countries, and what that slide down the socio-economical ladder entail? If you ask the magazines and the newspapers, Demi Lovato's issues, no question about it!

Yes, they are consistently working on making us stupid, but what are we doing about it? We keep buying their issues, we keep reading their shit, we don't demand for anything that isn't directly supplied to us. We don't demand, we take. So, demand. Demand! Don't buy the crap, but be clinical, and if you are bored, find new sources, but don't give them your money, nor be an instrument for them to get money out of you and your data for things you don't really want. We complain a lot about quality, but what are we doing to make them improve it? What are we really doing? Me, I'm doing something: Marie Claire is striked from my list, and so is Vogue now. Now it's up to you.

No comments: