Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Social problems = “This is the way society is.”
Through the eyes of an outcast narrator in a story, either the world is a problem or the narrator’s way of seeing things is a problem.
(What does it mean if the way of thinking that makes the narrator an outcast has been developed as an attempt to adapt to the society in the first place?  Certain individuals will inevitably be disconnected?)
Society as an untouchable superpower.
The same people who create it are somehow powerless to change it.
Society: anything constructed by a group of humans that cannot be changed by a single human.
*    *    *    *    *
The narrator’s word is the only word.  The narrator is the God of its own story.  Yet this God is imperfect and unaware of its implicit patterns and contradictions.  The reader is aware of the God’s imperfections and takes pleasure in realizing all of its hidden patterns.  The reader is on par with God and therefore becomes a God herself.
*    *    *    *    *
It seems that we are collectively annoyed by advertisements.  After years of repetition, the increase in advertising has numbed our ability to analyze or even verbalize our annoyance.
The billboards; shall we tear them down?
Perhaps a sarcastic drum circle will suffice.
*    *    *    *    *
The suburbs are demonstrated by hilariously artificial boundaries.  Low wooden fences and narrow tracts of flowerbeds signify the self-compartmentalized division of lives and properties.
Nature is also sequestered and molested at whim.  Grass is kept separate from the ivy.  Trees are neatly framed by cement set rings of red brick.  Suburban areas where plants are allowed to grow free should be approached with a sinking feeling of distrust.
*    *    *    *    *
A thin, faceless man films himself with a camera connected to his computer.  He threatens to cut off his right arm, live on the internet, if his favorite celebrity won’t have a face-to-face conversation with him.
The video is picked up by blogs and eventually the mainstream media airs his story.  Word comes from the celebrity’s agent that there will be no meeting.
Stunned, the man chokes when he hears the news.  He decides to back out and stops updating his website.  A few weeks pass and the man actively tries to forget about the whole incident.
During those few weeks a group of angry forum users discuss the incident and decide to force the man to keep his promise.  The forum users find the man’s address by hacking into his personal accounts.  They arrive at the man’s house as a mob.  The man is punched in the face by the first one through the door.  For the next three minutes, the man begs for his life.  The mob destroys his couch and leaves.

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We left New Hampshire after showering and feeding.  I was ready for a big city. The tourist town could be seen at the bottom of the hill in Colorado, but behind us there was a path where no one else hiked in an echoless, empty forest.  We were cut off from the city in our teepee.  Now it was time to walk on streets between buildings at night.
In Boston, we stayed at a hostel near downtown for two days.  I spent $300 on food, gas, shelter and, most of all, bars.  My first encounter with the east coast made me think of these words: abrupt, vowels, friendly, go.  The bars we went to in Boston were nice if you were a person who sweats heavily.  Everything with sweat glands was truly moist.
Besides the humidity and filleted wallet, Boston was fun.
Things to remember about Boston:
–    A bald man wearing a drenched red collared shirt singing karaoke to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”.  He ran through the aisles, pumping the microphone with one arm and going for unrequited high fives with the other.
–    A bartender convincing me to try a drink he invented called the “three wise men.” The bartender confessing that he forgot what type of alcohol was in the drink.  The bartender admitting he never invented aforementioned “three wise men” drink.
–    A street performer jumping onto a narrow pole sticking up from the sidewalk, hip-thrusting in the direction of tourists and onlookers and completing a series of impressive cartwheels.
–    Ditching the annoying Australian guy with a Mohawk after observing his self-centered choices of conversation.

After the long, hot drive through the mountains and an impromptu photo session with Andrew and Jon in a burnt-out car that we spotted on the side of the road, we arrived in Humboldt county sweaty and tired.  We flipped a coin to see if we would stay in Humboldt and drink our guts out or pay for a beach camp site.  Andrew said, “tails is bad, so if I flip tails we’ll get drunk and sleep in the car.”  He flipped tails but we decided to find a campsite anyways.  I felt guilty for taking the easy way out even though the sidewalks that would have been our parking places were occupied by throngs of bums and other sketchy characters.

We decided to drive north on the 101 until we found a camp spot.  After crossing Oregon’s border and passing camp sites with “full” signs in front until 11:00 p.m. we pulled over on the side of the road to sleep.  Everything was black except for the occasional pair of passing headlights.  When I opened my eyes and coaxed my neck into bending again in the morning, I saw a wide, flat beach darkened by tree shadows and a hint of fog.

We started driving at sunrise on a section of highway that looked down from a cliff over a series of cove towns.  These small beach villages, barely above the level of the sea, stretched out into the ocean on jutting strips of brittle rock and dark brown sand.  There were houses and docks built right up to the edge of the Pacific.  It looked like a single powerful wave could have demolished the whole town, yet the cluster of huts with faded red roofs and the skinny dirt pathways that connected them seemed harmonious with their surroundings.

At lunch, Jon wanted to talk about the objectives concerning our trip.  Was it to meet people?  Meet ourselves?  Record conversations?  To experience without recording and reflect later?  What is the point?

Too many questions was our only answer.  I have this book, a camera, a yet-to-be-used tape recorder…time will tell what we produce.

That night we stopped at a KOA, showered and got drunk.  We walked a few miles from our camp site around a small lake that cradled cabins and fishing docks, only to get tired and urinate as a group on the outside of a porta potty.  A friendly middle-aged couple with an R.V. chatted with us about our travels.  They let me use their outlet to charge my cell phone.  By the time I came back to get it, I was drunk and well aware of it.  I kept repeating “thank you” and tried not to trip over their pic-nic table on my way back to our shared green tent.

After eating a KOA cooked “miner’s breakfast”, a heaping styrofoam tray of biscuits and gravy, we drove out to the Lincoln City Skatepark.  The way Oregon is run pleases me.  No taxes AND intelligently constructed, skater-designed, free, behemoths of cement skateparks.  Beautiful.

Now we are in the car driving to Portland.  Andrew got mad at Jon for reserving us a $25 per-person hostel.  Jon is quiet.  He drank one and a half bottles of cheap red wine last night.  He said “I want to talk about my feelings…It’s frustrating being this attractive.”  I fell at the skatepark and then skated well.  A dog came up and licked the cut on my knee.

The Art Still Thrives
The concept of reinterpreting, transforming, and utilizing our surroundings is as old as art itself.   Not only is this process a healthy creative exercise, it’s also a sure way of heightening consciousness and awareness of our everyday surroundings.  The goal of street skateboarding is to find hidden potential within the physical space around us, areas of cities outside the comfort of our homes that are too easily written off as useless—or worse—labeled wasteful eyesores.  What was once a forgotten staircase behind a boarded-up building, an abandoned refrigerator in a parking lot choked with weeds, or an uneven bump in a cracked sidewalk, attributes typically associated with the fallouts of urban decay, can be imagined into a sparkling blank canvas through the act of street skateboarding.
Open Your Eyes
When I first picked up a skateboard as a ten-year-old kid, my goal was to amass a laundry list of “cool tricks.”  I wanted to possess complete dominance over my board, with the ability to flip it, spin it, and manipulate it in any way I pleased, not unlike the performance ability of a professional yo-yo master.  It was only after years of experience meeting older skateboarders, traveling to spots in San Francisco and abandoning my dream of becoming a pro skater when my perspective began to change.  My reason to skateboard became less about my coolness and more about this community of artists trying something new, a revolutionary creative union between physical and environmental worlds.
The Realization
My focus now turned to finding “spots.”  Before, on my way to work or school, I would look out the window of my car as the master over my surroundings.  Cities existed on their own terms and I was a passive observer with no identifiable relationship with the places around me.  Yet, after my realization of street skateboarding’s true nature, I was utterly dependent on the environment.  If every surface capable of allowing a skateboard to roll on it was truly a blank canvas, the surge of creative possibility was then overwhelming.  Every odd architectural mistake could be fully utilized and reinterpreted as a success: gaps in walkways could be ollied, benches too low or too high for sitting could be slid, curved roofs could be used as half pipes, slanted walls could be ridden, crooked poles could be grinded.  The irregularities of cities suddenly metamorphosed into gifts offered to my imagination from the universe.
Life Where no Life Exists
Putting street skateboarding’s potential into action fostered a new type of creativity within me.  Skateboarding forced me to reevaluate the elements of cities that I had always taken for granted.  Since there are no rules in skateboarding, the ways I could interact with something as simple as an empty trashcan or an old fire hydrant were almost endless.  In the same vain of artists who scour dumps searching out found objects for sculptures or street artists who paint murals on the walls of outhouses, street skateboarding breathes life into areas of perceived uselessness.  What was once a disposable object is now transformed into an essential partner in a relationship with the artist’s (a.k.a. the skater’s) imagination.

News

Photo journalism is capable of creating change in public opinion quicker than other news mediums…if only photos were uncensored and published by mainstream news sources.


Oded Balilty Associated Press
“War of Wills” A Jewish settler struggles with an Israeli security officers during clashes that erupted as authorities evacuated the West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

Picture of the Year Contest

Thanks Mitch

Go-cart dreams

Strandwood Elementary probably functions in my mind in the same way most people think about their first relationships. When a young, idealistic person finally enters into the hyped up world of dating, it isn’t odd for the beloved’s flaws to melt away (or be overlooked) and for every “first” moment to be seared into the beholder’s memory with impossibly perfect and magical qualities; somewhat imagined.
The same is true for Strandwood. Perhaps part of the reason why my elementary school sits on a pedestal among a sea of other significant childhood memories is because I was fairly popular while I was a student there. Things were simple: if you possessed a decent kickball leg and could muster the courage to spout an occasional wisecrack aimed at the teacher, you had it made. Even the most anxiety-ridden occurrences that took place at Strandwood had benefits. The “kissy girls,” a gang of rambunctious females who were known for chasing down a lone male with the intent of pinning him down and showering him with shy pecks on the cheek, secretly boosted my ego everyday at recess as I washed their deadly germs off my face.
But the real reason why Strandwood has stubbornly remained a powerful place in my mind is because of the times I spent there after school. Living seven blocks away from the foursquare plastered blacktop, the field’s climbable hill and the rows of chain swing sets made Strandwood an irresistible weekend destination. I would go there with my friends, family, or alone. Regardless of who came with me, I was always equipped with a vehicle designed for speed.
I’d think about the kissy girls, those speedy devils who I could never quite outrun (even though part of me strangely wanted to be caught), and I’d feel pathetically slow. I started having dreams about being chased by strangers until my legs would suddenly give out, transforming into stone statues that refused to trudge one more step. As the dreams got worse I began going to Strandwood more often to ride my bike. I would fly across the blacktop, swerve dangerously between narrow halls, buck off hidden mounds of dirt in the field; all while standing upright and peddling like I was trying to break some sort of record.
As time passed, I started to feel that the propulsion offered by my bike couldn’t measure up to my newly acquired addiction to move with extreme quickness. I wanted to travel as fast as possible, preferably without any requirement of physical output. If The Simpsons and The Little Rascals had taught me anything, it was that a go-cart is an essential part of any suburban childhood. After months of begging my Dad, he surprised me on my birthday with a homemade, flame emblazoned, two-rider and motorless go-cart. I quickly convinced my sister to help me drag the vehicle to Strandwood where we’d have a test run on the field’s steep hill.
I spent everyday that summer dragging my oak hewn go-cart from my backyard to Strandwood’s hill. Somehow, the five seconds of plowing down the hill at its steepest point and coasting twenty feet across the soccer field made all the lugging worthwhile. The driver’s seat was a bolted down lawn chair while the “break man”, whose job was to grind the hand break into the rear tire if the go-cart steered out of control, had to ride near the back on a small wooden platform.
After our initial fears of capsizing midway down the hill had proven to be unwarranted, my friends and I acted as recklessly as possible to maintain the fun.
We built small jumps out of dirt, launching the go-cart through the air before meeting the steep incline with near fatal nosedives. We fit five kids on the platform designed for one break man, wobbling down the hill, pitching kids off as we hit barely detectable cracks in the dirt. We’d abandon the driver’s seat and bail out in tumbling dives moments before the ghost ride would send the go-cart veering out of control.
By the end of summer an undeniable pattern emerged: I’d discover a way to travel at high speeds across every possible surface of my elementary school, eventually get bored, and invent new ways to make the activity dangerous to keep myself interested. The poor go-cart eventually became a victim of my insatiable thirst for fun. By the end of summer my friends and I were ready to try one last glorious stunt before the impending boredom of a new school year claimed our dangerous pastime.
There was a large steel soccer goal at the bottom of the hill that we were used to avoiding. Instead of staying a safe distance from the beams, someone had the brilliant idea of attempting to go through the middle—directly at the ten-foot gap created by two thick metal bars. Without taking time to think, discuss, or grab protective helmets we decided to pull of one last stunt at that very moment.
I decided to be the driver, along with the kid who came up with the idea as the break man. We teetered on the lip of the hill in silence before suddenly plummeting over the edge. Rumbling along our familiar tracks as the tires flung clods of dirt in every direction, I gripped the steering wheel with a foreign feeling of terror in my stomach. Despite the fact that the goal was straight ahead of us, gap dead-on, the go-cart coasting at dangerous speeds, I choked. It was as if an alarm went off in my head, commanding me to save myself by jerking the steering wheel to one side in an attempt to avoid the goal all together. But the flinch was too late. I waited a little too long. The goal post grew larger with every second, stretching far above our heads until a deafening “CLANG” halted the go-cart in its tracks. Hurled onto the field in opposite directions, my friend and I somehow survived without any serious injuries. The go-cart, on the other hand, was dejectedly tipped over sideways with the front axle split in half, wheels spinning weakly in the air.
I don’t remember the crash that ended the life of my go-cart too well. I also don’t fully remember those countless times when the go-cart would come to its inevitable halt halfway across the field–when we’d have to heave the painfully heavy vehicle right back up the side of the hill. What I do remember, with crisp detail, are those first moments when the go-cart would plunge over the edge. I remember the go-cart hurtling along the incongruous dirt surface. I remember the summer’s one hundred degree weather momentarily eclipsed by wind on my face. I remember hearing high-pitched echoes of screams and laughter refracting down the halls. I remember breathlessly retelling the details of the day’s go-cart runs to my parents as they skeptically listened to my stories that must have had a few exaggerations here and there.