The following is an advertisement for a university in Tarragona, found in a publication in Barcelona.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The following is an advertisement for a university in Tarragona, found in a publication in Barcelona.
The first impressions given by the USA McDonald's website and the impression of the Spanish website could not be more different!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
I hit my browser icon and type in the username and password to log into the Internet. This step always annoys me. As soon as I’m authorized, I open 2-5 tabs to different pages… whichever one loads first gets the first 5 minutes of my attention. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing homework, looking for a friend online, or googling images of Jordan Gordon-Levitt, I’m going to flick back and forth between those 5 tabs every few minutes. A new window takes about 8 seconds to load. I will spend those 8 seconds on another page. I’m in two separate instant-message conversations as I write this.
Am I a spoiled, shallow cross sample of a generation of Internet Divas? “Oh my gawd, the internet is, like, soooo slow!” Is Google making me stupid?
I think the changes in the way we think and read (now, “browse” and “surf”) are both a symptom and a product of humanity’s cultural history. And I think it’s important to honestly assess those changes without being quick to make value judgments. Things change. People change technology, technology changes us… it’s a dynamic relationship that flows both ways, in which fear is our only enemy.
Our priorities have changed. Richard Foreman’s “cathedral-like” person – dense, complex, and articulate – is no longer the primary cultural ideal. A cathedral is a particularly apt simile. Who builds cathedrals anymore? They don’t, not like they used to, hundreds of lives and hundreds of years, stone by stone. We can throw up a church in a couple of months, now, but so what? What is the meaning of a cathedral built in a single summer of crane-crossed skies?
We want something different, now. We want to free ourselves from the generations of trade knowledge that taught the peasants how to cut stone and build arches. The arch was successful, and the road, and soon, ideas and information were coming from across the world. It’s too much. We can’t store it all. We need a repository.
Humans dissociated themselves from time so that trains could run on a uniform, legible schedule. Henry ford dissociated us from the manufacturing process: reduce what you must know. Store the rest in a system. Technology multiplies information, and it’s too much. We live in a global world, now. I’m a 21-year-old female: a hundred years ago, I might well be darning socks by candlelight for my husband. That’s all I needed to know. Now, I need to have access to vast quantities and unbelievable varieties of information, just to competently interact with the world around me. When I wake up in the morning, I wake up to a globalized existence.
The Internet – this patchwork of screens that I live in – is that repository. From any portal I can access any bit of information. Thank God. I cannot imagine having to remember all the width and breadth of my knowledge for myself. The knowledge is stored and organized for me, without relying on my memory. Yesterday I talked to a guy from Korea. The city of Haeundae-gu, to be precise. While I was talking to him I looked up the Wikipedia article for his hometown. Now I know about one city in South Korea. It has great beaches. I was able to make this reference by looking up the article in my browser history. You need your socks darned? There’s a how-to website somewhere. I share knowledge with a 19th-century housewife and a South Korean student. The homogeneity and universality of the Internet is what enables me to access that knowledge.
Now I function not as a data storage unit, but as a node of relationships. “On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective,” Kevin Kelly writes in his article, “Becoming Screen Literate,” “The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link.” How postmodern of you, Kelly. But those are our priorities: not to discover “absolute” data, but to draw new relationships between existing ideas. Hyperlinks are the ultimate expression of modern intelligence. Direct. Succinct. Impersonal. In this manner, we create and use thousands upon thousands of new relationships every day, between data, between ideas, between images and words and knowledge. Retaining data is not important. Drawing relationships between data points is our life and breath.
Is Google making us stupid? Or are we now still primitive man, chipping away at stones, making new tools to free ourselves from old labors to seek new ones?
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
So I have been working on my integration into my host culture. This week I watchedCómo Entrenar a Tu Dragón with my Spanish friends (Gabriel, Sergi, Ramón) across the hall. It's exactly like How to Train Your Dragon, except with your comprehension of dialogue scenes relying heavily on expressive animated body language and repeated keywords.
I also somewhat successfully cooked Spanish tortillas, which is not at all what you think of when you hear "tortilla." In Spain, a tortilla is the lovechild of an omelet and a potato cake. They're simple to make, and thus popular as college kid food. Mine turned out okay although Gabriel says I need bigger chunks of potato to make it the right size and consistency. Cooking itself is still a little foreign to me, so I consider this an accomplishment.
To top it all off, a bunch of us ventured out last night to celebrate class being postponed today. We went to a bar where Liz and I got the opportunity to chat with some locals. (Parents: the bar culture is much more mainstream and not as sketchy as you probably imagine from back home. Also I was with lots of other people.) We met two young men, an Argentinian and an Australian. The Australian spoke perfect English and Spanish. The Argentinian (Mattias) knew only Spanish and the English titles of Pink Floyd albums. With Liz and I at about the same level of Spanish language competence, it was the perfect quadrangle of conversation with the Australian there to patch the holes. YAY!
I'm looking for ways to improve my grasp of Spanish by reviewing verb forms and vocabulary. I almost always understand the gist of what's being said, even at normal speaking pace, but I lack the resources to respond intelligently. The more I understand of the other person, the more complicated my intended reply becomes, and I'm stymied by simply not knowing the words. Last night was fun because it was light conversation, the kind of tone and vocabulary I've practiced in classes.
Friday, February 4, 2011
- The cultural rule is don't discuss politics, religion, or sex at the "dinner table," but this rule will be broken by your mother, father, and grandmother. It's fine if they bring it up but not if you do. Smile and nod politely and avoid expressing any strong view which may be considered controversial. Since my grandma is a minefield of political and religious triggers, and my mother will die of shock and shame if you say anything about sex at all, I'd avoid speaking entirely until you've adjusted.
- You should be smart. If you're not smart enough to seem smart, criticize pretentious people in an excruciatingly ironic meta-pretention.
- You're also supposed to be creative. Good luck proving it.
- Name-drop philosophers, artists, and authors as much as possible.
- Mom has a sensitive conscience. Try not to make her feel guilty about anything or inadequate, because she often feels that way anyway and it will really make her sad.
- Don't interrupt Dad's sermonettes on whatever has been on his mind lately. Sometimes you get really good stuff out of them, so try to listen in addition to being polite.
- NEVER CUSS or you will get dirty looks from the parents and possibly a lecture about your character later.
- Do not mention alcohol more than once in a conversation or you will receive the aforementioned lecture about your character.
- Entertain Grandma's ill-informed questions about your life. She means well.
- UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you permit a political discussion to begin with your Grandma present! Do ANYTHING, stand on your head, belch, sing row-row-your-boat, anything to divert attention away from political affairs. If you don't you will have to endure your grandma's incredibly misinformed political interests which she nurtures under the tender care of Fox news and fear-mongering militant conservative talk show hosts. Do not sarcastically refer to ridiculous political rumors (Obama is the antichrist, healthcare reform bill is a sign of the apocalypse, etc.) because chances are she might actually believe it.
- Evan is Straightedge, Caroline is a vegetarian, Eric shops at thrift stores. Try and find something within the mainstream "hipster" counter-culture to distinguish yourself.
- Pretend to be a Christian, even if you're not, for the sake of your grandma and to avoid more lectures.
- Once you part ways with the Faith every negative experience you have will be attributed to your spiritual deficit. I would just keep hush about it and avoid the whole thing. It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you can smile and nod.
- Eat grandma's food even if it is a strange combo and has too much mayonnaise.
- Always compliment mom's food, too.
- You can make fun of Dad's cooking if needed. But you won't, because he only cooks eggs and pancakes, and they're awesome.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Humor me, I’m a Sociology minor.
This past weekend I took a trip to Sevilla (Seville to non-Spaniards) for a breath of fresh air. It’s a smaller city, so Ellis, Nathan, Colin, Melissa, Nick and I were able to comfortably explore the whole thing on foot in two days. I loved it. In part due to its size, Sevilla’s streets are wider and cleaner. Everything is very colorful and sunny, with the exception of a few minutes of rain Friday night. My favorite part was Alcazar: a gorgeous palace with extensive courtyards, fountains, and garden after garden. I loved the detail of the tilework and filigreed arcades set to a bright color palatte (thanks Moores). And in one garden, we saw peacocks! =D There’s a river through the city, and the walking path alongside it was beautiful, too.
One of the other things I noticed about Sevilla in contrast to Barcelona was the culture shift. People were out and about the entire weekend, dining in the plazas, shopping, and filling up the parks and boardwalks. In Barcelona, we did small scoping projects on local parks as part of our Seminar coursework, and everyone’s photographs showed barren, empty parks and plazas. Part of the difference may be the weather, since it’s still pretty cold in BCN, hovering in the 50’s this week and the 40’s last week. But I also noticed that people seemed friendlier and more accommodating in general. We went into a café, obviously foreign and shy of Spanish, and the proprietor went far out of her way to explain the menu and make us all comfortable. Not the resentful stare you get up here.
It’s probably a little of the North-South thing. I read somewhere a long time ago (warning: highly credible source, obviously) that the dynamic between friendly southerners and “colder” northerners shows up in many cultures throughout the world. Based on my current four points of reference, my scale goes something like this:
- Greenville/Clemson: People initiate contact with strangers and are actively (some would say aggressively) friendly. Borders on creepy if you’re not used to it.
- Sevilla: People mind their own business, but if they do interact with you, they’re going to be pleasant about it. It’s the perfect balance!
- NYC: People mind their own business. I didn’t find New Yorkers unpleasant. They just assume you know what you’re doing, and they’re not going to get involved. They’re refreshingly indifferent to strangers.
- Barcelona: There is ALWAYS someone trying to sell you something, getting an attitude or cat calling you. Actively unfriendly, in my personal opinion.
To cut the Barcelonians a break, we are living in Raval, which is a strange mix-mash of the “sketchy” side of town (not actually dangerous, just your stereotypical minority community) and the heavily touristed area across La Rambla. I think the locals who aren’t trying to make money off of tourists are pretty sick of them. At 5’10” and an Eastern European (?) profile, there’s no way I’m sliding past that one.