Sunday, May 16, 2010

What is strange?

Throughout the past couple weeks, I’ve chronicled strange. I’ve thought about why we love strange and I’ve examined lots of strange things we love, like weddings, fests, talented kids, arbitrary rules, maps, strangers and more. However, as a culmination to my blog, I think it is important that I examine what strange really is and what makes this small Ohio town that I’ve called home for four years, strange. So join me as I question the strangeness around me.

Strange to me

When it comes to strange, I think just about anything can fit the part. I think it all just depends on how you look at it; it truly requires looking beneath the surface and questioning our culture. For example, look at my last post about talented kids. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that strange for kids to be talented and express their talent, but when you look deeper questions come up. Like, who videotaped you doing this and felt the need to post it online? Why did they post it- for good-natured humor or for 15 seconds of fame? Why do people love watching these videos so much that they get millions of votes and then Ellen Degeneres has them on her show? Really, anything can be strange- you just have to dig deep.

Strange to others

To further my quest for what is strange, I wanted to ask some friends what they thought. I began with my roommate Shelby West, who (as I’ve said before) is one of the strangest people I know. I figured of all my friends, she would know best what is strange. Shelby says, “There can be a spectrum of what strange is. It could be a good or bad thing.” She goes on to say, “It could be another word for unique or uncommon…a lot of people view things as strange [because] it makes them feel uncomfortable or it’s new to them and they don’t know how to think about it so they label it as strange.” Most times when people think something is strange, they actually just think it is uncomfortable and instead of dealing with it, they write it off as strange.

After speaking with Shelby, I wanted some more insight, so I asked my friend Maggie Rentsch. Maggie is one of the silliest and happiest people I know and I love the outlook she has on life. Because she often takes a different viewpoint and reserves judgment, I thought I’d ask her what she thinks about strange. “Strange is abnormal or different than the common norm,” she says, “I think something is strange when something is different than what the normal population is doing.” Again, she calls upon the same theme as Shelby, that people label what they don’t understand as strange. It seems to be a cultural phenomenon.

My friend Kirstin Grodrian said “Something strange is not normal or bizarre. If something were out of the ordinary, I would call it strange. I thought that a boy was strange when I saw him on Court Street wearing a top hat. I guess for me, something that is strange is something that is not understandable and very different to me.”

I asked my little sister in my sorority, Angela Yacovazzi, and she said, “to me, strange is something out of line from the norm that society gives. This can change from place to place though depending on the people in a given area and what they think is normal.”

I needed to know more, so I went to another friend and roommate, Su Sachdeva. Su is a journalism major and a patron of the strange. It is in Su’s nature to like little silly things that I think most people would call strange, like Aqua songs and caramel corn Ditto’s. When asked about strange, Su says “I think it has to be out of the ordinary and something that you don’t see or deal with on a daily basis; [something] you don’t deal with in normal life.” I think I am sensing a pattern…

Strange Athens

Being in a college town, strange in all around me. Around every corner I see 20-something kids spreading their wings for the first time, pretending to be liberal to backlash against everything their parents have taught them, practicing kung fu on college green and being hipster skinny. Obviously, I think Athens is strange- but do others? I had to know, so I asked my friends: What makes Athens strange?

Maggie said, “I don’t think Athens is strange per se. I think there are people in Athens that are a little different- either super hippie or just new age, and they stand out and are different.” So for my lovely friend Maggie, it was more about the people and the culture of Athens.

Shelby had a little different opinion. She said, “There’s a lot of people and random things in Athens that you wouldn’t normally see altogether in one place. There’s an overload of different things at the same time that makes [Athens] a little out of the ordinary.” Shelby seems to agree with Maggie that it is more about the blending of people and their own personal quirks.

My little, Angela, did not agree that Athens was strange, saying “I feel there isn't anything strange in Athens because the openness and differences between people is accepted. I feel one of the norms in Athens is to be different.” I think it is interesting that Angela talked about the norms of Athens, because norms create strangeness, so it really depends on the norms of the culture.

Su put in some good insight saying, “I think a lot of things make Athens strange, from the people and the setting, to the general culture of Athens. It’s very different from other cities or towns I’ve been in. A lot of things go on here that are more eccentric than your normal village.”

After speaking with all of them, I think it’s pretty clear that strange is in the eye of the beholder. Strange can be anything- whether it be because we just don’t understand, or something is generally quite weird, strange comes from all different places. And Athens? Well, I think you just need to walk down Court Street to see the strange- but it’s because of the people. College is a melting pot of education, opinions, backgrounds and ideology. It is here that we stretch our wings for the first time and begin to question things- or go through that weird phase of tribal dance that will haunt us the rest of our lives. Regardless, it is here that we are all allowed to be strange, and Athens provides a haven for us. So go on. Get out there and be strange.

Below is a slideshow of some of the awesome things that make Athens our strange home.

All photos are my own

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strange Little Kid Talents

I feel like every time I turn on my computer there is some new kid star doing a crazy video on YouTube! There were the British babies talking about charlie Then there was the dancing kids, whether Beyonce or the Black Eyed Peas. But the newest sensation, that I have to say I have fallen in love with as well is...

That's right, I am now at the mercy of a 12-year-old boy singing Paparazzi on YouTube. I even watched him on Ellen today sing it live. So what is it about Americans, and maybe people in general, that we just love kids who do neat or funny stuff? I think that we like to see funny things in general (see Why Do We Love Strange?), but also, we love to see kids doing it because it is so unexpected. Our minds are collectively blown when kids sing, dance, bite, giggle, anything that is somewhat cute or impressive.

We don't expect children to pull out these mad talents, we expect them to sing off-key and be adorable, but we love when they surprise us! Also, I think we all like to see a little bit of ourselves in these kids, like That Could Have Been Me!! Or perhaps, That Could Be My Kid!! But the strangest of all is the creepy parents a-la-balloon boy who exploit their kids for 15-seconds of fame. But for now, we can sit back end enjoy some pint-sized entertainment. Now isn't that strange?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Strange Fests

So really, what is the big deal about fests? A huge group of drunk, dirty people climbing on roofs and taking over streets and fields? This does not sound like my idea of fun. And yet, every spring quarter people crawl out of the woodwork to get to these things. What is the allure? Today is Palmer Fest and as one of the bigger fests, everyone is there. Well, everyone but me. I participated in a diversity conference today so I did not go to Palmer, but all day long I have been getting mad texts telling me to get to Palmer, and when I explain that I can't go, it's "oh, poor thing, sucks for you." No. It doesn't. I don't want to be lit on fire or have a couch hurled at me. And, it's cold this year, so why would you want to be out day drinking in 50 degree weather? If there is a fest I will risk it all for, it's number fest, this year 7 fest. Man, I love me some number fest. I don't know what it is, but there's something about getting muddy and running around in a field that gets my heart pumping, and being legally allowed to drink doesn't hurt either. I mean, look at this picture- don't you wish you could have been there?

Want a hug?

A fest isn't a fest without mud!
Photo courtesy myself

Nice and Muddy

Handsome, right?
Photo courtesy myself

As college students, we just can't resist the excuse to drink outdoors with all of our friends enjoying those final weeks of spring quarter. We love the sun, we love the music, we love the people. Fest season is one of the things that makes Athens, Athens and many students are just as attached to the fests as they are the campus. And isn't that strange?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strange Arbitrary rules

In America, is seems that we love arbitrary rules. We love to enforce these strange guidelines that don't really come from anywhere. This week, I have had so many experiences with arbitrary rules because it is Greek Week. For those of you who aren't familiar with Ohio University's Greek Week, it's basically a week long competition where fraternities and sororities pair up and participate in different challenges including philanthropy, attendance, speakers, sports and something called Airbands. Airbands is the culmination event and worth the most points. Basically, airbands is a skit that we make up that also has songs and dances. Check out the video below to see my team's Airbands skit which I wrote with my other Greek Week Representatives.

Some of the rules for Airbands are ridiculous! Don't step outside the tape line. Don't clap or make any sound. Enter only from the right and exit only from the left. No cleavage. No shoes. Because of my exasperation and frustration with arbitrary rules for greek week, I'd like to list some arbitrary rules we follow every day in America.

1. Walking on the right side of the sidewalk I don't know how we came up with this, but everyone follows! My roommate Kate Shicks, who I call Gogo, grew up in Japan and doesn't know this custom, so she walks on the left side of the sidewalk and is constantly running into people. As a social experiment, try to defy this rule and see how many people YOU bump into!

2. Showing up 15 minutes lateMy. Biggest. Pet. Peeve. Of. All. Time. Enough said.

3. Facing forward in elevators Try this social experiment sometime. It is so strange that we have been socialized to always face forward in an elevator instead of back or to the side or leaning up against the door...I guess it makes sense to face forward since you will be walking out, but still..who started this and why can't we stop doing it?

4. Waiting until everyone has their food to eat I understand social graces, but sometimes I've waited 20 minutes for my food! Why is it that we are willing to sacrifice the warmth of our food and our tremendous hunger so someone else doesn't have to watch us eat for a couple more minutes? And then they're so shocked when you wait, it's like uhh...what did you expect me to do? I've been socialized by American culture.

5. Denying help the first time offered Man, it is hard to get more stubborn than this. Why is it that we just cannot accept help the first time, but almost always accept help the second time offered. I do this all the time! No, no really I'm fine with this 40 lb. box, I can totally handle it, I am good...alright if you insist!! If we know we're going to say yes eventually, why not just say yes the first time?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Strange Maps

When walking home from breakfast this morning, I noticed all of the truly strange things around me. Being a college town, this is the perfect place to experiment with weird food, habits and people and of course, I wanted to share them with you! Follow this walking tour in order to see some of the strangest sights in uptown Athens. I challenge you to go explore your own town to see what strange things you can find!

View Strangest Places in Athens in a larger map

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strange Strangers

Possibly one of the weirdest people I know is my dear friend and roommate, Shelby West. Shelby is one of those people who you meet and just think she is nuts--and I mean this in the best possible way, I love Shelby more than anything because she keeps me sane (ironic, right?) But because Shelby is so strange, strange things just seem to happen to her. Now she is just a chip off the old block, making her mom an equally strange specimen. The two of them together can only produce strange and hilarious stories, so here is a real gem from the last time they were together in Athens. Oh the things that happen when you meet strangers...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weird Wedding Slideshow!

Well readers, I know you are excited because, as promised, I have a slideshow that gives representation to my last post. We love weddings in America- we love to eat huge amounts of food, dress up, get drunk and dance badly- so really, what's not to love about a wedding? No one knows where these traditions come from, or why we all do them, but we do them none the less. Holding other people's babies? Check. Dancing with people you don't want to dance with? Check. Color-coordinating family members? Check. Check out the pictures that explain better than I, what makes weddings so strange.