Angst

(An excerpt from my book Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
Philosophy, Per. 6

Angst and the Suburban Teen

Unfortunately, no matter how much Paxil they prescribe, Big Pharma still can’t seem to manufacture teen happiness. Why? Are we just a bunch of whiny, hormonally-challenged smart-asses like MTV would have us believe? Nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wouldn’t think so.

If Nietzsche was alive today, he would diagnose America with a clinical case of mass-consumerism. The American Dream has spiraled into a raving capitalistic hallucination—and young people bear the brunt of it. We face a mediocre future working as purposeless cubicle-zombies so we can buy loads of crap. No wonder we’re depressed.

On top of that, we’ve grown up aware since birth that this lifestyle of disposable excess is not only destroying the planet but killing us in the process. We’re blocking our blood vessels with food that is leveling rainforests at the rate of an acre and a half per second, and we don’t know which will kill us faster; global warming or heart disease.

At the same time, as much as we rail against it, we love going to Fatburger on Fridays to inhale the very beef that is wiping out an estimated 30 species a day. It’s delicious, especially with a vanilla milkshake. We’re trapped between the conflict of knowledge and desire, motivation and a life of ease—and it’s making us crazy.

Call it angst, anomie or nihilism; Nietzsche foresaw the rise of the meaninglessness and alienation that accompanies modern excess. My friends and I loathe this homogenous suburban sprawl, this wasteland of unoriginality with Starbucks and Baby Gap on every corner. And yet when we’re hanging out late-night we’re ridiculously stoked that there’s a Target three blocks away so we can get Cherry Icees. It makes our night!

We’re drowning in consumer capitalist rhetoric and contradictory impulses.
We’re Generation Angst.
Nietzsche would be delighted.

Stress

(An excerpt from my book, Bonsai Coyote)

Catherine Shephard
Physics, Per. 1

Stress

Stress is a measure of how strong a material is, as defined by how much pressure it can stand without undergoing some sort of physical change. This can equally relate to stress on a material object and stress on a second-semester high school senior, bringing physics and quantum mechanics to a glorious convergence.

Scientists have declared that a crying baby is the most stressful sound known to man. Scientists enjoy these types of declarations: aluminum foil might give your dog an overbite, not enough sunlight makes you slightly worse at playing the guitar, that sort of thing. It makes one think that there are a few too many scientists out there, with a bit too much time on their hands.

But there’s something to be said about the stress caused by a crying baby. I babysat once and it was the most whiny, bodily-fluid-filled three hours of my life and I was in middle school at the time. I would argue that the most stressful sound in the world is an alarm clock. Not only do the piercing sound waves put undue stress on my eardrums, but the pressure to wake up when it is still pitch black outside has irrevocably altered my mind.

The term yield stress refers to the level of stress at which a material will deform permanently. Brittle materials, like concrete and my logarithm-leeched brain, strain easily. High school starts at 7:30 am. I’m fairly certain that my yield stress threshold is closer to 9:30. The tensile strength of an object is the level of stress at which a material will fracture completely. I’ve heard that college freshman crack under the pressure of an 8:30 am session of Biology 101—yet I’m expected to be out of bed and ready to study physics at 7:30? Followed by calculus? What cackling sadists scheduled that?