30 November 2007

How Democracy Can Die

One word: apathy. In the past few years I have seen it among my generation, and a Washington Post editorial seems to confirm it. This increased laissez-faire attitude toward not only the political process, but the entire fabric of this country's patriotic history, is manifest in a measurable decline in interest and awareness of the country's citizen-based democratic system. Many members of my generation are without resolve in the realm of this country's leaders and their political agendas. This apathy may be prominent in the race for the Oval Office, but is actually more prevalent on the local and state levels. The youth of today has grown up in a privileged world of relative ease in the social and political landscapes. As quoted by a good friend, (though in a different context) this generation drinks from a well we did not dig and is warmed by a fire we did not kindle. We live in a country whose international might has jettisoned us past the status of super power. Our wars are no longer for our common defense. Our economic interest is no longer to prevent national bankruptcy. Our politics no longer dissuade civil war and internal strife. While surely I don't suggest that all young people live in a protected, safe and flawless shell, nor that our country is beyond the ability to fall, many simply do not see a need to fight (on any literal or figurative level) for anything more than their superficial fiefdom. With an enormous security blanket, who needs to worry? Combined with the misleadingly promising fact that today's young people are smarter and more resource-rich than any generation in recorded history, we have the making of a generation that will be searching for leadership among increasingly thinner flocks of politically experienced leaders. For what it's worth, may I suggest that as the rising generation we stand up for our beliefs, our visions, and our dreams for the world we will inevitably shape. Our lives will affect those that come after us. An upward trend in civic engagement is the only support to a long-lasting democracy. After all, as the Native American axiom states: "we do not inherit the world from our parents, but borrow it from our children."

17 November 2007

Sudden Impressions

The BYU Student Alumni Association is hosting our annual food drive, and as always, we are competing with our rivals to the north, the University of Utah, to collect more food. The rivalry itself is really less important than using that rivalry to raise funds and collect food. The less-fortunate are always with us, no matter where we go or what we do. According to a 2005 study, 37 million Americans live in poverty--a number doubtlessly higher today. The sum world-wide is considerably more bleak. Since you began reading this entry, 200 people have died of starvation somewhere in the world. Despite the odds, there is so much we can do to help. Today I went out to collect food door-to-door and was struck by a sudden impression. As I was climbing some stairs in comfortable Provo, thinking of how my legs were beginning to get sore, I looked down at the SUV we were using to load food, and the clear line came to my mind: people will live because of that food. It was the simplest of thoughts, but profoundly significant to realize. No, we can't end world hunger, and frankly it will never end. But. We can do something. Those countless students who donated food today, poor by their own standards, are Saviors in their own right. People will live because of what they have given. At this time of year when we give thanks for the fortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves, let us not for a moment forget how disproportionate those blessings truly are. Why we are where we are, we cannot fathom or figure out. Let us do what we can, to help whom we can, no matter how little we really can. Or in the words of the 18 century American author and religious figure, Edward Everett Hale: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."

15 November 2007

Paper or Plastic?

Growing up in the DC suburbs, my family always asked for paper bags when we went to the grocery store. I pretty much grew up looking down on families that were less eco-friendly, with the audacity to harbor plastic bags in their homes. Moving to the west for university, I was suddenly struck by the harsh reality that for some reason, paper was not an option at my local grocery store. For the past three years I have been loading the space under my kitchen sink with plastic bags like a shameful addict would hide crack cocaine. I cringed every time I would hear the bagger at the check-out counter rustling plastic instead of crumpling thick paper. I have recently changed grocery stores and have been elated to see that they offer paper. Coming home from the store today (with three happy paper bags in my trunk) I was wondering whether my paradigm is really accurate. Despite my emotional ties to paper, are paper bags really better for the environment? I did some research and have come across a quotation from MSNBC that I think puts the argument in context:
"To make all the bags we use each year, it takes 14 million trees for paper and 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags creates 70 percent more air pollution than plastic, but plastic bags create four times the solid waste — enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years."
So then what's the answer? It seems it's up to you. Both types of bags seem to be equally hazardous for the environment. I'd say we should take a clue from IKEA and start bringing our own non-disposable bags with us to shop. In all reality, aside from what I perceive as a more green-approach to bagging, paper bags also make me feel better. It's paper for me, but maybe plastic for you. Sure there are ups and downs for both, but I guess in the end of the day it's your gut feel. The crumpling noise, the post-use folding, the natural feel, those are what do it for me. And so when the onerous question comes my way, I know exactly what my response will be.

Romney's Rising Chances

While I have marked myself for some time as a Mitt Romney supporter, I have also intentionally remained off the Romney "band wagon" in order to avoid getting too emotionally caught-up in the elections. Coming from mixed circles of "lefties" (East Coast family) and "righties" (BYU Mormons), I have had a hard time really seeing where Romney sits in the race. Today all that changed. I read a political column on the Washington Post's (my favorite newspaper) Web site which gave me what I felt was a pretty good view of Romney's real prospects in gaining the Republican Party's nomination. For anyone not savvy to the Washington Post's leanings, the paper is usually seen as a more liberal paper as compared to the smaller and less-nationally-circulated Washington Times. As a result, I would expect its reporting to be skeptical of republican front-runners, but also fair in representing the field and avoiding favoritism. The good news is that Mitt has a chance, and probably a larger chance than most non-Mormons and non-conservatives would realize. So have I joined the band wagon? Not yet. But you never know what's going to happen, do you?

13 November 2007

The Curriculum

Everybody has themes in their lives. We, as a people, are naturally ingrained with patterns that identify us and overarching ideals that we promulgate in much of what we do. We tend to identify with those things which re-enforce our views or represent us in some way, and then use those varied objects as venues to show others who we are. For instance, an angry teen may blast hard rock not only because he identifies with it, but because others can then identify him through it. At times, especially for us who are still developing as individuals (in other words, everyone) we are introduced to presentations (of any media format: print, film, painting, music, speech, etc.) which strike us so deeply, as to not only describe who we are, but to actually define us. These presentations may or may not change who we are, but will ultimately be more than just a reflection of us. These are the media that rejuvenate us, replenish our souls, and inspire us to continue on our marked path. These are not just a list favorite things, but instead, almost a list of necessary things. I have come to call this compilation of media "the curriculum." For me, the curriculum represents a collection of films, quotations, songs, speeches and other media forms which inspire me and lift me. They are the songs that give me chills, the movies that make me cry and laugh, they are the utterances that make me understand better who I am. If you would like to see a working copy of my curriculum, please feel free to e-mail me (giovarelli@aol.com). I would encourage you to think of what is contained in your curriculum. As you grow to identify this grouping of media in your life, you will find it useful not only for you, but also for others. In my life, I have seen my curriculum sometimes help others, if only to understand me better. Good luck!

11 November 2007

Are You Feeling What I'm Feeling?

So there is an exhibit in BYU's Museum of Art which was rather fascinating, after I left and realized what it was all about. Grant Stevens, an Australian video artist, creates art that intrinsically isn't particularly amazing, in fact, it is usually a collection of text-based videos. The fascination I have with the brilliance of his art is the concept that art is not what you are looking at, but the experience you are having as the viewer. In essence, the idea is that when you see, hear or touch certain things, these sensory experiences represent a collection of allusions to other parts of your life, evoking any range of emotions and feelings. This art form is a fantastic representation of the trend in recent years to focus not on interpretation of existing realities, but on self-expression (hence the rise of blogging). As I think of the exposure we each have each day to the many sensory stimuli that surround us, I can't help but be fascinated by my interpretation of sights, sounds and events as opposed to the person next to me or standing across the street. When I look at the sunset, surely I see the beauty of the sun setting, but it brings recollections to me of those many sunsets I have had and the feelings that come with them. This is part of why one may be moved to tears by a silly movie or simple song, while another may hate it or almost worse, be apathetic to it. While surely many of our responses to certain items may be similar, they cannot ever be the same. Our own patch-worked life represents a whole of the screens and filters that each of us has. I have decided to try an experiment. Posted as insets are two of my own "works" of this type of art. If you get a chance, leave a note, and tell me what they mean to you. What is your art?

10 November 2007

The Other Red Meat

So whenever I watch cartoons, the steaks that the lions and tigers eat are always so delicious looking. However, when I buy steak it really doesn't look anything like it. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good steak just like anyone (well not vegetarians or vegans), but it just doesn't look like the cartoons. I have found a suitable substitute however, which meets the bill. Have you ever seen raw pork? (If not just look at the next picture) It looks a lot like the steaks in the cartoons, and as a result of this fantastic similarity, I have become a huge, salivating pork fan. Admittedly, cooked pork looks and tasted nothing like steak, however that detail is somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I have finally found my rounded, red in the middle, white on the sides, meat slab. Now whenever I'm at the food store I love to go over and poke the pork thinking about those crazy lions gobbling them up like they were steak. Well, probably needless to say, I bought about six pork chops at the store today and am planning on cooking them up tomorrow. Pork, it's the other red meat . . . well sort of.

Whipped You Say?

I would like to address my opinion on the importance of whipped dairy products. Have you ever tried to put hard, thick cream cheese on a bagel? It's nearly impossible if the cream cheese it cold. However, if you have whipped cream cheese, it spreads on luxuriously with an airy sensation that leaves you refreshed and ready for more scrumptious bites. Another of my favorite whipped items is whipped yogurt. While some may argue that the little cup (what do you call a personal yogurt container?) is mostly filled with air, that's what I love about it. When you walk in to a large, open theatre, you don't say to yourself, "this would be a great place if only there were less under-utilized space." You ignore the fact that your ticket might cost less if more people could fit and enjoy the show. And so friends it is with whipped products. Sure less fits and sure it costs a little more, but give 'em a try and enjoy the show. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised at how invigorating your dairy product can be!

08 November 2007

It's All About Branding

It was suggested by a good friend that perhaps I should write something about branding, since it is the field I plan to go into. The picture at the right is an entertaining play on the basis of the term 'branding'. As many know, ranchers often use a branding iron to (barbarically, I might add) label their animals in order to identify them. From that same concept, companies want people to know what products and services are their's and thus they 'brand' them as well. However, unlike the simple rancher's brand, a corporate brand is much more than just a logo. While a logo reinforces a brand it is in no way the brand itself. Simply stated, a brand is based on the individual, at first. When you hear Nike, or Audi, or Claussen Pickles, or Geico Insurance, something comes to your mind. There are experiences you have had which have painted a picture of what these companies are to you. When a company works hard enough to have a considerable percent of the population painting the same picture, a strong brand is born. Brands are dependent on consistency and companies and people will pay a pretty penny to create corporate consistency. So as not to bore my readers on this subject, I think I'll put this issues to a rest. But before I do, some thoughts to consider... What brands to you like and why? Do you know what your personal brand is? Would you change it if you had a chance? These are important questions to consider. As I like to say: "you've got a brand whether you like it or not; wouldn't you rather like it?" If this interests you, or you have questions, feel free to e-mail me (giovarelli@aol.com) and I would happily talk to you more about this.

07 November 2007

Canyonlands Half Marathon

Considering how rarely I actually go to my gym, it may come as some surprise, but after careful reflection and a really inspiring promo video, I have decided to train to run in the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah on March 8. This will be a joint effort with the Student Alumni team so that we can motivate each other. In response to this decision, I am heading to the gym right now!

I Love This Place

Well, I guess the point of this blog is to keep an accounting of what is going on in my life, so I'll just get started. I was walking home tonight from the Hickley Center as the sun was setting across the valley, and I was taken--as I often am--by the beauty of this valley.

Many evenings I will walk home with an amazing view of the silhouetted mountains and the hidden sun's red, orange and yellow banner lighting the lower sky and I can't help but feel gratitude for such a charmed life.

Everything is going great right now. I just left the MTC after almost three years of work and started a job
working for University Communications, helping to research potential story ideas to be released to the news media and other publics. I really like those with whom I am working, and I hope to learn a lot. (Check out our promo video for why you should work at UniComm.)

I can't wait for school to be done! I find it hard to even make it to class sometimes because I feel like I have learned most of what I need, and now I just want to get out and apply it. The graduation application deadline for April is November 15, so in the next couple of days I will be officially on track to graduate in April.

Student Alumni continues to be a great joy in my life and things just seem to be getting better and better there. I am really enjoying the relationships I have formed thus far with the other officers and with Curtis, my advisor, and I am looking forward to the rest of the year with them.

Welcome to the Chris Show!

I have finally entered the highly segmented world of personal Web logging. I don't really think my life is important enough for anyone to actually want to read about, however I guess at the least this can provide me with something to do when I am bored in class. So welcome to the Chris Show! You are now entering what I consider to be a somewhat enigmatic and highly energetic world of mystery, enchantment and the occasional illogical rant. Enjoy!

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