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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can You Validate My Truth?

In the search for the truth, is it more common to look for answers or to confirm what we already know? I was at a symposium recently and one of the scholars made an interesting point. He was quoting someone else and I will paraphrase him. He said “be careful what questions you ask, because your questions have their own agenda”. In my words, that means that we tend to only ask questions based on the likely answer. This is not a search for truth, but rather a validation of existing knowledge.
The law is a great example of this type of truth. A good lawyer will only ask a question that he already knows the answer to. Note the OJ trial. What is one of the incidents that allowed the jury to find him not guilty? The glove. It didn’t quite fit. The late great lawyer for the defense, Johnnie Cochran, made the slogan 'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit' and acquit they did. The question wasn’t whether OJ was guilty, or had actually killed anyone. It was whether the glove fit. The prosecution is famous for bungling this piece of evidence because they broke the rule. They didn’t actually know if the glove would fit.
Because of this creed in the legal spheres, we get strange acquittals and shocking convictions. Sometimes the convictions are overturned years later, often because someone finally asks a question that was never asked before. There is an actual investigation about what happened. Not what the prosecution, or defense would like to have happened, but what actually happened. Scientists can be good at exhaustive searches for the truth because the verdict is never in. For all I know, one day someone will overturn the law of gravity. The scientific community is subject to peer review, which is why no one has successfully invented and patented a perpetual motion machine.
Television has been about fiction and fantasy and ideal situations like the Cosby’s and the Harriet’s. I like a show that’s not too deep and is going to wrap up nicely in about 55 minutes. I don’t need to see the truth because I live it every day. Or do I? Maybe I’m actually a bit deluded. Ignorantly so. Here’s another paraphrase: a man wakes up and tells everyone that he had a dream that he was now the leader of a million people. His friend tells him “come back when a million people have a dream that you’re their leader”. In other words, I can go through life, wrecking havoc on the environment and my fellow human passengers on this planet, all the time thinking that I can do no wrong. I can get a judge, jury and lawyer to agree. The truth however may not be so kind. If I look more closely, I may see that I can do better. People are suffering, sometimes because of me and things won’t get better until I get a little smarter and start looking for truth, rather than validation. I need a friend to say "Hey! You're dreaming."

Thank You
Ron Brown

  God is everywhere, they say.
He is your life, your breath, your bread, your death.
But I’ve been taught the contrary.  
My house: an atheist’s dwelling. My parents: baptized unbelievers.
I: an un-baptized believer, of sorts.
America: a most religious nation.
My grandparents: god-fearing folk.
My experience with religion:  You shall burn in a lake of fire.
My experience with God: pleasant, mutual, understanding.
I don’t know where to go. My lessons are disconcerting. My faith is a mystery.
I have gone to mass, witnessed precious ceremony, understood God’s house as a shelter intrinsically good.  See, mom? Not a hint of that fierceness you mentioned. See, dad? Welcomed with warmth.
See grandma and grandpa? I am being good. Am I one of you, now? Am I saved?
Sometimes I want to save YOU. Do you expect me to embrace the fire with which you always threaten me? To pray to a ruthless authority? Do you want me to carry myself through the days, parading my exclusivity and shunning others?
Mom, did you hope to cultivate a cynical woman? Smiling as I spit on the sacred, becoming a hollow house devoid of spirit, devoid of faith?
Grandpa, had I followed your example, would I be the perfect Christian? Laughing when you say “Jew” and crying for the death of a saint? Preaching acceptance of all yet saying, "Come 'ere, boy", allowing sourness to drip from my lips in words like "faggot"?
Dad, do you laugh at me? Are you ashamed to think that I sink my knees to the floor, eyes searching the sky for divinity? In "My god, why have you forsaken me" moments?
I am torn between two worlds, and neither an ideal version of what they are meant to be. In the hearts of my grandparents, organized religion has hardly instilled the acceptance it should. Their ignorant attitude and lack of tolerance, then, has for my parents generated a disdain for higher power, a disdain imposed on me.
But I am different.
I find no perfection in the religious people I've known, and none in non-believers. Yet I do not take these to be the sole representative of either world. I am a product of both, and perhaps the founder of a hybrid belief, as many are.
America breeds this kind of shake-up, this invisible dividing line. And there is no pure truth because there's no precise fact; or maybe there ARE existing facts that are in need of dispute, truths hidden in their cracks. Either way, we fight against the trap of choosing sides. If your faith is certain, fantastic. But I am uncertain and will possibly remain so for the rest of my life, so don't pull me either way. Solid spirituality and even solid lacking of it are beautiful concepts alone, for they take us beyond our given surroundings. I haven't more to say other than this is an issue through which many struggle, and one having the power of great importance. And don't shun unbaptized babies!
-Ali May

Keeping up with Television


Growing up I remember watching Friends, Seinfeld, and Home Improvement during primetime with my family. I miss the arbitrary humor in social situations that provided entertainment and escapism. Nowadays escapism can be defined much differently; it has become a guilty pleasure next to chocolate bars and overspending.
Every time I flip through the channels I wonder how some of these shows make so much money and who is their audience. Since reality TV has become a national obsession I started realizing most the people around me are watching shows they know are “stupid.” I also realized I have divulged in this phenomenon. In my defense how can one avoid it, it is EVERYWHERE! What angers me the most is the strong audience appeal who have made characters or “real life” people in shows like The Hills and Keeping Up with the Kardashians television stars. It seems most audience members have accepted most reality TV shows are in fact SCRIPTED. A majority of the public makes these people feel good about themselves by putting them in the lime light for WHAT? ACTING? Stars like Kim Kardashian and Lauren Conrad prance around in their designer clothing which was probably given to them attending junkets and events where they are paid thousands of dollars to show there face for a couple hours.
We have familiarized the art of acting into this whole new world where the true art is no longer appreciated. By putting these “stars” into the lime light real actors and actresses who moved to Hollywood with an unrealistic dream to be famous are less special. They are the ones to proved to the world they deserve to be in magazines and on talk shows. Lauren Conrad began on a reality TV show called, Laguna Beach. She wasn’t the star, but she became the star on a spin off called The Hills. Both shows are simple; in fact soap operas are more entertaining. The main characters “hook up” with each other while betraying their friends and talking badly about one another. It is common to find guilty pleasure in feeling better about yourself. I am confused, do people feel the same way about Lauren Conrad as they do Jennifer Anniston? Lauren Conrad even presented awards at the Emmys, Teen Choice Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. What qualified her to do that? Does Lauren Conrad have a real fan base or is the enjoyment of watching reality TV in that it is “stupid?” Are they really stars?
Keeping up with the Kardashians is about mom Kris Kardashians who was married to Robert Kardashian a famous attorney known for defending O.J. Simpson. She is now married to Bruce Jenner who was an Olympic Champion. The show focuses on Kris’s three daughters who she had with Robert Kardashian. It is about silly family conflicts, being in the lime light, and the daughters being spoiled. The poor husband Bruce Jenner is the most level headed person on the show, however he hardly has a say.
Since their reality TV show the Kardashians are everywhere. Especially Kim Kardashian who is now considered a model, I guess, featuring in magazines and on TV shows next to “real stars.” What her talent is, besides looking pretty, I don’t know. Kris Kardashian has qualified to be a gossip correspondent, not a seemingly high qualified position, but it shows people care what she thinks about gossip and “real” movie stars.
Now I am wondering are reality TV shows and their stars permanent? Maybe it is a fade and the real talent will rain over the TV channels like in the good old days.

Krystle Aldana

Photo credit: el-angel-exterminador.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not A Piece of Cake



Take a look at the women to the left…what words come to mind when you see this image? Does strong, sophisticated, bold, professional, and beautiful come to mind? This is a woman who succeeded in turning her life around; a complete 360, to the point where she now practices law and delivers motivational speeches about her shocking past. Meet Ms.Cupcake Brown.

Imagine this: You’re 11 years old. Your mother dies from a horrific seizure, leaving you with a man you have always known to be your father. Your biological father shows up for the first time in your life only to reap the monetary benefits of the situation. The snake of a man gets full custody, because they don’t give a damn if he was ever around; DNA always prevails. The dead-beat sperm donor snatches you from a happy home and dumps you into foster care where you are beaten by your foster mother and raped by her nephew. All this is happening a couple weeks after your mother’s death. You run away. You walk the streets. You sell your body for a couple of 20’s. Welcome to the early life of Ms. Cupcake Brown.

In her new memoir, “Piece of Cake, “ Brown tells the story of how she hitchhiked up and down the coast of California, joined a gang at 14, was shot at gunpoint at 15, and at 17, finally found her way back to her stepfather. This woman has gone to hell and back, but she did not let those trials and tribulations be the death of her. She has become well known on the talk-show circuit; appearing on The Today’s Show, Oprah Winfrey, and just yesterday I saw her on the Tyra Banks Show. Such a devastating story she told; a baby being thrown into the sex industry, and men who are aware of her age still getting aroused. I was sickened when Brown shared to the audience that when she first ran away, a prostitute found her and told her “No one gives a fuck about you, so you better charge them for what they’re taking from you.” She then walked Brown to her corner, and a man pulled up and they negotiated how much he was going to have to pay for Cupcake, telling him she was 10 when she was really 11, and upping the price as if the young ones are the “filet mignon” of the streets.

But through all this, Brown did turn her life around. After she got off the streets, she spent the next 11 ½ years in college and then law school, graduating in the top 10% of her class. She then took the Bar and passed the first time—which only 50% are able to do. She is now a fifth year associate at one of the nation’s top law firms.

“You can only play the cards you’ve been dealt.” So many would quit if they were dealt Brown’s hand. So many would quit this game of life if they were plucked from their storybook lives and thrown into hers. But look what she did; she turned that bad hand into a Royal Flush. If this isn’t an inspirational story, then I don’t know what is.

Jennifer Vassel

If you would like to read an excerpt from Brown’s Memoir, “A Piece of Cake,” Click Here

Photo Credit: New York Times

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Octo-Mom Please Go Away


A journalist is supposed to be a “truth-teller”. We report. We have to be fair and accurate. Just the facts ma’am. But I’m becoming more and more skeptical.

Not because I don’t think journalists tell the truth. I believe they do, I’m just bothered with what they tell the truth about. Journalists are supposed to find the news, but now they’re just making news. They’re not finding the monsters. Journalists are creating them.

Take Octo-Mom, for example. Bless your heart if you don’t know who she is and I apologize if you do, because I know we’re all getting sick and tired of her. You can’t turn on the news without seeing a news story about her.

She lost her home. She’s getting a new home. Her mother disapproves of her. Her mother’s helping her. She needs money. But wait, she’s not asking for any. She’s not a charity case. But you can donate (if you want to) on her website. She’s not asking for it. But it’s there anyway. Because… I mean, she’s got 8 kids. That’s why she’s the Octo-Mom.

No. She’s got 14 kids (which by the way, I feel bad for the kids who aren't part of the octuplet set. They're sort of an afterthought, no one seems to really care about them. Just about the fact that she gave birth to 8 kids). She just gave birth to octuplets… therefore Octo-Mom. Which is a horrible nickname. It just brings up horrifying images, many that have probably graced a Japanese-Horror film. And it’s dehumanizing, giving her a nickname and not even using her real name: Nadya Suleman. It’s a fact that a good majority of the people who have heard of Octo-Mom don’t know her real name.

So here’s my question: why is this important. I get that yes, she’s the first to have a healthy set of octuplets, so far. But she wasn’t the first to give birth to octuplets, that belongs to Nkem Chukwu from Texas in 1998. But why is it important to know everything about her life? This is supposed to be the news, not Nadya Suleman’s twitter account.

Why don’t you tell me about what’s going on in the world? You know, the important things like, the international state of affairs, human trafficking, breast cancer awareness? Or, hey, if there’s nothing going on then how about you update me on how the economy’s doing or what the weather’s going to be like this weekend instead of stalking Suleman outside of her new home and waiting til she comes home with her octuplets. I’ve never been more disgusted with the local news than when I watched Fox do a live newscast on Suleman and the octuplets’ homecoming, where a crowd of what looked like over 100 people waited for her. As her black SUV pulled in, the paparazzi pounced and chased after it, hundreds of camera flashes going off. One guy even held on the side of the SUV and went along for the ride. They even followed her into her garage and when the door closed, people stuck their phones in the small opening at the top to take pictures.

That’s got to be illegal somewhere, because that’s not right. I don’t care if all this publicity is going to make her money so she can raise her kids. And all those flashes, they can’t be good for the babies’ eyes. I'm sure I sound elitist when I say, she's not a celebrity, so why are we giving her so much attention? But she's becoming a celebrity because of the attention. It sounds mean, but it's not like she's Ghandi.

She didn't make a movie. She didn't cure cancer. She just a had a lot of kids. And personally, I don't think that's enough to make a big deal about her. Because that's all this celebrity craze is: making a big deal. Mostly out of nothing. Which really says a lot about American culture: we're all just a bunch of instigators and gossips. Which personally, doesn't make us look good.

And if we have to talk about her, why aren’t we asking the right questions? Like, if she and her family can’t support 6 kids, let alone 14 kids, why isn’t the state intervening and taking all of her kids away? Where is the money coming from? Or how about some debate on the ethical issues of IVF? And again, why is this important? Why are we making this important?

I know it defeats the purpose by posting a blog about Suleman, but enough is enough. I want my news back. I want just the facts. None of the drama.

Issa Morada

Photo Credit: The Huffington Post

Print Media: Now There's a Laugh


I’m afraid, not of the dark, but of the industry I desire getting a job in. One of the companies I recently applied to is set to lay off around 150 employees – Conde Nast publications, at your service. I wonder if they will say, “you just got served” to these people. I hope so. That would be funny, wouldn’t it?

Let’s take a look at all the factors right now that are going to make it nearly impossible for me to get a job within the next couple of months.

Number one: “The Great Recession,” as some people call it, has been doing some serious damage to the job market all the way around. Surely, this is no help. Whenever we are putting the words “great” and “recession” together, expectations should be pretty low – like the stock market.

Why aren’t you laughing?

Number two: The competitive atmosphere of journalism has long been a reality. Some people have fantasies that are all too weird and sexual to describe here. Meanwhile, I have fantasies about being a journalist, with my hat, suit, pad of paper and cigarette bobbing up and down in my mouth, while I ask, “So Mr. President, what’s all of this news about you having an affair with Marilyn Monroe?”

Facts, truth, journalism: When you say it like that, maybe with big, bold capital letters (for added effect), it sounds like a commercial. I love facts, truth and journalism; they are interwoven. The commercial should go, outside of fantasy world, of course: Facts, truth, journalism, WE ADMIRE YOUR STUPID EFFORT THAT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT CALL “TRYING.”

That commercial is annoying.

Number three: Did I mention I like newspapers and magazines? I love picking up both and reading them. Not at the same time of course, then I'd be a genius, and probably in no need of a job. But, I feel smart when I read – and that is always neat. Oh, so in case you haven’t noticed, newspapers and magazines are referred to as print media, and print media is, well, getting stamped out of existence. Aren’t they sending out magazines and newspapers with “FAILING” stamped all over them? Is that tomorrow?

I also love the internet. Yahoo.com: my homepage away from home. I can get sports when I want to feel manly, gossip when I want to feel stupid and news when I’m feeling – hey, wait a second, I get news when I want to feel smart – on the internet. As it turns out, it seems that I also hate the internet, the killer of my beloved print media. Periodico, Periodico, wherefore art thou Periodico?

Well, between numbers one, two and three, it’s going to be a fantastic experience trying to get a job in print media over the next couple of months. I think if I’m in a conversation where someone tells me they want to be a journalist, I’ll just break both of their hands, in 19 places, on the spot. I’ll call it Darwinism.

Or, I’ll continue to write blogs for which I earn no money, hoping that someone finally recognizes how amazing, or as Mary Poppins would say, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” my writing is.

Ha, fricking, Ha.

-Alex Tandy

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Student Leadership


Leadership is action, not position. -Donald. H. McGannon

If I was asked the following question: As an undergraduate, what do you feel is lacking in the education system?

My response would be: Student Leadership.

In my experience as an undergraduate, I feel that most people who take on leadership positions tend to be two types of people.

The ideal type is, in fact, a LEADER. They coordinate events, communicate with other organizations on campus, and maintain membership for their club/organization. They make their presence known on campus. They make an impact on their community.

Students who have the ability to balance out their school work, leadership roles on campus, and personal/social life are admirable people.

Student Leadership is what makes the Mission Statement of LMU come alive:

The encouragement of learning
The education of the whole person
The service of faith and the promotion of justice

The beauty behind LMU is what their Mission Statement strives to achieve. Student Leaders make the Statement a living, breathing entity within the LMU community and outside community.

Unfortunately, there are still those second types of people in leadership positions that are not leaders, but rather people of POSITIONS. It is always a shame when students of position rather than leaders lead student organizations. The organization experiences a disservice and the fellow community is left unaware of the club/organization. What is the point of having an organization, etc. if not to do be ACTIVE or ALIVE in the community? Each group has a goal, a purpose, a mission. There is always disappointment when groups fail to uphold their philanthropy. It damages the successes of their past and affects the prosperity of their future. Although each student is capable of making their own decisions when they become a leader, the previous leader in their position does play an influence on the manner they fulfill the position.

As the saying goes, Lead by example.

I feel that every organization, club, service group, Greek life, ALL of it is extremely important. It does not matter where leadership comes from, whether from an individual dream or a collective philanthropy. I feel that not enough groups on campus are known by most, if not all, departments and staff on campus. It is always disappointing when talking about a student group and people never knew that the club even existed!

Leadership comes in different manners. It does not necessarily mean you need to be a President of an organization or club. A Leader is someone who will pursue her/his passions and make a difference in that field of interest. A Leader is someone who will form/expand a group to ACTIVELY DO SOMETHING!

Whether it is cultural, ethical, educational, academic, religious, spiritual, physical, etc. it is all a form of leadership for it creates an awareness and impacts the lives of others.

I do feel that there are true LEADERS here at LMU. Those individuals put on events with genuine and passionate pursuit of their goals and interests.

I would like to acknowledge that there are students who are aware that there is a leader out there in every interest here at LMU.

I would just like to see those other people who are in positions, not leaders, to step up their game.

Jennifer Ellspermann

Photo Credit: Student Leadership

Twitch and Shout


Twitching, cussing, screaming- the media has made it comic affair. Some friends have laughed, "I wish I had tourette's syndrome!" as if it were a humorous gift from God, a convenient excuse to act out. Usually I'll smile meekly, knowing they derived this fantasy from popular crap-comedies, but they don't know the half of it.

My cousin, Ryan, has Tourette's. Tourette syndrome (TS) can be defined as "a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics." But contrary to the image Hollywood has cast, most Tourette's kids don't display their symptoms in an obvious and disruptive manner. Most often their tics will peak at obsessive rituals, wincing, and grimacing. In truth only a very rare few (10 to 15%) will experience severe verbal and motor tics, the kinds that provoke and humiliate. Ryan is one of these few.
If you think screaming a profanity or two has been the bulk of his worries, forget it. For Ryan, keeping his mouth shut and his body relaxed has been a full-time job since the age of four- no time-outs. Tourette's is usually combined with OCD, so quite often Ryan's "tics" are reactions to obsessive thoughts from which he can't escape, leading to a mysterious strand of repetitive patterns combined with screams of angst that come off as eerie and demon-like.
It's been an odd thing to comprehend. My family has known of his disorder for nearly twenty years, and I can't deny that much of the time his antics have been amusing. How else is one supposed to react as a boy runs in circles, licking a Spice Girls poster and snorting? It's awkward and shocking, and it usually prompts a giggle. For the general public, his behavior has demanded...an adjustment, to be sure. As we cut to the front of Disneyland ride lines (thanks to his disability pass), peeved mothers never fail to bring attention to Ryan's middle finger, extended and flipping off the crowd we've just cut. On another level, peers tended to find his screaming and outbursts especially freaky, making Ryan the sole target of their middle school cruelty. Being mean to Ryan was easy; HE was never nice, never sociable, never patient. HE never engaged, made lives easier or failed to rat us out. Now as adults we understand what our parents kept insisting: the disease is exhausting; the disease destroys any sense. But as children, understanding these complexities can be impossible.

The other day I visited him in Sacramento. Now a 23-year-old employed by a casino, he is generally doing well. Through years of treatments and simply growing older Ryan is more able to control his overt tics- a great success. But life as an adult hasn't been easy. At a time when religion became his 'obsession', for example, Ryan was hired as an intern at a Christian radio station. The thrill of this new job led him to internet message one of the station bigwigs (as he was previously instructed), his excitement reaching such a level that expletives worked their way between his words-in typing. Shortly after, the station phoned to say that a "message from God" had advised them to fire the disabled boy, a piece of news causing him to lose all hope ("If God rejects me, who else do I have?"). It's been a tough run. As he cried during our visit, he spoke of his self-loathing, his lack of companionship. I hugged him close, becoming more aware of my own raw gut pain, this sensation of sympathy and compassion for a suffering human. As he blubbered I couldn't, however, help but notice that, despite his past learning frustrations, Ryan has become incredibly articulate and insightful- both of his condition and that of humans. For someone who feels so defeated, I thought, he's pretty damned strong. While he lamented over his "craziness", I had to acknowledge that he's really no crazier than most people I encounter on a day-to-day basis and, even if he is, he's certainly more interesting.

Why are we so inclined to ostracize the 'disabled'? Could we not think of these 'disorders'- autism, tourettes, whatever- simply as different forms of functioning? New levels of understanding? I don't know. Either way, we need to check our awareness. My cousin is a role model, but his disorder is a stigma. How silly. As we sat there on an evening porch, hugging and crying, I let him know. I even twitched and cussed a little to reassure him of my example, making his freckled face break to a smile. I guess we're getting somewhere. :)

Alison May
Photo compliments of artist "Phosu"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Climbing


We all boarded the plane, filled with excitement and anticipation. Going to a place we had been before, but aware this would be our last time as college students. We had all been friends for four years and we vowed to not talk about school, jobs, graduation, or our futures for the duration of our stay. It was one week of nonstop fun and carelessness. Everyday the sun kissed our bronze skin while we sipped on margaritas.
It is our first week back from Spring Break, most of us are sick and struggling to fit back into the real world. Finishing our final year of college has caused us to contemplate what we will do after graduation. Some of us have had future plans that we are reevaluating. Others have a direction, but not a clear one. Some are staying in school and others have no idea. It seems this is a time when we can do anything, move anywhere, taking advantage of all the opportunities that could come our way, but pressures from our parents and ourselves are making this time in our lives one of the scariest.
Those five days in Cabo were like freshman year again when all that mattered were the things in front of us. Our education, but also the relationships we would build for the next four years. And there we were all together struggling to not think about this summer when most of us will part. I never thought this time would be so difficult. I have always taught myself to create goals and follow them. Now, I am revaluating everything and exploring every possibility. That scares me, the unknown.
On May 9th, 2009 I will live in the moment like I did in Cabo. I will celebrate the occasion with excitement, but after, fear will overcome me as I decide whether to search jobs, maybe plan a trip, stay in school or move. We have the ability to choose our own direction. Most would think “wow they are so lucky to have so many options,” and we are, but how do we choose?
Loyola Marymount University has taught most students that being happy is the most important thing. While a lot of people may make a lot of money, they may not love their job. Life is about independence and comfort. I have friends from other schools who told me about the stresses to get certain high paid jobs in order to climb the corporate ladder. They have specific goals revolving around making money to be successful. LMU forces students to touch on different areas to find where we best fit to live a happy life.
I am so grateful for the impression LMU has made on my outlook on reality when I leave. Many see LMU as a bubble where its residents are living in an artificial environment protecting them from life in the real world. However, LMU is preparing its students by shielding them from the cruelties of society by creating a place where they give you the tools necessary to live the life you want and to be happy not matter what you are doing. No matter how scared I am for the future, LMU has taught me to do what I love and love what I do, and that provides comfort.

Krystle Aldana

Photo credit: Non-Scientific Adventures

No Longer a Game


Is it just me, or has there been the level of accountability within the US risen drastically in the past few months? I know we are going through rough times and all that, but I can’t remember the last time a comedy talk show host has challenged an entire network’s credibility and agenda.

And that’s just the tip. It’s almost as though the floodgates have been opened in many areas. People are coming out with the truth. People are showing a little skepticism. This all seems quite novel to me after the age of Bush – an era of excuses and fast talking that seems to be rapidly dissipating.

Maddoff was caught. The general consensus, without hesitation, seems to be ‘let him burn.’

And he should.

The House of Representatives took less than a week to respond to the ludicrous bonus structure that was going to pay Executives of Fannie Mae and AIG over $165 million. Now they will only see ten percent of that.

And it only continues; more examples of this accountability spill over from our new, shiny administration. Tom Daschle was vehemently removed after revealing his post congressional, under the table lobbying stint. Nancy Killefer withdrew her own nomination after personal ‘tax stuff.’ Timothy Geithner squeezed through despite more tax issues, but now draws heavy flack for his poor management of companies like AIG and faces a potential pink slip.

America’s favorite past time continues to endure a perpetually worsening upheaval. Can things get any worse?

Yeah, they definitely can. The calm comes after the storm. And with accountability like this, I can’t help but look forward to the moral potential that America will gain and retain after more time like this. Remember – it’s only been about 60 days.

And like John Stewart said, “This isn’t a ****ing game.”

Not anymore it isn’t.

The Stress of College Apps


As my 16-year old sister embarks upon the college search, I remember those stressful days I remember so clearly. With the constant arguments with my parents about how far away from home I could really go to attend school, the cost of tuition at each university, as well as the stressful topic of SAT scores and GPA criteria each school held at a high standard.
Although I have always been a hard working, diligent student growing up, my parents often instilled the idea in all three of their children that “good work” is not “great work”. Colleges are always looking for something “new” as they put it and that every student applying has the same 3.8 GPA and SAT score that I had.
I would usually go up to my room after one of these conversations and contemplate whether they were right or if they were being nagging parents that every teenager had to put up with. However, now that I am finishing my third year of college, I realized that not only did my high GPA and SAT scores, and extensive resume help me get into college, but those study habits I developed in high school to get those grades truly aided me in my success in college. If my parents had not told me to “worry”, even after being awarded as a Principle’s List honor student every quarter, I may have taken the backseat to academics and decided to cruise by in college.
Now, when I received the panic phone calls from my younger sister, I calmly explain to her that all of her hard work now will pay off. “Mom and Dad like to scare us into thinking we will never get into college…and it actually works because we all ended up getting into the six or seven colleges we apply to,” I tell her on a weekly basis.
Some people view this parenting style as one that is “not encouraging”, and one that “puts the child down”; however, I have noticed, that it really pushed me to show them that they were wrong. They never believed that their two eldest children would never get into college—they just believed that by telling us this, we would work harder to prove them wrong. Bingo! They were right and that is exactly what they are continuing to instill upon my 16-year old sister.
Of course, she really should have nothing to worry about in all honesty. Out of the three of us children, my younger sister may be the brightest. I may regret putting this into writing, for she will eventually use this against me in a petty argument; however, my older brother and I are quite impressed in her academic, athletic and leadership success she has displayed as she comes to the end of her third year in high school. At this point, the discussion between my parents and my younger sister should not be about academic responsibility in terms of getting into college, but the location of the university she applies to and ultimately decides to attend. They already let one daughter go to school 3,000 miles away from home to a state called California…my sister does not have much hope of leaving the east coast now.

-Monica Augustyn

Photo by: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ypIQuf05ahc/R1FqyGKWulI/AAAAAAAAAC8/1JM3TTqfL-U/s400/application+girl.bmp

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To "Tweet" or Not To "Tweet"


A few months ago, one of my friends told me to go to their “twitter” site. At first, I had no idea what that meant. When I went to the site, I remember thinking to myself, what is this, the next Facebook? I thought it was pointless because all it had to offer was constant status updates. You could let people know where you where and what you were doing at any moment. In fact, you didn’t even have to say that much. You could include a random thought, website, or picture you found funny. Initially, I thought that the site was completely unnecessary. However, months later, I have seen the obsession with Twitter explode. Suddenly celebrities are on there so you can follow their every move. Even Obama “tweets” daily, letting you know what his latest move is. The fact that “tweet” is even a verb demonstrates the phenomena of the site. In February 2009, “Compete.com blog entry ranks Twitter as the third largest social network”.

In the larger scheme of things, Twitter further proves that our society is completely infatuated with social interactivity. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are able to explode because we live in a world where everyone is obsessed with the immediate flow of information. People constantly want to know what is happening in their friend’s lives and even in complete stranger’s lives. It’s not enough anymore to have one update a week of what people are doing. Twitter provides the opportunity to let people know whatever you want them to know as many times a day as you want. There is even a function where you are able to receive notifications on your phone of these status updates, including the ability to update via your phone or the website.

Our world’s obsession with the flow of information connects to almost every element of our pop culture. The tabloids, shows like ET and TMZ, radio stations, blogs like Perez Hilton, CNN and more, are constantly informing us of what is happening in the world up to the very second. Recently, Facebook tried to purchase Twitter and Twitter would not accept thus leading to Facebook’s revamped version of itself. The similarities between Facebook’s “new look” and Twitter are very apparent. Facebook has put a large emphasis on people’s status updates and that appears to be their focal point now.

In a world where people are constantly looking for something new, quicker, and more exciting, it will be interesting to see how Twitter does in the upcoming months. Celebrities are even using Twitter as a means to communicate with their fans and with other celebrities; all of which is accessible to anyone who chooses to “follow” that individual. Part of the excitement of celebrities used to be wondering what their lives were like off screen or out of the spotlight. Thanks to Twitter there is no longer a need to wonder because we can now “tweet” back and forth with them. Twitter also offers a chance for people to get discovered. For example, I could go onto a music company’s Twitter site and send them a link to my friend’s band, which would take them one minute to listen to at which point they can directly respond to me. To say the least, twitter has opened up many doors and thanks to technology, has once again made life easier.

E.O'Neil

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Brand New Day


Today is the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. So, I decided to do some internet research about what this means…and share it with all of you.

The Spring Equinox occurs once a year and marks the beginning of the spring season. It usually falls somewhere between March 21-23rd (I guess it came a day earlier this year). On this day the tilt of the Earth is exactly perpendicular to the sun, meaning that the sun will cross directly over Earth’s equator. Usually the length of daylight will vary in the northern and southern hemispheres, but today there will be exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night all over the world; light and dark will be in balance. The only other time this happens is in late September during the Autumnal Equinox.

Clearly this day has vast symbolic and spiritual importance. I have found that cultures and civilizations throughout history have celebrated this day as a new beginning and a renewal.

In Astrology, it is the beginning of a new cycle. The zodiac calendar will start over with Aries (the Ram).

For Persians, today is called Nawruz, the beginning of the new year. This celebration is founded in the 3,000-year-old tradition of Zoroastrianism.
Similar traditions are found all over the world, and throughout history—in China, Europe, and Africa.

In all celebrations, a few things seem to remain constant. A prominent symbol for the equinox is the egg, representing new life. Egg-decorating and/or coloring traditions are ever-present in European and Persian traditions. American children still partake in this age-old spring-time activity. In addition, it is supposedly possible to balance an egg on its top today although many say it’s just a myth. Nevertheless, the prospect almost always attracts the attention of a few news stations.

Because spring is usually the time that animals reproduce, milk is a traditional staple at equinox celebrations. This is also the time that the food supply is renewed. Thus, feasting is an important aspect of all traditions. Foods such as butter, sugar (think Peeps), fruit, and grains were often consumed at this time.
Colors usually include red for sacrifice, green for growth, and purple and yellow. Does the latter sound familiar?

One of the most well-known celebrations of the equinox is Easter. The name “Easter” actually comes from the pagan lunar goddess, “Eostre.” She is represented with the bunny, signifying fertility and the egg, representing creation. Some believe that she actually had an enchanted rabbit that could lay eggs and that’s where we get a lot of our Easter traditions today.

The Eostre celebration took place on the first full-moon after the equinox. Because the Catholic Church wanted to break ties with pagan ritual, Easter was moved to the first Sunday after the full moon. The Church was so intent on differentiating the holiday that if Easter were to ever fall on the full moon, regulations say it shall be moved to the following Sunday.

Even ancient civilizations took note of this day, evidenced by some of the most famous ruins we have today. It is hardly a coincidence that the Egyptians built the Great Sphinx to face the sunrise on the Vernal Equinox—and that was nearly 4,500 years ago. Similarly, Stonehenge, built over 3,000 years ago, marks the sun’s exact placement on the equinox. Several of these ruins give special tours on the equinox. Mexico’s Chichen-Itza attracts a large gathering to watch the natural “light show” that occurs on the equinox. This phenomenon dates to 1500 B.C.E. and is the result of some pretty impressive Mayan engineering.

Aside from all the history, today is a day to start over, begin a new project you have been thinking about, or change the direction of your life. After several months of cold weather (sorry, California doesn’t really apply), this is the time to take action on all the things you’ve been stalling on. Clean out your closet, buy something new, or just enjoy a refreshing dinner. I feel that sometimes it is necessary to just let the past go and to begin again.

Well, history tells us that day is today!

Laura Woods

Where I got my info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/riteofspring1.html
http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/spring.html
http://ezinearticles.com/?Vernal-Equinox-History-and-Traditions&id=156525
http://www.helium.com/items/1367467-vernal-equinox-traditions

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Octo-Mama!


I just don’t see an end in sight for the intense media coverage given to Nadya Suleman, or as I prefer to call her: “Octo-Mom.” As more and more information about her life and 14 kids seems to unravel, I become even more enthralled with this woman and her peculiar reproductive habits. I can’t help but to DVR her father’s interview on Oprah or perk up each time her name is mentioned in the news. It’s like a bad car accident—all you want is to find out what’s going on even though you know you should be paying attention to driving. I must admit, I am probably the worst “rubber-necker” there is—but not in a morbid way that I want to see blood on the pavement or body bags. I want to see paramedics giving CPR or firemen rescuing someone from a crumpled automobile; I want to see people saved.
I’m afraid this is the same reason I like to hear about Octo-Mom. I think her babies need saving. That’s why I was pleased to hear that a non-profit neonatal care group, Angels in Waiting, has agreed to help her out. The organization’s website informs us that they provide care for foster children, especially the “forgotten” ones such as “medically fragile preemies, infants, and children.” Of course Octo-Mom’s babies are not foster kids, but Angels in Waiting clearly saw a desperate need for their services.
Just two days ago, Octo-Mom brought home two of her babies for the first time. Fortunately, Angels in Waiting nurses and nannies will be available to help her through the unimaginable struggles she has in store. Instead of bringing the babies home to her mother’s house, she was able to take them to a new home—which she recently bought with money raised from the myriad of media appearances she has made in the last month or so.
After looking back at some of her earlier interviews, I learned that she had initially turned down help from Angels in Waiting. Why? Because they would not allow her to have a reality TV show. Hmmm…this just seems a little off to me.
Of course if I was unemployed, poor, and the mother of 14 kids, I might turn to the media as well to fund my children, but something about all of this puts a bitter taste in my mouth. I think the name for it is: irresponsibility.
Now, I am not a psychologist, doctor, or even a mother so I’m probably out of line to pass judgment on Octo-Mom, but I have grown up with many different types of people and now, at age 22, have a good idea about how they “turned out.” One thing I know for sure is that parents can sometimes make life much harder for their children. Octo-Mom is a little delusional to think that a certain number of babies, nose jobs, or Angelina Jolie lip implants will cure the discontent she has with her life. Now these children are going to have to bear the brunt of her insecurities.
Aside from potential mental or emotional issues, there is simply no way these 14 children will be able to experience the same benefits they would if they belonged to a financially sustainable, normal-sized family. Will they grow up feeling loved? Will they have adequate clothing? Will they get help in school? Will they be given the chance to go to college? Will they all be healthy? All these things matter. I feel that these kids are at a severe disadvantage and that makes me sad. Why bring kids into this world if you cannot provide them the best possible opportunities and means to grow into successful adults?
The blame should lie partly on Octo-Mom and partly on her IVF doctor. They brought these children into a home that is unable to give them adequate support. It will be only a few years from now that a team vocational nurses and nannies won’t be able to help them. Instead it could be Social Services or Child Protective Services—hopefully not.
Despite my disagreement with her pregnancy, the fact is that these babies are here and they need to be taken care of…adequately. I hope that somehow this happens, even if it has to be with a reality TV show. I guess I could try to find time to tune-in between episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8.

*For the record, Nadya Suleman denies getting plastic surgery to look like Angelina Jolie. To me, her face just looks a little too unnatural.

Laura Woods

EnOuGh




"If you go back with a man who hits you, it is because you don't feel you're worthy of being with a man who won't."
- Oprah Winfrey


It happens everywhere: this domestic violence…and the women who stay with their abusers. In the United States alone, approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted every year. It has come to the point where talk show hosts such as Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey have intervened in order to build awareness on such a devastating phenomenon. Just last month, Chris Brown was charged with two felonies for assaulting the Barbados-born singer, Rihanna. The two initially called it quits, but they have reportedly gotten back together.

But why? Why go back to someone who tried to take your life in his own hands with no regard to the potential outcome of his actions? Why, are some women so blinded by this so-called “love” factor? Love should never hurt; love does not yield busted lips and contusions on your forehead. We know about Chris and Rihanna because they, along with other celebrities, have cameras in their faces on a daily basis; but this epidemic is spreading throughout the United States, whether you’re famous or not.

What makes one want to stay? Financial dependency, religion, loyalty, family and social values, low self-esteem, love, denial, shame, embarrassment and humiliation, psychological dependency, and fear…all in some way, shape, or form, have strait-jacketed the will-power of a woman to just LEAVE. To just LET GO. To just MOVE ON. It is so easy to say but I know it is harder to do.

According to Oprah Winfrey, returning to an abusive relationship boils down to how the victim feels about herself. I believe this to be true because I, too, had fallen victim to abuse at one point in my life. No, he never raised a hand at me in anger (because if he had I swear I’d chop off his most prized possession), but I did allow him to get into my head—the damages being just as severe, if not more, than physical abuse. There was a time in my life where I was in such a vulnerable state of mind, and a feeble mind is the easiest mind to torment. He was good with words; so then this feeble mind of mine clung to that smooth talker which equaled more pain and more mental anguish. But unlike so many, I was able to dig deep down; deep, deep down until I dug out my inner strength; I pictured my self at a peace of mind, a closure to what once held me back from inner growth. I walked away from that relationship. I got out. But so many do not.

The faulty disposition these emotionally and physically battered women hold to is the notion that they NEED these men in their lives; that they are not deserving of a real man—one who can understand that putting their hands on or talking down to someone is never justifiable. Ever. Women must take ownership of their dignity and take back the control of their own lives, finally reaching a point when they can stand tall and say, “Enough is enough.”


Jennifer Vassel
Photo Credit: Domestic Violence Ads

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No is an Absolute


The phrase, “If she didn’t want it, she shouldn’t have been dressed like that” should be banned. In all of its forms. Period.

It’s simple logic. No women who wear short skirts/dresses/whatever they’re barely wearing or not wearing want to be sexually assaulted/rape/violated/touched.

How
do you ask for something like that? Why would you?

I personally think its disgusting when girls dress “trashy” or “skanky”. Yes, I think that girls who dress like that are trying to get some kind of attention, but no one wants to get raped. It’s not some unspoken signal. And I certainly never think that it's going to happen to every girl who does this nor do I wish it on them. Because it's just wrong.

This also goes for the girls who drink way too much. It’s taking advantage of someone. It’s rape. Just because she didn’t say “no”, it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do whatever you want. She didn’t have the power to say no.

And all these jokes, those jokes, you’ve heard of them: It’s not rape if she’s smiling; Does this smell like chloroform to you? They’re not funny. Why? Because it’s actually what happens.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women and one in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault. The statistics for college age women are four times that.

It’s just about respect. This isn’t just a women’s/feminist/sexist issue. It’s about human rights. No one wants to be violated. Everyone has the right to choose what to do with his or her body and no one else should take that away.

I’m lucky that I’m not a statistic, but there might be one day I could be. I’ve been at a party where someone got too close and overstepped their boundaries, but I’ve been lucky. It could have been worse. It could have extended beyond inappropriate touching during dancing. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’d had a drink or so, but I wasn’t dressed “skanky” or at least I didn’t think so and neither did other people at the party. And yes, I did say no and I moved away from that guy. And I'm grateful, nothing else happened after I moved away.

It’s more likely I’ll see something happen, given our national averages. But I know that if I ever see anyone being taken advantage of, whether it’s a man or a woman, I will interfere. Because it’s not right. No matter what the situation is. No matter how much they drank or what they were wearing or what kind of person they are. It’s not right.

Because sometimes, a dress is just a dress (no matter how short of barely there it is). But NO always means NO.

Issa Morada

Photo Credit: CircleOfLight on DeviantART

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflections


Kissing is like drinking salted water, you drink and your thirst increases.
-Chinese Proverb

Reflections.

Just this last week, I have had different moments of reflection. I am currently involved with a Lenten Retreat, where I have reflected on my faith, convictions, and my spiritual growth. When I have attended Church this last month, I enter the Church blessing myself with holy water and leave in the same manner. I have planned an Induction ceremony for my honors society, and of course, the theme is Reflections. This event has encouraged me to explore writers and different modes of writing that has altered my own sense of reality. I was invited to attend an International Conference in Minneapolis, the theme- Reflections. I would have been presenting a creative piece of nonfiction and a collection of poetry that addressed different topics and styles that came together as a reflection. It would seem that this concept has been with me during this month.

While I was immersed within my thoughts, it dawned on me that water is a Reflection. I have always known that water provides a reflection of myself or the sun. I know that water is used as a symbol, theme, and metaphor of life. Yet, water itself is reflection. Interestingly, it was this mundane thought that has stood with me during this week. I use water on a daily basis, whether I’m drinking a couple of water bottles a day or washing dishes, there is something indescribable about the reliance and need for this liquid. It soothes, nourishes, comforts, and provides an inner warmth that is beyond comparison.

Water, essentially, is the source for life.

So why then has it became important and trivial at the same time? As society continues to evolve, expand, and exploit its resources, the preservation of water has become imperative. Yet, at the same time, water continues to be wasted on a daily basis. We waste it in the shower; we indulge in it for luxury, ranging from beautiful beaches to expensive Jacuzzis.

Water is the circle of life. It continues to assist evolution. It expands our knowledge of ourselves and the world. It compels us to push beyond boundaries and challenge our limitations. It saves lives and takes them just as quickly. It saves and damns all life forms. It is powerful, beautiful, chaotic, peaceful, and exotic.

My experiences within this week has reminded me, how I too, have come to forget and appreciate water. It is an important smell, touch, sight, and taste in my childhood. The beaches of Cancun, Mexico and my cousin’s plastic swimming pool immediately spring to mind. It has been a source of strength and peace for me. When I am exercising at the gym, water refreshes me. When I am outside in the sun, water rejuvenates me.

When I am thirsty, and in need of sustenance, I turn to water.

Jennifer Ellspermann

Realism vs. Idealism?


I've never thought of myself as an idealist. The image of myself as a cynic has been hammered in to this skull since childhood, so no fairy tale endings, no perfect outcome, should phase my pragmatic line of thinking.
Recently, the manifestation of my own thoughts have begun, however, to bring my true desires to front; a hidden natural self, I've slowly determined, that is not just a fan of happy endings but an idealist to an almost flaming degree.
After facing my denial and attempting to work around this newer, more vulnerable mindset, I decided to relish in it. The first time I was able to wake and fantasize for a day of beauty and nostalgic perfection was inside of a city fairy tale-like in itself: San Francisco. Babyhood dreams of "where I'll arrive" all land somewhere between the Golden Gate and my hotel room's bay window; they are scattered along the rims of China Town and Pier 39, rolling head-first down Hyde's steep incline, arriving at the stoop of some mysterious shoreline publishing house. Yes, if I only lived here I would wake and feel like a queen on a hilly throne. If I lived here I would stay fit from vertical hikes and maintain balance by city grime and seascape scenery. If I lived here, I would sprawl in a palatial Victorian home with my live-in boyfriend and beagle puppy (who will age at a snail pace), and wind my old black and white camera as I snap each cable car, capture each moment. Hell, I'd even skip through a field of daisies, waving feverishly to smiling folk as they pass.
Such a wonderful existence, I daydreamed. In my giddy haze I even snuck on Craigslist to check bay area apartment prices, hoping to have my fantasy materialize, in a sense. Quite predictably, this was the task that yanked dreams of my roomy abode from their vortex and brought them down to level with the rest of the world. How can anyone afford this?
Gr, oh well. Hmm, come to think of it, my fantasy never included the sorrowful eyes of hungry people on bus stop corners, the fact that San Francisco spends $20 million a year on their "homeless problem". Nor did my avoidant mind venture to imagine global warming flooding my beautiful bay, raising its waters over three feet in the course of only decades. I want to do something to stop it, make the world recycle, stop driving, put everyone in a home (?) I want to do anything to save my fantasy. But is that a fantasy in and of itself?
I don't know. BUt if I fantasize around it, nothing can be done, that's for certain. This goes for all of us. Idealism isn't a terrible thing (hell, just listen to John Lennon), but dreaming can't clean up the world, realism can. Or maybe it's a mixture of both. I think most are aware we need to DO something, but time keeps slipping, y'all. Dream worlds are easier, reality bites, but a taste of both don't hurt sometimes. I will rest upon a conclusion one day...hmm...

Alison M.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sun can Kill


According to National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cancer of the skin is the most common of all cancers in the United State.” After spending many summers of my childhood basking in the sun, the competition between my friends and I consisted of how fast could we get tan, and who could be the tannest by the end of the summer. Skin cancer was never the topic of conversation when we would strip down to our bathing suits and lather on SPF 8 on our arms, legs and stomach. However, it should be the first thing that comes to mind as we bake our bodies in the southern sun of the country.
Peers of mine and I would always be very conscious of the tan we were working for during our summer vacations from school. We would spend hours on end laying out at the beach or at the local pool—hoping to get tanner as each day passes by. The typical summer day consisted of packing up a lunch and a few bottles of water, getting the tunes ready for the full day of tanning and a few good magazines we could pull out if we woke up from our afternoon naps. We would throw a few bottles of tanning oil and sunscreen in our pool bags. All in all, the sun played the largest role in our summer daily plan.
A few burns once in a while did not seem to hurt our determination to get tan; however, it surely hurt our skin. With each burn, we felt the heat, the pressure, and the pain of the red swelling on our skin. No one ever assumed that burning could lead to death, but as teens get older, the information seems to be more prevalent to the damage we are doing to our bodies. The National Cancer Institute reports that there are several types of skin cancer. For example, “Skin cancer that forms in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment) is called melanoma. Skin cancer that forms in basal cells (small, round cells in the base of the outer layer of skin) is called basal cell carcinoma.” The deadly sun can cause the skin cancer and the lack of education on it is crucial.
Of course parents and adults always advise young children to lather up with SPF 30 or higher; wear a hat; wear protective clothing and sit under an umbrella while at the beach or the pool. But lets be serious. What 14 year-old girl is going to wear a t-shirt, a sun hat and sit isolated under an umbrella while her friends are backing in the sun, getting the “attractive” tan everyone wishes they had? It is not reasonable, unless everyone is informed that this type of cancer is not just hereditary and it should be taken very seriously. It can happen to anyone, at any time, at any point in their life unless they take care of themselves.
With the encouragement of adults, teachers and parents, each child will not end up baking in the sun until they are leathery brown. The damages to the skin are not worth the summer glow. Maybe my friends and I would not continue this tanning competition every time we are in warm weather. Maybe if I had listened to my parents or adults when I was young, I would not have had to get a dark mole be removed and then told that it was pre-cancerous at the age of 19.

- Monica Augustyn

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Big 2-2: Young or Old?


Another year older and another day wiser; who would’ve thought that that skinny, awkward, coke-bottle glasses wearing girl would grow up into the strong, sophisticated young woman I am today. Sometimes I feel as though I’m an old soul in a young body…each year the family asks me the same question starting “so how does it feel to be (insert age here)?” And each year I respond, “No different than last year.”

I continue to climb that biological ladder, but somehow each step up feels the same as the last. Sure, the birthdays have upgraded from face painting and piñatas to clubs and bars, but strangely enough, I don’t feel any different. Like I said, I feel like an old soul is trapped in a young body. I’m way too young to be feeling like I’m “over the hill” already. This morning I looked in the mirror, trying to detect any differences in my face and body; looking to see if there were any indication that I was actually looking older than the day before. While pinching my semi-greasy cheeks, I noticed that youthful look still had a tight grip on me, continuing to latch on, dominating my overall appearance; that same youthfulness that tricks the middle-aged into thinking I’m still in high school when I’m damn near close to getting my Bachelor’s Degree. The mirror revealed that I am still a walking contradiction.

I feel like I’m in a bad rendition of Tuck Everlasting; I have come to believe that I too, have been sipping on some age-defying substance, unbeknownst to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not a bad thing at all; for when I’m much older and in my mid-life crisis stage, I’ll be wishing I was young and full of life again. Yes, I’m blessed that I don’t look as though I’ve been beaten up by the Jaws of Life like many females do nowadays, but there’s a difference between a girl and a young woman. I have made that transition to womanhood both mentally, verbally, and emotionally, but I guess the rest wants to straggle behind.

Twenty-two…wow. I laugh to myself because I used to look at my older cousins and think that being in your twenties was such a big age; little me in my teenage years wondering what it felt like to be “that old.” And here I am…”that old,” looking in the mirror and still feeling like nothing has changed. Who knows, maybe it really is a good thing...I'll embrace it for one more year.


Jennifer Vassel

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Oprah on the Recession


“Did you know that you can buy a house for $100?” my friend asked before launching into a story about her discovery of a foreclosure website. If only, I thought, my student budget would allow me to purchase a house like that at this point in our economic recession—never mind that it’s probably located in rural Montana. But this is certainly the type of opportunity that could turn a hefty profit in a few years.

…And this was the first thought that came to my mind when talking about foreclosure. For far too many American families, their first thought is more along the lines of, “Will my house soon be advertised on such a website?”
With a tinge of guilt, I must admit that the current economic situation has not affected me very much. Sure, I’m learning to manage my money better but only in the sense that anyone who just got her first credit card might have to. I buy gas, food, and clothing about the same as I always have. I hardly think twice about going out for dinner or drinks. Or spending $10 at the movie theater ($9 with student ID).

But many people have to think more about these things…if they can at all. This might sound cliché but it was an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that opened my eyes to the suffering that many Americans are experiencing—particularly in the wake of the recent tidal wave of home foreclosures.

Oprah’s special reporter, Lisa Ling visited her hometown of Sacramento, the most devastated city in the U.S. in terms of foreclosures and job loss. An epidemic that is affecting the whole country is most prevalent in Sac. This epidemic is the “tent city,” where hundreds of people are forced to live in tents because they do not have a home. Picture a refugee camp, right here in the U.S. In Sac there is an estimated 1,200 people living in these makeshift towns. These people are far from the grungy bums we are used to seeing on street corners. Rather, they are people—or families—that lost their jobs and then lost their houses. And the reason they are living in a tent? Because the city’s homeless shelters are already too full.

They used to have jobs in construction, truck driving, or car sales—the first services that were cut in this recession. Now they have to worry about things like where to get clean water—and let me remind you this is not some Third World country I am talking about, it’s our backyard. The residents report missing the luxuries of their life before. “I miss looking like a girl,” says Tammy, a 47-year-old resident of Sac’s Tent City.


For more insight into what’s actually going on, I highly suggest you check out this segment of Oprah.com.

Although Oprah is known for sensationalizing people’s tragedies, I see no harm in putting a human face to what we hear on the news everyday. It certainly opened my eyes and I’ve realized that something needs to be done to help these people. Afterall, this is America and there should be no reason why hard-working individuals should not be making a fair wage. I must admit that I am skeptical about President Obama’s approach; I don’t believe shallow, short-term fixes are going to cure this kind of problem. I am anxious and a little scared to see what type of effect the government’s actions will have on the economy in the next few years. In the meantime my sympathy and concern goes out to those suffering the most.

Laura Woods

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keep It Comin'


“Keep on with the force don’t stop/don’t stop ‘til you get enough”
-Michael Jackson

I keep having weird, thought-provoking dreams. And every morning, when I awake from the sound of my shrieking alarm clock, I have no recollection of them. The hours in the day trail by and with each second that ticks by, the memories of last night’s occurrences come flooding in with great force. Snapshots of images from my dream flicker in and out like a strobe light: bubbles-black-swollen chest-black-ruler-black...but within no time, all the images came together sequentially.

I had foreign objects planted in my chest that were causing me severe pain. I looked down at my chest and on my right side, mountains of dome-shaped bubbles were gurgling on the surface of my skin—I grimaced at the sight. I then looked to the left and what I perceived to be a ruler was implanted underneath my breast tissue. I tugged and pulled at it; what a sight I must have been to be wrestling with something in my own skin. With no success, I slumped in a chair nearby and let the throbbing sensation take over me. I then peered down to notice each metric line of the ruler pressing itself up against my transparent skin. I remember looking for a knife or some sort of sharp object that could relieve me of this agonizing pain, but before I could make a move I was awakened by my shrieking alarm clock.

“To see a ruler in your dream indicates your concerns of not measuring up to the standards of others. It may also mean that you need to be careful in making a decision or judgment.”

I don’t know what to make of this interpretation. Quite frankly I do not live by anyone’s standards other than my own. “Be careful in making a decision or judgment.” I feel like I have been scooped up by two giant hands and placed in the Land of Opportunity—each step I take is another chance to do something I may never get the chance to do again. If I don’t walk these paths—if I don’t explore every inch of this land—I will forever regret throwing away the most uplifting moments I once had. I am blessed. And with each blessing, there comes decisions…decisions that may either make or break me.

Senior year…everything is coming at me at once. Sixty-four days, twenty-two hours, 59minutes and counting until that big foot of Dependency kicks me out into Life. Money, career planning, South Africa, money, relationships, opportunities, New York, money…I am gorging myself, trying to taste a bit of everything on my plate. I'm stressed out, overwhelmed, crying some nights, losing sleep but I can’t stop…I won’t stop: it all tastes soooo damn good.

Jennifer Vassel

Spring Break Draws More Concern Than Usual


Every year, college kids from all over the country count down the days until their spring break. The time away from school, the hopes for a change of climate and the desire for a great time stir in kids awaiting the much needed vacation. The top Spring Break spots for 2009 were said to be Costa Rica, Cancun, the Bahamas, Europe, Ski destinations, Acapulco, and Miami/South Beach. The runner-ups were Cabo, Rosarito and Puerto Rico.

Considering the fact that Cabo has been deemed "Convo San Lucas" because of how many LMU kids flock there, it makes you wonder why it is considered to be a runner-up this year. The reason for many students not traveling there is because of the Drug War currently happening in Mexico. Sure, Mexico has always been a corrupt country and has been dangerous, but someone from a small town in Idaho could say the same thing about Los Angeles being dangerous yet we live here and go through our day to day lives with generally little trouble. A couple of my friends were not allowed to go to Cabo this year because parents are very concerned about the potential disaster that could ensue.

On local news Sunday night, Mexico was said to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world right now. This danger isn’t something that the U.S. isn’t experiencing as is evident by recent articles discussing how Americans are being kidnapped, murdered, and held for ransom by these drug cartels. In an article by Tim Gaynor on March 2, he said that “U.S. authorities now fear that violent crime is beginning to bleed over the porous Mexico border and take hold here.” San Diego is one of the cities that is experiencing the horrible results of the drug war because of its proximity to Tijuana. These drug cartels are so powerful; the police can’t even help themselves as is evident by the fact that they are resigning from the force. This makes you wonder that if the police can’t help themselves, how are they going to be able to help an innocent spring breaker? Many campuses around the country share this concern and have urged students to stay away from Mexico this year as violence is on the rise and is about to reach its peak in the past couple of years.

Unfortunately for the U.S., government officials fear that “the crisis has become a full-blown national security concern for the United States.” It is no secret that Mexico is an extremely corrupt country, but one can only wonder about what that means for spring break destinations this year. I think that the rules remain the same but are maybe more serious this year. This war is mainly happening in border towns, but that doesn’t mean Cabo is exempt from anything happening, although I would say it is highly unlikely. I have friends down there now enjoying spring break who say that it is completely fine and they haven’t experienced anything that seemed shady or dangerous. No matter where students go, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. I am leaving for Cabo in less than a week and am not too worried about our safety any more than I was last year. The Drug War is an issue that cannot be ignored but I think we are more likely to experience it in cities close to the border than we are in Cabo. As LMU prepares to embark on spring break ’09, parents can only hope that they make good decisions wherever they go and trust that they haven’t raised someone who is not completely oblivious to the safety standards all around the world, not just in Mexico.

E. O'Neil

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Chicken Noodle Soup for my Soul


As a Filipino, food and culture are two things that have always fascinated me (no surprise, right?). But even more than that, the relationship between food and culture and how one feeds the other, is even more interesting.

A culture's food is always very revealing. Just based on key ingredients and cooking techniques, you can guess the country's geography, the personality of the people, and belief/value system. Take for instance, Japanese cuisine. Most dishes are very simple and minimalist, many are seafood based (as Japan is an archipelago), and try to achieve some kind of balance. Italian dishes are heartier, with richer and various spices and flavors, but leave you with a full stomach and a welcome warmth.

But then you get to Filipino food and it's like... what am I eating? Filipino food is really... an amalgamation of several different cuisines: Malay, South East Asian, Chinese, American, and Spanish. The national dish is adobo, which means to cook with soy sauce (so literally anything can be adobo-ed), even though adobo originates from a Spanish pepper and dish. The funny thing is that there are several different versions of adobo, depending on where you go and who you ask... when it comes down to it, every single family has their own version of adobo.

Most dishes are stew/broth based, with deeper and savory flavors, most are quite fatty, regional based, and play with sour, salty, and sweet tastes. Take sinigang which is made of a clear broth stew flavored with tamarind, filled with all sorts of vegetables like eggplant and string beans, and can feature meats from oxtail, pork, or different seafood. It's an dump all the food you can into a pot and let it stew for awhile kind of dish, that is efficient, budget friendly, feeds plenty, and always leaves you feeling satisfied.

And if our food is difficult to pin down, imagine what it's like when someone asks me to describe the Filipino culture. Like our food, it's a mix of all different kinds of cultures. Not quite Asian and not quite Pacific Islander. We've certainly gotten a lot of influence from Spain in terms of our Catholic religion, American influences on our government and entertainment, but I think it's the best many worlds.

There is one thing I can say about the Filipino culture and our food, and this is the thing that I'm most proud of. Everything we do, we do with love, passion, and keeping in mind the family. We are welcoming, friendly, hard-working people who love to laugh, sing, dance, talk, and eat.

Try our food, you'll see what I mean. One sip of sinigang or one bite of adobo and you'll feel like you're back home with your own family sitting around the dinner table, telling jokes and stories, laughing and enjoying life.

Issa Morada

Photo Credit:EatingAsia

Be Patriotic: Nationalize the Banks


Where’s the bottom? Where’s the bottom? Where the hell is the bottom? I’m new to recessions. I’m actually relatively new to this planet – all things considered, 22 isn’t much.

I’m not an economist, but I don’t need to be to understand that we are confronting serious economic problems in our country. The obvious hint comes by watching all of the bailouts roll out billions of dollars. The nation that hails privatized business – business removed from government oversight – is submitting to the harsh grip of a crippling banking system and is now allowing government intervention. No, it’s not allowing government intervention – it’s begging for it.

The banks have been crying for help. To me it looks like: “Help me. Bail me out. I made bad loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them off. I worked with imaginary money. I love leveraging things with no collateral. I contributed to getting us into this mess. Excuse me, Uncle Sam, can I have some more porridge?”

We’ve been handing over the money: truckloads, boatloads. A lot of money. “OK,” I thought. “The bailouts will work. They probably won’t ask for more. I can bite the bullet once.”

Well, they asked for more. And now Americans are biting the bullet, not once, but twice and thrice. For Citigroup, we’ll be rounding third base.

Is it OK to talk about nationalization in America, or is that something limited to Hugo Chavez – el presidente de Venezuela? Nationalization? I’m scared. Does that make me a communist? Does it make me a socialist? No it does not. In this case, it makes you an American. All hands on deck – stop the recession’s bleed. Nationalize the banks? Yes, please.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote, “When the F.D.I.C. seizes a bank, it takes over the bank’s bad assets, pays off some of its debt, and resells the cleaned-up institution to private investors. And that’s exactly what advocates of temporary nationalization want to see happen, not just to the small banks the F.D.I.C. has been seizing, but to major banks that are similarly insolvent.”

In other nations nationalization can be permanent, but in America, it’s temporary. We have economists throughout the nation offering a viable solution to the problem – people who make their lives out of reading and interpreting numbers. Yet, we don’t listen. We continue to throw good money at a bad, burning money pit.

Nationalization isn’t socialism. Socialism isn’t nationalization; it isn’t even nationalism. With all of these ism’s and tion's you must have gotten confused. But of course, you’re an American – you should be.

-Alex Tandy

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A Small Pre-Break Thought


Very recently I’ve been dwelling over the effects of alcohol intake. I don’t mean the campus cliché of observing the “shockingly vast” or “deceivingly low” level of consumption among college students that are plastered (no pun intended) all over “HeadsUp!” posters- because, to be blunt, I could hardly give a damn about comparing drinking habits with others. Nor am I necessarily concentrating on alcoholism (although I suppose it could be viewed from this angle). Really, I’ve been reflecting on alcohol use simply in terms of its role in my own life. A new consideration which, I’ll admit, is the result of a series of unfavorable alcohol-induced occurrences.
` I’m all too familiar to waking with the splitting head and random bruises feeling- I think many early 20s can relate. We pull ourselves up, groggily carry our idling bodies to the kitchen, drink two glasses of water, consider the sequence of the prior night’s events, refill our water, drink two more glasses, attempt to reconstruct the sequence again, and crash back in bed. It’s all part of the crappy “next morning” routine, and we get it. But what used to be an innocent and (grudgingly) anticipated result of weekend drinking has manifested into an ugly, ever-increasing routine for me.
The other day I found myself in my (thank god) bed at 2pm, feeling nauseous and lethargic. My body, curled into a ball, was inexplicably bare and my vocal chords were throbbing. I kept thinking, “What happened? What happened?” I hadn’t been at a concert or any other venue where I could’ve managed screaming, I hadn’t driven anywhere, I hadn’t said goodbye to my friends… I really couldn’t remember anything past a certain point.
This- waking with no absolute memories- in my experience is rare, and it made me nervous. I’ve never been what I suppose many would consider a “lightweight” when it comes to alcohol. If I say so myself, I tend to maintain an awareness of how much food (stomach coating) I’ve consumed, my level of hydration, and my overall limit (which with the years has undoubtedly increased) while drinking. But in late I’ve noticed a dip in the usual cycle, and it didn’t take this rarely occurring ‘blackout’ to get to me. The ever-increasing hangovers and lack of memory have been a consistent transition, a downward spiral in the pattern of a habit that was once controlled. When I go through my closet and notice generous amounts of missing sweatshirts and broken sandals, I know. When I observe cigarette burns in the upholstery of my driver’s seat accented nicely by the abandoned litter of folks who I would not, in my right mind, have let anywhere near my car, I know. But, in the grand tradition of embracing bad habits, excuses prove all too tempting. “If I don’t have a little fun now, how will I have it later in the work world?” “It was an experience, so I don’t take it back” “It’s just one night of fun out of your entire life! Embrace it!” But it’s not just one night. Or even two or five or eight. For some, it’s really a lifestyle; a lifestyle that, as many could predict, develops most often without notice.
I have talked with friends about this. Several have gotten to this point with alcohol, several haven’t, but all can agree that alcohol has the potential to dramatically enhance or dampen any occasion, the latter being the most frequent. “There’s no problem a drink can’t make worse”. I am tired of looking forward to a decent night with my significant other and letting cravings for alcohol ruin our ambitions. A few shots and suddenly the minutia of the world’s problems are brought to the surface, screaming, screaming, screaming over petty crises. Or perhaps we plan to meet with a friend to go out, but a little Petron down the hatch and they’re on the couch, passed out. Or maybe we made it to the club but, at a point, we’ll likely be outside, hanging over our huddled friend, holding their hair back as we sheepishly wave to disgusted passersby. I am sick of it! I have grown wary of my neighbors’ all-too-explicit drunken arguments, sloppy curse words and echoes of slaps compelling all in my building to call the cops. I am tired of chugging liquor to relax and consequently achieving the opposite effect, wondering all the next morning what I could have said to upset this person or that. Why is the irony of alcohol so much more painful than others? We drink to get closer, but we numb out. We drink to decrease stress, but we end up gaining twice of what we originally suffered. It’s EVIL!
No, I’m not saying I hate alcohol (really!) I think pretty much all of us have observed, at times, that we or others will gravitate toward these patterns. This isn’t some astonishing discovery, it’s just the way it is. I’m just sick of having to pay for drinking so consistently. Where do I draw the line? Where do we draw the line? How much is too much? Think about it y’all. Thanks for letting me vent here, needed to get this thought out, however sloppy.

Alison M