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, October 27, 2009

Scar Tissue

As of last week I have physical evidence at how tired and stressed out I am. The fact that I am stressed out and overworked did not surprise me--the academic year started with a number of "additions" to the list of my responsibilities. I currently juggle classes, teaching and The Truth About the Fact among other things. Additionally, I live in Los Angeles and the daily commute takes up about 2 hours of my day and you get... well, the physical evidence that I am very stressed out and tired.

It was a fine Thursday afternoon (sentimental beginning intentional). I went on a before-class coffee run with my colleague Jessica, and after grabbing coffee we went to get some snacks. I had two cups of coffee so I decided that it was a good idea to stack the smaller coffee cup on top of the larger one and lean it against my body, which would give me the chance to decide between salted vs. unsalted peanuts. In retrospect this incident reminds me of a passage from something I read--I believe by Fitzgerald--that included a description of a woman that blocks a sheet of paper from falling with her body, and the author comments on women's ability to use their bodies to do things that men would never do. So I guess that if I were a man, I would not have thought to hold two cups of coffee with my body, but I did. What happened next is not quite clear to me, but I am guessing the cup that was on top tilted and the next thing I felt was heat and moisture.

My first thought went along the lines, "My class starts in 3 minutes and there's coffee all over my dress." I distinctly remember wringing the coffee out of the front of my dress while seriously considering that I could just wait for it to dry. I remember thinking, It's uncomfortable, but the dress is black so you can't really tell. Soon, however, my worries about how long it would take for my dress to dry were replaced by overwhelming sense of pain and heat. I realized that the moisture and the strong coffee smell were the least of my worries and that the coffee was hot enough to have done substantial damage to my skin. I remember removing my belt to reduce the pain and picking up a T-shirt and a bottle of water because I was surrounded by an overwhelming sense of heat. I managed to work the T-shirt and a long cardigan into a "normal" outfit to get myself through the day, and headed to class.

Besides the fact that 5 days later it is still impossible for me to get through the night without waking up from the pain, and no band aid is big enough to cover my burns, I am still amazed at my body's reactions towards the burn. I have already developed a compulsion to protect my stomach and most of the time have a hand hovering around the burned area, not quite touching it, but trying to protect it from other things. At the same time, I am still not used to seeing the angry bright red skin and the blisters that now cover most of my stomach and every time I notice it while getting dressed I get genuinely surprised. I feel frustrated at the fact that it is taking forever to heal and that at the end of the day I have to manipulate my seatbelt in a way that it is not too painful to drive.

This experience made me think of all the times the klutzy heroine of a romantic comedy spills something over herself to show how corky and adorable she is. No movie, however, at least from the movies that I have seen ever shows the heroine wandering in drugstore aisles at midnight and wondering which ointment to smear across her abdomen next, hoping for fast relief. As a lifelong klutz, I assure you there is nothing appealable or adorable about spilling and dropping things, or walking into things.

Lilly Berberyan

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Pokie for Profit

According to the New York Times, the state of Arizona is considering handing over their entire state prison population to private prisons.

The Pokie for Profit.

A chilling thought, especially when we reflect on the history of what has been done in the name of profit. At the expense of human beings. Let’s play a word association game called:

In the Name of the Green God.

I’ll drop a word, a phrase, a name, a place, and you let your mind associate the role of cashmonay. The price paid in flesh, bone, blood, sanity:

Pre-existing Condition.
Bernard Madoff.
Atlantic Slave Trade.
Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison provider, already runs six prisons in Arizona, and is sure to be a player when Arizona’s whole incarcerated population goes on sale. Quoted by The Times, Louise Grant, a spokeswoman for the company said, “We expect to be there to make a proposal to the state.”

According to the Corrections Corporation of America website, the firm operates 65 facilities, including 44 company-owned facilities, with a capacity of approximately 87,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The Wall Street Journal reports that CCA controls 39% of all private beds.

Because that’s where the smart money is.

The Journal also reports that over the last 25 years the country’s inmate population was grown from approximately 700,000 to 2.38 million, and that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 1992, CCA, a publicly traded company, sold at around $8 dollars a share. This past Friday, at 1 PM, shares sold for $25.06. Forbes quoted Hedge Fund manager, and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management William Ackman, who’s bullish on CCA because of their aggressive prison building and his belief that there will be inmates to fill those beds, “[The prison business is] like a hotel where you lock in the guests, and if they try to escape you shoot them.”

CCA’s 2008 4th quarter profits were $40.5 million. The 4th quarter profits from 2007 were $34.9 million. The 4th quarter reports for 2009 aren’t in yet, but it was a recession year. Recessions are good for the prison business: desperate people do desperate things.

And end up in the Pokie for Profit.

Who are these desperate people?

According to Human Rights Watch, black men are incarcerated 6.2 times the rate of white men.

Michael Datcher

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Experience of Teaching

Today was my first official day of teaching a 9th grade English class Inglewood, California.

            I walked out of my on campus apartment, carrying the 22 LMU red folders for the students, s and all of my supplies and notes that I had packed the night before, prepared for the little sliver of the reality of teaching. As I walked to my car, which was parked in the parking structure, I came across gold Toyota car, which had a flat tire.

            Of course, I was set into emergency panic mode, thinking that this would happen to me on my first day of teaching. I could not believe it! I was nervous I was going to have to call and report that I was unable to attend; however, Alex, my partner, was able to swing by and pick me up so we made it to the classroom by period 4.

            Luckily, Alex and I made it to the classroom with time to spare. The teacher was so welcoming and inviting from the moment we stepped inside. However, we were also hit with the reality that we were the ones in charge. She sat in the back of the classroom for most of the time and observed our teaching skills. It was odd not having another authoritative figure in the classroom helping guide discussion or readings.

            Nonetheless, Alex and I walked out of the classroom at 2:15PM with smiles.  The reactions and feedback we received from the 9th grade class were great. We chose Federico Garcia Lorca’s Arbole, Arbole. Alex and I decided to change up our lesson plan the night before and focus on a poem that reached out to those students who spoke Spanish (which was nearly 100% of the class).  We thought this was a good opportunity to start our teaching with a poem students felt comfortable addressing and reading, since we were also informed that their reading comprehension is not necessarily up to their grade level.

            In the beginning, we introduced ourselves once again to have the students feel comfortable with us teaching the first part of the class. We then gave our instructions to the class to read the poem (which we had printed out 34 copies) in both Spanish and in English (we also had both translations in two columns).  After giving the students approximately 5 minutes, Alex and I quickly started the discussion of what they had underlined and circled—which referenced any questions or concerns they might have had.  The students became very involved and interested with others comments and I felt a sense of ease come over me as I looked out onto all of the student’s faces, noticing that we were not failing as teachers, yet succeeding!

            After much discussion, Alex and I had two students read the poems aloud in Spanish and in English, prompting another conversation of the Spanish and English words Alex and I had picked out prior to teaching.  We asked which word sounded more like a tree, for example.  We picked a lot of color references as well to get the students thinking.

            One of my favorite parts of the class time was when we instructed them to write their own poem using either Spanish or English words, or a mixture of both about a beautiful, mysterious place.  We indicated that using Spanish words to help rhyme (like Garcia had done) might be of assistance or testing their limits on how much they can write and how detailed. One girl read her poem aloud and truly impressed everyone in the classroom. The teacher had suggested that she read her poem to the class, and Alex and I were able to certainly distinguish her as one of the strongest students in the class. Her vocabulary and seriousness of the experience exuded confidence, skill and her ability to excel in writing with the seven minutes or so that we gave the students to write.

            I was very proud of our teaching experience today.  Although it started off quite rough finding out that I had a flat tire, I was calmed when the students were actively participating in the poem we had prepared. I actually noticed that I can do well teaching with older children and not just younger children. With my previous experience of teaching young children, I went into this school thinking that I would not be able to relay the experience well to the students and that I would fail. However, I could tell that over time, Alex and I will get so familiar with the class and being up in front of them teaching, that it will soon become natural.  I am so excited to go back on Tuesday and to do more! 

Our time at the school today flew by, which I was nervous we would have too much time at the end. Additionally, I really think that as we continually go, I will really determine if this is the career I want to pursue. The excitement and energy I felt from the students made me want to stay for the rest of the day, instead of returning back to our University's campus.  And although we had a few students talk a lot in between instructions, I could tolerate it and I felt that I had the responsibility for each student to do well in our exercises and reading activities because I want them to learn as much as they can from us. 

- Monica Augustyn

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have a dirty little secret. No, I'm not addicted to Oxy and/or alcohol. I am addicted to Television. Especially Reality Shows. The problem with this addiction is that I am far too busy to watch anything, let alone shows that are not the best that TV has to offer. With the exception of a momentary opportunity to turn off my brain from the things that I have to do in "real" life, these shows do not give me anything. On the rare occasion when I confess to people that know me professionally (i.e. an English nerd that gets weak in the knees at anything Shakespeare or Renaissance related) which reality shows I like to watch, I am usually treated with confusion and shock. And given my love for multitasking, I am always doing something else while watching TV.

So, knowing all of these things, why do I still watch reality shows? I watch reality shows because watching them allows me to play my own version of "Where's Waldo?" This would be a good place to confess that I am also an avid follower of celebrity gossip. Having these two pieces of information, it is quite easy to piece together what actually happens and what is scripted and acted out in front of cameras. I love catching moments that are meant to appear authentic and genuine, but the fact that they are scripted is so obvious that it makes watching these shows worthwhile. One of my favorite examples comes from "The Hills," which is still categorized as a reality show even though many of its "cast" have confessed that it is scripted and that they are merely acting. Whatever happens on the show (friendships breaking up, being mended, relationships beginning and ending, etc) has absolutely nothing to do with what happens in real life. The cast of the show appear to have incredible amount of time on their hands to do whatever they may please, which is usually limited to seeing the same group of people in the morning for brunch and later in the day for drinks. Love interests come and go with the same frequency as on regular scripted sitcoms. Having watched and analyzed these shows, I still question my own interest in these shows as well as the public interest. If both the characters on the screen and the public watching at home know what the show is about and it is no longer perceived as what it is supposed to be, then why do we keep watching these shows? Is it the ability to play "Where's Waldo" and spot all the instances when the show doesn't make sense? Is it to see the horrible acting skills of the characters?

Having said "skills, " I feel the need to backtrack and explore that idea more. Does one need any skills to appear on a reality show? It appears that you do need certain skills for some of the shows (Project Runway and Top Chef come to mind), but for the rest of the shows on TV, it seems that the only thing that is necessary to reach stardom is luck to be picked out as the person that will walk around with a mike taped to their body. After all, what skills do any of the characters on "The Hills" have? What about the women on the constantly increasing "Real Housewives" shows? None, unless you count spending other people's money. Our society's acceptance of low quality and standard reality shows has reached disturbing levels, and people's willingness to go through things to get to be on TV is simply unacceptable.

During the past few days the media reported on a story that, I believe, brought the human desire for attention to an all time low. We all heard about the balloon boy. We all watched as the country's already strapped resources were used for the fulfillment of one man's idiotic dream. How could anyone put the public and his own son through so much just for their personal gain is truly beyond me. However, I cannot find anyone other than ourselves to blame for that event. It is the viewers that have turned reality television into acceptable programming and since these shows cost much less to produce than anything else, the networks are all too willing to give us as much reality as we can handle. The question we need to ask ourselves is how much reality is too much reality. When does fascination become an obsession? How do we stop this from happening? Unfortunately, I don't have answers to any of these questions. So far I have only been able to point out the problem, but I don't yet see a solution. Not watching these shows is an option but it is an option that many of us, myself included, are not willing to take. It is a long and hard day's night and the best way to unwind is by going through my DVR and pressing play on "The Hills."
Lilly Berberyan




Recently, I was at Loyola Marymount University briskly walking toward the elevator.  Mid-semester brings with it a significant uptick in deadlines to meet, so I arrived at the door multi-tasking in my mind.  The vator opened. The look on the faces of the two middle-aged white women, and the middle-aged white man with them, made me pause before stepping inside.   It was the look of fear.  Thrice over.  Independently conceived.  Collectively expressed. Unmistakable.


“Hi”, I said, as I smiled and stepped inside.


Hello is my defense mechanism and my Improvised Explosive Device. The word landed on their faces like acid rain which strips away the surface.  Exposing the infrastructure of the human condition.  Our discomfort with difference. 


I wish I could say that this elevator experience was an isolated incident.   An outlier.   I can’t.  It’s  another experience in a long list of elevator interactions that are  troubling and enlightening.


Carrying around a black body in a country where the black body is devalued, despised and desired is a complicated enterprise.  Reproach and approach engage in an illicit embrace.


This embrace is just more pronounced on elevators because of the forced proximity of human bodies.  Behind a closed door. It bespeaks of America’s  historic, messy blend of race and sex.  Bondage and rape.  Miscegenation and profit. 


Black and white bodies occupying the same space at the same time can turn an elevator into a compressed American History lecture between the 1st and 4th floors.


The fear on the faces of my fellow up/down/North/South travelers provides insight into the irrational nature of racism.  On at lease a dozen separate elevators over the last decade, I have boarded and been alone with a white female and witnessed the not so subtle clutching of the purse. The wrapping of the arms around the self. As if robberies happen in elevators as a matter of due course.  As if FBI Most Wanted posters  are taped right over the “down” button.


A few years ago, a middle-aged blond clutched her purse so tight, and looked at me with such distrust, that I was embarrassed for both of us.  I recall being ashamed that I hadn’t said something to her. I remember walking around trying to figure out what I wished I would have said.  I finally settled on:


“You have nothing I want.”


Fear is a  funny thing.  It often tells more about the person doing the fearing than the one being feared.


Michael Datcher


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Media Influence

The Real Truth About Beauty Campaign states that only 13% of women in society today are satisfied with their body weight and image. That is a small percentage to be happy with the skin they are in.  Much of the issues women are faced with today are constant media representations of unrealistic body and beauty standards, which women of all ages measure themselves against. The social pressures to achieve that look are apparent in print and media journalism. In most women’s magazine there is a diet ad.  On almost all television shows there are stick-thin actresses. And in every tabloid, there is the constant weight loss or weight gain comparison among celebrities.  This damage the media is causing, results in young girls developing poor eating habits or even eating disorders in order to emulate those images the media is setting for them.

  The issue of today’s media portraying unrealistic body images causes substantial intrapersonal difficulties in the minds of young girls. As a result of this negative influence, the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology show that “Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin-ideal type of beauty caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, more angry and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance.” The communication they are exposing to their viewers and readers is the image to be “skinny”, which is considered the only form of beauty. The context of this problem is the print media of “women’s magazines” as well as the televised media.  The celebrities and supposed role models are the starving victims who are sending a message to young girls across the world that it is “ok” to go hungry in order to look acceptable.

            The actual problem is that women are being influence to buy beauty, diet products and any other means in order to copy these women within the spotlight. This is a negative form of communication because the consequences of diet pills or starvation result in health issues and even death. The Common Sense Media stated online, “In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 35 percent of girls 6 to 12 years old have been on at least one diet, and that 50 to 70 percent of normal weight girls believe they are overweight.” This horrifying fact should force the industry to take a step back and realize that girls between those ages are being highly influenced and have started to ruin their bodies before they even graduate from 8th grade.

            Some may argue that peers and parents may influence the pressures of this sociocultural ideal; however, the media communication is the ultimate source of the problem. It is difficult to flip through the pages of a magazine without being bombarded with diet pill advertisements, or even reading the cover of a current issue of Life & Style, where three beautifully portrayed celebrities are accused of not eating. Nonetheless, it is deceiving because these three women look beautiful in their ball gowns and their hair flawlessly curled.  These celebrities may have an eating disorder, but the pictures the magazine prints, makes them look ideal and glamorous.

            According to Levine and Smolak’s research, “83% of girls report spending a mean of 4.3 hours a week reading magazines for pleasure or school.” The print media advocates for such unrealistic body images and with that statistic, it is scary to think that young girls spend the majority of their time focused on reading magazines that may affect their habitual lifestyle from here on out. From the beginning however, young girls have been surrounded by this ideal image of a woman and what beauty is.  Even Mattel, the makers of Barbie, impact the minds of young girls.  With her impractical body proportions, girls retain that image and try to emulate her extremely small waist size and “perfected” proportions.  It is unclear as to why girls compare themselves to the models and celebrities in the media; however, with advertisements of diet pills and “ways to get skinny” messages, society cannot escape this harmful message. 

Girls are in a real danger and few people are taking notice of this concern. Girls are trying to look like their pop idols on TV and will go to any length to accomplish that.  Studies have shown, according to SADD Statistics, that “Nationwide 12.3% of high school students had gone without eating for 24 hours or more to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight during the last 30 days.” How is this going unnoticed in our society? We have plenty of information on how Nicole Riche became increasingly smaller as the months past, why is society not noticing the consequences it is having on young girls who read these magazines and watch the networked TV?  Interestingly enough, the Journal of Social Issues reported that restrictive dieting and eating, relating to body imaging, could be attributed to the specific types of programming girl’s watch on TV. Therefore, it can be said, that not all types of media influences the body conscious of young girls, but much can be attributed to the specific shows—most popular are the soap operas and music videos.  The attractive women that continually show up on these shows impact these young viewers every day of their lives.  It is inevitable.

            In my opinion, I feel that this is a large issue in our society. The constant “diet” ads in each magazine girls pick up influences them in one way or another.  It may not result in bulimia or anorexia; however, it does mold a so-called “correct” image of beauty in their minds.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Drifting Apart to Be Closer


Let me start off by saying that this is my first blog (but definitely not the last). I know that I am coming to the party a little late, and I am still not quite sure why I did not blog before. I am one that has always kept up with technology, I am obsessed with gadgets and new advancements, and I always welcome change. I think that one of the main things that kept me away from blogging was the fact that I did not think there would be enough interest in me by virtual strangers, and I also did not want to stroke my own ego more than it already gets stroked. But one of the main reasons was probably the fact that I did not want to enrich my 'online' persona at the cost of my actual life. As a member of the ME generation, I am often startled at how distanced we are becoming from one another every day. And don't get me wrong--it's not because we do not want to communicate face to face, but because there are so many ways that we can avoid real conversations, and real communications. In fact, we are likely to be singled out if we don't join the bandwagon of Facebook or Twitter. These technologies are extremely helpful when we are trying to keep in touch with people that are not in our immediate circles of friends, such as distant acquaintances. There are always people in our lives that we know only in passing and keeping up with what they are up to through Facebook, or dropping the occasional "Like It" on their Facebook status is just fine. But then there are also the people that we consider our nearest and dearest friends, and it is these relationships that Facebook and other mediums of communication affect the most.

I, obviously, have a Facebook account. The list of friends is quite moderate--does not exceed 100, and I am quite picky about who gets on that list. I do not ask virtual strangers to friend me, and I have been known to decline friend requests from people that I don't know in real life. I recently increased the privacy levels of my profile and currently only my friends can see my profile. I was highly disturbed by the idea that one of my students would stumble upon my profile and see me ranting about all the grading or prep I have to do, or anything else for that matter. And I will be the first one to admit that I post status updates too often, but after spending the entire day in four walls, it is really tempting to think that you can communicate with one of your "friends" through a post.

The downside of Facebook posts is that it really stifles regular communication with actual friends. Conversations with friends have often come to a screeching halt because of status updates or posts. It usually goes along the lines of, "So, I was walking around in the store yesterday, when" and a friend says, "Oh, I know, I read your status update." It can be quite disturbing, because growing up my main form of communication was in person or over the phone. These days communication is limited to keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. I have gone through days when my phone hasn't rung once, but I have been completely up to date with everything that happens with all my friends, and they know exactly what I am up to. I still use my phone to text, e-mail and even update that Facebook profile. But I think the phone feature on our phones is becoming obsolete--after all, the line "Can I have your number?" is turning into "I'm gonna friend you on Facebook."

Lilly Berberyan

Obama & Peace

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
--Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t sure he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He wasn’t sure if he’d done enough. Wasn’t sure if the Civil Rights Movement that he led, risked his life for, and eventually would die for, had accomplished enough for it to be recognized by the prestigious honor named for Alfred Nobel.

On December 10, 1964, the 35-year-old Baptist minister stood at a podium in Oslo and shared those doubts before president, king and common citizen. “I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize,” he said.

Critics on the left and right have questioned whether President Obama deserved the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The right to question power is one of America’s defining characteristics. We cherish it. In some countries, to question, is to disappear. To ask, is to die.

It’s the tone of the Obama critics that’s problematic. Especially on the right.

Erick Erickson of the conservative website said, “I did not realize that the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota.”

This type of racialized discourse is what the country has come to expect from republicans. Although the critics on the left have not typically been as ignorant, plenty lefties have responded to the Nobel Peace Prize announcement in the spirit of a Gary Coleman quote: “What you talking ‘bout Willis?”

But here’s another way to frame the question: Should a person receive the Nobel Peace Prize for shifting the peace paradigm?

On April 5, 2009, during a speech in Prague, President Obama spoke of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He couched his comments in terms of America’s moral responsibility to act by leading the way.

According to David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, on Sept. 24, 2009, with the United States serving as head of the U.N. Security Council, President Obama personally led the Council, and directed the group on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Obama’s leadership that day was critical to the unanimous vote on a measure that calls for further progress on nuclear arms reductions through a strengthened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and for improved security for nuclear weapons materials, while also proposing ways to deter any nation from withdrawing from the treaty.

During President Obama’s remarks during the session with the Security Council he said, “Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city, be it New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, London or Paris, could kill hundreds of thousands of people … a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The day before, at his speech before the General Assembly, President Obama said, “Today, let me put forward four pillars that I believe are fundamental to the future that we want for our children: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. First, we must stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them.”

This language of the most powerful man in the world, and the action behind the language, represents an extraordinary paradigm shift. A movement.

A legitimate conversation about a world without nuclear weapons, a legitimate movement for global peace. Led by the only country to ever explode a nuclear bomb.

This is why the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Hussein Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

During Dr. King’s Nobel acceptance speech, after expressing his doubts about his worthiness, and his own movement’s worthiness, he went on to say, “After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”

Michael Datcher