A Very Plastics Halloween

Boo! Did we scare you? Just messing with you.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays and today we were thinking, “How could we make this holiday any better than it already is?”

That’s when we came up with this dumb list of ways that you can dress up in the spirit of Plastics this holiday season. Enjoy! And beware….

1. Your Future

Cover yourself in felt question marks, or draw them on your clothes! This will symbolize how uncertain you are about the next phase of your life after college. Downside: you look like The Riddler.

2. A current event of your choosing.

Yes, you’re well read and witty and slightly self absorbed and that cute girl at the party is going to appreciate that about you goddammit. So dress as someone/something from a recent news story. Not something related to Occupy Wall Street or an Apple product. Please.

3. Underpaid adjunct professor
Wear lots of tweed and wire-frame glasses. Attach shackles to your wrists and ankles.

4. Arielle Milkman
Get a one-of-a-kind alpaca sweater and deck your wrists out with tribal jewelry. Find black horn-rimmed glasses and carry a 200,000 dollar degree.
5. Jordan Teicher
Find an almost identical pair of hipster glasses. Comb your hair into a wave approximately two feet tall. Wear only earth tones and corduroy or fabrics closely resembling corduroy.

6. Career counselor
Find brightly colored and oversized clothing and accessories. Add a wig or hat. Wear face makeup. Create or purchase a pair of clown shoes.
7. Your childhood self
Raid the boxes of old clothes at your parents’ house and re-construct your childhood wardrobe. Find your old little league baseball jersey, your Batman backpack, and your very first jean jacket. Downside: some people might mistake you for a hipster. 

8. The Graduate
Wear a bathing suit and sunglasses and carry a pool floatie. Look around nervously and play The Best of Simon & Garfunkel on your iPhone.

9. An interdisciplinary major.

Dress in mismatching clothes, shave one of your sideburns, and make sure you look like a maniac. Bring your own composting kit with you, quote Foucault as much as possible, and tell the guy who is hitting on you by the bar that you find his non-engaged approach to his own exercise of postcolonial violence to be really fucking problematic.

10. Your student loans.

Carry a loudly ticking watch to symbolize the rapid rate at which your interest is accruing, and write a bunch of numbers all over yourself. Downside: This one is most definitely too pathetic to earn you many points.


The Lone Star

I know you’ve all been wanting to know what it’s like in Austin, Texas.

That’s why I talked to Alison Hart, a 30-something arts administrator who lived and went to grad school in Austin beginning in 2003. She now lives in Massachusetts but misses her old home.

photo by Visualist Images

Maybe you’ll go there after you graduate!

Plastics: Can you make 30,000 dollars a year and survive in Austin? 

Alison: Absolutely. I survived quite handily on less than that for several years. Not to say that there isn’t plenty of cool stuff to spend money on if you have it, but the cost of living is relatively low. I particularly miss buying perfectly ripe mangos and avocados for 50 cents a piece.

Plastics: Are there a lot of young people in Austin? Do they dress uniquely Texan or do they shop at Urban Outfitters like everyone else?  

Alison: There are a ton of young people in Austin, and it’s not just because it’s a university town. Sure UT plays a part, but I remember hearing when I lived there that the average age of an Austinite was 27 — not counting the student population. Texas fashion was different than what I see on the East Coast — fewer clogs, less fleece, more boots.  I seemed to think that people dressed up a little more in Austin, but perhaps people out East are dressed up underneath their sweaters and coats and hats and I just don’t see it.  There is an Urban Outfitters on “the drag,” which is the main road running alongside the UT campus.  Girls still wear UGGS and short skirts.

Plastics: What happens if you mess with Texas?

Alison: You get a ticket for littering: http://dontmesswithtexas.org/

Plastics: In New York we have to worry about bed bugs, random violence, and terrorism. What are the hazards unique to Austin? 

Alison: The grackles: a native vermin bird species that inhabits the parking lots and — worse yet — the interiors of some less scrupulously cleaned grocery stores. They have highly varied calls that make it sound like they are having sentient conversations with one another. They are freaky, and it always seems like they are on the verge of taking over the city. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the heat as a hazard. Personally, I love oppressive heat, and cherished every 80 degree February day, but climate change is really taking its toll as evidenced by the tragic fires this summer. Oh, and there is a feral pig issue statewide, but I never encountered any problems in the city.

Plastics: What’s brunch like in Austin? How much does it cost? 

Alison: As a 21st century American city, one CAN find any kind of brunch one wants in Austin—pancake joints, fancy benedicts, juice bars, dim sum—but tacos are the heart and soul of Austin food.  It still baffles me that the rest of the country hasn’t figured out the breakfast taco. It’s hearty, cheap, easy, and delicious. I particularly miss egg and bean breakfast tacos on warm flour tortillas.  Heaven.

Plastics: Southern hospitality: fact or fiction? 

Alison: I’m going to have to go with fact. Texans know how to have a party and feed a crowd. I guess every region of the country knows how to do that, but I enjoyed the stamp that Texans put on a festive gathering. Events in Texas tended to feel homey and relaxed.  There was always good music—often live. Not to much fuss or pretense.  For a taste of Texas hospitality, I recommend cookbooks by Rebecca Rather of Rather Sweet: http://www.rathersweet.com/.

Plastics: What’s the coolest neighborhood in Austin to live? 

Alison: Oh gosh. Hard to say, but I was most attracted to East Austin, and I think it’s where I would want to live if I moved back.   It has so much to offer—close to downtown, great parks, local flavor, diverse, cool little houses, colorful.

Plastics: Do Texans take kindly to northern liberal recent college grads? 

Alison: I am a queer-progressive-liberal-arts-graduate-modern-dancing-art-loving-agnostic who moved to the State from Maine, and they took kindly to me.

photo by Visualist Images

Plastics: What makes Austin different from any other city in America? Why should a young person want to live there? 

Alison: I can’t adequately answer this question in a few sentences. Just go. Swim at Barton Springs. Find some live music at one of the thousands of places that have live music. Eat some tacos. Eat some barbeque. Go to see some little theatre or dance show. Run along Ladybird Lake. Drive out to the Hill Country or better yet to Marfa. Eat some more tacos. I think you’ll start to feel like you want to be a part of it too.

— Jordan

We were just studying in a Gallatin common area when this group walked in and started having an annoying meeting. Here’s the email exchanged that followed:

Dark Place

Let me crash and burn on my own terms. Fuck you for caring. — Arielle

Well guys it’s come to this. Arielle and I are really stressed and freaking and can’t even think about posting anything relevant to the mission of Plastics this week.

But we love blogging and we love you so we’ve decided to blog about whatever we want. We apologize in advance.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Freaking Out

There are moments in life, especially when graduation in only a few months away and the weight of the choices you are about to make is coupled with the stress of daily college life, that you become overwhelmed in an impulsive and profound way.  In layman’s terms: you freak out.

We’ve been there. More recently than we’d like to admit. OK it was like earlier this week.

The truth is you’re going to freak out occasionally no matter what you do. It happens to everyone. But there are good ways to deal with it and there are very, very bad ways. Speaking from experience I’d like to help you tell the difference:

1. Don’t look at the professional websites and/or resumes of your classmates, peers, co-workers, etc. This kind of behavior is poisonous and should be avoided at all costs. Unplug your Internet if you have to. Trust us. Arielle and I have done this. Nothing good can come of it.

Yes, some of your friends are more accomplished than you, and are better looking, and have more focus in life, and that’s a fact that you’re going to have to face eventually. But now is not the time. You are freaking out and very sensitive. You may think that looking at those beautiful, shining resumes may inspire you to get your act together, but it will really only intimidate you.

A wise man once said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” So don’t start yourself on that path!

2. Get out of your house. Seriously. Get out of there! What are you still doing inside!

If you’re freaking out, the worst thing you can do is sit in your chair and stare into space, hoping that the answers to life will just come to you. They won’t!

In fact, if you stay inside, the chances of those answers coming are slimmest. So go outside. Do something. Do anything. You might have an experience that could make you think differently. You never know.

At the very least, getting outside will help your remember that there’s a world out there with tons of cool things and interesting people.

3. Don’t start applying to grad school.  We’ve all been there:

Be honest with yourself: you don’t really want to go to grad school. So why are you applying?

Yes, the job market is bad, and yes, people with a master’s degree statistically earn more money and happier futures. But do you really want more money and a happy future? Of course not! You’re an idealistic whippersnapper and you want to suffer!

Besides, you’re going to come to you senses about an hour after you start your application and abandon the whole idea anyway. So why waste an hour?

4. Have a laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine. I think that’s especially true when you’re freaking out. Sometimes when I’m freaking out I watch FailBlog and soon enough I’m having such a good time that I forget all about graduation.

But then again I have a truly twisted sense of humor so this might only work for me.

5. Take a shower. I don’t really believe in epiphanies, but if you’re going to have one, it will most likely be while you’re taking a shower. Why? Because the shower has magical properties that help you think and relax, which are ideal conditions for having a cathartic moment.

And if this doesn’t happen, at the very least you’ll end up feeling warm and refreshed. You may still be freaking out, but at least you’ll be squeaky clean.

6. Consider watching Carl Sagan’s “The Pale Blue Dot”. Carl Sagan’s reflection on universal scale and human life inspired by a picture of the Earth taken from Saturn, is one of the most poignant and . If you’re in the right mood, this video will help you take a step back from your life and put your problems into perspective.

But proceed with caution! If you’re in the wrong mood, this video can freak you out even more!  Instead of helping you calm down, this video has the potential to bring on thoughts of existential nihilism, causing you feel like giving up on everything because your life doesn’t matter very much.

We warned you.

7. Don’t freak your parents out. Your parents have always been there for you, right? Kind, supportive,

When you’re freaking out it can be tempting to call them up and say something unreasonable, like you want to drop out of school, or join the circus, or switch your major to circus studies.

Don’t do this. It’s just not helpful. Your parents want you to be happy, but they are not going to support your crazy quarter life crisis. Telling them that stuff will only make them worry about you unnecessarily.

Even worse, it might make them ask you what you got on your midterms, and if you’re on track to graduate on time, and I can bet you’re not in the mood to talk about those things.

8. Stay organized. Freaking out can actually be a good catalyst for getting stuff done. Obviously you can’t chart your whole future in one sitting, but you can make a list and start taking care of things that you’ve been meaning to do.

Mark some things on the calendar and set some goals. But keep those things relatively small and easily accomplished. You’ll start feeling better about yourself in no time.

9. Read Plastics. Obviously.

10. Don’t buy a plane ticket to a foreign country. My roommate freshman year almost did this after a particularly bad night of freaking out. He didn’t buy it though, and that’s a good thing.

Fleeing the country is simply a bad idea. Travel is fun and exciting, but it won’t solve your problems, especially if you just jump ship on a whim.

Your life is here. You’ll figure it out. Don’t go anywhere.

— Jordan

The Juice Debacle

On days like this, I can’t help but think that college has robbed me of the best of my youth: When I was 18 I was an energetic young thing. I knew how to do basic algebra and I could swim half a mile (Alright maybe it was just a quarter mile and maybe it was only once but still, I was athletic, OK?) and I lived a serene, debt-free existence.

It may be futile at this point since Jordan and I have already problematized and deconstructed our way through over three years of institutionalized (individualized!) robbery, but we want to make the most of things before senior year is over. So we’ve been trying to systematically suck the juice out of NYU before it finishes sucking the juice out of us.

The idea makes sense in theory. On a campus this size, there must be at least 50 free events that include expensive catering and booze on any given day. Not to mention all the free shows and lectures any bright young mind would wish to attend. So we thought.

We set ground rules to make sure things couldn’t get out of hand. No nefarious activities would be allowed: All stealing was off limits, we decided. And that included taking toilet paper from university bathrooms and carrying entire pineapples away from the dining hall. Neither of us has ever done either of those things by the way. Maybe.

But it was soon clear that the plan was flawed. We just couldn’t find any time in our schedules to get more out of our NYU experience. Jordan was the first one to crack.

The juice-sucking nightmare culminated on Tuesday, when in a fit of midterm desperation and post-GRE stress I decided I would rely on the university for every need for just one day. I wouldn’t spend any money. I would go to a billion lectures and instantly become a genius.

I started by sleeping in the library. If I hadn’t, I would have spent $2.25 on the subway, which was against the rules.

Around 10 a.m. Jordan came to my temporary campsite, and he tried to help me brainstorm ways to get the best of NYU.

“Why don’t we go to an exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery?” he asked. “That’s free.”

“Ugh, not art. Art is dumb,” I quipped back, still grumpy and drowsy following the few hours of unsatisfying sleep I had gotten in Bobst.

I had done a bit of research beforehand. I was planning to go to the International Relations club meeting to nab some supposedly fancy French pastries, and the Student Health Center for some snacks.

Tuesday was also the opening night of NYU’s Uruguay Film Festival.

“You guys should go. There’s a reception afterward,” my professor had told our class on Monday. I heard the word reception and pictured myself eating a giant piece of lasagna while the Uruguayan intellectuals in the room looked on coldly. I licked my lips.

But everything went terribly, terribly wrong.

I started out on a pretty good note — after my night in the library I headed for the class I am auditing. AUDITING. That’s right: 2.5 hours of free learning just for the sake of learning, every week.

Arielle: 15. NYU: 0.

After my next class I was supposed to head for pastries and snacks, but I had a standard half-hour meeting with my adviser to breeze through first. Or so I thought: The good professor, bless her soul, kept me there for over two hours.

I emerged at 5:30 p.m., devastated and starving — I had missed all the food events. NYU was in the lead.

I needed a shoulder to cry on. So I called the Wellness Exchange to schedule the first of my 12 free counseling sessions. They put me on hold, and my cell phone flickered out of service. I gave up.

I made it to the film fest with the knowledge that food was right around the corner at the reception. Wrong again! They were serving wine and apple juice — no lasagna in sight.

I quietly accepted the sweet apple juice and a very bitter defeat, whipping out my wallet to buy some Chinese food and a subway ride home. You won this round,  NYU, but I’ll be back …

One on one with my babysitter

There’s an old saying that goes, “Babysitters know everything.”

Before she was a full-time nurse and a wife, Susanne spent a lot of time taking care of my brother and I. We had a lot of fun. We still hang out and watch Boy Meets World and make tie-dye tee-shirts sometimes.

I’ve learned a lot from Susanne over the years. Now that I’m older we often talk about growing up and life in general. She was able to answer all of my questions today because, obviously, she is very wise.

Jordan: What do kids know that adults don’t know?

Susanne: I think kids know how to love unconditionally. I think kids know how to trust fairly and I think kids know when people are not good people and when people are good people. They can tell the difference rather quickly .

I think as they grow they sort of lose that quality, which is a shame.

Jordan: What did you like about being 21?

Susanne: I only had to worry about myself. I worked as much as I needed in order to have money to play with and I didn’t have the responsibilities of household and car payments.

You don’t worry about health insurance or life insurance like you do when you’re older, when you’re married and have kids and those worries of life. 21 is a very carefree age.

Jordan: Do you think time moves faster as you get older?

Susanne: I remember summers being extremely long and just seeming like they were never-ending. Now summer seems to go by in the blink of an eye and then fall’s here already …

When you’re younger you’re really enjoying that time. You’re doing fun, exciting things. When you’re older it’s just a set Monday through Friday. You go to work and then you have the weekend of maybe some recreation and fun. But the work week is longer than the fun weekend.

Jordan: Now let’s talk more about me. I really sucked at the GRE the other day. Do you think I should still try to go to grad school?

Susanne: I think that it’s just such a great opportunity. It’s something that you want to finish in your early 20s  because, speaking from experience, it’s not something you’ll want to do later on. You don’t want to go to school in your 30s.

I think you’re a great student. I think you excel in that arena and I think you will finish quickly and I don’t think there could be one drawback from you doing it. Except the tuition bill.

Jordan: What should your priorities be at 21? Should 21-year-olds act more like they’re 16 or more like they’re 30?

Susanne: That’s a really tough question. I think if I had the answer to that I’d be a pretty successful person in writing self help books or something.  I think they need to set goals and priorities… and I think they  need to find out how to get to what they want. But I think there are still some people who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up when they’re 21. Or 30 for that matter.

Jordan: Do you ever really feel totally sure of what you’re doing? Do you ever stop doubting?

Susanne: No. I think once you start feeling overly confident and cocky you stop learning and you stop progressing in anything you do.

I think you should always have the mindset that there’s always something more — something more you can learn, something more you can do to bring what you’re doing up a notch and further yourself in anything you’re doing.

Jordan: So uncertainty is good?

Susanne: I think so. I think it’s what drives us.