Journalism 2 Class luis jennifer mason robert forrest casey caitlin sarah mason lia alexandra luis natalie

Monday, March 29, 2010

Obsession with Beauty

by: Lia

I know there are a lot of places in the world that emphasize beauty. It doesn’t seem like any of them are as obsessed with it as we are, unless the country as been influenced by the U.S. and now looks at beauty under the same lens.

Oh, to be back in the day when curvy and solid women were revered. I think that women with some meat on their bones are absolutely gorgeous; heck, I’d like a bit more myself.
I wish the rest of society, especially the media, saw it that way.

It’s sad to see so many models and actors starve themselves to death just to meet society's belief on what is beautiful. Take Lindsey Lohan for example: she was absolutely beautiful. I thought she was a terrific size; she had curves, and she looked great. Then she started to see the pressures of being skinny, and now she looks horrible. It’s really sad.

So many impressionable young girls have eating disorders because of the media. “1 out of every 100 young women between 10-20 years old is starving herself, sometimes to death.” Girls try to be something they will never be. Most of us weren’t made to look like the models that are projected on the T.V. screen, billboards, and magazine ads.

Dove's got it figured out; real women are beautiful and should be celebrated.

We need to appreciate who we are, celebrate our uniqueness, and embrace what we see as flaws. I’m talking to myself here too. It’s easy to get caught up in what we think we lack and compare ourselves to others. It’s about time we stop and start loving ourselves. The media needs to start getting with it too!

A Hard Knock Life for the Undocumented

I have interviewed about 4 undocumented immigrants now, as well as several other people who have connections with them. They all have pretty similar stories. They all came to America in search of a better life, they all attempted to cross the border several times before actually succeeding, and they all agree that life actually is better here, even though it contains racism, fear of the immigration police, and trouble finding work (you can find excerpts of these interviews on my journalism class's website, which I will post soon).

Our immigration policies, instead of welcoming immigrants into our country with open arms, make it nearly impossible for most people to become naturalized citizens. In order to become a citizen of the US, you have to either be a genius, or very very lucky. So, naturally, many people come illegally. Instead of having fear of those who we label as "illegal," I propose that we build relationships with them and welcome them as guests. They are real people, created in God's image, with feelings, hopes and dreams. We must petition our government to make it easier for people to become naturalized, and simultaneously we must help build up other countries so that their citizens won't have as much motivation to leave. Let us be a part of the solution to illegal immigration, not part of the problem.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"We are an American family."

by: Natalie

I sit in my living room with "You've Got Mail" blaring through the TV. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) are sensational. Joe brings in his two young family members, Annabelle and Matt, to Kathleen's store. Well, they get to talking and naturally Kathleen asks if the kids are Joe's. He says no, she is confused, and he explains, "Annabelle is my aunt. Matt is my father's son. Annabelle is my grandfather's daughter. We are an American family."

I love this quote because it is true. American families are not always traditional. And nontraditional families are not outcasts. This is what I love about America. I love that a 5 yr. old girl could potentially be a 40 yr. old's aunt. Strange, but kind of cool. 

Another thing is that family does not always mean your biological relatives. Your "family" can include your best friend and your neighbors. Those people may be closer to you than your blood relatives anyways. Family can mean whatever you want it to. The freedom to essentially choose family (to an extent of course) is rare and unique. Our country is not as family focused as some others, but it seems that we are certainly focused on our self-imposed families.

Maybe we're cold and impersonal, but perhaps we are closer than we are made out to be. 

So Way Back...

by: Mason
So way back in the 1700s, old King George was being a big jerk to his American colonies, taxing them to pay for his fancy imported wine and his collection of high tech gadgets. The colonists got wise to his sick scheme and wanted some good old-fashioned representation with their taxation. That’s why people say stuff about “taxation without representation.” The colonists weren’t fond of it.
Instead, they wanted their shillings and stuff to go to good use, so they threw a tea partay, because the tea was one of the absurdly-taxed items. They also threw stamp paloozas and sugar shindigs. This riled up the old tyrant so he sent over some troops to calm the raging colonists.
Fortunately, the colonists were wise to his sick scheme, and prepared a minute man militia. The Iroquois Indians taught them this technique, which involved the extensive use of barns and locks. With this newly gained ability to fox into the very ranks of the red coats without even being detected, the colonists whooped their butts and took America as their prize.
But the reason the colonists took America goes far deeper than hating taxes. On the contrary, they loved paying taxes, and were happy to pay them once the states were united. These Americans hated how their tax shillings were being spent. They wanted to see their tax shillings spent on their turf, where they could see the benefits and reap the rewards, not on some fat old king’s fancy parties.
The early Americans wanted not only to have their tax dollars spent on their turf. They wanted to decide for themselves what their taxes should be spent on. The representation they demanded was the representation of their desires in the spending of their tax money. Perhaps many people wanted a road paved connecting Boston to Philadelphia. In the days of old King George, the road would not get paved. It would just be a series of muddy wagon ruts connecting the series of cotton plantations between the two.
With complete control of taxes (they even changed their currency), the Americans could decide whether or not a road should be built, where it should be built (just pave the mud trail or make a direct route), and how to build it. They would spend some portion of their tax dollars on the supplies (they used slave labor) and get the job done.
With the road completed, commerce would increase (with imports of cream pie and cheese-steaks, higher gas sales, and the advent of motels), the states would grow closer, and millions of happy Americans would travel between Boston and Philadelphia, making a more perfect union.
I guess what I’m saying is: our founding fathers fought so that we could choose if we should be taxed, on what we should be taxed, and how we should spend our tax revenue – with the assumption that the choice the nation makes will be beneficial to itself. But just in case the nation chooses poorly, they made the nation a republic (representative) so that smart people (who we choose – that’s democracy!) can make a better choice.
The next time you come around criticizing our government for everything it’s doing wrong, think about how and why our nation was set up. It was designed to be controlled by the people. Don’t complain loudly like a belligerent fool! Go do some research and write an informed letter to your congressperson, and talk to your neighbors about doing the same. But you don’t have to take my word for it!
That old fat smelly tyrant jerk monarch King George would not give Americans the health care they so desperately needed. Fortunately for us, our founding fathers knew that one day, a president powerful enough to present the entire nation with effective health care would rise, and that day has come. Congratulations to America, and thanks to Barack Obama, for finally realizing the founding fathers’ dream! By 2018, our nation will be full, ripe, complete, and in all other ways telios!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Portland Opera

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

by: Jenny

Last night I spent the evening with my fiancé and my future brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and soon-to-be-niece.

As the four of us (my niece being in bed a this point) unwound from a busy and hectic spring break, we decided to turn on a new show, called Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

It was horrifying.

Not because it was a bad show, but because of what I saw while watching Oliver's show.

Oliver, a British man determined to make a positive difference in the eating habits of Americans, went to a small town in West Virginia to tackle on the severe overweight issue the town exhibits. Being allowed into the school system, Oliver was given one week to change elementary school children's eating habits from the normally-served processed foods, to his healthy (yet more expensive menu). It was a week long battle, but after many arguments between Oliver and the school's lunch ladies, he was able to serve the kids healthy food and see them improving their eating habits.

So what was so horrifying?

I would highly encourage you to watch the entire show. It was horrifying seeing how uneducated these children were about the harmful foods they were putting into their bodies. Not to mention, their inability to name certain fruits and vegetables.

Is THIS a fair representation of America as a whole? I would hope not. Unfortunately, I could see this being a reality.

I hope, with every bit of me, that people, parents especially, will watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and feel inspired to eat better, be more active, and be well-educated on what foods are good for our bodies and what aren't.

The 12-year-old boy from the family in the first clip was taken to the hospital and found out that he was EXTREMELY likely to develop diabetes, which would ultimately cut his life down by 30-40 years.

30-40 years.

The doctor determined he would probably die in his 30s.

It's sad. It's terrifying. It's time for America and its eating habits to change.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A love for art

by: Robert

Each of us like art in one form or another. My guess is that most of us find that love at first sight. It's not like wine or sushi, where it takes a slow introduction. My mind is still buzzing, I feel like I have just walked out of my first KISS concert. Except this time my chest didn't get thumped on by all the bass and my ears aren't still ringing. This was a real treat.

I have always liked theatre. I never pursued it, because I can't remember enough lines to save my life. And I'm too shy to stand up in front of a crowd and share a story. I did however manage to recite a piece about a boy who "had a little momento". A homerun ball hit by Lou Gehrig. Another scene from "Love in the Afternoon," "...eyes are thighs and lips are hips...". That was embarrassing in high school. Despite my own limits, I love theatre, and after tonight, I have found another love- the opera.

It impressed upon me so much that the Director actually came out to our group and explained the collective process of pulling three stories into one. Nicholas Muni shared his vision and explained each step in the unfolding story of Cupid, Love and even a piece of Christianity.

I should have gone to the cast party. Fear gets the better of me sometimes.

To each of you that had a hand in my evening, thank you.



by: Robert

I was able to see and understand the third piece better than the others for one simple reason, I didn't have to read and then try to watch the performance. I am thankful and appreciate the opportunity to come here tonight. I found myself lost in the 2nd half, enjoying every bit of it. I watched in fascination, completely engrossed in the musical style. My impression of Trouble in Tahiti is the story of life in America.

We become so enveloped in our work and take for granted what is safest to us, our home and families. Rushed out the door, trying to make a living or pursue our dreams, we forget to thank our spouses and connect with our children. Take a moment and let them know how much we appreciate them, what they do for us, and find a common interest again. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is not warm to that idea anymore, it's disheartening.

I truly enjoyed sitting here, watching my first opera. Seeing is believing and there is something magical about witnessing a terrific performance. I can only judge this by my experiences in theatre, to state it simply- I was not disappointed. I can say that I hope find a way to come back and see another. I enjoyed this!!

Thank you!!!


by: Robert

Ok, the take on my first opera attendance - so far.

This is new and exciting. I get a real feel for the passion of the story from the delivery by each artist. Strong vocals with music that travels up and down with each emotion. There are moments of peace and frustration, violence and a final view of pain and loss. There is also a feeling of redemption, realizing she is dying and asks to be baptized. Born a Christian and raised a Muslim, she knows where her peace will be, with Christ.

The backstage walkthrough and meeting the director

by: Robert

I have not been near a stage in many years. My last performing arts attendance was nearly 10 years ago, I took my kids to see The Nutcracker. Prior to that, I was a senior in high school taking theatre. This is a small trip down memory lane as I sit amazed, trying to soak in everything around me.

Our tour backstage was short and informative. Ironically all the lights were off, quite dark, watch out for the steps- or in my case the backlights. I enjoyed seeing the stage manager prepare and go over notes while having us hover. Focused, crossing out notes and away she went. On the stage a quiver, a bow and a broken arrow sit.

Upstairs we met the director. Full of information and clearly passionate about the stories and connecting three individual operas in one night.

Not much to share yet, but I can tell this will be a treat well worth waiting for.


Tonight we will be blogging live from the Portland Opera. It is a triple bill including Trouble in Tahiti by American composer Leonard Bernstein (also know for the music in West Side Story).

Check here for a live report including more photos and video starting around 7pm pacific.

Pictured are Jose Rubio as Sam and Daryl Freedman as Dinah. Photo courtesy of the Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pharmaceutical Drugs

by: Lia

What is it with the United States and pharmaceutical drugs?

Anyone who has to purchase pharmaceutical drugs knows how expensive they are. According to the 2002 Drug Industry Profits American citizens pay hundreds of billions of dollars every year on pharmaceutical drugs. While citizens loose more and more money as prescription drug prices increase, pharmaceutical companies get richer and richer.

Our government also gets rich off the drug industry. Since 1999, the drug industry has given more than 45 million dollars in political contributions, and it's spent hundreds of millions more on an army of more than 600 lobbyists to work its will on Capitol Hill.

I’m sure you’ve seen the drug commercials on television that show people living horrible lives until they take the magic pill and life is wonderful. Then at the end they quickly spout off the long list of negative side effects some includes internal bleeding and even death!
There are so many different natural remedies out there that have been used for centuries that don’t have the horrible side effects that synthetic drugs have, but the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t want you to believe natural remedies are credible, because then they’d loose out on your money.


by: Lia

No matter how far we have come, gender inequality is still alive and well. The pay gap between men and women has become smaller, but men still receive more money than women when working the same type of job with the same credentials, according to Gender Differences in Pay.

Linda Babcock, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of economics conducted a study resulting in the realization that men are twice as likely as women to negotiate a higher pay raise. This might explain why men still receive more money than women.

Why is it that women do not ask for more money? Perhaps it is because of how women have been, and continue to be, treated in society. Women are taught to be silent and demur, while men are to be outspoken and aggressive.

So we should teach our women to be more outspoken and to go after what they believe they deserve and the problem should be solved, right? Wrong. There are those in society who still believe women should be more “womanly,” meaning quiet and subdued. If women were to possess more of the typical “manly” traits of aggressions, potential employers might be turned off.

All of society, not just women, needs to realize how women have been oppressed and rethink what women and men’s rolls are. Women should be allowed to speak up and receive the pay they deserve, without being looked down upon or penalized for doing so.


by: Lia

I am working on a feature length documentary on the sex trade in Cambodia and the U.S. and I have amerced myself in the fight against sex trafficking for the last couple years of my life.

Something that I have found time and time again is that people in the United States can’t, and wont believe that sex trafficking happens here in the U.S.. They say, “Nah, it couldn’t happen here, we’d never let such a horrible thing happen.” So they turn a blind eye to the atrocity that are occurring right under their noses.

An estimated 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. every year and at least 300,000 American born children are trafficked within the Unites States annually. That’s a total of 317,500 people, a majority of them children, that we have found that are trafficked in the U.S. yearly. Most experts believe that number is way higher, it’s just hard to determine how many are really out there.

We have this wonderful thing called the Trafficking In Persons Report put together by the U.S. Department of State. The Trafficking In Persons Report explains the issue of Human Trafficking (the overall umbrella that sex trafficking falls under), what’s being done about it, victims stories, and more. One thing particularly helpful is that they break down each country and show how bad the issue of human trafficking is there. Only problem is they have neglected to even include the United States.

No wonder people wont believe sex trafficking is an issue in the United States, when the government wont even acknowledge it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Americans Are Connected... Sort Of...

Americans love to think they are connected. (FaceBook, cell phones, computers, ect.) Nowadays people get mad at other people that don't respond to a text, or check their FaceBook soon enough. At first I was happy that we are all connected like this. We can instantly contact almost everyone that we know. But then I realized that we don't ever utilize these tons of avenues we have for community. 

I have found, more and more, in American that we have much, expect more, and never utilize our blessings to their full potential, but if we don't have them we feel as though we are crippled. Crippled by not having the social connections we rarely use anyway! We want to know we're in the loop but we don't want to contribute to it.

Some Americans have friends outside the country, but most don't. America is just a big bubble that rarely reaches out anywhere else, but we like to know we have the means to.

Google is the same way. We have access to almost anything we want or need to know but we only use it for spell check :/ 

We have so much, why aren't we using it? You don't know what you've got til its gone I guess.

Monday, March 15, 2010

History told by our collections

My mom's family has quite a few heirloom pieces that I hope to have in my home someday. Between my younger sisters and my cousins, I am sure many will be spoken for and quickly. For myself, it starts with the letters my mom's dad wrote to my grandma while they courted in the early 1940's. If I can ever master our English language and find a way to put words to paper, there is a book to be shared. What about the other things that are in various corners of my aunt's home? Late 1800's clothing, jewelry, not to mentioned an old top hat and china my grandma kept.

Our story of American history is not only passed through our families, it is passed along in the craziest of places; garage sales, antique stores and with a watchful eye, flea markets. Finding old pieces and learning the story behind them fascinate me.

I have tried several times to track down my grandma's family, once finding "new" relatives. If it weren't for the internet and such family tree websites, I may never have bridged that connection. I don't keep in contact, but my aunt exchanges emails now and again with my grandma's aunt's family. My great grandmother passed away shortly and giving birth to my grandma. It was my great-great grandmother who immigrated with her sister from Scotland to Canada and finally to America. While it continues to intrigue me, my youngest sister has since taken this searching by storm.

We share the same enthusiasm for our family history. Each of us spending hours upon hours searching, hoping to find a new connection. So far I have made the biggest find, but I hope we aren't done.

Questions remain and I hope to put the pieces together. Who owned a 40 room lodge in Saskatchewan? How exactly am I related to Thomas Dewey?
The question of the hour:

How will we turn out as the first generation of Americans to grow up with the Internet?
As I type this in Microsoft word, spell check informs me that “internet” should be capitalized. It is now a proper noun. I don’t know how I feel about this.

As I type, two friends are playing Call of Duty on Xbox live. Another is text messaging on his iPhone with an open Macbook on his lap. Now it is his turn to play Call of Duty. He currently has ear buds in, his iPhone by his side, an open Macbook and an Xbox controller. All devices are utilizing a digital network of interconnectivity.

I’m not saying this with any amount of disdain, just slight concern. I often find myself turning to the internet for various reasons out of habit. I check my email as often as a member of an older generation would light a cigarette. It has become natural to take a short break from whatever obligation to attend to the digital world, whether it is twitter, facebook or google reader.

Our methods of accessing and processing information have been changed forever. I recently bought Sherwood Anderson’s Winesberg, Ohio off for four dollars in e-book form. Literally hundreds of years of information are at the fingertips of any internet user, to be used at their discretion, as well as several lifetimes of irreverent entertainment.

I’ll look at the clock after long session on internet and know my time spent has gone somewhere. Towards youtube, stumbleupon, any number of blogs. If anything, this generation will distinguish if the time spent was worth it.


by Sarah

Shopping malls. Facebook. Work. School. Relationships. Twitter. Food. Clubs. Causes. Religion. Family. Email.

Your house needs cleaning. Your car is running on empty with a flat tire. There's a stack of bills to pay. Someone wants your advice. Someone else your time. And yet another your money.

This is the life we live. There is always something to do and some responsibility to fulfill.

My question is: if our lives are only so long, why do we get caught up in all this? Why do our lives equate to busyness?

Shouldn't life be lived to fullest, with passion, purpose and abundance?

"But", you say, "I still have just as much to do. I can believe that all I want, but where am I going to find the time to live it out?" That's our excuse. We say, "I'll do it later," "Not now, I'm busy," and "I just don't have time!"

I'm here to say yes, that is reality. And if that is how you view it, you're never going to have time. You're never going to be responsibility-free. There's always going to be more to do.

I want to call us to live beyond that. To exceed expectations of fulfilling responsibilities and meeting deadlines and to live in spite of them. Live abundantly. Love people deeply. Take the day a moment at a time. Quit using excuses. You know, "take time to stop and smell the roses".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Broken Mirrors

One of the reasons that it is so important for people of different cultures to interact with one another is that different cultures capture different pieces of truth. When you learn to see yourself and your own culture through the eyes of someone from another culture, it's like looking in a broken mirror. The other culture reflects certain fragments of truth back to you that you wouldn't see otherwise. Meanwhile, you hold other pieces of the mirror, and you reflect your own truth back to them. Together, the two cultures hold a much more complete reflection of the true picture than they do apart. For example, in Latino culture, a huge emphasis is placed on family, or community. In White America, our old people get carted away to nursing homes while our kids are raised on television and our adults are sucked up into the rat-race. Latinos are much less likely to let that happen. They sacrifice a heck of a lot to make sure that the family stays intact, which is why you see huge extended families living together much of the time. Kids don't worry too much about getting out of the house. Instead, they stay home and take care of their parents and grandparents. However, American Individualism does have it's merits. In White America, a kid can be whatever they want to be without worrying about family honor or anything like that. That level of freedom is not found as much in more community-oriented societies. So... community is important, but so is the individual. Truth is a very nuanced sort of thing, and is seldom a matter of "either-or." It is almost always a matter of "both-and." Which is why we need each other... all of us hold a different piece of the mirror.

Collect $200 as You Pass Go

They say that everything is bigger in America...including the price tags.

I don't know exactly who "they" are but usually this phrase is meant for the portions of food, the size of the people or the extravagance of our homes, wardrobes, cars, etc.

Many people come to America with their personalized version of the "American Dream" in mind. The stereotypical "Dream" involves a spouse, two children, maybe a dog or cat, a home with a picket fence and a car. However all of this caters around the idea of being successful, and therefore, by being able to maintain a job or career.

It is pricy to live in America. Think about the "Dream" in terms of finances. It will cost money for two people to get married--the wedding, the honeymoon, the car insurance, the health insurance, the food, the clothes, the necessities, etc. Next, consider being able to afford two children--clothes, food, diapers, doctors bills, etc., then add in house payments--including monthly payments plus any upkeep charges that may accrue; the car--car payments, repairs, insurance; the pets--hospital bills/shots, food, upkeep, etc.

It is expensive to live in America.

I am absolutely NOT saying do not follow your version of the American Dream. I can't wait to get married (54 days!) and have my own home and family. All these things are dreams of mine coming true.

But what I am saying is that Americans love money. We love it so much that we even spend more than we have. According to the U.S. National Debt Clock ( America is in debt $12,588,333,731,873.82 as of March 14, 2010 at 3:23:19 GMT.


I get stressed out thinking about how I am going to pay off my school loans! I am glad I am not in a position of figuring out how America is going to come up with over $12 trillion dollars. Eek!

I guess that just means, be conscious next time you want the third cup of coffee or that really nice pair of shoes.

Because you know what they say, money doesn't grow on trees...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

sacrifice by some, for the good of all

This weekend I went home to my mom's and dug further into my family history. I don't know much about my mom's dad, other than he was deeply in love with my grandma and passed away before I was born. Calling him grandpa just seems strange, is that weird to feel that way?

I have letters he wrote to my grandma while they courted each other early in their relationship. Many of the letter are repetitious, he says he loves and misses her, talks about the work and training of the military and always asks about home. He made several friends while in the Army Air Force during WWII.

The political environment of the United States was focused on isolation. America did not want to get involved with the problems of the world. As we look back today, America really became the worlds protector as a result of WWII. We were called upon to help France and Britain. The entire map of Europe was in chaos. The might and will of the American servicemen and those at home building the great war machine launched the United States into the great World Power we are still known for.

America was called upon again to help in the Korean War. My mom's dad joined the 1st Marine Division and was shipped off to Korea. His time in WWII was spent as an airplane mechanic, this time however he would face a new enemy. Communist China entered the war as America ignored threats from the Chinese Government. The 1st Marine Division of roughly 8,000 men entered the Chosin Resivour. The Chinese military soon surrounded the Marines with an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 soldiers. The fighting was intense and the American forces soon began a retreat that my mom's dad said took 4 days to cover 50 miles. The convoy of trucks were ambushed several times along the way.

The weather was the worst in nearly 100 years along the Korean Peninsula. At times the temperature dropped to a -40 degrees. But the weather was not the only concern. they were running out of food. A lunch would be a can of soup, shared between 3 men. The Frozen Chosin lasted nearly two weeks. The retreat was successful and in the truest spirit of Pride for the American Forces, they proudly claimed that no injured or dead were left behind. Once in the safety of medical facilities and the USS Constellation, my mom's dad was treated for severe frostbite on his feet and malnourishment. He stayed in the hospital for over a month, anxious to get home.

His sacrifices along with many others are forgotten as we struggle to realize our place in the world. We can not forget the sacrifice so many have made in attempts to preserve the freedoms you and I enjoy today. Had we not entered WWII, Nazi Germany certainly would have continued it's march to world supremacy on other continents, not just Europe. If America didn't jump in the Korean War and suppress the spreading of Communism, how different would the world be that we know today?

Sometimes America is frowned upon for it's military actions across the world. What many don't realize is we are called on, we are asked for assistance. Sadly we sacrifice our own, for the safety and freedom of others. There are many heroic stories in our history, we are the protectors of the world. The sacrifice of our military people should not go thankless and forgotten. For without them, we surely wouldn't enjoy the current freedoms we enjoy here in America!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

A lot of America youngsters have ambitions through the roof about the future and who they want to be. My sociology teacher mentioned how some sociologists have a fear that these ambitions would not be met and will lead to a rise in depression among young Americans.

On the one hand I have seen some of the dreams of my peers crushed by reality and probability, but on the other hand America is the "Land of Opportunity" where "anything is possible!" Helping or hurting? Young Americans build up ambition and laziness at the same time. Some cannot achieve their goals because of bad grades, not being good enough, statical chances of success, and the fear of failure looming around them. More than anything young Americans are told "You can do/be anything you want!" And the beauty of America is that that is more true here than many other places because of all the opportunities we have, but are we crippling the youth of America by teaching habits of laziness? Pretty much. We have so much, but do so little for it. 

Working hard can get you far in this country, no doubt. It can move you, and I finally came to the conclusion that telling young Americans that they can do anything is one of the few motivations we give, so even if it not entirely reasonable it is necessary and beneficiary.

Daffodils, Roses, and Baby's Breath

by Sarah

Have you ever thought about the role of flowers in America? We give each other roses and baby's breath for Valentine's Day, mixed flowers for sickness, deaths and funerals, roses and lilies for weddings, and the list could go on.

Also, flowers signify seasons of life and give messages. Daffodils announce that spring is here. Flowers from a special someone pronounce love and fondness. Weddings are a huge arena for flowers. I've seen flowers on aisle ways, in bouquets, in vases, in petals on the floor, mixed in with candles, and even on cakes!

So why do we use so many flowers? Is it because we don't like to use our words? Or do they say something more powerful then words?

Next time you go to the store and see the giant floral display, think about what those flower means in our culture, our country and the role they play in our lives.

Butterflies in My Stomach

Ever eaten snails? Guinea pig? Llama? Chicken feet? If you haven't, you are missing out. For some reason, we Americans have problems with certain foods that other people find delicious. Some animals are too cute for us to eat, like rabbits. Others are too much like family members (dogs, cats, etc). Others gross us out (bugs). Then of course, there's the ones we don't have the heart to eat, like sheep. All in all, we have a pretty limited diet.

Then there's the vegetarians..... I like vegetarians, don't get me wrong. I'm practically one myself, but vegetarians are just about unheard of in other countries (India being a major exception). Meat is just too big a part of hospitality in most of the world for it to be let go. Truth is, it would be a lot easier to feed the global population if we were all vegetarians (raising meat is a very inefficient use of land), but there would also be a lot of yummy dishes we wouldn't be able to eat. Like guinea pig. MmmmMm.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Love of the game(s)

Americans are undeniably infatuated with sports.

Amateur athletic programs support sporting goods companies through the purchase of equipment necessary to compete. Even those that aren't on the hardwood still invest in the headband and basketball shorts.

Professional sports leagues rely on millions of fans to keep their respective franchises financially afloat. Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday thousands of fathers take their sons to the ballgame. They buy the tickets, the foam fingers, the peanuts, beer.

Corporations completely unrelated to the athletic world spend huge dollars for airtime during national sporting event broadcasts.


I know that in my experiences, sports embody hard work. There is a degree of natural ability, but that gift is useless if it isn't refined.

Most Americans work hard, so they recognize hard work. They want someone to succeed because of their dedication. It affirms their own journey towards success, if they haven't already realized it.

Sports are ingrained in American society because we see ourselves in the athletes.

That's also why we hate the referees.


This past weekend I have spent a lot of time working on a list of American Holidays celebrated around the country. Granted, I do not know the validity of some of the holidays, but someone invented them and they have been landed on a calendar. I am not going to include the entire list of holidays yet (I found them on, because I am waiting for the launch of our website. HOWEVER, I will include some of my favorite from the list...

January 5: National Bird Day
January 28: National Kazoo Day

February 15: National Gum Drop Day
February 18: National Battery Day

March 1: National Pig Day
March 31: National Clam on the Half Shell Day

April 16: National High Five Day
April 17: National Cheeseball Day

May 5: National Hoagie Day
May 15: National Chocolate Chip Day

June 6: National Yo-Yo Day
June 25: National Catfish Day

July 14: National Nude Day
July 23: National Hot Dog Day

August 7: National Mustard Day
August 22: National Tooth Fairy Day

September 13: National Peanut Day
September 25: National Comic Book Day

October 23: National Mole Day
October 26: National Mincemeat Day

November 13: National Indian Pudding Day
November 15: National Philanthropy Day

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day
December 21: National Flashlight Day

As you can see there is a HUGE range of information. Sifting through the information I found National holidays, as well as Days (such as Lumpy Rug Day), World days (such as World Aids Day) and International celebrations. I intend to sift through these further and see if I can narrow it down to just the national holidays and go from there. Throughout the entire 2010 calendar there were only two dates that did not have something to celebrate.

Whoa. Bust out your party hats. It's time to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kill, Kill, Kill!

by: Lia

I finally watched Bowling for Columbine the other day, and let me say, I was quite disturbed.  The topic wasn’t really anything new to me, it just brought up a lot of emotions.
The movie addressed the school shooting that occurred at Columbine High School where two teenage boys came to school with guns and shot a whole bunch of students. Many students were severely injured and some were even killed.
At one point in the movie it went through many different wars the United States was involved in and showed people that had died because of the United States’ involvement. This is the list that I copied down:
  • 1953: U.S. overthrows Prime Minister Mossadeq of Iran. U.S. installs Shah as dictator.
  • 1954: U.S. overthrows democratically-elected President Arbenz of Guatemala. 200,000 civilians killed.
  • 1963: U.S. backs assassination of South Vienamese President Diem.
  • 1963-1975: American military kills 4 million people in Southeast Asia.
  • September 11, 1973: U.S. stages coup in Chile, Democratically-elected President Salvador Allende assassinated. Dictator Augusto Pinochet installed. 5,000 Chileans murdered.
  • 1977: U.S. backs military rulers in El Salvador. 70,000 Salvadorans and four American nuns killed.
  • 1980's: U.S. trains Osama bin Laden and fellow terrorists to kill Soviets. CIA gives them $3 billion.
  • 1981: Reagan administration trains and funds "contras." 30,000 Nicaraguans die.
  • 1982: U.S. provides billions in aid to Saddam Hussein for weapons to kill Iranians.
  • 1983: White House secretly gives Iran weapons to kill Iraqis.
  • 1989: CIA agent Manuel Noriega (also serving as President of Panama) disobeys orders from Washington. U.S. invades Panama and removes Noriega. 3,000 Panamanian civilian casualties.
  • 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait with weapons from U.S.
  • 1991: U.S. enters Iraq. Bush reinstates dictator of Kuwait.
  • 1998: Clinton bombs "weapons factory" in Sudan. Factory turns out to be making aspirin.
  • 1991 to present (?): American planes bomb Iraq on a weekly basis. U.N. estimates 500,000 Iraqi children die from bombing and sanctions.
  • 2000-2001: U.S. gives Taliban-ruled Afghanistan $245 million in "aid."
  • Sept. 11, 2001: Osama bin Laden uses his expert CIA training to murder 3,000 people.
How much money would we have saved from the deficit if we hadn't been so gung-ho about war and funding other groups to be better at killing more people?
We teach Americans that it's okay to go to other countries and massacre everyone, because they are "bad," but then we turn around and think we can punish people here for murdering someone. We don’t understand when teenagers come to a school and kill people. How does that make sense? How can't people see that it's the same thing?

I go between being saddened to enraged that people could be so heartless and cruel with no remorse, just killing and somehow justifying it!

No matter where we come from we are all human beginnings with lives, and families, and hopes, and dreams, and fears. How can we justify killing another person, no matter where they came from or what they did?

It hurts me to think that we are capable of such horrific things, then rationalizing the killing, that is unless it’s someone here in the U.S. killings another U.S. citizen. Why are our lives somehow more important than those in other countries?
Throughout the Winter Olympics, I watched seldomly not paying much attention to medal counts or how any of the United States athletes were doing until I saw the men’s hockey team beat Canada. It caught my attention and instantly threw me in the mix, trying to catch each game with hopes of a gold medal. The men survived and advanced to the gold medal game, setting up a rematch with Canada.

They said the only way the American team could win would be to use a rope-a-dope game plan, which they used masterfully in the previous meeting. I sat on the edge of my seat watching the gold medal game in men’s hockey between the US and Canada. For about the first 10 minutes, I was impressed at how hard both sides were playing.

My heart started to sink just a little as the Americans trailed 0-1 halfway through the first period.

Trailing 2-1 late in the 3rd period, the American team pulled their goalie leaving the empty net. Skating 6 on 5 and running out of time, they tied the game at 2, with 24.4 seconds left. I jumped in excitement, feeling gold was once again possible.

It was for not as Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal for the Canadians. The same Sidney Crosby I cheered endlessly for not that long ago as a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins in their chase of the Stanley Cup.

Friendships are a bond for life just as our competitive sides remain inside us. Look at Lindsey Vonn and Maria Riesch, great friends and in the games competitive to the end. Respect is earned, won and paid. The “Night Train” went on to win gold in the men’s four-man bobsled. This was to be Steve Holcomb’s final chance to topple Andre Lange of Germany. Enemies in their sleds, Holcomb’s times proved winning of not only gold but also respect from the man he has chased for years. Each celebrated on the podium with great smiles towards each other.

As a fan of hockey and sports in general, something we can each take away from the games is a fierce competitive nature in all we do while recognizing our competitors as friends and neighbors. We as Americans, have a responsibility to reach out to one another, across the aisle and extend our hands to others in the world.
Nationalism, ignorance, racism…they all come to a fine, definitive point in my associate Pot Roast. A few moments ago, one Mr. Roast stood in my room and chastised the British comedian Russel Brand for his duties hosting the MTV Video Music Awards a couple years ago. While I’m not one of Brand’s biggest fans, I can appreciate his style of satire and manufactured contrivance. He reminds me of one of his fellow countrymen, Sacha Baron Cohen, in that they both rely on an alter ego and a basic understanding of method acting from their audience. They commit to an outlandish ego as a form of social commentary, which serves vehicle for their humor. Now, back to Pot Roast.

Pot Roast is the embodiment of everything I find wrong with Americans today. He is committed to a single, unalienable worldview: that America is the greatest country on the face of this earth: from this feverish commitment stems a significant disdain for any attempt to criticize America in any way, shape, or form.

This blind nationalism, combined with questionable values in the moral realm, makes for a special breed of hypocrite. I recently heard of a scheme of his to receive free admittance to Disneyland by “volunteering” at a homeless shelter; this "volunteering" consisted of showing up at a homeless shelter past operating hours as to avoid the “bums.”

But I digress. His statement about Brand, which still rings in my ears, is as follows:
“No British guy comes into America and insults Americans on an American awards show in front of an American audience.”

First and foremost, this statement is utterly negated because Mr. Brand did in fact come to America and “insult” Americans on an American TV show. I could feel roast dripping with genuine indignation as he spoke, as if Brand moseyed on stage and set fire to an American flag while reading excerpts from the Communist Manifesto.

I believe there is a difference between humorous discourse and vehement opposition. Sadly, some refuse to distinguish between the two and make hateful diatribe out of stand up comedy. Some Americans insist on interpreting the world with a chip on their shoulder and a vigorous opposition to satire that stings a little bit.

Humor, especially in this era, is essential to our sanity.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Facebook, Church and 83

by Sarah

Yesterday I sat in a pew at North Valley Friends Church, and my pastor begin his sermon by talking about Facebook. He talked about how you can have different causes, be connected to so many different people, and even have fan pages! How often do you hear about social networks in sermons?

After church I went to Jerry's 83rd birthday party. His wife, Connie, was talking to me about (can you guess?) Facebook! She said she read this person's status and saw that note. Actually she had managed to get quite a bit of information on the people in her life.

The message of my pastor's sermon was about community, and how today in our post-modern world, our deepest longing is for community. So deep is that desire that any new idea that has even a resemblance of community is jumped on and immediately has a group of followers. Facebook is one of the largest social networks of today, with thousands and thousands of users. So what's the draw?

People are in search of community. Even though you may never see some of your Facebook friends in real life, they are still friends and there is some sort of connection there. You can be accepted no matter what your race, age, sexual orientation, beliefs, location, etc...All are welcome. And if you happen to find someone who disagrees with you, there are a hundred more to choose from.

My pastor talked about the need for Churches to be those communities that our world is searching for. He spoke of being the body of Christ and what it means to love one another. Then he challenged us to be a community that is welcoming, loving, and Christlike.

Where are you communities? How are you loving the people in them?

Immigration Myths

Many people get upset at undocumented immigrants because they supposedly mooch off of tax money that should rightfully go to the rest of us. The truth is, undocumented immigrants often own their own houses or rent their own apartments, and so they end up paying a lot in property taxes. Additionally, those who work under false identities, with false social security numbers, are paying a lot of money for unemployment benefits that they will never be able to collect. So in reality, they are subsidizing the system, not stealing from it. So why do we get so worked up about illegal immigrants? Often it is because we are afraid that they are stealing our jobs. However, in an economy like the one we've got right now, it is the most vulnerable who suffer, and right now, undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable. They are the ones losing their jobs, and are getting cheated by employers who take advantage of their undocumented status. We are also ignoring the fact that we are the ones who put them out of jobs in the first place. We created thousands of unemployed Mexican farmers by flooding Mexican markets with cheap US corn. We subsidize our exported corn so much that there is no way Mexican farmers can compete. So, since there is no point in growing crops at home, they come across the border and help us harvest our crops here. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Yet we make it nearly impossible for them to come legally, and when they attempt to come illegally, we build big walls which force them to go through the often lethal desert in order to get around. The border between the US and Mexico has claimed thousands of lives. All because of greed and fear.