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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

No H8



HOMOSEXUALITY: a one word controversy that continues to spark heated debates from classrooms to living rooms. Miss Beverly Hills, Lauren Ashley has taken the debate a step further and brought it onto the beauty pageant stage. As I watched her interview, it took all the will power I had to not throw the living room table at the T.V. Thie beauty queen went beyond the dumb blonde stereotype and is just plain ignorant. Not only does Miss Beverly Hills oppose same-sex marriage, but she promotes the abomination and death of gay people.

"The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman," Ashley tells FOX News, "In Leviticus it says, 'If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them' The bible is pretty black and white."

But she doesn't stp there. " I feel like God himself created mankind and loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. But, if He says having sex with someone your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that's a pretty stern warning, and he knows more about life than we do."

In my eyes this beauty queen is the epitome of ignorance. Even sadder is the fact that her views, although extreme, represent the views of a majority of Americans. When California's Prop 8 passed I was shocked that a state that considers itself liberal would take aways such a significant step towards giving all people rights. Throughout generations different minorities have been persecuted for being different. Homosexuality is no different: it's a modern day persecution and our modern day Civil Rights Movement. The close-mindedness of Miss Beverly Hills and our society continues to surprise me.

Those who cannot be open-minded enough to accept the differences in people are doomed to repeat the atrocious mistakes of our past. By discriminating against homosexuals, people like Lauren Ashley are condemning themselves to a pitiful half existence, and missing out on the opportunity to build great relationships with great people. This hatred, phobia and discrimination of homosexuals is simply based on irrationality. As the generation gap continues to broaden, I am glad to see younger generations are becoming increasingly considerate of what is considered different. Instead of shying away from tolerance, my generation is slowly but surely becoming more accepting of individuality.

-Alex Mead

When Goodbye Becomes Hello


I’ve always hated goodbyes, and this one wasn’t going to be any different. I took in the scenery, letting the musky scent of wet grass pass through my nose as I shifted my bare toes around a pile of crisp leaves. It had only been one year, but it felt much longer. It was a bittersweet goodbye.

I was moving away from the simple and quaint Southbend, Indiana to a place known for it’s fame and excess, a stark contrast from what I had become accustomed to here.

I was moving to Los Angeles.

His sweaty palm rested on the leg of my jeans, his fingers circling the rip at the knee.

“Do you really have to go?” he asked.

I didn’t answer. Didn’t look him back in the eye. Instead, I shifted my gaze overhead. The moon was more visible now and cast a warm glow over the lake. Dusk was ending as the nightfall began to set in. The ducks gliding across the water were no longer visible, and the stars provided only a dim illumination in the black sky. They were stars that would be much harder to see in a polluted city.

A single tear dropped from my eye. I felt the slow, deliberate touch of a hand graze my cheek. His thumb lightly pressed into the hollow of my eye and brushed away the salty, wet drop.

I wanted to run away.

I guess, in a sense, I was.

That moment occurred nearly two years ago but it feels like yesterday. Adjusting to life in LA was not an easy transition, but now the bright lights, loud cars, and thick brown air feel like home. When I left Indiana, I didn’t know that I was making one of the best decisions of my life. In fact, I was nervous about my decision, and most of all apprehensive about starting over.

When you move, your life flips upside down. A new place gives you a new perspective, a clearer view, a stronger purpose. And so now, with summer approaching, I have a new place to look forward to. There will be another bittersweet goodbye, but still with the intention of a new adventure, an exploration of the unknown, and more self-discovery.

I will be traveling across Europe. It will be the first time in my life that I will be leaving the United States and traveling to a new country. As the days to my departure approach, I look forward to the people I will meet and the places I will go. I’m a strong believer that everything and everyone you come across in life has a purpose. That the minuet details are what makes life exciting and sometimes the littlest things can become the most profound moments of you life.

So today, I savor the dirty mist of LA raindrops that cover my head, I remember the smile of an acquaintance I passed by in the parking lot, I take in the beauty of my blue front door on Regis Way, and how easily I can find a Chipotle within 5 miles of my current location. I enjoy these little things, because pretty soon I will be surrounded by the unfamiliar. There will be no recognizable faces, language, or street names. But I also know that this experience will enable me to grow and that I should not fear the unknown too much, because this time I’m not running away, I’m moving forward.

-Courtney M. Myers

Saturday, February 27, 2010

While the World Sleeps

I like going to the beach in the middle of the night. I’m most alive during that brief but beautiful interval of time after the insomniac stoners stomp out their dying blunts and before the yogaphiles invade the morning shores in colorful spandex like Teletubbie conquistadors. While the world sleeps, I sneak out to the coast. I carve myself a little piece of real estate in the sand, shaking and shimming until I’m burrowed three or four inches deep. Sure, it’s no $2500 Tempur-Pedic but I don’t go for the r&r. My purposes don’t allow it.

 

After dark, the horizon disappears. The ocean appears infinite and expressionless. It’s a mystifying scene that fills the ocular orbs with a singular sense of wonder and a feeling that there is somewhere, somehow, someone, something, someway, that there are possibilities, that there is hope.

 

The moon drops the temp and pumps up the humidity. It’s a moisture infused cocktail that wreaks havoc on any gal’s hairdo, but in my estimation, does wonders for the respiratory system…

 

…and so I breathe in the sweet and salty brew and think. Nothing more, nothing less.


Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my future. I have less than a year and a half left in college, at which point, I’ll no longer be a student, but an unemployed twentysomething. I’ll miss school. I’ve been a student for the better part of my life and it’s given my days a sort of rhythm that will be strange to live without.

 

What I’m most afraid of is becoming stuck, stuck in a life I didn’t intend on leading. The world pressures us to make compromises. One concession leads to the next, and before we know it, we are living lives that are not ours. I have already made several such settlements. I  rationalize each with a familiar excuse: “I am looking out for my future.”  In retrospect, I wonder if looking ahead has caused me to sacrifice the present.  

 

Was it the right move to leave my friends and family back East and pursue an education in Los Angeles? Was it the best decision to put music and mechanics, two fields I love but I’m told are for “delinquents,” on the back burners and focus almost exclusively on my studies?

 

I try not to dwell on the past but I think there is something to gained from revisiting our previous missteps and miscalculations.  Growth is moving forward with a sense of what’s behind you.

 

I can’t help but think how every hour I spend studying the nuances of Gothic literature could be better spent laughing with those I love. Many of us live our lives in constant preparation for the future. We do well in school so that we can go to a good college; we study hard in college so that we can get a good job; we work hard at our job so that we can get a better job that pays more and comes with medical AND dental benefits; we save our money so that we can live comfortably in our retirement; and then we arrive at old age with a fat bank account and realize we sacrificed too much for the paycheck. We exit the carnival with a 6-foot stuffed animal but without as many memories of cotton candy or roller coaster rides as we originally hoped for.

 

I am not advocating an abdication of all responsibility, just a reprioritization. 

 

Because when it’s all said and done, you won’t look back and reminisce on the grade you received in chemistry or the numbers printed on the Christmas bonus; instead, you’ll look back on the smiles of those who made you the happiest and the moments you shared with them.

 

When I’m old, I hope to go to the beach on a warm July night, scoop mashed peas into my mouth, look out into the big empty and say to myself: “Man, what a ride.”

 

~Ian M. Johnson

 

War Across the Border


Memories of my childhood are fading more and more. They seem so distant. I vaguely remember the smell of fresh apples from local orchards and putting on fluffy little girl dresses then going to festivals at our church or at my elementary school. I can no longer muster many details from my childhood in Canatlán, Durango but I do recall the specific feeling of community that enveloped me at my school and in my neighborhood. It has been several years since my last visit to Canatlán and with the escalating violence in the entire country of Mexico, I have no idea how much longer it will be until I can return.


El Universal newspaper reports that by January 11, 283 people died in 2010, more than double the figure from the same period last year. Three years ago the President of Mexico Felipe Calderón launched a military-focused offensive to target drug cartels. More than 16, 000 people have been killed in drug violence since then. This strategy is furthering inter-cartel violence as rival cartels are fighting for control of the lucrative drug routes into the United States. The cartels are also fighting the Mexican army, federal, state and local police. According to officials the vast majority of drug war victims are linked to the so called “underworld” or criminal world. About a tenth are law enforcement officials and although hard to believe, a small number are civilians caught in the cross fire.


No one is guaranteed safety as news outlets report on the numerous crimes; crimes that are often times so monstrous and shocking they make me wonder how these people can really exist. Not only are victims tortured before they are murdered, a lot of the time bodies are found with severed extremities.


Within the last year we received news about a relative who fell victim to such a crime. He was in his early 30s and in love. In love with a girl who belonged to the underworld and thought she had left it behind. I guess that was her mistake, thinking she could move on from such a lifestyle. They were both murdered, their bodies dumped in the outskirts of town. Her body showed severe signs of torture and it was presumed, like with other crimes of this sort, that they made him watch every minute of it. I can not even imagine the terror that was carried out that night. Two people stripped of their lives in such a cruel way. But just like them there have been many others, murdered in a similar manner and as the numbers escalate one seems to blur into the next.


There are those who are murdered because they are part of the drug world, but what about those completely unrelated? Among those at risk are journalists covering stories for local papers. Recently the body of a reporter was found alongside a note warning: "This is going to happen to those who don't understand that the message is for everyone." As drug cartel violence continues throughout Mexico, journalists may unintentionally become a part of their own story.
In this sense, is it worth the risk? If the media does not report what is going on, who is left to do so? Several news sources are censoring themselves to keep reporters safe, but in doing so they are not fulfilling their duty to inform the public.


I honestly do not have any ideas for a solution for this ever-escalating issue. It is extremely alarming that almost daily there are articles about drug violence in Mexico and although it is mostly between drug suspects, military or police, civilians are accidentally killed or mistakenly believed to be part of a cartel.


I wonder how much more blood must be shed before the world opens its eyes to an issue that is bigger than the country of Mexico.
-Yvette Olguin

The Family Nucleus


In the spring 2009 edition of the Truth About the Fact, Jennifer D. Munro’s story that chronicles her struggles of starting a family when the ticking biological clock is chiming violently against her was an engaging and heartfelt piece. As a child, I myself never really wanted a family and I’m still very unsure why. I essentially had two loving parents and two older and loving siblings. In a lot of ways, I had the perfect nuclear family and yet my desire to have children of my own some day was never exceptionally high. Even when I was given dolls, I never considered them as my “children” and I never considered myself as their “mother” as many of my childhood friends did. I instead saw my toys and dolls as individuals because that is how I saw myself. 

              Even through much of my teens, I never wanted to have children or start a family. I was glad when both my older brother and sister married their respective spouses and began having children so that at least my parents could be grandparents and I wouldn’t feel too guilty about not giving them a grandchild. Sure I wanted to find love and I wanted to find marriage but I wanted to leave the baby in the baby carriage out of the equation. But its stories like Jennifer’s, stories about women who yearn to love and care for a child of their own that really changed my attitude about having children. I began to see that there must be something so beautiful in creating and loving a child for these women who can’t conceive to want it so badly. There must be something so wonderful about having a family to call your own.

When my very own sister first attempted to start a family, she had a couple of setbacks and even had a miscarriage. But in time, she was blessed with my nephew Vincent and he was just one of those babies that warmed my cold I-never-want-to-have-a-family heart. With time my frosty attitude towards having a family of my own changed. I now feel that if biology allows, if the sperm meets the ovum in the way it does one day (but not any day soon of course), I really do want a family. 

After all, the family nucleus, where are things connect, is an essential part of life. I have had this epiphany after years of attempting to deny its importance and place in my past, present, and future. But again, it’s often stories of women like Jennifer who cannot conceive or stories you hear in the news of men annihilating their entire families, that have made me realize how precious a family is and how it is not something I could do without. After all, the family nucleus is certainly where are things connect and why deprive yourself of that connection?  

-Krystal

Friday, February 26, 2010

Keep Your Laws Off My Body



At the beginning of February, while on Twitter, I noticed a few of my Bermudian friends were discussing a new bill in Bermuda being considered that bans wearing hooded sweatshirts. Despite not caring about it very much, I found it interesting that Bermuda, or any country for that matter, would attempt to put such limitations on what people decide to wear.

On February 20th, 2010, the government in Bermuda passed a law giving law enforcement officers power to confiscate hooded sweatshirts, also known as hoodies, disperse groups hanging out, and conduct longer stop and searches. This law will also give police the power to detain those under 17 years old who are hanging out after 9pm without their parents, and take them home “for their own safety” (The Royal Gazette). Officers will be able to seize any clothes that conceal their identity such as hooded tops and face scarves, even if they are not being worn at the time. Anyone that refuses to cooperate will be fined up to $2,500. The main goal of the Anti-Hoodie Bill is to reduce the “escalation of gang-relations violence and anti-social behavior.”

As I read this, I quietly thought to myself that I was glad to live in America, where rules against certain stereotypical clothing did not exist. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I was directed to a news article dated September 12th, 2008, that read that some schools in New Jersey were banning hooded clothing due to the fact that they concealed students identities from hallway cameras. At the bottom of the screen, many people had posted comments either in favor of the prohibition or against it. Those in favor argued that the main concern of the school was safety and security, and this was a necessary measure to maintain a protected campus. One poster, “whatevernj,” said, “If kids are cold let them were a standard sweatshirt or a sweater. This is very practical since there is no way to enforce the kids from not pulling the hood over their head before they come within camera sight and do whatever mischief they intend to.” While this seems ideal, hoods on sweatshirts are made to keep the head warm. However, it does not block anyone’s identity unless the camera is positioned behind them, which would not capture the student’s face even if there was no hood present. A male poster by the name of “gino55” said that hooded sweatshirts can be used to hide contraband. However, this argument was quickly shut down by “baligirl” who points out that any place can be used to hide contraband. Without these sweatshirts, the students will simply get more clever and creative.

As a former middle school and high school rule breaker, I do not agree with the law in Bermuda nor do I see the prohibition of hooded sweatshirts as a way of preventing rules from being broken. In Bermuda, they claim that the law will reduce the rise of gang violence. Hoods on sweatshirts will not change a person’s character. A person who is determined to break laws is not going to change their minds simply because they cannot wear sweatshirts. Criminals come in all shapes and attire. The most fearful criminal can wear a business suit and rob a corporation with no remorse. Without hoodies, they will come up with another outfit that draws less attention in order to not get caught. Also, gang attire is not limited to sweatshirts. Gang members and criminals, more often than not, are going to opt for the clothing that makes them inconspicuous. Since sweatshirts are the targets, they are, for example, going to wear a nice button-down shirt or something that resembles what a “normal” person would wear. To sum it all up, I believe that people are going to do what they want regardless of their clothing. Therefore, I find the banning of hooded clothing to be pointless.

-Britt

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Your Eggo Is Preggo


This past Sunday I spent my Valentine’s Day eating chocolate, avoiding guys and planning a baby shower. Fortunately it was not my own; unfortunately it was for a 17 year old girl. My brothers’ best friend Javante got his girlfriend Betty pregnant. Betty is far from alone as a pregnant teenager. Approximately 750,000 women in the US become pregnant each year and nearly 1/3 of those become pregnant before she reaches the age of 20. Eight in 10 of these pregnancies are unintended and nearly a third of those end in abortion. Despite being ostracized from her family, Betty has chosen to keep her baby. She was forced to make a difficult choice; a choice a 17 year old shouldn’t have been forced to make.

After more than a decade of declining teenage pregnancy rates, in 2005 the pregnancy rate of girls aged 15-19 increased by three percent, and increased again in 2006. The teenage abortion rate also crept up for the first time in ten years. It’s hard to pinpoint what caused this dramatic increase but it does force America to speculate.

I first have to point my finger at our beloved 41st President: George Bush. Bush’s presidency is known for many things: shattering the record for largest annual deficit in history, failure to fulfill the pledge to get Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive”, having not one but two shoes thrown at him during a press conference, and his moral compass that would only allow him and our nations money to support abstinence only sex education programs. With federal financing giving $150 million a year to sex education that emphasized abstinence before marriage and left out all mention of means of contraception, it’s not surprising Betty and thousands of other American teenagers aren’t aware of how to partake in safe sex.

While I do take secret enjoyment in blaming all of our countries problems on President Bush, I am also compelled to turn the tables and look at our culture. Pop culture in America is making promiscuity more and more socially acceptable. With teenage girls obsessing over Carrie in Sex and the City and Juno’s undeniable char, sex and even teenage pregnancies are becoming a much more fathomable idea.

Whether it’s our overly sex-saturated culture or the Bush administration that plays a role in the rise of teenage pregnancy, the reality is that teenagers are sexually active and need to be aware of all the ways they can protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies as well as STD’s. Thankfully the Obama administration is taking a step away from these unproductive abstinence only programs and putting financing towards more liberal programs that have been proven to help prevent pregnancy. Although it’s a little too late for Betty to learn the importance of a Trojan, there are thousands of other teenage girls across America that need to know that safe sex is great sex.

-Alex Mead

Tut, Tut


The other day, while perusing aol.com I came across an article by Katie Drummond which detailed some recent discoveries on King Tutankhamen made possible through DNA research. “The most famous of all pharaohs was a frail and sickly king who walked with a cane and suffered from a painful bone disease and a club foot,” stated the article, which further went on to reveal speculations that malaria may have been what finished the nineteen-year-old ruler, that he had been the product of inbreeding and had produced two inbred still-born children who had been buried with him. I found this new insight fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. The King Tut of my childhood history classes had been a regal ruler, tall and handsome in my minds eye and sporting only the biggest and best ancient bling. It pains me a little to think that my children may not get the same impression of him, despite the advantage of a more accurate historical account.

Drummond’s article interested me so much that I decided to share it with others via my Facebook page, invoking an equally interesting response from a high school friend. He responded that, while the article was no doubt intriguing, who cares what happened in 1324 B.C. and why couldn’t archaeologists just leave the poor guy’s body alone, especially given the high death rate of the time and malaria being a common cause? I had to agree with him on some level that the privacy of the poor pharaoh had been long since tossed aside in the name of research and historical understanding. But, at the same time, I marveled at what technology has been able to uncover and was excited at the prospect of future generations having an even better knowledge of history than our own. My friend was irritated by what he deemed to be the pointless repeated intrusion of researchers, and in reflecting upon his reaction I’m not sure myself why it’s necessary to know such intimate details of the young pharaoh’s life. Why is it not enough to simply know that he lived, that he ruled, that he was buried within a world wonder?

It is no secret that today’s society is borderline obsessed with celebrity, wanting to peer into every aspect of the lives of the better-off, the better-dressed and the better-looking so, when you think about it, King Tut isn’t much different. He may not be making appearances on “The Fabulous Life Of…” but he’s definitely an ancient equivalent to those who are. In his time Tutankhamen was rich, powerful, lived in a palace, was dressed in the finest clothing, threw lavish parties, and generally lived the good life of antiquity. Given the near-matching description of today’s celebrities, it’s really no wonder that we find Tut’s life so intriguing, but does it give us the right to so thoroughly invade the peace of his eternal rest? As fascinating as I may find the history of ancient Egypt and its leadership, in adhering to my Tut-as-modern-celebrity theory I do not condone the invasion of privacy in the lives of today’s celebrities and therefore cannot seem to justify how far we have gone in regard to the life of King Tut. Don’t get me wrong, I highly regard scientific research and the work of archaeologists and I cannot claim that I wish them to cease all exploration for the sake of ancient privacy, but perhaps we might exhibit a bit more sensitivity in dealing with such matters. Despite his being a decomposing king and a key to the past, we are still dealing in the realm of human life and that in itself demands the utmost respect.

-Heather Maupin

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Age-Old Obsession


In a mindless while-cooking-dinner conversation the other day, the topic of celebrities came up, specifically male celebrities. A girlfriend of mine said, “I don’t just like Brad because he’s good looking; he’s such a good guy, you know?” At which point I chuckled, nodded, and initially thought nothing of the comment.

But post-dinner in my subdued food coma state, I got to thinking about the strangeness in my friend’s remark, that is, the feeling of closeness to and knowledge about famous people that many of us fall victim to. And when you look around, this is knowledge-teetering-on-addiction is everywhere; magazines in the checkout stands, entertainment blogs, entire books with titles like Brangelina Exposed. America has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity fame that is getting worse every day.

Attraction to celebrity is not a new phenomenon. From the times of ancient Greek gods and on through the centuries and millennia, people have been captivated by famous figures. Celebrities embody larger-than-life qualities that the majority of people lack, and these unattainable and fantastical features continue to add to the allure.

While this is not a new human experience, it certainly seems to have reached new levels in our society today. Since the early 20th century, Hollywood has tightened its grip on our culture, raising actors and actresses to the status of some of our most worshipped members of society. Now, with a constant stream of media injected into our everyday lives, the worship of celebrity has never been more accessible and engrained.

With this media-age celebrity addiction, there is the potential to overdo the famous people intake, especially in places like Los Angeles. It’s always slightly embarrassing to see people actually buying Brangelina Exposed, or viewing celebrity blogs hours a day in place of human interaction, or literally running after celebrities around town. For some, these unattainable figures have become an intense fixation, a source toward which to devote more time and energy than seems healthy.

Amid the shameless aggressiveness of today’s media, it’s a good idea to maintain the upper hand, to recognize the glorification of famous members of society, and, as in any large-scale trend, to remain grounded in individual thought and present reality.

Indulging in some mild, everyday celebrity gossip is age-old, harmless, and at times unavoidable. Therefore, I cut myself some slack when I have moments like the other day, when I found myself talking dreamily about Leonardo DiCaprio for longer than I’d care to mention. But hey, everyone has weaknesses, and I’m happy to say I maintain my mild obsessions with a level of personal conviction and [reluctant] acceptance of reality.

Corinna Ace

Clothes and Closure



ZZZZZZZZZZZZip! John Fayiah closes up the zipper on a large suitcase filled with unused clothing in the living room of his small home, just south of the city of Monrovia. John is a small business owner in the African country of Liberia, a nation which until very recently was torn apart by the violence of a civil war spanning across multiple decades. Although UN peace-keeping forces have been able to restore a relative amount of peace in Liberia for the past six years, the physical, emotional, and economic scars of the brutal conflict are still deeply felt. John’s shop in the city’s market district sells mostly new clothes, and while there is a demand for his goods, his business is still struggling due to a lack of capital. Like so many in his country, the war has left him with almost nothing. Everything he now owns has been scrimped and saved from scratch.

The origins of the Liberian conflict are myriad and complex, but mainly it can be traced back to the emancipation of slaves in the United States going back to even before the closing of our own civil war. The Republic of Liberia was established in the early 1800’s with the good intentions of being an independent state for freed American slaves to be able to colonize and start a new life without having to suffer the hardships of racial prejudice. The freed slaves who arrived, however, still considered themselves to be American, not African, and soon began to oppress and in some cases even enslave the ethnic natives of the region now named “Liberia” in honor of their newly obtained liberty.

Establishing a pseudo-democracy, loosely based off of the American model, the Americo-Liberian political party monopolized control of the government and continued the practice of oppression of the native peoples for well over a century. This monopoly of power was held until 1980, when a military coup composed of soldiers belonging to a mixture of the ethnic groups claiming mistreatment closed in on the capital city of Monrovia, named after the American President James Monroe, who first proposed the “back to Africa” initiative. The soldiers stormed the President’s mansion, took him hostage, and then proceeded to film in his office as they butchered and ate him while he was still alive. The act was a remnant practice of the native cultures’ warrior superstitions, which hold that eating the flesh (especially the heart) of your opponent will give you his strength and power.

Thus began an inevitable civil war with many uncanny parallels to the more widely publicized Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although it has seen far less media attention, the Liberian turmoil has seen far greater horrors and atrocities, including innumerable acts of rape and cannibalism, the enslavement of child soldiers through brain washing and drug addiction, and the practice of human sacrifices before going into battle, usually in the form of killing an innocent child and drinking its blood. One rebel leader, who was one of the most infamous practitioners of child sacrifices, went by the name of “General Butt-Naked,” because he and his soldiers would fight without any clothes on, believing that it would ward off any harm from bullets.

Today the conflict is at a standstill, but no one in the country has gone unaffected, and no one is able to forget about the things they have seen in their lifetime. John Fayiah was still a young man when the conflicts started, and initially was very passionate about the politics behind the fighting. Now, at 37 years old, he just wants to be able to close the book on that chapter of his life. He simply would like for his two sons to be able to grow up without the fear of being killed or kidnapped in acts of senseless violence. A small but important part of his personal recovery would be to simply gain the dignity of working in his own shop each to day to make his living. It is this emotional type of closure that John Fayiah is seeking in his entrepreneurial pursuits. Not the kind that will put an end to his business.

If you’d like to help John, or any of the countless other small business owners from impoverished regions around the world, please visit kiva.org, where you can make an investment as small as just $25. Your contribution, combined with the investments of thousands of other people from around the world, can help to provide businesses like John’s with the basic capital investment they need to become self-sustaining. You will be helping people in need, and because it is an investment, not a donation, your loan will be repaid back to you in full.

-Paul Beckwith

Monday, February 22, 2010

Professional Complacency



It’s ingrained. You wake up every day of the week in a city you don’t favor living in, next to a person you don’t really like that much, have sex that’s really not that great, eat a breakfast you don’t really enjoy, and head into a job you most likely don’t look forward to.

It’s the story of many post-grad young professionals in the US. Alright, maybe not so much a story as a culture. But apparently I find myself climbing out of bed every morning to commute to a desk job –albeit a good one with travel and benefits and a 401k – I can’t even believe I just typed that bullshit… Point is, I’m feeding that culture and I’m wondering how the hell I got programmed into doing so. Because humans, people, ectomorphs, etc. weren’t made to slam themselves into some 9 to 5 –note: that doesn’t exist anymore, try 8 to 8- job and work for someone who most likely doesn’t appreciate them.

After 4 years of solid professional work I’m tired. Could be a personal feeling, but judging by my peers, I notice a lot of them are just going through the motions on a daily basis. It’s a herd of huffing, disconcerted water buffalo all waiting to make it to the next watering hole weekend. Everything in between is noise, fight or flight, or swallowing good ideas in favor of kissing ass. I’m thinking a lot of what American culture breeds has been paved for the last 100 years by our parents and their parents before them.

Look, we gotta find a balance folks. A balance between what our country has deemed the “life path” and actually enjoying life. Not saying the two can’t go hand in hand…but, well, just saying.

The majority of our population been mired in this notion of being couch comfortable. Sure, there ‘s a minority of the population that do what they love, are motivated, driven and travel the world to succeed. However, I’d argue that the majority of our population work for bosses they dislike, float through days uninspired, then follow a bunch of pairs of crawling red eyes through the night back home to recycle it all the next day (unless it’s a Friday in which case, let’s get go get drizzy).

So what does it take to yank what matters most back into your life? Because if I hear words like synergy and due diligence and phrases like “thanks so much.”, I'm going to lose it.

Personally, I wanted so badly to succeed into my new professional life. I wanted to get out there and make my mark on the world. I ended up securing a job with one of the best private luxury development firms in the world. I appeared as someone on a path to succeed, and I was for awhile, but then I stopped on my 4th year anniversary at my job and took stock of myself and what I had to show for it.

In retrospect I must have looked like a drunken 12-year old idealistic musketeer running out from under the portcullis of college waving my rapier wildly (see: diploma). Sidenote: I’m not condoning underage drinking here…just roll with it, I’m going to make sense of all this nonsense.

I have a good salary, live in Manhattan Beach, have (had) a beautiful, superficial girlfriend (let's just say I’ve had a more emotional connection with a piece of cardboard)…but to be truthful I hadn’t really felt like me since college. I lost my passion for life, my personal direction, my love for language and reading, and the one girl I love. The kind of girl who only comes around once and if you don’t go after her like a lion and keep her, she’s going to disappear into the world because everyone else recognizes how amazing she is. The kind of person who, if you walked into room with people scattered around sitting in chairs, there’s about a 95% chance you’d take a seat right next to her. The girl was a buoy, a beacon. And let me tell you, once I had this little life reflection lesson, that shit smarted. Was it worth it? To me at the time, I was so sure of myself that it was worth anything for me to succeed professionally. I was focused too far ahead of what I wanted to accomplish, versus what I had already accomplished –building and developing as a person I was proud of.

We’re getting to the end of this entry and I’m talking about all this stuff, but I haven’t even pointed a finger and blamed anyone(I have to throw someone under the bus here –it’s only professional…zinger!) The point of this entire hybrid rant/I’m a wet blanket/shut the F up and do something about it/diarrhea of the pen, piece is that I wanted honesty from the institution. I’m not even mad that American culture hands most of us a magnetized directional compass for life, I just wish someone had warned me how the professional world would be once I dove in. How, instead of going to a place where you have people who want to help you succeed every day, you face an entirely different situation altogether. I’m not sure any teacher or amount of schooling can prepare you for it.

But once you dive into that world and you get in deep, it’s extremely easy to fall into a pattern of complacency, and that's what I've witnessed around me. I don't think it's completely done on purpose, but it wears on you to a point of becoming extremely easy to buy into the system, collect a paycheck and live weekend to weekend. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this. Because, while you're working and grinding every day, there's potential human energy being lost.

The Power of a Voice


It is a great thing, being able to voice your opinion. For years now I’ve been able to say I don’t like that outfit, or that the burger at my favorite café is the best in the world, or that some professor I’m taking might possibly be the devil. More importantly though, the ability to voice an opinion has allowed for Presidents to win countries, women and men to fight for their rights and crowds to stand in the face of disaster. An opinion gives one power so great that it seems one might be able to silence the world if even for a minute.

Last week, as I was driving down Wilshire, enjoying the sun, the perfectly timed green lights and the wind swirling around my car I was awestruck by a crowd forming on the corner blocks away. A stream of break lights came rushing towards me and in an instant the sun was blocked by enormous signs and the music in my car was muffled by the sound of hundreds of voices chanting.

It was a mass, a hoard, a roaring crowd of people inhaling and exhaling hate towards a common cause. Flags were swimming in the sky and the fury of the people rose like flames along the sidewalks. As cars passed horns rang in support of the power, for the passion, for the people voicing their opinions.

The chants protested the United States’ support of violent countries, and condemnation of other. The signs called for the killing of people who kill their people. The crowd stood as a force against the United States government. I was taken aback by their power, but the symbolism of the collective opinion, and their ability to voice it as one sweeping wave was astonishing as well.

The truth of the story is, I don’t know what they were protesting. In reality I was anxiously waiting for the sun to creep out from behind the boards and for my music to once again fill my car. While these people and their opinion caused no physical harm to me or anyone else to my knowledge, there was something so furiously violent about their gathering that caused me great discomfort. The images taped across large sheets of paper were gory and their words called for death.

It is odd for me to juxtapose the emotions created on that corner, to those of the Women in Black who stand on a corner in my small hometown in Washington State every Friday. These women stand in silence and solidarity with those who are fighting for the United States of America around the world. They stand in silence each Friday evening, and they too attract the honks of passing cars and the unsympathetic glares of others. What always stands out so much for me is how capable these women are of voicing an opinion silently, and how powerful their dark message stands on that rainy corner.

Maybe because I am girl who loves to voice my opinion in black ink it is hard for me to relate to the blazing protest I witnessed last week. Or maybe, their violent presence was what caused their heartfelt protest to be such a severe distraction to my day. I believe words have power and when yelled may leave a lasting impression just as a silent presence yells for attention. Historically, bold protests stand out; the silence of Gandhi, the march on Washington, the passion against the Vietnam War and then there are those which have left a scar, like the flames of the Los Angeles Riots. These pivotal moments in history I believe were only realized by the unity of a people, the passion for real change.

It is a beautiful thing to voice ones opinion, I commend both groups for taking a stance and taking action of what they can control. But is there a moment when ones opinion may cause an explosion in the world rather than a spark to spur a movement? Is there a time when an opinion says too much?

Cheers,
Hannah


You Are What You Eat: So Be Something Healthy

For those of you who didn’t read my blog last week, it was concerned around our First Lady’s cause to stop Childhood Obesity.

As a college student I know I’m not the best candidate to dole out health advice, I am not a personal trainer or a doctor, I eat In N Out all the time, I do drink alcohol, and have a mean sweet tooth.

As a result of my upcoming 22nd birthday in two months, and graduating a few weeks after that, not only is my future career, but my future health habits as well, have come into question. I have made the conscious decision to start changing my lifestyle now, so that when I am strapped for time with a job/ career and eventually a husband and children, I am somewhat equipped or prepared to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite my limited time to work out, cook healthy meals, etc.

The easiest way for people to maintain a healthy living, despite not having ample time to devote to diligent daily exercise, is to start at least by eating healthy. I bought a Women’s Health Magazine and in an interesting article called “The Rainbow Connection”, this piece brought to light the fact that there are many natural and healthy foods Americans don’t eat which don’t require any preparation at all. This article also points out that one of the most important things most people are missing in their diet is COLOR. You may wonder what I am talking about, what I am talking about is: produce, fruits, vegetables, those colorful objects that grow in the ground, ya know?

According to a recent study Americans tend to eat the same produce over and over again, limiting their palate to the point that oftentimes we miss out on essential and “unique phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that vary from color to color. These various compounds all do different things to protect your health” (Women’s Health Magazine).

As a result of our bland produce palates we are missing out on certain health benefits. What I found interesting about this article in particular, is it not only detailed what vitamins and minerals each color produces, but which fruit or vegetable fits into each category, and what time of year they are in season. I found this a particularly useful and a wonderfully detailed catalogue, especially for those who are aware they are short on time as well as lacking in certain elementary nutrition.

Here are 5 colors, of the various colors mentioned, of different types of produce and the benefits they have for us.

Orange: Oranges and Peaches can help boost immunity as they contain both ‘beta-carotene’ and Vitamin C.

Red: Watermelons, Strawberries, and Tomatoes produce a noted lycopene or cancer fighter, anti-oxident defense, and can help aging and heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in America.

Yellow: Pears and Pineapples also contain vitamin C and can help block against skin damage and heal cuts or wounds.

Blue and Purple: Grapes, Cabbage and Blueberries contain agents called anthocyanins, which help prevent signs of aging and oxidative damage, as well as having anti-oxidents that help fight cancer.

And Last but not least Green: Avocados, Kiwis, Green Beans, and Lettuce contain cancer fighters such as isothiocyanates, as well as two types of anti-oxidents that can help prevent the leading cause of blindness.

What I found valuable about this article’s content is that it inadvertently addresses a large issue that contributes to Childhood Obesity, which is: parents lack of time or ability to make healthy meals for their kids. This article offers natural, simple, quick, and cheap alternatives to candy or pre-packaged junk food as snacks for today’s youth.

A healthy lifestyle applies to people all ages and races, it is as useful and relevant to the parent of three, as it is to a college student. One of the central facilitators for childhood obesity besides, lack of time to create a healthy diet and lifestyle, is lack of dietary and nutritional EDUCATION. I decided to do a little research and went to the AmericanHeartAssociation.org. On the homepage there is a tab called Healthy Living, which directs you to the site’s nutrition center. The nutrition center offers several options such as: tips to maintain healthy diet goals, heart smart shopping, healthy cooking, healthy eating for kids, and healthy eating for parents.

This site not only offers detailed information and tips on each of the five food groups but also has a application on their nutrition center which allows you to create a grocery list of only American Heart Association certified food, produce included. When I went to their vegetables and fruits section under the nutrition center it re-iterated the point that: produce that is colorful are better for you.

Fruits and vegetables that are deeply colored throughout – such as spinach, carrots, peaches and berries – tend to be higher in vitamins and minerals than others, such as potatoes and corn.” (American Heart Association).

I agree that what is healthy may not be the most appealing all the time, as a college student I am more than tempted with In N Out, Alcohol, and 2 am Yum Yum Donut runs with my roommates.

I came to the conclusion that as humans are naturally omnivores and our decline in favor towards eating produce is conditioned in large by the media, that it is up to our generation to personally condition ourselves in the opposite way, so I decided to take a piece of my own advice and went to Trader Joe’s and bought about 25$ worth of produce which with my college student’s budget I anticipated should last me a few week.

With this 25$ I was able to buy a pack of strawberries, a pack of 6 plums, 3 lemons, 3 onions, romaine lettuce, a vine of 6 tomatoes, a pack of 6 persian cucumbers, a bag of 20 or so of Clementine tangerines. It’s been a week and I still have over half of my produce left, despite snacking on plums and tangerines in the morning and salads at night, daily since my purchase.

I’ll end my blog with a quote from the American Heart Association whicb I feel relays the ultimate message of my piece. “Early nutrition lessons can help develop heart-healthy habits that last a lifetime.” (American Heart Association).

By Christina Lo Duca

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Lighter Side of Death

In the wake of the tragedy in Haiti I would like to talk about death and its effect on life. The death toll in Haiti could potentially reach over 300,000. It is one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. The Haitian earthquake could be even more lethal than the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 where more than 200,000 people were killed.

Death is like the air we breathe. It is all around us. It consumes us. Every day we wake up not knowing whether or not it will be our last. But we don’t necessarily have to fear death. Don’t get me wrong, death is an extremely scary subject.

There have been two different times in my life when I thought I might die, and I was petrified. The first was when I thought I might drown at Lake Mead while I was fishing. The second was in my bedroom when I saw a green alien hovering off the ground right below my bed (seriously I’m not even joking). Granted I was only ten years old, but I can still remember the feeling in my stomach that I might not survive the night. I remember praying to God that he might save me from the little green blog with big black, oval eyes. It’s funny how we turn to God in our most desperate moments.

There is something of vital importance that death gives to life. Death can give us a better perspective on life. Without death life would have no value. Knowing that we will someday die and not fully knowing what happens after death makes life so much more beautiful. Maybe we go to heaven or hell, maybe we will be reincarnated depending on our karma, or maybe its just worms and dirt for us. Life is something that has an end point. It does not pass go and collect 200 dollars. We all die at some point and that, my friends, is something worth living for. Why not live life to the fullest while you can? If every person lived forever then each moment wouldn’t seem nearly as precious. If there were no end to life then we would become bored, we wouldn’t have to make important choices and compromises, memories would become irrelevant, and people would have no care for the world. If something can’t be lost then maybe it’s not worth keeping. If I couldn’t die then I wouldn’t care about anything or anyone because I couldn’t lose anything.

With death comes the realization that life is extraordinary. Each moment is perfect. Time is merely perfect moment stacked upon perfect moment. Once you begin to grasp this idea everything seems to slow down. Time no longer flies by, but instead almost comes to a stand still. You will begin to feel a breeze of wind or ray of sun on your neck, you will spot a bird or a leaf falling from a tree, you will notice the clouds moving through the blue abyss or a drop of rain splatter on your cheek. Every moment in time there is something so perfect going on that you might fail to notice if you don’t take the time to look, listen, or feel. Everything happening around us might get passed by if you don’t slow down, take a deep breath, and let yourself realize that time isn’t passing us by but instead we are passing through time.

-Hayden Fulstone

Wildside

I am not the ‘outdoorsy’ type, although I wish I were. Not to say I’m a super girly-girl, but I would much rather stay in a nice hotel room with a comfy bed, surrounded by the white fluff of a down comforter, in air conditioning, with running water, electricity, and plumbing than say… go on a hike.

But this past weekend, that all changed.

It all started with an impromptu trip to Arizona with my roommates. Neither of my roomies had been to my hometown of Scottsdale before, so I decided the best way to show them what the desert had to offer was to take a hike.

We woke up at 9am, had a nice hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and Krispe Kreme donuts, and then set out on our adventure to hike a few trails on the newly developed McDowell Mountain. Mind you, I decided not to take them to Camelback Mountain, a mountain for ‘more advanced’ hikers. After a six and a half hour drive, a nice leisurely stroll through the arid mountains was all we really felt we needed, and all I felt I was capable of.

We began our journey at 11am. The air was hot. The sun beat down on my back without mercy. I felt a cool drop of sweat run down my face almost instantly after exiting my car and heading to the trails. Luckily I came prepared with a bottle of water to cool myself down and my Jackie-O sized sunglasses to shield me from the cruel rays of the sun.

We picked a moderate route. Only an hour and a half hike start to finish. The first ten minutes went by quickly, simple easy hike. Then, as we reached higher altitudes our steps got slower, more deliberate, and our breath quickened.

“Hey what do you guys say if we ditch the trail and just make our own pathway up to the top of this mountain,” I said, “It really doesn’t look that far up.”

“Lets do it,” they responded.

I led the way. Walking sticks in hand, we plowed through the palo verdes, skipping in between jumping chollas, which I warned them not to brush up against, dodging snake holes, and keeping watch for any mountain lions or other stray wildlife. We huffed and puffed our way up the mountain, stripping down to the bare minimums of our clothes as the sun got harsher, the weather hotter, and our bodies sweatier.

About half way up the mountain I turned to look back.

“Holy…” I yelled, “Hope you guys aren’t afraid of heights.”

The trail we had been following earlier was no longer visible. The mountain we were climbing began to get more and more steep. At this point we were almost vertical and had to ditch our walking sticks to climb up the rocky ridges using our hands and feet as supports.

At last we reached the top. The view was beyond words.

“Wow we did it,” Brittany whispered.

We took in the scenery for quite some time. All of us silent looking out, our bodies sore and aching, admiring what we had accomplished. Something I never thought I could, let alone would desire to do.

“So…” Jesse said, breaking the silence. “Now how do we get down?”

We’re idiots, I thought. I’ve always heard the hard part was climbing down. We had been so strategic on our way up: finding the clearest route, the easiest and most secure rocks to find our footing, and now we were…stuck.

We looked around for quite some time trying to figure out the best way to decline.

“I’ll go first,” I said. In my mind thinking I’d rather be the one to slip and fall than my best friends who I had dragged into this situation.

I slowly backed down the rocks, checking the security of each boulder before I put my full weight on it. Eventually I lowered myself down to a point where I could ‘spider crawl,’ my hands digging into the earth as I tried to safely descend down the side of the mountain.

Occasionally, I’d hear a few shrieks and yells behind me, as they lost their footing on the slippery terrain.

“You okay?” I’d yell, my voice echoing in the mountaintops.

There would be along pause, then I’d hear the faint sound of laughter, followed by a pained “Yeah!” shouted back to me, and I knew everything would be all right.

We eventually made our way back to the trails. Our one and a half our hike turned into a four-hour excursion of triumph. We were so proud of our feat. Whoever thought a bunch of dance majors could scale a mountain?

It is an incredible feeling accomplishing something you never thought you would be able to do. I’ve yet to experience anything quite like sitting on top of a mountain with your best friends just taking in the view, the vast space of the landscape, the height of the mountains, the abundance of wildlife and plants: everything living, breathing. I found out something new about myself that day. Sometimes you find happiness in the most spontaneous of moments, sometimes you accomplish things you never thought were possible, and it is then that you learn to appreciate every creature you encountered on your way up and every plant that scratched you on your way down.

-Courtney M. Myers

Meals or Wheels

“The rich have a superfluous store of things which they do not need, and which are therefore neglected and wasted; while millions are starved to death for want of sustenance. If each retained possessions only of what he needed, no one would be in want, and all would live in contentment.”
- Gandhi

I wonder how many people consider what their things are worth. I’m not referring to direct monetary value or whether or not a ‘fair’ price was paid, I’m talking about how many meals one could get with the equivalent amount of money, how many mouths one could feed, and how many lives one could save AND sustain. I’m talking about what things are worth in lives and whether or not the time you work, the energy you exude, and the desires you have give you the right to deprive another of what we might call the basic necessities of human life; of food, of clothing, of shelter. I’m talking about whether or not one’s unwillingness to moderate and to give back to the world which has provided a great deal of our petty things along with many of one’s own essentials will ever end. As it now stands – we’re raping life.

Not too long ago I was taking a walk around campus and came across something; it was a decent life, food, and clothing, perhaps even shelter for countless homeless around the world. It was greed and gluttony in the most elegant of forms. It was a brand new customized Lamborghini Murciélago; a four-hundred-thousand dollar vehicle. A two person mode of transportation which likely doesn’t get driven any more than forty miles at a time and at a speed which is limited by the hellish Los Angeles traffic. While it is a beautiful machine, its purpose is flawed. Nobody needs to spend (or should they spend) that obscene amount of money on anything, let alone something with such limited use. This is especially the case when it is put into prospective of the potential benefit it may bring to so many. Is this vehicle worth one thousand lives? Is it worth one life?

The real issue is that our society has adopted the idea that we have ‘earned’ this wealth. Many tend to think that others have so little due to their own inaction, lack of drive, or moral corruption. The primary cause for many however, is their lack of opportunities. No one individual’s work can be worth such a great deal more than another's because (as our society maintains) all of our lives are of equal value. There is no reason that one person can work hard and not be able to attain the basic necessities of human life. Yet we insist that a select few, who work perhaps equally as hard as the rest of the deserving world, 'earn' the obscene amounts of wealth they attain. Amounts which no human being ought to be entitled to.

By no means am I advocating asceticism or any other act involving the surrendering of all worldly possessions, I simply think that it is not right to claim that you own something, that you have earned something, that you deserve something that you can clearly survive without so long as others are forced to live the woefully deprived lives that they do; all due to a simple lack of opportunities and gross exploitation. Through this inequality, through this exploitation, we are denying multitudes their humanity. Through such great monetary disparity, we are denying them their humanity.

I would like to challenge anyone to spend an hour and question everything you do, everything you come in contact with and ask whether or not you actually need it, while considering the value it might hold elsewhere. Question your clothes. Question your jewelry. Question your hour-long shower. Question your writing utensils. Question your food. Question your air conditioning; just so long as at the end of that hour you are able to answer why there is any reason to continue raping the multitudes and denying millions their humanity.

I am being very hypocritical and may sound quite accusing, but this is by no means my intent. I have found it nearly impossible to fully purge myself of all of what I don’t need. It is difficult because it is near impossible to know where to draw the line, especially in the consumerist society so many of us have been raised in. My hope is not that you surrender all possessions, or even feel guilty in the least, just that you use moderation. When we can all begin this subtle change, the divide will begin to close, as will the currently deepening wounds humanity has inflicted upon itself.

Best wishes,
Samuel D. Hollin

A Life Lost


Dr. Fred Kiesner looks like Santa Claus, floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly. Grandpa Fred, as he is known to the student’s who love him, is an eternally happy, snowy haired old prof with a hefty back brace that impairs his gait, but according to him, doubles as body army. He’s a man of unflinching strength and spirit. So on Monday, as we watched him walk into class late and without a smile, we all knew something was wrong.


He didn’t keep us in suspense for long.


Grandpa Fred had just returned from the funeral of Avi Schaefer, the son of LMU Business Law Professor Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer. Avi and his girlfriend, Marika Baltscheffsky, were walking hand-in-hand outside the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island just before 2 a.m. on Friday morning when they were struck by a drunk driver. Both were immediately rushed to the local hospital. Baltscheffsky was treated for serious injuries but was released later in the day. Schaefer was pronounced dead on arrival.


In an instant, a father and mother had lost their beloved son of 21 years and three young boys had lost their eldest brother and best friend.


Speaking as a father, Grandpa Fred cried as he spoke of the incomprehensible anguish that devours a parent of a lost child. He caught his emotions before they reached a tipping point, but before leaving the subject, warned us that if he ever caught us driving drunk he would less-than-politely remove us from the vehicle. I don’t promote vigilantism but I more than understood his anger in that moment.


An estimated 13,846 alcohol-related driving deaths occurred in 2008. This figure accounted for 37% of all traffic fatalities that year in the United States. Drunk driving deaths have been steadily declining since 1982, a fact which, despite being a cause for hope, offers little comfort to the Schaefer family and those like them suffering through similar tragedies.


Life is one slow exhale. Sadly, for some, this breath is cut short by misfortune. Such flames may flicker out far too soon but we can take some solace knowing that their memories continue to burn brightly in the minds and hearts of all those who loved them.


Avi Schaefer will not be forgotten because he was loved, and is loved.


For those of you on Facebook, I urge you to join the group “In Loving Memory Of Avi Schaefer.” The page, which includes pictures, videos, and messages, offers a more complete rendering of Avi.  


~Ian M. Johnson

Friday, February 19, 2010

White Darkness in the Black Community


February is not just the shortest month, but it is also a month that carries the theme of love. The second week in February is not only Valentine’s Day, but it is also the week that President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born. February is also known as Black History Month, or African Heritage Month. Black History Month is a time to recognize the achievements of African-Americans who have made a difference in the community and in the world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is often amongst those recognized in February. This month has been celebrated annually in the United States since 1926. This remembrance was founded by United States historian Carter G. Woodson. It was originally called “Negro History Week,” and took place during the second week of February. The purpose of Black History Month was to debunk the myth that blacks only had the capacity to hold positions of slaves and those of low social status.

Despite it being a different time than in the previous segregation and separation of races, some places in the United States still see African-Americans as ignorant, low-class, uneducated human beings. There has been much controversy surrounding an event linked to the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha on the University of California in San Diego campus. The event themed the “Compton Cookout” was posted on Facebook and invited students to celebrate Black History Month. The invitation read:

"February marks a very important month in American society. No, i'm not referring to Valentines day or Presidents day. I'm talking about Black History month. As a time to celebrate and in hopes of showing respect, the Regents community cordially invites you to its very first Compton Cookout.
For guys: I expect all males to be rockin Jersey's, stuntin' up in ya White T (XXXL smallest size acceptable), anything FUBU, Ecko, Rockawear, High/low top Jordans or Dunks, Chains, Jorts, stunner shades, 59 50 hats, Tats, etc.

For girls: For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes - they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red. They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face.

Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words, such as "constipulated", or simply cursing persistently, or using other types of vulgarities, and making noises, such as "hmmg!", or smacking their lips, and making other angry noises,grunts, and faces. The objective is for all you lovely ladies to look, act, and essentially take on these "respectable" qualities throughout the day.

Several of the regents condos will be teaming up to house this monstrosity, so travel house to house and experience the various elements of life in the ghetto.
We will be serving 40's, Kegs of Natty, dat Purple Drank- which consists of sugar, water, and the color purple , chicken, coolade, and of course Watermelon. So come one and come all, make ya self before we break ya self, keep strapped, get yo shine on, and join us for a day party to be remembered- or not. "

Although there is not much that the school can do to penalize the students, given that it was an off-campus event, many members of the school faculty and the president of the fraternity to which the event was linked spoke against the behavior of the students. The fraternity president plans on penalizing members who were involved with party. UCSD Chancellor Mary Anne Fox is holding a teach-in on February 24th to educate staff and students on mutuality and respect on campus.


As a member of the black community, and a former resident of Compton, I find this behavior rude and appalling. For students to behave this way in an environment they are to be educated and respectful of people from all backgrounds, genders, and orientations, I find this is unacceptable. Not only Black History Month, but all other months, should be used to recognize the achievements of people who have made a difference. On an everyday basis, Blacks have to prove themselves to be better than what people expect of them. Every day, they have to hope that nothing shows up in the news about a black person doing something embarrassing because they all know that it will be another reinforcement of negative stereotypes. This event is simply a physical illustration of what people think of blacks. While reading what has happened, I could do nothing but shake my head and hope that one day, Dr. King’s dream will come true.

*More information regarding this event can be found on: [http://www.10news.com/news/22588063/detail.html]
-Britt

Collective Kindness


Earlier this week during a discussion in one of my classes, a peer brought the following words to my attention: “Men are cruel, but Man is kind.” The concept seems simple enough of course. Collectively, men are often thought to be cruel and often times, it may seem that only individuals are truly kind. Over the course of this week, I’ve had time to contemplate that very notion and ponder its implications in this modern world. Of course, in a broad sense, those words are rather ambiguous but when I applied them to a specific situation, I did seem to understand what my peer meant when he stated “men are cruel.”
Indeed, several cases in Africa that have appeared in the recent news could most certainly lead me to that conclusion. As it has been reported, it seems that forty-four albinos in Tanzania have been slain because of the mistaken belief that albino body parts provide magical powers of some sort. Apparently, witch doctors market the body parts of albinos as ingredients in potions that promise to provide ultimate riches and as a result, nearly 10,000 albinos are in hiding. When I first heard of this occurrence in Africa, I was appalled and I was struck by the cruelty of men. It is because of these cruel men who hunt albinos that several are now being forced into hiding in fear that their limbs will be viciously hacked from their bodies. It is because of these men that a ten-year old albino child was beheaded and his family will never see him again. And it is because of these men that human beings fear that they are being hunted by their fellow human beings.
And being that in Africa, albinos are most certainly the light colored face easily spotted in the dark colored crowd, the fear of these albinos must encounter seems all the more intense. And really, a skin condition that is the result of the biological inheritance passed from both parents of an individual can’t be helped which makes this discrimination and cruelty all the more alarming. Just as alarming is the widespread belief in Zimbabwe that having sex with female albino will cure a man of HIV, which has resulted in a number of subsequent rapes.
Though it may be nearly impossible to live in a world where all men are kind and not cruel, recognizing the extent of the cruelty man imposes over his fellow man needs to happen. Somehow, this violence and injustice towards albinos needs to be recognized at an international level and awareness must be raised at once. Certainly, we cannot allow theses atrocious acts to continue. And certainly, we cannot allow the perpetuated mistaken beliefs and the lack of education, which condemns these albinos to go any further than it already has. And above all else, collectively, men should be kind. Individuals certainly are making great strides in this world with their kindness but it’s about time that humanity gets a little bit kinder. We should certainly model ourselves in the spirit of Albert Pike, in such a way that we “never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.” Only then can collective kindness be achieved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Finding the Saint in Valentine's Day


With Valentine’s Day having recently passed, a fancy dinner enjoyed and digested, a movie ticket stub still hanging about my jacket pocket and a sentimental card from my loving boyfriend standing proud on my shelf, I can’t help but reflect on what the day has come to represent in Western culture. “Love” is the obvious definition of choice, but love for whom, exactly? For my parents, the celebration of love has become less about themselves and more about their children on whom they still dote and send on a Valentine’s scavenger hunt in search of a handmade felt heart stocking filled with goodies…despite our being no younger than 15. For many couples without children it most consistently represents a day of celebrating their relationship, much like an anniversary. Singles will choose either to ignore the holiday altogether, blaming the floral, candy and greeting card companies for the harsh reminder that they are, in fact, still single, while others will embrace the silver lining and recognize those loving relationships that exist outside of romance, perhaps in an evening of fun and games with close, similarly single, friends.

These definitions of sharing and expressing love are all well and good, but they are admittedly self-serving. It’s easy to show love to those who love you in return, but what about showing love to those who haven’t even a home, let alone someone to call their “Valentine”? How are we giving love to those who have been the victims of human trafficking and child abuse and domestic violence and any other number of horrors? Or, on a smaller scale, how are we loving those who do the tasks that make our daily lives better: the Starbucks barista who delivers your much needed morning brew, the maintenance staff who brave the university bathrooms and painstakingly dust four stories of planters and railings, the fellow driver who doesn’t give you cause for obscenities? All these should be shown at least some small degree of the outpouring of kindness we give our more significant loved ones.

Typically it’s during Thanksgiving and Christmas that we turn our gaze on the downtrodden folks. We sit at our feasts and tear through our gifts, perhaps pausing a moment to acknowledge that there are those who are less fortunate and possibly having donated a day or two at a soup kitchen or shelter to get in our yearly philanthropy. We recognize the impoverished and the victimized on those days when, for most of us, our gifts are tangible, so why not on the one day of the year when the intangible is being given? Love and kindness are just as much in demand as are blankets, canned goods and donations, though certainly the giving of such items can be representative of those feelings.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is not the only day upon which we should be loving and kind to others, but for those, myself much included, who have not fully put into practice the daily expression of love for their fellow man, we might take it as a baby step. It’s time we put the “saint” back in St. Valentine’s Day and double the celebration factor by not only loving and being loved by those close to us but to and by those who will doubly appreciate a good deed. Perhaps activist Chiara Lubich summed up Valentine’s Day best, “We should live in such a way that in our last hours we will not regret having loved too little.” Here’s to loving daily and no regrets!

-Heather Maupin

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Game Night

It was Saturday night as I sat in the dark room on our first floor. I looked around suspiciously, all business. Those around me eyed the room, equally as alert, equally as suspicious. I steadied my hand as I touched my pencil to paper and closed my eyes. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

“Ready… Go!”

Hint: A Thing

And we were off. Three teams of four people, each with a designated artist, attempting to sketch an image with our eyes closed. This was what my Saturday night had turned into. This was Cranium’s sensosketch card.

“A spring! Smoke! A fire engine!?.... A convertible?”



Earlier that day I hardly expected that later I’d be participating in a full-fledged game night. When the idea was proposed to me, I was skeptical; I thought, aren’t game nights for kids or groups of middle-aged couples? I gave in when I realized some friends were actually interested, and I went about getting the essentials for such a night: two-dollar wine, cheese, crackers, and every cheap dip from guacamole to olive tapenade.

A couple games of Apples to Apples later, and I was warming up to the idea of Game Night; a quick game of Things and three rounds of Catchphrase, and I was hooked. How could I have overlooked such a simple concept when searching for mellow weekend plans? In a college world of constant parties, bars, or clubs, grasping for that chance to be defined as cool or adult, it’s easy to forget about going back to the basics. A few games and I witnessed a group of college students reverting right back to childhood mode.

Sitting there with my heart racing, trying to control spurts of unadulterated, genuine laughter, I was having more fun than I’d had in a long time. I looked around at a group of good friends and felt like I’d stumbled onto something great. Over the course of the night I had meaningful talks, had pure fun, made real connections, with people I love to be around.

Whatever way you’re able to get good conversation and true connection with people you care about, I encourage you to go for it. And sometimes you just might have to go back to the basics.

Hint: Game Night is a good way to break the ice.

Corinna Ace

Happiness is a Red Balloon


“The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts: and the great art of life is to have as many of them as possible.” – Montaigne

For most people, a balloon is synonymous with joy and happiness, with simplicity and levity. For me, it is a profound symbol of my relationship with loss. One of the most distinct memories from my childhood was of a specific experience with a balloon, and it still lives vividly in my mind to this day. I remember all the colors, the textures, even the weather and the time. Mostly, though, I remember experiencing something that I couldn’t put a name to then, but which today I would try to summarize as the temporal intemperateness of life.

Try to imagine, if you will, a small blonde boy in an Aladdin t-shirt, standing on the grass in front of the apartment complex he lives in, beneath the pleasantly temperate Southern California sun. On his face is a placid smile that seems content with being left alone to its own devices. In his hand is a balloon, a bright red balloon, with a string improvised from a length of cheap lavender ribbon. All around him, the buildings and trees tower upward, and the bright clear sky seems so far away. But the lengthening shadows of the afternoon mean nothing to him. Even the little pug, barking at him from the neighbor’s window, is easily ignored. His gaze is fixated upon the bouncing red globule of gas-filled latex, which provides a bounty of entertainment from the simple act of jerking the ribbon up and down.

Unexpectedly, the creative instinct strikes him. Where exactly it comes from is about as clear to me now as it was to me then, but suddenly the boy starts playing a new game. He lets go of the balloon, letting it slide upward through the space between his fingers and thumb. At the last second he grabs it again, pulling it back down to eye level. Very entertained, he does it again. Then again. And again. Somehow it never gets old. The fun is in waiting until the very last second, when the ribbon is almost completely past his hand, then grabbing it again at the final possible instant.

But suddenly, he waits too long and grabs at air. He jumps, trying to reach it again, but the momentum of the fight against gravity built up faster than he had realized, and now it is most definitely gone.

“MOM!”

For a brief instant he thinks that her tall height, and the simple fact that she is a mom, will allow her to rush out the front door and grab it for him, but this lighting flash of a mental model is quickly dispelled. He just stands there, looking upwards, which is in itself a very surreal perspective to the human mind. He watches as the small red gem becomes ever smaller against the vast blue oblivion, and time itself seems to stretch and warp and lose all meaning. Smaller and smaller it shrinks, and the tears were already pouring down his cheeks when the tiny speck finally disappeared completely. Oh sure, there would be other balloons in the future. But there would never again be that balloon, never again that euphoria. There would never again be this exact heartache. The first tiny scar etched upon my being, out of the many more yet to come.

Of course, wonderful woman that she is, my mother came rushing out as fast as humanly possible, wrapping her arms around me and pulling me into her warm embrace. She took me inside, and right away procured exactly what the doctor would have ordered for this situation: a nice tall glass of ice cold chocolate milk. My sobs eventually subsided, the cartoons were turned on, and soon only the drying streaks on my face were the only reminders that anything had been wrong.

Still, there can be no doubt of it. That fateful day, the world became just a little bit smaller, just a little bit colder. And I can’t help but wonder: has everything I’ve done since then, all of my intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors, have they all been an attempt to get back to that one moment, that final second just before the happiness slipped through my fingers, and this time not let go?

-Paul Beckwith

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spoken Too Soon





I drove onto campus Tuesday afternoon and it was like a ghost town, you could have heard a pin drop, the only noticeable quality that stood out about the day being the scores of illegally parked and unattended LAPD cars all around campus.
I had no idea what was going on until I asked, to which someone replied, “The Israeli Ambassador is giving a speech here today.” I really didn’t see the need for all the security being that the Ambassador, Michael Oren, is here to promote a thriving relationship between the U.S .and Israel a relationship that has been steadily growing stronger over the last 4 decades after the Johnson administration.
However, upon reading The Loyolan this morning, it was voiced that the reason for all the security was due to the Ambassador’s past appearances at other venues being met with strong and sometimes violent opposition by those of Muslim descent in his audience at UC Irvine last week, 12 students being subsequently arrested due to threatening violence prompting the Ambassador to now take extreme precautions wherever he goes.
I couldn’t really understand why, despite cultural and philosophical differences of course, people would try to stand in opposition against someone who is trying to facilitate intercultural dialogue and bridge the aforementioned differences. Wouldn’t such dialogue in turn teach the Ambassador his opposition’s views? Doesn’t interrupting or disturbing such talks only facilitate further stratification, misunderstanding, and tension between those groups the Ambassador’s discussions are attempting to unite and additionally violate our country’s right to freedom of speech?
I guess I couldn’t understand his aggressor’s feelings because to be perfectly frank I was totally ignorant and unable to relate to the nature of why these people could be so angry despite the ambassador’s attempts to ‘extend the olive branch’, so to speak. I decided to restrain making up my mind about the situation to do some research regarding the nature of the U.S. Israeli relationship and the subsequent conflicts it has caused with other Middle Eastern countries.
During the Johnson presidency, Israel, who in the previous half of the century hadn’t had any substantial or significant interaction with the U.S., began negotiations with the American government to have them be Israel’s primary arms supplier. As a result Israel began to dominate it’s neighboring countries whom it was in conflict with, most notably Pakistan, which only further adumbrated an anti-Western sentiment amongst many Middle Eastern countries, being as the weapons the U.S. was supplying Israel with were used against various countries that Israel was in opposition with such as Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt. Needless to say this greatly aggravated many Middle Eastern countries, whose governments have subsequently refused to have their military assist the U. S. in any endeavor.
Apparently the U.S.-Israeli relationship was established and maintained by the U.S. initially not as a means of commercial gain, but the alliance was seen as advantageous in helping end the Cold War and Communist settlements, arising in the Middle East. Most Arab countries, being of Muslim association, chose not to join this alliance against Russia, feeling a greater conflict, due to religious differences, with the predominantly Jewish-Israeli population. The Jewish Virtual Library explains the next step in the U.S. Israeli- alliance.
“In 1987, Congress designated Israel as a major non-NATO ally, which allowed Israeli industries to compete equally with NATO countries and other close U.S. allies for contracts to produce a significant number of defense items. Israel also began to receive $3 billion in grant economic and military assistance. The following year, a new MOU was signed encompassing all prior agreements. By the end of Reagan's term, the U.S. had prepositioned equipment in Israel, regularly held joint training exercises, began co-development of the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile and was engaged in a host of other cooperative military endeavors.”
The U.S. has also provided Israel with billions of dollars in military and economic aid, as well as over $100 million in anti-terrorist aid. In other words, the U.S. has largely helped bail out Israel in their economic problems in exchange for continued alliance and for the country’s compliance with U.S. military aims. Although the relationship between the U.S. and Israel may on the one hand seem altruistic and of the best intentions to promote world peace and intercultural tolerance, on the other hand the relationship can be viewed as intimidating if not a down right frightening alliance in the eyes of surrounding Arabic countries who have suffered the results of the relationship.
Although my limited research may not cover the entirety of the U.S.-Israeli-Middle East relationships and past conflicts, I have gleaned enough understanding from my research to form an educated enough opinion about the actions of those students toward Michael Oren’s presence, which has brought me to ask these questions: Are these people who oppose the Ambassador because of his origin and religion, hypocritical and biased in their opinions considering they live and pledge allegiance to the country that provided Israel with the arms that enabled violence against their people? My second question is: Where is the line drawn between standing by one’s belief and exercising one’s right to freedom of speech and preaching one-sided ignorance. Personally, I feel that a lot of good, as well as bad, has come from our alliance with Israel, and while I may not agree with the politics of the situation, I do however support these types of discussions being that they promote dialogue to dissuade conflict in effort to both make amends as well as helping create new relationships. As idealistic as it may be I think if more people made the effort to take the time understand things from all angles, violence and conflict may finally one day become extinct.



Written By: Christina Lo Duca