The Truth Board

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

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beachhead in the Fourth Dimension

You are looking at a computer screen, right now.

Look at your hands. Feel the tips of your fingers. Think about all the things you have used your hands for today.

Close your eyes and breath one slow, deep breath.

Take another breath and try to fill your lungs as slowly, silently, and fully as you are able to. Stretch your lungs.

You should feel presence in your mind, maybe a little light-headedness. This is fine.

Relax your feet. They have probably been gripping the inside of your shoes. Let them go.

Slowly, and with mercy, let your body align so that your habitual way of sitting leaves you. Pay attention to the way you are sitting, right now.

Let your legs straighten, your feet point forward, your arms rest on your thighs. Do all of this with compassion and care, don’t force it.

See how your neck is holding your head. Let your head be held up by the muscles in your lower back. The whole back should help the head stay lifted.

Now, lift your arms slowly over your head, and reach upwards as high as you can go as
gently as possible. Let your rib cage rise with your arms. Hold your arms there for a few seconds.

Slowly bring them back and let them rest on your things.

See how you are breathing. Experiment with fuller breaths. Let your body tell you what it needs.

With a straight back, open chest, relaxed arms, and loose legs, go through the actions of the day. The choices you made and the people you experienced.

Don’t judge, just remember.

Let your thoughts wander and remember you can always come back here, to reality.

-Sean McEvoy

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Girlfriend vs. Girl Friend

Lines from “Girlfriend” by Alicia Keys read, “I think I'm jealous of your girlfriend although she's just a girl that is your friend...she shares a special part of you.” I know exactly how it feels to be that girl this song is about.

We are the best of friends. We tell one another everything. Our friendship started after we graduated high school and is going on four years now. It continues to grow stronger. He is a member of my family now. He spent Christmas with us. When he couldn’t make it to the house for a small birthday dinner for me, my mom sent a plate for him since he and I were going out afterwards.

He and his girlfriend have been together two years now. She owns his heart. They have their ups and downs as almost any relationship would, but they get through it. Sometimes they fight so much that they break up, but it never lasts more than five minutes. They care a lot about each other and he’s happy with her. What more could I ask for?

I guess I could ask that she not feel the way Alicia Keys does in that song. His girlfriend has never explicitly come out to say that, but I can feel it. Maybe I see too much of this in the media. Movies and songs talk about this type of love triangles. That could be where I’m getting all my ideas from. But when so many people tell me that if they were in her position, they would not like me, I know my feelings aren’t crazy.

Plus, we’re a complicated pair. He liked me in the beginning, two years before they met. He asked me out and I said no. Somehow, we became friends. A year after high school and into our friendship, his mother passed. That was hard. All of his mom’s family was in Chicago. He had no one here except for his two brothers and a few friends. He turned to some of them and me.

In a lot of ways, I felt like we all needed to step up. We did and still do. About six months after she passed, he was having a bad night so there I was on the phone, consoling him. On that night, he expressed that he still had feelings for me. I told him we were better off as friends. He said fine, but that he just needed me to know.

Three months later, he and his girlfriend got together. They had been dating for some months before I met her. And even when I did, it wasn’t a proper “this is my best friend” type of setting. They just happened to be at Disneyland the same day I was.

He and I go out a lot, just the two of us. It means absolutely nothing to me except that I am spending time with my best friend. Yes, we laugh at things that only he and I ever could, but it’s nothing. I don’t feel for him like that, but I do love him. There is nothing we could do to change that. We do share a lot of things that they do not, especially the passing of his mom, but that’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just how everything timed out.

I would never want her to feel like he and I need to stop being friends, but at the same time, I’m not going to back down. He and I are friends, nothing more. There is a space between the two words in my title. I’m his girl friend and she is his girlfriend, and it will always be that way. I hope she understands.

~Michelle Mitchell

A Letter to Media

The other day I was watching TV and the clock turned to 11pm. Scrolling down the guide I see four consecutive channels with titles like: Perfect Abs, Loose That Belly Fat, and other, more provocative titles. This visual caused me to think about some things. I am a 21 year old, 5’2”, 132 lb young woman and, according to my BMI calculation, I am borderline obese for my weight and height. According to your standards, what do you suggest that I do about this? I must say though, when I look at myself I feel fine, but compared to the incomparable pictures that you are showing via the media feeds – magazines, infomercials, regular commercials, billboards, internet ads, etc. – I should be putting a finger down my throat. But what if I don’t want to? Have you ever considered that healthy and sexy doesn’t mean skinny and starving? Of course a person should regulate their daily diet and be sure to stray away from eating greasy, high calorie, high in sugar foods consistently, but speaking for myself, I like those foods from time to time. I am just tired of seeing such young girls go on these outrageous diets attempting to mirror these images that you portray on these media platforms. They don’t even know what a diet really means and you’re not telling them either. It’s not a “go starve yourself” type of thing where you eat only an apple for breakfast, granola bar for lunch, and a protein bar for dinner. A diet is just your regular intake of food. Aside from regular exercise, to loose some weight and regain health, a person should “modify” their diet, not “go on” any specific diet. A healthy body needs a balance of a variety of foods for the various nutrients they each provide. So, instead of focusing on the outward appearance you should try shinning some light on inward health. You will be surprised how much of a difference you will make in this world.

One other thing bothers me Media. As a result of your operations, you are the reason young girls and adult women are developing or have developed these deep insecurities about themselves. Insecurities that could and have lead to diseases like anorexia and bulimia. You are the reason that I have developed insecurities about myself. Thankfully, I have enough confidence within myself to triumph over you.

Why do you continue to do this to us women and young girls! It’s not only weight you taunt us with: it’s flawless skin, beautiful, shinny hair, long lashes, and full lips. I wish that you could just wake up and smell the coffee and see that the average woman does not have these perfect qualities – you’re models don’t even have these qualities. I know your secrets: the girls on the mascara commercials – fake lashes; the models and actresses – weaves, hairpieces, and lots of make-up. Why do you continue to display such an image that is virtually unattainable and creates such a hostile mental and physical environment for the average female? You also make it so expensive to be normal for us women, always feeling obligated to spend so much on hair and make-up; it’s ridiculous.

Look, all I’m asking is for you to please take your approach, trash it, and create a new, more positive approach to influencing and entertaining people. The manner in which you are currently conducting yourself is hurtful and stressful, and making life so worrisome for women. We are strong, phenomenal, confident, and beautiful beings of this earth just the way we are. Once we, as a whole, realize that, you will be at the mercy of us all and I can’t wait until that day. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Cairesse Grimes

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Am Thankful for American Overindulgence

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I think particularly appeals to a lot of college students for several reasons. We get to go home to see family and old friends. We also get a short but sweet break from school. While going through LAX near a holiday can be a nightmare, the vacation is still usually a much needed relaxation period. And of course, there really is nothing like a home cooked meal, of which Thanksgiving is the king. I love to cook, but have difficulty finding the time to do so while trying to balance school and work. This holiday is a time that we are more or less obligated to take some time out of our busy schedules and focus on something we love: food.

My family somewhat recently heard about and started our own very tasty tradition of the turducken. It is a chicken, inside of a duck, inside of a turkey. There is a layer of stuffing in between each bird and it takes the whole day to cook. You can purchase these creations already prepared, but I think that takes out half the fun. Some people find it beautiful and some find it nauseating. But mixed emotions aside, you cannot deny the creativity it brings to what would otherwise be a typical Thanksgiving.

We have toyed with different ideas for this part of the meal. Two years ago we made a turgooduckenhen: a Cornish game hen inside of a chicken inside of a duck inside of a goose inside of a turkey (see photo). It weighed almost 40 lbs. This seemed a little excessive, even for us. So we cut back down to the turducken this past Thanksgiving, but added some strips of bacon with the stuffing in between birds, an appreciated suggestion from my little brother.

With only three children being home for most Thanksgivings now (the fourth is also a vegetarian…), it has worked out so that each year we each debone a bird. My first deboning was only two years ago, and I was assigned the turkey, while this year I was given the duck. For each bird, the deboning consists of cutting out the spine, ribs and leg bones of the bird, trying to avoid complete mutilation of the birds and ourselves. Both processes have been a challenge that lasted a couple of hours and left my arms too sore to make decent mashed potatoes.

Every family has traditions. While not typical, this tradition provides a subtle delight. We enjoy the experience not because we especially like ripping apart fowl carcasses, although that can be pretty fun. But more importantly, it is another thing that makes the Boueys unusual – a sort of bonding experience. People’s reactions, whether of disgust or in admiration, only amplify our amusement.

-Colleen Bouey

How Can We See?

How can we see?
See what we want to be.
When we are blinded by the ways of other human beings.
Led to feel and to believe in a reality that we cant be.
Told on how we must live in order to succeed.
Told to do what we dont want to do.
This is the world we synchronize ourselves into.
Our pupils within the sockets of our eyes learn just as our ears do.
We use these senses of learning to understand the world and our fears.
To understand what we want and don’t want.
However, we at times ignore our feelings and follow other human beings.
Ignoring our identity and not doing what we please.
This is the world we synchronize ourselves into.
We have fallen into a trend of giving into them.
Ambiguously, meaning those who attempt to rearrange our path.
By not believing in ourselves.
Becoming followers and not leaders.
We are blinded by the way of others tails.
Vaguely, accepting the vivid vibe of today fast culture.
Teaching us we cannot be what we want to be.
Seeing what we cannot see because they have blinded us.
Told to do what we cannot do.
This is the world we synchronize ourselves into.

-Yenitza Munoz

Just One More Cookie...

After being sick for two and half weeks (and eating nothing but soup, bland soup at that) I was starving. I wanted real food, solid food, junk food, or more specifically, sweets. I began eating soy ice cream and girl scout cookies religiously. When I exhausted those desserts, the cookies at the den became my life. After every real meal came a cookie. Sometimes that cookie even became my meal.

As the cookies piled in, so did the guilt. Why was I eating so many cookies? Why couldn't I stop? It felt like no matter how hard I tried to not eat that cookie, to not have that dirty Oreo freeze, the more I struggled and gave in. This resulted in eating even more cookies. I became a cookie machine. I ate them so much that my boyfriend began calling me his cookie monster. While a joke, it started to sound like an insult instead of a funny term of endearment.

A small complex started building inside of me and every time I ate a cookie I felt guilty. I would make myself swear I would not eat another meal if I had a cookie. My cookie had to be my meal. My body started to feel disgusting, I became sluggish and lazy. I didn't feel healthy in the slightest. I tried and tried not to eat those cookies, those bad foods, but I could not seem to stop. I had opened the door and it was not ready to be shut just yet. I looked up online ways to stop eating so much, ways to give up junk food for good. Yet again the more I tried not to eat the cookie, the more I wanted it. It has been three weeks since and you know what? I still want that cookie!

--Alyssa Bermudes

The Ultimate Fail

am the daughter of Carlette Wadlington and Richard Wadlington, but both of my parents have tremendously failed me at one point or another in my life thus far. When my parents divorced in 2003, I was torn. My parents thought it would be best for me to have shared custody, while my older brother had the option to choose which parent he wanted to live with. Ultimately, I stayed with my mother for two week periods and then I would stay with my father for the next two weeks.
I hated the fact that they were unable to reconcile their marital issues, yet I dealt with it as best as possible. One day, my mother thought for whatever reason that it would be best for her to pack up all of her (and my own) belongings and move to the state of Texas. In Texas, she remarried a man that I had never met, not to mention she left town giving me no heads up, good-bye or farewell.
As a fourteen year old pre-adult, I struggled with this. She returned two years later to my sixteenth birthday party where she stole money and possessions from myself, my dad and my older brother. I would not see her again for another three years. Still, to this day I reflect on how badly she hurt me. Although, I have forgiven, I will never forget.
This story continues. As my mother and I have recently grown closer, I have developed new feelings of hatred for my father. I found out why she left so abruptly many years ago. She finally found it in her heart and realized I am now at the age where I can handle this sort of detailed information. My mother left me and went to Texas because she was depressed. My father told her he wanted to see her suffer alone and fought in court to ensure her unhappiness. He refused to pay her the court ordered alimony and she was forced to live in her car. She didn’t leave, but she stayed in her car and worked at 24 Hour Fitness gym where she would shower daily. After living in her car for four months, she met a man and moved to Texas where they married so she could secure proper health insurance.
After hearing how low of a point she was broken down to, I wasn’t sure who to believe. Did she leave me intentionally? Was she lying? Did she steal from our home because she needed money to eat? Why wouldn’t she tell me or my brother? My mother failed me. Well, what about my dad? Did he really gain pleasure from knowing he won this bitter nasty battle? No practical human could do this. Is he practical or is he a liar too? My father has failed me. Regardless, I was not notified of any of this until it was too late.
Both of my parents have failed me.

-Brittnee Wadlington

Monday, March 28, 2011

If you don't have an iPhone... By Aaron Frias

Before you say anything, this is NOT a blog about how PCs are better than MACs and vice-versa. In fact, I’ve been a PC person my entire life, and though I’m not a fan of Apple computers, I must admit that the company does make cool gadgets and products. But what irritates the hell out of me is their advertising and the way Apple markets their products. Their strategy does work and earns them sales, but it’s quite annoying to the average consumer. To me, it just seems that Apple gets way too cocky with their inventions and feels like no other company will ever come close.
Their latest advertisement, which focuses on the iPhone 4, obviously targets those who don’t have an iPhone, as most products are usually advertised. It should be that simple. However, Apple takes it to a whole new level. Their new advertising strategy basically suggests that if you don’t have an iPhone, you’re pretty much left out in the crowd. We all know that this particular phone is insanely popular and everywhere you go, someone has this phone. But Apple makes it seem like this is the ONLY phone that’s in existence, like if you don’t have this one phone, then you might as well not even have a phone at all. Now granted, it does explain the cool features that the phone has, but at this point, I think everyone and their mom knows that the iPhone has apps, can play music like an iPod, and you can read an entire novel. This isn’t something new, as Apple made sure everyone knew about this before the first iPhone was even released.
I’m all for the idea of advertising as much as possible and to win over the consumer, but at some point, you have to get over yourselves as a company. There needs to be some kind of understanding that you aren’t the only computer company in the world and not EVERY single consumer needs your products. It’s literally gone from, you want our product, to, you need our product and that’s why I’m irritated by Apple. I’m also convinced that many Apple users are 100% positive that their computers are better than PCs, thanks to their past commercials like, “Hi, I’m a PC and I’m a shitty computer”. I’ve literally had a friend make fun of the fact that I use a PC and he uses a MAC, and this is when these commercials were brand new.
Again, I’m not complaining about Apple products and not biased towards PCs and Microsoft. I just feel like Apple has created a huge empire of in-your-face advertising that belittles non-Apple users.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lovely Lovelies

Love crept into my life. It was such a delight, oh such a delight.

I am loved and I love back. I give what I get and give and give back.

I have to be honest, it’s not always this way, many times I’m down, and don’t know what to say.

So hold me tight my dearest child, give me your hand, and your time for a while. I will give you back what you’ve given me, a hug and a kiss, we’ll etch our names on a tree.

I love her. Letting go was the greatest thing we ever did for each other. It’s times like these when you realize how much you love someone. Your mind is freed from any restrictions or limitations. The end will come. There is a sure moment where the relationship that’s been built over the last four months will cease to exist. It sucks and like all else, it’s terrible when you’re going through it.

During that conversation, my heart was pounding out of my chest. It hit me without warning. I love this girl and right there, we were lying next to each other, deciding we wouldn’t continue to stay together when the summer comes, her moving back home to Seattle and me staying here in LA. From my side, I’d wanted this. Three months apart from her would be too hard to handle. I don’t think I could do this. But this was always left in thought. I thought if I admitted that, she would feel betrayed, but she surprised me that night by being the one to initiate it. She was the one who took the step, the big, long one, and in speaking for herself, spoke for us both. She’s the realist in thought and action. I’m the realist in thought, and bitter optimist in action. I do it because I like thinking it’s all going to work out, that it’s all going to be daisies and sunshine all the time. It makes me feel good for the temporary. She’s teaching me to be upfront and honest especially in times like these where so much is on the line.

This girl has taught me so much about myself. I’ve never been in a relationship where the stakes were so high. I care so much about her that I feel pressured all the time to hold onto anything we have. When something is lost, I scramble to go out and find it many times to no success.

The last three weeks have been awkward between us. I’ve felt distant from her. Our school and work schedules keep us both busy enough to only get 2 nights a week with each other and maybe a quick lunch here and there. And I’ve been constantly questioning her love for me in the face of this distance. I haven’t been able to allow myself to trust her in her words, I love you. But instead of letting this eat away at me, I’ve asked those around me for help, my parents, counselor, roommates, classmates, really anyone who’s had any experience in this area. And the results have been amazing. I’ve made huge strides in how I look at our relationship and it came just in time for our talk on Thursday night. I did my homework. Love without expecting any love in return. I have a whole life to live outside of this relationship. I cannot depend on another person for my happiness because when they are gone, I’m left all alone. I have to find happiness in me. Let go of the mind for a little while. Release yourself. It will be all right.

I took it so well because I built myself up before we decided to end it. I listened to the advice from those I trust and I worked on myself before all else. I unwittingly prepared myself mentally for taking such a hard blow to the biggest part of my life. This girl means the so much to me and not having her by my side is scary to think about. But I will ramble on. We’ll live our own lives for a while, get snug there, and see what happens. Nothing is certain and I think I can finally feel comfortable with that.

I’m lucky I was able to spend the time with her that I did and to have been able to receive her love and love her back. No matter what happens, I will always have that to hold onto.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet Virginia

“You don’t need to speak Spanish. You must know English.” I was seven years old when my grandma first told me that. I didn’t understand. If she could speak it then why couldn’t I? Little did I know that it was a question that I would ask for a long time until it eventually pushed us further away from each other than I had ever imagined.

She’d come to visit us in Oakland every winter and every winter we would wonder what sorts of “things” she had up her sleeve this time around. The truth is that my grandma, named Virginia but better known as grandma “Virgie,” is what some might call a “kook.” She’s an eccentric woman: crazy hair, lipstick usually on her teeth, big jewelry, and a frequent dancer and even singer-songwriter at the dinner table when we were lucky. She always stormed into town with life insights, personal truths to declare, and an actual bag full of things. The “things” bag was always one of my most anticipated events of the year. She would come into the house, greet everyone, put her luggage away, and then out would come the bag, bursting full of things. Since it was always December when she came, I always secretly imagined her as the Mexican, female version of Santa Claus. The “things,” you see, were random gifts that she had picked up throughout the year, each one intended especially for each one of us: me, my two brothers, mom, and dad. The best part about them was that they were the most random treasures you could probably ever receive: silk pouches, rock collections, various trophies, hats of all sorts, tins, crocheted flowers, ornate frames with random photos in them, silverware, the list goes on and on. They were incredibly simple things but she saw so much beauty in every single gift she gave and there would always be a passionate explanation that went with each one. As a child, I was inspired by her creativity and the uniqueness that ran from the pink curlers she left in her hair to the sparkly gold pants she wore one Christmas.

Another truth I’ll tell you is that I was basically a mirror image of my grandma when I was little, which is why we got along so well. I was quite the eccentric child. I dressed myself, did my own hair, and ran my own ‘entertainment’ business by the time I was 5. What I mean to say is that along with my messy side-ponytail and mismatched, “making-a-statement” outfits, I created my own shows in which I would “perform” original acts for my parents and friends. About what, I’m not sure, I guess just whatever my 5-year-old mind was conjuring up as creativity at the time. The point is that my grandma and I were inseparable when she was in town. I was her mini-me and she my idol. This was the case until I got a bit older and wanted to know about our family history and specifically the Spanish language, at which point things became a little less magical between us.

I am half Mexican from my mom’s side of the family, which includes my grandma. It is something that I have always been aware of, not only because my skin is a different color than my mother and grandmother’s, but also because I felt especially connected with the culture somehow. I would catch my grandma singing songs in Spanish and on occasion she would keep singing them to me if I begged. But when I asked what the words meant and if she would teach me, she would become distant and tell me that I don’t need to know because only English matters. “You’re American,” she would say to me, “you don’t need to know Spanish.” She had no idea how much those words meant to me at such a young age. It was a concept I couldn’t seem to grasp. I remember asking my mom about Spanish and why she didn’t sing like grandma does. Turns out, she and her siblings were only allowed to speak English as children so she never learned it. How could my own Mexican mother not know Spanish?! It seemed outrageous to me and I was only 7 or 8 at this point. My mother was sympathetic to my concerns and responsive to what I wanted to do: learn Spanish. So in second grade I was enrolled in my first Spanish class.

My passion for the language and Latin American culture only rose from that point on. Fast forward 10 years and I was a natural at speaking Spanish, passionate about everything from the political revolutions in Latin America to Día de los Muertos. However, as I grew closer to my roots I grew away from my grandmother. She didn’t want to hear anything about Spanish or especially about the fact that I was flying to Georgia to protest the School of the Americas, a corrupt US military training camp for Latin American soldiers. My “liberal leanings” upset her, a conservative Catholic. I called her abuela; she told me to never say it again. I asked her if she could tell me about our Mexican family history; she told me it didn’t matter to me to since I was American. I shouldn’t care. I couldn’t even tell her that I was studying abroad in Argentina until I had already been living there for three months. She, of course, overreacted, reminding me of the “kinds of people who are down there.” “Okay, grandma,” is all I said.

As a Spanish and English double major, it’s always fun to respond to her comments that I need to speak English perfectly and not worry about studying Spanish. “I study English too, grandma, I think I’ll be able to get by.” As a senior about to leave Undergrad life and pursue a Graduate education in language, specifically indigenous Latin American linguistics and bilingual education, I can’t help but hold my grandma largely responsible for the person I am today. I love what I love in large part because she told me that I shouldn’t speak Spanish or consider myself Mexican. In a weird way it was a gift, I guess. Just another “thing” that came out of her bag one Christmas.

Mallory Massie

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hidden Gems

What are the first things you think about when someone says homelessness? I used to think about solitude, unfortunate circumstances, and starvation. This past Monday I was reminded that there is more to homelessness than meets the eyes. I work at the Downtown Women’s Center and with that being said I feel as though my take on homelessness has drastically changed. I have began to view homelessness through the lens of the women that I meet weekly. Each week I go to the center with an open mind to learn something new from the women. It was this Monday that I realized that we all too often forget to look past these individuals’ circumstances and learn about who they are as people and where they came from.
These women have made a substantial impact on my life. They remind of how precious life is and also how things can change in an instant. In conversation, a woman name Rose told me that she was the black sheep of her family. Her father worked in the White House with President Regan and all of her siblings were well off. She described to me events that she used to attend and unfortunately that all changed because of decisions that she made that landed her on the street. She also told me that many of her good friends are still extremely influential in the Los Angeles area. I was left baffled because I began to think how could a person come from so much and be left with so little. I grappled with this but I remembered what she said to me. I remembered she identified that it was her decisions that led her to this point. It seems that Rose has fallen so far from where she used to be and with that you would think that she would be unhappy, however, she isn’t. She is one of the most thoughtful and happy woman I have ever met. Little things that my roommate and I tell her she remembers and makes a point to ask about them the next week we see her. It is with this thoughtfulness and happiness that I think that people miss out on many great things that these individuals have to offer.
Another woman that sparked my interest is named Sophia. It turns out that before she was homeless she had written two novels, a book of poetry, and also a book on Islam. Sophia is extremely interesting because she is an older woman of small stature who is a bit rough around the edges to say the least. She is a bit anti social and at times rude. The Center has a newsletter that they put out monthly and in it Sophia had written seven pieces. Her writing was incredible and I never would have realized how accomplished that she was if it was not for this newsletter. When I read her name in the paper I began to ask her about the writing to see if this would possibly spark a connection. Unfortunately, it did not.
Both of these women are prime examples of the gems hidden throughout this group of individuals that are thought to have nothing to offer. Until people get past this idea, they will continue to miss out on all things that these individuals have to offer.
By: Alyssa Silva

The Home of the Brave

America is often recognized as a land of promise, as a place where every man is entitled to the pursuit of happiness. How is it, then, that people are supposed to reap the benefits of this fine nation, if we as citizens are so consumed with the classification of our fellow Americans?
Though the evolution of race relations is something that we pride ourselves on, discrimination exists everywhere around us. Race relations have always been shaky in this country, from Japanese internment and segregation (not to mention slavery), to the present-day treatment of Middle-Easterns in America. We are afflicted by the habit of taking one person as representative of the whole. All men are supposed equals in America, and yet, there is always a second class of citizens. Forget history, even looking at modern day America, one can find an array of second-class citizens, breathing our same air. It can definitely be argued that felons deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, as they have violated the code that accompanies citizenship, but what crimes have the homeless committed against society?
The homeless men, women, and children of America are marginalized and kept out of the minds of most of their fellow citizens. Though we see them every day, there is a certain stigma attached to them and their condition, which perpetuates their status as second-class citizens. We feel like homelessness could never happen to us, but the reality is that most are merely one addiction or one misstep away from a similar fate. It’s important to remember that homeless people (or the majority of them, at least) were not born that way. Many are veterans who came home only to be shut out and left out in the cold, literally. Some were professionals, some have college degrees; they are people just like us. There is nothing innate within them that distinguishes them from billionaires, pro athletes, and college professors. So why are they treated like lepers?
People are so quick to classify others in relation to their own social standing. Why does it help us to note that we are better off than someone else? It’s beyond “keeping up with the Jones’”; Americans are often looking to one-up each other. And to what avail? So many crimes committed against fellow humans mar our claim as a free country with liberty and justice for all. We dehumanize those who threaten our sense of security; we take away their rights to fortify our own. In some cases, as in the instance of criminals, incarcerating them protects innocents and reinforces our rights as citizens, but that’s a different discussion. What threat to our happiness and security does homelessness impose? Those who have fallen into hard luck do not deserve to be outcast and ostracized from a society to which they once belonged. I challenge you, now, to look a homeless man in the eye when you pass him on the street. Say hello, ask how his day is going. I challenge you to sit down and converse with a homeless man, and tell me why you are better than him.

-Kelsey Laubscher

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Beauty in Fear

The surface of the ocean is daunting and seemingly endless, and needless to say, I'm not the biggest fan of it. Sadly, I don't particularly like to surf, and always feel some slight anxiety when I jump in the middle of an ocean from a boat. I'm not sure if Steven Spielberg's Jaws plays a major factor in this fear of not being able to see what's under you but I know one thing for sure, the ocean always remains very mysterious. Every time I plunged in the sea I was primarily worried about jellyfish, sea snakes, sharks, some other ghastly deadly animal, and occasionally sea monsters . With the exception of the arctic seas, I've seen and felt all the different oceans in the world and each hold unique wonders beneath the surface.
Just before my teen years, I decided to face some of my fears by learning how to scuba dive. I thought to myself, if I had the ability to understand and explore what was beneath the surface, maybe I would lose this lurking fear I had whenever I swam in it. I started my training for Open Water Diver in Los Roques, Venezuela during Christmas vacation but because it was such a remote place, the scuba instructor only spoke in Spanish. Also, the book I studied from and final written test itself was Spanish as well. Now I don't speak Spanish, nor understand it well enough to read a thick set of instructions but I caught on fairly quickly. Scuba Diving rules and techniques isn't really all that difficult to grasp but there are many necessary steps to keep yourself from potentially freaking out underwater, like running out of air, or encountering an animal you're not particularly keen of. Better yet, you could accidentally touch something poisonous and go into immediate shock and the first thing you want to do is rush up to the surface. If you succumb to these acts of nervousness while you're more than 40 feet beneath the surface, far greater complications arise when you rise up too quickly. The air tank is filled with Nitrogen gas and though it's dissolved in the bloodstream, it converts back to gas if you come up too quickly (caused by the rapid change in pressure) The nitrogen bubbles rapidly travel along the blood vessels to the heart and cause a heart attack.
There are many rules to obey that prevent you from suffering severe injury or death but if you follow those simple rules and stay calm, there's a whole underwater utopia that keeps you breathless and bedazzled. Once you step in that water and descend into this forest of life you can't help yourself but remain in awe. When I dove in Bora Bora, I was graced with thousands of different species and coral. Hundreds of different fish in all colors, shapes, and sizes swam left and right, schools of Eagle Rays and barracuda that could block your vision, and giant Lemon sharks that lurked beneath and above you silently. But the most remarkable and most beautiful sight were the coral reefs. Their immense variety of colors, glistening against the fragmented shears of light in the water, were simply beautiful. Because of these unique and wonderful experiences I've encountered deep beneath the surface, I have continued to upgrade my divers license gaining the ability to dive through wrecks, dive deeper, dive in caves, and dive at night. I just hope that we don't kill our oceans before I grow old because I can't get enough of it.

- Mortimer Canepa

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coachella 2011 Preview

After much uncertainty, I have just secured tickets to Coachella 2011. This will be my first time there, let alone any music festival, so I am very excited. I think the lineup is great and with art, food, and music all together, I’m sure it will be a weekend to remember. Here is my list of a few bands to look out for at the festival.

Animal Collective: If you’ve heard Animal Collective and you still don’t like them, stop reading now. This band has a sound all their own that has been mutating and polishing for a decade. A mix of tribal rhythm, electronic dream beats, roundabout singing, and some of the coolest arrangements of songs I have heard, Animal Collective has a special place in my heart. Bottom line, you love them or you hate them, but I dare you to watch the video for “Peacebone” and say they aren’t at least creative.

Arcade Fire: After winning the Grammy for best Album of the Year, Arcade Fire is off to celebrate headlining Saturday night at Coachella. A mix of rock, pop, and arena anthems, they put on one awesome live show. This is the kind of band you want to see surrounded by thousands of people screaming their lyrics. They use unique instrumentation, such as strings, alternate percussion, and even a megaphone to create a sound all their own. Being a kid from the suburbs, their album hits home for me.

Bright Eyes: Ahhh high school. Like Animal Collective, I think Bright Eyes is hit or miss. If you can ease into Connor Oberst’s vocal style and relate to his, dare I say, emo lyrics, Bright Eyes might hit a sweet spot for you. They are also incredibly dynamic, putting out harder electronic driven music as well as sweet folk songs. Their new album drops this month and needless to say will be the focus of the show. Of course, all their fans will want them to go back to “I’m Wide Awake” and “Lifted.”

Fun: Let me start this off saying this: If you can’t stand watching musicals, stay away from Fun. The new brain child of The Format lead singer Nate Ruess, Fun is exactly what the name suggests. With a high pitched, whimsical voice, Nate screams catchy jingles about falling in love, moving on with life, and being lonely in a new city. His songs are infectious to the right pair of ears and sometimes I find myself involuntarily recalling melodies from songs of his I haven’t heard in months.

Kanye West: Forget that he’s a gay fish, Kanye has put out a really great 21st century album. His Dark Twisted Fantasy includes collaborations with music legends, as well as some great lyrics. Just remember, Jon Brion makes his beats (Eternal Sunshine, I Heart Huckabees…).

The Aquabats!: Can you awkwardly move your arms and legs, almost skipping around in a circle? Do you love suits and checkers? Well, then I have the band for you. The Aquabats are a ska-scene legend. One of the most high energy shows you are likely to see anywhere. If you want to see some people having a good time dancing, check this one out, even if you’re not into the whole ‘ska’ thing.

Sean McEvoy

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They Call Me Tia

With brothers and a sister who are a lot older than me, I became an aunt at a very young age. I was actually born one. Only two of the four born before me actually call me aunty. The other two call me by my name, but that’s because we were raised like brothers and sister due to some unfortunate events in our lives. Their mom is the sister I talk about in one of my earlier blogs (My Sister’s Killer).

Although I have a lot of nieces and nephews, I have never really been an aunt when I compare myself to what my aunts were like. When I was six, my niece and nephew, Omani and Stephan, were born, three months apart. They were the children of my mom’s two sons, each one had their own. Omani and Stephan were like little siblings for me. I was the youngest, but with them around, it never really felt like that. Even as we grew older, the six year age difference never allowed me to really be an aunt. They call me Tia, because my mom wanted them too, but again, it has been a name.

Whenever we all go on vacations—my parents, me, my brothers, and their families—my mom is always left with the kids when the adults go out. I always stayed with my mom too because I, myself, was still a kid. I shared my mom with them and helped her whenever she needed me to. During these vacations, my brothers pretty much forgot they had children. My mom was, and still is for that matter, in charge of the kids. She always carried food, clothes, and games for them. She took care of everything.

I could tell when she would become overwhelmed with them too. I would look at my brothers to see if they were going to step in and they never did. So I had to. Every time. And even though I say I feel like the older sister to Omani and Stephan, I often times feel like the mom too. I can tell when my mom is frustrated so I grab the kids and tell them to get ready. I help them with whatever I can and it relieves my mom of some of her stress. There were times where I would drop them off and pick them up from school. I took Stephan to a couple doctor’s appointments because my brother was at work. He thought my mom would do it, but she works too so I had to do it. In some respects I am doing what a Tia does, but it doesn’t always feel like it.

Two years ago, Stephan got a little sister, my niece Simaerah, and I finally get to be a Tia. I can babysit her whenever my brother and his wife go out and I can take her places to show her a good time. She loves to dance and always asks for me to put on music so we can play around the room. Being that I am older, I get to watch her grow and develop and can’t believe how quickly it’s happening. She is a mess and never fails to make me laugh when we spend time together. Sometimes I am left watching her, Stephan, and Omani when all of our parents go out together. With the age difference between my brothers and I, going out with them is not always my kind of fun so I choose to babysit. Our nights are filled with laughs and each of the kids enjoy each other. The older ones help me with diapers and bottles and once Simaerah falls asleep we fight back laughs so that we don’t wake her. It is really hard though. In those moments, I really do feel like the Tia I am.

Without my nieces and nephews, my life would be boring. And whether they feel like older brothers or younger siblings, or whether or not the word just feels like a title, I am what I am and that is Tia.

~Michelle Mitchell

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apartments, Houses and Lofts oh My!

We all know it is one of the most frustrating things to have no where to live. This unfortunate occurance happened to me and my friend Katie and unfortunately it is still going on today. I mean I am not complaining, I have been very fortunate in my life to always have a roof over my head and a warm meal on the table. However, when it comes to finding living in Westchester, finding a home is proving to be quite difficult. At the moment I live off campus in a four bedroom home two blocks from the back gate of the college I attend. I am able to walk to class when I choose to do so or drive (which I normally choose to do because I am cursed with being late and never am ready on time to walk). The house is very nice and decently priced. I made it my home this year and was looking forward to once again living in it next year. My best friend Katie was always planned to move in when one of my roommates, a senior, was supposed to move out.

However, disaster struck when a roommate scandal took place and one acted like they were king of the castle and banished my best friend to another castle. I was disgusted, angry and cried fowl but a second roommate, one who was new to the castle (and should have been passed over) spoke up and stood by the disolusioned king's verdict. So I chose to leave with my friend and here we began our quest to find excaliber. We found a group three that wanted to become a group of five. We gladly accepted the additions and went on our way. We found countless houses but none were close enough for one of the three. Due to this we ended up having to split up. Now it is just Katie and I on our quest to find the perfect two bedroom.

The problem? Everything in this area is so ridiculously expensive! We have looked at houses, apartments, lofts, condos...anything you can think of and we have yet to land on anything worth while. While this has been a most trying quest, we both have found that all we want is to live with each other in a nice place that we can make our home, where we can be the queens of the castle! So we quest on and hope that soon we find our excaliber.

--Alyssa Bermudes

I Love Math

I entered LMU as a major in Undecided Liberal Arts. During my first year and a half I toyed with studying psychology, English, sociology, economics, business… among others. However, none of them managed to ignite a passion in me. Half way through my sophomore year, I chose to study mathematics.

Since early high school, I have always enjoyed math. I occasionally found myself zoning out, thinking about patterns in numbers. For example, a few days ago, my professor helped me figure out that when you add up the digits of multiples of 11, alternating negative and positive signs, the sum is zero (e.g. 11 is 1-1, 11x13=143 is 1-4+3, etc.). There are infinite patterns to be found in math and that is a huge part of what I love about it. And then you find a way to show that that formula can never be proven wrong. It is a form of purity.

I realized that thinking about math in my free time was unusual, decided it had to mean something and started taking math classes again. This was not easy, I hadn’t studied math in almost two years and I was enrolled in three high-level math classes. Fortunately, most of it came back pretty quickly. When it got difficult, my professors were great with open office hours.

At LMU, I have been very lucky. While at some universities, the priorities of professors is research, the LMU math department is very much education oriented. I have yet to learn from someone whose first priority wasn’t his or her students. This being said, research opportunities also abound.

When I first decided to study math, I spoke with Dr. Herbert Medina about what classes to take. I explained that I really enjoyed finding patterns in numbers and was wondering if he could help guide me into a field that was a good fit. He provided some advice and a year later offered me a research opportunity in analysis with another student. We are now studying families of rational functions that yield polynomial approximations to the arctangent function, which help us find efficient formulas for computing pi. We examine different sequences of polynomials and try to find functions that are more efficient as well as try to find proficient ways for computing pi. While this likely sounds like gibberish to many, I really enjoy the work. It is challenging, as we don’t know if we are going to obtain the desired outcome. Thus, when breakthroughs have been made, I have been overwhelmed with excitement.

My professor, research partner and I are in the midst of making plans to continue our research for the next academic year and I will be able to write my thesis on it. I know that I most likely would not have been given a similar opportunity if I had attended a larger school, or even many other smaller schools. I cannot give the LMU math department enough praise; it has provided me with excellent education and experience. I still enjoy learning about other fields of education, but mathematics is the best fit for me and I am thrilled to have found that.

-Colleen Bouey

Myths on Saving Gas

With today’s high gas prices, everyone wants to save money, but not everything people believe is actually true. According to fuel and CNN Money, here are some common myths on how to save fuel.

For many years people have believed that warming up your car before driving will help it run smoother, and use less gas. If your driving a 1950 Chevy, then this applies to you, but most modern cars can be driven within seconds of turning your key- and will run just fine.

The belief that premium fuel will last longer is false! With high prices, premium is expensive- but many people use it because their driving manual recommends it, implying that they’ll get better gas millage. Remember it is recommended, not required, so your car won’t suffer like your wallet will. Modern vehicles automatically adjust spark plug timing when they detect different fuel intake. The only difference is in the horsepower, but no harm to your engine.

Manual transmissions save more fuel; unfortunately, this common myth does not apply today. Now automatic transmissions get the same or better millage as manuals. This is great news for people like me, who want to save but not work too hard driving.
Lastly, driving a small car does not guarantee you great gas millage! Surprising, yes, believable, yes of course! Hybrid technology, diesel injections, turbo-charging engines, low rolling resistant tires, and aerodynamic designs are found in many mid-sized cars and will use less gas then some small coupes. They're many fuel-saving urban legends out there, so be aware of the facts when trying to save gas.

-Yenitza Munoz

Monday, March 21, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

I grew up like the average minority family, broken. I spent the majority of my life under the nurturing care of my mother. My dad was on and off throughout my life. But I was lucky – if you want to call it lucky – because, “unfortunately”, my younger siblings saw even less of him during their childhood. You see, for about half of my life my dad would stick around for about three years, leave three years, come back for another, and, finally, he just started another family of his own and I really didn’t see him often after that last segment. Personally, if feel that I had the unfortunate short end of the stick because I became vulnerable twice, and twice was my heart torn apart – the last time into even more pieces than the time before. But who can blame me? I was so young and I yearned for the protection, love, and father-daughter moments that a dad is suppose to provide for his little girl.

While he was around, I must say, we had a lot of those moments together. He was the one who lead me to develop this passion I once had for basketball. He was my coach for a season and I remember the before-hour and after-hour practices: dribbling drills, suicides, shooting drills, you name it. He also taught me how to physically defend myself; he would use his arm (which was pretty huge and solid) as a punching bag and just let me go at it. He would shout, “harder, harder!” He would make sure that my feet were positioned right and I was forming my fist correctly so that I wouldn’t end up hurting myself. But what I loved most was at the end of the day, after all of the drilling and practicing, he would always put him arm around me and call me his little girl. That was so reassuring to me. By that statement I knew that he loved me and would always be there for me. But, I guess things aren’t always what they seem to be at the moment. That’s what they are to me now, just moments of a life I always wished for, memories of a life that barely existed.

It was difficult for me to adjust to the fact that dad was gone when he left the initial time (the first time that I remember). But I got use to it. However, it was so easy to receive him when he returned. Although, the last time he departed was a completely different story. I rejected all phone calls from him for an entire year! I felt as if he didn’t care about my siblings and I. I felt like he was playing with our emotions and that he was so selfish. I hated him for doing this to our family and for causing my mom to suffer. I was so furious, frustrated and disgusted by the very thought of him…so I did what made sense, I disowned him. Our relationship was so severed from that incident that I didn’t even tell him I got married - he was informed by a third party about a month or so after the fact.

I feel that I was kind of robbed of a portion of my childhood because I was forced to mentally grow up faster than the normal adolescent. My dad was a hot head and my mom wasn’t (and still isn’t) one to take his mess – or anybody’s for that matter. So, being the eldest child, my obligation was to console my younger brothers and sisters. I had to be strong for them so that when they looked at me they too could find strength and be reassured that everything will be all right.

As I became older, I realized that holding such a heavy grudge in my heart was unhealthy for me; hatred is so unhealthy. It hurts you more than the person you feel hate towards. Therefore I came to the conclusion that I need to forgive him for what he’s done because all those things have passed. It took a while, but I finally did. We are in the process of rebuilding our relationship now and he is making a huge effort to be in my brother’s life, which makes me even happier. I respect my father, I always have. What can I say; I’m his little girl.

- Cairesse Grimes

St. Patrick's Day 2011

This past St. Patrick’s Day was exciting for two reasons. For one, this was the first St. Patrick’s Day I celebrated as a “legal alcohol consumer”; and two, I had the most eventful Irish holiday. To start off my morning, I woke up to my phone ringing at 4:00am. My old roommate was on the other end of the phone begging me to join her and three others at the local bar, Brennan’s around 6:00am. The problem: their plan was to beat the rush and be in line by 4:30am. I declined such insanity and went back to sleep.
Later that afternoon, I took my normal 12:00pm-1:00pm lunch break. Every Thursday I go to lunch with a good friend of mine, Eric. This Thursday was a bit different. Apparently when I went on break, there was some sort of weapon threat or warning going around campus. There were authorities everywhere and text messages were sent to students from Public Safety suggesting that each student barricade themselves. This message was sent in error, but Eric and I took advantage of the situation and went to get a drink at El Torito. This is where my day gets interesting.
After having a cocktail with Eric, we received a call that said campus was completely safe and we were okay to return. Buzzed from my Cadillac, I came back to work and carried out the rest of my day. At 5:02pm sharp, Eric and I met up again, only this time we were joined by two others. We went back to El Torito for happy hour and enjoyed approximately four margaritas each. Hey! They were only $3.00 and extremely strong. We departed El Torito around 7:30pm and continued our evening by going to Eric’s house. We invited more individuals over and began playing a drinking game called “Chandelier”.
This game involved red cups—the death of me.
That’s exactly what the night became. We continued to play, and I continued to lose. By this point it was about 9:00pm and the night had just begun. We all decided to stop at my brother’s house because he wanted us to participate in taking green shots of Svedka with him. We indulged in the free alcohol and chilled at his apartment for a while.
In order to keep everyone’s blood alcohol content levels high, we agreed to go to a bar in Culver City called Rush Lounge. Rush was the perfect place to be on St. Patrick’s Day. There was only a five minute wait to get into the actual bar and the drinks started flowing immediately. We danced and mingled at Rush until 2:00am. At that point, we were all heavily intoxicated and starving. Jack in the Box is so great after a long night of drinks and shots.
Silence filled the air of our car as soon as we pulled away from the drive through window practically swallowed our food. After arriving back to our friends house, I thought this was finally the end of my first official St. Patrick’s Day. Boy, was I wrong. The night continued until 5:00am with three rounds of beer pong. Had it not been for my body collapsing on me at 4:50am, I probably would have kept going.
I had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day. You are probably wondering why I just told you about my drunken holiday, but there is a reason. Surprisingly enough, I learned something through my drunken night. I learned that upon embarking my 21st year of life, I have to enter with a mature mind and have consciousness of my surroundings. Yes, it’s fun to party and be belligerent from time to time, but I chose to write about my St. Patrick’s Day because I REMEMBER it. I was responsible; I had a designated driver throughout the night and even ensured that I only went to familiar places. Have fun, celebrate well, but stay safe!

-Brittnee Wadlington

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Power of the Internet
by Aaron Frias

Music is a great thing, isn’t it? It allows the listener to just forget about the stresses of life and can unite a wide range of people. Go to any concert and the venue is filled with people with different religions, political views and personalities, but one thing they all have in common is the music. Humans have now entered into the digital age of communication and word spreads a lot faster than it did 100 years ago, hell 10 years ago. With that comes along YouTube, a website dedicated to making the average Joe a viral celebrity. Aspiring musicians have taken advantage of said website and a handful found success. One of the recent discoveries from the site goes by the name of Rebecca Black.
Miss Black is also an aspiring musician and her one music video currently has about 20 million views. Sounds pretty good, right? It should sound great, except for the fact that she has become a national joke that words can’t even begin to describe. It’s not because she’s 13 years old or for the genre of music. No, it’s the awful music video and atrocious lyrics. You haven’t heard BAD lyrics until you’ve listened to this song. The song involves an overly excited girl who’s happy that it’s finally Friday. The viewer gets a look of her daily routine, waking up in the morning (and for some reason she wears her makeup when she goes to sleep) has her bowl of cereal, goes to the bus stop waiting for a bus and then her underage friends show up in a convertible to pick her up. Seriously, the driver can’t even see over the steering wheel. But, she has her first dilemma of the day? Which seat can she take? Hmm, well considering that the car is a 5-seater and 4 of the seats are taken up, I think the choice is made for you already.
One of the big problems with this video is the fact that it literally follows the lyrics. Every word that she sings correlates with the video, and that gets annoying. Here’s a sample of her musical genius: “7am, waking up in the morning, Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs, Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal, Seein’ everything, the time is goin’, Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’, Gotta get down to the bus stop, Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends” Wow.
Despite how bad the video and song are, it’s become a viral hit. Hate it or love it, this young girl is getting paid handsomely for a dumb song. But that goes back to my point about word spreading quickly. The song has inspired Facebook groups, covers, remakes, and even a website dedicated to this one song. Websites like these are what made Justin Bieber and Soulja Boy famous. The more people that spread the video and talk about the musician, it gains the attention of record companies. Regardless, even though technology has made entertainment easier to obtain, the money is all where it boils down to. Business and music is such an unfortunate marriage that can never get divorced, but it’s the way our world works. It’s proven that bad music can still make money, despite if millions poke fun of it. The musician gets the last laugh on their way to the bank. Luckily, there are many artists and bands that aren’t motivated by the greenbacks and play for the sake of music. These hidden gems in our industry are the ones worth listening to.

(un)certain futures

I have a secret. It might even apply to you, depending on what your in to. I for one love life. This is not the secret. The fact my life may not end for a few hundred, thousand, or potentially infinite number of years may come as a surprise though. The quest for immortality has long been yearned for in the human conscious, portrayed through the arts and researched in the sciences. So far, what has remained on this Earth have been our bones and additions to culture, but as Woody Allen remarked, “ I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying.”
Futurist, inventor, and absolute genius Ray Kurzweil is at the forefront of the Singularity movement. The Singularity is essentially the point in time where computers (artificial intelligence) surpass human intelligence. Kurzweil estimates this date around 2045. It is a massive idea to try and comprehend, especially given that our personal computers, though shiny and fast, couldn’t write a term paper or blog post if their battery life depended on it. But, as Moore’s Law has accurately stated thus far, “the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years”. Basically, technology grows at an exponential rate, a figure that continues to increase in speed as speed increases.
Aubrey de Grey is the Chief Science Officer for SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Foundation), a group determined to reverse the effects of aging. The focus is on regenerative medicine, attacking the negative side effects from metabolism that deteriorate our bodies. De Grey estimates that within 15 years, every year of his research will effectively add one year to the lifespan. One of his estimations that shocked me most was that he believes the first 150 year old human will be born just 15 years earlier than the first 1000 year old human. There will come a time when our bloodstreams will be patrolled by nanobots, miniscule machines capable of destroying harmful bacterias while regulating bodily processes. Of course, all of these estimations are subject to time, technology, and ultimately, funding for research. The emergence of superintelligence in the form of advanced computers and the blending of human and machine may be the catalyst to immortal life, or our potential downfall.
There are many people strongly opposed to the idea of an immortal life. What if I get bored? What if I miss out on an afterlife? A deal with the devil mentality also is posited when considering whether an immortal life would be worthwhile in the servitude of a superior class of machinated overseers. Would they be friendly? Or would they break us down purely for resource? The design for friendly AI is most assuredly in the programming, but who’s to say how the computers will feel about that. Regardless, the idea for superintelligence is there and will be acted upon in due time, with possibilities for an immortal and theoretically perfect life outweighing the risks of human annihilation.

Weston Finfer

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Preserving the sanctity of marriage? Think again.

Jesse James destroyed it; Charlie Sheen made a mockery of it; Britney Spears shot-gunned it; and Larry King has pulled his trigger on it seven times. You can probably guess that what I’m talking about, in all its profound beauty, is your modern American wedding. People marry for all kinds of reasons, whether for convenience, out of logic or common lifestyle, or because there’s suddenly a beautiful little bundle of baby on the way. Whatever the reason may be, it seems that all too often what is missing is real, undying love and the true commitment to everything that marriage is.

However, I’m not going to continue this as a cynical rant about the outrageous divorce rate in the US or the reasons why marriages don’t last. As someone who has watched my parents, married for 27 years, fall more and more in love with each other all the time, I fully believe in the beauty and importance of marriage. What I do not believe in, however, are the legal restrictions that make such a profound bond inaccessible to certain members of society.

The other day I was talking to a student who is not only active in community service but also passionate about social issues ranging from homelessness in LA to protecting child soldiers in Uganda. While in conversation, he said something in passing that really bothered me. What he happened to mention was his devotion to Christianity and thus his support of Proposition 8. If you aren’t aware of what Prop 8 was, which I’m sure you are, it was a provision to the Constitution in 2008 that declared only marriages between a man and woman legally recognized in California. So here was this student, going on and on about his passion for making the world a better place but all I could think about was the fact that he was in staunch support of such a blatantly oppressive measure. Naturally, I asked him about it. I asked him how it made sense for him to be so passionate about the liberation of certain individuals while at the same time supporting the oppression of others. His answer? After a pause and a furrow of the brow, which I am assuming was out of shock, he said this: “Well… um… I mean the sanctity of some things just has to be preserved and one of those things is marriage.”

Okay, seriously? What I have the most trouble understanding is why that always has to be the answer. “The sanctity of marriage must be preserved.” Does anybody actually think about what that means or do they just spit it out because it’s the textbook answer? Here’s the truth: the sanctity of marriage is not going to be destroyed by a man and a man or a woman and a woman marrying each other. Men and women who cheat on each other, who resort to dishonesty to avoid their real problems, and who disregard the vow that they made when they had faith in love on their wedding day: these are the vices that “destroy” the “sanctity” of marriage every day. The point isn’t to shake a finger at failed marriages but to rather highlight the fact that we are all human. We love, we fail, we get hurt, we make mistakes, and regardless of what type of person we love there is the hope of forever but the possibility of an end. I’m not being cynical, just real. It’s a reality that we must face and a reality that deserves to be fought for. Marriage is rooted in a deep bond of love and should be, without a doubt, celebrated. However, the exclusivity of such a union is not only unjust but also counterintuitive to what love is. Marriage is an absolute celebration of love that must be accessible to everyone, regardless of who they are or who they love. To those who claim that marriage between two men or women would be the absolute end to the “sanctity” of marriage, I urge them to take an open-eyed look at the state of marriage in our country today and to think again. Forget what religion tells you for a second and pay attention to what your humanity tells you. To those who boast doing good for humanity in pursuit of “peace” while still supporting the oppression of certain groups, I wish they would realize that we can only attempt to reach such “peace” through working for justice—which means justice and liberation for every person in this country. If you really and truly think about these things, analyze the concepts, and try to see different viewpoints—if you do this and you still emerge with the same beliefs— then I commend you for using your own intellect rather than blindly following in someone’s footsteps.

So yes, clearly I do think that restricting marriage to certain groups is oppressive and is a fight worth taking on. However, I think the point here goes deeper than that. I do not wish to condemn any religion for its beliefs or practices but rather emphasize the importance of thinking critically for oneself. The issues that our country and our world face are many and they depend on our abilities to be responsible global citizens. Such responsibility entails opening our eyes and being brave enough to question oppressive “tradition” and change the world in the way that we want to see it progress. As Desmond Tutu once said, “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others."

Mallory Massie

Friday, March 18, 2011

What Would YOU Do At A Moment's Notice?

Have you ever driven by a car accident and not known what to do? Do I call 911? Did someone else already call? Do I stop? That is exactly what was running through my mind today as I was driving with my roommate. We were going about our business driving down Sepulveda and to the right of us there was a blue car flipped over. Instinctively I wanted to help but I didn’t know what to do. We had seen a man jump out of his car and run to the blue car that was resting on its roof. My roommate and I looked at each other and decided to call 911. As the 911 operator answered they knew exactly where the accident was, however, they did not know if someone was still in the car. We had just planned to call in, however, we decided to turn around. We turned around and raced back to back to the small street. Unfortunately, the light was red so we sat there helpless while a sea of cars raced past us on both sides. Just then, two police officers came speeding up to the accident. We drove away as there were people already by the car and we were no longer needed. Though this may seem a bit anti climatic it still has me thinking.
As we drove away I began to put myself in the blue sedan as if I was the person that was in the car. Though there were a couple people that had pulled over to see if they could help so many more had driven by. There have been so many times when I have driven by or been in a car where you drive by and think that someone else has already called 911 or is already helping the person. I began to think that if I was lying there stuck in the car that I would want anyone and everyone to help me. Though that seems a bit narcissistic I am sure that many of you who are reading this would want the same type of help.
So why is it that we have to go through this process of self-interrogation before we decide to dial emergency services. I am still not sure. It may be some fear of being involved and having to stay at the scene, be a witness, and even having to deal with the incident later on down the road. I thought about all those things today, however, each time I came to point where the person’s life that I could have helped was much more important than my busy schedule. I found myself like many others do, thinking about the repercussions of what is going to happen to me rather than what is going to happen to this person who may be stuck in the car or grasping on to the last threads of their life. There is a great deal that I learned in the short five minutes that it took me to see the accident, dial 911, turn around, and drive away from the scene. Though there were other people who called today, to help that blue sedan who’s to say that you or I may be the one person who found five minutes to help someone or better yet save another person’s life.

by Alyssa Silva

Air Travel-Worth the Trouble?

At one time, air travel was a luxury, an occasion. Nowadays, trips to the airport are obligatory, dreaded, and uneventful (for most, at least). It used to be that people would put on their best clothes in hopes of being seen at the airport, whereas now airports are crowded with people in sweatpants, jeans, and even pajamas. Not that that’s bad (well, I wouldn’t choose to go out in public in pajamas, but to each his own), but it certainly highlights the evolution of travel, from a symbol of status to a relatively commonplace occasion.
I personally, cannot stand air travel. It’s not that I’m afraid of flying, like many are; I simply don’t have the patience for it. All you do at the airport is wait. You wait to check in, and you’d better hope your bag is under 50 pounds, or you’ll be paying 50 dollars instead of the newly-mandated 25 to get it on the plane with you. Then you wait in the security line, and if you’re like me, you always end up behind someone who doesn’t understand that water is liquid and therefore not allowed on the plane, and even though your laptop is already out of its sleeve and in its own plastic bin, your car keys have been taken out of your pocket, and there is nothing protecting your feet from the filthy carpet, you are at a stand-still in front of the x-ray machine, wondering how the person in front of you doesn’t understand basic airport protocol. You wait at the gate, but of course you don’t have enough time to get anything significant done before they call your boarding group. You get on the plane, where the person seated in front of you immediately reclines his chair into your knees (especially uncomfortable if you’re tall like me), even though he knows the flight attendant will ask him to put his seat back up for take off. If you’re really lucky, there’s a crying baby somewhere on the plane, of course it doesn’t matter where, because the cacophony reverberates throughout the cabin regardless. Long flights endow you with the privilege of the in-flight meal. Last time I was offered a frittata, which I politely declined. Hungry as I may have been, I certainly wasn’t hungry enough. Hope you weren’t planning on suppressing your hunger through sleep, because you will be woken up by the woman in the window seat, trying to plow through you en route to the bathroom. Twice. They finally land the plane and people take their sweet time getting up, and of course a woman sitting in the row in front of you insists on beating you into the aisle, but can’t get her bag out of the overhead compartment, and the man across the aisle doesn’t help her because he wants to get out even faster than you do, and nobody has manners anymore anyway. You wait for your bags at the claim, you consider yourself lucky if they come out of the carousel at all, as your bags have been lost or left in the location of your departure more times than seem likely.
It’s hard to believe that traveling wasn’t always so unpleasant. As technology evolves, people get much more innovative in the ways they choose to sabotage air travel, so many of the inconveniences are preemptive strikes on terrorism, but somehow, people always find new and creative ways to disobey FAA regulations, so we have many more inconveniences to look forward to as time goes on! So the next time you’re being air scanned or patted down in front of your fellow travelers, or the lovely woman in her official airport employee outfit (complete with badge and photo ID!) throws away your hundred dollar bottle of perfume that you ever-so-conveniently forgot to take out of your purse, you can thank those who, in choosing to terrorize America, have also chosen to terrorize you as an individual.

-Kelsey Laubscher

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homeless Court: LA

Los Angeles is the global model for the American lifestyle. Our culture is exported from L.A., where people see clean streets, beautiful houses, and a vibrant nightlife. But we have a secret. Los Angeles is also home to the largest concentrated homeless population in the United States. Skid Row, 50 square blocks of downtown, is where we herd those who are most in need. It is here that they find themselves victims of gang violence, drug wars, and even prostitution. However, there is a less noticeable but extremely important problem plaguing the homeless: criminalization.

Living on the streets is a life more challenging than most of us will ever know. It is a daily struggle for survival and human connection that sometimes necessitates breaking laws for good reasons. For example, a large percentage of L.A.’s homeless have been issued tickets for jaywalking, riding the metro with no fare, and loitering. With a criminal record it is difficult to return to society and gain employment and housing. Is it beneficial for Los Angeles to criminalize a group of people who are already living on the fringe of society?

The Los Angeles Homeless Court doesn’t think so. Their mission is to hold monthly court sessions in areas like Skid Row were minor charges can be dismissed in exchange for commitments to rehabilitation and job training programs. The concept is simple: allow the homeless an opportunity to reenter society as self-sufficient citizens. Employers often pass over applications that show any sort of criminal record, even if the crime was as minor as jaywalking. At a time when unemployment is as high as it has been in decades, checking that box could mean missing out on a job.

So do we want to keep the homeless homeless, or do we want to provide every avenue for self-improvement we can? On a technical level, Homeless Court helps get people off the street, but there is more to this than just landing a job. Orlando Ward now works at Midnight Mission, but he used to be homeless. Reflecting on his charges, Ward says, “It's the emotional side. The court is recognizing that I have changed. I have overcome this. It does an awful lot for your self-esteem.”

Treating the homeless with a sense of humanity needs to be the foundation of all rehabilitation measures. Blaming and judging will get us nowhere because we need the homeless to believe they are valuable, and not a detriment to society. One simple way to do this is to see them as people, not as criminals. Next time you meet someone down on their luck, don’t be afraid to treat them like a human being.

Sean McEvoy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little Bouey

Middle school and high school were very awkward times for me. I experienced huge changes in academics, friendships and romance. While I knew I was not alone in this regard, it did not make it any less of a long, uncomfortable transition into the adult life. I certainly look back on this time and cringe at embarrassing and immature behavior. My 16-year-old brother, Adam, on the other hand, embraces the strange parts about him, managing to make him even more confident.

For example, when he was in the 8th grade he came with my mom, my sister and me to see Mamma Mia! in theatres. It may strike you the rarity of a teenage boy even going to see the film with his female relatives, but I was even more shocked to find him a couple hours later, getting ready for football practice as he sang, “Mamma Mia, here I go again. My, my, how can I resist you” I shouldn’t have been surprised: he felt happy and was not afraid to show it.

A benefit of such self-assurance was that the ladies did not hesitate to flock to my brother. I heard about several of his girlfriends in middle school before he declared, “I’m done with middle school girls.” He explained that he was having difficulty finding girls cute when they never stopped giggling. Unfortunately, he found that many girls continue this behavior well through high school.

About a year ago, he was feeling pretty good about a potential love interest. She proposed the concept of being “friends with benefits” to him because she didn’t want to be in a relationship. 15 years old, I remind you. While this is a dream come true for many men, in high school as well as college, Adam rejected the offer because he wanted the relationship. 15 years old!

Over the summer, my family went on a cruise in the Mediterranean. While my older siblings and I timidly kept to ourselves for the most part, Adam walked around the ship for two full days trying to connect with kids his age. When he finally did, we saw him walking around with a mix of boys and girls. Being older siblings, we naturally harassed him every night when he returned to the room, “So, you get any boob?” His response was always an apathetic “No.” Yet back in Verona he grabbed the breast of the bronze statue of Juliet for a photo opportunity. He laughs at himself.

When I was visiting home for Spring break, there was one night that we had a family dinner. Adam was absent, however, for a birthday party. When he returned, we asked him how it was and he said, “It was fun. No boob,” before he began to brag about his skills on the dance floor. And he had every right to brag. He managed to pull off some of the goofiest dance moves you can imagine with no shame. He also played up some seduction by performing the rope and lasso move on a girl who was sitting in a chair a few feet away. When he threw the imaginary lasso around her, he swept his foot around and hooked it under the chair so he pulled her closer as he was pretending to pull the lasso. His unsuspecting prey was speechless for a few seconds before she noticed and laughed with the surrounding audience.

I wonder on a regular basis how my little brother is so much more natural in the field of romance than any of his siblings. I like to think he has observed and learned from our victories and defeats, but it’s essentially who he is. I would love to be a strong role model for Adam, but it is difficult to set an example for the people you often find yourself looking up to.

-Colleen Bouey

Turning Twenty-One

Over this past week of spring break, I was fortunate enough to share my 21st birthday with friends, family and my boyfriend. Two of my closest friends flew with me to Atlanta, Georgia where my father resides. Many of the friends I already have there in the city met up with me on Saturday, March 5th. We celebrated late that evening to ensure I brought in my birthday (March 6th) the right way. I arrived into Atlanta on Wednesday and partied every single night I was there. I was stoked to have my friends with me for each and every minute of my birthday week.
By Friday, I was partied out and felt that resting until Saturday evening might be the best option. Little did I know that my boyfriend would arrive earlier than expected. He drove down from Michigan on Thursday evening and arrived to my house on Friday morning. As soon as he and his friend got to my house we began to party more. Later Friday night we even went to a club to continue our partying streak. My friends all loved my boyfriend although some of them had never met him.
After my boyfriend and his friend drove down I had a total of nine individuals staying at my house, with five cars parked in my driveway. From morning to night, it was a party with everyone staying under one roof and managing to share three full bathrooms.
This was the least of the wildness that would occur over my birthday weekend.
On Saturday March 5th at 9:00pm, I threw a pre-party. Twenty-two people arrived at my house and began “pre-gaming” until 10:00pm. At exactly 10:01pm the 24 passenger party bus arrived to my house. I was really excited by this point. We all loaded onto the party bus and headed out to Club Life. This club is located downtown in the heart of the city. Although it was quite rainy, getting into the club was hassle free. Upon entering the club, our party was directed to the Red Room—a VIP lounge area in the club. Before I could even sit down, there were three bartenders bringing us champagne with sparklers on top of each bottle! For the rest of the night we partied until about 3:00am. I had the best birthday ever, but more so the 21st birthday I have always dreamed of.
Despite the hang over and headache the next morning, I was extremely satisfied with the evening. Everything went so well and I had the time of my life. Later Sunday evening all of my guests began departing from Atlanta to return home. I will never forget my 21st birthday! Based on my birthday celebration, I can conclude that everyone enjoys to have the 21st birthday they dream of. You only get one day out of an entire lifetime, to celebrate turning 21. This is a stage in one’s life where they truly feel like things are changing and they are maturing into a solid adult. Turing twenty-one was great, but it also taught me that my responsibility level is much higher than when I was sixteen years old.
You only get one chance at life, so be sure to make the most of it!
-Brittnee Wadlington

The Rhythm of Human Experience

It’s finally time to write,
A way for me to speak
A tone and sound for you to hear
A way for you to see and feel

Directly, although indirectly.
Let’s hope you connect with me
On the topic of how we are to be
A human nature we have and we see


Anything but my life in ruins
And I, as still as a tree, unknowingly
I have been lost to seclusion
As so as you, lost in a musical allusion

But with a rhythmic flow of love
For without it and you, I am nothing
And you without me too
Allusion of rhythm
Seclusion if not accepting the flow


On this day the sun has risen, the sun has set
But I have so much to write yet
We could dance and we could sing!’
We are human beings

Nothing would stop us until the sound is no more
For it has been said, “If not to dance, why all this music?”
Oh, dear love, come let us use it!

We could dance and we could sing, all day and all night,
We could rock and we could sway until black is light!
A sweet rhythm or an enchanting tune,
Is all we need for a human mood.
But by then I see us dancing under the moon,
Let the stars have their say on this fateful day,
Where there is me and you


I have learned of life, I have learned of you
It is our time to witness the power of life
So, let’s take up our problems - and dance
We have so much to live for, and with each other, even more!

Let us lay our experiences out
Let them flow through the rhythmic sound
See how love flows in the hearts of those found
But I guess that’s just it.
A human experience in a world through sound

-Yenitza Munoz