Los Angeles is known for its immense amount of idling cars, the bourgeoise, and of course it’s weather. Sunny Southern California may make a name for itself by the pastel colored beach sunsets, or the incandescent neon specks of light that blanket Downtown. And while the original length of its name is debated(LA Time), we can readily assume that a city melted down into two letters is quite an impressive feat. Just two letters, the same letters that make up “the” in French (la in french denotes the feminine the), can be assigned to 3 and a half million plus individuals. I think that the significance of this fact cannot be overstated. Something as foundational in one language can be the hub of population for another.
LA is a name so ubiquitous that it is the American West Coast city. It contains an assortment of races, religions, classes, abilities, talents, and views that show the diversity that America holds so dearly to its ideals. Los Angeles is the place where people who’ve “Made It” go. Movie stars, artists, musicians, academics, and athletes all find their home in the City of Angels. We like to assume that LA is a city that is the home of the unreachable, of the people so successful that we have no chance of ever living in such a place. At least, that is what I thought before living here for the past 5 months.
I find that with every wish granted with a shooting star, another opportunity is taken away from the less fortunate. What I mean is that I live close by to communities where tents and parks become their beds. I live close by to such poverty that a one mile drive away from campus reveals the ramshackle community beyond with their anxiety riddled faces, and a shopping cart to their name. The campus of USC is north of Compton, but only just so, that we see the edges of a world that is just trying to get by.
We can blame the desperation of such communities to White Flight, but that is not what defines them. What defines them is the fact that they’re still holding on. I think that because USC seems so much like a bubble, that I forget that LA is not a collection of maintained red brick buildings. There are things that we forget because we don’t want to remember them. We don’t want to remember poverty, and so we block it out. We don’t want to remember our horrendous past, so we formulate a different history. We want to believe that LA is a city that contains all the great parts of the country, and so we stop talking about the world beyond the glamour. Even if the world beyond is the one thing we need to talk about.
And when people bring up the fact that we have a homeless problem, I would like to correct them by saying that we have a housing problem. We have an inability to take care of our most in need individuals. But I see this as an opportunity to create lasting relationships between community members. The Dalai Lama is quoted saying, “When our focus is on others, on our wish to free them from their misery-this is compassion(The Dalai Lama 38).” We need to be compassionate to the people living within the same limits as ourselves. I am not impervious to looking a different direction when I confront these types of situations. And I feel so guilty for doing such things, because I had the ability to alleviate some misery, but I didn’t. In some cases, I ask to be ignorant because knowing the truth only makes me feel worse. But LA has forced me to confront the truth, not with a slow transition, but with a sharp and painful realization. I have been fortunate. And by some dumb luck, I am in such a position that my basic needs have seemed trivial.
I know that LA is my city. It is a place that I have become accustomed to and grown to enjoy. But for LA to be a city greater than what it is, it must confront the problems of its less fortunate citizens.
Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho, and Nicholas Vreeland. An open heart: practicing compassion in everyday life. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002. Print.
I am an environmentalist. I believe that as long as we are present on this earth, we should treat it with respect and take care of it with our greatest ability. These ideals may be a product of my upbringing in a town where you are able to see the effects of climate change. The glaciers in Juneau, Alaska are rapidly receding, and so I find it crucial that we both recognize and take action to stop such things from happening. And I will say that, regardless of what other people say, I know for a fact that Climate Change is real, and that we have been a part in causing such problems.
I find it a shame though, that I have to state solid facts, because for whatever reason, our current president disregards such fundamental things. If he were born in my place, or if he didn’t have money ties to oil companies, it is possibility that his position would be different. And yet, today we are in situation, where the environment and Native American voices are not taken into account. The fact that the president has advanced the Dakota Access Pipeline, shows how long these next four years will be.
My only hope is for us to leave our country in better a shape than we found it. That we clean-up our messes, and the messes of past generations, but this event has shown that we can disregard everything about the environment and the safety of American citizens. Personally, this has caused an astounding turmoil within me, as I feel that I cannot do much to prevent detrimental actions to the environment. Today, rings reminiscent of all the times the United States has forced its Native American population into a horrible position, where the potential for disasters are so massive that an estimated 17 million people could be at risk of harm (CNN).
And when the oil companies, or the president reassure us that “The pipeline won’t cause harm, or affect the environment” we must remind them of very recent oil disasters. We must point to Exxon Valdez, or the BP Oil Spill to denounce how safe oil procedures are. This is a massive step back for the environment of the United States. It not only will mess up the land surrounding it, but also signal to other oil companies that it is okay to do as they will.
We cannot let our land be bastardized by companies only looking to turn a profit. We cannot let them take advantage of a land that cannot defend itself. We have to be the ones that force these actions to stop, because their concerns are not our concerns.
I am sad that the corruption has wiggled itself into the Oval Office. I am sad that with all the actions taken to prevent the pipeline they can be overturned by a simple signature. And most of all, I am sad that we weren’t strong enough to prevent a man so vile in his actions to be allowed in the White House.
In my Philosophy class today, we discussed something that I had been mulling around in my mind for quite a while. We talked about how a person who doesn’t want to do a certain job/task should be the exact person to do the said job/task. The reason being that the person who wants to do such a job/task will not have the proper skills. It had come from an excerpt of The Republic by Plato, but I also remember reading something to that effect from East of Eden. In East of Eden, the son who wanted to fight wars, was not allowed to, while the father made the son who didn’t want to fight, go into the military. As far as I can remember, the son who went into the military managed to do a good job.
And so, this has got me thinking about other aspects of our lives that this applies to. As a society, we tend to tell teenagers ready to enter adulthood, to “Do what you’re passionate about!” or “Follow your dreams!” and while these are important to tell the younger generation, it presupposes some aspects of that person. We like to think that a person likes to do something that they are good at, which if the expressions above are taken to the heart, there is nothing wrong with such a reality. However, being good at something doesn’t mean that you like that thing, and the opposite is true, where someone who wants to do something, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be good at it.
And so, this brings up the question then, why do we tell the younger generation to follow such actions? And I believe in a utilitarian society, assigned jobs to cater the best skills of that person would be the best action. But, we are not in a utilitarian society, and big problems can quickly be seen with this system. It is simply the fact that happiness would not be achieved. And so, maybe the goal of the above phrases are not to benefit the greater society, but to nurture the self-interested aspect of ourselves.
I feel that the best suited jobs for people are not what they desire, but what is their nurtured skills. However, when these two facts line up, it is possible to have your dream job and are fantastic at it. We discussed in my class how, this is so applicable to leaders, how the ones who do not want to lead, will be the best ones. Especially in our current political climate, we do see candidates wanting to lead out of their own self-interest, such as business ventures, or fame, or more air-time. These are the types of people we want to avoid, because they don’t take the job seriously, they don’t fully contemplate the effects their actions can have. They are in it for themselves, and that’s how I see our current president. A man not fit for the job, because he wants to have the job. But in a society so driven on the “The American Dream” we sometimes have to sacrifice our passions for others, because it’s selfish to not do so.
My alteration on the above phrases, would be to the effect of “Follow your dreams, if they align with what you’re good at.” But this sounds hard-pressed and demoralizing, and so my only thought is that we may want to rethink how we approach this subject.
As I write this, the city of Los Angeles is being dumped with what seems to be weather from Juneau, Alaska. What I mean is that, it’s raining, and it’s raining a lot. I am very familiar with rain, and so I am not as concerned or intrigued as other LA citizens are. But I’d like to take a moment today to look at the weather from my perspective, because I find it vital for us to know where California stands with its water. In the past five years, California has been hit with a drought that has ravaged and wreaked havoc on its agricultural economy. And this was the cause of multiple concerns about California’s ability to sustain its citizens.
But recently, California has seen rainstorms that have given life blood back into the state. At least, that’s what the average citizen believes to be true. As I watch my friends film the effects of the rain on their Snap Stories, or talk about it in passing, they remark that, “California is out of the drought!!” Not that they are wrong, but only parts of California are safe, while Southern California is far from that target. This misconception can have massive and detrimental effects on the Los Angeles community. If this thought is reciprocated throughout all of Southern California, we may be in more of a disaster than before the rainstorms. Now, I’m not saying the rain is bad, but I am saying that the people thinking that we’re out of the drought is bad. Let me explain.
When say, you are told that you have to conserve water, you don’t question it if you see the effects of the drought. You are more aware of the importance to try your best to prevent drought. You see dead or dying plants, and you don’t question why you should stop watering your plants. The average citizen will see the reasons why they should conserve water to the best of their ability. However, this whole rainstorm will throw things off. LA citizens, and possibly all of Southern California will watch the large amounts of water before them and assume that since it has rained, we have no worries.
This will allow Southern Californian’s to rationalize that they have no need to conserve water. But this conception is totally wrong, as Southern California is still in a heavy drought. Water use will then increase, and possibly spike as citizens are frivolous with their water consumption. The combination of an increased use of water, the continuation of the drought, and the misconception that Southern California is out of the drought can be a home run for water consumption collapsing into a disaster. And so, I advise everyone in Southern California to use water as thrifty as if we never had rainstorms. This will at least allow for Southern California to rebound quicker. And so California citizens, hold off on watering your plants, hold off on taking longer than necessary showers, and understand how crucial water is to the California economy, and ecosystem. (As a side note, I would like to observe that Los Angeles-at least nearby USC-is unable to handle torrential rainstorms as of recently, and so water, is not being collected efficiently as it should be, but it is improving.)
I love doing short little thought experiments and trying to solve problems that seem not important, but are interesting nonetheless. This problem has arisen from sitting in many lecture halls at USC and noticing how labor intensive finding a seat is. Just imagine, you walk into the hall, where the back row of seats are aligned and you beginning walking forward. You find your friend in the middle of all the seats, maybe five rows from the front. They have already reserved a spot for you, and so you feel obligated to sit there, but between you and the seat are loads of people already seated. Your only option is to force everyone in that row to uncomfortably stand up so that you can wiggle yourself through to your friend.
While the system we have naturally gravitated towards leads itself to little brain power, I’ve gotten too fed up to see that it is inefficient. The conventional system is a time-consuming mess that favors entropy over organization. While the system that I will propose is nothing more than a simple gesture towards a more utilitarian society, I believe it would reduce the time required to fill a lecture hall. However, before I will delve into my solution, I would like to recognize the fact that efficiently filling a lecture hall has already been attempted. Usually, a single file line is formed and people fill up the row in the front, then when that row is completely filled, the second row funnels in, until the whole lecture hall is filled. Now, this “Single-Filing” system does seem to add organization and reduces time, but it is better by just a little.
Usually a lecture hall consists of one massive block of seats in the center, bordered by walkways and on its sides reside smaller flanks of seats. If it’s hard to picture a normal lecture hall, here is a diagram:
Now, the traditional way of filling up the lecture hall starts at the front and fills up until the back is full. The diagram below, illustrates this.
But my proposal, is that lecture halls be filled from the center outward, putting favorability in the first rows, until they fill up. It basically looks like a semi-circle with its center at in the middle of the first row. What is interesting about this set-up, is that there is more than one entry point to grab a seat. If this is hard to visualize, below is a diagram.
The colors represent what seats should be designated first priority to be filled, meaning that the redder a color is, the faster it should be taken. The flanks should be filled, but in accordance to a quarter of a circle, with its center at the corner seats. This design would be crucial in filling up a lecture hall efficiently because, as opposed to the “Single File” method, there are multiple entry points. In the photo above, there are actually 16 entry points, whereas the other method has only 4. That’s at least four times more entry points, and that’s a big thing to note. I believe that the single file forces a slow drip of people sitting down one by one. That’s what takes time, but since this takes into account that at any one point 16 people are sitting down. This naturally forces the line to increase its speed.
What’s important to realize is how easy this method would be to implement. To organize, all you would have to place is the “Seed” student, the one in the center of the semi-circle. Then you would just tell your students to sit as close to that person as possible. Naturally, everyone would congregate in a semi-circle fashion, as every point on a circle is its closest point.
It would work very well if the only goal is to fill the hall as quickly as possible. However, this method doesn’t take into account friends sitting next to each other, nor does it account for the best possible seat for students’ view. If the hall were only partially filled, there would be seats open that are closer to the front of the hall, and thus unfortunate for the people placed on the outer radius of the semi-circle.
As opposed to the random scattering of seats being filled, this method would be far superior and take little effort to implement. While, I haven’t taken any measurements on exact numbers, I do believe it would fare well under practical testing.
There is a general consensus out there that considers Hipsters to be repulsive, snobby, and outright insensitive. It is commonly accepted that a person doesn’t want to be called a Hipster. And I propose that if someone wants to be called a Hipster, that they are therefore not one. What I mean, is that Hipsters are not self-aware of their actions or fashion choices. If they were to be conscious of these factors, they would defy the whole definition of what is considered to be a Hipster, and rather ironically carry the title Hipster. If these terms are considered to be true, then an odd situation where a Hipster (oblivious to their Hipster title) would identify someone else as a Hipster.
Now, understanding what a Hipster is, is important to know what created such an odd modern culture. As the word suggests, the Hipster follows anything that is hip-that the general public considers to be “in”. Recent trends consist of the Man-Bun, Vinyls, indie bands, dreads, corn-rows, in addition to the facial hair culture. We like to think that Hipsters are their own culture-that they are separate from the rest of the world, but they are so intermingled within our culture that, without them, we wouldn’t have the current United States. I am not saying that we are dependent on Hipsters, but they have added commentary (whether intentional or not) on the main stream ideas of culture. This commentary has influenced the main stream to re-evaluate its current ideals and values.
It is important to note that all the trends mentioned above can be enjoyed by any person, and they aren’t necessarily considered a Hipster. For me, I enjoy vinyls and indie bands, but that does not instantly make me a Hipster. What makes a Hipster is a deeper and somewhat scary explanation. To be a Hipster, one must deny the origins of trends they participate in. I recognize the origins of vinyls and indie bands, while also paying tribute their origins. Without acknowledgment of these facts, then it is possible that I would be in the running to be a Hipster. With Corn-Rows, for example, they had been brought into the general public’s eye when Miley Cyrus shared a picture on Instagram of her wearing the hair style. This trend has consumed modern culture and by connection has found its way into the Hipster scene. For a Hipster, they observe a trend, make it their own, and own it. They do this without any regard to where corn-rows had originated from-that they were a hair style that found its roots in Africa. Or as another example, the Man-Bun has recently been a trend that left men with longer hair and hair ties, but what frustrates me the most is how similar they look to Samurai hair styles, or more specifically, the chonmage. While not exactly the same, the Man-Bun is a close cousin to its Japanese predecessor. Unfortunately, not like Batman, it’s origin story is lost to its wearers. And not only lost, but Hipsters create a separate narrative that credits themselves, or their culture, rather than the actual source. And because it is so easy to plagiarise and take others work as their own, the Hipster has exponentially grown into a faction of our society we can no longer push aside. I propose that plagiarism isn’t just the copying of another’s work without credit, but of another’s culture, of their fashion, of their whole being. And in essence, Hipsters plagiarise other cultures.
But the question still stands, what is the cause of these Hipsters? How did they come to be? Why are they so prevalent in the United States? I would like to make the bold statement of saying that without the formation of the United States, we wouldn’t have Hipsters. We would be free of them, but not necessarily be a free nation. Because Hipsters take other cultures, and make it their own we can only make the conclusion that Hipsters try to assimilate other cultures into their own. To me, assimilate is a word that doesn’t describe the impact that Hipsters have created.Rather, Hipsters cannibalize other cultures to make their own. But the important fact is that the United States had to have Hipsters form out of its creation. At the United States’ conception, we have cultures rubbing against each other, fighting, and taking from one another. Hipsters are a natural product of cultural rubbing, and so as much as we hate them, Hipsters have secured a spot in the world. As long as there is a new culture to assimilate, there is a new “thing” for Hipsters to take. And because they are oblivious to their actions, it would make sense that any “Hipster-Prevention” would have null effect.
So, as unfortunate as it is, Hipsters are here to stay. They are not a culture’s best trait, but they are a trait nonetheless.
(While my references serve to compliment my argument, they are their own works that delve deeper and more critically into the smaller subjects they pursue. My mission is to try to cogently connect these ideas into a new and holistic viewpoint that looks at the broader image I tackle.)
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day, and is observed throughout all of the United States. The significance can’t be overstated that MLK was an influential and important member of society, but it seems that most people now only have the basic facts of him. Most people know that he was a preacher and lead the civil rights movement between the late 1950’s and the 1960’s, but that seems to be the overarching knowledge of the American population. While I don’t have much more knowledge than the greater population, I understand the massive significance it has had on our history. What strikes me as horrible is that the problem of race should have been solved centuries ago.
I believe that racism only exists because the aggressors are taught to hate from a young age, but did not hold those feelings before. This is especially prevalent in the Deep South where angry sentiments still exist. While not completely saturated in aggression, the Deep South has managed to make a name for itself for being highly exclusive. I remember, when learning about American History back in high school that my teacher had explained why slavery was present. He said that the only way a person can hurt another person is to dehumanize that person first. This is especially important in noticing how humans deal with confrontation because the opposite force is seen as inhuman-as animals. Specific examples include the anti-Japanese propaganda issued during World War 2, the pseudoscientific declaration of animatistic features of Jews in the same time period, and what we had during slavery. It is important to note that this use of dehumanization is still present today in the propaganda North Korea issues to its citizen’s about the Western World aside from other dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes. Many other examples exist today, it just takes a quick step back to realize the purpose of the media. (Zombie movies and creature/monster movies prey upon this fact because we love watching a “monster” being killed, but are more hesitant with death when it comes to humanized death such as Lenny in Of Mice and Men.)
However, as horrible as dehumanization is, there is no other way for wars and conflicts to be fought. If say, a soldier viewed an enemy soldier to be his equal, then it would be a lot harder to kill that person. The soldier would wonder about the enemy’s kids, their loved ones, their passions, their goals, their aspirations, and many other things that combine to create a complex human being. Now, if that same soldier dehumanized the enemy, it is far easier to kill. In their mind, it is like killing a bug, or something without a conscious mind. This fact of dehumanization makes its appearance in absolutely every single horrible act towards a person or a group of people. Quite simply, dehumanizing someone involves the “fact based” confirmation that they are inferior to the aggressor. Knowing this is vitally important in considering the issue of racism and segregation in the United States.
We have seen that the first and ultimately most effective use of dehumanization is the issue of skin color. If someone looks different from you, and you are a competent and critical thinking human being, then by simple elimination, they must not be. At least, this is the shaky argument that unconsciously runs through a person’s mind when they consider another race. The use of skin color as an explanation is the laziest, but easiest way for aggressors to reason away their conscious. Sadly, this has metastasized into torture, slavery, and horribly inhumane acts. That is why the world needs people as brave, strong, and passionate as MLK. He managed to unite a country to change its inherited values to become a more inclusive place. Racism is in the United States’ blood, and unfortunately we cannot erase that fact. Because if we did, there would be no way for anyone to learn from our mistakes-we would devolve into a society based off of fear and hate.
Unfortunately, MLK did not stop racism. It continues today through systematic incarceration of predominantly black communities. (I will delve into this subject in my later blogs, but essentially the way the jail system was intentionally created racist.) We had hoped Abraham Lincoln would abolish slavery and with it: racism. We had hoped MLK would desegregate the United States and with it: racism. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have important organizations such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
I don’t believe that racism will ever fully be abolished. We may try to implement measures to make up for it, we may deny it’s existence, but it will be ever-present. We should be celebrating differences, and not using them to hate another. We at least have to try-not only try but put so much energy into it that we are constantly reminded of its presence. As a society, we have progressed, and it is our job to keep pushing this world forward.
And above all, happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
(While not necessarily mentioned people such as Rosa Parks,Elizabeth Peratrovich, Malcolm X, and loads of other figures have greatly influenced the issues stated above.)
(While my references serve to compliment my argument, they are their own works that delve deeper and more critically into the smaller subjects they pursue. My mission is to try to cogently connect these ideas into a new and holistic viewpoint that looks at the broader image I tackle.)
I guess the first thing I will say is that this isn’t meant to be polished, or well-edited, this is just suppose to be a way for me to say stuff. And if it turns out that I want it to be something more that just random thoughts, then it will be. While I don’t necessarily agree with all aspects of “Turning a New Leaf” for the new year, I do believe that it is good to reinvent yourself every so often. If that means that making New Years resolutions is your thing, go for it, because you’re the better person for it. For me, I don’t think of the typical New Years resolutions as being as productive as they should be, or might I say, helpful to better myself. Resolution lists usually include something to do with working out, saving money, and being nicer to other people. And as one of my friends had posted on Instagram says that you shouldn’t wait until the New Year to become a better person. This fact resonates with me so much that I don’t understand why we don’t reinvent ourselves everyday. In every, or almost every culture, there is a ritual for the New Year, there’s the Chinese New Year, the American New Year, and yet we place an increasing significance to one day in particular. Why does it matter that just one day deserves this title? Why do we attempt to answer all our problems by looking forward to a certain time?
But, I will say, it generally helps a population re-evaluate itself by analysing what went wrong with the recent past. New Years for me was spent at a friend’s house attempting to learn the piano section of Runaway by Kanye West (knowing that piano was so foreign to me) in the frigid Alaskan wilderness. This was followed by setting off fireworks by the edge of a frozen lake, contemplation of the upcoming year, and a reflection of the past 12 months. Knowing I got to the point I am now, in what amounts to just a few months is an absolutely mind trip that I still can’t get over. I am in the beginning part of the spring semester of my freshman year at the University of Southern California. But it seems like it shouldn’t have happened. And so the New Year gave me time to celebrate and contemplate the massive opportunity I have been given. But back on New Years in Alaska, my birthplace and my home for 18 years of my life, I was able to speak to some of my high school friends that are about to take that monumental step. Whether it be college, or vocational school, or a job is something that has become America’s coming-of-age ceremony. Something that isn’t as painful as some rituals in the Amazon that involve bullet ants and a high pain tolerance, but America’s coming-of-age is less about pain, and more about becoming independent. And in some way the push to leave the family “nest” is another iteration of reinvention. The concept of new and newness has been a factor in consideration of what makes something better. We enjoy new cars, new classes, new people, and by extension: New Years.
I say all of this to preface the fact that I am starting a blog, something that is “new” and “fresh” to me. Something that I haven’t explored until now. Something that puts my ideas into the ether, whether they be original, or not. I am also writing partially because I’m scared that my thoughts won’t be documented, that they wouldn’t have been heard. A blog is the best place to do this, simply a place for my thoughts to go on a server somewhere other than my mind. I feel that I can’t share these ideas through any other means because they all have a specific intention. For example, Instagram is meant for artsy photos, Tumblr is meant for gifs, Twitter is meant for the smart one-liners, Facebook is meant for Farmville, and blogs, specifically WordPress is meant for longer, essay like writing. And, so that is why I find it appropriate to write whatever is on my mind in this specific place. It’s a New Year, or will be, depending on what calendar you go by, (although I still am in 2016 because I haven’t gotten a new calender yet) and whatever reformation a person is attempting to implement is something that I will applaud. I love new things, and so I hope you love this new blog!
*Originally published on WordPress