The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, January 30, 2009

He's just not that into you...or is he?

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending an advanced screening of the film adaptation of “He’s Just Not That Into You”. It is only appropriate that at this time of year, studios would release a movie that is a “feel good chick-flick” right around Valentine’s Day. They like to target the single women who will spend Valentine’s Day alone or with their girlfriends. The previews are full of laughs, enticing you to go see a comedy on a holiday where you don’t want to be stuck at home eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s watching sad movies all by yourself. I guarantee many women will flock to this movie and many will leave either feeling more depressed than when they walked in or they will lose confidence in themselves or any potential relationships they think they are on the brink of starting.

Going into it, I knew what I could expect to see because of the book. I had never read the book myself but had a jist of what it was about. However, I didn’t realize that this was going to be a movie that makes you question every single action you take in both a romantic and friendly situation. I am not one to be a feminist in really any atmosphere of life; although I do appreciate the rights women have earned over the years. This movie, however, made me feel as though women have taken quite a few steps back in time. It makes you feel like you are an idiot for ever texting, emailing, or calling someone of the opposite sex even if you just want to be friends with them. Granted, some of the moves girls take in the film are a bit excessive, but in reality, I don’t think it is a bad thing for a girl to initiate a conversation with a guy that she might be interested in. I mean I suppose there is the unspoken rule of waiting until they contact you but in a world where people are willing to advertize themselves on, what is so wrong with calling someone that you met before he calls you?

For any women out there who are planning on seeing the film, you better pray that you haven’t been on a date recently and are waiting for Prince Charming to call because this movie basically makes you feel that if you haven’t heard from him after one hour, he has zero interest in you. I think that many women can say that after going on a date they have heard from the other member of the date after more than one hour. I’m sure some women have gone days without hearing from them, but eventually maybe had a second date.

I won’t spoil the movie and say how it ends, but I can say that you may walk out of the theater wanting to never put yourself out there again. I know I certainly considered past relationships or people I’ve met over the years and whether or not our interaction followed “the rules” that are apparently required to have a healthy, happy and normal relationship. I understand that there is a line in putting yourself out there that I think applies to both men and women. However, the line that is drawn in the movie is one that I can bet many women in relationships have crossed in the process of finding a significant other. In a world where people end up marrying someone they met online, or find someone they will take home in a three minute speed-date conversation, I think the “rules” of dating have changed drastically. I’m not suggesting that a woman should be the one to initiate everything but I do feel that the movie is inaccurate in depicting relationships today and the role of women in relationships. In fact, in many of my parent’s friends I have met women who have been the one to propose to their husband, which may not be the path I hope to take one day, but it does demonstrate how far we have come.

If you are going to see the movie, don’t let it bring you down if you haven’t heard from that special someone in the past five minutes and don’t let it discourage you from ever walking up to a guy at a bar and introducing yourself first. Try and leave the movie with a glass half full attitude and remember that it takes two to tango in relationships as well as the pursuit of a relationship.

Eilly O'Neil

Thursday, January 29, 2009

To Hang or to Stretch

To Hang or to Stretch

The attendant is giving the emergency instructions. Exits are here, oxygen masks are there. Floatation devices are under the seats. Not wanting to appear elite, I always follow along and pretend to look at the emergency guide while the attendant demonstrates all the particulars. My assumption was always that if there was going to be water involved, no one was going to survive. That theory has just been refuted by the amazing crash landing of US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River, in which there were no fatalities. The pilot Chesley Sullenberger, not only gave the world a lesson in great aeronautical skills, but also a lesson in the art of concentration. How good was the landing? The passengers did not know that they had crash landed in water.

When asked about the incredible feat, Sullenberger said he was “just doing my job”, perhaps the understatement of the year. The real lesson was his ability to focus on the task at hand and make life saving decisions. The control tower advised him to land at either one of two airports but Sullenberger felt that both choices involved too much risk for people on the ground, and so he decided to land in the river, a feat that has only been done once without a fatality.

I will confess to being very distracted lately, making this a particularly important story for me. Maybe I’m always distracted just more so. In fact, it seems like most of my life is spent with my body in one place and my mind in another, forever in a state of waiting. We know at least two things about Sullenberger; he did not wait for anything and he wasn’t distracted. This was a courageous act, but not a mindless one, such as rushing into battle with all guns blazing. It was one-pointed focus during a life threatening situation, something that few of us will ever confront.

 It has been my experience that my happiest moments are the result of an accomplishment, and this relies on moments of great focus. My goal then, is to find ways to focus better, leading to accomplishments and happiness. In the book Happier, Tal Ben-Shaharthe suggests that what makes people happy is the cycle of having goals and achieving them; it leads to moments of happiness which happens in cycles. The trick is to keep growing new and manageable goals. How do we achieve the focus that leads to success, and what is the effect? For me, there are certain hobbies and pursuits that may lead to moments of focus and the payoff between focus and distraction is exponential. Days and weeks of distraction can be cleansed by just a few seconds of total focus. The trick is to put yourself in a position to achieve this state. Athletes certainly have the opportunity, but what about the average person on the street, working 9 to 5? How do they work that into the day?

I believe there needs to be something at stake in order to achieve real focus; a bit of predator and prey. To chase or to be chased may be the single most effective way to achieve concentration. Deadlines can also promote high levels of concentration; or panic. The trick is to find what works for each of us, safe activities that can test our clarity. I have found great opportunities for concentration in sports, but I’m getting older and so I’ve taken up yoga as a new challenge. One definition of Yoga is “skill in action”, certainly a worthy goal.  Sullenberger wasn’t out looking for a life bending experience but when it came, he responded; a great example of skill in action.

Finally, playing chicken with a train may be a good way to achieve focus but can lead to death and destruction. Gambling is another activity which focuses the mind but leaves a trail of tears. Then again, there is always the fallback position of Samuel Johnson who said “there’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus a man’s thoughts”.

Thank You

Ron Brown 

The Epidemic of Hyper-Parenting: When Too Much Good is a Bad Thing

One year, my neighbor decided to postpone their landscaping project and leave the huge hill in their backyard empty and open. By the time spring came along, the hillside had been engulfed in tall, green stalks of grass. Almost as tall as I was, they swayed back and forth with the northern California breeze, gesturing to my 8-year-old self to come play. Together with my sister and my neighbors, we created an entire floor plan out of that grass by smashing parts of it down with our body weight. Suddenly where we lay became rooms—a kitchen, a bedroom, and a TV room—with narrow, grassy tunnels connecting each. We played “house” on that hillside until it became dark and our parents called us in for dinner.

Thinking back on my childhood, it amazes me how many activities and games we concocted to entertain ourselves and to solve our childhood boredom. Nowadays, and even within my own generation, kids are enrolled in so many extra-curricular activities that they are often not given the chance to create and play such games. Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in New York City, named this middle-class epidemic “hyper-parenting” in his book, The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, published in 2001.

Starting at a young age, many children participate in one or two sports, play an instrument, get tutored, learn a foreign language, and attend Girl or Boy Scout meetings on top of just going to school. Dr. Rosenfeld blames this over-activity on the misguided intentions of parents who want to enrich their children’s lives in preparation for their future. In an article from the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, Dr. Rosenfeld argues that too many structured activities in a child’s life can leave both the parents and child feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Growing up in today’s world there is an increased pressure to be “well-rounded.” This is a term that is heard a lot, especially when it comes to applying to colleges, a task that has become increasingly competitive. All this really means to students today is that they need to sign themselves up for as many different activities as their schedule permits. A parent often recognizes that they have a role in this preparation early in the child’s life.

“Parents feel compelled to ‘jump start’ their children to achieve milestones early and to develop skills faster,” writes Dr. Rosenfeld. For example, if a child can master general motor skills early on in gymnastics, maybe she will have a better chance at becoming a star athlete in the future. The same thinking applies to academics.

However, this type of parenting can be detrimental to the child’s personal development. The underlying message children receive from their parent is that they are inadequate without all of these activities. Dr. Rosenfeld attributes this to the increase in “teenage depression, substance abuse, and sexual ‘acting out’.” I feel that it is most important that parents do not forget to provide the thing their child needs most: unconditional love.

It is healthy for a child to have free time to explore themselves and the world around them. It is good for a child to be bored because it allows them to develop creativity and imagination. This is a key part of a child’s development that is often lost when their days are too structured.

Pamela Fulton, 20, admits that she was one of these over-programmed kids. By middle school she was participating in dance, soccer, softball, swimming, choir, orchestra, and Girl Scouts. Her parents encouraged her to participate in a lot of activities to see what she liked. The result was that she continued to participate in a lot. “I was good at everything, but I was never great at any one thing,” she says regretful that she did not focus her extra-curriculars more.

What is truly important to realize is that there is a fine line between too much and too little when it comes to a child’s extra-curricular activities. I cannot help but feel a little sad when I run into young kids today who are busier than I am as a college student. Please just let them relax and play a little! The most important thing to remember is that activities should not take the place of real relationships. Remember, it takes a whole day of down time to build an entire “grass house.”

Laura Woods

A MINDful Testimony

The mind is the most powerful and weakest element of the body. So powerful that it covers up the battered pieces of a forgiving heart. So weak that it is blinded by the windows peering out to a world of fantasy. A weak mind, strait-jacketed by
life’s heartaches, so easily drawn to a single touch, one move, one glance; a state of vulnerability that I am well accustomed to. So strong is the force that keeps me in this state of mind; so deep am I in this state of mental anguish.

The air was crisp and clear and yet it pained me to inhale its freshness. Pent up aggression hardened a heart of gold and left me in a trance; a stifling existence to which I’ve always believed to have no escape. Living, and functioning amongst the living, but not quite “alive.” In this world, but not part of this world, walking the paths of life with a hallow soul in search of a peace of mind.

And all that changed when his titillating presence stood before me. A wisp of cocoa butter and cologne splashed against his chocolate skin calmed me; it warmed my cold heart and revived a lost soul. I breathed in and then he breathed out. I breathed out and then he breathed in; each breath evolved into an erotic exchange of energy. I was captivated, but not quite the victim because all the while each move we made, each breath we took, I slowly but surely absorbed every ounce of life out of him. And then I stood there like a blood-thirsty vampire with my eyes fixed on his.

“What’s on your mind?” He whispered as I inhaled. Such a loaded question that was; my mind and heart so stuffed with memories and heartache and yearning that it triggered the river behind my eyes to overflow and dampen my cheeks. He proceeded to cup my face with his palms. The only hand I’ve seen big enough to scoop away my bucket of tears; and like a leech I gravitated towards his presence. He was a catharsis of sorts, who could open the deepest darkest portals of my mind. I exhaled.

I escaped through him-- through the rhythmic insertion of a thrust could instantly send my mind into temporary paralysis; a blank state of which I welcome with open arms. I welcomed the feeling of passion and effortless sentiment. And when the pulse retracted, I'm left in the same agonizing predicament; I felt so dead inside. I looked in his satisfied brown eyes and he embraced me. What a necropheliac is he, for when it's all done I'm no more than a corpse, waiting for the next escape to be alive and free again. Until then my soul is abandoned and left to float amongst the careless of winds, carrying it far far away into the shadows of the abyss, waiting to inhale, and then exhale again.

Jennifer Vassel

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Truth About Tomboys

Tomboy. Most of us commonly associate the term with girls who act like boys. A clear picture pops in our heads: the hardcore sports chick who wears men’s basketball shorts, no make-up, probably wearing a wife beater, maybe flannel like Christina Ricci in Now and Then. A girl who could hang with the boys, level with them.

But for Filipinos, it’s not just a colloquialism—it’s an inside joke; a dirty little secret. For us, it’s a clever euphemism for a Filipino lesbian.

I’d never really thought about it before but with the holidays behind us and Valentine’s Day on the way, romance and relationships are never too far from on most people’s minds. What with visiting the family during the breaks: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day parties. The endless plates of lumpia and probably some jamon, it’s like an annual inventory for many of us Filipinos to catch up with life, not to mention everyone else’s lives.

You know the drill: How’s school? What are you planning to do after college? How are your grades? Have you gained weight, what happened—did your boyfriend dump you? Every and any question about what you’ve been up to and who you’ve been up to get asked during what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of the year in between greeting your extended family or miscellaneous guests and opening your gifts.

And with gay marriage as one of 2008’s hot-button election issues, sexual orientation and sexual preference seem to matter more than ever or is at least catching the attention of many in our nation. Which is probably why the word tomboy stuck out to me, not just because of what it indicates, but just the way it’s handled. It’s generally whispered between old Filipino ladies over a cup of coffee and hot dose of gossip, followed by a hearty high pitched laugh, while the men shake their heads. Because it’s a joke. Something no one ever takes too seriously, because they don’t believe any relationship that involves another woman works out for any Filipino lesbian. They’re parents who see their tomboy daughters just going through a phase. Eventually they grow out of it, become normal. Which surprises me as no Filipino will blink twice at a gay Filipino man who cross-dresses and wears more makeup than their own mothers (well, as long as they’re funny).

Sure, you can dismiss it as a cultural upbringing issue or the fact that over 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, but it’s not a problem of acceptance. That’s what most of my non-Filipino friends consider the issue to be, they say our religious beliefs are getting in the way, as the Catholic Church generally forbids relations between persons of the same sex. But that’s not the issue. Of course we accept it, Filipinos rarely deny a kinsman. After all, they’re family and for many Filipinos in the U.S., that’s all we have sometimes, each other.

It’s just the way we talk about these so-called tomboys that bothers me. Whether you believe or not that sexual orientation is a choice or determined in the womb, it’s a bold statement of your definition of love, your definition and your choice of your relationships. And it seems to me that who you love is a serious issue no matter if it’s someone of the opposite or the same sex. Love isn’t a joke, neither is the way you define it. And it’s only now that I realize that do I’m beginning to understand that the fight for gay marriage and for gay rights is a fight for love in terms of its identification and its validation.

Only now I’m beginning to understand just how hard and how serious that fight is.

Issa Morada

iTune’s Blues

After three years of studying Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry James, Sylvia Plath, and so many other great contributors of language I decided to step outside my frequently tedious English major for my last semester of college. I enrolled into a recording arts class to attempt to study a subject that I have been interested my whole life, besides the Canterbury Tales. On the very first day of the music class, my professor asked the class, by a show of hands, “Who has ever downloaded music without paying for it?” Apprehensively, the majority of the class raised their arms in guilt and those who didn’t were clearly lying to save face. My teacher acknowledged that everyone does it, but he still continued to shake his finger in shame at our class for being thieves of the music industry. I admit, at first I didn’t want to be classified as a bandit of the music industry because of my downloaded program of shared music, but then I got to thinking, why feel ashamed of helping artists get their work heard and publicized?
We live in such a world that even if you are listening to a song or compilation that hasn’t been directly paid for by you, the government has the ability to break through your front door, put you into handcuffs, on the charge of burglary. Although piracy has been an ongoing struggle with record labels and production agencies, artists have really lashed out about their music being illegally heard. In the constant pursuit of more money and more fame, artists are overreacting. Everyone who watches television or listens to the slowly-diminishing radio stations know how much money popular artists make by copying their talent, or often lack there of, onto a record. So when artists themselves take a stand against the illegal listening of their music I can’t help to think that the last thing these greedy performers need is more money.
What about making music for the pure purpose of producing a universal work of art for everyone to hear? In our greedy society artists, producers, and managers have lost sight of the true meaning behind the purpose of music and are only concerned with getting their full ninety nine cents from iTunes. Musicians are way too caught up with the image that will be projected of them on the E! Network or how big their house will be after their first paycheck. They are forgetting why they have this fame in the first place. Artists used to live and breathe for their music, but are now living and breathing for every cent they could make by enforcing laws to make everyone pay to hear their sound.
What about art for art’s sake? A lot of contemporary musicians are no longer interested in producing a unique work of art to hopefully be heard by millions just for the sake of their music. Our advanced Internet technology has allowed for this piracy to exist all over the globe, making any song available for your auditory pleasure at any time- to the point that it is uncontrollable. As a loyal fan of music, frequent concert go-ers, and consumer of music merchandise, I am choosing to not feel guilty for my few illegal, yet overly accessible, downloads. I know that people in the music industry are hurting financially because of the effects of piracy, but I am a firm supporter of the music industry making a profit in other ways, such as concerts, TV, publicity, merchandise, and videos. I know that piracy is illegal and it is the stealing of someone’s work but I prefer not to look at it in such a black or white way. I wish that artists would remember a time when producing their music and making their sound heard was their number one prerogative, not cashing in every 99 cents. Often, my guilt perseveres due to the constant advertising produced to scare the public away from piracy, and I give into the dollar entrapment of iTunes for one song. The music industry, blind sighted by greed, is slowly killing the essence of music. I feel that the laws of music should follow that of the First Amendment and should be made for the sake of making a beautiful sound for everyone to hear.
Maddy Weese

Human progress: not so fast

It’s the 21st century, year 2009. We drive cars to work and soccer practice. We fly to Paris and to the moon. We wash our hands to prevent sickness. We brush our teeth to keep them longer. We claim to know the laws of nature; Gravity: things fall at a rate of 9.81 meters per second squared. We know what it means to be civilized and often live by guide of proper manners – a handshake here, a please and thank-you there. Millions of books have been written, some solely on how to live the good life, others on how to be happy, and still others on how to live ethically. We live longer. We’ve come so far.

I forgot to mention: We built guns. Tools that pointed projectiles rocket out of the barrel like Apollo 11 left the ground of Houston, Texas. We upgraded these so they can shoot bullets faster, more efficiently – kill more, kill faster. We built tanks and improved explosives to “protect” us from those bullets. Our protection became further destruction. We built planes designed to drop bombs. We “improved” fire; now it can stick to people – napalm. We split the atom. We built the atomic bomb, and then we dropped it. We killed a lot of people. We may live longer, but we have mastered the ability to take the gift of life away faster than ever.

How far have we come? As I pick up my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – every day of the week – issue of “The New York Times,” I find conflict. People are shooting guns and firing rockets. Jews are fighting Arabs. Arabs are fighting Jews. I read it interested, but unsurprised. Conflict in Israel wasn’t news; it was like reading a history of the nation. A nation seemingly built – not on – but in, conflict and strife. I wanted to better understand the reason behind the fighting because I felt ignorant for my lack of knowledge while I was flipping through the newspaper pages. Who exactly or what exactly was Hamas? I did my homework, and it did show me the ties to the country’s history. The fighting was like so much of the previous years: a battle between Jews and Arabs. I assure you, that this is the simplified version.

I had spent so much time reading about Israel and Hamas that I forgot my own nation was at war. Out of sight, out of mind, right Mr. Bubble? American soldiers trudging through stale, deserted landscapes in Afghanistan and others picking through potential terrorists and guerrillas in Iraq. Guerrilla, ha, who is the real gorilla here? Think about that one, King Kong, and then let me remind you – people are dying. And they aren’t dying from old age, they are dying from violence. They are dying from our progressive inventions.

They are dying all over the world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan, to name a few. Realistically, though, you should spin the globe and stop it with your finger. If that trigger-pulling-capable finger plants itself on some sort of land, you could assume that someone was or has died there violently.
It’s easy to forget about all these people when you only have pictures and typed words to teach you about them. We wouldn’t forget if we lived and breathed death. But we don’t, and we let it happen. I do nothing and you do nothing. Or we don’t do enough. We cry during war movies. Cry now: people are fighting real wars.

In the Wild West, cowboys used to be pleased or happy if they were able to die with their boots off, that is to say, in bed. Today, I’m not worried that I’m going to die with or without my sandals on. I’m worried that my body will be ripped to pieces by machine-gun fire, or that I’ll be incinerated by a Hydrogen bomb, thus becoming just another number, another casualty.

What will my children worry about? Will they invent peace on earth, or will they blow the earth to pieces?

-Alex Tandy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Age: Apparently NOT "Just A Number"

A year ago during Christmas I was nestled in the familiar river nook of Vermont's valley region when I came into contact with a peculiar situation. At this time I'd (reluctantly) accepted an invitation to a performance of Beauty and the Beast with my father and my four-year-old sister, SophiA. I attended the event and after two excruciating hours of Disney-fied merriment, candlesticks and teacups took their bow and I grabbed Sophia's hand to make a bee-line for the exit.
On our way out we were stopped in the foyer by a middle-aged Joe who took a fondness to the little creature on my arm. Crouching down to my sister's level, he smiled like the cheshire cat and cooed questions, to which the shy preschooler nibbled her thumb and gazed upward.
"Don't worry," the man laughed, addressing both my father and myself, "Your daughter will grow out of it. Have you started her in school yet?"
An odd pause hung in the air as I stood there, momentarily dumbfounded by the mistake made. As my father launched into an answer, my mental wheels hastily sprung in motion: my father, a grey-haired 63-year-old, is assumed to be married to me, 20, because we are caring for a four-year-old child and, by our interaction, none can fathom any other relationship to her. This case seemed evident as, while my father yapped, the adoring man seemed to calculate the trio before him, his darting eyes no doubt holding the abhorrent image of my father and I walking down the aisle. I shuddered at the thought but had a strong feeling this uncomfortable experience would not be my last.
And I was right. After that day I began to open my eyes to the reactions of passersby. Upon observation I found that a child at your side will earn a great amount of attention in the form of affection or, less desirably, the form of disapproval. On solo expeditions with Sophia I often was coddled by elderly women; "Oh she's such a good girl! Isn't she a good girl? I bet she wants a lollipop!". Other curious parties tend to gape and quickly look away, contributing a condemning smirk, or 'discretely' shaking their heads in pity. "A young mother!" I imagine them saying, "I'd never let my teenager get pregnant."
Come on, America, why can't you depart from established ideas and expectations of age? Sure, folks might be getting married and pregnant in their twenties, but does that mean a young woman and child accompanied by a post-mid-life male automatically equals a "traditional" family unit? Does it mean that because I'm of age to have children others have a right to assume I'm the mother of a child I'm with? Or do they conclude I became pregnant young and my father is a helpful grandpa? Maybe, but they shouldn't.
This problem of expectations can extend beyond this circumstance to apply to a lovely bouquet of awkward situations. I was alarmed the night a student I hardly knew approached me at a small gathering and waved her finger at me for dating a younger man, "Why are you messing with him? He's a BABY!" I stood speechless with my drink in my hand as I looked to my guy, wrapped in an intense political conversation. Briefly I concocted an image of myself prowling the playground, dangling candy in an unsuspecting youngster's face in deplorable hopes for a date. This is, after all, the image projected on many females who become romantically involved with a man their junior. But my boyfriend and I are ONE YEAR apart! What's the problem, y'all?
It is a double standard that many fail to acknowledge. If the people in the previous circumstance switched genders, the issue would be dismissed. Similarly, if the first situation were reversed and a 60-something female was out with a 20 year old male and toddler, SOMETHING makes me suspect those adults would not be distinguished as a romantic duo.
Is it so difficult for people to accept the smallest departures from storybook scenarios of families and relationships? Must I wear a sign when I'm out with my family that loudly declares, "THIS IS MY FATHER, THIS IS MY SISTER"? Do I have to explain that my parents are divorced and that, yes my dad has a younger wife and yes he met her in Russia, a place where age gaps in marriage are common? Must I defend my relationship with a man merely months behind me?
Folks, open your eyes and expand your mind. We are living in another era of change, so stop waiting around for an explanation to 'abnormal' circumstance. We must maintain the idea that people are diverse, remembering a golden concept: age is just a number. Oh yea, and don't forget what mama said, "To assume makes an ASS out of U and ME."

Alison S. May


Socioeconomic Dating

Is it possible to date someone outside of your socioeconomic status? I used to think it would never work. How can it work? One person has the advantage over their significant other. Someone has had more privilege, wealth, and advantages in life. The other may have struggled just to obtain the bare necessities of life. When two people come together from different social and economic backgrounds, there is bound to be Trouble. I have been dating a guy from a different socioeconomic background for the last two years and it has not been smooth sailing.

For the last ten years, I have lived in Westchester, CA, an area that is considered middle class. However, I have not always lived in a neighborhood that had the nice house with the picket fence. My youth is filled with the memories of growing up in Inglewood, CA where my days were spent running around with cousins and eating meals from a plastic table and chair. The occurrence of the Rodney Kind riots, however, forced us to move out of Inglewood. Although I am constantly visiting the city of my childhood, my perception of life had altered because of my socioeconomic status. I attended Catholic schools since I was in Kindergarten and I was the first in my family to go to college. My family has expectations that I will succeed in my studies and eventually date a man with a similar mentality about life.

I dreamed that my boyfriend would be a smart, funny, and attractive young man filled with goals and dreams of the future. My boyfriend, however, did not meet any of my initial expectations. He was not assertive or a dreamer. He had no care or concern for anyone but himself. He had no clue who he was or what he wanted in life. He did not want to change the world nor did he exude confidence within himself.
I wanted a man; instead, I received an abandoned child. He had the disadvantages of being raised in a poor environment in his youth. He spoke of the days that his family was close but the death of loved ones eventually caused a rift with his extended family members. I felt a connection with him. He had sadness in his eyes, deplete of hope and faith in life. He reminded me of myself when I was in high school, experiencing my Eeyore days of dark and gloom. I found myself drawn to him and before I knew it we started dating. When we began to get to know each other, warning bells would resonate in my head, Don’t fall for him.

I fell hard two years ago and till this day, I continue to struggle to make it work. Since I have spent a majority of my life surrounded by male friends from the middle class, it was difficult being with a man who failed to take the initiative to take me out and contribute to our relationship, ranging from emotional to economical. Now, he has made a great improvement in taking an active role in our relationship. He has opened up to me on an emotional level and contributes on an economic level when he is able to do so. Although we have had our good and bad days, it has been worth the effort to be with him. He may not be able to provide me with material or superficial things, but he has given me his love, trust, and respect. When he has given me flowers or a necklace, they are special for they show his affection. Over time, I had to develop patience and understanding towards him, which inevitably affected my mentality towards our relationship.

My expectations of men have altered. Although I continue to “wear the pants” in the relationship, I have come to learn that I don’t want a man to dominate my relationship. Although I take the stronger initiative in the relationship, it has taught me to be conscientious and considerate of my boyfriend. I had to learn to accept him for who he is, not what I wanted him to become. I had experienced constant disappointment and frustration with him, which had caused much tension and issues at the beginning of the relationship. As we continued to grow and develop together, I began to appreciate the positive qualities about him, instead of searching for qualities that I wanted to be there. He taught me what it means to appreciate someone else without the advantages that social and economic factors would provide. We are not caught up in the world of materialism. When we want to seek out entertainment, we usually go to the movies and dinner. The reality of our socioeconomic differences has created a stronger bond between us. We are honest and open with each other. Money and status can’t buy that.

Jennifer Ellspermann

Monday, January 26, 2009


There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
—Mohandas Gandhi

Poverty is the third rail of politics. Dangerous to the touch like the open palm of a Skid Row resident. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the major candidates held hands and leap-frogged over the poor to fondle the middle class. If you counted the times all Americans heard “middle class” on the campaign trail—and sold each reference on eBay for a dime—we could feed every homeless person in America and have enough money left over to buy iPhones (with all the cool new applications) for the ones who haven’t yet given up looking for a job.

The conversation around President Obama’s $850 billion + stimulus package has also managed to squeeze out the most needy. 37. 3 million Americans according to a 2007 US Census poverty report. There’s talk of a huge middle-class tax cut and home owner-assistance. The message for the poor: Become middle-class and buy a home and we’ll help your broke butt.

Demonizing the poor used to be a spectator sport, with the Right calling all the audibles. Over the last 20 years, you could turn on the TV and watch wild-eyed Reagan Revolution-comrades get the spittle flying talking about “personal responsibility”, “poverty pimps” and “welfare queens.” Only calming down once someone starting slinging statistics (containing multiple zeros and commas) about corporate welfare and no-bid contracts.

The poor has been such an easy target that the Left has decided to join the fun. Of course, not with the Right’s uninformed, irrational mean-spiritedness, but a nuanced approach to kicking the poor is still kicking the poor.

We can trace this Left shift to where blame meets the public sphere: in language. In 2007, Emory University psychologist Dr. Drew Westen’s Message Handbook for Progressives from Left to Center began to find its way onto desks occupied by left-leaning candidates. Specifically, it encouraged progressives to jettison the Left’s long-time platform item, addressing income-inequality, and instead urged politicians to speak about the middle-class not the poor.

The Left’s been listening.

The unfortunate subtext is that this approach sends the nuanced message that that “the poor are just lazy people looking for a handout so let’s not be associated with them because if we do, they’ll cost us this damn the election.”

George W. Bush was poor people’s fault.

Of course, there are lazy poor people but laziness is not why there are 37.3 million poor people. In America, and other places around the world, access to a good education is an extremely effective predictor of future success. If public schools are poor so will be the people who graduate from them. If they graduate at all. According to Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, 50% of black students don’t graduate high school around the country. What can you do in America, when you are the product of a public school system where half the students don’t leave with a diploma?

Play ball. Spit lyrics. Pick Six.

Or more likely: Become a poverty statistic.

Or: Choose violence to access bread.

Ghandi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

It’s a crime.

Peace & Blessings,

Michael Datcher

Goodbye Gitmo

It is a novelty for my generation to see a President that transcends the position and transforms it into what it needs to be, embodying and externalizing values that we so often have trouble associating with today’s politician: courage, honesty, and empathy. President Obama is not just a figurehead. He’s not only a decision maker. He has managed to become an admirable, authentic, bona fide role model. And he’s doing so from the top.

Lead by example. Be the change you want to see. What have become bumper sticker tag lines in past years are now taking on a fresher, more substantial meaning.

This past Thursday, January 22, just two days since his inauguration, President Obama began the promised reversal of archaic doctrine with three executive orders. The restrictions placed on the CIA and neutralization of ‘Gitmo’ within the year begins the restoration process of America’s respect for the (Third) Geneva Convention as well as Habeas Corpus. This act serves as the first bright, explicit, audible shout of confirmation to a restlessly awaiting foreign community.

World - Thank you for waiting. Now get ready for the good stuff.

Now we have an iconic leader at the helm and a new smell in the air; we can look forward to a smooth-ish ride in the coming months – as smooth as we could hope for it to be at this point. But immediate economic and policy issues are not what truly excite me when it comes to having a president this motivational. Change is not a wholly spontaneous occurrence, and I am more anxious to see what masses of excited and inspired people do over the next ten, twenty, thirty years. As long as we continue down this path of openness and candor, the days of ‘Yes we can’ will transition into nights of ‘Yes we have.'

Joe Mahon

The Innocent Child

“Caylee Double-bagged, heart shaped sticker over mouth” read the "Nancy Grace" headline January 21, 2009’s late night showing.

Caylee Anthony, a three-year old, innocent child from Orlando, Florida was murdered in the summer of 2008. Her mother, Casey Anthony, is charged with first-degree murder. As evidence is being brought to the media’s attention, Casey Anthony is being drilled with questions constantly, which is then broadcasted throughout the country on many major news channels. As I watch the replays of the tap, I continually wonder what type of person would do this to their daughter? If you stopped loving your child or wanted more freedom as an adult, would someone have to go to this extreme? Murdering your child is certainly not a way to gain freedom in your life, especially if you’re Casey Anthony.

The video tapes that are shown when her parents come to visit her in prison upset many viewers as Casey Anthony tells her parents how “unhappy” she is in prison and how this whole situation “affects her” deeply.

Casey Anthony has been calm during the past few visits with her parents, which were aired on "CNN". As her mother sits across a glass window, holding the black phone tightly to her ear, and crying, Casey Anthony does not seem phased. Casey looks at her parents with a smirk that covers her face. Her eyes are dry as a bone and Casey Anthony looks annoyed that her mother would even be emotionally upset with the situation. What is wrong with this woman people ask? Her daughter’s body was found in a trash bag with Last week when Nancy Grace showed a clip of Anthony’s parents visiting her, Anthony started off the conversation with the absurd question to her father, “why is she crying already?”

Evidence that has been linked to Casey’s arrest for the murder of Caylee include traces of “chloroform in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car, where they also say they detected odors from a decaying body.” Caylee, the innocent child suffered a brutal death. The most recent information about the duck-tapped sticker that was taped to Caylee’s mouth has been exposed to the media. And to further the pieces of evidence in this case, Nancy Grace reports that the bag that was used to hide Caylee’s body is identical to the bags found in the home of Casey Anthony.

The psychological issue Casey Anthony must contribute to her lack of regret, remorse or sorrow for the murder of her daughter. The lack of emotion Casey exudes when speaking to investigators or her parents make it quite suspicious as more and more evidence is leaked from investigators. The brutality of the murder creates much hatred and disgust from viewers who learn new pieces of evidence every day as the story unfolds.

As more pieces develop in this investigation, I find myself more emotionally involved in this murder. I hope to one day become a second grade teacher because of my love and passion to teach and mold young minds. The joy and gifts children give are endless; thus, I find it so difficult to look at a picture of Caylee Anthony and not hold back tears. And then, to look at clips of Casey Anthony saying she’s “lonely” and it is “hard” to be in prison disgust me. The idea of taking an innocent person’s life makes me question why anyone in society would think this is acceptable. I pray for the family and for Caylee, a child who had her life taken away from her at such a young age.

Plastic Women

Do you wish your make-up would last all night? Flash. Long, bronzed, stick legs of a 5’11” woman. Flash. Do you want to drive your man wild? Flash. The camera scans a woman’s butt drop with every sway and up to her bouncing boobs. Flash. Are you tired of trying diets that never work? Flash. Flash. Flash. On average, women see 400 to 600 advertisements a day. Flash. You are not good enough. Women are portrayed in the media as plastic, square, fake smelling objects. Fake becomes reality.
Nip Tuck is one popular television show, among a great deal of others, that depicts women as objects. The introduction shows isolated body parts. Each body part looks like a road map marked with black, thick, lines, like a football play, an object ready to be toyed around with and tampered. Women are dehumanized. And that is precisely what the show does. Most of the women are depicted on the show visiting two handsome plastic surgeons whose job is to not only fix perfectly functioning noses, boobs, stomachs, and legs but to fix their low self-esteem and give them satisfaction with their lives. Most of the characters on the show believe plastic surgery will repair relationships. Also, believing perfect looking women are trouble-free and uncomplicated.
I use to nanny for a family who had two young girls about four and seven-years-old. The older girl engaged in discussion about dress-up, begging me to bring my make-up and old prom dresses over. I thought this is so normal for a seven-year-old girl, and it was so normal for the four-year-old to be less interested. I noticed her mom’s hesitation to enforce ideals related to appearance. One day I was sitting in the kitchen with the seven year old and her dad. We were having a conversation about school, when she blurred out, “and she doesn’t even have a boyfriend.” Referring to me I was awkwardly embarrassed, but I did not know exactly why. While she was expressing her opinion that a man defines a woman, she almost had me convinced, until I thought twice and replied, “Who said I need to have a boyfriend?” This is common for young girls to grow up interested in make-up, clothes, and boyfriends. It made sense that the four-year-old was less interested in appearance because she had not been exposed to enough of the media. Young girls are raised in a society where television commercials expressing these ideas control the segments between daytime television shows. And why would parents think twice about it? They grew up with the same television commercials and they have become immune to the seriousness of the misconstrued messages.
What is a real woman anymore? Dove did a campaign called, The Truth About Beauty. They represented heavier set women, with skin blemishes, and untamed hair. The women dressed down to a bra and underwear showing their imperfections had nothing to hide. They may not be the typical women portrayed in the media, but they are shown as happy, confident, and comfortable women in their own skin. Dove made a huge statement, finally breaking the glass ceiling, saying most women do not look the way they are portrayed in the media. So, maybe this is the truth about beauty and the real woman.
Women… Learn who you are without someone else defining you. Find satisfaction in yourself. Love your body before someone else does. Believe him when he says you are beautiful in every sense of the word. Truly love yourself and the people around you for who they are and appearances will take a back seat.

Krystle Aldana

Friday, January 23, 2009


In a world where crime rates are constantly on the rise why do law enforcement officers choose to focus on cell phone usage? I live in Playa Vista and in the past month every building has been broken into; crow bars have been used and dogs have been mased. Maybe this is because cops are too busy looking for people using cell phones rather than actual criminals. I understand that multitasking is not the safest thing to do while driving, but it’s not like our cell phones are the only thing that can distract us while we are operating a motor vehicle. I think people who neck-break over an accident are more of a danger to society than people who check their voicemail for thirty seconds. Whether I am watching television or driving home on the freeway, I am constantly being reminded not to talk on my cell phone. It’s almost as if they think the Amber Alert signs aren’t obvious enough with their message in huge block letters: “No Text Messaging While Driving; IT’S THE LAW”.
Well apparently, the signs are not obvious enough for me. Just last week I received my second ticket for using a handheld device while driving. I guess I am one of the millions of people who think they can beat the system and sneak a text message here and there. I understand it is the law, but I see so many people who are openly talking on their cell phones that it drives me nuts that I have gotten two tickets when my reasoning is in fact arguably valid.
The first occasion which I received my ticket was absurd. Back in July, when text messaging was still legal, I was pulled over for taking a picture of the sunset on my camera phone while at a stop light. I offered to show the officer my beautiful picture and he rudely declined. I asked him if I had taken it with my digital camera would that be illegal; the answer was no—I pause for a moment to ask you how that is any more safe? Then he had the nerve to tell me I should have lied and claimed I was texting because that would have gotten me out of getting a ticket. When my court date approached they told me I would have to go through this long process to fight it, which wasn’t worth it to me so I paid the 109 dollars and walked away defeated. I promised myself I would never get one of those tickets again and up until last week I had kept my promise.
Last week, I was picking up my friend and as I pulled up to his house I got out my phone and dialed his number to tell him I was outside. It was like I had been followed because within three seconds the cop was behind me with his lights on. First of all these two cops were extremely rude. Second, after I had been written the ticket the cop asked me if I had a problem. I asked him why I was receiving a ticket for dialing and he told me it was because I had the device in my hands. I proceeded to ask how I should go about dialing if I can’t hold the phone in my hands, to which he told me to “use my magic powers”. That was when I lost respect for the local authorities. Not only were they rude, but they were so proud of themselves for pulling me over. They acted like they had just arrested someone on the most wanted list. It amazes me how someone could be robbing a convenience store around the corner but cops are more interested in enforcing the new cell phone law. I think it is about time our state’s law enforcement reevaluated “true crime” in our neighborhood. In the meantime, I will attempt to “use my magic powers” to get out of paying my ticket.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The day our nation celebrates the life of one dreamer is the eve of a coronation for another. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” This is a more eloquent rendering of, “Yes We Can.”

The inspirational appeal of both Dr. King and President-Elect Obama can be found in their urging for us to be our better selves. To reject the intoxicating impulse to be selfish. An impulse that we’ve all sipped from enough times to know that the high is short and, ultimately, unsatisfying.

Conversely, most of us can recall the subtle, yet sustaining, pleasure derived from the times we’ve reached out to help someone: a stranded motorists, a friend with short pockets, a homeless person with no pockets, a family member with an addiction.

It feels good to help people.

Especially when they show appreciation for your efforts. And even when they don’t. You did your part and that’s really the most important thing.

There comes a time in someone’s life when they embrace the fact that their sentient time on this planet is temporary. That life is short and death is certain. For some, this challenging embrace comes at a time of advanced age or during a severe health challenge. For others, a random brush with death is the light bulb.

At a four way intersection, I witnessed a fatal-level, collision aversion when a speeding car ran a red light and the potential victim swerved just enough to avoid it. I saw her pull to the side of the curb. When my light turned green, I slowly drove by and saw her on a cell phone, crying with an intensity that you don’t often see in public. But it was the look on her face that moved me most. A wide-eyed look of realization: I could be dead right now. No more family. No more gut-busting laughter. No more hot sex. No more I love yous.

I know that look because I’ve felt it on my face during my own near-death experience. My random reminder that life is short and death is certain makes me want to go out and do something meaningful with the time I have earth. To have a lifestyle actively engaged in the lives of others. It makes me wanna do my part. To help create a world with more communication and excellence and love, and less ignorance, fewer lazy choices and no haters.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President-Elect Obama’s words are trumped by their eloquent lives. Their example inspires us to treat our fellow human beings like we believe we are interrelated structures. Like we believe we are One.

Peace & Blessings,

Michael Datcher