Wednesday, December 31, 2008

on the eve of an obama new year

2009—finally! This new year holds so much promise, so much hope, so much change.

With less than a month to go, all the hype over Barack Obama’s inauguration—and Bush’s retirement—is about to boil over.

Curt “1.20.09” buttons and t-shirts—the day Bush leaves office—have populated hipster bookstores and independent coffee shops for over four years. I don’t remember as much anxious anticipation when Clinton faced impeachment, either an indication of how much worse things are this time around or a sign that republicans lack the ability to make trendy accessories.

But anyway, as the date draws nearer, I have to ask myself, why am I not more excited?

I should be. This is what we’ve all been struggling toward. Every time Pres. Bush or one of his ilk make John Stewart’s day with an fourth-grade lingual gaffe or example of social incompetence, I adopt the same reaction as my peers—eyes rolled, hand on forehead, make a “pishhh” sound with mouth before expressing utter disbelief that a man elected president could behave this way. I, like nearly 80% of American, desperately need Obama to hurry into office.

However, my apathy for Obama’s takeover becomes more apparent to me every time I go out with my girlfriend. She (and her mom) are obsessed with Obama, to the point of yelling and cheering whenever they see a TV news segment or an Obama bumper sticker. In contrast to their, at times overwhelming, enthusiasm, I feel like a party pooper.

I guess I’m just still skeptical. I know that a president—excellent figurehead and scapegoat that he is—never works alone. Obama’s appointments hold as much political significance as his election, though they have received much less hype. Some choices worry me a little, such as Hillary Clinton and retaining Robert Gates.

There’s also a lingering distrust over the reality of Obama—Obama the man not Obama the idea. His orations inspired so much hope, but will his actions?

An article in New York Magazine by John Heilemann ( titled “Bush and Barack, Bedfellows” summed up my feelings well:

“That all this has come as such a shock to so many owes to a misreading of Obama as a starry-eyed idealist—when there was ample evidence that lurking just beneath the surface was a hard-eyed, sometimes hawkish realist,” writes Heilemann.

This isn’t a pessimistic criticism of Obama so much as a reminder that Obama, like any president, is a politician. All the idealism aside, the hard realities of our economic situation, war, energy crisis, etc., and the constant game of political positioning and posturing still apply. It gets in the way of all that raw optimism I so desperately want to feel.

Obama’s election marked a monumental point in American history, what could be the highest point in this century’s zeitgeist, and a defining bulletin for our generation. Not since the post-Nixon wave of political disillusionment that dug a sharp precipice between politicians and the American people have people displayed such widespread optimism. “Change,” to me, stood for hope, hope in a future people could believe in and support instead of rolling eyes and enduring on the motto: “he’ll be out of office soon.”

For the sake of my mental health, I’m going to make an effort to forget all the negative for a while; just let it all go. Obama is a politician, but he’s a new kind of politician, a unifying, hopeful politician—for better or worse. That, at least, is something worth getting excited about.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the grand experiment

I'd just like to say, quickly, that having a blog has been a real love/hate exercise. At times I get very into the idea, but for the majority, posting is so low on my priority list that I find it hard to get anything together.

I post most often when I'm at my computer trying to avoid work, which could be a problem now that I have begun my first ever...


Thank you, Lolcat, for illustrating my dilemma.

Imagine a world, in which distraction is merely a click away, sometimes closer. Behind the open window of Microsoft Word lecture notes, tabs and tabs of internet memes clutter my screen. This class is going to be cake (delicious must eat it...), but working up motivation and concentration provides enough challenge. I signed up for this session to circumvent taking POS 160 during the school year and, I assumed, I would be doing nothing important over the break anyway. Two weeks of doing nothing important later, I have sub-zero work ethic.

However, coffee solves all problems. Where would we be without it? Probably exactly where we are now, posting on this blog, minus shaky hands and a full bladder.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

how long a moment lives

I’m standing here holding you
Surprised your head still fits
like a puzzle-piece prong
between my chest and chin

Moments before
you ran to press your smile into me
Your coats and bag
flung in haste to the floor

You hit me
a gale that takes my breath
and for a conscious second
we are every cliché couple

reunited in countless rendezvous before
Wordless in bliss
Tangible and real
I will my nerves to remember this touch

and give them time
to settle a debt they’ve long endured
My other eager senses
jealously screaming to experience

The pressures of embrace fade
and you move away
to hug your patient parents
But I’m still a flash behind

Floating blind in the moment of contact
Feeling full to fulfillment
I can already tell
I won’t discern another thing all night

Friday, December 12, 2008

holiday first fridays

So, a week after actually going to First Fridays in Phoenix, I'm going to post about it!
For those who don't know First Fridays, it's a monthly art walk downtown along Roosevelt Street and the area immediately surrounding. Started about 10 years ago, the event has grown exponentially in the past five, becoming so large the city expanded it, closing an entire street south of Roosevelt for vendors. I wrote an article dealing with Roosevelt earlier in the year so I also know the city plans to close a second street starting in January.

For me, the most important component of First Fridays is the atmosphere. Particularly as the night progresses, there's a feeling of youthful expression and experimentation—art and independence everywhere. Creativity seems to feed off of itself and things get progressively more crazy the later you stay.
Case in point: impromptu break dancing ring—

also, guy with flaming staff—

Sheriff Joe hatin'—

It was cold enough to warrant a light over shirt—wintery enough for Phoenix residents. Vendors pleaded, "last chance for holiday gifts" and the like. January should be colder, though I'm starting to doubt the weather's ability to change at this point.

There was also an incident with two, flannel-obsessed girls, possibly wasted, who seemed friendly enough until they suddenly flipped shit on my friend for giving them "that look." Good times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

+7450 ft

It's hard to appreciate winter when it remains 80 degrees here in Phoenix. However, I did get a chance to escape to northern Arizona with the folks over the break.

Even in Flagstaff it was pretty hot, but we drove by some snow—a light dusting at best. Still, it made for a cool (pun intended) change of pace.

I'm headed to First Friday's in Phoenix tomorrow. Provided I remember my camera, look for another post shortly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yeasayer; Sayyeaer


I've been so wrapped up in school—his semester reached new levels of ridiculousness—that I've barely had time to breathe. Frankly, I don't want to get into it now. I'd rather post some of these awesome pictures I from Yeasayer at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Nov. 25th.
For those who don't know Yeasayer, they're an experimental band from Brooklyn, NY. They have a definite Indian, psychedelic feel. This was the second time I've seen them—both times at The Rhythm Room—and it was quite an experience. The band added a spiritually appropriate lights show that synced with the music beautifully.
Yeasayer only has one cd out, titled "All Hour Cymbals," but it's great.
The lights made so much difference. Last time, Yeasayer came with MGMT, a band that has gained a huge following lately. MGMT played second and Yeasayer third. The venue was packed for MGMT, but half the people left before Yeasayer. It was a little sad. This time the place was packed for Yeasayer—an appropriate compensation.
I'm pretty pleased with the photos. The lights made awesome photos and provided light for me to take the photos.
That's it for now. I'll try to update more often with interesting material. Until then!

Monday, October 27, 2008

financial phobia

The perfidy of lawmakers continues to astound—particularly in tightwad Arizona.

Such is the case with proposition 105 on the Arizona ballet this November. Under the proposed amendment to the constitution, anyone who does not vote in an election concerning a raise in taxes or spending would be automatically counted as a "no" vote, the idea being: only a majority vote could pass costly legislation.

A thin rational of majority-rules mentality hardly veils the intentions behind this one: fiscal zealousness. As a native of Arizona, I recognize that my state leans heavily toward the fiscal conservative ideology. As a registered democrat, I'm fine with that.

However, I reject assumption that fiscal responsibility must espouse idiocy. Quite frankly, the majority of Arizona lawmakers seem concerned for nothing beyond the abating of taxes and spending, stinting the community of opportunity and support. In a state where degenerating schools, tanking housing market, and health care failures practically scream for funding, all these affluent lawmakers must be blind—or too removed to care in their lavish, hillside estates.

Generalizations yes, but someone needs to beat this real-world formula into our leaders heads: money + shepherding regulation = improvement
stinginess + haughty disregard = decline

Services require money, even in a state with a deficit like Arizona. And how did we get in this deficit? Lawmakers capped taxes without considering inflation, expenditure growth, or economic trouble. Stop backing us into a corner for fear of taxes! We all pay for it later (or now).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

an uncertain future

Crap, I can't believe it's almost October. This semester certainly has been a challenge, but, taking it one day at a time, the weeks pass. It's taken me this long to feel like I'm back on top of things, keeping up with my work, navigating the slue of bureaucratic advising appointments, acquainting myself with my new professors.

I don't like my classes as much as last semester, but they're all necessary to my major, so whatever. I'll get through them, even if I learn nothing in my sociology class, which is a total joke.

This semester, I had a drastic crisis of confidence. Perhaps as a result of writing two major papers, reporting for the State Press, getting a job, and struggling with an excruciatingly annoying sleep schedule, I felt horrible about everything. Honestly, those few first weeks were incredibly depressing. I spent every moment, from the time I woke to the time I fell asleep working while my friends enjoyed the relaxing period of the first weeks of school.

Luckily, things have improved. Still busy, I'm handling things better—and I believe my writing improved substantially.

But all that's beside the point, or rather, a means to the point. During that hard time for me, I worried constantly for my future: whether to change majors, what the outcome of my education should be, can I live with the choices I'm making? I can't say why those questions haunted my sleep, but they would not leave, keeping me as constant company in their damning uncertainty.

Philosophically, no one can know the consequences of their choices, but some futures are more certain than others. Soon, our nation will use $700 billion to buy failed mortgages from financial institutions, which hope to make their futures more certain—or at least easy. It's unbelievable to contemplate: so much of our economic structure built on IOU's and bundled loans. People point fingers at the president, the banks, the economists. I don't want to point fingers; I want to express my sympathy.

A powerful county like ours can rest assured that its hubris will be its undoing. How much could be accomplished with $700 million? How many children educated? How many illnesses cured? How much debt renounced?

At least we will learn something: how many banks can be saved.

Money can push the limits of motivation. In the face of so many issues confronting our society (there's never a shortage) the financial crisis raises easily to the forefront of our concern. And why not? Our society places so much emphasis on money—earning, saving, spending—as to measure life-long success on its accumulation. I don't claim superiority over this problem either. I'm worried; worried because journalism doesn't pay well.

But I've resolved to value life's adventure over a good paycheck. I want to live not for my paycheck but on it. This path leads to uncertain places and a lot of pressure to perform. At least now, I have confidence in myself to embark on the journey. I hope our country—and myself—knows what its doing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

front-page invisible

Journalists are invisible. Well, the vast majority are. It's amazing to think about pushing your work onto print every day and hoping someone takes notice. Good journalism focuses entirely on the story, leaving only the small area between the headline and the lede (yes, journalists spell lead, lede.—why? Because we're pretentious like that.) to give some recognition to the hours of work and stress put into getting that story done on deadline. "By Ronnie McNewsman"—that's all you get. Can you remember the author of the last article you read? I can't.

Delusions of grandure are an integral part of the jouranlist dream. The majority of people don't enter this thankless, poorly paid, long-houred job without the idea of busting open the next Watergate, myself included. However, I'm beginning to understand—as are most people around me—that recognition will come slowly, if at all, and it takes intrinsic motivation to keep yourself going.

That's why you have to be a journalist for one of two things: yourself or your story. Some people genuinely want to help others through their work. I refuse to believe anyone enters journalism soley for the public good, but I've talked to many students and graduates that recall great moments when their work helped someone—in a drastic or small way.

I've had some serious doubts about my career path lately, but I'm feeling better now. I made some mistakes. Nothing drastic but I faced my first correction on Monday. In retrospect, it's just a sign of becoming a bona fided, hard-shelled journalist. There should be plent of corrections from here on out. Of course I'll try my best to minimize them but I'm not afraid of my mistakes (so long as I keep my job of course).

I realize, I write this blog to give myself an open forum. Everything I write is front page here, my life is my beat, and I have no deadline or editor. It's my release, my stage, my spotlight in the dark.

I'd also like to say, when a journalists ask you "how's it going," they mean it. Not because you're the subject of a story but because they know what it is to be stressed, to be critized, to be at wit's end, to be invisible. Journalists, or atleast the ones I know, make great listeners, and friends.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

screw writing

Out of fairness I think I should warn you that this blog is mostly rant. More insightful postings will follow.

Between trying to finish two papers on Russian society, something I have no intrinsic knowledge of, and working for the State Press at ASU, I'm finished. My mind goes numb as soon as my butt hits the computer chair. Lately, my sentences all seem dry, unimaginative, and downright bad.

It always irks me when I can't write properly. Beyond hampering my academic and journalistic life, it disrupts my sense of myself. I need more time. "Journalists must learn to work on deadline," they say. Well screw them. Deadline kills my creativity. Even the sound of the word puts me in a panic-induced coma. Yet, here I am writing this blog. I think I need this. It gives me a reason to write beyond the fear of deadlines and fact checking.

I'm off to finish another story now. The journalistic trial-by-fire continues!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

working for the man

Just got a job at the new journalism school at ASU. It's actually pretty cool; I sit behind a desk and organize equipment for the entire building. The job isn't too busy, providing plenty of time to goof off (like this post right now!).

So I'm learning the value of a hard-earned dollar and all that shit—as if I didn't already understand. I live in the cheapest dorms on campus and try never to spend money frivolously. It's true, I don't really worry about money much. My parents make sure I have everything I need but don't spoil me. However, in a way, that is being spoiled. Never having to worry about money is a luxury.

No doubt, there are plenty of people at ASU who worry about whether their next pay check will come in time to keep the roof over their head, but not many. Even a cursory glance around campus reveals egregious displays of wealth. Aren't these people supposed to be college students? College brings the stereotype of debilitating poverty, working long, odd hours and rooming with seven of your friends to get by with the rent. No longer. Now students commute to school with their parent's corvette convertible, flawnting the latest labels from stores like Urban Outfitter—trendy abode of the Mill Ave. fashion conscious.

Mabye that's stereotyping. Mabye I should get a fuller story before judging others. Maybe I'm right. Impressions can be a dangerous tool, but sometimes they're the most important one we have.

Speeking of impresions, I have to explain camera opperation to a tan, glitter-doused blonde now. The evils of working continue...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

first musings

Many people have asked: why Russia? The original answer is somewhat egocentric. When I selected the trip, I wanted something so exotic, so amazing that it would provide that wow factor from everyone. As I thought more about it, though, I realized the huge implications of my visit to Russia. This country has been through so much. Positioned precariously between Europe and Asia, Russia blends elements of both in a delicate, love/hate relationship; its history shaped by the pulls between East and West.

However, recent history provides the most interesting points. Just 15 years ago, Russia was controlled by the infamous Soviet Union--to some saviors, to others unquestionable enemies. All over Russia, dilapidated buildings, enduring monuments, and ongoing protests give glimpses of Soviet influence even now. Certainly, no other force has done so much to shape the events of the past century than the USSR.

I find it very sad. The people of Russia still feel great pride for their efforts to transform society using communist ideals; many still value Soviet ideals and reject "corrupt" western influences. However, capitalism has arrived. Clear signs of American influence show up everywhere: malls, American chains like Ikea, English music and culture, gigantic billboards covering whole apartments.

While Russian capitalism isn't as omnipresent as American capitalism, it is growing rapidly. You can see it in the dichotomy between Russian-style shops and Western-style shops. Western shops feature expensive, homogeneous goods in hermetically sealed packages while Russian shops serve cheaper goods of greater variety and varying quality. It could be argued that Western shops symbolize progress, but I disagree. I don't want franchised shops with quality controlled goods and regulated floor plans. I want unique goods and the experience of interacting with new people and places.

While Russia shows signs of Americanization, it's unlikely they will be subverted by American enterprise. Russians share fierce national pride and ingenuity. They will carve out their own path.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

there and back again

I'm back stateside after five weeks in Russia (so jet lagged right now so this one's short). I plan on writing a lot about what I saw and felt during the trip. I kept I journal during the trip to refer back to. For now, I make photo:
View from my hotel window. That's Moscow State University in the background.

One of the churches inside the Kremlin.

St. Basil's Cathedral = the quint-essential Russian landmark

View of the Kremlin overlooking the Moscow River

Christ the Savior Cathedral (after closing time so I wasn't able to go inside)

Monday, June 23, 2008

from Russia, with love...

About to take off for summer study abroad in Russia. I'll be in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Samara. While I don't speak much Russian, I have taken the time to learn some essential phrases. Ya nie gavaru pa'ruskee (rough spelling estimate) should mean I don't speak Russian. I predict this one will be particularly helpful. Hopefully, I'll pick up more along the way, and depending on my experience, learn Russian formally in the future. It's an amazing language, as endearing as it is foreign.

I'm most excited about meeting the Russian people. Much of Russia was closed to foreigners until about ten years ago. I'll be one of the few Americans to see the country regarded as our enemy for most of the last century. CRAZY. It's a extraordinary opportunity that I won't take for granted.

Anyway, I'll try to post a few blogs during the trip. There should be plenty to write about but limited computer access. If nothing else, fuel for many eye-opening revelations.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I can't believe what a wimp I've become. Summer, according to all my friends and previous experience, should be the one time of the year when it's okay to sleep until noon. One month of summer down and the latest I've slept is probably 10am. Seriously.

It must be a result of zero night life. Back at home, life adopts a new level of boredom, the highest echelon of doldrum. So, without adequate incentive, my sleep schedule never adjusted to summer. I still wake up at 7am. It sucks. I can't even run at that time because, recently, it's already ninety degrees Fahrenheit outside!

It should be cool because I love mornings. Waking up early gives the illusion of a longer day, providing more time to do whatever--usually sit around the house, contemplating the future and wishing for a shorter summer. So sad.

On the bright side, I'm on the final stretch before Russia. That should catapult my summer back into the fuckin' awesome level.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I respectfully ask you to get the fuck over it

The homogeneous tendencies of our society are wearing me thin.

It's true, I am relatively opinionated. My closer friends know my opinions on many things--I voice them frequently--but due to my latest advertisement of my view on Starbucks has stirred up plenty of counter-argument.

Taking into account that, over the course of the summer, nearly half my friends have found employment at the coffee giant (seriously, how many people can this place afford to employ?!), most of the feedback is negative. However, even those whose wallets don't receive compensation didn't generally agree. Some do, most don't.

This is fine; however, it brings back to the forefront of my mind the great opposition people have for different lifestyles. For example, I recently became a vegetarian. When I announced my decision to my friends, they responded negatively. They couldn't understand my motivations, but more importantly, actively tried to dissuade me.

This is where hypocrisies kick in. People commonly point to diversity as a guiding principle, but generally don't see it in terms of lifestyle. Diversity means outward differences, not personal lifestyles.

It hurts. To look at the people close to you and realize you don't have as much in common as you thought, alone, afloat in a sea of opposition, can be painful. If nothing else, my experiences have taught me something of what it means to be an oppressed minority.

It isn't right, but I can see some of the uses. Creating a homogeneous society keeps conflict low. There's nothing to fight about when everyone believes the same thing. However, restricting beliefs stagnates society and leads to violent resistance to change. And change is necessary. A society must be able to adapt to cultural alterations that can come from a variety of sources. A society that prevents change will perish.

So, what I'm asking is for greater acceptance. You don't need to agree with everything someone does, but you should be open to change. Change will come, whether the doors are locked and windows closed or not.

My opinions hold importance--to me. If you don't agree, I accept that, but don't try to change me. If I see the need, I'll change myself.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

suck it, Starbucks!

I recognize that my posts tend to be general and abstract. This one is not.

I hate Starbucks. Like a plague of rabbits, they have multiplied until they sully every street corner. Most of my friends question my hatred, seemingly irrational as it is. However, to me, Starbucks represents everything wrong with today's Western society , compounded by combining it with coffee.

I love coffee and coffee shops. I practically live on caffeine during school and find coffee soothing any morning--even in the 80 degree Arizona mornings.

But Starbucks had to ruin it. Now coffee shops all mirror the fast-food style counter and chairs, stifling differences in order to connect with the "Starbucks consumer," a breed who can not cope with irregularities or individuality in their coffee consumption experience. The Starbucks-style coffee shop extracts social interaction and local pride from the picture. They strive for international conformity and don't even offer free wifi, a coffee-shop staple!

When I go to a coffee shop, I want a hub of community interaction: local artists displaying their work, locally purchased furniture, alternative music, political conversation. Sure it's idealistic, but I doesn't have to be. I've frequented many coffee shops that provide all those things along with an atmosphere conducive to creativity and free exchange; places that emphasize the experience and not the five dollar drink. But they are slowly dying. No, people prefer the in-and-out, I'm-too-busy-to-care, just-give-me-caramel-flavored-caffeine-before-work experience.

So, when the day comes, I will weep for the death of the bohemian coffee shop. But for now, I fight back the only way one man can in a capitalist society: the money vote. Money spent at a Starbucks is praise for their soul-less, corporate agenda. My bank notes will never grace that sold-out counter. The battle for independent coffee rages and I find myself on the front line--anywhere, a block from a Starbucks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

quiet the voices

Creativity is illusive, abstract, and even frustrating at times. To be creative requires time, inspiration, and insight. For me, it's a constant battle.

However, recently I've realized the battle is as much a struggle with others as with myself. Too often I reluctantly pass up an idea because I'm worried about how it will be received; not so much a fear of failure, but a hesitance to expose myself to friends and strangers. I doubt I am the only one. Society has conditioned people to place heavy emphasis on personal expression. We are defined by our work.

In a world with countless individuals struggling to show their creative value, have we created a threshold of expression that limits whose creativity has value and whose doesn't?

People should express themselves regardless of their creativity's value to others. Expression has personal value, quieting the restless mind and providing mental therapy. When the mind's voices quiet, I can achieve greater creative flow than when the voices distract me with their chatter: "Who will see this? Who will value this? Is this how you want people to see you?" Enough. I will create my own idea of value; disregarding monetary worth and public acceptance. People can judge, but I don't care.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

other ways

When does suffering benefit those who suffer?

In preparation for study abroad this summer, my class has been studying the book "Russia and Soul," by Dale Pesmen, examining what it means to be Russian. One of the main topics Pesmen focuses on is suffering and its connection to group solidarity. Suffering not as individuals, but as a group. Through individual experiences and interviews, Pesmen constructed a picture of what life was like in Russia in the post-revolution 90's--a time when most of Russia was closed to foreigners and journalists.

During the Revolution, life became very heard for the people of Russia. Many blamed the government, foreigners and the times; but through their suffering, gained a greater ideal of what it means to be human. Suffering brought the people together, uniting them in their struggle and creating the idea of dusha, or Russian soul, we have come to associate with them as a people.

In Western society, we lack this level of solidarity. Too often we see ourselves only as individuals. Individual greed over the consideration of others has continually spawned the evils of times, and while a solution to this problem seems all but impossible, it is clear we need something more. Something to bring people together, uniting interests and dissolving personal struggle.

Perhaps this is why we can not unite as a country at war. While many people have suffered as a result of the Iraq War, it is not universal, and therefore cannot be addressed by the people in a unified way. No one wants the suffering and sacrifice already invested to go to waist; however, the shady atmosphere that brought war and the investigations that followed cause many to question our reasoning. Americans have trouble deciding why we are at war in the first place. For security? To aid others? For oil? Opinions proliferate as growing disillusionment seems to form the crest of sweeping government change--or so we hope.

I place my hope in the idea of change. Change that we can rally around as a nation. Change as a symbol of a more united people and an end to the stagnating ideals of preserving the status quo. However, change is only a symbol. My generation must determine how to use it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

it's always faster going back

Went hiking up north over the weekend. It was, as usual, a great experience with lots of good pictures.

When I hike alone, I tend to phase out. Thoughts envelop me as my feet find the way themselves. Sometimes I reach an almost meditative state, unaware of my the panoramic surroundings that I traveled hours to find. I'll stumble on a rock and snap out of my trance, blinking and trying to judge how far I've walked since my last conscious moment.

However, the experience always turns out enjoyable and very spiritually fulfilling. While I'm sure my appreciation for my surroundings wains in this state, it does allow me to cover good distances. This time I hiked about 12 miles or so to the spring of a creek and beyond. When my breathing hinted at fatigue and my toes burned from stubbing every rock in the path, I decided to head back--the only way back was to retrace my steps. Going home, my feet find easier footings--no doubt eager to remove boots and rest--and the down-hill trail pulls me along. The way back is always faster, not in time or distance, but in perception.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

a stone through from satire

Sustainability: the buzzword of my generation. Seriously, it's everywhere and on the lips of every politician, architect, and even ex-girlfriends. It all has me wondering: what if the future never happens.

For us, that is. What if we're all wiped from the earth in one of the cataclysmic events of science fiction or the day of judgment predicted by various religion. Isn't the world scheduled to end in 2012 anyway?

Wouldn't we look stupid.

So much talk about reversing the effects of our wasteful society when we should have been living it up! Cut down as many trees as your chainsaws can handle, dump whatever chemicals you deem worthy of the local river, burn as much gasoline as you can. Just go nuts! That's what we should have been doing. But, instead, we're whining about the polar bears. Who cares about the polar bears! The world is going to end in a few years anyway!

Can you imagine how much stuff we could do, not worrying about the consequences? Why save for retirement? Go out and spend all that 401K money on a new high-definition television and surround sound. You can watch all those nature shows and feel like you're actually there. Hell, actually go there. Spend that money for a private jet and personal guide to go on a 4 year globe-trotting adventure. Get that money out of the bank and put it into your life!

As for the nation, you had better vote in the coming election because it will be the last. This is it people, the last president of the United States. After we're all gone, whatever alien race or evolved species to find our remains will blame him or her for our destruction. We better make it count. Don't worry about economics; that's future talk. The stock market means nothing in the face of four years of liquidated funds. "Spend, don't save," ads will proclaim to the masses. "They'll be no tomorrow!"

We could declare global peace, but why ruin a good thing right? After all, we've only got a few years to go, might as well grab all the oil we can to make the most of our motor driven years.

Students should quit school. Why prepare yourself with an education that won't come to any use? And why puzzle out the mysteries of life when you won't have time to appreciate the answer? Be free writhing throngs of academia! Break your bonds of self-betterment and join the world of the moment!

Of course, if the world doesn't end, that would cause problems.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Clouds graced the valley for the first time in a while today, satisfying my need for climatic variety.

I've been feeling a bit down--summer dull drums. However, this morning I woke to overcast skies and gusting winds, providing a welcome respite from the summer heat. I biked all over my neighborhood, spending as much time outside as I could to soak up the beautiful weather. Glorious.

The picture is actually from the afternoon, after most of the clouds have pasted through. The sun burned through them by noon.
Weather effects my mental attitude in ways I don't normally realize. Tourists take the Valley's 300+ days of sunshine for granted; while locals commonly curse the heat and repetitive climate. Here, we love the rain, the wind, the clouds.

Someday, I hope to move where it rains more often. People say I'll tire of it easily, but somehow, I'm sure it wont loose it's novelty. The romanticized notion of spending a rainy morning in a coffee shop (not Starbucks, I hate Starbucks) and watching the rain fall over my morning paper and the rising steam of my heavily steeped, caffeinated drink consumes my aesthetic sensibilities.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Apathy while Reading

The book I'm currently reading bores me. I just found out.

But do I put down the book and start another? No. It's a curious phenomenon that I've witnessed myself performing in the past. I will have no interest in a book I'm--presumably--reading for pleasure, yet I'll continue to read it regardless. Sometimes it takes me about a hundred pages to realize I don't really care about what I'm reading.

So I keep reading. All the while thinking about other things, only going through the motions.

I think it has something to do with optimism on my part. The book will get better. The cover looked so interesting. The author is so well-known. All these factors feed my drudgery as I search in vain for a reason to continue reading. I loose interest, loose the story, loose all understanding.

There's pride on the line too. I want to be able to tell people, "Yeah I read that." Honestly, I'm a bit pretentious that way. I fancy myself one of the literary elite, knowledgeable in the world of novels, essays, and literature. In reality, I only seem knowledgeable when compared to the products of a generation lost to television.

You know, the word "literature" always dumbfounded me. Throughout my education, I've signed up for English classes because I enjoyed reading and discussing the books other's termed literature. To me, they were just great books. How does something become "literature" and who decides? If it were up to me, of course, literary conceptions would change a bit--induction of graphic novels, science fiction, and good magazines for starters.

Regardless, I seem to be needlessly trapped in a book no one ever told me to read. No doubt, I'll finish it but not for pleasure, for completion. Something will not let me stop--like a drug addict without the high or the Pink Floyd video. I must finish the action I started (I swear I'm not OCD).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cultural Walls

On April 17th, The Arizona Republic published an article featuring Rep Russell Pearce's (R-Mesa) brain child, Senate Bill 1108. I didn't see the article until the 22nd, but it had a profound impact on me. In an effort to avoid partisan pollution, I disclose that I am a democrat; however, I believe Pearce's bill goes beyond simple party lines, contradiction the core values of American politics.

The amendment to the bill aims to stop state schools from teaching "anti-western" ideas, saying they "use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate students in what he characterized as anti-American or seditious thinking."

The bill already passed in the House Appropriations Committee ona 9-3 vote. Fountain Hills Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said "If you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture."

Ok, what?

Now, this isn't the first time Russell Pearce has acted on extremely conservative legislation. He has a history of zealously campaigning against illegal immigration, supporting pro-life measures, and fighting excess spending of any kind. Those, however, are all viable concerns. I don't agree with any of them, but I believe he has the right to fight for his beliefs.

However, Pearce also has a history of going too far. The Mesa representative always pushes an extreme version of the conservative agenda. Many publications have attacked him (see the New Times).

Here's what I have a problem with: people elected this man! This man, who has the gal to talk about the founding fathers and Constitution on his website, wants to restrict the education of culture--a blatant contradiction of intent. How can you possibly think that will help anything in the world today? American needs more understanding of foreign culture. Too many times in history America has suffered blowback from cultural misunderstandings and oversights. Too many times in history legislation resembling Senate Bill 1108 has passed--in North Korea, China, Germany, Britain, etc.--with disastrous results.

I simply can not believe people still think this way in 2008. Our country can not afford to support leaders such as Pearce and Kavanagh. They stand in the way of freedom at its most basic levels. Their supporters may disagree with me; however, this particular piece of legislation ironically contradicts our broad America ideals.

If ever there was an answer to our problems, this is not it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Arizona, how big is big enough?"

Just because you can speak, doesn't mean people will listen.

Edward Abbey has to be my favorite environmental terrorist/writer, influencing many of my environmental beliefs and social convictions. I'm currently reading One Life at a Time, Please by Abbey. I've also read Desert Solitude and The Monkey Wrench Gang--an educational staple for many schools--of my own accord. He understands what it is to live, not off nature, but in the middle of it; to observe its majestic beauty and understand its horribly unforgiving ways.

One Life at a Time, Please is a collection of Abbey's essays, many submitted to well-known publications, many not, all lamenting the direction the American Southwest has taken. The inspiration for this post comes from the work "Arizona, how big is big enough?" In it, Abbey addresses the rapid growth of Phoenix and Tucson, asking: why grow?

As a resident of Arizona, this issue hits my most core beliefs. Community leaders advocate growth as an economic necessity, but this can not continue. Arizona's limited water resources can't support much more, not to mention the endless urban sprawl that clogs freeways, pollutes the air, and creates "heat islands" depriving the city of rain.

What's more, growth destroys what I value most about the Southwest: nature. While I am far from a rugged mountain man, hiking provides great spiritual release for me. However, the commute to nature constantly grows as Phoenix expands, increasing my frustration and destroying the solitude that makes my experiences so rich.

Perhaps the most terrifying part of Abbey's comments is their antiquity. He wrote the essay almost thirty years ago and all the apocalyptic preaching has come to pass, and more. The U.S. Census estimated 1,388,416 people resided in Phoenix in 2003, 5,580,811 in Arizona overall. The city covered 475 square miles. Houston, Texas, contained 2,009,690 people spread over 579 square miles. (

The facts should speak for themselves, but in case they're shy I'll spell it out: Phoenix is huge. Not only are we outrageously spread out, the city has grown--continues to grow--at a rate that can not be preserved. It doesn't take an expert to determine collapse is inevitable.

Think of what's been lost. People flocked to Phoenix for its fresh air, dry climate, and gorgeous sunsets. Now, while the air is still dry and the sunsets more gorgeous than ever--due to increased particles in the air--the air quality has dropped to dangerous levels and the heat has increased due to the "urban heating effect." The urban heat island causes monsoon storms to literally split apart, sliding around the city as water parts around a rock. This causes droughts, further exasperating water scarcity in a cyclical vortex of environmental collapse.

So what can we do? Companies like Salt River Project and The Arizona Project are in a race against time to conserve water and unravel the current trends before resources dry up. However, nothing seems to be done to curb urban sprawl. Projects to build light rail lines could combat the effects, but as a resident, I doubt their effectiveness. Phoenicians love their cars too much, and if the amount of gas guzzling SUV's we drive is any indication, locals just aren't concerned. As with most environmental issues, action will only happen after people's lives are affected--a situation that's already a reality for me.

"Phoenix is big enough, Arizona is big enough," said Abbey. "What we need is not more growth but more democracy--and democracy, some other old-timers may recall, means government by the people. By the people."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fly Conchords!

Ever since I was first introduced to the HBO show "Flight of the Conchords," I've been an avid fan. It was at my friends house--I don't get HBO--that I first saw a full length episode, but I already felt indoctrinated into the fan base just from listening to my friend's favorite quotes. Endless repetitions of the word sex pronounced "six" in a mock-New Zealand accent never decayed from its original hilarity. Now I've seen the entire first season, also thanks to that same friend. The quirky, subtle humor that permeates every story only grows from the actual songs.

The new Flight of the Conchords album just came out. Most of the songs are great, fan favorites. However, I feel like they missed a few that would have added to the fan experience. At least they hit some of the most catchy, purely ridiculous ones. Someday, I'll get "Foux de Fafa" out of my head, but I'm in no rush.

Free Will

George Herbert Mead--Social Scientist

What makes us act the way we do? A recently completed social sciences class drilled that question into my mind. "The Human Event," they called it. Both euphorically uplifting and deeply depressing, HON 272 opened my eyes to the myriad of controls society exerts on individuals. Society enables great things: communication, cooperation, solidarity, emotion--it has been theorized that the majority of emotions are socially constructed. However, it also limits individual potential, cramming them into pre-made molds that fulfill greater needs.

Just how much can we blame individuals for their actions. At every turn, society exerts influence. A self-sustaining system of operant conditioning, socialization, and social resources trains children to act in "civilized" ways, restricting their true potential and limiting individual will.

How can there be free will when there is no individual will?

Also, why do all these guys have great facial hair? The answer: society influenced them to grow beards and mustaches of great power. I can't think of a more compelling argument than that.