The Truth Board

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

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

His Brown Eyes Told Me So


I’ve seen my father cry but once: when his father passed away. Salt water poured from his sleep-deprived eyes; bawling like a snotty-nosed two year old who had been put on time-out for the first time. His tears were the only indication that in his chest, there was a heart. A H.E.A.R.T.: a

Healthy

Emotional

Agent that

Renders

Truth...

...something I’ve always thought he was born without… convinced he was one of many who walked this world lugging around an ice-box in lieu of a soul. But I was proved wrong that day. On that day, his eyes bled with emotion-- emotion that played the submissive role throughout all my childhood and adolescent years.

And in those years, my father and I never got along. Two stubborn bulls ready to take out the other without a hint of backing down was how we bonded. Lack of communication coupled with battered pieces of flesh and psyche kept us in opposition. The voices of my classmates lamenting on how great a time they had at the Father-Daughter dance, boasting about how their father came to a game they didn’t even play in, showing off their weekly allowance for washing a couple dishes rung in my ears. They were “Daddy’s Little Girls,” and I, I was his nightmare.

Or so it seemed… on certain days.

There were days, though, when we were civil to one other; and as I got older it became more and more frequent: chit-chatting in the backyard, letting the sun’s rays kiss our cheeks. Such a pleasurable moment it was, to be able to connect with my father on an emotional level. In this moment, all guards are down, and I cherish it.

My father is a great man; but behind the eyes of every great man there is a hidden emptiness; and his emptiness was in his heart, or lack there of...

Or so I believed.

I just never knew he had a heart. I never knew he could have human feelings…until his father died. It just took a tragic event to release his true colors from his brown eyes.

Jennifer Vassel

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Reality of a Reflection


I miss being young. I miss being a kid. My memories are scant, but they are still capable of covering my mind. I develop the feeling of nostalgia when I look in the mirror through my beard and the early wrinkles around my eyes from laughing. When I was 18, being seven seemed nice. Now at age 22, I look back at being seven and I can’t help but wish I were back in Venezuela having once in a life time experiences – killing scorpions, catching tarantulas and throwing rocks for entertainment – not a care in the world. I escape my warping time travel and think about today: uncomfortable, uneasy, unsure, unknown. Too many un’s, not enough funs.

I look back at age ten, living in Trinidad, a Caribbean island. When your home is an island, you have amazing vacations. When your home is an island, you don’t complain much. And when you’re ten, and your home is an island, life can be paradise.

It can be paradise.

I look into the mirror, not out of vanity, but out of question. Who is this young man peering back at me? A lover? An idealist? A winner? A failure? I look into the eyes, a pale blue that illuminate the lightness of his past. I look again. They tell me something different: the lightness is a façade – a white shield. This soldier is well armored but doesn’t appear this way.

I miss being young. My eyes were like sponges back then. We were all sponges, soaking up the water of unique experiences. Now we experience things with pre-applied soap. We cut through the bacteria; we think too much. Carefree is hard to be.

I look into the mirror again. I’m only 22. I’ve got a long way to go.

-Alex Tandy

Furrowed Brows and Lost Nostalgia


Do you remember being 12, 13? I remember playing Pokemon with monochrome 8-bit sprites and blasting Backstreet Boys CDs on my walkman. I remember lazy school days with spelling homework, math workbooks, and reading comprehension. I can remember the future being so far away and thinking I was never going to get there.

I can still remember having silly dreams of being a figure skater, Prince William’s future wife, and maybe one day if I was really lucky, I’d meet Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio. And I remember the not so silly ones, like becoming a pediatrician, winning the Pulitzer Prize one day, and finding the cure for cancer.

I never imagined the possibility of becoming a parent at 12, like the recent news of Alfie Patten, a 13 year old boy from England who had unprotected sex with his 15 year old girlfriend who just gave birth.

I mean, I remember having some serious crushes on fellow schoolmates, but sex? At 13? I can still remember that dreaming about your first kiss was entirely daunting, something you might experience in high school. Watching stars make out in a movie was already uncomfortable enough. My friends and I would giggle, some of us even squirmed and tried to look away at simulated sex scenes. It's still just as awkward even now.

Maybe I’ve already reached that point I’ve finally become “old”… at the ripe old age of 21, no less. A lot of people are asking where were the parents, or the schools, or whatever authority is supposed to be looking after these kids. As if they were supposed to prevent these events from happening from close supervision and severe scolding. But really, where were these kids’ heads at?

What possesses a 12—13 year old to have sex? With a high school kid? Or vice versa? What were they thinking? I've had conversations with myself and others about Patten and his precarious situation.

But... on the other hand, I feel bad for even asking those questions. At 12, I was shy, guarded, and scared. I let the more popular kids copy my homework, I kept my head down a lot, I settled for being the quiet nice nerdy type. I can’t imagine what Patten must be going through.

Several reporters have asked how he expects to be a good father, like if he even knows how much diapers cost (his response: I think it’s a lot). They ask him how it feels like to be a father at such young age, and I can’t help but want to punch those reporters in the face. Because at 12, of course you’re not going to know those answers. You don’t even know what it feels like to be 12, much less understand it all.

Issa Morada

Photo Credit: Lee Thompson--The Sun

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Discussing “The Macho, Macho Man”: Social Constructions For Latino Men


Macho does not prove mucho. - Zsa Zsa Gabor

Que es macho? What is macho? What does it mean to be macho?

The answer to all these questions is the same: It’s subject to interpretation.

Asking what it means to be macho is like asking: What do women want? And despite the different theories presented in books such as Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and film depictions such as What Women Want the quest of understanding the female psyche is dependent on the time period and social reality.

The same applies to understanding what it means to be macho. Understanding and attempting to conceptualize male masculinity has been explored in different manners and fields, which has provided different insights into men’s behavior and interaction with both males and females. A way of understanding how masculinity is understood, is through Judith Butler’s discussion of “gender as a performance” that reveals how gender is a social construction that is performed in a certain way. According to Althusser, we are “always and already interpellated” into how society plays on the construction of gender such as using the colors of pink and blue to distinguish the gender of a baby.

Essentially, the idea of machismo is portrayed in different forms of media to reinforce the characteristics of being macho. An issue that arises from media is the concern of playing into positive and negative stereotypes of masculine behavior. This is prevalent when discussing minority groups or men of color especially since the comparison of their behavior is compared to White masculine behavior. For instance, upon evaluating different conceptions of Mexican machismo, there were different negative portrayals such as wife beating and exuding qualities of physical strength and pride. According to Alfredo Mirandé in Hombres y Machos: Masculinity and Latino Culture, American machismo appears to “attract and seduce women” while the “Mexican macho oppresses and coerces women.” The issue with these juxtaposing notions of machismo demonstrates the need to evaluate how the concept of machismo has been altered to fit the dominant narrative of society, especially since the Anglo culture has been the hegemonic culture.

Men of color struggle to understand their own conception of masculinity while attempting to balance out Anglo society’s negative perception of machismo in relation to Mexicans and Chicanos. For Chicanos, they are influenced by their Mexican heritage and their American birth. They live in a state of nepantla, which is an “in between state” of two ethnicities or identities. The men experience this state of being when they are conflicted or confused on how and what constitutes masculine behavior. Chicanos need to rise beyond the Mexican and American influences and create their own discourse of machismo or male masculinity.

Another factor that influences “macho” behavior is social and economic factors. Chicano men experience frustration for being subjected to a system of domination that oppresses and discriminates on the basis of race followed by gender. Essentially, the way that men have been socialized to perform within society has reinforced masculine behavior and codes of conduct that have become institutionalized by the dominant culture that have repressed men within ethnic groups to certain benefits as men. This form of repression has caused men of ethnic heritage to release their frustrations by oppressing women to maintain a form of control within their own ethnic group, such as controlling their sexuality by categorizing them as either a virgin or a whore. This has caused strong tensions between the dominant and minority culture for it reinforces negative stereotypes of behavior that is portrayed by the dominant culture and reaffirmed by the actions of the minority culture. However, Chicanos have reclaimed the positive and negative constructions of machismo and have created a new and advanced understanding that incorporates “male dominance.” Although the notion is current within Chicano communities, a male can exude dominance over women, but not necessarily portray macho tendencies and he can be muy hombre without exerting control over women. The Chicanos have demonstrated their Mexican and American origins of machismo by understanding that certain gender behavior does not necessarily come to define a man’s masculinity.

So, what is macho? It is the understanding of male masculinity that is influenced by media, society, and cultural beliefs. It is significant to understand that men of color need to create their own understanding of themselves free of media and mainstream depictions. Only each individual knows himself and what characterizes him a man.

To be macho, is to balance the good and bad, the masculine and feminine, and the dominant and subversive.

Jennifer Ellspermann

Where Are You?



I know you’re here somewhere. My instincts scream it. I emerged from the mountain marrow of one coast, landed on the crust of another, and I am here now. So where are you? It seems like forever. Sitting in front of a screen in an over-supervised Mac lab, ‘search angels’ sent me messages, possibilities of your whereabouts, of your existence. You DO exist. Just sixteen years old and I pursued you; sneaked, scanned hungry eyes over websites containing endless bevies of dates and surnames, squished like sardines into free spaces; numbers and letters forming an algebraic equation I hoped to solve with you.

But I was never good at math. So here I am, five years later, playing games of hot and cold with my intuition.
You know, I drive beyond the city limits a lot: hop into my Ford, coast to the 101, weave between valley roads. I guess sometimes I seek a moment to reflect, other times I am heading somewhere- or at least I think I am. One time a car passed me and I wondered if the woman driving was you: bleach blonde, wide shoulders, a bulbous nose- it could’ve been. (Have you wondered about me?)
You see, the reason I know is because I think I found you once in an image tucked away somewhere in cyberspace; a series of pixels lost behind piles of weblogs and shopping channels. I received notice from a search person (“angels”, that’s what they’re called) who’d located a fitting birth certificate: L.A. hospital, ‘67, the fourteenth of June (Did you know you were born on Bastille Day?)
I took the angel’s word, browsing online images until I found a site with your picture; a smiling woman, tan, blue eyes and a McEvoy* face. Remarkably familiar. I was excited. But, acting as a high school-er will, I sent you an email, heartfelt but cautious. How foolish.
You never responded.
Mom says she doesn’t want to know. When she discovered my sneakiness- odd questions, rifled documents- she got mad. She’s the type that doesn’t like being sentimental. She cares more than she’ll let on, though. I know this, you see, because she admitted that at one time even she looked for you herself! Yes, the oh-so-callous hearing officer dedicated her hours to scanning zillions of web pages, filled so confusingly with searchers and searchees, her eyes peeled for your name. She couldn’t find you, though; you weren’t searching. “She doesn’t want to be found,” Mom said, “So why do you want to find her?”
A daunting question.
Why do I want to find you?
I learned about you when I was nine. Wrapped in an attack on mom (she was recently divorced then), my sister and I pushed her to her limit, which came in the form of a bath. Rocking on the porcelain tub floor, knees-to-chest, mom cried and spoke---no, gurgled--- about you. We shut up and listened. I’d never seen her so vulnerable.

So, maybe you’re a missing force I’ve known of all my life. I retain a memory that you might live in Simi Valley. Do you? Sitting here in L.A., staring upward at endless blue, I try to sense any part of you. Normally I feel nothing but sometimes, sometimes I swear there is something, just a little hint of familiarity, a likeness of blood, an inherent connection with someone nearby. After all, we were formed in the same womb. Maybe I want to find you and answer the questions that have circled your mind all these years, provide answers for at least half your family tree. Or maybe I just like the whole idea, like knowing secrets, like the fact that I know the identity of both your parents, like the fact that I’ve discovered your biological father, that he lives and works up north and that you look like him. Like to talk about your grandparents, our mother’s past, our sister. Maybe. Or perhaps I’m just inexplicably drawn to a woman who might be like me, who is so nearby yet distanced by a lifetime. Who may hold the other end to the answers I seek, who might be my missing link. Maybe.

Your name was Jade*. You were born in a Los Angeles convent to a beautiful, quiet and terrified teenager. A teenager who had to let go of her firstborn, had to continue to university, had to dust off her hands and continue life as though you hadn’t happened. A woman who later had children of her own, but never erased you from her memory. Your name was Jade*, and you are my sister. Where are you?

-Alison S. May
*=names changed

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Difficulties of Parenting



As a parent, you constantly have to worry about your child. Have they been fed, have they gone to the bathroom, are you raising them right?? It sounds like I am describing a child; but really, I am describing raising my first dog on my own. Growing up, I always had dogs and cats and I was able to enjoy the perks of loving these furry creatures without actually having any “real” responsibility. Sure, I was able to take them for walks after school or have the pleasure of feeding him. When I was in high school, my dog passed away. I was devastated, but I wasn’t nearly as upset as my parents were and I didn’t understand why they would be more upset then me. Looking back, I now understand that they were devastated because they had raised this living thing and cared about it as if it was not only a child but a companion. The animal was their complete responsibility and the life the animal lived was based on how much or how little effort they put into it.

First semester of junior year, when I got a dog, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to raise him. I just figured it would be great to have a dog running around my house and that he would be adorable and I could play with him and take him everywhere. What I didn’t consider is the actual responsibility that this entailed. If anyone has seen “Marley and Me”, what happens in the movie is not exaggerated. I somehow seemed to block out of my mind what it was like when my dog growing up was a puppy probably because I didn’t have to take care of him all the time. The first couple of months with Bo were brutal, especially the first couple of weeks. Whether he was crying at 4 a.m., peeing all over my carpet, or chewing up almost every pair of shoe I owned, I would have moments where I thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for it. I finally caved and moved his crate into my room to sleep through a night.

As he got older, the responsibility never left, but the actual fun I had been craving could happen. He was old enough to take to the dog park. I was able to be a proud mother when I would throw him the ball and he would come prancing back with it. He was making friends at the dog park and he was no longer chewing up the corners of the walls in my house, which I can’t wait for my landlord to see once my lease is up. Sure, shoes were still chewed, and his potty training was not yet perfect, but I was starting to see the companion in him that my parents had in my dog Nikki. However, the responsibility never ceased. There was no staying out till the wee hours of the night, no staying away from home for longer than five hours and definitely couldn’t forget to walk, feed, walk, and once again feed him.
Unfortunately, and more quickly than expected, I was able to relate to my parents feelings of losing a companion. In October, Bo was hit by a car and it was something I will never forget. He was my first dog and my companion. Losing a pet is obviously not even comparable to losing a child, but until I have a child of my own, this is the closest thing I had to one. He depended on me, loved me unconditionally, and I loved him even more. The responsibility was exhausting but it was worth every day of stress. My roommates and I always joked that we would never meet a guy that got as excited to see us as Bo did when we would come home.

Since then, I got a new puppy, Ollie, and it has been slightly less stressful because I was able to learn from my mistakes with my first “child". I now know to keep my shoes off the ground and not to leave a plate of fresh food on the table because dogs are somehow acrobats as well. I also know that there is nothing that they wouldn't eat or chew if they can get their paws on it. For anyone considering getting a dog, even if people say we are too young to have one now, I strongly recommend it. It is a major change in your life, but one that will change you for the better. There is nothing like the love of a pet, especially a dog, and despite all of the stress I wouldn’t change getting a dog of my own for one second. Every person's experience is different and this has been mine and that furry child above, up to no good, is mine...looks like I have a long way to go.

The Name of the Game

I have never thought much about my name. It has never been an issue. It is easy to pronounce and comes easy to people. I have to ask myself, what struggles others are dealing with because of their name? Does it make a difference when someone is interviewing for a job and their name is Kandy or a name of a different culture? I imagine management teams separating a large stack of applications and the first thing they notice are names, names they can read and names they can barely sound out. One goal they have in mind is to shrink the pile of interviewees down to a hand full.
I remember calling Time Warner over a cable issue; the person on the other end was walking me through steps to fix my cable. I ended up being on the phone twice as long because I could not understand the person, I was bitter and annoyed. Should this person be discriminated against because they are hard to understand, especially when their job is reliant on their voice? This is not discrimination because they are not adequately fulfilling their duties.
However, people are being discriminated against when their names are difficult to pronounce. Maybe this kind of discrimination is subconscious. We are creatures of habit and cannot make room for someone unusual. Some are born and raised in the United States by first generation immigrants who decide to name their children culturally ethnic names. On a job application this person would probably be viewed as having an accent or being unfamiliar with the American culture, when in reality they could be extremely intelligent and sufficiently fit for the job. People are too busy to take the time and really understand where people come from.
One of my friends went to a private school in Pennsylvania, called Linden Hall High School. The school encouraged transfer Korean students to change their name out of respect for the other students and teachers who would find it difficult to pronounce their names.
The concept of America being a melting pot is continuously defining what it means to be an American; Americans pride on this. However, when it comes to the struggles of different cultures living in unity, we sometimes fail. We fail to take the time to understand one another, even if it is as simple as learning one’s name. Names should not be a reason to stereotype, but rather a representation of one’s identity and true nature. Americans have become custom to conformity. Most aspire for the same dream of the white picket fence, the two kids, and dog. Sometimes it seems people of other cultures just do not fit.
Barack Obama was told he could not be president or successful in politics because of his name. They thought it was weird, unlikable, and closely associated with Osama Bin Laden. Well, he is president of the United States! People can rise above and they should. It makes America a better place and Americans better people!

Krystle Aldana

Life As a Resident Advisor


As I climb up to my lofted bed in the closet-sized dorm room located in the Freshman building, I quietly laid my head upon my feathered pillow. The thoughts and images of the day run through my head as I think of the somber night ahead of me. Work, class, library for a few hours, back to class, gym, dinner, homework, duty night…my busy schedule never lets me rest. The sound of my Honeywell fan blows calm air; circulating throughout my cluttered room.
Although my dorm hall is full of twenty-eight busy Freshmen, this is the first time I am living alone. The continuous running up and down the hall is vivid in my mind. I wish I could jump off the lofted bed to open the door and tell them to quiet down. But I refuse to get out of my perfectly positioned bed. My cotton sheets warm my body as I turn every which way to find the ideal position. My body sinks into the mattress pad and the sigh of relief twirls out of my nose and chest. The day is done.
Just as my eyes close and I obliterate the moon’s light through the pearl shades, I hear the yells and laughs from the Freshmen outside my window.
“Monica, Monica…are you awake?”
Their joy from a night out does not stay quiet for I hear laughs and excitement through my open window. The only sound I would like to hear right now is the breeze flowing through my window and the occasional hustle of leaves on the tree outside my room. This is part of my position as a Resident Advisor. I am constantly on the job and my residents seem to be nocturnal.
As I turn the other way and face my exhausted bones towards the wall, I hear the Freshmen parting ways and collaborating that I must be asleep. As I attempt to sleep for the second time, I hear the sorrow cries and sniffles outside my door, accompanied by a quiet knock. I realize that this must be the resident who did not go out that night and is feeling alone, just as I am. I toss my blanket off of my warm skin and slowly climb down my wooden ladder. I shake the bedpost as I embrace my body to avoid falling on my injured right foot, which I leave cast-less when I sleep. As I stumble towards my heavy, metal door, I flick on the illuminating headlights that brighten the room.
I peer out the door as I open it cautiously and I see one of my residents with a river of tears running down her face and a box of tissues in her left hand. She waits for me to prop my door open and she lunges towards me to be hugged.
“I…I am so homesick, I want to go home,” she sniffles. Her saddened voice may have been quiet, but the impact it made on me weighted my body down. Her slump shoulders and baggy clothes created a lonely, shriveled image upon her body. She slowly walked in and sat on my futon to talk.
My resident began to pour her feelings out to me about how she missed her parents and her high school friends. “I’ll never fit in here, and I’m beginning to think I should just give up. Everyone is from the same high school or town…it is really not fair, ya know?” Her breathing began to get heavier as she continued, but by intersecting with a slight smile, she calmed her nerves and went back to discussing her opinions of the school.
Her feeling of loneliness and sorrow is typical among students who have just begun their first year at this school. I was also in the same boat she was when I started off, and ironically, I still feel the same even though I have been a college student for almost three full years.
“There will be patches of ups and downs for the duration of your college career,” I explained, “but the numbers of positive experiences will outweigh these few negatives by a huge number.” I wanted to go on and on about how much fun she will soon have once she begins to get more comfortable; however, I knew I should not bombard her with such statements. All I needed to do was comfort her and listen to those saddened words come out of her mouth.
After a little while, the Freshman resident departs and quietly whispers “Thank you,” as she gives me a gentle hug.
I steadily climb back up into my lofted bed to get a decent night sleep before I start my busy day all over again. This is only the beginning of my life as an RA.

-Monica Augustyn

Sunday, February 22, 2009

THE READER Urges Questions About the Holocaust



I recently saw the movie, The Reader. I actually had no idea what it was about going into the theater and was surprised at what the movie actually dealt with. I should have guessed when the movie opened in 1930s Berlin that it had something to do with the Holocaust. The lead female character, who we get to know intimately throughout most of the film, is later charged for her involvement with the Nazi party. The film brings us the same question that my own study of the Holocaust has brought up: Were all the Nazis evil people? Or were they just products of their circumstances?

One book we read in my Literature of the Holocaust class spoke to me clearly on this subject. Christopher Browning’s historical examination of Police Battalion 101 in Ordinary Men sheds light on some of the reasons Nazi soldiers participated in the atrocities that characterize the Holocaust. Police Battalion 101 was compiled of mostly middle-aged men who were not seen as qualified enough to fight in the German army. For the most part, they were not career soldiers nor police officers, but average people that had vastly different lives before the war.

This story is unique because when their commander delivered orders that they were supposed to murder the entire Jewish population of a rural Polish town, he mercifully gave them the opportunity to not participate. You might think that many would step down from the assignment given the opportunity, but most did not. It may seem like an overt sign of evil, but is it really?
Browning tries to rationalize why this group of ordinary men turned into murderers overnight. I think the most fundamental reason is that these men yielded their right (and duty) to think for themselves.

Many of the policemen justified their actions by the fact that these orders came from top ranking officials in the Nazi party. They were able to release themselves of guilt by just “doing what they were told” –which is a phrase we hear all to often in regards to the Holocaust and has been made famous by Adolf Eichman’s trial. And again, in The Reader, Kate Winslet’s character fails to see the wrong of her actions because she was simply following directions.

In other cases, Police Battalion 101’s excuse was alcohol, with many completing numbers of murders while completely intoxicated. To me this signifies the men’s desperate effort to forget what they were doing (or at least numb their emotions). It reminds me of stories of child soldiers in Africa that we hear about today in the media. In the movie, Blood Diamond, the only way the commanders are able to make the children kill is to get them so drugged up that they are unable to rationalize their actions.

In all cases, these people were simply trying to escape from their duty to think and to take responsibility for their actions. It makes me realize that not only did the Nazis deprive the Jews of their humanity, but they also deprived their own soldiers and police force of their fundamental rights as humans. We want to label the Nazis and everyone involved as evil. What happened was an isolated event involving morally decrepit people. However, as individuals they were often kind and ethical people who were put in a crappy situation.

I thought The Reader was a great movie to portray this question. It forces you to reevaluate some of those assumptions we make in regard to the Holocaust.

By Laura Woods

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stage 4


I cupped my palms to scoop up the ice cold water running from the faucet and submerged my face into it. I needed to wake up. With my tired eyes I caught my reflection staring back at me; all the while chanting to myself in a zombie-like fashion saying “I will not pull another all-nighter again. I will not pull another all-nighter again.”

It was a typical day for me, being awakened by the sun’s rays trying to poke its way through the chilling morning clouds. I made mental notes of what I had to do throughout the day: 1) email professor 2) go to work 3) plan out life...and so on and so on; I did this for about ten minutes.

It was getting late and although I had gotten up an hour and a half before my class started, I still managed to be pressed for time. I dumped my notebook and all its contents into my bag, scorched my tongue in an attempt to gulp down my tea, and bolted out the door.

The air was crisp, so crisp that it quenched my skin’s thirst. There was a soft breeze that flirtatiously wrapped itself around each leaf clinging to some branches near by; they began to dance. A stray cat stopped and stared at me with his eyes fixed on mine. Its eyes were yellow; it matched the hue of the sun, which was slowly creeping its way to the middle of the atmosphere. All the while some birds too lazy to fly hopped around on the pavement, their furry round bellies almost devouring their tiny feet.

I took my eyes off the peaceful scenery—I can’t remember why; there was just something that distracted me. Without any hesitation, I proceeded to continue my journey to class. As I was walking the wind picked up, causing the clouds to cover the sun’s radiance. There was a chill in the wind, and in turn it sent a chill down my spine. I turned the corner and before I could react, a dark figure tackled me as does a football player to his opponent. I couldn’t breathe. And then a sharp object came in contact with my side, deeply piercing the flesh that once held my figure together. I didn’t know whether the blood had crawled down my legs or I had wet myself; it didn’t matter, all that mattered was getting away. I screamed, but the figure muffled my cries. A tear escaped my eye, rolled down my cheek, and slid down the creases of his fingers still clutched around my mouth.

No one came. I was afraid for my life. He then released his hand over my mouth and migrated towards my neck: he was trying to choke me. My eyes were pulping out as he squeezed my neck tighter and tighter...I couldn’t take it anymore. I started wiling out; kicking and screaming, scratching and clawing; somehow getting away. I ran. And as I ran a bright light flickered in my face, completely blinding me. I shielded my eyes, and when I opened them back again....I...I...



woke up.

Jennifer Vassel

Well Played, Apple


The realm of the Apple industry has flourished over the years with its innovative new products and eye catching retro appeal. It is due to their advertising campaigns that have helped the Apple Corporation to grow and reach out to the technology, thirsty society. It is through their advertisements that a company, like Apple, is capable of creating a face for their product while attempting to expand their consumer culture and promoting their productive forces. As a sheep to the Apple herd and a fellow loser in the iPod battle, I have been hypnotized with the rest of society by the vibrant colors and exceedingly happy people dancing around with their Apple products. The ads create an identity for the consumers of these products as well as a seemingly basic lifestyle filled with happiness, in juxtaposition with the current popular culture exposed in each advertisement produced.
One of the first iPod commercials ever introduces the product with a middle-aged man on, of course, his Apple Macbook laptop listening to music in his apartment. He plays the catchy hit by the Propellers from his iTunes Library and cannot help but dance around in his apartment leading him to download it onto his newest device, the iPod. When this advertisement aired the whole iTunes cultural interest had not truly sparked in comparison to its popularity today, so it was rather clever of Apple to link these two devices together, giving the impression to society that one solely works in accordance with the other. It continues to suggest how easy it is for just anyone to obtain music on your Apple computer through your Apple application of iTunes, and then to transfer it to your, oh so portable, iPod that can conveniently go- wherever you do. This commercial did so much more than promote the purchase of the iPod, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” It conveyed to the audience a man blissfully dancing his head off to this catchy tune from his iTunes library, and made people ask themselves, “What is this great song?” Then shrewdly allowing the viewer to see the name and artist of the track during the commercial, that then created an another promotion campaign for the band, Propellerheads and their song, “Take California.”
Apple in this particular commercial is selling far more than what meets the eye. It is selling a personality, by having the Mac, iTunes, and this new iPod you will be carefree, take off your glasses, and dance around your house and even right out the door due to the portability of the device. It creates a persona for the owner of the iPod by showing this character identity of the average man who is able to easily access the features that Apple provides. Apple is telling the society through its commercial that this is attainable through the purchase of their products. It develops the iPod and computer into a commodity that is practically required, by the culture of technology, in order to obtain the persona exemplified in the advertisement.
Who needs MTV with a commercial like the ones being produced by Apple? With the, one of many, iPod commercials flashing bright colors and dark figures listening and dancing to their favorite gadget the iPod, Apple basically eliminates the purpose of music television. Yes, that may be drastic. In 2005, Apple produced a commercial like this- introducing Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” Through the silhouettes of the multiple people featured in the video, no faces or color can be seen. This way Apple tells its consumers that the owner of the iPod is any race and any sex, it’s everyone. Seeing this commercial and being sucked in to the flashing pink, yellow, green, and purple background and unthinkably vivacious people, the iPod is made somewhat more valuable than the music.
Ultimately, advertisements are in a large way a reflection of the current culture and state of society. In terms of Apple advertisements, there is much more than just the promotion of an iPod. Apple’s influence of the idea that everything is connected within their many products makes the consumer willing to buy one of each product. A subliminal message is being sent, that as a person living in our society one may not live fully without one of the Apple products. This is suggested through their happy and vibrant ads that involve people dancing and living care free thanks to their simplistic products. And I am not going to lie, they actually work. Seeing these advertisements for Apple makes me want to run to the nearest retail store and purchase the latest, tiniest blue mp3 player so I can dance by myself to my most recent iTunes download, and I know I am not the only one.

~Maddy Weese

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stuck


What does it mean to be Asian American in 2009? What does “Asian American” signify to you?

These were two questions I was asked to respond to as part of the Asian Pacific American Roundtable, which is basically LMU’s monthly G8, except that it’s attended by the heads of all the Asian/Pacific Islander clubs.

And you know what? I didn’t have an answer. I saw all of the other club presidents and representatives furiously scribbling down their thoughts, the half sheets of paper we were given were being filled up with neat handwriting and most likely insightful, meaningful answers. And my mind just drew a blank. How was I supposed to answer? Is there even a right answer?

I don’t know what it means to be Asian American in 2009. I wasn’t aware that it was supposed to feel any different from any other year, and I’ve been “Asian American” my whole life (or rather, as an immigrant, I’ve actually just been Asian… so I’m not sure if I actually apply to either of these questions sometimes).

There are times when I’ve felt invisible in the minority community, like that person you see at a party that you sort of know and might say hi to or acknowledge with a smile or a nod of the head but never go up to and talk to, never hang out with, never really call your friend. And I’ve thought, well maybe it’s because people don’t think our struggles, our experiences weren’t tragic enough, that it wasn’t hard enough for any of us.

People play upon our stereotypes: our supposed hard work ethic, intelligence, our silence. Never mind that I come from a third-world country, that the Japanese were once forced into internment camps by the government during World War II, or that, hey, we have problems just like any other race… scratch that, just like any other person in the world.

I’ve always been taught to understand others by the words and their actions, never by their race or ethnicity. Because in the end, does it make a difference, whether you’re Asian, Black, Latino, White? I’ve always thought that if people were to judge me, it would be by my words and actions but if we’re still asking what it means to be Asian American now, well then I don’t know. I’ve always loved being Asian and have close ties to my past and cultural heritage. I am fiercely proud of being Asian/Asian American, but the truth is that I’m stuck.

Not because I’ve never thought how my race or ethnicity affects my actions, words, and thoughts, and how people judge me, but because I never thought that it was supposed to really matter.

Issa Morada

Photo courtesy of: Dodo at Wikimedia Commons

It's News to You

I picked up the New York Times the other day to begin my daily intake of the news. I didn’t turn on my computer to do this; I merely picked up a stack of paper, a newspaper. I made my way through the international and national sections, then to the Op-Ed section – reading stark-faced and interested. I was learning about my country and the world around me. I was stepping outside of my small and limited perspective. I was stepping outside of my little corner of the world.

I then made my way to the business section – my second favorite. Some people say that you can read the business section of a newspaper and you will know what is going on around the world. I guess so, you capitalist, you. Anyway, the business section has been increasingly interesting to me given the current state of the economy. I read about companies that are going under (small businesses), others that have never laid off employees for 20 plus years during tough economic times (a small grocery store chain because everyone still eats), and others that are suffering. Detroit’s Big Three were suffering and continue to suffer, specifically General Motors and Chrysler, even after receiving their billion dollar piece of the economic bailout pie.

I read about all of this in the newspaper. I stopped for a moment, realizing that my means of attaining this information, the newspaper, is also limping along. It’s not just The New York Times, it’s also the Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper is dying.

Online content thrives, through the means of bloggers and major news networks. Even major newspaper companies have converted their content to the online realm, but their actions have not been able to create adequate profits. Ad revenue is down, circulation is down, and people, like you and I, can get their news online for free, anytime we want.

People used to have to pay for their news. Prior to radio and television, if you wanted to know what was going on in the world, you bought the newspaper. You did this out of duty – a duty to yourself, and to the people around you. It was a duty to know. Today, we think that having the news is a right. “We have the right to know what is going on in the country.” Arguably, this perception of free news came through the use of radio and television. People became accustomed to turning something on and receiving information, instead of paying right before the information was available.

I agree with some, that we have a right to know certain things – in the case of a national emergency, I should be able to log on to cnn.com or nytimes.com and read all about two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. I shouldn’t have to pay for that.

I should pay for knowledge of the economic stimulus bill. I should pay to know about Bernie Madoff, and his destructive Ponzi Scheme. I should pay to know what is going on with my favorite sports teams. I should pay for my news. And so should you. We forget how important journalists and the news are. We read about things interested and with a sense of importance, but we don’t expect to have to pay for this information. We love wikipedia and google. We hate hard-copy encyclopedias and libraries.

Next time you pass a newsstand, buy a newspaper. Think of it as your duty, as an intellectual soldier.

-Alex Tandy


Photo Courtesy of Stefano Corso

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fuzzy Math at Guantanamo

Picture Courtesy of Istanbul Archeology Museum

The first detainees from the War on Terror arrived in Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. Make that the Global War on Terror. Actually the War on Islamic Extremism. Or was that Extreme Terrorism? Anyway, by May 9th 2003, according to the Washington Post, the center held a maximum of 680 prisoners. No, not prisoners, but enemy combatants. Wrong again, unlawful enemy combatants. Just don't say prisoner of war. We were told from the beginning that these were the worst of the worst, a terrorist every one. And yet there are now about 200 prisoners, or detainees, or insurgents, or whatever.

So here’s my question? What happened to the other 480 “prisoners”? These people were so bad that they could be held forever, not worthy of the Geneva Convention, did not even deserve a trial. OK, there may have been some mistakes, but 480?  The Washington Post has a timeline of the Guantanamo prisoners, showing that many were released in small batches over several years. But wait a minute. We were told they were all guilty terrorists. What happened? I guess some of them were terrorists, but not guilty. Or maybe guilty, but not terrorists. Maybe not the worst of the worst, just the worst. Anyway, a lot of them were “released”.

I was sitting in a restaurant one time and overheard a couple of people discuss the fact that the ACLU was trying to represent the detainees. One suggested that the lawyers for the ACLU should be arrested and thrown in jail for defending the enemy. Let me think about that. Back to the 480. It seems like many of them were released because it turns out they were innocent. A simple case of mistaken identity. Actually, a large portion were turned over by bounty hunters, who rounded up anyone not of their faith, or tribe. This bounty included young boys, old men and anyone who may have needed to run an errand that day and ended up being captured by the entrepreneurial bounty hunters.

After they arrived in Guantanamo, or Abu Ghraib, or Bagram, or wherever, how was innocence determined? Perhaps, in some cases a little water-boarding, or stress positions or a variety of tactics that a  neutral observer would call torture. In other words, some of the detainees were tortured in order to prove they were innocent. Oh wait, that was the Salem Witch trials. A couple of years ago, I was called by a reputable polling agency regarding the state of the country. One of the questions was worded somewhat like this: if it turns out that the detainee trials are illegal, should the prisoners be set free? Let me think about that. OK, here’s an idea. Why don’t we have legal trials?

There remain about 200 prisoners in Guantanamo. The debate is over what to do with them and whether they can be tried because…stop me if you’ve heard this before. “They are the worst of the worst”.

Thank You

Ron Brown


A Little Time Out

Rush.

Everything here is spinning so quickly I trouble myself to separate one day from the other. Sharp tones of alleyway echoes, gargling television sets, lovers quarrels, the whoosh whoosh whoosh of four-lane traffic, all swirling to form the noisy mosaic that has become the scrim lining the forefront of my vision. 

  There is so much life here, energies and discontent that descend upon bodies like an infection. There are also lessons, cautionary tales sandwiched between the lives of the creme de la creme and the lonely rattling of an old woman's shopping cart meandering down the street she'll come to rest upon.

         I have spent a great portion of my life craving this existence; variety, opportunity, bustle, beaches, the quick convenience of a next-door McDonalds.... But there are moments when I feel stuck in the rush, a country daisy trapped and flailing in a steel web of competition and crass commercialization. The flow of metropolitan life: ebbing outward in the form of loud colors and billboards, boldly expressive, reaching an arm to invite and to squeeze, yelling at the top of its lungs for all to experience its offerings. 

And at the same time a force that pulls, a magnet that creates a swirling, hysterical suction drawing its people to the center like the beckoning hand of addiction. The jungle of commotion is enough to consume the sole focus of a human, enough to plant the building blocks that form provincial mind frames, ones that invite a kind of apathy toward life's more humble vicinities. 

It is times like these-as I work my way through the wild web-that I find myself missing home. Moments hardly preceding the instant that these turbulent urban forces will surge toward the center, where zillions of electrons of tension and pleasure meet atoms split from a series of combusting stoplights, cocked pistols, polished auto parts, and roadside fruit- each particle accelerating toward the other in a lethal collision course- when I decide to leap backward, take a breath... and everything FREEZES.

   Standing in a still-life of chaos, surrounded by jagged layers of city, I am able to wander, unhindered. I conjure images of cool valley water and boiling tree sap; feel the gentleness of snow. I can remove myself and relish in the memory of a more natural existence; appreciate the stillness resting in deep, unblemished forest stretches, taste the beauty of a silent winter's night spent in solitude. 

      A swarm of frenzy flies and comes to rest in a gentle place, and I am standing in its core, watching as it explores its own depth, as it finds the only certain truth embedded beneath a kingdom built from asphalt: nature. The quiet simplicity in the veins of a drifting maple leaf, the peeling exterior of white birch illuminated by an unadulterated streak of light. It can be a burdensome understanding for the urban cluster, but with little blame on their behalf. I find a lack in the perception of total universe in these dwellings, a pure element lost somewhere between concrete walls and oil wells that line the ocean. When I talk of my home in rural New England, I'm commonly met with the perception that I am ignorant; a child locked away and deprived of a "real world". As Thoreau said, "If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."

      It could not be more true. But I am certain we are in NEED of this true love. The love of others and of earth, a productive species balanced by the vast, unexplicable forces of the planet. I cannot express the humility nature instills in me. The perspective I gain from watching a cycle that comes not from the hands of man but from life itself, breathing colors through limbs and leaves then wiping them out, only to promise a new kind of vibrance in shades of white and, later, green. Hidden in the planet's crevices, a world of nothing but truth, for nature doesn't lie, humans do. It is difficult to come by in this age, but I do wish, with all my being, that when these human tensions rise, when self-interest and pettiness wrap their fingers around the city like an icy trap, that we could take this time out, freeze the commotion. I hope we can come to a place of tranquility, absorb the creation surrounding us, find pieces of God in the drop of a stone.

RUsh rush rush!

Shhhh...peace, have peace, my friend.

I want to draw all to this place, be the pausing finger on the world's frenzy. I want to share the simple pleasure of clear, cold moonlight and rippled valleys, unadulterated by oily, thieving hands. BUt, contrary to my chopped-up babble, I am not an idealist. I, like others around me, am the subject of a racing, impatient society, a society that, if conquered, will allow me to achieve my dreams. A realistic life with obligations that I must fulfill, and only upon their completion can I return to my unpretentious landscape. 

      But for now, I must rush faster than the pace of nature demands, keeping this place planted in my memory so it will one day have strength to manifest, to grow. I will emerge from this place, and conquer the smoggy, scheming light, hopefully bringing it back to a purer place. "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep..."-Robert Frost

The Other Side of the Coin











There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins. ~Josh Billings

June 15, 1987.

My birthday is truly a remarkable day. My mother was going into labor, while my father encouraged my mother to wait. He was engrossed with the final round between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers final playoff game. My father is a die hard Lakers fan and not even the birth of his twins could deter him.

My mother was twenty-three years old and my father was twenty-four years old. She was going to burst any moment, her stomach resembling a swollen watermelon. My father was elated from the basketball game, the intensity of the moment too much for him to handle. The Lakers won 106-93, sealing their victory and fourth championship in the 1980s. My father was on top of the world, while my mother still suffered from labor contractions.

After the game, my father took my mother to the hospital. Although my mother resembled a butterball turkey, she did not know she was going to give birth to twins. When my parents heard the news, my father was on top of the world. He called his mother, telling her she was going to be a grandmother and he was going to be a father of twins.

His mother responded, “I am a twin too. But my sister died when we were born.”

Not only was this news to my father, but also a great shocker. He had never known his mother was a twin, and I am sure, he felt a little uncomfortable with the situation.
Nonetheless, my father was ecstatic about everything. The Lakers just won the championship, his twin daughters were on the way, and in a few days it was going to be Father’s Day. Things could not get any better.

My mother soon went into labor. My twin sister, Jessica, was delivered with a natural birth. Moments later, the sound of the machine beeping erratically filled the room. The doctor had a nurse remove my sister. My heart beat had started to drop quickly. My parents did not have a chance to see Jessica. Everything just happened in a few minutes. There was no time to think over things or second guess. The doctor performed a c-section to get me out of the womb. I was freed from my mother and immediately taken away. My parents did not have a special, personal moment with us.

My sister and I were an unexpected surprise for my parents. Both were delighted to be having a set of twins, but the end results were not what they expected. My parents never had the chance to hold us or carry us. My mother did not see us for two days. The doctors brought us to her to have her start breast feeding us. My parents were finally able to have their moment with us.
I know that we were twice the handful, twice the trouble, and twice the exasperation.
Yet, my parents still loved us, that beautiful and rare unconditional love that is given to another human. I know my parents felt blessed to have twin daughters, unfortunately giving them clichéd similar names, Jennifer and Jessica.
Jennifer Ellspermann

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pop-up Books vs. Pop Stars


The Pussycat Dolls latest hit When I Grow Up warns children with a catchy tune, “Be careful what you wish because you just might get it.” This is the anthem to the youth whose aspirations are to some day become a star. My love for children and job as a nanny for the past few years has made me an eyewitness to one of the most fascinating developments in the world, the impressionable mind of a child.  As a constant observer of what influences children’s development, I have noticed over the past ten years that there have been many changes. This hit single is an ideal example of how the media is infecting youthful minds by deceiving them to believe that, if they want live their teen/ adult lives as a celebrity that they someday could. I currently baby-sit for a few families whose children, I have recently noticed, are overly affected by the media, in particular the effects of Disney. Kids are not satisfied with playing hopscotch or Legos because they now have rock band; and they no longer aspire to be astronauts, lawyers, ballerinas, or mad scientists. They want to be HANNA MONTANA. A show about the life of a teen star and performer that attracted over 5.5 million viewers ages 6- 14 in the third season debut, making her cable’s number one entertainment program watched, according to Nielson Media Research data.

Thanks to Disney, a craze, or maybe more of an obsession, has broken out among children, conditioning some to it even before they can walk. The media, especially Disney, have put so much unnecessary emphasis on the celebrity lifestyle or being a performer, that kids can’t help but desire to some day grow up and be what they see on TV. Not only that, but at their young age, kids are imitating and obsessing over the actions of their beloved stars. These celebrities, at the same time, are being pictured in the tabloids without underwear or half naked and whose promiscuity shouldn’t be admired at any age. This is a problem.

Disney and other companies have chosen to fantasize the haunting high school years, through the very popular HIGH SCHOOL MUSCIAL and other programs on glorified teen life. I know, for some kids, that high school is looked upon as one of the worst times of their lives, because kids in high school are mean and its difficult to fit in. But of course, Disney is making high school hell out to be fantasy land where kids just sing and dance all day, never go to class, and everyone is accepted. This is far from reality, and now naïve 6 and 7 year olds who have become obsessed with being in high school are in for a real disappointment. Also, now that so many celebrities are the age of high school students, kids are getting the idea that they could be famous soon, at their young age.  This mania has been plaguing households with children for the past few years, instead of coloring or playing doctor they would rather perform in front of their friends or take turns pretending to live the unrealistic life of a celebrity. Another problem is that the parents are supporting it. They are out trying to get record deals for the thirteen year olds and buying everything in sight labeled Hanna Montana to make their children into little clones of these celebrities who not only lack decency, but often talent- the supposed reason for their fame.

These children are being deceived and censored to believe that these celebrities are living the ideal life, when we all know how tough life in the spotlight can be thanks to US Weekly. The media, Disney in particular, needs to alter the image they are projecting to kids these days. Disney needs to emphasize the realistic values of society and help kids to gain confidence in themselves by supporting their individuality, which ceases to exist when everyone wants to be the same thing. Are they realizing that these child celebrities, like Hanna Montana, are missing some of the most vital years of their development, from elementary through high school? They should sending the message to children telling them to be themselves, and to do what they love to do, not do what someone else loves to do. Instead, they are giving the impression that all you need in life is microphone, a cute outfit, and a sugar daddy. As a nanny, I have seen the effects that these Disney shows and movies have on kids, who will no longer settle for Playdoh or Barbies, but would rather have a publicist and a hit single. Our society has produced these Hollywood driven offspring because of their desire to be like the icons idolized by the media. When in reality, the need for teachers, doctors, and leaders is rapidly increasing, the last thing our society needs is another teenager who becomes a billion dollar star over-night, for no real reason, and then is accepted by society when they become pregnant at 16. According to the Business Education Forum, in the next decade schools will need 200,000 plus teachers in math and science, is Disney planning on replacing them? 

~Maddy Weese

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Twenty Five Cents

Much of my recent time has been spent putting things in perspective. I find myself apprehensive in regards to the mystical, almost mythical date of graduation that approaches, only exacerbated by my decision to defer graduate school. Indefinitely.

This anxiety about the future only brings me to my next thought – why the hell should I be worried? I don’t have a child. I’m not broke yet. After May 9th I won’t have any commitments besides college loans. And rent. Insurance. Phone. Electric. Cable. Gas. Internet. But everyone deals with that. There are other reasons I shouldn’t be worried.

I’ve held six jobs and never formally applied for any of them. Through family I have opportunities a guaranteed job after college. My education costs more than most people make a few years. More than some see in their entire lives.

And yet it continues. In a world where someone in Indonesia gets paid around $3 a day to make shoes while a broker in New York won’t blink at you unless you’re ready to move a hundred thousand dollars, how can you ask for explanations?

Eight Hundred Billion dollars is going to be pumped into the US economy. Not that I’m an economic brilliance, but $650 million is being spent to help convert America to digital television. $400 million is going to be spent to support and restore national monuments. Now that’s not to say that spending isn’t the answer, but when I read these numbers all that comes to mind are those donation milk cartons from elementary school; 25 cents to feed a child for a week.

The term Capitalist Indulgence is taking on an entirely new meaning.

These are numbers that I can’t even fathom. How does one divvy that amount up? Where do you start when staring at millions of people holding out their hands? And what happens if the money goes to the wrong people? What happens if it doesn’t work? And where did that last Seven Hundred Billion go?

How am I supposed to contribute when I'm trying to keep my own head above water?

Start from the ground up. Keep it simple. Make people smile. Learn. Teach. Keep friends close. Shake up the routine. Stay fresh. Give what you expect to get. Go out of the way to help others.

And somewhere in there make just enough to pay those bills.

best wishes,
joe mahon

Hey, Bitch

As a 21 year-old college student I am often referred to as a “bitch.” Sometimes I am a “hoe,” or a “slut.” In fact I refer to my girlfriends as my “bitches,” “hoes,” and “sluts.” And we don’t usually hang out on random street corners dressed in patent boots and skirts, and fish net tights. I guess we’re showing our appreciation for each other and laughing about it. It is hilarious when I am thought of as a bitch by my best friend, I am always thinking she must love me. So I call her one back in appreciation.

Is this normal?

I was going through some old CDs that were my favorite when I was about 13-years-old. I came across Nelly, a CD I listened to frequently and knew most of the words. My friends and I would play the CD and see how well we knew the lyrics. Well, the lyrics began like this:

See now you could be a lady of a bitch now
Still, your thicky thicky thicky thick
Lookin like a lolli-pop waitin for the lick girl

This must have been where it started. I wish I could remember the first time I heard this term and what my reaction was. Did I think, “oh, I am a bitch?” Or, “are just some girls bitches?” Or did I ask myself, “Is this a bad thing?” The fact is I can’t remember my reaction because this kind of language is so ingrained in our culture, mainly because of the music industry. The seriousness of the subject seems to be overlooked. Do I think twice when I call my girlfriends sluts? Not usually. I laugh and think, she is hilarious and move on with my life.

What if I one day decided to say, “hey girl that I appreciate.” I would probably get an awkward reaction. But, there is no reason why derogatory terms get the point across any better. Maybe it is women saying to rap artists, “Yeah call me a bitch, hoe, and slut see if I care, in fact I will use the term too.” Is it a if you can’t beat em, join em type situation? Is it a woman’s way of being valued by laughing along with the joke? Or are we just manipulated by society and stuck in a hole?

I get the impression that my male friends do not think it is funny when girls say that to each other. Women find the most humor in it. Why do we find humor is calling each other bitches, hoes, and sluts, a term some artists in the music industry use to treat women like objects? Women have been so badly ridiculed we choose to laugh at it. Is this a recipe for change?

Women are the leaders and matriarchs in most families. Most women are the confident and motivating wives and girlfriends. Women are opinionated, strong and independent. Women deserve more appreciation and love than we have ever been given in the past. But, we have to love ourselves first. If we respect ourselves artists in the music industry will realize it is not entertaining to use insulting terms. So I take my oath to never call another friend a bitch, slut, or a hoe. They are my girls!

Krystle Aldana

RFBD Changed My Life

When the neuropsychologist told me that I suffered from a learning disability, I was relieved. Beginning in kindergarten, even though I had expended a lot of time and energy trying to decode words, to memorize words using flashcards, and to do all my assigned work conscientiously, I still struggled to read. Eventually, I avoided, to the extent possible, reading aloud for fear of embarrassment and humiliation. In first grade, I continued to shy away from reading aloud because, on those occasions when I gathered the confidence to do so, my classmates often teased me. At the insistence of my parents, a neuropsychologist tested me at the end of first grade. It was a sense of relief when I learned that I was not “dumb,” but had a diagnosed learning disability called dyslexia.

At that instant, it was easy for me to understand what the neuropsychologist and my parents told me. There was a reason for my slow understanding of the text and it helped me realize that I did not have to listen to the kids in my class call me “stupid” anymore.

Throughout my elementary education, I worked harder than my peers to complete reading assignments, but my tenaciousness allowed me to conquer any lingering self-doubt that I harbored. As I entered high school, I vowed not just to succeed, but also to excel. I was introduced to the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, in the ninth grade. The Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic is a “national nonprofit, volunteer organization, has been the leading accessible audio book library for students with disabilities such as visual impairment or dyslexia that make reading standard print difficult or impossible for the last 60 years.” With the assistance of these books on CD, I mastered my freshman college preparatory classes. I was very grateful to the resources I was offered through Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic knowing that my brother had succeeded and flourished with the use of these books on CD as well. When my freshman English teacher suggested that I enroll in an honors English class the following year, I accepted the challenge. I felt that I had accomplished a level of personal growth over the years and that I was being finally recognized for all my hard work. Nonetheless, I could not help but reflect upon all those years that I had struggled so hard to “stay afloat” in a regular English curriculum. Now I was poised to move into a reading-intensive honors program. After dominating the honor English classes I later proceeded to take Advance Placement courses that required many reading assignments. As I read the novels or textbooks, I was able to follow along easily with the CDs. The CDs helped me stay on track by having it read aloud orally. My understanding of the text improved and these books on CD really helped me overcome my fear of reading.

With my newly found confidence, I have learned to love to read. After realizing that I could overcome my struggles by expending extra effort, I understood that I could truly excel in this area. Now that I am enrolled at Loyola Marymount University as an English major, I look back on those days of first grade and thank my parents, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic for all that they did for me, because I most likely would not be able to have come this far with out them. I was able to accept the fact that I needed other people to assist me in my learning. I was not going to be able to do so on my own; therefore, allowing others to help me through different teaching techniques, I have learned to master my learning disability and overcome it.

- Monica Augustyn

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Act of Hate or God

I grew up in a fairly unreligious family. I have been to Christian church; heard the sermons and attended Sunday school. But, I believe in karma, something beyond, something higher. Something undiscovered.

Where does one draw the line between God and reality?

I recently engaged myself in a book by Jon Krakauer called, Under the Banner of Heaven. He profoundly explores the religion of Mormonism. Let me say, I am not opposed to beliefs that differ from my own. However, this particular case makes me question the positive and negative affects of religion.

On July 24th, 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty viciously killed their innocent baby niece, Erica, and sister-in-law, Brenda. Krauker discusses Brenda’s independent personality and hopes for her husband to have been, as well. However, they had been involved in the Mormon Church. She separated herself and husband from the deeply enthralled brothers who claimed they were hearing revelations from God. This book interested me and made me ask myself, are there people who use religion as an excuse? Ron and Dan based these murders on revelations they heard from God. It was an “act” God told them to do.

Ron Lafferty is quoted in the book saying, “It was like someone had taken me by the hand that day and led me comfortably through everything that happened. Ron had received a revelation from God that these lives were to be taken. I was the one who was supposed to do it. And if God wants something to be done, it will be done. You don’t want to offend Him by refusing to do His work.”

Like most religions, Mormons highly value family. How can Ron and Dan have convinced themselves that God would want them to kill their brother’s wife and baby daughter. Wouldn’t a traditional Mormon fight to keep their family intact? How could they cause their brother, Allen, so much agony?

I could not help, but add this except from the book. Jon Krakauer profoundly and provokingly writes:

Until that rapturous moment, however, when ‘the moon will shine from noon until nine” and Dan can shout from the rooftops that Christ has returned, he bides his time within the grim chambers of the prison’s maximum-security unit, where he has thus far spent half of his adult life. But what if the moon doesn’t shine from noon until nine? What if killing Brenda and Erica Lafferty wasn’t actually part of God’s plan but merely a crime of such staggering cruelty that it is beyond forgiveness? What if, in short, Dan got it all wrong? Has it occurred to him that he may in fact have a great deal in common with another fundamentalist of fanatical conviction, Osama bin Laden?

It is so hard to stick to my belief in accepting other religions and faiths when Ron and Dan used Mormonism as a scapegoat, a reason, a tactic. On some level it worked. It made the judge question the power of God. And, thus, Krauker titled his book Under the Banner of Heaven; saying we are under heaven, separated, we only can depend on God as much as we lead ourselves to believe.

I cannot make the argument that Christianity does not affect some in a negative way. But, where does one draw the line? When is a crime just a crime?

Krystle Aldana

The Tragic Reality of Abuse


About a week ago, shocking news broke, shattering the image that many people had of one of America’s leading men. Reports that Chris Brown had turned himself on the charge of domestic abuse and criminal threats spread like wildfire. Chris Brown turned himself in at 6:30 pm Sunday Night of Feb. 8th. At about the same time, people tuned into to America’s biggest music event were shocked when the announcer said that Rihanna would not be in attendance for her performance that night. This led viewers to believe that Rihanna, Chris Brown’s girlfriend, was the alleged victim of his “abuse”. Within about two hours there were over 3,000 various articles published about the event and about Chris Brown.

This news stunned America because Chris Brown’s image centers on being the nice and funny guy. After all, he is only nineteen years old. He is one of the few singers and performers in that genre of music that parents were okay with. What will this do for his career? After his performance at the VMA’s in 2008, people deemed him the next “potential Michael Jackson”. His package of a great voice and outstanding dance moves may not be enough to save his reputation after an incident like this.
The American Bar Association and the Commission of Domestic Abuse says that “Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States”. The statistic of 1.3 million women is an enormous number and it is scary that this is in fact true. Domestic Abuse is a problem in our country that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately abuse within couples happens every day and because of Chris Brown and Rihanna’s fame, their case is going to receive an enormous amount of press.

Another tragic detail in the story is the fact that Chris Brown had opened up about the history of violence in his family early in 2007. His mother was a victim of domestic abuse and for someone to witness such a horrible thing and to then repeat it is horrible. Esta Soler, president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund says that “If you grow up with violence, you learn that behavior”. Domestic abuse is a cycle and it is something that is often times repeated. Another factor common to most abuse cases is that Chris Brown and Rihanna fall into the common age group for domestic abuse. Although abuse is common in couples over the age of 30, the most common age for the first instance of abuse is between the ages of 20 and 24. Chris Brown is 19 and Rihanna is 20, placing them in the range where signs of an abusive relationship would first show.

The Commission of Domestic Abuse states that “African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24.” Overnight, Chris Brown fell from one of America’s most famous and talented performers to a statistic for domestic abuse. He is in the appropriate age range; he grew up amongst domestic abuse only to repeat the cycle on the woman he loved. It is still unclear what happened and being a huge fan of his I must admit that to hear this is very disappointing.

He is already suffering the tragic results of his actions. Wrigley Gum announced the suspension of his advertisement for their gum, dancing and singing to his major hit “Forever”. He also had to withdraw from the NBA all star weekend on Feb. 14th. Chris Brown had the potential for greatness and something like this could ruin him. Domestic Abuse is something that doesn’t fall into the category of a “slip up”. This is a really big deal and many people may never look at him the same. He will be going to court on March 5th, and fans along with the rest of the world can only sit by and wait to hear how this unfolds. Abuse happens in couples both famous and not and it is something that needs to be prevented. For more information on abuse and what to look for visit the American Bar Associations website: http://www.abanet.org/domviol/statistics.html.

Image provided by http://www.yourcelebritystuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/chris-brown_rihanna-kiss.jpg

E. O’Neil

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Open Invitation Salon


When in Paris, come to dinner at Jim Haynes'--all are welcome, every Sunday of every week. For the past thirty years, this cosmopolite art ambassador has played host to thousands, with this sole purpose: to introduce people to people.

All he asks is the customary répondez s'il vous plaît, so as to assign your name to his exceptional memory, as he prefers effortless introductions. At a typical Sunday salon 50-60 individuals will feast and make merriment in Jim’s old sculpture studio. In summer, perhaps double that number will spill out into the garden. Friends cook by committee: this week a painter from Oslo, next, a philosophy student from Lisbon. Friendships are formed, marriages ignited, and babies born into the world because Jim Haynes simply believes we should know one another.

Bessie A. Stanley was right in her perception that success in life is the laughter, love, and enjoyment embodied in the person “who has filled their niche and accomplished their task; who has left the world better than they found it.”

The Southern U.S. may have impressed upon Jim Haynes its rich hospitality, and disarming drawl—its tell tale signs of place--but his roots, to be clear, cover the entire earth. “Like Tom Paine,” he says, “I am a world citizen. After all, all our lives are connected.”

To the nomadically inclined soon-to-be college graduate, this idea, coming from this man, looks as savory as Turkish delight. The “roaring” 20’s described in Hemingway’s "A Moveable Feast" seem to me, at 23, more like yelping—this age is too uncertain for such puffed up pride. Hemingway was certainly as homely an expatriate in Paris as Haynes is today, yet he remained an American there. Then, to be sure, at that time this country was a savior abroad. I have proudly proclaimed myself an “American” for the past decade—first and foremost. In sharing the collective values that go along with this stripe, I also recognize that I have complied these past years in an exclusionary form of humanism. If I am to invite, unconditionally, all people to my personal Sunday salon, how can I do so and still define myself by the Other that I am not?

An exponent to world citizenship, and therefore, a proponent of nation-building, might say that such a flight from nationalism, such a redefinition of what I recognize my “borders” to be (that is, to not recognize borders at all), is akin to a flight from responsibility--not taking the bad with the good. The literary critic Clive James makes this charge of Jorge Louis Borges, who adopted “the whole world as [his] country," in James' opinion, merely to deflect his personal compliance with the purges of the Argentine junta. Eratosthenes the Stoic, perhaps the world’s first world citizen, called every good man his fellow countryman. Yet, if we are to be true stewards of the world, if we are to accept the responsibility of our vast inter-connectivity, then we must accept the good with the bad. Like Jim Haynes, we must be unconditional in our tolerance, and burst open our French doors to all without exemption. Maybe it starts with the simple act of memorizing an exotic sounding name.

- Joseph Picha

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Heart Half Full or Half Empty?


Brush your teeth before you go to bed. Say “please” and “thank you.” Do your laundry.

From the time that we take our wobbly first steps, we are told what to do—first by our parents and then later by our friends. These messages are subtle—not always spoken—and often conveyed by just a simple look. But when the basics of personal hygiene have been achieved and most people will agree that you have been socialized correctly, our peers seem to turn their attention to that final frontier: love.
As soon as relationships graduate from the “early high school years” and start to become more serious, people (and I mean outsiders looking in) begin to be much more critical of the convention itself. Everyone has an opinion or a comment about your relationship or lack thereof—whether they tell you nor not. There seems to have been volumes upon volumes of dating dos and don’ts compiled in the minds of men and women for centuries, and now passed down to me, my friends, and everyone else 20-40 years old.

I am exhausted of buying into all the things I’ve heard: You shouldn’t date too young. You should have a boyfriend in high school. You have to be single in order to “find yourself”. You shouldn’t settle. You should wait at least six months after a break up before finding a new relationship. You should “enjoy” as many people as possible while you’re young. And so on…
It’s too confusing and it ignores the most important part of a relationship: what you want. Let’s not forget to mention that throwing these rules out the door would save the world truckloads of miscommunications when it comes to dating. If you doubt this, go buy a ticket for He’s Just Not that Into You and think of me when the main character is trapped in the bathroom calling her friend for dating advice. Sometimes I think honesty is underestimated.

Never are these obligations and expectations more apparent than during Valentine’s Day. If you don’t have a valentine you feel like you should; if you do, you feel like you’re missing out on a fun girls’ night. Whatever your situation might be, enjoy it because as soon as you get into a relationship you are going to wonder about being single again and vice versa. The grass is always greener on the other side.

For whatever reasons, I have managed to find myself in relationships for the last four years. But never once have I actually felt that that is what I am “supposed” to be doing as a “wild” college student. And who is it that makes me feel that way? …because these relationships have been fun and nurturing for me—and learning experiences in the very least. Listening to what everyone else has to say forced me to ask the question: who am I really living for? I consciously had to stop caring about what other people thought and now I feel happier because of it.

We all need to stop playing into these messages on how to love, how to be in a relationship, and how to be out of one. There is no right or wrong way to live life. If what you are doing puts a smile on your face and a giggle in your throat, you are probably doing something right.

So for this Valentine’s Day, whether you are cuddling up to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe just a bottle of wine and a movie, be content. My yoga instructor has one favorite saying for when you cannot seem to reach your toes like everyone else: “You are here and that’s where you are.” It’s so simple, yet so true.

Laura Woods