Monday, October 25, 2010
"That Most Unusual Predicament", written November 10th, 2008.
It was his eyes—yes, it had to be. They drew me in. They captured me. They hurt me.
Have you ever noticed that our measurement of love is entirely in the loss? We sit and try to quantify this silly self-imposed emotion and it comes down to an equation of arithmetic: how long we spend together plus the good times and multiplied by the bad ones. We next factor in the special moments and begin to minimize the mundane ones. And from there, we take this number and put it up against every other fiasco we've endured with another lover, and try to compare, as if we can.
And we travel on, disillusioned, barreling effortlessly towards the exchange of the three most unoriginal words ever composed--"I love you". Have you ever realized how pathetic those words are? It's as if we've reduced ourselves to mindless boars on the hunt, and instead of searching for substance to secure our survival, we battle over the most banal, meaningless, forgetful, overused words ever to come across any human language.
But how arresting those words can be. How they can make your heart leap out of your chest. When they tickle your ears, it's like a warm sensation surrounding your body and silently cascading down your skin. Time will stop every time you hear them; and time will shatter when the words come no more. These three basic words have the power to heal, the power to embolden and even the power to destroy. There is no other feeling like it in the world.
And so I fell. Not a mere stumble but a direct and boundless dive into what I thought would be the most magnificent moment of my life. It was as if I were dancing and paid no attention to anyone else in the room. It was as if I were watching the sunrise and embraced the rays of light as they showered upon my face. I walked as if every destination was going to be next greatest encounter with the unexpected. My own smile radiated in a way that was harmfully contagious. When I woke up he was the first thing I thought of; when I went to bed I couldn't fall asleep dare I live a moment without him.
I don't remember him that well. But I remember the pain. I lied in bed for almost three days. The tears somehow felt soothing. I would find myself slamming the radio off for every song somehow brought me back to him. I disappeared from my friends. I watched three straight seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. It was not that he completed me; it was that life knew no reason outside of him. I’d often have to pull the car over for I was fighting a losing battle between driving and crying. I was an abysmal, pathetic mess, utterly lost in this most unusual predicament called love.
He taught me how to slow-dance. He took me out to dinner. We would lie around for hours talking, staring into each other's eyes. We would walk through the park singing, holding hands. When we would gather with friends the energy would spread rampantly throughout the room. When it was just the two of us, I could feel the Earth slowing down just to give us a few extra minutes before the sun would set.
And yet today all I long for is the pain. I have to pause to think of his last name. I have no idea what he is even doing anymore. But yet that damned pain remains. After all these years the indelible agony still lingers over me reminding me of what I once had—not necessarily what I had shared with him, but what I had allowed myself to experience.
Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I still lived today so free from inhibitions. I am so far removed from loving another that when I say goodbye to someone, it’s almost as if they were never there in the first place. I live with no concern but for my own. And yet sorrow over an ordinary love affair clings to me stronger than almost any other memory in my vast repertoire of experiences.
His eyes. Oh, it was his eyes for certain. I yearn for the time when eyes alone could love me, mold me, complete me…and destroy me. I yearn for just one more time when I would allow myself that most unusual predicament called love. Just one more time.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Anyway, this is kind of a sad song. Have you ever desperately wondered how someone you once loved is doing, but at the same time you knew you couldn't bring them back into your life? That's what this song is about. I hope you enjoy.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Either way, I am bigger than this. I am stronger than this. And I am beautiful...in every single way.
Monday, July 12, 2010
In a blink of an eye that falcon vanished, and in its place was a massive white hole in the sky, blending in with the rest of the blotches that went on as far as my eyes could see. The thought hadn't crossed my mind that instead of celestial beings dancing in the sky, what I really saw were thousands of droplets of water culminating together in one suspended aggregation. What to my perspective was a wild story unveiling was to another person's perspective mere, forgettable science.
People can look at a cloud and see a rooster, an elephant or the simple process of water vapor congregating in the sky. But it's those differences in perspectives that builds us, helps us, unites us...or destroys us.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
One time growing up my parents took me to this church back in the DC area; I think it was called Emmanuel Church or something. Anyway, it was a sermon very similar to the stuff in this video, and I remember the preacher ended by saying, "I won't end this service until someone writes me a $2,000 check."
Needless to say, seconds later someone walked down and wrote him a $2,000 check.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
(Originally written on November 6th, 2008 after Proposition 8 passed in California)
This is a contract between Gay America and Christian America.
Since I am gay and thus a second-class American citizen, I have a proposal. After watching the "love of Christ" in California with the hateful, anti-family, anti-American, bigoted, fear-mongering, deceptive and downright evil Proposition 8, I'll give in--fine. You win. I am just fine being a second-class citizen. I will never ask to be viewed as "equal" in the eyes of the states. I will never fight for my right to marry, or to adopt children, or to serve in the military. I will make my life completely separate from yours.
But I want you to stop living off of the fruits of my labor.
Since you value-voting Christians tell me that I am dirty heathen undeserving of the right to a happy marriage and children of my own, I'm going to stop paying for your schools. I'll do the math and figure out how much Franklin County gives to our schools here, and I'll be deducting that from my taxes. Since roughly 30 million Americans are gay, I doubt the schools will notice the few billion dollars they lose.
Now I work in a restaurant, so if you happen to be in my station, let's work something out from here--don't tip me, because you won't be getting service from me. I will not answer questions about the menu. I will not greet your table. You can get your own drinks. The computer system is pretty easy to navigate, so once you're ready to order just walk up and start punching the items in. (Don't make a mistake, though! You'll have to pay for that if you do.) And there are a few soda machines throughout the restaurant, so you should be fine topping off your own Diet Coke.
When your son knocks on my door and asks me to donate for new uniforms for the basketball team, I hope you'll be prepared to watch the door slam in his face. And when your little Girl Scout tries to sell me cookies, imagine her running back to you crying saying, "He said he won't buy cookies because you hate him!"
Oh, you best believe I won't be buying from them.
Also, as part of this contract, you'll never be able to see a Broadway Show again. Sorry. The symphony is out the window, too. You cannot go to The Ballet, you cannot see Cats for your anniversary again, and you will never be able to even play the Wicked CD in your car. Never. Because, I hope you know, these joys that you delight in are the fruit of gay Americans, and since you do not want to believe those kind of dirty people exist, we'll work it out for you. I'll round us all up and put us on an Island.
We'll call in Manhattan.
You cannot read David Sedaris, Anne Rice, Gregory McGuire, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Christopher Rice, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde or Walt Whitman. You cannot listen to Tchaikovsky, N'Sync, Clay Aiken, The Village People, Luther Vandross, Melissa Etheridge, or Jean Baptiste Lully. And I'm sure Cher and Madonna will make it so you can't listen to their music, either.
Also, do you remember the fundamental Keynes Economic Theory? A major foundation of the American economy? You'll have to give that back, too, since he was a big old fag.
You cannot watch Will and Grace, The Simpsons, Ugly Betty, South Park, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Sordid Lives, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Brothers & Sisters, Six Feet Under, Ellen, Dawson's Creek or The View. In fact, you might as well turn off your television and never watch it again, since the gays pretty much run the media too.
And your children can never read Harry Potter, since Dumbledore is gay too.
When you buy your new big house in the suburbs and you're looking for the best interior designers, your quest is going to be awfully long. When you're sick and the Doctor tells you, "so sorry, not you,", it's going to be a painful extra few hours sitting in the waiting room. And if war ever comes to this country, I hope you know, and that your children know, that I will do nothing to help you. I won't sign up to serve and protect you. I won't even shed a tear.
You win. We will leave you alone. Gay America will disappear. This is what you wanted.
Or is it?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Now, technically, I did visit Minnesota last March. But does an adventure to the coldest, most winter-abused state in the country really count as a "Spring Break"?
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I rarely, however, imagine a city as resilient. But SEED Magazine, a science magazine, wants you to imagine cities as resilient, and they point to the triumph of all American cities as the catalyst for this movement--New Orleans.
Four-and-a-half years ago, Hurricane Katrina plowed into the coast of Louisiana, pummeling New Orleans for eight hours straight with high-speed winds and storm surges reaching 15 feet. Swollen beyond capacity, Lake Pontchartrain spilled into the northern part of the city, and the federal flood protection system, built to protect NOLA from a repeat of Hurricane Andrew, failed in more than 50 places. One day later, nearly every levee in the metro district had been breached, leaving 80 percent of the city underwater.
In the aftermath, Americans watched in disbelief as thousands of newly homeless poured into the Superdome for shelter and TV cameras captured those left behind clinging to rooftops, wading through the streets, and looting empty storefronts. Scenes of destruction, desperation, and poverty, made only more poignant by the overwhelming evidence of official negligence. New Orleanians themselves, as the New York Times put it, were left “terrified, stunned, gasping, speechless.”
But to some scientists, what happened in New Orleans, while devastating, wasn’t very surprising or unexpected. They see a system that was insufficiently robust to handle the blow it was dealt. They see a highly ordered, complex state—commercial districts and neighborhoods, social networks and infrastructure networks, cycles of water, energy, and food consumption—reduced to a state of chaos and disorder. From this perspective, the problem wasn’t merely an incompetent leadership and not enough FEMA trailers. It was a fundamental question of resilience.
Resilience theory, first introduced by Canadian ecologist C.S. “Buzz” Holling in 1973, begins with two radical premises. The first is that humans and nature are strongly coupled and co-evolving, and should therefore be conceived of as one “social-ecological” system. The second is that the long-held assumption that systems respond to change in a linear, predictable fashion is simply wrong. According to resilience thinking, systems are in constant flux; they are highly unpredictable and self-organizing, with feedbacks across time and space. In the jargon of theorists, they are complex adaptive systems, exhibiting the hallmarks of complexity.
A key feature of complex adaptive systems is that they can settle into a number of different equilibria. A lake, for example, will stabilize in either an oxygen-rich, clear state or algae-dominated, murky one. A financial market can float on a housing bubble or settle into a basin of recession. Historically, we’ve tended to view the transition between such states as gradual. But there is increasing evidence that systems often don’t respond to change that way: The clear lake seems hardly affected by fertilizer runoff until a critical threshold is passed, at which point the water abruptly goes turbid.
Resilience science focuses on these sorts of tipping points. It looks at gradual stresses, such as climate change, as well as chance events—things like storms, fires, even stock market crashes—that can tip a system into another equilibrium state from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to recover. How much shock can a system absorb before it transforms into something fundamentally different? That, in a nutshell, is the essence of resilience.
The concept of resilience upends old ideas about “sustainability”: Instead of embracing stasis, resilience emphasizes volatility, flexibility, and de-centralization. Change, from a resilience perspective, has the potential to create opportunity for development, novelty, and innovation. As Holling himself once put it, there is “no sacred balance” in nature. “That is a very dangerous idea.”
Over the past decade, resilience science has expanded beyond the founding group of ecologists to include economists, political scientists, mathematicians, social scientists, and archaeologists. And they have made remarkable progress in studying how habitats—including coral reefs, lakes, wetlands, forests, and irrigation systems, among others—absorb disturbance while continuing to function.
New Orleans, however, presents an interesting example to resilience scientists. If a lake can shift from clear to murky, could a city shift to a dramatically different stable state too? If biodiversity in ecosystems makes them resilient to disturbance, could diversity in urban systems serve a similar purpose? “Cities aren’t dominated by nature to the same extent as things like lakes and wetlands and coral reefs,” says Australian ecologist Brian Walker, “But we wondered, could we look at them in the same way?”
Urban Planning is a process. Always. Thus, a systematic approach is necessary, though frequently emotions and bias are interjected into the practice. It's a joy to read an article that approaches the topic systematically yet still objectively, from a scientific viewpoint. It's interesting that both scientists and planners can actually have a lot of common goals and ideas.
New Orleans truly has come far in the past few years, and perhaps these scientists are onto something about its resiliency. Truthfully, however, it is one of the American cities I am very unfamiliar with, since I have only been there one time. Maybe I'll make a visit and check out how resilient the city has in fact become.
This is the real situation: infrastructure is the catalyst and sustainer of economic activity. Trade cannot occur where roads do not exist. Jobs cannot be held if electricity and running water are not deliverable. These are simple facts, and yet the US Government has repeatedly cut funding from servicing its infrastructure. From memory I believe the investment of US funds into infrastructure in the 1960s was around 9%. (Unfortunately I do not have the textbook to cite the actual number). Today, it's around 3%. This sharp decline in spending can be seen across the country: the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, the failing of the levees in New Orleans, the dilapidated sewer system in Saint Louis, the crumbling bridges in New York and Idaho...it is clear that this country is sending a message, and that message is that they don't care about sustaining its infrastructure.
A good parallel of this is the great city of Rome. In its prime during the Roman Empire it was considered the New York City of today. It was the cultural destination of the world, and it had the finest infrastructure the world had ever seen. The mighty Colosseum had been erected, the great system of aqueducts served the citizens, the roads were intricately planned...yet at one point, the city began to move its focus from these kind of improvements, and look at what happened to it.
In tough economic times, the easy thing to do is push aside infrastructure investments. First off, their value is often not realized, since a bridge or sewer system is rarely looked at as providing tangible utility. (Which itself is an egregious problem, but I won't go there). But we can't have this mentality. When it comes to infrastructure, we can't have a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, because it will break. And when it does, there will be hell to pay.
Imagine the northeast corridor without power for three weeks. Imagine an entire metropolitan area without access to clean drinking water because the sewage system failed. Consider a bridge that serves 100,000 people a day, such as the Tappan Zee, collapsing and cutting an artery into the largest city in our country. These are the real, entirely viable issues that our politicians are sweeping under the carpet.
Fortunately, not all of our friends in the Government are ignoring the issue. The Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, is featured in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times titled, "What's Wrong With Us?", and it questions how long we can continue on as a nation without reinvesting in our infrastructure system. It's nice to know that at least one of them gets it.
Gov. Ed Rendell likes to tell a story that goes back to his days as mayor of Philadelphia.
As he recalled, the city had a long cold snap with about a month and a half of below-freezing temperatures. Then, abruptly, the mercury rose into the 60s, he said, “and 58 of our water mains broke, causing all sorts of havoc.”
The pipes were old. Some were ancient. “My water people told me that some had been laid in the 19th century,” said Mr. Rendell, “and they were laid shallow, without much protection. So with any radical changes in temperature, they were susceptible to breaking. We had a real emergency on our hands.”
Infrastructure, that least sexy of issues, is not just a significant interest of Ed Rendell’s; it’s more like a consuming passion. He can talk about it energetically and enthusiastically for hours and days at a time. He has tried to stop the hemorrhaging of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, and he travels the country explaining how crucially important it is for the United States to rebuild a national infrastructure landscape that has deteriorated so badly that it is threatening the nation’s economic viability.
Two years ago, a bridge inspector who had stopped for lunch in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood happened to glance up at a viaduct that carries Interstate 95 over the neighborhood. He noticed a 6-foot crack in a 15-foot column that was supporting the highway. His sandwich was quickly forgotten. Two miles of the highway had to be closed for three days for emergency repairs to prevent a catastrophe from occurring.
These kinds of problems are not peculiar to Pennsylvania. New Orleans was lost for want of an adequate system of levees and floodwalls. Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, tells us that 75 percent of America’s public schools have structural deficiencies. The nation’s ports, inland waterways, drinking water and wastewater systems — you name it — are hurting to one degree or another.
Ignoring these problems imperils public safety, diminishes our economic competitiveness, is penny-wise and pound-foolish, and results in tremendous missed opportunities to create new jobs on a vast scale.
Competitors are leaving us behind when it comes to infrastructure investment. China is building a network of 42 high-speed rail lines, while the U.S. has yet to build its first. Other nations are well ahead of us in the deployment of broadband service and green energy technology. We spend scandalous amounts of time sitting in traffic jams or enduring the endless horrors of airline travel. Low-cost, high-speed Internet access is a science-fiction fantasy in many parts of the United States.
The article goes into depth about troubles just his state is facing, much less the rest of the country. But his point is on target--while the rest of the world eclipses this country by constructing massive high-speed rail systems, efficient public transportation systems, renwable green energy and metropolitans with sustainability as a goal...we are just left in the dust. And if we don't do anything about it, we will remain behind, never with the chance to catch up.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
So when I watch reality TV shows, although I'm enjoying what's going on, I'm reviewing the business behind them, such as the product placement, the contracts with corporate sponsors and of course, the contracts with the contestants. I'm curious to how they live their lives between the time they're kicked off and the time their final episode airs. Do they live in seclusion so they don't let the cat out of the bag? Or do they remain working with the show, although not actually on it? In a world of Facebook and Twitter, how easy it would be for a contestant to slip-up and let the winner be known, and subsequently, owe the producers millions-upon-millions.
A very non-thorough search of Google yielded me this article which goes over the contracts and liabilities of Reality TV shows. It's a cool Contracts Blog by Contracts Law Professors. The article is from 2005, but still, it seems to raise some serious questions.
Like most (all?) "reality" TV shows, the Apprentice TV show imposes a contractual gag order on participants covering every aspect of the participant's experience. The contract couples that covenant with a liquidated damages clause requiring participant-breachers to pay $5 million plus attorneys' fees and disgorge their profits.
In 2001, a similar clause was invoked in a Survivor dispute (Survivor and Apprentice are both produced by Mark Burnett). Then, last week, this clause was invoked again agaist two Apprentice participants (Markus and Jennifer W.) due to their public claims that the show's editing is misleading and that The Donald is sexist.
I've always found the gag order + liquidated damages clause in these reality TV show agreements problematic for three reasons:
1) The $5M liquidated damages should be prima facie unenforceable because it does not vary with the type of breach. There's a wide range of public disclosures that might occur, some significant (blowing the entire season by preannouncing the winner) and some trivial (such as a snarky comment about Trump's choice of ties). A one-size-fits-all liquidated damages clause does not appear to represent a reasonable estimate of the damages in these different contexts.
Even if the clause is not a penalty, I wonder if it violates public policy. There's no question that the agreement could protect the producers' trade secrets, but the clauses often go far beyond that, limiting participants' abilities to discuss their experiences, criticize the show or even enforce their legal rights. At some point, extensive gag orders violate public policy. See, e.g., People v. Network Associates, Inc., 195 Misc. 2d 384 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan 6, 2003) (enjoining the use of a clause prohibiting product reviews and product comparisons of anti-virus software).
2) Liquidating the damages has the perhaps-unintended consequence of capping the TV show producer's damages. If a participant disclosure really blew the entire season, would $5M be enough?
3) I believe that liquidating damages significantly reduces the likelihood of getting injunctive relief. (After all, it's hard to argue that damages are insufficient if the parties have agreed upon damages in the contract). So, if the TV show producers ever tried to stop publication of unwanted disclosures, I wonder if the liquidated damages clause would sink any chance of equitable relief.
For these reasons, I would think the TV show producers (and their lawyers) would know better than to include such a high-risk clause in their contracts. On the other hand, despite its legal shakiness (and its even-more-dubious prospects for producing judgments that could be collected), the clause nevertheless may be effective at deterring unwanted behavior. After all, what participant wants to test the clause at the peril of being wrong and on the hook for $5M?
Recently American Idol contestant Michael Lynche was booted from the Top 24 because his father broke loose the news he had made it to the Top 24. Can you imagine family dinners after your father ruined your one shot at stardom? AWKWARD...
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
"Well, I guess so. What else can I do?" I said.
"Isn't there anything you have?"
And then it hit me. There was something. A year prior I had stumbled across a deformed and undesirable Halloween costume at a thrift store. I was with my friend Daniel when we saw what was clearly a "naughty nurse" for the 6th grade schoolgirl with no friends. It was made of the cheapest pleather money could buy and fashioned with pink stitching featuring skulls scattered across it. There was an embroidered saying on the left side of the dress, 'Poison', with a girly skull and cross-bones stabbing through it. I'm sure every Avril Lavigne fan had their own personal seamstress to make it fit perfectly on them.
"Daniel, it's only $2!" I screeched.
"Oh, it's so ugly. If you don't buy it, I will."
And so I bought it. It then hung on a hanger in a dark closet for well over a year without me giving it the slightest thought. Until that moment. I looked at Jenny and said, "You know what, I do have something. It will be perfect."
Fishnets, high-heels, fake lashes, a pound of make-up and a neon pink wig later, I was ready to make my appearance at the Halloween party as a Hooker from the Moulin Rouge.
One's reaction to this heinous Halloween eyesore could only be described as spiking Hawaiian Punch with a pint of paprika. Every face was either shock, awe, horror or complete admiration--not because the costume was impressive, but because the audacity to be seen in public like that certainly deserved a pat on the back.
I headed straight for the bar, and kept my glass full all night. And like any night that involves a heavy amount of drinking, the party was a blast. But this story isn't about the party, nor the costume. It's about the morning after. And the moments in-between.
Face-down on the floor, I woke up in the middle of a completely vacant apartment. The sensation of crusted marinara on my fingertips immediately brought memories from a late-night trip to a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, and the surrounding crumples of bean burrito bags was the further proof. (Fortunately Halloween is the only night a man can walk into a Taco Bell in a pleather dress and pink wig and not get looks from the patrons, otherwise this story would be about being a victim of a hatecrime.)
I managed to open my painfully drunken eyes to realize I was in my friend Greg's apartment. I had recently helped him move out and managed to still have the key, so during the night it appeared that breaking into his old apartment and staying on the empty floor was a grand idea. Naturally.
Before crashing on his carpet, I managed to finagle my way out of the dress and ball it up with the pink wig to use it as a pillow. Subsequently during the night the pleather caused my face to sweat and the make-up to bleed down my face, and if I hadn't looked like a Hooker the night before, I certainly looked like one now.
As I went to pick myself up, the pain of a cruel hangover shot throughout my body. It took me ten minutes to gather the strength--and the balance--to make it to my feet. And once I was up, the most nerve-wrenching thought hit me with the intense reality: I had to walk home like this.
My hair was in shambles. The fishnets were torn up and down my legs. I had streams of mascara and eyeliner running down my face. One of the heels was broken. And in my bloated condition, there was no way I could fit back into that damned pleather dress. As if there was some cruel trickster trying to make this predicament as humiliating as possible, remember that I woke up in a place where my friend had just moved out of. There wasn't as much as a can of tuna in that place, much less a jacket or a pair of jeans just lying around.
Except one thing. One hideous, miserable, terrifically embarrassing thing. In my friend's closet hung a bright fluorescent green robe with the texture of a towl and imprinted margaritas adorned all over it. Given to him as a gag gift, it was the one and only thing remaining in that apartment unit.
And so I began my quest. Without touching my hair, washing the marinara off my hands or attempting to fix the bleeding mascara, I swung the robe around me, put on my broken heels and started trudging through the utter humiliation to make it back home, all the while dragging the pink wig and pleather dress along with me. Cars slowed to catch a glimpse of me, and even a few honked their horns. While I could have hid my face or tried to run away, I lifted my chin high and took pride in this moment of surreal liberation. Because, on the morning after Halloween, I wasn't alone. Down the sidewalk, off in the distance, walked someone in just an equally embarrassing situation.
Thank you, humility.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Water management is the systematic approach to collecting, managing and disposing of stormwater in an efficient, timely manner that is sustainable into the future. (Or, at least that's my definition of it). We have our civil engineers to deeply offer our gratitude to for designing streets and sewer systems that effectively collect and dispose of the water in such an effortless way that it doesn't even cross our minds. We gripe about all of this snow, but imagine what it was like 100 years ago! The mud and sludge remained for months at a time. It took the planners, engineers and architects to coordinate a comprehensive plan in order to effectively tackle the elements. My hats off to them.
All of that say, a fantastic piece from urban re:vision magazine shows the variety of water uses and stormwater management practices. It features highlights of Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Orange County to specifically how they are planning to keep up with the increase in water demand.
The full article is much grander in scope, and it really reminds us how we often take simple things like clean air and access to clean water for granted. It's incredibly myopic, and incredibly typical, of us in the west to complain about the most ridiculous things such as cold coffee or a line for the ATM. We frequently forget that 2 billion people on this planet do not have access to clean drinking water, nor do they ever even have the hope for an education or for a better future. We should all remember that next time we open our mouths and begin to complain.
In Portland, Oregon, rows of sedge plantings and aspen trees sit on what used to be an asphalt parking lot. In Las Vegas, homeowners trade their lawns for vast wads of cash. Birds flying over Chicago see fields of sedum on rooftops, and wastewater in Orange County is transformed into water that’s as clean as what comes out of the tap. The common thread to all of these examples? A desire to better manage water.
A new report released last fall by consulting firm McKinsey & Company declares that by 2030, the world’s water demands will have increased by 40%. Add to that the fact of rising seas, droughts, and shrinking water sheds, and cities across the country are starting to respond with some particularly innovative solutions tailor-made to their varied water needs.
Other cities are taking their green above street level. Chicago is perhaps the recognized leader in this area, with a green roof grant initiative program since 2005 of up to $5,000, a city hall topped with crabapple trees and honeysuckle vines included among its 20,000 plants, and more than 600 green roofs totaling 7 million square feet throughout the city. Seattle, Portland, Toronto, and New York are all ramping up their own green roof programs, offering tax incentives, code requirements, and building allowances through their various cities. At the same time, tree planting has become another popular move towards soaking up rainwater naturally—as well as beautifying streets. New York City recently launched MillionTreesNYC , an initiative that plans to put a million trees throughout the city’s five boroughs over the next decade, and Portland gives “treebates” and free trees through their city program , hoping to line streets with the waving branches of native alder, fir, maple, and madrone.
As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” It would be disastrous if we let ourselves get to that point. Perhaps if we follow these cities’ leads and look to the future, we will understand the value of water before it’s both literally and proverbially too late.
"Baby, let's make a really ugly baby together. Or we could just eat this one." ~ Cake Wrecks
What's up with the dolls this week? Hoarders featured a freak who couldn't throw away his daughter's doll, RuPaul's Drag Race made the drag queens design a RuPaul Doll...and now this!
(Via After Elton)
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
And here we get a story of not only covering up the sexual abuse, but actually going as far to give it a new euphemism--"intimate, fatherly behavior".
Last week, around 20 former students claimed they had been sexually abused by two teachers at the school, Wolfgang S. and Peter R. The abuse is believed to have been committed during the 1970s and 1980s.
'Nothing To Apologize For'
After being contacted by SPIEGEL, one of the former teachers admitted he had abused some of his students. Wolfgang S., a former sports teacher and Jesuit priest, issued a statement to his victims stating it was "a sad fact that I abused children and young men under pseudo-educational pretexts." The churchman, who today lives in South America, said that he had informed regional Catholic authorities in Germany in 1991 of his "criminal past." He claims the Jesuit priests had known for 19 years about the multiple incidents of abuse.
Stefan Dartmann, the Catholic Provincial Superior for Germany, confirmed to SPIEGEL that the order has knowledge of the crimes that had been committed by Wolfgang S. at the time. Dartmann said a lawyer had been hired to investigate the files "to determine what, exactly, the Jesuits knew at the time and what consequences they drew." Wolfgang S. left the order in 1992. Previously, he is also believed to have abused pupils at other schools, but he refused to comment on those allegations.
In addition to his time at the Berlin school, he worked at the Sankt-Ansgar School in Hamburg and at the Sankt-Blasien school in the southern Black Forest region from 1982 to 1984.
'Intimate, Fatherly Behavior'
The then-director of the school, Father Hans Joachim Martin, said that S.'s "intimate, fatherly behavior" towards some schoolchildren had attracted his attention. S. was later forced to leave the high school.
S. also claimed he had told the Vatican about his misconduct. In his statement, he says that he had provided testimony to the Vatican with "unvarnished honesty." And in South America, he had "again and again come into close contact with the torturers and victims" of the Pinochet dictatorship. "I was confronted with my mirror image as a tormenter of children," he said.
Several victims expressed their outrage over the tone of his statement. In the document, dated Jan. 20, S. addressed "all the people who I abused as children and in their youth." He added, "I'm sorry for what I did to you. And if you are capable, I ask you to forgive me." But he also told SPIEGEL: "I have come clean about my past to God and the world."
The second man alleged to have abused children at the school is a 69-year-old former religion teacher from Berlin, Peter R., who has disputed all allegations. SPIEGEL could not reach R. for comment by press time on Friday or on subsequent attempts on Monday. After his time at the school in Berlin, R. apparently worked as a pastor with young people in the state of Lower Saxony. He was reportedly the victim of a knife attack by a former Canisius College student several years ago.
Another chronic story of sexual abuse in the church, another generation of children who grew into adulthood with continual fear, humiliation and self-loathing. And when a story like this comes to light--20 years of acknowledged abuse--the response from the church is to give it a casual re-wording, as if it were only a misguided form of affection, not conscionable molestation. Shame on you, Catholic Church.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Amid great fanfare, the Obama administration last week announced plans to spend $13 billion in “seed money” for 13 high-speed rail projects around the country — $8 billion in stimulus funding now with a promise to seek $5 billion more over the next five years.
Among the projects being funded is the St. Louis-to-Chicago route, which will receive $1.1 billion. A relative pittance of $31 million went to Missouri to upgrade service between St. Louis and Kansas City.
With apologies to futurists, people in the construction industry and rail buffs, investing $13 billion (or even $8 billion) in passenger railroads is a little like building a bridge to the 19th century. It’s not enough money to make trains fast enough, attractive enough and affordable enough to attract sufficient passengers to operate without massive government subsidies.
This view puts us in company with the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and others whose views we don’t usually share. And perhaps we’re being short-sighted: It could be that 50 years from now, America will be glad it invested in high-speed rail.
But right now, there are far better, fairer and faster ways to stimulate the economy than spending $8 billion on the relatively affluent 1 percent of Americans who ride trains. Public transit immediately comes to mind. Missouri got $31 million to upgrade St. Louis-to-Kansas City service that served 150,000 passengers last year. The state also subsidizes those twice-daily trains with $5 million a year.
Meanwhile, the Metro transit service in St. Louis — which carried 353 times more passengers than the state’s two Amtrak trains last year — gets zero in state tax subsidies, though the Legislature last year appropriated $12 million in federal stimulus money to temporarily offset crippling transit cuts.
The $1.1 billion that Illinois received for the Chicago-to-St. Louis trains is enough to pay for about a fourth of what it would take to upgrade the service to handle 90-mile-an-hour trains along its entire route. The 110-mile train might cut the scheduled 5-hour, 40-minute travel time between the two cities by less than an hour.
While I am a major supporter of bringing transportation to this country, it does appear that helping out local cities and states is more important than helping the 1% of Americans who currently utilize rail for their travel needs.
Having spent the majority of my life in the Washington-DC area, I'm quite familiar with what it's like to have an efficient public transportation mode at your doorstop. While people certainly have their complaints with the METRO, it still stands as one of the cleanest, youngest, most efficient system in the country. The above image is a shrunken image of an interactive map that compares the five largest systems in the country. In order, they are:
- New York City (NYCT)
- Chicago (CTA)
- Washington DC (WMATA)
- San Francisco (BART)
- Boston (MBTA)
Report after report shows the dire need our country is in for more transportation options. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report last year giving our country's infrastructure a D average. Even with Obama's Reinvestment Act, there is still so much more this country needs in order to maintain competitive with the rest of the world. While I've never considered myself a fiscal democrat, this is one issue that I couldn't be more left on.
Think of it like this: the basic premise of an economy is the exchange of goods. In order for this exchange process to occur, there must be reliable, efficient networks of transportation. With a government that doesn't maintain its infrastructure, the possibility of this exchange dampens. As the rest of the world eclipses the US with their high-speed rail systems, for example, why would businesses want to continue with our outdated systems? Why focus a business strategy on utilizing rail to ship to Kansas City at an average speed of 33 MPH when goods can be shipped across China at over 100 MPH at a cheaper-per-mile rate?
So it's not just public transportation that needs investment--it's the grand picture of transportation. Fortunately, at least our current administration has a vision of achieving that picture. A vision, however. Not a reality.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
But I loved it.
My legs took me dashing over to my mother, where I yelled to her about how much I loved this dress, and in her infinite paternal wisdom, she decided to buy it. Every time she wore that monstrosity I'd be full of vigor and pride. When I would tell her I loved the dress, she'd never secretly dream of calling the fire department and asking them to burn it. She instead would say to me, "Son, I love it too. You've got good taste."
For years I took that compliment with me. As a young second grader, I remember putting on this combination that made me look like an all-inclusive vegetable plate. I had purple, green, yellow, red...every color imaginable in a single outfit. The kids at school looked at me with every variation of shock, awe and bewilderment. But what did I say to myself? I can wear this, because I have good taste!
My mother, the same one who knew the power of her words with me, had a somewhat similar story. She grew up a singer, one who could never contain her voice because she loved to sing so much. She had a beautiful, genteel tone and sang from a joyous and earnest heart. But one time she was humming a tune at work, and some random bop whose name my mother can't even recall came over to her. This woman said, "Why are you always singing? No one wants to hear that." And then she went on her way.
For three years my mother never sang a song.
Have you ever considered just how powerful your words are? Statements that we make and may immediately forget can stay with a person for days, weeks or in my mother's case...years. Think of how many times in your life someone has said a polite compliment in passing. I can recall time-after-time of people arbitrarily mentioning simple things like, "I wish I had your curly hair", or, "I love reading your writing", and it shapes the decisions I make for months to come! I'll grow out my hair and wear these curls with pride, or I'll go and write five blog posts a day just because I've been told it's worthwhile.
Reversely, how often has somebody with little-to-no influence over your life said a single statement that has made you boldly change your behavior? Someone once told me I didn't look good in collared shirts, and for nearly a year I removed them from my wardrobe. Is it crazy? Yes. It is stupid? Yes. Should we give people that much power over our lives? Of course not. But we do.
Think about it for a moment. Almost every decision you make stems down to the idea that you care about what other people think. From the clothes we wear to the way we decorate our homes, you and I are constantly seeking out approval from every person we come in contact with.
With that thought in your mind, consider for a moment the amount of influence you individually have. While you may not be Barack Obama or Warren Buffet, within your circle of friends or professional network you have people who listen to you and respect you. Why not leverage that for the greater good of these people you care about? Why don't you be the person who says, "Wow, you've got good taste." For the friends you love and hold dear, ask yourself, "When was the last time I told them I loved them? When was the last time I specifically complimented them? When was the last time I made them feel good about themselves?" And then go out to them and do it. Because let me tell you, in a country of recession, war and political strife, everyone could use a little pick me up.
And if done the right way, a simple thing like telling a boy he has good taste will change him and inspire him to believe in himself for years to come.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This may not be too surprising, but Australia is a big country. However, considering the population is just barely over 21 million...it's a really frickin' big country. For comparison, take a look at this graph that compares just population numbers, unadjusted for per-capita country size.
Yeah. Whoa. Big country. I wanna go explore it.
Short answer: they're turning into apartments. Sucks to be one of the pre-buyers who put money down and have been waiting since 2006 to move...
Monday, January 25, 2010
It's a tornado, right?
Wrong. It's steel, wool, cotton, ground parsley and moss. Constructed by Matthew Albanese, a man who is smarter than I could ever imagine myself to be, this is a meticulously-woven image of a real life event, except on a infinitely smaller scale. The artist has plenty more of his masterpieces on his website, Strange Worlds on the Behance Network. His work is certainly worth a marvel. Here's another image, but I'll let you take a guess at what it's actually made of.
I won't lie, I don't eat food from street vendors. But then again, I'm a vegetarian, so what am I going to order? A dry bun?
INTERVIEWER: Why do we outlaw street vendors in Chicago?
PROTESS: One, we have a very powerful restaurant lobby that did a lot to shoot down the smoking ban, if you recall a few years back and put that off for several years. And obviously they don't want the competition on their doorstep. I also think historically it's wrapped up in anti-immigrant sentiment. Historically, people looked down on Italians or Greeks were eating, and it was one thing for them to be eating their strange olive oil and garlic in their house, but it was another thing for them to be eating it right in front of us."
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
These are the 620 steps one must take to reach Bahubali, a colossal 57-foot tall sculpture crafted in the 10th century in Western India. To this day it remains one of the largest freestanding sculptures in the world. From to Britannica Encyclopedia...
Here is a map of where the Bahubali is located in Western India:
After winning a duel with his half-brother for control of the kingdom, Bahubali is believed by the Jains to have realized the transience of temporal affairs and renounced the world. According to legend he then stood immobile, with feet straight ahead and arms at his side, meditating for an entire year in the Yogic position of kayotsarga (“dismissing the body”). He was so unmindful of the world around him that vines grew undisturbed up his arms and legs and anthills rose around his feet. His meditation led him to true victory over human passion and, according to Digambara belief, enabled him to become the first human of this kalpa (world age) to gain liberation.
Several works of sculpture depict Bahubali, including an outstanding 9th-century bronze in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India in Bombay. A colossal 10th-century sculpture stands atop a hill at Shravana Belgola (“White Lake of the Ascetics”), a centre for the Digambara sect in Karnataka state. Cut from a single block of gneiss, the figure stands 17.5 metres (57 feet) high and is one of the largest freestanding images in the world. Every 12 years, in one of the greatest Jain rites, the entire image is ceremonially bathed in curd, milk, and ghee before crowds of nearly a million people
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Imagine the care and effort it would take to assemble a project like this. Consider the planning that would have to precede such an endeavor. How did they create, move and place these 620 individual slabs of stone? How were the people able to bring such an enormous amount of weight to the top of the hill to build such a piece of work? How many hundreds, if not thousands, of people were involved in this process? And all of it was in reverence to what we today would consider a primitive religion.
Yet think of it today--our society does this all the time. People spend thousands on Ebay for a piece of toast because it has the burnt image of Mary. Even here in Ohio we have that gawdy piece of gargantuan kitsch on I-75, lovingly known as "Touchdown Jesus". The people in this country--and all over the world, too--are doing the exact same things they did over a thousand years ago. The only difference is back then they built them to last.
While not a work as grand as the pyramids, the Bahubali is still an excellent example of the early minds of planners and engineers. In some ways we have come so far in a thousand years...and in other ways we haven't even budged.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Scenario one: A man is in a serious car accident is transported to a hospital where he is refused treatment because he cannot afford to pay.The lecture referenced has already passed, but I'm still intrigued to learn more about how we as a society view certain acts.
Scenario two: The day after a man dies his first born son gets a haircut and eats chicken.
Which do you think is a more serious moral transgression?
Gut reaction tells many of us that No. 1 is the obvious choice.
But on Thursday, Shweder will likely take people to the small town of Bhubaneswar in Orissa, India, where he has worked from time-to-time since 1968. It was there that Shweder learned that the first born’s actions in the situation above would be tantamount to throwing his father’s body in the garbage, thus putting the father’s soul in jeopardy.
“I’m going to try and take people into different worlds…worlds where they think that shame is a virtue, worlds in which they are more concerned about pollution and sanctity than about free choice,” Shweder said.
Shweder is a professor of human development and one of the founding fathers of cultural psychology.
“Cultural psychology is the study of the way cultural traditions and social practices regulate, express and transform the human psyche," writes Shweder in his book Thinking Through Cultures.
Through cultural psychology, Shweder challenges the one-size-fits-all path of general psychology. He also said cultural psychology runs counter to a “the West is best” assumption grown out of the Enlightenment.
He said the field has been staging a comeback since the 1980s as globalization has grown and cultures have begun to collide with regularity.
“It’s one thing to simply study differences, but once we come to moral values…the assumption is that you know what’s good for everyone else and he’s questioning this,” Katia Mitova said of Shweder. Mitova is coordinating the cultural center lecture series for The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Yet recently Shweder has run head-first into criticism for his views on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also called female circumcision. In the West, the surgical procedure is often viewed as a human rights violation with serious health risks.
Shweder said he believes the U.S. media have told only one side of the FGM story—an ethnocentric side that demonizes cultures, such as some African cultures, which practice the circumcision as an initiation rite.
“He does not shy away from controversy,” said Bettina Shell-Duncan, a professor of anthropology and global health at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Much of this debate is playing out in TierneyLab, The New York Times science blog by John Tierney, where Shweder has been contributing to a recent online dialogue about FGM. Reader comments are spilling in—at last count there were more than 450 of them— many with the kind of quick-fire repulsion that Shweder warns against. (Go to http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com .)
“We all have very socialized or culturally-informed judgments that we make," said Shweder. "They happen rapidly…they often can be guiding us poorly.” At the heart of cultural psychology, he said, is an attempt to show how morally descent and rational people can make judgments with which you would disagree or even find morally repulsive.
For some in the West, the issue of female circumcision is simple: human rights trump cultural practices.
Shell-Duncan, who said she does not always agree with Shweder, said she believes the debate over female circumcision has been unbalanced in the U.S. “What Rick has done in these blogs is to open up a more nuanced debate,” she said.
George Bush Sr. once declared, "There is no compromise for the American way of life", and it is this way of thinking that has permeated our entire culture. We think our way is the best, and because of this mindset we don't even stop to think about how a different culture would view a certain action. However, this framework of thinking proposed by Shweder really helps put things into perspective. While clearly there is still plenty of reason to debate issues such as female circumcision, it is still worthwhile to approach the topic from every angle in order to best know and understand it.
He guides her up the stairs, lightly holding her hand as she takes each step. She's in her late 80's, hooked to a respirator. The gentleman carries it for her so she can focus all of her energy on making it to the door.
She slowly lifts each foot and trudges just a few inches. While only steps from the entrance, the gentleman reaches out to pull the door wide open for her. Her puts his arm around her and gently leads her into the restaurant. What would take a few second takes her a minute; yet she looks out into the world with the most poignant, devoted eyes.
Without letting go of his lady, he smiles and says to the hostess, “Table for two, preferably somewhere close.” He lets out a wink and a chuckle as he says it. He’s tall with a loud and commanding voice; yet he holds her with the care of the kindest soul.
When they arrive at their table, he lays down her respirator and begins to unbutton her jacket. Her eyes continue to dance around the restaurant, mesmerized by the flickering candles and variety of people. He takes his time to get every button out of its loop. “There’s no need to be hasty,” he explains to the hostess with a smirk.
Once unbuttoned the gentleman begins to slide her arms out of her jacket for her. She has no strength, and is visibly exhausted from making it this far. It is an effort just to move her hands. But she still continues to smile. A contagious smile. A smile that radiates and embraces the attention of everyone in the room.
He tenderly takes off her snow cap and does the same to his own. “Alright, ready to sit down my lady?”, he asks her with a grin. He then takes both of his hands and slowly helps her into her seat. Once she is taken care of, he then begins to think of himself. He quickly unbuttons his jacket and hangs it on a nearby hanger. He walks back, pulls out his seat and plops down into to it to look over the menu. She has yet to say anything at all.
The server walks up to them and welcomes them to the restaurant. "I'll have a Manhattan on the rocks, and the pretty lady over here is going to have a cola." Once the server departs he looks over the menu deciding what would be best for her. "Are you in the mood for fish today?", he asks her. She doesn't respond. Once the server returns, the gentleman says to him, "I think the two of us are ready to order. I'm gonna have the chef's Pasta Louise," pronouncing it 'lou-wheez-ee', "...and my lady is going to have the tilapia," pronouncing it 'til-ah-puh-ta'. The server walks away and suddenly it's just the two of them.
He extends one hand out towards her. She trembles for a moment and begins to lift her fingers and move in closer to him, inch-by-inch. Her entire body shakes as she draws near to him. And once she reaches him, they then sit, staring at one another, hands interlocked across the table, reminiscing of the good old times. The server is around the corner from them and overhears the gentleman say, "My lady, we've been one heck of a couple. You're my pal." He doesn't say, 'I love you' for one simple reason--he doesn't have to.
The server later stops by the table and the gentleman pipes in, "Did you know the two of us have been in Ohio for the past 50 years? We don't look it, do we!" She looks at the server and rocks her head back and forth. "Yup, me and this pretty lady met many, many years ago in Kentucky. We've had one heck of a journey."
When their food comes, before even looking at his own he reaches across the table and begins to cut her 'til-a-puh-ta' for her. He then patiently, effortlessly, wraps his fingers around her hand and guides her fork to her mouth, all the while not giving his own plate the slightest thought. When the server comes back and asks if there is anything he could give them, the gentleman answers, "Well, another 20 years sure would be nice."
They finish their meal and leave in the same way they arrived. The gentleman supports his lady in every way that she is immobile, and he does it all with such exuberant joy. The love the two of them share is so palpable that the entire restaurant is in tears. And as they walk towards the door, each slow step at a time, it becomes clear to those who saw them that every day is a gift, and what a gift it would be to spend a lifetime with a gentleman like him.