The Truth Board

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

My Photo
Name:
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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ummm...yes?

By Jordan Bunger


What do I need most right now? What is going to give me the highest reward? What will make me the person I want to be? What is it I have to do to finally get over the hump? How is progress going to come? How can I destroy the stagnant plateau?


I must accept myself as the person I am. I am not the bubbly, social butterfly type. I do not control conversations. It is not in my character to be the center of attention. But hell, I make a vow, right here, right now. I can control the controlables. I will be social. I will be talkative. I will stand on the same ground as the butterflies and go toe to toe. But I’m going towards the light in my own way. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you only see it if you’re on the right path. “Find yourself first, don’t you be no fool.” Find your right path.


It’s like a wave. You start low, at the bottom. Everyone does - don’t be discouraged. Why not? Because the wave keeps on traveling up if you want it. The wave dips and crashes all the time, but it keeps washing up on shore, then back out again…up, down, up, down. Sometimes…up, up, up. Others…down, down, down. The cycle won’t stop, it only tweaks itself, evolves and shows new variations.


Creativity comes to play. Play with it. Engage. I know, it’s not the same as it was the last time. But that’s the point. If it didn’t change up each time, you’d be stuck in the mundane. You do not want to be stuck in the mundane. It’s ugly, muddy, nasty, nasty, business. There’s no use being stuck there. There’s no use.


Float on down. Let the river run you away. Run all the way. Run ‘till there’s no more water, and keep on pushing – you will move forward. Reach higher, travel further, adjust your eyes, close them, open them, cross ‘em together, make one go in circles, the other dead focused, however you like, just relocate the light.


Ok. Found it. Back on track. Feel the flow move you. Do you remember this from the last time? It felt great. I remember the feeling. The lovely melody was playing. You know the one: High pitch. Volume low. Treble middle. Bass up. Soul, fa sho. Focused in on the task at hand. I am myself right now. The music, the one in my ears of course, but I mean the silent melody playing in my head. That’s the best one. That’s the one you want to hear. But no, you don’t hear it in the natural sense. It’s inaudible to those around me. I’m aware of its presence. I know it’s there, feeding me, supplying me with nutrition, mental stability, with focus.


I conclude as it grips me, as it holds me tight in its arms. The light is fully lit. I love the feeling. Oh, I love feeling. I accept myself for the person I am.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It Begins...


To be honest, I’ve been suffering from major writer’s block all week; all I can think about is spring break--I burned out so quickly this year. So I’m just going to go ahead and write about what I know: baseball. In a few days I’ll be at Giants spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the anticipation is too much. As short as the off-season may have been, I’ve definitely been feeling the void deep in my soul. Seriously, I can feel it in my soul when the Giants aren’t playing. I expect a lot from this season, and with such a deep roster, the competition for the starting lineup is going to be tight. The starting pitchers pitch in the order as follows: Tim Lincecum (RHP), Jonathan Sanchez(LHP), Matt Cain(RHP), Barry Zito(LHP), and Madison Bumgarner(LHP). That lineup in and of itself upsets the sort of natural order of things, but players and clubs evolve. The (less than graceful) departures of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria left room in the batting order for some new (and old) faces. I’m pulling for Emmanuel Burriss on second, though I know it’s not likely, as Freddy Sanchez is an ace. Burriss is my favorite player on the Giants and he’s had a rough go of it; I think he deserves his chance to shine. Then there’s always Charlie Culberson for second, a minor league player with huge promise. On the note of minor leaguers, Brandon Belt at first. It’s going to happen. A future all-star, he’s definitely getting a roster invite this year (barring injuries inhibiting his ability to play), which would take Aubrey Huff off of first base and into left field, presumably. With Rowand only playing center, that means Torres in right, taking another one of my favorite players, Nate Schierholtz, out of the lineup. Bummer. We have a lot of outfielders, which means that a lot of players won’t get the starting spots they deserve, but that’s the nature of the beast I guess. The infield is pretty deep too. The addition of Miguel Tejada should prove to be pretty positive, and I’m very excited to see how that will work out. Pablo Sandoval is really one to watch this season too; he met his off-season goals and is actively working on his hitting discipline; I think the panda’s back. And of course Buster Posey can’t go unmentioned. The 2010 Rookie of the Year who caught all of the postseason jacked his first pitch of spring training out of the park. If that’s not a sign of things to come, I don’t know what is. I can’t exclude, of course, Cody Ross and Pat “the Bat” Burrell, who are more flexible in their positions, but will still displace other guys in their inclusion in the roster. Of course, the starting line-up isn’t the end-all be-all; it is malleable and it evolves, but there can only be 40 men on the full roster, and spots fill up fast. Regardless of how Spring Training goes, I’m so excited for the regular season and to see my team defending their title as champions. Regardless of how we do this season, it’s going to be so great to see these guys playing together, many of them looking better than ever.

-kelsey laubscher

Beauty in Service


The Downtown Women’s Center is something that I will never forget. I was shocked initially because the center is absolutely beautiful. I had pictured something decrepit and intimidating, but the center lets in a lot of natural light and the building is brand new (well, the façade looks old, but it looks to be newly renovated). We got a tour of the center and the accommodations, it was really cool to find out that there were so many services available to homeless women on Skid Row. They have day beds, showers, a TV, and there are three meals a day. After the tour, I sat down at the front desk and began to get acclimated to the center. There were probably about 35 women in the center the first day. A woman started talking to us; she was carrying a manila folder filled with papers, dressed rather nicely, with makeup on. She asserted that she was so glad we were there to help the women and that they really deserved the assistance. It took me five minutes of conversation to realize that this woman was herself, homeless. She told us that she had ten children, all girls, and she was looking to have some boys. I had so many questions for her, but I had to refrain, as I did not want to offend her. At the desk, we answered the phone, checked the ladies mail, and signed them up for case management, where women are able to get help with collecting social security, getting jobs, or looking for permanent residency. We also announce classes; today was anger management and safety in relationships, and answered general questions, among other things. We met a lot of women, many of whom just wanted to talk. We met a woman who is an aspiring comedian. She preaches on the street and speaks a lot about her faith and God’s love. She is inoffensive in sharing her beliefs, at least I thought so, but she has a very positive outlook on life. She hasn’t complained once all day! Sister Miriam asked us if she could tell us some jokes; she is HILARIOUS. She does a great Michael Jackson dance routine. Meeting Sister was a perfect first day experience. I learned about a lot of positive ways to engage with the women and it was really the first experience I had with the homeless women that wasn’t intimidating. When you take them off of the street, you are able to look at them differently, and look at them on more of a humanistic level . I love it at the Downtown Women’s Center. They served snack at 2:45 and it was really fancy, the nutritionist made fried rice! All homeless women on Skid Row are able to have three meals a day through the Center. They can shower, receive mail, even watch TV. The only thing they can’t do is sleep overnight. The center closes at 4pm so the women have ample time to get to overnight shelters, where they have to line up early to get in. I would assume that they serve dinner at many of the shelters as well. I can’t wait to go back to DWC.

-Alyssa Silva

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Los Angeles Battleground: Skid Row


Spread across fifty square blocks southeast of Downtown Los Angeles, Skid Row has between seven and ten thousand homeless residents nightly. This homeless city has grown and diversified since its beginnings in the late 19th century, and these changes have brought about problems along with debate.


Today, this debate involves the Los Angeles’s Police Department’s Central Division and the American Civil Liberties Union; two groups devoted to creating a safer and more just society.


So what do they have to fight about?


It is a battle of ideal versus reality. The LAPD work directly with the Skid Row community and feel that they know best what policies will and will not be effective. The ACLU stands as an observer, intervening when they believe the police are doing more harm than good. An incident that took place a few years ago highlights the potential for human suffering created by this conflict.


In 2006, the ACLU rallied support to provide port-o-potties for the Skid Row population after a member saw and smelled the quantity of human waste that was being left on the sidewalks. It sounded like a great idea; a simple way to clean up Skid Row. The LAPD was strongly opposed.


Within a few hours, pimps and gangs took over the installations and began charging for their use. If a customer was interested in soliciting a prostitute or purchasing crack to use in the stall, the restroom fee was waived. The toilets immediately became cramped brothels, drug houses, and pay-to-use restrooms; all in a 4x4x7 box.


The result of this good-intentioned project was wealth for pimps and drug dealers, and a new tool of exploitation for the homeless. The areas surrounding the port-o-potties became more popular restrooms than the stalls themselves, displaying the ineffectiveness of the project for all to see and smell.


After months of fighting, the LAPD finally had the restrooms removed. While large trucks loaded the facilities to be hauled away, hundreds of homeless people stood in the street and began to applaud. The LAPD watched in affirmation.


On the flip side, the ACLU believes the constitutional rights of the homeless are at risk. Last December they helped pass a law that prevents the LAPD from issuing unnecessary petty violations and illegal searches in an effort to fight the criminalization of this homeless population. The LAPD argues that this law hinders their effective policing of the area, and that the small offenses and searches help them catch drug dealers and criminals who prey on the truly homeless.


In an LA Times article captain Andrew Smith explains that there are the homeless, and then there are those who “chose to stay on skid row because of the cheap and plentiful drugs, alcohol and prostitution.”


So why do the homeless flock to Skid Row?


Most other L.A. communities spend less than 1% of their operating budgets on homeless services or housing and cannot support more than a fraction of the Skid Row population. So those without shelter travel to the heart of the city in search of basic services. What they find are others like themselves, and the wolves.


Wolves like Jason Johnson, a gang member who had a home in Azusa but liked to hang out on Skid Row because “he liked to smoke rock cocaine and because of the ‘party’ atmosphere.” Jason stabbed a homeless man in a dispute over a bicycle in 2006.


In this struggle to help those unable to help themselves, the ACLU and LAPD both have their roles to play despite their disagreement on most issues. We can only hope that their system of checks and balances does not further disrupt the progress of cleaning up Skid Row. We need to protect both the rights and the environment of those who live in the shadows of our society.


-Sean McEvoy

Labels: , , , ,

In My Backyard

We knew it was bad, but not dead bodies in our backyard bad. If you watched the news recently, you may, or may not, have heard about the house in Lennox with bodies buried in its backyard. I heard about it on the news and later, when it was set on fire, I knew before the news did. It was the house behind mine!

On Sunday, just a couple days before the story broke, a cop car sat in the alley in front of our house. My parents wondered why they were there. It wasn’t until my mom and I went out and saw the block behind ours taped off and filled with more cop cars. We figured there must have been a huge drug bust. The cops in front of our house were there in case someone climbed over and walked through our yard like they had done so often in the past.

We were right to a point, but when the story hit the news, we felt so wrong. I am still not completely sure as to what happened. The biggest thing was the decomposed bodies buried in that backyard. This was huge news. Our family across the country heard the news. I admired all of the people that posted things on Facebook saying that’s the neighborhood I grew up in or I live a couple blocks away from there. I live in the house directly behind it! The only house I’ve ever lived in. A wall separates our yard from the yard with bodies buried in it. It couldn’t have been any closer. After seeing my mom on the Channel 34 news, my best friend texted me to ask what was going on. I told her and a cousin of mine, who called concerned for our safety, and explained to them that we had suspicions about the house, but none like this.

Every time I told someone that we had an idea, they would ask why so I would give them my story. From as far back as I can remember that house was bad news. It had a reputation for being a drug house. Seeing as how it was the house directly behind ours, we saw the most trouble from them. All those years, when cops would raid that house, we knew about it simply because of the strangers that walked through our yard. Whenever they were in trouble, they would climb the wooden fence separating our houses and walk through our yard to escape.

This happened here and there, but it was often enough that my mom called the cops quite a few times. Nothing ever happened though. At one point, it got really bad and that’s when my dad noticed the door. They had cut a door into the fence with hinges and all. That’s how they were getting through so my parents decided to build a brick wall. Telling the people in that house about the plan for a new wall scared my mom, but they got it done. Still, these strangers continued to climb over so my dad had to go two cinder blocks higher on the wall. That didn’t even stop them. They began using a ladder so much so that my dad had to go and check every so often to see if there was one. He would find a ladder, grab it, and throw it away. They never threatened us, but the problem never stopped either so of course there was a little fear that one day they might attack.

Even when we finally learned from the news what horrible things were really going on in that house, it wasn’t that scary. It was just really weird. It didn’t get scary until someone set the house on fire a day or so after the bodies were found. Flames shot up into the air from what many believed was an intentional fire. One wrong turn of the wind and a spark could have touched our house. That was scary, but now it’s all over. No more of that house and no more people walking through ours. We do think it’s really strange, but we are much happier knowing that we may finally get our peace.

~Michelle Mitchell

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blood


On October 15, 2005, a 15-year-old boy started having stomach cramps. A few days later, he began losing blood through his stool. This continued and worsened for two weeks, at which point he was weak and in severe pain. At the doctor’s office, his blood was drawn and he was told he was extremely anemic. Sent to the ER, he received a blood transfusion. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and remained in the hospital until Halloween. He was taking 21 medications per day during his recovery.

This was/is one of my closest friends. The blood transfusion saved his life. His red blood cell count was a third of what it was supposed to be.

Last week I sat in a recliner and watched as blood drained from me. As I sat there, I thought of my friend. Someone’s blood donation saved his life. I can think of no better way to thank the anonymous donor than to give blood on a regular basis.

For each donation, a person provides about a pint of blood. Each unit of blood is divided into red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and cryoprecipitated anti-hemophilic factor. Red blood cells are usually used in cases of trauma or surgery. Plasma is given to patients with clotting. Platelets and cryoprecipitated anti-hemophilic factor are used to help clot the blood in open wounds.

Over a million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year and a lot of them, sometimes daily, need blood during chemotherapy. One car accident victim can need up to 100 pints of blood. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood and over 38,000 blood donations are required every day. People who donate blood most often cite their reasons: to help others, to feel good about themselves, to help local hospitals and to compensate for the blood transfusions of friends or family in the past.

The most common reason people give for not donating blood is that they never thought about it or they are afraid of needles. If just a few of them can overcome their fear, they can help to achieve the quota. As soon as 24 hours after a donation, that blood can be used by a cancer patient, a trauma victim, or a sick infant. While blood donation is simple and requires minimal effort, it is a crucial contribution to both the community and one or more individuals.

Many people are terrified of donating blood. Some, like my mother, are not able to because it makes them faint or otherwise risks their own health. But I have enjoyed it. It periodically provides me with a break in the day with no significant cost and substantial rewards. I might get lightheaded – not necessarily a bad thing – and I know that I helped. With a blood donation, I make not effort except for the sacrifice of a mere hour. Yet in that time, I may have helped save three lives.


-Colleen Bouey

Medicine, My Medicine.

I wish I had a riveting story to tell, some hidden truth that would shock, aw and inspire. Sadly, I regret to tell you that today I do not. The only thing I can think of today is my sickness. For the, oh I don't know, tenth time this year. It seems I am good one moment and sick the next. Freshman year, sick first week of school. Sick at Thanksgiving. Sick after winter break. Sick the first week of summer. Sophomore year, sick when I visited home. Sick the first week of school. Sick the fourth week of school. Sick over Christmas break. Sick today.

Whenever the flu is going around the campus, going around the house, going around anywhere really I seem to catch it. I always though everyone got this sick but apparently most people do not get sick as often as I do. So I wondered, what made me the lucky one? What made me the select few that get to experience the flu in every way you can experience it. In high school when I had mono I thought my world would end. Two months, 5 days and about 3 hours. That's how long I was sick for. Today, 8 hours 27 minutes. That is how long I have been sick for and it keeps on going.

Medicine. How often do you take it? I try not to take it. I do not like it. Growing up I would refuse even to take my antibiotics. My parents would have to force me to take them. If I had a headache I would just power through it and try not to take it if I could. What is the point of taking it? I mean eventually we will overuse it and it will become obsolete in our bodies. But what if I don't take it? Like today. My fever was so high I could not take it anymore. I had to take Advil. Twenty minutes later, I felt better. My fever broke and my head stopped feeling like it was going to split open. The problem? Four hours later and my fever is back and my head hurts again. What do I do? Pop another Advil.

So I leave you with this. How often are you sick? As much as me? How often do you take medicine? As rarely as I? How do you feel about medicine? Now I leave you to ponder as I lay down and drift off into medicine induced dreams.

--Alyssa Bermudes

Monday, February 21, 2011

IT


A little boy could have it; a woman could embrace it. A team can illustrate it; a town could display it. It will provide a man his masculinity; it will give a nation an identity. But what if It becomes you? What if It infiltrates your mind, your body, your actions, and your thoughts? How will you escape It? How will you prevail against It? Strength? Power? Determination? Perseverance? Will? No. Not in the beginning. From experience: acknowledgment, action, and restoration.
I was a victim of It before, I have now graduated from rehab and am living my life – still with this desire in my flesh – I have to fight against the urge day by day. Fortunately I have learned how to overcome the urge, how to fight against it, how to suppress it. Will I ever be able to remove it? Relinquish it? Efface it? I don’t know; it doesn’t seem like it. But, regardless, I am happy and I choose to be free from its grip.
It had my mind in such a strong embrace; grip rather. I couldn’t’ see past it. This It caused me to cease all communication from my father for an entire year. It was It that caused my husband to be upset and irritated towards me. It was It that caused me to lie and it was It that made me a true Gemini. I was so blinded and I couldn’t see that this parasite was affecting my life.
It’s a beast. It will hunt you. It’s there when you don’t want it to be there. I surely didn’t want it to be there but it won’t go away until you face it; acknowledge it. It is Pride. Night and day, wrapped up in one package.
The first few months I didn’t speak to my father was actually because of what he did to my family and I, but the remaining months was just to prove to myself that I wasn’t going to give in. I wanted to talk to him after a period of time but because of my pride I kept this game of me rejecting his calls for a whole year. When my husband and I would get into arguments the last word was mine to take. It was also difficult for me to express I was sorry because that implied me being wrong, so I withheld his right to be right and our right to have peace. It would make him so upset but I felt as if I had no power over it. Pride was so deeply embedded in me that it overrode what I felt and navigated my actions and reactions. It was also pride that perpetuated this idea of Ms. Goodie Tooshoes and Ms. Perfect with world but deep down I had struggles and I was angry, so angry because I refused to forgive. I didn’t want people to know that so I covered it up with pride, placing myself on a platform. True Gemini, I know. But it wasn’t until I realized that I struggled with this monster called pride, the night of my day. I then confronted It: me. You see, knowledge is power; its rays brighten up the night and reveals truth. Man, if that wasn’t a wake-up call. So then the next step for me was to act on my newly found knowledge and actively pull back on the tugs of pride. Lastly, restoration was due. I forgave my dad in my heart, I stayed true to myself, and I poured out my feelings and revealed my issue to my husband that lead him to understand my behavior and him helping me to regulate that problem.
My lesson was to constantly evaluate myself, especially my motives for doing the things that I do. I now enjoy life without being bound by the ropes of pride.


- Cairesse Grimes

Faster Food


I find myself at the window again.
“Think this through, you’re at the point of no return.” my mind pleads.
“If you don’t act quick, I’ll eat my self.” my stomach growls.
“I’ll have the number one, grilled onions. Neapolitan shake.” my mouth whispers.

How did I get here? Do I know you? I sure hope not, I may need to change my name after wandering into an establishment like this (that’s why we drive through the back door, glasses and hat on full blast). What being worth an ounce of their philosophical nature would run the commuter’s cookout? Body and soul blast each other to hell in the fast food line. Metabolism slows, senses shut down, lethargy. But you are what you eat.

I revel in trips to In n Out. Here’s how it goes: Do you like food? Yes. How about food cooked and served to you by others? Even more yes. Ok, what if you are absolutely starving and you don’t even need to get out of your car? Shut up you taunting magician.

Laziness. THE reason. Fast food loves lazy people and lazy people sure as hell love fast food. They’d make it faster if they weren’t so lazy. So why even make indoors an option at BK? Take away the Whopper’s home and he might just find himself by the way side. It’s the lack of commitment that gets me, I suppose. If you can take the time to get out of your car, walk around, interact—just go to the grocery store! All the exercise you’re experiencing during that parking lot marathon is doing a disservice to the rest of us sensicals enjoying our seat-heaters and satellite radio while waiting for the goods.

I used to be under the impression that fast food was cheap. Then I went to Carls JR. Ten dollars lighter my taste buds hated me. Remember, a “Six-dollar burger” does not imply class or quality; it just wraps secondhand preservatives in a slightly greasier, sorry excuse for “gourmet”. Dollar menus will be a thing of the past as the demand for quick sans quality foods rises in our hectic/lazy/busier days ahead.

Can we just agree on Fry-Only fast food? I’m almost positive the only reason burgers are sold is to get the fries that come with the meal. It’s about time this process is streamlined. The bovine community would greatly appreciate the sentiment I am sure, if they could just get their damn heads off the grass.

Ok, so fast food isn’t my cup of tea, largely because I don’t like pieces of rat in my tea. Technically, I’ve devolved to faster food. You know, the fruits and nuts kind. Raw. Prepackaged by mother Nature, ready to be eaten on the instant. Something about eating a food whose source involved dirt, water, and a little bit of love gives me a satiated warm feeling, opposed to the creeping acidic burn laboratories seem to instill in me. Rule of thumb, if leftovers from the meal you ate the night before still look untouched on the counter in a perpetual sheen of pesticides—before you finish those remaining bites—think about the battle your digestive track just undertook and reconsider.


Weston Finfer

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dont Drink The Kool-Aid



How does one man drive over 900 people to mass suicide? Where does he obtain such clout?


In the 1970’s, a man by the name of Jim Jones brought the Peoples Temple to San Francisco. The Peoples Temple wasn’t so much a religious organization as it was a microcosm of socialist society that gave people a support base and sense of family. Jones established himself as a political liaison for the people and amassed a large following among the people of San Francisco. Simultaneously, he worked to build relationships with elected officials from the municipal level to the federal, many of whom used the Temple as a soapbox.
Quickly gaining a large following, he staged spurious faith healings that included, but were not limited to, "healing" the paralyzed. People clung to the Temple and were swindled out of incredible amounts of money. Jones had already created a brilliant cult system, and he wanted to take it further. His ultimate goal was to build his own utopian society, The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, in the South American country of Guyana. He lured many of the members into his agriculturally-centered community that employed the values of the Peoples Temple, implementing Socialist systems and encouraging people to leave behind their blood relatives and embrace their new “family” within the Temple. Many people complied and moved to Jonestown, as it was informally called. Initially, people were very happy there; Jones had convinced them of the security and happiness that a life in Jonestown provided. People lived in harmony, farming their piece of South American land by day and worshipping in community by night. This once charming and endearing man, however, used his power to convert the friendly socialist society into a totalitarian dictatorship, and loyalty was fading fast. Some had decided that they were ready to leave this synthetic society, but Jones wouldn’t oblige. Following up on claims of imprisonment and detainment on Guyana, San Francisco congressman Leo Ryan planned a trip out to Jonestown, accompanied by his aide Jackie Speier. Afraid of the repercussions they would face for “defecting,” or leaving the cult, many families pleaded with Ryan in secret, one man handed a note to a cameraman, asking to be removed from the compound. Ryan met with various officials and arranged to evacuate those wishing to leave the establishment. Jones would not allow it. As the plane carrying the defectors was taxiing down the runway, one of the men inside the plane (who was planted by Jones) shot up the plane, injuring many, including Jackie Speier, and fatally wounding Congressman Ryan. He was the first (and only) congressman to die in the line of duty.
With his society literally unraveling at his own hand, Jones prepared to leave his final mark of repugnant terror on the world. Jones had practiced mass suicide with his congregation, claiming that it was nothing but a step over into another plane.
The children drank the Flavor Aid first, followed by their parents. As the cyanide destroyed their bodies, families laid down to die. Photographs taken in the aftermath portray these former human beings as empty shells of wasted promise and un actualized potential. Jones qualified the mass suicide as the ultimate act of dignified transcendence, and was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

-Kelsey Laubscher

It Can Happen To Anyone


It is easy for many us to say that we would do anything to avoid losing a roof over our head, transportation, financial support, friends, and most importantly our family. What is extremely difficult to think about is that this decision is not so easy for others. Anyone can fall to these times when experimentation turns into a downward spiral of his or her life. Often we hear people say that they are in control they would never let their problems get that far. They would never lose what they have to something that they do for fun or socially. I have always speculated against this sureness of control and on this past Monday my thoughts on this topic were revisited
Working with homeless women has given me insight to different circumstances and life choices that end in being without a home and food on a day-to-day basis. Though each and every women impacts me on a level a woman that I met on Monday shook me to my core. As she entered the Day Center she was petite, extremely thin, well dressed, and wore what seemed like nice jewelry. She was well manicured, however, you could see the wear her life has had on her. She looked around frantically at the kitchen and asked if they had already served snack. Snack at the Women’s Center is at 2:45pm every day and it provides a meal to the women. I told her that snack had not been served yet and that she was actually just in time. As the preparations were still going on she raced to get herself a glass of water and then came back to the front desk. She asked if we had condoms and followed the statement with how embarrassed that she felt because she was asking. My roommate and I both responded by telling her that there was nothing to be embarrassed about and it was better to be safe then sorry. The words that followed up our comment was soft and filled with shame. “My life hasn’t always been like this. I used to be a real person and I used to live in Malibu. I used to have a life until I got addicted to drugs.” I was stunned. Those words that were said in an indirect, yet, direct way were insightful and startling.
As my roommate and I got into the car after our shift at the Day Center we both we emotionally exhausted. We meet women every Monday that have the ability to heal with smiles and there are also other women that shake us back to reality. Homelessness and drug addiction can happen to anyone. Upon reflection of the afternoon this women stood out to me for this reason. It reminded me that it does not matter the life you live, the clothes on your back, or the car you drive because it the time it takes you to experiment and to believe that you have full control of life is the same amount of time that you can lose it all.

BY:Alyssa Silva

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ads Hijack Self


Some studies estimate that the average city dwelling American sees between 20,000-40,000 advertisements per day. If you live in a city like Los Angeles or New York, you can bet that number is at the top of that scale. The American metropolis has redefined the limits of advertising, and it’s taken your mind along for a wild ride.

Think of your favorite story. It might be romantic, heroic, or even tragic, but guaranteed there are at least a few strong morals shining through in its message. Now, take that beloved narrative that speaks to your sense of humanity, and use it to sell somebody a soda or a pair of jeans.

Ads take powerful narrative forces and manipulate them so that they can be associated with whatever product advertisers want to sell. Laundry detergent doesn’t have anything to do with spending more time with your family, but when you walk down the grocery store aisle and see that name you recognize, you don’t even remember the family in the commercial, only the feeling of pride and happiness it left you with. We have been disassociated from our stories.

With so much arbitrary relations between ethical value and material goods, it’s gotten confusing to know what to identify with, which is why so many people construct their character based on the products they buy. I wear Levi’s because I am a real American, and I work hard, but in reality I really just want people to know I have style, and enough cash to buy a decent pair of jeans.

This makes people distrusting of what is supposed to give their lives guidance. Our current and increasing trend of ‘ironic displacement’ borders on apathy, and exists only to laugh at itself because it holds no real stake in global issues. It is as though the world has become so troubled that our cultural response is an army of hip, cool kids who are bold because they wear funny (but really cool) clothes.

It is nothing new to have intelligent yet misguided youths dissatisfied by their culture. The beats, the hippies, the punks, the new age kids, the scenesters, and the hipsters are a long line that is likely to continue so long as out culture gives us noncommittal methods of rebellion that do nothing but propel the status quo. “The rebellion has been co-opted by the combine,” as Kesey might say. But what are we really pseudo-rebelling against while we live in the most prosperous empire mankind has known? Why do so many people need to be medicated, psychoanalyzed, and incarcerated if our society is so great? Suicide is a luxury of first world cultures; in other places in the world people actually have to fight for their lives, not hide from them.

So how do we get back to reality? Can we fight against the meme war that is taking place in our minds by big advertising? To get back to truth, we have to care, and to care we cant be smugly detached from the crazy world around us. This is a call to anyone who feels that something is deeply wrong with the values proposed by our culture, and by values I don’t mean abstract rhetoric like ‘freedom’ and ‘happiness,’ I mean the real values that get shot through screens, billboards, and radio signals telling us how unsatisfied we actually are. I suppose it’s the only way we’ve found to keep this big machine trucking forward down the road of ‘progress.’ Keep your eyes open.

Sean McEvoy

Where Did We Begin?

I was in the car with my mom one night when she turned to me and asked, “How did you all become friends?” I told her I didn’t know. Is it weird I couldn’t answer her? What I do know is, when it comes to Michelle, Chris, Kevin, Nyck, and Manny, the friendships we share are never-ending. I know that there are memories from our beginnings, but no, “Aha! That’s when we became friends” moment. Maybe it’s because our relationships took time to build so it’s more like a collection of interactions instead of just one distinct incident. I really don’t know.

We all went to high school together, but that’s about it. While there, we hung out, but that was in class. It was less frequent outside of a room and practically never off campus. It’s funny to look back at. It’s even funnier when you look at the word “friend.” As for Michelle and Kevin, they were classmates of mine. Chris was an online friend. Nyck and I shared mutual friends. And Manny, well, let’s just say, we pretty much never even saw each other. They weren’t my friends.

They all knew each other though. Michelle, Chris, and Nyck went through many years of school together. Chris, Kevin, and Manny played on our high school football team. Once I grew close to one, the rest sort of fell like dominoes. Still, I don’t credit any one of them as being the reason I became friends with the next. Even more so when I’m not exactly sure as to how we became what we are today.

Going in the order it all happened—one of the things I do remember—Michelle was first. We had been in numerous classes together since freshman or sophomore year, but we never spoke. It wasn’t until senior year, in Ms. Nakano’s Spanish 3 Honors class that we shared words and laughter. Our funniest moment was when she talked about farts with our teacher and another student chimed in with a scientific explanation. That, like many others, was a class where we got nothing done. Every time we had to do group work, it was us and 3 other girls. Always. If you were to ask us how we became friends, she and I will say all we know is we didn’t start talking until that class. Sometime there, or after, she became my twin.

Chris came next. Our first interaction was on Facebook in April 2007, late senior year. I guess you could say that’s when we became friends, but that was “Facebook friends.” There were many times we talked, but no significant interactions. He did end up asking me to prom—no, not on Facebook—and we went. Afterwards, things didn’t go as he planned so we agreed to be friends. That still isn’t when it happened. It came later, I just don’t know when later. It doesn’t matter now though, he is like Michelle, but a guy. He’s my BFF.

Now, I knew Kevin before Chris, but that was because we had classes together. I remember him coming in halfway through junior year as the new kid in school. I also remember I didn’t like him. I couldn’t stand him (Sorry Kevin). We had 2 classes together senior year. I guess somewhere in there he won me over. How? When? You tell me. It wasn’t until closer to prom that I found out he was friends with Chris. That still didn’t bring us together. Later, there were a few times I saw Kevin because I was with Chris, but we took time out on our own too. That was a while after we graduated I think. It’s sad not knowing, but I don’t care. Now he’s my Lakers game buddy.

Although Nyck was friends with my closest friend in high school, we had very little interaction. Even as Chris and I rode with him to prom and took many pictures, there was no distinct moment. Later, he ended up moving away and then came back. He decided to move away again and in the few months before he did, during the couple occasions we hung out, it happened. I guess we could say it was during my 21st birthday where we made “Tie Me Down” by the New Boyz our theme song for the night, but that wasn’t it. I feel like that was just additional fuel to our friendship fire. That wasn’t the “we did this and knew we would be friends forever” moment. Somewhere before that he became my sweetheart and always will be.

Last up is Manny. This only started happening early last year. And I could be wrong. Neither of us really knows when it began. He has been friends with Kevin and Chris since high school. With me, not so much. I think his going away for college had a lot to do with that, but he’s home now. In seeing my interactions with Chris and Kevin, he became jealous (Love you Manny). He doesn’t say that though. I remember getting a text from him one day. How did he get my number? Your guess is as good as mine. We started talking, but that wasn’t our beginning. Then one day, he said let’s hang out, just me and him—jealousy?—because I did that a lot with Chris and Kevin. You may think that’s our beginning, but from our interactions leading up to that, it’s a bad guess. The talks we had before that day show that it’s not an accurate beginning. But now, whenever my Steelers beat his Ravens, I know who to call.

And that’s them. Those are the bigger stories, not exact moments. It doesn’t mean we are anything less than friends though. We may not be able to remember seeing a start, but we all definitely know that there isn’t an end in sight.

~Michelle Mitchell

Grow Up

When you are a little kid one of your greatest fears is that your parents will abandon you and leave you to fend for yourself. When I was five, this was my greatest fear. I refused to stray too far from my mom in the grocery store, and I would not let my dad walk anywhere without holding my hand. I was scared that as soon as we separated, we would be separated forever. As I grew older this anxiety lessened and lessened. Soon I did not need my dad to hold my hand nor want him to. In the grocery store I was happy to go off on my own and get the groceries I wanted. I no longer feared losing my parents or them abandoning me. I was gaining independence and I loved it. As soon as I got my license I was driving all over the place visiting friends, staying out way past curfew and doing my usual shenanigans. When it came time to go away to college, I was so excited I could not contain myself. When my mom and dad moved me into my dorm I dreamt of the moment they would leave and I would truly be on my own, in charge of my life. Now I am a sophomore in college and already live on my own (well minus a few things I still have to rely on my parents for). In the last two years I have only been home for a total of three weeks. I stayed the summer in Los Angeles and got an internship with a music marketing company and a job as a hostess at Barney’s Beanery on the promenade. I was/am running my life.
This weekend is parents weekend and my mom decided she wants to come down and visit me. When she told me I was so excited to have her come. I jumped up and down thinking how proud of me she will be seeing how clean my house is and how independent and put together I have come. Even though we speak at least once a week it is a rare occurrence as of late for her to see me in person. When going over all the things I wanted to show her and the friends I want her to meet I realized something. I am no longer the little girl that cried when she left me. Even though I still love my mom with all my heart and are overcome with happiness when I see her, I do not need her the way I used to. It is funny how in life we grow up without even noticing it. We wake up one morning and boom; we have this independence that snuck up on us. I am proud to say that I can take care of myself and not ashamed to say that at times, all I need is a hug from my mom or for my dad to once again hold my hand.

--Alyssa Bermudes

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ni Una Mas


Ni una mas
(Not one more)
Report of death in Ciudad Juárez
Ni una mas
Child asking his mother why they always kill the same woman
Mother’s voice is strange
Thinking of what is happening
What she sees and hears
Ni una mas
Tear or muffled
Scream in the
Back seat of a drug runners van
Ni una mas
Women used as mule to carry drugs
Or killed for sex and hate
Ni una mas
Flower left on empty grave
No more hiding from men
Wishing that not following curfews are no longer be of blame
Ni una mas
Broken hearted
Hole in her sole
Mother who
Still doesn’t know
Ni una mas
Missing photo
Bloody naked body in an empty patio
Ni una mas
Male empowerment through violence
Shattered skull
Full of sorrow
Sadness because of violence
Ni una mas
sister, mother
daughter in
a shallow grave
under brutal
hands and eyes
that ooze self-hate
Ni una mas
Dream sliced
And zip-tied
Maquiladora
Cotton blouse
Ripped like
Paper moons
In a dark sky
Where stars cry
Ni una mas
Covering up land of sex hate crimes

Ni Una Mas

-Yenitza Munoz

Inspired by the organization, “Ni Una Más,” in efforts to spread awareness of the femicides in Juarez, Mexico

Turkey Lips


Cucumber. Bugs. Turtle dumpling. My love, my pet, my sweet babboo. What did I do to be given these nicknames? I became my father’s daughter. When I’m at home, every morning I wake up and enter the kitchen for breakfast. Something like “my green bean machine” greets me. I am not alone in this experience. My mother and sister are also regularly addressed this way in almost every interaction with my dad.

It has always been part of my life, so I never really questioned what was behind the pet names. At least until last Thanksgiving, when my father, two brothers and I had a few glasses of wine after the others went to sleep. “Are you going to bed, my sweet babboo?” I was asked as I got up from the table for a refill.

Ignoring the question, “Dad, what is a babboo?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where did you hear it?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Then why do you always call me your sweet babboo?”
“Because I like the way it sounds.”

That was all the explanation necessary, for the only thing that any of these words or phrases have in common is that they are fun to say. As I marveled at how I had never actually sought the origins of these nicknames, my dad decided it was time for a life lesson.

He explained that if a guy wants to give a girl a nickname, he shouldn’t call her something boring like cupcake or sweetie pie, “Come on, she’s not sweet all the time.” He should call her something he enjoys saying. According to him, my brothers needed to start stepping up in this aspect of a relationship. If they are dating a girl they really like, they need to get creative. And I need to find a guy who is crazy enough to come up with such names for me. We all began to brainstorm different ideas of pet names my brothers could use. After a minute or two of pondering, my older brother offered, “my cauliflower curry.” Not bad, we agreed. A few minutes later, “my little water chestnut.” My younger brother had raised the stakes. This continued for longer than I should admit. And not all of them were vegetables.

I learned a lot that night. As you may have guessed, the Bouey family is a bit odd. But it is easy to overlook the pure happiness we can experience from something so basic. We seek pleasure from purposeful sources and activities, but we forget about the little things that have no point, yet endlessly delight us. Happiness is something we are all continuously striving for and we search for it in movies, books, exercise, friendships, romance and numerous other sources. But we forget to look right under our noses. Indulgences that are so ridiculously goofy yet simple to achieve and innocent seem rarely sought after or enjoyed.

Whether I am shamelessly rocking out to one hit wonders on the radio, having conversations with someone using only facial expressions, or high-fiving a person in an entirely inappropriate situation, I need to embrace my quirkiness and share it with the people I care for. For me, an integral component of love is the willingness to let your significant other see and experience your lunacy. It is one way to evidence the uniqueness of your relationship. You know they will only love you the more for it (although not everyone else will).

So when I go home this spring break and first see my dad, I am already looking forward to the warmest welcome, “Hey, Squartaguatza! How was the drive?”


-Colleen Bouey

Monday, February 14, 2011

PERIOD



What is religion? Dictionary.com gives the definition: a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects. This definition insists that any set of beliefs and practices agreed on by a group of people, whether truthful or not, constitutes a religion. In this sense, yes, there are many religions, more than can really be accounted for. The way I see it, there is only one true doctrine. I want to make it known that I don’t despise, hate, or condemn all people who believe otherwise or practice different things. That is not my place or character to do such a thing. I just know in my heart and by visible signs and personal experiences that this doctrine is true.
Human beings were engineered to worship, revere, and praise. This is why most of us seek spirituality through various practices, looking for something to fill that void we are created to have and to satisfy the desire to know the unknown. In most cases, we fill this void with tangible things like money, men/women, cars, clothes, and people; also with intangible things such as love, lust, addictions, and etc. All these things are easily carried by the wind and are never permanent. So we find ourselves constantly on a search for substance but can never find it. Some people, however, have found substance. I’ve found my substance in God. The higher power that created me with this void, has filled it, creating such a peace that is indescribable.
I believe the scriptures saying that there is One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism and that no man’s unbelief could make God’s word a lie. There was a point in time where every individual in the world knew that the earth was flat. Their belief did not reshape the earth and it continued to remain in its created state. The population then discovered the truth of its form. I know many people have trouble believing that the bible is true because of a scholarly view that the bible was inspired and created by men. There are many prophecies in the bible that are impossible for man to have inspired. In Matthew chapter 24 the disciples asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of thy coming”. Among other things, Jesus describes that there will be earthquakes in divers places. Over the past few years there has been an increase in devastating and deadly earthquakes in places such as Chile, China, Haiti and others that have occurred recently. In Mark, chapter 16, it says, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues”. I was at a youth retreat and while everyone was praising God, I couldn’t help but notice something strange. She was pacing and violently jerking her head forward and her face looked angry. Her voice was deeper than normal and, like all of us, she was speaking in a different language, but the sound and tone she was speaking in sounded evil. Not too long after, minister after minister came surrounding her to cast out the spirit that possessed her. They succeeded. On this same retreat, in that same day, one of the brothers dislocated his shoulder playing basketball. Obviously he was in great pain and his arm lost function and mobility. That night, during high praise, his arm came out of the sling and lifted in the air, accompanying his other arm in praising God. He testified that God told him to lift up his hands. After obeying God’s instruction, his shoulder was completely healed. And for the most exciting and inexpressible truth, speaking in another, God given, language, which is a sign that confirms that we have His seal of salvation. I will not describe how God performs this because I don’t believe that you will understand. Just know that I, along with many others, share this experience that was initially witnessed in the first church on the day of Pentecost described in the book of Acts.
Christianity isn’t about “religion” or tradition. It is a life style of a people who place God in the forefront: loving Him, striving to be sanctified and righteous by obeying His word, and being watchful of His coming. That is the goal, proving our faith through obedience in order to make it into heaven. Thus, I know this doctrine is real even just on the basis of my own experiences. The words are lifting off of each page and are present in our world today. For a society who wants to have proof, here it is. The saying goes, I’d rather live a life in Christ, die, and find out there is no God, than to life a life without God, die, and find out that God does exist.

- Cairesse Grimes

Cycles of Love


In light of Valentine’s Day, I figured couples and singles could use some relationship advice. Many of us have either been in a serious relationship by this point in college or at least have a clue of what a serious relationship consists of. For those who haven’t, read closely, I think you will find my interpretation of relationship stages useful.
Have you ever been involved in a relationship that brings initial joy, but over time ends up causing a great deal of pain? Well if this has happened to you or is currently happening to you, don’t fret. I have some helpful advice for getting you through this tough time. We all know how complicated relationships can be. Maybe you have just begun dating your new girlfriend/boyfriend. I’m positive you still may find some of my information enlightening. I found from my past experiences that relationships have cycles. One must know the cycles of relationships in order to effectively make their own relationship work. In addition, one can also prevent their relationship from entering a certain cycle if it is unwanted.
The first stage is what I call stage 1, or more commonly known as the “getting to know one another “stage. During stage 1, you and your partner go on dates, ask questions about past relationships and spark conversations of interest to see what the two of you share in common. The first stage typically doesn’t last for more than three or four months (depending on the couple). The second stage in a relationship is known as stage 2. In stage two, you will notice your relationship has grown and feelings have accumulated over a short period of time. As the feelings increase, so do the insecurities. You and your partner want to secure each other’s feelings and you may become naturally territorial. You begin to set boundaries for your partner or vice versa. For instance, he/she may call to tell you they bought something new to go out with their friends for the evening. Naturally, you want to know where they are going, who they are going with, and possibly an estimate of when they will arrive home; whereas three months prior, you could’ve cared less.
Slowly but surely stage 3 develops. Stage 3 develops fairly quickly in comparison to stage two. Stage 3 is the steady increase of feelings and the introduction of the first “argument”. This argument is a big deal. In most cases, the argument between you and your partner is natural. It is especially natural if your argument is conducted as a debate. If it is a screaming match, you may want to take this as a sign for the relationship as a whole. Stage 4 develops after the “L-word” is exchanged. After you begin saying the “L-word” things are officially serious. You most likely know close to everything (important) about your partner.
Stage 4 is typically the last stage in the love cycle. After stage 4, you have made an unspoken commitment that your partner is who you want to be with for as long as possible. It is important to recognize that not ALL relationships lead to engagements and marriages. Instead of regretting the relationships that don’t get past stage 3, take each and every one as a learning experience. I hope this information was useful for you. Whether you are single or taken, be sure to enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

*All information is based purely off of opinion and is not to be used as a guide

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Smile Now


Everybody is my friend. At least I keep telling myself this over and again. Smile there. Say hi here. Bless you. Thank you, devil in disguise.

I’m sure there is quite a simple formula to making nice with every friend-I-haven’t-met-yet (stranger!) around the corner. Simple, but simply a foreign language to me. My issue begins with a word. Or most likely, a grunt. Maybe it started as a game back in the day, but for as long as I’ve known my initial response to most questions involved as nonverbal a reply as possible. It is certain that I do not like to talk about myself. No, the root of this issue doesn’t stem from insecurity or a fear of judgment or rejection. I just have a wall. From whence did this beast of solitude arise? My best guess is I was born like this. An island. With some help from Mom. And I have no problem with it. The fact is, I love myself. And my thoughts, they entertain me to no end instead of numbing certain cognitive functions. I can sit in absolute silence for hours on end and still have a running dialogue worthy of syndication. After finishing this piece, I will do just that, subjecting myself for a few hours of contained solitude as I assess the depth of vision along the Highway 395 in the middle of the night. The dark, the expanse, the opportunity for anything compels me in situations as these. I feel words would cheapen the experience, as if in a meditative state completely removed from the outside world.

But people-watching! That’s where the fun is. I see you, you might see me. I construct where you’re going, why, and from where before you can even twist your lips in smile. The reality of each individual story is exponentially more fascinating than any fabricated impression. Our genetics would deem us almost perfectly similar, while the total number of unique personalities expressed abounds as if salt in the sea. Lesson being, dive in to new oceans, there are many fish in these wonderful waters.


Weston Finfer




by Aaron Frias
3D Movies = Hollywood’s Biggest Gimmick
“Avatar 3D”. “Toy Story 3” in 3D. “Jackass 3D”. “Saw 3D”. Can you notice any kind of trend between these four recent movies? It’s not because they were all made in Hollywood. It seems too many movies these days are incorporating the use of third dimensional elements in order to make the illusion like something is “popping” out towards the audience. However, is this absolutely necessary to make the movie any better? Does not watching a movie in 3D hinder the entire experience of the movie? What about movies that were shot in 3D and advertise the hell out of the movie, showing off how incredible it’s supposed to be. (Perfect example is “Drive Angry” with Nicolas Cage, which flaunts the fact that it was shot in 3D. Not only am I not seeing it because of the 3D element, but also it has Nic Cage. Enough said.) 3D movies do the complete opposite of what they should do and that’s to change the movie industry. However, 3D takes cinema a step backwards, adding absolutely nothing to the movie.
I’ll just add in some personal experiences that I’ve had with 3D movies. Take “Avatar”, for example. This movie was advertised as the next generation of film making, shot completely with 3D cameras and using the best special effects Hollywood could provide. Many thought that this was going to be James Cameron’s best film since “Terminator 2” and no, “Titanic” wasn’t his last great film. Now granted, “Avatar” was an enjoyable movie with a pretty good plot and memorable characters. However, being that the film is about 3 hours in length, there was a point where I forgot that I was in fact watching the movie in 3D. In addition, I gradually began to feel a throbbing headache forming in my head, due to too much 3D. I later realized that I was watching the movie through two sets of lenses. One, through the glasses that the theatre provides. Two, I was wearing contact lenses. So it was as if I was only able to watch the film through two sets of glasses for my eyes. Think of how much my brain hated me at the moment, and I was only sitting down.
The same has been for other 3D movies. I saw “Toy Story 3” in 3D the first time I watched the film. The same exact thing happened like it did with “Avatar”. Halfway through the movie I forgot that it was 3D. The story for this movie, however, was more basic than “Avatar” and wasn’t as long of a movie, so I didn’t get the hangover from 3D. About a month later, I saw the film again with a friend without 3D and honestly it was more enjoyable. I wasn’t distracted from the uncomfortable glasses that I was forced to wear at the time and I saved a bit of money.
And that right there is the biggest problem with 3D movies. The prices. Oh. My. God. The prices. Standard matinee movies will run a customer about $8 or $9. Evening prices will run a person about $11. How much is 3D? About $5 more than standard prices. “Avatar” in 3D drained $15 of my hard earned money. So if someone were to pay for 2 people, that’s 30 greenbacks for two tickets. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? I could own 2 top-quality movies for life on DVD for that price. So when a movie that’s still in theatres claims that they are currently topping the box office, look and see if that movie is in 3D. It’s a way of cheating and a cheap way to make more money. Why do you think M. Night Shyamalan used 3D for his last film? 3D sells, not matter how bad the film will be. I swear I could produce “Paint Drying” in 3D and make at least $2,000,000 from ticket sales. Sure, it would get awful reviews no doubt, but I’d be rich! I really hope that one day 3D will be fixed because it honestly has a ton of potential. Many forms of entertainment that we use today also went through a phase, like televisions, video games, etc. But for now, it’s just simply too expensive to see something that hasn’t been perfected. Wouldn’t you rather pay for something that was complete than something that can be improved? I sure learned the hard way.

Live Strong, Seth


“Seth”, the man from Seattle. He wore reading glasses, long, curly, collar length hair. Backpack over his shoulders, not a school backpack but a trek pack. He looked like he’d been living on the street but there was something more about him where I felt the need to approach and really know. He didn’t exactly look like a typical homeless guy you’d find in Venice or Santa Monica. He still had his youth about him. The scruffy facial hair and smell of vodka didn’t help his cause but then again, his cause is to reject society. He’s “fed up with all the bullshit”. “Be who you are man” is what he tells me multiple times after we had established a bond. It’s strange, the conversations you can find yourself a part of when you forget you are a student at LMU, a 21 year old college student who is supposed to be interacting with people of that social network.

But when you talk to these people, you understand their condition to a certain extent, you hear their story and see, the best you can, the world from their point of view. You see the people who pass by, giving looks of disgust or turning their heads immediately to avoid eye contact, to avoid the possible interaction that will force them out of comfort-ability, truly realizing the sad state of affairs that separates them from Seth. Living in denial is easier. Maybe not denial, that might be harsh, but choosing not to affiliate. Yes, that sounds closer to a PR release. We’ll go with that one.

It’s a choice to remain distant. The problem is there, it’s in front of our eyes as we go to the beach with our friends, take our significant others on a romantic walk down the pier, or walk past a man begging for change on our way into 7-Eleven to get a Slur-pee. We see it in our daily routine, are reminded by news coverage, documentary films regarding the issue, yet we choose to let it be. My life is mine. Yours is yours. I chose to go to college, get a degree, apply for a job, marry my wife, have a child, and do my thang. And that is great. But let’s get together now. Let’s live for one another. We’ve been living for ourselves for way too long. The survival-of-the-fittest, Social Darwinism theory is cool, but it doesn’t address the reality of 7 Billion people living on the planet with one another, relying on the other’s existence for their own survival. There’s no connection there and it shows. We need interconnectedness for survival.

We preach this individualistic, make-your-way mentality here at home, but in reality, we rely on each other so very much. And it pains me when I meet people like Seth, who are bright, sometimes brilliant people, truly trying to make their own way and are designated to living under a lifeguard tower in Manhattan Beach. And then again, it’s his choice. The guy is smart enough to write a novel of his travels, which he intends to do. He’s a poet, a song writer, a painter, a sketch artist, a philosopher, a lover of creation, individualistic creation, the type that you seek out based not on choice, but on desire. He knows this is his plan, this is what he was meant to do. He was meant to create art. And living on the street for a time, figuring his shit out, focusing on finding himself, making sure he knows who that man is, is what he’s decided to do. That’s the path that’s led him there. He’s gained knowledge through it. He’s not just the schizophrenic man who doesn’t know left from right and will eat a baby if given the chance. Seth has his head on straight…maybe a little off center but damn close to straight. I hope to God he does figure his shit out, gives up the alcohol and continues following his passion. I want to see that guy publish a book of his travels, be the featured artist at a future Getty exhibit, hold his own, because he can.

Is it wrong I see so much potential in the people I meet? I know if I were with certain friends, maybe any friend, I would be told otherwise about Seth, that he’s just confused, living on the street, not making anything of himself, destined to become just another drunk homeless man begging for change. But I believe in him, his words were wise, they were true and nothing was held back. We had a laugh about taking a forgotten stroller, just left by a mother and child on the pier, me in the stroller, Seth pushing me along the strand towards his destination in Santa Monica, a plastic flask of Popov in hand. Oh the looks we would have drawn. We had a good laugh about that one. It was fun. He brought me down to a very real level from the start. It’s the kind of person he is. He’s a truth seeker. His main goal in life right now is to see himself. He wants to be who he is and he’s doing that.
Live strong, Seth.

~Jordan Bunger

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To Preserve and Protect


You know the story. It’s all too familiar. It has come alive on the big screen through Disney characters and 3-D animation and has touched the hearts of people everywhere. It typically goes like this: native people inhabit a tropical region where their lives are inextricably bound up with the land, sky, stars, etc; then some foreign influence in pursuit of valuable resource rolls in and destroys everything, forcing the people from their land obliterating their livelihood. Civilization takes over; humanity takes a back seat.

In recent days, BBC UK released the first-ever seen aerial footage documenting one of the last uncontacted tribes in existence. The tribe, which lives on the border of Peru and Brazil, has been the subject of conversation for the past few years. Illegal loggers and oil prospectors have been closing in on the tribe, forcing them to move from their home in Peru across the border into Brazil. However, for the past two years the Peruvian government chose not to acknowledge their existence, calling it a myth created by environmentalists and even using a “Loch Ness Monster” reference. However, with the recent release of the footage the Peruvian foreign ministry has now announced that it will work closely with Brazil to protect the tribe on the shared border.

This is not “Pandora.” It’s not a fictional moralized masterpiece complete with a love story and man-made robot villains. It’s real life. These people, in all their beauty, are painted red with the substance of a local fruit; they live in self-made communities of huts; they are healthy; they are alive. “They are the last free people on the planet,” as the BBC documentary states.
In contemplating this incredible circumstance, my mind keeps shooting back to an experience I had in Vietnam last summer. While traveling, I somehow found myself thrown into teaching English at a boarding school in Pleiku, a small city in central Vietnam. Not only was I unprepared to teach English but I was also unprepared for the moral dilemma that would plague me to this day.

So here’s the deal. The boarding school is run by an order of Vietnamese nuns who, out of the goodness of their hearts, take children from their indigenous communities and bring them to their city school to be educated. What became immediately clear to me was the racial tension between the Vietnamese city children and the indigenous students. What became disheartening to me was that the languages of instruction in this school (for all students) were Vietnamese and English. Along with learning English they wanted to embrace and take on all of their (perceived) Western cultural traditions that came with it: light skin, break dancing, technology, etc. If you don’t yet understand what made this disheartening to me, keep in mind that many of these students are indigenous. They are away from their communities, away from their native language, away from their cultural traditions. In other words, the children were not just taking on and learning new languages and cultures but also losing their own in the midst. While I realize the importance and/or benefits of teaching the English language and Western culture and the Vietnamese language and city culture, I just can’t look past the danger in the neglect of their native J’rai culture. This homogenization of culture, the disappearance of unique languages and ways of life, is and has been a universal trend that is both unfortunate and destructive to the diversity of our global community. While I truly fell in love with each and every one of my 8 and 9 year-old students, it was undeniably difficult to walk into that classroom everyday with all these thoughts in my head and my Western alphabet letters and English workbooks in my hands.

Going back to the tribe on the Peru/Brazil border, I can’t help but imagine their lives several years from now, post outside intervention. Will they be immediately dropped to the bottom of the socioeconomic food chain and thrust into what we know to be poverty? Will the proselytizers rush in to “save” them? Will they pursue major languages and neglect their own in the process? We must think critically about the consequences of and possibilities for their future. So the question becomes this: to make contact and change life as they know it or to protect them from outside intervention and preserve the beauty of their culture in its purest form?

Mallory Massie

To view the footage and to learn more about the tribe and how you can help protect them and their way of life please visit http://www.uncontactedtribes.org/brazilfootage

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Startling Reality


Did you know that 3.9 million women are physically abused by their partners and 20.7 million are verbally or emotionally abused? Did you also know that it has been reported that up to 100% of homeless women have experienced domestic or sexual violence at some point in their lives? I actually was not aware of any of these statistics. These numbers are shocking and unnerving at the same time. There have been multiple instances that I have listened to people speak about physical and emotional abuse, but it was not until a few days ago that all of these issues became a reality in my life. There is something about having a first hand experience that shakes you to your core and wakes you up to a brutal reality.
I work with homeless women now on a weekly basis and feel as though I am just beginning to learn the appropriate way to interact with them. Treating them with dignity and respect is all they are asking for in their time of need. Truly, these women are just like you and I, however, they are going through rough patches in their lives. What is difficult for me is that often times the best form of respect is smiling and not allowing your actual feelings to show through. The case that I experienced this past week was very different. As I was sitting at the front desk a women approached me and asked for information on a battered women’s shelter. There was something that did not sit well with me and as she asked each question persisting on knowing more I began to put the pieces together. She was sniveling as if she had just finished crying, however, I just wanted to believe that she had a bad cold. Though that sounds absurd, I clearly just did not want to believe the facts. I know awful things happen in this world, but I was not sure if I was ready for the stark reality. She was wearing black sunglasses and a sweatshirt and jeans. She was clearly trying to hide something in an inconspicuous manner. I told her that I should get my supervisor because she would be able to help her the most adequately.
As my supervisor Jennifer came and spoke with her she asked her to give more information as to why she was inquiring on the issue. As she raised her sunglasses my stomach sank. She looked at us and said, “See”. She said it as if she had something to prove. Her left eye was swollen, black and blue and drooping. I was speechless. This was not like the movies or even a picture; this was real and ever present. There was a feeling of violation that ran through my veins. I was angry for her as if I was in her body. She did not seem as if she was angry, she seemed broken but ready to fight back in her own way. By reaching out she was able to fight her assailant in the best way that she could, by helping herself.
As she walked away to freshen up and to go speak with a case manager I sat in my chair with a million thoughts running through my mind. Though I was thinking all of these things I did not know what to do or say. I sat in silence and thought about the rest of the women sitting in the room with me. How many of them have experienced the same thing as the woman that came in for help? These women are human beings and deserve to be treated accordingly. Despite their circumstances they should be treated with the same respect and dignity that that they are simply asking for. It is important that each of us have compassion and step up to help those who at times do not have the adequate voice to help themselves.

By: Alyssa Silva

Winning Ship


Now that we’ve gotten the Super Bowl out of the way, it’s time for baseball again. Seems hard to believe, as our pitchers, fielders, and one outstanding rookie catcher played all the way through October last year. It’s been the shortest off season I’ve experienced to date, partly because the World Series was held in November, but also because the celebration hasn’t stopped since an estimated hundred thousand people mobbed the heart of San Francisco, effectively stopping traffic not only in the city, but all the way down the peninsula. The number is great, but it in no way reflects the number of people who shared the same joy I did. As time progressed, the bandwagon phenomenon grew exponentially; new fans popped up left and right. But the championship isn’t really for them. The title of World Series Champions belongs to those who have waited fifty-six years for this moment, to those who still attended games after Willie McCovey couldn’t take his team to the World Series. To those who still wear their orange and black when the Giants finish fifth in the NL West. To those who refuse to put an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ name, and who stuck around even after he was no longer jacking home runs into the bay. The fans were rewarded even before November 2nd; the Giants were making magic all season, using each day to carefully piece together a valuable roster up through August, with the final addition of Cody Ross. What was really special was the way that all of these men (many of whom didn’t find great success in their former homes) literally amalgamated to bring forth a club that would rattle even the most established rotations. A self-described group of “misfits”, each man picked up where another left off, striking out all-star hitters and thrashing home runs off number one starters. I’ve been rocking a Giants cap now for twenty years, and it’s incredibly difficult to articulate the kind of love I feel for this team. That being said, I will be the first to admit that I did not anticipate a trip to the World Series. In fact, the day we became champions of the National League West division, visions of the World Series had not even begun stirring through my mind. Beating the Padres after a close season, beating the Dodgers—incredible. It was enough. Or so I thought.
The Giants easily defeated the Braves and Bobby Cox in his last ever managerial season, and we advanced to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. Everyone thought the Giants were toast but between Tim Lincecum, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, and Pat “the Bat” Burrell, we turned it out. The dejection and disappointment on Ryan Howard’s face when Brian Wilson struck him out to win the series will never escape me, and I’d guess the same holds true for many Phillies fans. We were going to the World Series.
At this point, I knew we had a great chance, but pride comes before the fall, so I tried to keep it grounded. None of the sports writers thought we had a chance, they claimed (and many still do) that we rode a hot streak and that the Rangers’ pitching staff was unbeatable. Apparently they all forgot that the Giants had the best pitching staff in the National League, and boy, did we give them hell. It just has to be asserted that winning each series in less than five games is no stroke of luck. Tim Lincecum (who won the Cy Young award for excellence in pitching two years consecutively), dominated Cliff Lee and we took game one 11-7. Though only one game ahead, we’d taken down their biggest weapon and it became clear that they had nothing we couldn’t handle. My number one man Matt Cain took game number two, and with one loss, the series came down to 3 games to 1 with the Giants leading. Now, the World Series is best-of-seven game spectacular, so we only needed one more of three to win ship. Back at square one, we had two pitchers, arguably the best in baseball, face-to-face.

Winning pitcher: T. Lincecum
Losing Pitcher: C. Lee
Save: Brian Wilson
We did it.

Time stood still when Buster Posey (later to be named baseball’s Rookie of the Year) gloved that last swinging strike. There is the most immense pride living inside of me now; pride for my city and for a team who won it the way it should be won: outstanding pitching, exemplary management, and unassailable heart. I firmly believe that nothing will ever match that split second of euphoria; I don’t foresee any possibility of attaining any more happiness than that. Granted, we won’t be World Champions forever, but the feeling will never fade, and I hope that every die-hard fan gets a chance to experience it within his or her lifetime. Except Dodger fans, I could never wish for that.

-Kelsey Laubscher

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Journey Behind The Best Fish Taco

When growing up in Italy, it's safe to assume that the daily food you eat isn't shabby at all. Residing along a narrow yet vast lake, the town of Como offered a number of traditional and unique cuisines. Though it is a hidden gem, it was a destination for many tourists around the globe. Our town also bordered Switzerland, a country renowned for their utmost precision in all fields, including food. After my mother suspended her fashion career, we spent many days traveling to Switzerland in search for organic vegetables and fruits, variety of cheeses and other dairy products, and my personal favorite, meats. Within the narrow alleys of Lugano lay all the stores you would ever need in your life. Each of the small stores emitted such intense odors from their products that you could almost taste the individual flavors they held. As weird or sad as it may seem, I truly loved grocery shopping there because you had an infinite amount of ingredients to choose from.
Though we left Italy for New York, and then eventually moved Los Angeles, my delight in finding new recipes has not ceased in any way whatsoever. In fact, with my experiences in all these places I've lived or visited, I've begun to judge similar recipes from different locations. When we moved to Los Angeles, I was finally introduced to the notorious Mexican cuisine. It's the simplicity and imprecision, not to mention its abundance in LA, that attracted my attention. If I had to choose one recipe from their amazing variety of dishes, it would definitely be the fish taco. Coming from a region were food is heavily criticized and growing up with a mother who knows almost everything there is to know about cooking, I can't just settle for any ordinary fish taco. For the past six years I have tasted the fish taco in at least seventy different locations in Los Angeles. I've used the internet to help guide me with choices, but I also encountered restaurants alone or with friends that served fish tacos in many occasions.
In its most traditional form, the fish taco consists of: a corn or flour tortilla with pieces of grilled or fried fish (types vary but the difference is miniscule if its fried), shaved cabbage to add a cool crisp flavor, tomatillo sauce and/or tartar sauce, and lastly, lime juice. Simple right? Well, heres the problem, even food in it's most simple form, so much could go wrong if preparation isn't taken seriously. Fresh ingredients obviously matter, but its the way you use it that makes the true difference. Anyone could make a tomato sauce if they tried but not everyone could make it the same way twice, or they fail by adding or using rubbish ingredients.
When I scouted all the restaurants in Los Angeles, I have come across many fish tacos that tasted similar, but never once was it the same. Each place tweaks it in some way and it's usually either in how they prepare the fish, or the sauce that covers it. Though all ingredients have a crucial role into creating that mouthwatering masterpiece, the sauce holds dominion to all. If you have a good sauce, and more specifically, if you have a good fish taco sauce, you can lure anyone. LA holds a plentiful batch of locales with great fish tacos but if you are looking for the best, and only the best, Tacos Baja Ensenada takes the cake hands down. It is quite the drive to get there, but if your goal is to find the best damn thing in the city, boundaries are meaningless. Whenever you plan your next trip to Vegas or Palm Springs, or just happen to be in East LA, make sure you remember this name and go there. The lightly battered fish laying beneath zesty pico de gallo and crisp cabbage followed by the oozing sauce that defies pleasure, is a thing of beauty. For those of you who would never stand a chance to make that drive in that direction, and believe me, I understand, try Neptune's Net fish tacos. The ocean breeze and epic journey alongside the crashing waves makes their tacos ever so savory.

Labels: