The Truth Board

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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wiping Away the American Sleepy Sand

“Those who look outward dream. Those who look inward awaken.”
–Carl Jung

The American Dream is waking up. Or at the very least, it’s evolving. Or, maybe I’m just imagining this entire paradigm shift because I attend a Jesuit University. Regardless, from where I’m standing something seems to be changing. And I don’t think there could be anything better for the people of this nation.

The Dream itself is a curious creation. It is rooted in the pursuit of freedom, both freedom from (i.e. fear, hunger, persecution) and freedom to (i.e. worship, enterprise, pursue happiness). But freedom is a tricky thing. There’s a fine line between freedom and anarchy, between happiness and decadence. It’s also tricky because everyone wants to be freedom for different reasons, and sometimes those objectives conflict. I have ancestors who came on the Mayflower and they were looking for freedom to practice their religion. The other first founders of America, the colonists of Jamestown, were looking for the freedom to get rich on gold and lucrative plantations. And so the two biggest manifestations of the American dream were born almost simultaneously, religion and capitalism, and the two have had a sibling rivalry in our culture ever since.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of freedom is that it allows one to go off the beaten path and into uncharted territories. This is both the greatest benefit and the greatest danger of freedom. To choose to make your own path is the equivalent of setting off into the woods on your own. You could discover a hidden treasure, or you could become lost forever.

The American Dream definitely has changed over our country’s multiple centuries, though freedom has always been at its heart. Historians have called this phenomenon “the great American experiment,” usually in reference to our pioneering status as one of the first democratic nations since ancient Greece. By the 1950’s the American Dream had become a suburban dream, the nuclear family that owned a dog, a car, and a house with a white picket fence. It was thought that this dream would bring happiness. What it brought was overdue mortgages, stressed out husbands, amphetamine-popping house wives, drug addled kids, and an epidemic of divorces. By the 1980’s and 90’s it had become the corporate dream—that anyone could work their way up the corporate ladder and play the stock market to win big and get rich. By the 2000’s, we had Paris Hilton and the reality TV phenomenon, where everyone wants to be a celebrity with a messed up personal life displayed before the whole nation.

Americans have always wanted to use their freedoms to pursue happiness; the problem is, happiness is about as elusive as the famed El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth. We’re exactly like those early Conquistador explorers, expecting to simply wander until we stumble upon the ultimate fulfillment of all desires. But just like the tail-end of those Conquistador explorers, I think Americans are starting to wake up to the truth that this dream is just the product of a hyper-active imagination. The dream is just what it says it is—a dream. If we truly want happiness, we need to look for it in the American Reality. We don’t need a dream anymore, we need to wake up. And to me, it looks like that might be starting to happen.

I attended a program by Campus Ministry the other night in which Acting President David Burcham gave advice to seniors about living a post-graduate life. The first thing he said that stood out to me was that a goal without a plan is just a dream. Just a dream. The phrase is intriguing to me. It strikes my ears as a new social understanding. An understanding that dreams are fine for children, but to be an adult is to take action and have reality-oriented goals. Another of his parcels of wisdom is something that I’m starting to hear as a recommendation more and more often in recent years. He advised everyone to follow your passion, through the hard times as well as the good.

This, to me is the heart of the paradigm shift that I think we’re starting to see. A society where, instead of seeking actions that lead to hedonistic gratification, we are instead seeking courses of action which, by the very nature of the drives they ignite in us, lead to inner fulfillment, regardless of success or failure. Instead of an elusive El Dorado, we’re starting to seek our inner inspirations. Instead of dreaming about cold hard cash, Americans are instead awakening to the reality that happiness can be found in the simplicity of watching a warm sunset in the company of someone they care about. Perhaps the best part of this awakening is that it is free. And freedom is what the American Dream has always been about.

--Paul Beckwith

Details, Devils, and Sweet Smelling Flowers

“The devil is in the details.” Truth be told, I’ve never really understood what this expression meant. If I had to guess, I’d say it meant that great plans always end up failing because some important details have been overlooked. I’m not sure if that’s right, but if it is, I like this interpretation much better than the actual aphorism. To say that the devil is in the details makes the details themselves seem evil. This doesn’t sit well with me, because it has always been in the details that I have been able to actually see the presence of what I would call the divine. That’s why I like my interpretation of the old saying, because it instead highlights the fact that overlooking the details means that you are overlooking God’s plans.

Perhaps a much better expression is “stop and smell the flowers.” I’ve always been a big-picture person by nature—seeing the forest for the trees has always come naturally to me. The weakness of this is that I overlook the beauty of the those small delicate flowers growing in the shade. When you see the whole forest you get an idea for the plan and direction of divine movements in the world. When you notice a drop of dew slowly sliding down a small, purple-striped flower petal, you get to see the actual presence of those movements.

It seems like so much of our modern life is consumed with plans and predictions of the future. I’m not arguing against this, I’m just pointing out that it causes an imbalance. We plan and prepare for our lives more than we actually live it. I think this has been especially pertinent on my mind with graduation looming on the horizon. I’ve spent 22 years working for the moment that will come up on the morning of May 8th, 2010—the moment when I graduate college. It was something that was always expected of me by my parents, they started planning for this more than 2 decades ago. They’ve sacrificed so much to make it possible. Why? Because college is supposed to be a protection against poverty and want. Because the opportunities that are open to college graduates are greater, and so the opportunities for happiness are theoretically greater too.

The problem is, I’ve spent my whole life becoming very adept at planning, and I honestly haven’t learned how to live. It sounds silly and immature in the most laughable way, but I think its true. Now that I will have these greater opportunities open to me next week, how do I go about discerning what to actually do? It’s been a pretty big stress on my mind, and I’m sure I’m not the only senior who feels this way.

While it could be said that maybe my parents’ preoccupation with planning for me was therefore a kind of “devil in the details” error, I’d have to say that my greatest solace these past couple weeks has been from the rare moments where I’ve gotten to just stop and notice those flowers. Something as simple as looking at the individual grains of wood on the church pews has been incredibly soothing to me. I see the slow and patient movement of a greater purpose there, the workings of higher plan. Human plans are important, but they will always be limited and fallible—how many schemes has history recorded being smashed asunder by an act of God? The details are there if you look for them, and they are there because they were meant to be seen. They were meant to balance out our human plans. They show us the way to truly live.

--Paul Beckwith

A Revolution of Smiles

There’s something wrong with the world. There always has been, probably always will be. Not the natural world, of course. There’s nothing wrong with the planet itself or any other part of creation. The world that’s wrong is the human world. The world of our perceptions, our judgments, our desires and our fears. There’ something wrong with the world, and what’s wrong is that people don’t care.

To be more precise, the problem is that people have stopped wanting to care. And as a result, people have stopped taking action when challenges are presented. A lot of people are simply angry. Whether it’s the tea party right-wingers who are pissed off at the liberal infringements on their values, or the “progressive” left-wingers who are angry at the barriers that conservative values create. The problem is that people on all sides are not happy, and when nobody is happy, nobody puts forth the effort to care.

This isn’t a new problem. It’s a very old problem. History shows us that there are always groups that are dissatisfied, and if the levels of their dissatisfaction raise high enough, they generally tend to do something about it, like leading rebellions or uprisings. Throwing a good-old-fashioned revolution. This generally just causes a different group to become dissatisfied, starting the cylce all over again, but that’s a different story. I don’t really see that happening anyway, even with how upset many right–wingers are at the moment. The fact is that Americans, even the unhappy ones, are still pretty comfortable. And no one leads a revolution if they could sit comfortably at home instead. Take away something comforting like food and the capital building would be burning within the week. Instead, we are left with something worse. A society where everyone is dissatisfied, but no one is dissatisfied enough to do something about. We are in an equilibrium of apathy.

As the famous Beatles song Revolution once said, “well, you know, we all want to change the world.” And as the Michael Jackson song Man in the Mirror once said, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look in the mirror and make a change.” Well, I agree with both these sentiments, but I think making a difference in the world requires us to go farther than merely making a change in our own lives (even though that is important too). If we want the world to be different, we need to make a difference in the lives of others.

The problems of the world are big, but not if everyone works together on them. A professor once told me an anecdote about going to a football game one night at the LA Coliseum, back in the 1970’s. He said that at half time, all the lights in the entire stadium were turned off, and he said that it was the most enveloping darkness he had ever experienced before. Then, on cue from the loudspeakers, everyone in the stadium took out cigarette lighters and flicked them on. All of a sudden, all those tiny flames lighting up together made it bright enough that my professor said he could have read a book. That, he said, revealed to him what the power of an entire people taking action could really be, even if each individual action seemed small.

So how do we cure this disease of apathy? My answer is simple: vaccinate. Build up our collective immunity against it. And the only immunity against apathy is happiness. True happiness, not mere menial pleasures. The kind of happiness that comes from following a passion, or realizing the blessings in one’s life. What can we do to spread this vaccine? Simple. Make one person happy today. And do it again tomorrow. And then again and again, each and every day. Make just one person happy, and if you make them happy enough that you see that sparkle of caring in their eyes, then you can challenge them to make one person happy too. So go ahead, take a look in the mirror and make a change. But if you really want to make the world a better place, take a look at your neighbor, and make them smile.

--Paul Beckwith

Monday, April 26, 2010

Vampire Weekend: Upper West Side Preppy With Plenty of Irony in Tow

It’s not easy to pull off musical lyrics that combine a stanza about Dharamsala with one about Lil’ John. Not easy, but, apparently with a combination of an Ivy-League education, clever wit, and musical talent, it’s entirely possible.

On April 14th, thousands of screaming fans packed into the Fox Theater in Pomona to see the young and upcoming group Vampire Weekend on their 2010 tour. The four-person band, comprised of Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio, enthusiastically took the stage, an array of instruments in tow, and proved their dynamic musical artistry translates fluidly into true on-stage charisma.

The indie-rock band blends a mixture of African-influenced beats and themes of classical music to create their upbeat, preppy sound, and a genre they’ve self-proclaimed as “Upper West Side Soweto.” Since they released their debut, self-titled album in January 2008, Vampire Weekend has become an increasingly big name in the musical world.

Along with their unique style, the band members boast Ivy-League roots, an anomaly in the world of popular music. The east-coasters met and formed Vampire Weekend in 2006 during their studies at Columbia University, and a level of educated wit refreshingly shines through in a majority of their songs. The popular single “Oxford Comma” nicely embodies their crafty humor and intellectualism; the lyrics cleverly manipulate the concept of a grammatical technicality to make an ironic jab at the overt pretentiousness and feigned sophistication of their wealthy socialite peers.

On Wednesday night, the ecstatic attendees at Fox Theater proved that the group’s quick-witted music has reached full-fledged spotlight popularity with LA’s young music enthusiasts. The show lasted for nearly an hour, during which the band played a cross section of their most popular songs, including “Cousins,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” and “A-Punk,” the last of which was ranked 4th in Rolling Stone’s top 100 songs of the year in 2008.

The four band members matched their crowd’s enthusiasm with an earnestly energetic show, and made the effort to graciously address the audience throughout the spirited set. In an encore that included “Walcott,” an upbeat number that blends a strong beat with guitar and classical string instruments, the audience loudly belted lyrics along with Ezra, and generally produced a scene of an undeniably successful concert. If the remainder of shows in their 2010 tour prove to be anything like their Pomona performance, Vampire Weekend will undoubtedly continue to gain devotees on the road to certain international musical prominence.

Corinna Ace

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Transpeople: The New Frontier of Acceptance

Our culture is vast and varied. Millions of people from varying backgrounds whose lives are intersected by the backgrounds of their families, spouses, friends, coworkers etc. in an infinitely expanding network of cultural and societal influences. As a nation, for the most part, we have come to be accepting of these cross-cultural relationships and unions only after years of demonstrated hate and prejudice. Today, we are attempting to shift ideals once again in the acceptance and better understanding of homosexuals and the inherent manner of their being. While the accomplishment of such a goal will certainly be another cultural milestone, and if we are able to obtain the same recognition as interracial marriages and the worth of minorities, there will be yet another group in need of acknowledgment: the Trans-community.

The Trans-community consists of Transgenders (those living as the opposite sex but without surgical alterations to the body), Transsexuals (those living as the opposite sex having had or desiring surgical alterations) and Transvestites (those who dress as the opposite sex and who may or may not have a homosexual orientation). These are perhaps the most controversial and most misunderstood offspring of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual community and are often put at even greater risk to their physical and mental well being than homosexuals alone.

At the root of society’s misperceptions about homosexuals and the Trans-community alike is the refusal of society to understand sex, gender and sexuality as being opposite, though integrated, concepts. Sex is that which is biological and is denoted as male and female. Gender is those roles or outward characteristics attributed to the sexes by society (for better or worse) and are called man and woman, masculine and feminine. Sexuality is the way in which attraction to another is expressed. When people step outside these ideals, blurring the lines so to speak, is when society begins to question their authenticity and judge them as deviant. The gender binary so deeply rooted in Western culture, with expectations of man and woman so strictly defined, makes it difficult, then, for those like homosexuals and transpeople to be accepted as true individuals with inherent, not chosen, inclinations toward what society deems as unacceptable or inappropriate behavior.

I have always believed that a lack of knowledge lies at the heart of everything we fear. When we are well educated about things that are unfamiliar to us, we begin to understand them on a deeper level and can come to accept them as truths. Clearly our society has a long way to go in its acceptance of those who stand outside the established norm, but perhaps we can begin taking small steps in the process by better educating ourselves about those whose lives we are putting at risk with our lack of tolerance. Whether you agree with a person’s lifestyle or not, whether you acknowledge it to be a legitimate result of their birth or condemn it as a poor choice, they are people nonetheless, most of them good and caring people, and therefore they deserve the same respect as a member of the human race as those you cherish. Martin Luther King Jr. called on us to love our enemies and to wish ill on no man. Perhaps that is exactly where we need to start.

--Heather Maupin

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I-PHONE 4G: A Less Than Corporate Debut

I-phone 4G: A Less Than Corporate Debut

I usually try to stay away from too mainstream or conventional otherwise I’ll start to feel like a clone, however like many I have fell subject to the clutches of the monopoly that is the apple I-phone 3GS and 2009 Mac book pro.
Apple products are and always have offered pretty expensive products despite their constant software model updates, which unfortunately for the rest of us do not depreciate in value as quickly as we’d like. Anyone who has had an apple product lost, damaged, or stolen, like myself, can vouch for the fact that this situation stings.

Well for one Apple technician the situation of his lost phone has started quite a controversy. The reason for this is because the technician didn’t just lose any phone but he lost apple’s unreleased I-phone 4g prototype, at a bar. Even worse is that the phone has fallen into the hands of Gizmodo, the online tech blog. Gizmodo obviously enthusiastic about the find immediately posted pictures and video of the new phone.

Apple has been a company that has been well known for it’s products extreme secrecy before releasing a new product, the company was sent into an immediate frenzy requesting that the phone be returned immediately.
Although some feel the “accidental debut” is a hoax, Gizmodo lists several of the phone’s characteristics that contradict the idea of the phone’s illegitimacy.

1. Apple reported the phone lost/stolen.
2. The phone screen is a higher resolution than the current I-phone 3GS individual pixels being indiscernible to the naked eye.
3. The phone is running in I-phone 4.0 software, which without the release of the actual phone would otherwise be impossible to obtain were this not an actual apple product prototype.
4. The phone functions exactly as an I-phone does when connected with a computer pulling up I-tunes immediately. Without the uniform apple I-phone usb cord, connecting the phone to a computer would have been difficult however the apple usb product for former I-phones evidently fit this new phone if it was able to connect properly to a computer and function the same as the current I-phone.
5. The phone found also uses a micro-sim a technological advancement no other phone that can be found in the United States exhibits at the current point and time.
6. The case on the outside is specially designed to trick people into thinking that the phone is a 3GS the case housing smoothing out the I-phone 4G’s angular cornered features and rounded at the back giving it the appearance of being a 3GS. Additionally the casing had holes cut out for flash and a frontal camera that the new I-phone 4G’s have been installed with for frontal video chat.
7. Finally when the phone was finally taken apart the components were all trademarked with the signature name, Apple. The contents of this phone are also significantly smaller due to the phone being flat, instead of rounded and so the notion that this is simply a refurbished I-phone 3G or 3GS is impossible.

Some of the new features of the I-phone 4G are:
-Visible seams, although there seems to be no specific function for the new phone’s angles other than for the purpose of creating a new design.
- Front facing camera and flash.
-Micro-sim, which differs from a regular SIM card.
- A secondary microphone to eliminate outside noise interference.
-Two separate volume buttons.
-All buttons have been changed to look metallic.
- An aluminum bordering around the newly styled flattened edges.
-Larger battery and close to 3 ounces heavier than he last 2 generations of I-phones
-Running on OS 4.0 device specific software.

Although the new phone’s debut was scheduled for later this year it is uncertain whether or not the accidental debut will effect whether or not the date of the phone’s release is pushed back, coming early, or staying on schedule. All I can say is let the new trend begin.

by: Christina Lo Duca

A Birthday Revolution

It’s easy to think birthdays are the greatest day of the year, I mean for 24 hours you become the tyrant of the day and everyone else bows down at your royal greatness. Well at least that’s what I imagined my birthday would be like when I was turning 5 or 8 or 10 even. Plus, there is a lot of cake involved in birthdays and who doesn’t love cake?

I’ve grown up watching my parents and grand parents grow older and face their birthdays like they were some wall of doom that impeded their progress towards an enlightened life. I never really understood it; they got presents, a nice dinner, a birthday cake and lots of cards in the mail, what wasn’t there to love?

Apparently there is some turning point though, in the whole birthday process, where it becomes less of a “move out of the way Hannah-The-Birthday-Girl is coming through” and more of a “how can I make it out of this day alive” sort of celebration. Why does that happen I wonder as my 21st birthday approaches?

A friend once posed the question what would happen if we all made silly faces at each other like we make at cute babies we pass on the street. It is an interesting thought really, somewhere along the lines of, what if a 36-year-old man demanded that his birthday party be fireman themed. Of course, we’re supposed to grow up – so funny face making, streamers and fire truck shaped cakes may be a little odd for adults to cling onto. But at what birthday do we lose the right to be goofy kids who just want to go swing from the monkey bars?

Maybe that’s the problem. Birthdays could potentially be fun for the rest of time. Parties would always require those annoying hats with the elastic bands that are too tight and candy filled party favors – it would be great. Instead though, we’ve chosen that at some indefinable age, it’s time to hate growing old. I’ll admit, I’m no longer a huge fan of birthdays. But I do still love that cake…and could learn to love party favors too. I’m thinking it’s time to start a revolution.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

I am injury prone. In fact I just suffered from an injury the other day and it was not easy to diagnose the problem. I was playing basketball the other night when suddenly a sharp pain took control of my back and chest causing me to collapse in the middle of the court. It felt like someone had shoved a sword into my back and out the front of my ribs. At first I thought I was having a heart attack or my back was suddenly broken, but eventually I came to the conclusion that I had probably just minorly strained my back or injured some ribs. The peculiar thing about my injury was that I don’t ever recall falling while on the court. I hadn’t done anything that would have potentially injured a rib or my back. After a trip to the doctor’s office and several x-rays later it was determined that I had spontaneous pneomothorax. In other words one of my lungs had spontaneously collapsed. It was only minor so the lung has healed on its own, and I am already feeling a lot better.

The first serious injury I can remember receiving was a concussion when I was around ten years old. I was skiing at June Mountain, which is only a short drive north of Mammoth. It was an extremely windy afternoon and my friends and I had been hitting jumps all day. My confidence was up after catching some nice air, and I decided I should hit one of the biggest tabletops on the mountain. The jump was close to fifty feet long and ten feet high. I pointed my skiis straight toward the massive jump and bombed my way down the mountain. Right before the kicker I realized that I was going way to fast and a strong gust from behind me seemed to increase my velocity. Before I knew what was happening I had shot off the jump full speed and flew high into the air. I went higher and higher and higher and the ground got lower and lower and lower. Then before long the ground rushed at me like a wave onto a beach. I was headed down, down, down. Faster then I had shot into the air I crashed into the ground. My feet and skiis hit first and my head hit next. I was lucky to be wearing a helmet and it’s possible that I could have died had I not been. My helmet cracked straight down the middle into two symmetrical parts. Thank God that wasn’t my skull. I stood up dizzily only to quickly have my feet fall out from under me. Again I tried to stand, and all I could think about was vomiting. I was confused and tried to recall what happened. Every time I tried to stand I would immediately fall to the ground. With the help of my two friends shoulders I was able to ski down the mountain. I fell in and out of consciousness as they carried me down. It took close to 30 minutes to reach the bottom, and I was incredibly relieved to get off the slopes. My first concussion was not a pleasurable experience and it is the first of many serious injuries that I have had over my long athletic career.

Here is a list of the many injuries I have incurred over the year and I have likely left some out that I can’t even recall. I have broken my wrist, several fingers, a knuckle, my cheekbone, my C7 vertebrae in my neck, and my ankle. I have had three concussions, dislocated my kneecap, sprained my ankle, and had an emergency appendectomy surgery. I have a lacrosse game tomorrow so if I’m lucky I won’t have to add to this list, but who knows. My body pays a price for how hard I play, but no matter how much pain I endure, nothing seems to slow me down. It’s only pain after all.

-Hayden Fulstone

Just Friends

‘Lets just be friends.’

The four words any person in love dreads hearing.

Just. Friends.

I’ve used this line countless times. Not because I’m heartless, but because I seem to find myself in the same predicament over and over again: and that is finding a man who just wants to be my friend. Or, more specifically, I have yet to find a guy, who I am close to, who I would consider to be my best friend… that just wants to be, well, my best friend.

It all started in 4th grade. I remember the day vividly.

It was a dry, hot, and sunny day in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was wearing my ripped jean shorts and a blue Hollister t-shirt. My hair was in low pigtails with two blue ribbons tied at each end.

I stood, with my black corduroy JanSport backpack high up on my back, leaning against a light post, as I waited for my mom to pick me up at the parent pick up gate.

It was then that my best ‘boy’ friend at the time’s Mom pulled up in her red Jeep Wrangler. He and a few other boys piled in, but before they left, my best bud hung his head out of the front window and yelled, “COURTNEY!!?? Will you be my GIRLFRIEND!?”

I remember turning bright red, as I stared back at him, open mouthed, completely shocked. I mean this was my best friend Ronnie! We talked on the phone every night, three-way called with my best girlfriend Amy, played kick ball at recess, ate lunch together…we shared a math book for crying out loud. He was my really really good friend… But BOYFRIEND? Ew!

With a slow shake of my head, all I managed to get out of my dumbfounded mouth in response was, “No! …We’re just friends!”

And I repeated that phrase all throughout middle school, high school, and now even college.

So what’s the deal? Can men and women ever really be just ‘best friends’? Or is there always one person who secretly harbors feelings? One person who wants to be more than simply a bestie?

I’ve been toying around with this question for weeks now, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that there isn’t a straight answer.

Many guys I’ve talked to argue, “Yes, of course you can. I have a really good girl friend named so and so and I would NEVER want to date her.” But, when I follow up with the question, “Well, is she attractive?” the answer is almost always ‘No.’ And if for some reason the answer is ‘Yes,’ the girl usually has a boyfriend, so an ‘extra-special’ friendship would not have been an option anyway, or the girl is someone that the boy has known since childbirth.

So, are platonic male-female ‘best friend’ relationships only able to occur in cases where:

1. your friend of the opposite sex is not physically attractive to you,

2. you grew up together and therefore feel related, or

3. one of you has a significant other

The only way I can test this theory is to look at myself.

Do I have really good friends or best friends of the opposite sex in my life? Yes.

Are we more than just friends? Nope.

But am I attracted to them? Most certainly not.

Have I known them forever? In most cases, yes I have.

Or do they have a girlfriend? Yes again!

And if my example doesn’t work for you, look to the movie Just Friends. Amy Smart only falls in love with Ryan Reynolds after he’s lost about 200lbs. Coinencedence? I think not!

The point is, that I would love to be able to have an emotional, deep connection with someone of the opposite sex who is good-looking and single, without the physical attraction, sexual tension, or whatever you want to call it getting in the way of our friendship at some point in our relationship.

All in all I continue to hold out the hope that there is such thing as a platonic relationship between members of the opposite sex. But, since I can’t seem to come to a conclusion, I will leave the topic open for discussion.

Do you think it’s possible for men and women to be ‘just friends’?

-Courtney M. Myers

***If you ever find yourself in the ‘I don’t want to be just friends’ predicament check out the video below. It gives some great tips on how to stay ‘just friends’ with the opposite sex.***

A Good Addiction

It's 3PM.

The headache is beginning to set in.

My hands begin to shake.

I need another fix.

I drink one before work. I drink two at work. I drink another before class. I drink one mid-afternoon. I begin most nights with a drink.

A drink of coffee that is.

Hi, my name is Alex and I'm a coffee-aholic. I can't get through the morning, let alone a day without a good ol' cup of joe. Coffee, and in essence caffeine, is the modern drug choice in the work/school world. It offers easy access, is socially acceptable and excluding daily Starbucks runs, is readily affordable.

I'm far from alone in my addiction. There are almost 16,000 Starbucks in 44 countries and this amazingly addictive chain is only one of many (go ahead and add the independently run coffee shops to that obscenely large number). They make coffee so quick and easy that it's hard not to find yourself instantly lost in and addicted to this world. After spending almost $100 in a week and a half on this addiction, I think it's finally time to admit I have a problem. Being a full time student, working 30 hours a week and attempting to maintain a social life, this addiction is one that easily follows.

Despite the death of my bank account, is drinking too much coffee really a problem? It's not Vodka in my mug. It's not MaryJane that gets my day going. Caffeine is my fix, not needles in my arm, so is there actual harm?

In actuality, in the shadow of all the experiments done to prove the damaging effects of coffee on the general well being of the individual, scientists have thankfully shown the opposite. It seems as though there are far worse addictions. Coffee can actually lengthen the lifespan (of women mostly, they drink far more coffee than men do) and coffee can actually reduce some other medical ailments. A group of American researchers have come to this conclusion: Coffee consumed in moderate amounts, up to four or five cups a day, may provide a series of health benefits, irrespective of the age and sex of the individual. Most things are good in moderation, and coffee is one of them.

I regularly drink slightly over, ok 3 or 4 cups over that number, but I am still reaping some awesome benefits. Although I need to cut back slightly, if not for my own health then for the health of my wallet. But as far as addictions go, I have choosen pretty wisely.
Alex M. Mead

Because Life Doesn't Wait for You to Catch Up...

“I just recently became truly aware of how tenuous my life is, so I really don’t have time to waste on fear.” ~ Michael Phillips


Michael doesn’t have a voice. He doesn’t have any motor functions either and experiences the world on his back from a hospital gurney. He is isolated by his condition but united by his humanity. Showtime’s “This American Life,” an Emmy Award-winning show inspired by Chicago Public Radio’s hour-long radio program by the same name, tells stories of the human experience through the eyes of the experienced. Its commitment to first-person storytelling imparts the personal narratives with a level of honesty that is often lacking in 21st century cable programming.


Mike Phillips is twenty-seven years old. He is bedridden, has lived with his mother since birth, and is suffering from a rare neuromuscular disease called SMA or spinal muscular atrophy. His precipitous physical degeneration complicates his life. As he loses his bodily functions, he slips further and further into the shadows of his isolated mind. He needs to escape the trappings of his secluded psyche. If Michael is to continue, he needs to connect.


Ira Glass, the creator and host of the program, begins his interview with Michael by asking him who’s voice he would choose to have replace his own. Michael doesn’t miss a beat. He quickly starts typing. He doesn’t use a QWERTY keyboard but a specially made typepad that allows him to tap his thoughts into a computer using his left index finger. It takes him a full three minutes to complete his response, a single sentence gem that is well worth the wait: “I totally want either Johnny Depp or Edward Norton, whoever is available, because either way, they are both badasses.” Michael has plenty to say but needs a voice to say it. So who agrees to clear his throat, jumpstart his pipes and fill the need? None other than Captain Jack Sparrow himself, who hereafter speaks Michael’s words as they were meant to be spoken—with a touch of badass.


Michael’s principal source of human contact is his mother, who cares for him every minute of every day, and even sleeps on the floor beside him at night to ensure that she is near her son should something go wrong. She loves him very much. Michael doesn’t doubt this fact but still feels a pronounced absence in his life. He is lonely. Michael’s only point of contact to the world beyond his purple room is his computer, a faceless machine suspended from a complex highway of metal tubing above him.


Michael needs a companion apart from his mother. He posts an ad on Craigslist for an assistant. He finds one he likes and develops a strong relationship with her. She paints his nails purple, dies his hair bright red, takes him to get his first tattoo, and all the while, does not once question his decisions or motives. Happy with his results, Michael continues to post ads on Craigslist. His next post lands him someone more than an assistant. He finds Sarah, his girlfriend.


Glass asks Sarah what it was about Michael’s Craiglist ad that caught her attention. “First of all, it was perfectly spelled and punctuated—VERY SEXY,” she replies.


Michael remembers with love’s clarity how Sarah changed his life: “Her eyes are what first struck me about her. Her gaze is enough to make me forget about all the things that tend to worry me unendingly. I don’t think about when I might die or whether or not I’m doing enough with my life. For a moment, all of that goes away.” For a moment, Michael can just be. Sarah frees him from fear and surrenders him to blissful unconcern. Despite his unique condition, Michael’s experiences and emotions are not as singular as they appear.  He longs for what we all long for—moments of grace found in moments of connection. 


Only when we connect to others are we truly able to connect to ourselves. Many of us live our lives in fear of who we are. We doubt ourselves and favor identities that are not our own. We live a masquerade until someone removes the mask and blesses the face behind it in all of its beautiful imperfection. Those who embrace our bona fide selves allow us to live without insecurity or hesitation. When this happens, the burdens of the world lessen and we are able to stand up proper and proud. The sad reality is that we only come across a handful of these individuals in life. Whether we choose to accept them or not is up to us. Sometimes we allow them to slip through our fingers, to escape our grasps, only to then regret it later in life.


Michael lets go. He loses Sarah.


Months go by and Michael agonizes over her absence unendingly. It’s why he agrees to do the interview. He needs someone to talk to, someone to hear his pain.


I wasn’t giving you the full story earlier when I wrote that Michael doesn’t have a voice. He does have a voice; it’s just incredibly painful and uncomfortable for him to use it. After being without her for what seems like an eternity, Sarah visits Michael. Michael removes his trach tube. The cameras roll.


Michael: “There you are.”

Sarah: “Here I am.”

Michael: “How do I sound, terrible?”

Sarah: “You sound good.”

Michael: “It’s weird.”

Sarah: “It makes me really happy”

Michael: “You look happy!”

Sarah: “It’s just nice to hear your voice.”

Michael: “I love you, you know.”

Sarah: “I love you too.”

Michael: “I just wanted to say that. Sorry.”


Michael starts to cry. His tears pool in the sockets of his eyes, drowning his sight in a sweet and stinging puddle of happiness and sadness—happiness for reconciliation, sadness for time lost. They resolve not to waste a second more.


Michael recalls a day spent in the park with Sarah shortly after: “The whole thing was very John Cusack. It just started to rain and sure I have a bypass, a trach, and three batteries, none of which ought to get wet, but at that point, I didn’t care. The world was just absolutely fucking spectacular.”


So dust off your boombox and raise it as high as you can above your head. Muster up your inner John Cusack and position yourself under the windowsill of someone you’ve lost. Press play and blast the soundtrack that originally brought you together. Why risk it?


Because you “don’t have time to waste on fear.”


~Ian M. Johnson

Friday, April 16, 2010

Money, Power, Respect: None of the Above

Ever since I was younger, I have wanted to be a teacher. My mother was my teacher for the first part of my school years. Up until the fifth grade, I was homeschooled. Currently, I am a senior in college at the age of nineteen. Throughout my elementary years, my mother had had her own private school, which consisted of probably fifty students, all of which had skipped at least one grade. Almost all of the students who attended the school are very close friends of mine to this day. Sometimes, when I run into people who went to the school, or their parents, they always ask the same things, “Aren’t you Ms. Bland’s daughter? How are you doing now?”
Although it was strange having my mother for a teacher, I learned a lot while attending her school. By the time I had reached public school in fifth grade, I had been tested at a seventh grade level. To this day, I thank my mother for having the desire to teach people. For this reason, I want to be a teacher. Maybe wanting to help people is in my genes. I am not sure, but I know that that has always been what I wanted to be.
As life is not always easy, becoming a teacher is becoming more of a test of one’s desire to help others. Pay cuts—not a term that many want to hear, but are forced to accept. The debate began years ago, but is now beginning to become more heated as the next academic school year is nearing. Teachers are being asked to make a choice, be laid off or take a pay cut. Although the amount of the pay cut differs amongst school districts and states, it is still a pay cut nonetheless. I understand that the economy is not in the greatest shape, but teachers, really? Real teachers are not only individuals that stand in front of a classroom full of students and spurt out knowledge for them to memorize until the summer. Teachers spend almost more time with their students than their own families. Teachers are supposed to see their students as more than what is on their record. They see their students when they get their hearts broken at recess, they notice when students are struggling in a certain subject, they offer their shoulders to cry upon when their parents are at work, and they write letters of recommendation in support of a brighter future for their students. Teachers encourage and educate those who want to become lawyers, doctors, architects, athletes, and more. Although teachers do so much more than this, their worth is significantly less than people in other fields.
While I am in no way downplaying anyone’s occupation, I feel like teachers should not have to sacrifice their pay checks considering all of their duties. As Song, president of the CUSD Student Association for Teachers, says, "One of the biggest problems is what the salaries represent and that's respect." Athletes are entertainers, and making millions a year, compared to teachers who take on the responsibility of academically raising children. This symbolizes the government’s and society’s lack of respect for the people who are seeing and guiding their children eight hours a day, five days a week.
On April 2nd, 2010, 16-year old David Song had organized a walk out in opposition to the 10.1% teacher pay cut imposed on all 23,000 Capistrano Unified teachers. About 400 students at Aliso Niguel High School participated, carrying signs reading STUDENTS SUPPORT TEACHERS and WE NEED TEACHERS NOT BOARDS. Students who missed assignments were told to make up the work during lunch or an afternoon tutorial period. In response to the walk out, Principal Charles Salter says, “There will be consequences for their actions.” However, I am unsure if the consequences are for walking out or for what they were supporting.
I must admit, I am not fully educated in the economy, but I do not understand why teachers, who must go through an extensive process to become a teacher and help educate the future generations, have to suffer pay cuts. Yet, the people who gain an education and a mentor reap the benefits of an education. One participant of the walk out, Michelle Spotskey asks, “Why would they work their hardest if this is going to happen to them?" While being a teacher often has its downsides, teachers work their hardest because they get joy out of knowing that they are harvesting future greatness.

That Distant Beyond

I know that I am not the first and I know that I certainly will not be the last but at this very moment, I am completely and utterly baffled by the prospect of the future. In fact, I have become so anxious and fearful of what my next step in life should be that I can barely focus on the present. I can’t do very much of my homework or think about assignments that are due in the near future without freaking out about that distant beyond. I can’t relax without feeling that perhaps my time would be better spent looking for some graduate program that might make for a suitable future or some scholarship I should apply for in order to pay for my postgraduate education. I can’t even talk to my friends without thinking of applications or letters of recommendation that I feel that I need to seek out. And though the deadlines for submitting these applications are months away, I still feel so behind. Basically, when it comes down to it, the abstractness and overwhelming quality of what my future holds is weighing me down and I can barely live in the concreteness of the present. It kind of sucks when I stop to think about it.

And things aren’t any easier considering that I still can’t seem to answer the question of “What am I going to do with my life.” And I know that I’m not alone and I know that I am not the only person in this world who can’t answer that. I used to think I had the answer, back when I was seven years old and things felt a lot easier. When I was seven, some time after I saw the movie “Liar Liar” with Jim Carrey I told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer and they were so proud. But when you really think about it, what seven-year old really and truly wants to be a lawyer? Looking back, I feel I only said that to make my parents happy and that career ambition actually lasted until I was fifteen years old. What changed? There was some point in high school where I realized that I absolutely loved English literature and writing and I started to feel that I wanted to devote myself to the intricacy of the written language for the rest of my life but my parents weren’t too happy about that. They thought it was just some “phase” I was going through and they only tolerated my desire to be an English major when I came to LMU. And now that I’m approaching that point where I will begin applying to some kind of post graduate program, I am still torn: Do I want to be a lawyer or do I want to be a writer? Do I want a Masters in English literature or should I go to law school right after graduating from LMU? I tell myself that maybe, possibly I can do both but if I do that, which one should I do first? I certainly have no idea.

I try to focus on the present instead of thinking about all of this but then I remember that this is the kind of stuff that I need to think about. But then I just get anxious and stressed. I even think about the programs and internships I am applying to for the summer in terms of my future. Like “if I get the grant to work at the law firm, I’ll go to law school” or “If I get the internship with the literary arts organization, then I will pursue a masters in English literature.” I’ve also become so obsessed with what will look “impressive” on a resume that it’s beginning to take a toll on my overall well-being and I think I am starting to lose sight of who I am and see myself only in terms of my resume.

My roommate tells me that I just need to relax. And I tell her that it feels as if I am some sort of computer and I am trying to download too many applications while playing music while watching a video on the Internet while surfing the web while downloading a cd into itunes. I think I need to just take it one step at a time before I crash. I think I’m going to have to shut down a few windows and restart. Maybe when I restart and I am presented with a clean desktop, I will know which applications I want to open and which files I want to download because as of now, I am on electronic overload and I could really use the reboot. And as the school year is winding down and there are all these finals and projects to think about, I think it’s important to take a step back and reassess. After all, the future is important but it’s also very important that we don’t lose sight of the present or lose sight of ourselves.

Krystal Vazquez
Truth Staffer

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Leaders Wanted

Graduation calls for reflection on many things: experiences, friendships, lessons learned, personal growth, future goals etc. And in so doing I have found myself looking at the talented individuals with whom I’ve shared the last two years of my college education and I can’t help but wonder about our potential. I have had the pleasure of knowing many amazing writers whose workshopped twinklings of inspiration I would love to see come to fruition as glossy covered masterpieces standing tall in a bookstore window as I turn to a friend or loved one (or perhaps mutter to myself), “I know that author!”

I have also known students, much younger than myself even, with incredible drive and devotion to serving the greater good, who have taken on more than a full course load to lead in multiple organizations and who have become inspirations to those around them. In every person I have met at LMU I see enormous potential, and even a bit in myself as well. But how many of us will become leaders once we have left the campus behind, when we are once again small fish in a big pond? After all, leadership is an acquired skill, not an inherent one.

Warren Bennis, in his book, On Becoming A Leader, lists the following as basic ingredients of a leader: guiding vision, passion, integrity (involving self-knowledge, candor and maturity), trust, curiosity and daring. He places great emphasis on leaders knowing themselves fully and being able to determine that which we are and want to be from what the world thinks we are and who we ought to be. Certainly for most people it will take longer than four years to have a solid notion of who they are and who they will choose to become, and as is the way with personal growth these things may change over time. It is important that we take the time to reflect on our experiences, feel them wholeheartedly, learn from them and grow to become better people because of them. We must not be afraid to make mistakes but instead find the strength to admit them, to own our humanity and employ humility if we are to be the example for generations to come. The world is in need of new and more grounded leadership, whether it be in small businesses, corporations, government or any number of positions that life might find us in, parenthood included, and it will be left to us to begin making the changes we wish to see in our lives and in our culture.

We must all be leaders of our own lives, must learn to know ourselves fully and must go forth into the world, whatever our age or station, with an active passion for what we do and who we are.

--Heather Maupin

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does Unpaid Pay Off?

I always thought senior year of college would be a time savor the last year before entering “the real world" but I’ve come to realize is more accurately a time of stress, over involvement, and being underpaid and underappreciated and more accurately in today’s economy, a time of not being paid at all.

According to the recent New York Times article “The Unpaid Intern Legal or Not” for today’s generation, internships are a must regardless of what you field pursue after graduation. However as the importance and demand for internships among students continues to grow, employers have caught on and realized that they can get away with providing unpaid positions that students will actually fight over. This article presented an inside look from director of Career Development Center at Stanford University, Lance Choy, which illustrates there is definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming — fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their résumés. Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year, more than triple the 174 posted two years ago. My Universities job website “LionJobs” is strikingly similar, there are many more unpaid internship listing than actual paid jobs and I’m sure throughout the U.S. most universities are similar.

Since I was sixteen years old I have worked fulltime in the summer and parttime during the school year in order to save money and pay for college and be able to take care of my own expenses. Since I had been in this mindset since a young age I thought it was ridiculous how many of my friends weren’t actually working and doing unpaid internships instead. However somewhere between freshman and junior year of college this mindset changed. Going to a school that most of the student body was upper middle class and had the connections and financial security to do unpaid internships and the growing pressure to build a solid resume and to achieve my "dream job" I found myself working extra paid hours to make the money so I could do something unpaid.

I participated in my first unpaid internship in the summer after my junior year of college. It was for a small nonprofit agency. They only required I work 15 hours a week and bought me a bus pass so that I didn’t have to worry about the cost of transportation. I got the opportunity to learn the inner workings of a successful organization, go out into the community and interview people of all types, learn more about marketing and nonprofit world, build a writing portfolio, and be surrounded by very successful and inspirational people who wanted to help me succeed in anyway they could. I could have not imagined a better situation, and I didn’t realize until two unpaid internships later how good I had it at my first internship. Although it was unpaid I knew it was for an organization I felt passionate about and that they did a lot of good for the community and physically didn’t have the funds to pay me. They were understanding if I ever needed to rearrange hours to accommodate my paying job and were supportive of whatever I needed to do.

My current unpaid internship is much different (I will not mention names because I am still currently “employed” there). It is at a prestigious company and is a very competitive internship to obtain although it is unpaid. It will most likely be an amazing resume builder as I enter the job force and hopefully help me land a good job. Regardless I have had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to do it. Only time will tell if it was actually worth it.

As I began to search for other sources to see what other people were saying about unpaid internships I stumbled across a satirical popcultural blog post on a website titled "Stuffwhitepeoplelike". This blog targets fads among white middle class Americans and number 105 of of the list was not surprisingly "unpaid internships". The post about unpaid internships starts out stating "In most of the world when a person works long hours without pay, it is referred to as “slavery” or “forced labor.” which immediately made me think back to the New York Times article and how unlawful this whole concept really does seem yet it seems like a trend that is here to stay.

Internships are a great way to test the waters of a various fields and gain great firsthand experience. I have learned so much from all of my unpaid internships, made great connections, and realized what I am passionate in pursuing as I start the next stage of life but whether or not I agree with the concept is a whole other arguement. Regardless, after I graduate in May, I will never, mark my words NEVER, do an unpaid internship again. Although 2010 is the year that highest number of college grads doing unpaid internship and the job market especially for entry level jobs is scarce, I chose to take my chances and hope that unpaid does pay off.


Surf Therapy

As I plunge into the chilly darkness, cold water fills my ears, nose, and throat. I spin around in the muted rush, not sure whether I’m up or down, but not thinking of my orientation. I am failing helplessly into oblivion as my thoughts blur and instinct takes over. Immense swirling pressure has me completely overtaken. I force my lungs to hold in air, searching my hazy, waterlogged view for the light of surface that I must struggle to for sanctuary.

I break through the water’s surface, drawing in strangling breaths of fresh air that have never been so appreciated. And a huge grin comes across my face.

After the couple years during which I failed to make the effort to surf, I was ecstatic to get back out in the water. In my high school years, surfing became more than a hobby; it became a mild obsession with which I happily devoted time, money, and effort to.

The challenge of the sport is exhilarating. To stand on a board and ride down a plunging wave is not an easy task. And after a lot, I mean a lot, of practice, catching on and gaining any ability in surfing is truly intoxicating. Riding a wave, feeling in physical control and connected to the water, to your board, to the power underneath you, is unique and addictive. It’s easy to fall in love with the feeling.

The power of the ocean can be frightening, especially when encountered by an unmanageable wave. But I wasn’t surprised to find myself grinning after a huge wipe out. Out of breath, disheveled and exhausted, I couldn’t help but feel content. Sitting on a board in the rolling ocean is meditative. For those few hours in the water, stress fades away, menial tasks of every day life get put on the back burner, built up anxiety is lessened. What becomes important is finding that right wave, succeeding in catching it.

Corinna Ace

Relieving Burdens

The woman’s breath stank of alcohol. She hadn’t bathed since God-only-knows-when. There was a distracting growth on her head, peeping out between the thin and oily strands of her hair. She told me in her still slurred speech that she was “a bottler,” a person who rummages through trash cans to salvage thrown-away beverage bottles, which can then be traded in for cash. Ironically, with all the yuppie Hybrid SUV’s zipping down Sunset Blvd, the most active environmental community in Hollywood might actually be the homeless, the ones who are doing it with the least pretense for caring about global warming.

“It’s pretty good money!” she tells me.

She also explains that at night she sleeps up against the wall of a police station. There are enough homeless in Los Angeles that none of the officers bother to do anything about her blatant vagrancy; if they told her to move along, there would probably just be another one after her, then another and another. She sees her sleeping location as strategic, figuring that the police would protect her if anyone ever tried anything on her. To myself, I wonder whether they would actually notice her at all, whether they would even bat an eye.

The woman’s name is Ruth, and I met her at a day shelter for the homeless that I volunteer at on Saturday mornings. The center is located behind the beautiful cathedral called Church of the Blessed Sacrament, located directly on Sunset Blvd in the heart of Hollywood—the city of broken dreams. Of the more than one million homeless people living in Los Angeles, we get about one hundred of them every week at the Blessed Sacrament shelter. There are always some regulars there, always some new faces, and there is always a drama of some kind, either brewing or boiling over.

Earlier in the day, a man came up to us requesting to cut in line for the showers. We started to explain to him that this wouldn’t be fair to the others who had been waiting for over an hour now, but he simply lifted up his shirt sleeve to reveal long skinny black worms writhing out of the flesh in his upper arm. Another man, with a white beard and a bright red bicycle helmet, almost started three different racially motivated fights. Someone else, we’re not sure who, defecated in the trashcan. One person was lighting his scratch-built incense sticks, which actually smelled really nice, and started a debate with someone else about Iraqi-war conspiracy theories. Another man appeared to have narcolepsy, and kept falling asleep into his plate of mashed potatoes. Someone else was lecturing my friend Keyon about what its like to live with AIDS.

But out of all the people there on this particular day, it was Ruth who still stands out in my mind the most. It would probably be more accurate to say that she still haunts me the most. I first came across her because she was being loud and belligerent, demanding that someone get clothing for her because she had a hurt leg and couldn’t walk upstairs to the women’s clothing closet on her own. So I went up and got some for her. But when I returned, she just broke down and started crying—wailing, actually.

I sat down on a bench with her and asked her to tell me what was wrong. In a scattered and slurred narrative, she told me that ten years ago she witnessed her three children being burned alive in her own house. She could hear them screaming. Her husband rushed into the house to save them, but he died too when the burning roof collapsed on him. Ruth told me that she had been paralyzed with fear throughout it all. In the reliving of that memory, she only wishes that it had been her who had been brave enough to go into the flames.

“In one night,” she told me, “I watched my entire world get wasted! Wasted!”

She broke down into wailing sobs again, and I didn’t know how else to react as a fellow human being, except to reach over and embrace her in a full hug. She explained that in the following morning, she was so emotionally destroyed by what had happened that she just left, hitchhiking her way across the country until she got to LA and couldn’t go any farther. The thing that still tears her up the most, however, is that she never got a chance to bury her own children. It was clear that after ten years, she had still never forgiven herself for that.

All of a sudden, Ruth asked me to pray with her. She grabbed both of my hands, closed her eyes and bowed her head. I was a bit taken aback. Not only was I still stunned by her story, but I’ve never really known how to pray at all, let alone for someone who had lost so much. I waited for her to start, but after a few seconds, she impatiently looked up at me and shook my arms, as if telling me to hurry it up. I decided to bite the bullet on my issues with God, and just winged it. I felt like an idiot, but all I could think of saying was about being thankful for the small blessings in life, in spite of the pain and suffering in our lives.

Ruth didn’t say anything when I finished up with an “Amen.” We both kind of sat there in silence, just thinking to ourselves. I wouldn’t know where to begin in describing the thoughts that went through my head during that moment of intermission between us. I thought about the privileges I had been born with, the absence of such authentic tragedies from my life. I thought about how easily that could all be turned around in an instant, as it had for Ruth-my whole world could simply be wasted in a single night, in a single act of God. Who is to say that myself, or maybe one of my friends, won’t also one day end up wandering the streets of Hollywood, collecting bottles from trash cans without a single soul in the world who cares about you. I thought about how little I could really do to make a difference for these people at the shelter, many of whom probably had worse stories than Ruth’s, but simply had no one to tell them to.

“You know," said Ruth, finally breaking the silence. “You’re all right. You're all right.”

Something in Ruth’s mood had changed and she now seemed to have a bit of a glimmer in her eye. I gave her another hug and told her that I had to go back to helping out around the shelter, but as I left, her words stayed with me. I’ve heard it said before that while no one can do everything, each of us can do something. Sometimes, I think, that this "something" can be as simple of a gesture as being an ear for someone in need to pour out their pain to, and share a bit of the burdening secrets that lie in the depths of their soul.

--Paul Beckwith

Monday, April 12, 2010

College Graduates in Crisis

College Graduates in Crisis

“There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance.

As a soon to be graduate, naturally I, like ever other senior on the planet, has been obsessing over the devastatingly uncertain course of my future. Now I am not naïve of the current state of affairs in our country, and the daunting jobless market. I have no misconceptions or illusions of having an excellent job, which covers my bills and gives me benefits. Regardless, upon opening my yahoo Tuesday evening I was met with the headline of the Wall Street Journal, “College Grads’ Outlook Grim.”
Needless to say I already knew what the depressing information the article would contain, but the same morbid fascination that makes it hard to look away from a slasher film prompted me to continue reading. The article goes onto elaborate that career fair recruiting has gone down as much as 25% at various universities known for facilitating post-graduation job fairs. Various employers are taking to looking at students in the fall of their senior year, and some seniors have even taken to applying to various jobs a solid 9 months before their graduation. And even these jobs mentioned are few, far between, and “unevenly distributed” as the article elaborates.

But this led me to question what about those of us who are graduating now and whose desired professions will only look at your resume once you are graduated? I’d like to think that I’m fairly educated on the current state of our economy and the basic reason for this deficit, despite being complex, is fairly simple: it is the result of poor decision making by our citizens and poor government surveillance-law enforcement by our government’s officials. If it wasn’t a major land developer who bought land that decreased in value and had no one to develop and went bankrupt that is to blame for this current state of our economy, then it’s the countless millions who seem to confuse credit cards with real cash and have understanding of the definition for the word, INTEREST. Regardless of who’s to blame there is more than enough to go around, however my generation should not be the one to pay the price for other’s heinous and painfully obvious mistakes.

For years the American economy was being financed by debt, which created a money bubble, a dangerous false ideology that money was there that wasn’t, and that Americans could afford a fabricated standard of living far above their means. Part of what facilitated this illusion was when the government started getting rid of vocational-chartered schools and programs in our junior colleges, attempting to turn everyone into a white-collar worker. The American government has falsely propagated, that everyone has the opportunity to go to college, and so these vocational programs are no longer needed, which of course wasn’t and still is not true. It is increasingly difficult now more than ever for people to get into college in the first place, let alone being about to afford school with the annually increasing tuition at almost every college and university in America. These done-away-with schools and trade profession courses, such as computer science or automotive mechanics are now being desperately sought after or highly demanded in a time when a degree isn’t valued as much as experience or education in that trade.

What infuriates me the most is not that the beginning will be hard, what infuriates me is those graduates now, and probably for the next five years, are up against a job market that has been corrupted and destroyed by our own government and our own people. That we have to pay for the mistakes of the generations before us. And life might not be fair, but that is down right despicable. The American government has failed to monitor the affairs and proper education of it’s own country accordingly, and now it is robbing it’s youth of their hard earned right to a fruitful, successful, and prosperous future. The government is bailing out those who have made gross mistakes that have affected our country, but what about our children who haven’t made any mistakes and are paying the price? What about us? What changes is the government going to make in our society to fix these problems, what opportunities are they going to generate to make sure that jobs are available for our graduates, or that upcoming generations are properly prepared to be self sufficient.

I would like to propose that these vocational-trade schools and programs be implemented back into our society because when reading another article attached to this one, the article mentioned that the most sought after degrees were: petroleum engineering, Computer science, information sciences and systems. The article went onto say that information sciences and a system major (a major I have never heard of) has, “an average starting salary of $54,038. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field will add 155,800 jobs between 2008 and 2018, an increase of 53.4%, the second fastest growing career in the data the BLS offers and well above the average job growth for all professions of 10.1%”

Even jobs in these majors and professions were scarce. I feel that college counselors and the educational system needs to be redesigned to teach better LIFE SKILLS, and that these new majors need to be more heavily marketed to today’s youth. I feel the current majors are simply producing young professionals for a jobless market in un-needed areas of expertise. I took a stats class this year out of an obligation to fulfill my university core and learned all about interest rates, and mortgages, loans, and doing my taxes. I have seldom felt I have learned something in school that I can apply in the real world and will benefit me, and its not because I’m lazy and fail to use the knowledge bestowed me, but simply that REAL LIFE SKILLS like learning how to equate the interest rate on your home loan and avoiding the country our disaster is currently in, ARE NOT BEING TAUGHT IN OUR SCHOOLS. Now I understand colleges and universities all want to maintain a certain standard of taste in their core curriculum but what use is their for a standard curriculum that Fails To Teach us anything worthwhile in order to be SELF RELIANT.

Interestingly enough more than a century ago Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau wrote pieces such as Self-Reliance and Civil Disobedience which predicts these very problems and attempts to provide answers for them, but those answers while useful to an extent do not take into consideration the current political and economic climate today which is: it doesn’t matter if you have an outstanding degree from a major university and worked your ass off for it, you will still in the same pitiful position as the person who doesn’t, if anything the jobs you are qualified for, are already filled by those with years of experience, for life. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for how to gain experience other than internships. Luckily I have had several, however I took it upon myself to secure those internships. My emails to my advisor were constantly ignored and I was provided little to no direction other than by the occasional interested professor. I feel that it is the responsibility of the educational system to properly educate students on the proper steps needed to gain experience – through internships and other extracurricular activities offered by the school of choice, but also I feel a change in curriculum is dire to saving our country.

Another tragic thing the article mentioned was that students, rather than facing the jobless job market today are returning to graduate school. This is great one must think, further education can never be a bad thing. I myself would LOVE to go to graduate school, however with the ridiculous escalation in tuition grad school is not an option for myself and for many, and for those who decide to take grad school, they have a life of considerable debt to look forward to.

Imagine that. The most appealing and logical option today for graduated students is to go back to school and mire themselves in our country’s already largest growing problem unplayable DEBT. With the rate of graduated students for hire right out of graduation falling by 22% last year, our chances for sustaining ourselves, not even being successful just sustaining ourselves, is looking impossible. “With such a competitive market, the biggest worry for hiring experts is that students will give up on their job search without ever starting. In some cases that means heading straight to graduate school, an investment that is only likely to pay off if students know what they want to study and why that will better position them to land a job in the future. Graduate-school enrollment rose 6% last year and will likely continue to rise this year.”

In fact students are going out of the country just to maintain and keep themselves afloat, putting their career aspirations on hold indefinitely sometimes in order to make money, “"We are seeing more students coming into the office talking about what we call the 'gap-year opportunities,' " said Rebecca Sparrow, director of Cornell University's career services, where recruiting is down slightly this year. She often directs them to programs such as AmeriCorps, Teach for America and similar alternatives.”
Let’s provide a country where our children don’t half to leave it to sustain themselves because the last time I checked this was America, not Mexico, or Russia, or Vietnam, but America. That is why people come here to create better opportunity, let’s not sabatoge ourselves as the land of opportunity, let’s work to create better opportunities for ourselves and our children. Let’s learn from our mistakes and move forward America, not repeat them and go backward.

Written By:
Christina Lo Duca


It’s easy, I’ve heard, to be a non-believer—to scoff at the notion of fate or destiny or some omnipotent power. It is easy some to laugh off the notion of a curse or a ghost, to mock to something which is simply inexplicable. The worst non-believer though, is the one who doesn’t believe in acupuncture. And I know, I was one at one point. Shocked maybe, that this is where I’m taking this statement? Yes, I understand the presence of religion in our country and around the world and good and bad it causes, but that is not what I am here to talk about. Today, I would like to stand up for acupuncture and the stab of disbelief if receives.

You see, I was a non-believer once – you’re telling me, someone poked needles into you and ta-da! you feel great? I laughed at those I knew who went for weekly, monthly or seasonal tune-ups. And then, one day as my knee was throbbing with pain and my eyes tired from sleepless nights my mother decided it was time to turn me into an acupuncture aficionado.

I was hesitant at first. I sat down before some acupuncturist who went through my entire medical history which I believed was entirely unnecessary, and quietly mumbled one word answers to her prodding questions. Eventually I was told to take off my shoes and lay down on a fancy, hippy massage like table. She stood and held my hand, closing her eyes with her fingers tightly pressed up against my wrists, moving in odd patterns. She was checking my ‘pulses’. I smiled and nodded unconvinced.

There were a number of odd, acupuncture “ish” practices that went on in my first appointment, there were flames and some incense type thing which warmed my skin and supposedly had some fantastic healing effect. The appointment was over and she assured me my pulses felt better and ushered me off to face the world.

I climbed in the car certain I felt just the same as before and carried on with my daily, knee pain filled, sleep deprived world. It wasn’t until a few months later that I began to realize the difference acupuncture was making. Rather then climbing onto the acupuncture table and feeling like I should fall asleep for the rest of time, I would get poked with needles and warmed with who knows what and suddenly would realize I was more awake and energized then ever before, knee pain had subsided and the world looked a little brighter. (Okay that might be a bit of an exaggeration)

I suppose the most important thing I’ve gotten out of acupuncture besides it’s profound and undeniable healing effects is that I wasted an unnecessary amount of energy not believing in it, to even bother giving it a chance. I wont argue that you should believe everything, which may seem foreign and insane (because some things are truly insane) but it can’t hurt to give it a chance right? Imagine the implications, even on the smallest scale. In learning about something odd perhaps even unbelievable, you are opening your mind. After all, isn’t that all we need, the non-believers and cynics of the world to just give someone else’s thoughts a chance and a place in our world as well.


Not Cool Is The New Cool

Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a cool person. I wasn't cool in Kindergarten. I wasn't cool in 8th grade, I wasn't cool in High School and I am ever less cool now.

I use the word cool in the sense of calm, laid-back, relaxed, spontaneous, rule breaking, go with the flow sense -- you know cool.

This lack of coolness frequently gets me in trouble with the kids I nanny. I don't realize that pokemon cards are no longer popular. I didn't know that not having an Ambercrombie sweatshirt meant your "life was OVER". I didn't know you had to forget the word NO was in the vocabulary to be in the good graces of a 5 year old. I have an odd O.C.Desque need to be in control of every situation and I enforce rules I was always breaking. I either drive the kids crazy by getting on their case about dawdling in the morning, by making them come home when the street lights come on or drive myself crazy be letting go of "the plan" and keeping quiet to roll with the flow.

Picking up the 12 year old from middle school I rolled down my window and frantically waved my arm while yelling to Ty, "Hey! Hey! HEY TY! I'm over here! Hop in!" He ducked in the car, face turning red and scolded me for embarrassing him. Me? Embarrassing?! No way! I'm the cool Nanny. Well at least I always thought i would be the cool nanny. But as I spend more time with a 5, 10 and 12 year old I realize this is far from the truth. I get more un-cool with each passing year. Being a nanny I guess I age a little quicker, mature a little faster and am forced to act like a responsbile adult a little more often.

I catch myself using phrases I PROMISED myself i would never use. You'll poke someones eye out. No you can't have ice-cream for breakfast. Because I said so. Can someone please tell me when I turned into my mother?! I guess it was inevitable.

Although I do let them listen to music way too loud in the car, I don't let them stick their heads out the window, seat belts are always put on first and there is no way I will ever let them drink chocolate milk in the car again (I learned my lesson the first time around). As I continue to play substitute mom and make rules I begin to realize parents don't enforce rules becuase they aren't cool. They don't enforce rules because they want to ruin your life. They don't enforce rules because they want to control everything. They enforce rules because they are trying to maintain a semblance of order in the organized chaos of life.

I have to enforce rules not only in their life, but also in mine. Without the rules created by un-cool people, life would only be chaotic. The kids are just going to have to accept that they have to make their bed everyday, even though they are just going to get in it again. They'll have to accept that math homework comes before playing on the play ground. They'll have to accept the response "because I said so". And i'll have to accept that cool is never going to be an adjective I can use to describe myself. Being uncool is a difficult job, but someones got to do it.

-Alex M. Mead

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flash Flood

Have you ever lived without running water for 48 hours?

I don’t suggest it.

As a poor college student, it would be safe to say that I am blessed to have an incredible living situation. The location is perfect (only a few streets down from the back gates of LMU), the home is gorgeous (large, spacious, with 5 bedrooms), and above all else, the company is great (awesome neighbors and fun roommates).

But there is something I wish I would have been warned about before I moved into my dream home at the ripe ol’ age of twenty-one.

Living in a beautiful home, means taking care of a beautiful home.

And trust me. I learn something new about house care everyday.

….“What the heck is happening!”

This was Jesse Chin, my twenty-year-old roommates’ first reaction when he came home from a calm and relaxing spring break in Palm Springs, to find our newly remodeled kitchen covered in an inch thick of sewage water.

“I was frantic” he said. “I immediately turned off the main water source and started sopping up the mess with every spare towel I could find.”

While Jesse and the rest of my roommates and I were on vacation, a wade pool had begun to formulate in the kitchen, dining and living room of our home. Water poured like a mini Niagara Falls from every orifice of the kitchen, cascading from underneath the cabinets and bursting out of pipes.

It was not the first flood our Regis Way home’s kitchen had seen, but it was certainly the worst. In order to cut costs and save money, the owners of the house used cheap plumbing and unqualified workers to do the kitchen remodel.

House Care Lesson Number One:

Don’t take shortcuts.

After calling an emergency plumber, it was determined that a pipe may be clogged, but even after turning the water back on the source of the leak could not be found. So, the plumber told Jesse to keep the main water line on, explaining that it was probably a freak accident or the clog had passed, and ensured him that everything would be fine.

House Care Lesson Number Two:

Don’t listen to plumbers your cheap landlord sent over.

“So, I went upstairs” Jesse said, “and then I came back down twenty minutes later to find the kitchen covered in water once again! It was a nightmare.”

As a result of the floods, the blonde hardwood floors have become warped, and a few appliances have been ruined, but the worst problem of all is that the second flood occurred around 6pm, and no plumber would come out to help fix our home. Even worse, the next day was Easter, and no service would be done on those days either. By late Monday, when someone could finally come to fix the plumbing, there hadn’t been any running water in our home for 72 hours, which is against California state law.

House Care Lesson Number….

No at this point. We were just unlucky.

I never realized how much I depended on running water until I realized I could not take a shower, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face, or drink tap water in my own home. These are modern conveniences that I take for granted daily.

Something else I under appreciate? My car. Which wouldn’t start that same Monday morning, and caused me to be late to class that I had a test in.

By Tuesday, we finally had a plumber to our home that discovered a clog in a pipe. He was at our home for a total of 30 minutes. It was considered an easy fix. Go figure. I also had AAA come out to my house and fix my car. All it needed was a new battery. Easy fix.

Go figure.

I guess my point in sharing all of this is that sometimes it takes a few minor tragedies for us to see how easily we take day-to-day things for granted. And a lot of times in life bad things happen at once. As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.”

I just hope next time it ‘pours’ it’s not in my kitchen.

-Courtney M. Myers