Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Cuban Story

Their toes sink into the thick sand and the crisp night air rushes past their faces as they frantically carry their escape raft across the beach to the Cuban shoreline—only 90 miles separate them from freedom. Ninety miles is the distance between San Francisco and Sacramento. Ninety miles is the distance between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Ninety miles is the distance between Socialism and Capitalism.

Arms tired and grips slipping, the group lets go of the raft and it falls towards the dark water which is the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. As the raft smacks the water for the first time all they here is a loud CRACK. It is not the sound of metal slapping on water; a rock has just punctured a whole through the bottom of their vessel.

Among the group is a stranger. His name is Leonardo Martinez, he is 21; this is to be his first escape attempt from Cuba. The other members have been a team for years and most are on their seventh or eighth escape attempt. Lucky for Leonardo they are experienced and will persevere past the rock wound—nothing will stop their retreat from Cuba this time.

Martinez said the boat that would take the group to freedom was contracted out to be manufactured by an illegal boat builder. The cost for each person who would make the trip was $800—a small price to pay considering the alternative is a $10,000 cruise aboard an offshore racer whose plan was to simply outrun the US Coastguard and the Cuban Police. Once he had paid, it was an undercover game of cat and mouse as each member of the group had to complete assigned tasks to make the operation sail smoothly, while dodging the Cuban Police.

With his brother’s help, Martinez, wearing a basic brown coat, said, he had the job of delivering materials to the boat builder. The two brothers would leave their Havana neighborhood of Santa Fe at 4am and take spare parts and scraps from construction sites on the outskirts of Havana and transport them in the back of their green 59’ Chevy pickup to the boat builder. Martinez said they would leave so early to lessen the chance of a Police run-in. If they were caught, the chances of going to prison for upwards of 15 years were outstanding.

Leonardo and his team, under cloak and dagger, slide off a deserted sandbank west of Havana in a grey and white boat measuring around 13 feet in length. With him are six other men, one woman, one GPS unit, and a turkey for good luck. As the team drifts away from the shoreline, Leonardo takes sleeping pills and watches the Havana lights become fuzzier and fuzzier until his eyelids became too heavy and he himself drifts off. The date is January 29, 2006; it is 10:30pm.

Within a month of arrival, Martinez said Cuban immigrants—granted they pass the criminal background check—have a social security number and papers to live in the country for eight months. He said this system is unique to Cubans, no one else. "Its politics," he said, "If Cubans come illegally its easier to stay forever." After eight months Martinez said, if refugee Cubans can to prove they have a job and can support themselves, they can stay. After one year of arrival, they can apply for permanent US residency. On February 1st, 2007, Leony will apply for his permanent US residency.

When Leonardo wakes up, the sun is shining on his face and no land could be seen—no Cuba, no US, no Mexico—only water. It is his turn to shovel water out of the boat along with another one of the men. They take lengthy eight hour turns of two to keep the boat from filling with water. This is day one. There will be no eating on the boat no matter what, even if things get bad—they can only pee a bottle and dump it overboard. There is no number two.

When Leonardo is fully awake, he notices the sole woman onboard is hurt. The previous night when a rogue wave gave the boat a violent jolt, she had slipped, fell, and cut her leg open on the jagged metal protruding from the puncture wound on the bottom of the raft. Her leg is wrapped with part of a t-shirt—the bleeding has almost stopped.

In Cuba, Martinez says, the government pays you next to nothing for any occupation you have. Martinez was a student and would sell his own underground hip-hop CD’s to American tourists or whoever else would buy them. He said he would sell his CD's for $10, $8, $5, or whatever he could get out of the tourists. “You have to hustle to survive; the government would let you starve.”

Martinez said Castro, in his security caravan, would pass through Santa Fe on his way to public speeches and demonstrations in Havana on how the economy was being ruined by the US. “That is bullshit,” Martinez said, Castro has many houses throughout Cuba and his Swiss bank account is rumored to be among the top 10 richest in the world.

Sea sickness has set in for most of them. Throwing up over the side of the raft is all they can do. Throwing up evolves into dry heaving and then into sorrowful moaning. They have no retreat from the boat, only the retreat from Cuba.

The boat’s engine, made from a transformed lawnmower motor, is weak and against the current the team makes slow ground. Being slow increases the time in the water and the risk of being caught. To lessen the chance of running into the Coastguard, they head diagonally into the Gulf towards Texas and Mexico. After a day and a few hours, they change directions and head horizontally towards the Key West. The journey is long and hard.

Cuba is his love, Martinez said, but there is no future there. It is hard to live in Cuba for so many reasons—for instance there may be free doctors, but there is no medicine. Castro shuts off all the lights one or two days a week to conserve oil. “Cops in Cuba are bullshit,” Martinez said, starting off a story. Once he was driving with his American girlfriend in Cuba and a police officer pulled them over for no reason. Just because he was seen with an American, Martinez said, the cop questioned him about if he was trying to leave the country or if he was harassing the girl he was with. Martinez said the officer threatened him saying, “If I find anything wrong, you are fucked. You are dead.”

On the boat, space is too tight to walk around. It is day two. Taking turns sleeping and shoveling water out of the raft, the group of eight must sit still. The turkey, which is a traditional religious figure in Cuba for good fortune in the coming future, roams free among the passengers and causes some uneasiness when it spooks. Also on board for luck are oranges and bananas. They can’t be eaten, only a small amount of water and milk keep death away from the refugees.

Leonardo is going crazy on the inside. He tears at his clothes and rips off parts of them to cope with the heat. His head pounds from dehydration. He thinks to himself as his legs yearn to move, “I don’t care where I land. Mexico, Cuba, America. I don’t care, just get me off this boat.” He is about to jump out into the shark infested water inches away from him when he remembers. He becomes as calm as the seagulls that float overhead. He reminds himself he does not leave Cuba only for himself, but also for his mother. He endures the risks of leaving Cuba so that she too may share in any fortune that comes his way.

Ten months later and 16 days later he is in a car driving to Oakland. Leonardo says he has never been on a plane, but he says he dreams the first time will be flying home to Cuba to see his mother. Leonardo says sometimes when he goes to bed he dreams he will wake up in Havana. He longs to be in his house with his mother, but there is no future in Cuba. “I miss my mom so much,” he said, staring off somewhere in the Bay. He hopes to put on a hip-hop concert in Cuba one day on that same plane trip.

Martinez said he writes to his mom letters to tell her how he is doing and tries to call as much as he can. But it costs 89 cents a minute to call Cuba and ten dollars a phone call adds up. He said on his last phone call to Cuba he found out from his mom that one of his best friends was caught in an undercover boat building house and might go to jail for as much as ten years.

The victim was his DJ friend Adrian who partnered with Martinez to make their first Cuban album. The Cuban hip-hop record, Martinez said, is still generating underground buzz in the socialist country.

During that same drive to Oakland from SF, Martinez looked out the passenger window and laughed, “The girls are better in Cuba. There are more 10’s there,” then he turned and smirked, “But no strippers in Cuba.” Martinez found his first strip club in Oakland. America, the land of opportunity. But, he related the girls of Cuba and the girls of the US to the two’s respective climates—one is simply all around hotter than the other.

“Weed is the best in San Francisco,” said Martinez as he smiled. He said in Cuba, weed is brown like garbage and it can barely get you high, “When I smoked in here, it was like smoking for the first time.” He said he was curled up in a ball and could barely move; after that first blunt he said, he just fell asleep. Now, he handles the high better, but he said English is near impossible when he smokes. Martinez said his New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking cigarettes—not weed though.

Back to the boat. As the morning sun rises, the group sees a faint shape in the distance. Land ahoy. The date is February 1st, 2006; it is 8:00am. As the boat touches the Island of Key West, Cuban American relief workers rush to the group’s aid. They first take the woman whose wound is now approaching three days old then three words are called out that Leonardo will never forget, “Welcome to America.”

Meanwhile in Cuba, Leonardo’s brother is brought into the Police station for questioning. The Police ask him if he is leaving too. They ask him if he knew his brother was leaving and how he left. They are brothers though, he denies everything.

Life moves a lot faster in the US said Martinez, “I blink and it is next Saturday.” He said in Cuba a person pays nothing to live and does little work; here in the US, a person has to do so much to survive. Martinez said it takes money to do everything—to buy a house, a car, food, entertainment— “If you are smiling, you had to pay.”

After they land, some US government officials confiscate the boat to put in a museum. They take the GPS and all refugee IDs are handed over. Since secrecy is so important when leaving Cuba, only a few people know when someone is going to leave. In Leonardo’s case, only his mother, his brother, a few friends, and the boat builder know that he is gone. Since no one tells of their departure, Leonardo has no idea how many people came over illegally, he thinks they the only ones today. However, a relief worker tells him that 32 are in today, 23 were in yesterday, and they expect around 50 tomorrow.

Martinez said he now knows these figures are produced by an unknown man who tracks weather conditions and Coastguard patrols. He informs Cuban boat builders and escape organizers when the best time is to leave and then he lets relief workers know on the US side how many Cubans to expect day by day. He plays a crucial part in every Cuban refugee’s escape, said Martinez. In the 80’s, without this extra help it was a lot easier to die or get sent back. Back then, it was a guessing game whether or no you would die, now it’s a different case, “I never thought when I left I could die,” said Martinez.

From the Keys, Leonardo is shuttled to Miami in a ferry which takes a few hours. Once there, he lives off of $180 a month from the US Government and finds work doing odd jobs for three months.

Martinez said he hated Miami because all the Cubans there are crazy, materialistic, and all they want is for America to take over Cuba for them. “Don’t think I’m for Castro. I just don’t want Iraq in Cuba. I want Cuba for the Cubans."

Martinez said he also struggled with his family in Miami. When he was in Cuba he had no contact with his Miami step-father and his family for 10 years, then when he arrived they welcomed him in a ‘now your one of us tone,’ trying to okay the forgotten past 10 years. Martinez said during that time he had to go into three eye operations in which he and his mother were ignored by his successful Miami family when they requested money, help, or anything. “My mom called them and wrote them saying Leony is sick, but nothing,” he said-- suddenly the scar under his left eye becomes unrelentingly noticeable.

Martinez said he looked for a way out of Miami and when is girl friend said she might go to San Francisco he jumped on the bandwagon.

From Miami, Leonardo and his girlfriend board a Grey Hound bus and travel from Florida through Alabama to Mississippi. They transfer buses there and pass through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and into Colorado. Leonardo doesn’t want to worry his girlfriend, but in Colorado he thinks of how tired he is, how bad he wants to work, and how he has nothing.

They finish the four day journey by busing through Utah, Nevada, over the Sierras and into the Bay Area. They stay with a friend of his girlfriend’s for two months till they break up. Within one day he is on the street. Leonardo has no place to go and is about go back to Miami to live with his step-father and brother who has just escaped Cuba as well—his trip took one day because of a truck motor rather than a lawnmower motor.

However, Martinez said, it was here I was saved. He said his DJ friend convinced him to stay. DJ Jhawasel, who spins at Club Milk in San Francisco and Club Six in Oakland among other places, was his first real friend in San Francisco said Martinez, “He has my back. We are rappers together.” He moved in with Jhawasel and his wife and he was introduced to a Cuban named Camila Nieves.

Martinez said Nieves, 26, is now one of his best friends. He said she helped him find is first legitimate job at McCall’s Catering and taught him the ins and outs of the Bay Area, like where to go for Cuban friendship, where cheap rent was, and who he could turn to in the community for help. What she had taught him, he said, was that he could turn to her for help.

Nieves worked as a cultural guide for him and even introduced him to me. She became our link and a kind of interpreter for us for a short while.

When Martinez came to the US he almost lost his nickname Leony, but when his brother came out from Miami to visit it caught on again. Now, having moved on from McCall’s Catering, his new boss at Whole Foods calls him Leony along with all his friends.

Leony moved out from Jhawasel’s and now lives on 29th and Martin Luther King in central Oakland, a neighborhood that is considerably less safe crime wise than the Havana suburb he grew up in. He says he does not fear the area as he puts his fingers on his sideways turned hat and flicks them off in an act of pure confidence. Leony said the only time he has to worry is when the 29th and MLK residents think he is white, in which case he says jokingly, “I tell them I’m not white, I’m Cuban Mother Fucker. I came in the boat.”

Entering the two story house—in which Leony lives with his African American roommate Jaime, who owns a small skateboard company—the living room, which is cluttered with skateboard decks and wheels, is on the right and an empty kitchen is on the left. In the middle of the two, a stair case leading to the bedrooms winds up to the second floor. Leony’s room is nearly bare. Besides a bed, a small TV that rests on a white plastic lawn chair, and some clothes hanging in the closet, the only other occupant is Leony’s quiet non-materialistic sense of reason. He says he is saving for the thing he really wants—a better life.

Martinez said he would rather move out of Oakland and live in SF near the Haight district as he did when he first came out to the west coast eight months ago, but it is too expensive.

Leaving the house, he said he doesn’t spend much time in the street here—not nearly as much as he did in Cuba. In Cuba, he said, people play dominoes, music, and games everywhere in the street, in front yards, and in the back of their houses at all times of the day. Here, he said, people go from their house to their car to their work and back without ever stepping on the ground. But that’s the way people make it here in the US, Martinez said, they work. “The only time I go out back [and play] now, is with my girl’s son,” Leony said.

Later, at Martinez’s girlfriend’s house, one can see he tells the truth. From the moment of arrival, the six year old boy clings to Leony’s side, only letting go if it is to back up and charge full force in a tackling attempt. Leony is his protector, without him, the boy is not let outside to play.

Leony’s girlfriend, Sherekhan Weinstein, named after the devious tiger from The Jungle Book, is an African American Jew with blue eyes. “She is perfect for me,” said Leony, he himself bright eyed. He said he will love her all his life for all the help and support she has given him in getting him on his feet. Leony said sometimes when he is overly frustrated at his family in Miami or at the condition of Cuba she is there to say, “You are here to help, you need to relax.”

Weinstein, 35, was born to an African American mother and a Caucasian Jewish father. When Leony is around her family, he cannot fall back on his Spanish and must speak English for all communication. He said this helps him greatly.

“My plan is to learn English to go to University,” Leony said proudly, “I want to keep the dream going.” Leony has spurts of near perfect English, but at other times he struggles, unsure of the exact pronunciation or word. At a family dinner party, Sherekhan’s family’s love for Leony can be seen in vivid detail. The second Mrs. Weinstein sees Leony she gives him a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. She turns to me and does the same.

Beyond Sherekhan, Leony said his life’s undertaking is his music. Leony said hip-hop is independent, that is why he loves it. “I am a survivor in a strange land,” Leony said, with the temperament of lion, “This is not my country, my language, my people. But, I am making it.” Leony said his music is underground Cuban hip-hop with some salsa beats which protests the world, street life in Cuba, Cuba the country, and Castro. However, Leony said, he tries not to be too strong in his protest so that his music in Cuba is not outlawed by the State.

Recently, Leony said, a Cuban hip-hop documentary threatened the very existence of hip-hop in Cuba. He said he loved it but it spoke out very strongly against Castro and strong words usually create banning. He said he tries not to focus on the bad in Cuba though.

He said he has to keep moving to find opportunity—he has everything he needs, but he wants more. “I want a house, a computer, turntables, more, more, more,” he said as he snapped his fingers with each word. With a wishful look in his eyes, like a kid reading his Christmas list to his parents, Martinez said he wants to be a record producer in the future, “Music is my passion.”

Leony listens to Cuban salsa and New York style hip-hop which includes artists such as the Roots, the Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and the Dead Presidents.

Currently, Martinez said he is working on a new CD with four fellow Cubans. His newest song is about the history of Cuban escape and the boats that they take, including his own.

Picking Leony up from a downtown bus stop one day, we decide to grab some fast food. He said he wants pizza but we can find nothing in the Financial District. Heading across the Bay Bridge and into Emeryville to a Burger King, Leony grins and asks, “Did you know you can’t kill the cow in Cuba?”

He went on to say in Cuba, Castro has made the cow sacred and nothing short of permission from the state allows you to legally kill one. “The cow is Castro’s god…I have friends in Cuba who have gotten five years in prison for murder. I know people that are doing 15 for killing the cow.” At Burger King we order some double cheeseburgers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Run-Around

Getting permission to interview a firefighter is harder than getting a hold of the president.
Here is the run-around I received from the SFFD. First I went down to station #12 planning to be in and out in a matter of an hour or two. Wow, was I wrong. I knock on the door at about 2pm on a rainy Sunday afternoon thinking I would receive an interview with one of the many fighters they had on duty. In response to my request of the station chief I was told I needed the Division Chiefs approval who was at station #5. I call station #5 and get a hold of Division Chief Lt. Lopez, if I recall correctly, and he gives me permission to interview one as long as no personal facts on a specific fire such as victims names and things of that nature are divulged. I have no problem with this so I knock on station #5's door again. I enter and tell the station chief the news. No longer is the Division Chief's approval good enough, I must now receive permission from the City Fire Chief. Let the fun begin. On Monday I call the City Fire Department Headquarters and seek permission. However, upon talking to a secretary, I am told I actually need permission from the Public Information Officer. I call her and leave a message-- no reply. The next day I call again and ask to talk to her from her secretary who tells me she is out for the week and she is the only one who can give me permission. So, am I to assume during this week, firefighters are absolutely inaccessible by any media? I take her word and wait eagerly till the Monday. I call and she picks up! Finally... not so fast Jacob. Mindy Talmadge, the Public Information Officer, tells me I must submit a inquiry for permission stating my intent and the nature of the story so that the City Chief can approve it. Hmmm? I'm thinking to myself, why couldn't I just sent the email directly to the Chief a week ago? Oh well, I type my letter (which is posted below) and email it to Mindy. Three days pass and I call her to see what my status is. Oddly, we call each other at the same time and leave each other messages at the same time as well. The OK is in, now I can have my interview. Wait just a minute Mr. Marx... you now have to call Lt. Chris Cheung to receive permission as well as schedule a date and time to meet with Ken Corderro at Station #12. I get on the horn again and reach Lt. Cheung-- So Jacob, what time would you like to meet with Ken Corderro? Me-- I was informed I needed to schedule a time through you so you could send a notification to the station. Lt. Cheung-- you need to talk to Ken first to schedule a time that he is working. This does make sense, that is, seeing what time works for Ken before I get permission, again. But, this is not what I was told to do. Anyways, I call station #5.... no answer. Really? I call again and again and again and again... no answer. I call the next day at 9 am. I reach a woman but I'm informed Ken will be out till 5pm, when he will get back from training. I call at 5:07pm (that is today), he is not back yet. Here I am, it is 5:55 and I am about to call again, wish me luck...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Please, oh please..

An inquiry letter asking for permission.
To: Mindy Talmadge
SF Fire Dept.
For: Chief of Department
My name is Jacob Marx and I am a student at the University of San Francisco. I am inquiring today about receiving permission from the SF Fire Department to interview one of its firefighters, Ken Corderro, and do a personal profile on him. The profile will be positive in nature and focus on the many physical and emotional challenges firefighters endure on a daily basis. Some specific aspects will include how a firefighter copes with death, why he got into this line of work, and what he hopes to accomplish when he goes out on a mission. Other personal questions will be asked such as: how firefighting affects family life at home, what emotional baggage does the fighter bring to and from work, and what the hardest part of his job is.
Other parts of this feature will include a short personal history on Corderro as well as some historical information on Station #12 and the rest of the SF Fire Department. I will also ask Corderro to describe a firefighting situation that has greatly influenced or affected him—of course leaving out names of victims and addresses if that is prohibited. It is my intention in doing this story to show the public the ins and outs of a firefighter in his station, rather that the details of a specific fire. Also, in doing this piece, I personally hope to gain a better understanding of the SF Fire Dept.
The reason for doing this story, if it works out well, is to send it out for possible publication in local Bay Area magazines. It will also be posted on the USF online magazine Blogs on a Plane. A little bit about me: I am a junior Media Studies major, minoring in Journalism and Pre-Law. I have been news reporting for two years now and see myself continuing the trade in the future.
I thank you for your time and hope you will grant me permission to do this profile.
Jacob Marx

Privett Feature

“You would be an idiot to not know how to work the system,” said the silver haired priest, explaining why having single sex dorms wouldn’t limit the possibility of promiscuity.
Father Privett, 63, President of USF, is as down to earth as he is spiritual. He drives a Mini-Cooper; he says he watches no TV, gains no salary, and knows there will always be a place for Jesuit tradition.
On November 20, USF’s Journalism One class meets with Privett for a State of USF press conference and answers questions ranging from football possibilities to USF republicans.
The conference starts, the floor is open... silence. With sideburns creeping down his cheeks, Privett smiles at the room and gives the students an unspoken ok to ask some tough questions any questions. Still though, there is hesitation. What are they waiting for? Eyes wander and glances are tossed back and forth across the table. One student, a girl in green, almost goes for it but then retreats. Who will ask it?
Finally, the ice is broken. The opening question stumbles awkwardly out onto the table, reminiscent of a newborn colt, making itself vulnerable for the first time. The student reporter whom asks it also sits closest to Privett, on his left, making him the most courageous person in the room. Like a group of chefs waiting for a patron’s approval, the beginning reporting class stares silently at the President. The next few seconds feel like minutes amongst the young reporters. Then, almost anticlimactically, Privett calmly nods and answers accordingly.
One can tell Privett, has previously answered 90 percent of the questions the reporting students ask him, but he still gives the students respect and eye contact, purveying that he is a man of the masses and not just a figure perched high atop Lone Mountain.
The LM room we are in, inside the Rossi Wing, reflects the grandeur of the President. It is clean and unmistakably Catholic—two Jesuit paintings hang from the far wall. The conference table inside is long and oak with 14 black chairs surrounding the perimeter—students fill all but the three in the back. Privett is at the head with a glass wall to his right, a view of the city to his left and oak panels covering for what looks to a flat screen TV to his back.
The next question comes from the glass side of the room, avoiding the dreaded domino effect where one question follows the previous down the line and around the table.
Privett adjusts his wire frame glasses and takes the question to heart then laughs out loud. "Hell will freeze over before football comes back to USF," Privett says, humorously demolishing any lingering rumors or doubts. Privett, wearing a woolen blue sport coat, says only 13 schools in the country profit off of football and a new program carries $five-million in starter fees, two statistics that don't match up with his view of USF.
Looking to the back of the room, the three empty chairs are filled with the final three students in the class. Were they late because they needed their coffee fix or because they were lost in the labyrinth of hallways the Rossi Wing is?
Privett, in answering the questions, tells of his view for USF as one that has the university continually increasing its value. Whether that is hiring staff that best fits the university mission, rather than on their political ideology or informing students that it is not normal for a college student to drink every night.
Away from his words, Privett's hands tell tales of their own. They circle the table top in front of him—as he describes that he has no influence in USF's food contract with Bon Appetit–like jets hovering above an imaginary airport, waiting for the SF fog to clear so they can land.
When he explains why he would sell KUSF if he thought it no longer fit within the University's Mission, his hands distance themselves as they move away from his body, playing the parts of two sailboats racing in the San Francisco Bay.
Later, when he talks about the new Cabaret Theater Company in relation to Crossroads, his finger tips touch and his palms are apart, creating the outline of an ancient Native American Ohlone tee pee that could have stood on the Hill long before the erection of USF. Yes, his hands have many stories to tell, but so does he.
Privett is a maverick Jesuit President who isn’t afraid of going against the mold. He says he is unwilling to make USF abroad programs mere “American colonies” in other countries like Gonzaga has done with its Venice program. Instead, he operates at a higher level. He wishes to stray USF students away from the McDonald’s experience many students receive when they cross entire oceans, and instead immerse them in cultures that offer students an experience 180 degrees from a Big Mac and fries.
The first time Father Privett traveled out of the US, to El Salvador, the village he stayed in was bombed and strafed multiple times. After more time in the country he realized the US government wasn’t offering the aid they said they were and he learned that you must question and challenge established hegemony.
This is to be his most energetic point—acknowledging that the students themselves will decide what they do, not him. Specifically, as consumers fighting their own battle against Bon Appetit, as revolutionaries negotiating their own balance between the innovations of the internet and the intimacy of real contact, or their decision on the role science in religion and how they should intertwine.
Towards the end of the conference, J. Michael Robertson, Professor of the J1 class, opens the floor to some tuff questions. We can see a flare ignite in Privett’s eyes. What will happen next?
Hilarity, that’s what. The first question out of the gate falters and hits the table in a thud. The next question is seemingly ambushed. A representative of the USF Republicans, also a J1 student, asks the question about Republicans. Privett gives a sneering smile and replies, “As President they are welcome. As a person, they are kooks.” Here we can see the playful side of Privett. Next question.
One more and Privett is about tuckered out from the barrage of variance the students threw at him in the form of their questions. With arms crossed, he says thank you and goodbye.
As the class walks out, one more question comes to mind—how much would he sell his Mini-Cooper for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Its been hard weeks long.

A journalist struggles often. Over this semester we have all had our hardships trying to get interviews and trying to make sense of the profiles we want to write. This past week I might have had my hardest "journalist week" yet. I have had an onslaught of problems reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, complete with raining fire and brimstone. It started off with a cancellation of an interview I had with my Cuban.
Next was the run-around I received from the SF Fire Department. I received permission from the Division Chief after I was told I needed his "ok," only to be told on my return that I now needed the City Chief's permission. I called the main office to find that I actually needed permission from the Public Information Officer, who took the week off.
Beyond that I have writer's block. I don't know where that came from... Maybe from the 15 papers required for my "film" class or the nine papers required for my "acting" class. Again, that is 24 papers... Not pages. No joke, I have produced more pages in my movie and acting classes than two semesters of Written Communication. Don't get me wrong, I love to write, but there is only so much one can take. I seriously feel hung over from the kind of binge writing I have had to do.
The writing I enjoy is when it is purposeful. More like a glass of a nice cabernet with a steak than a keg of cheap beer streaming down the throat of an upside-down college student being held up by his peers in a dirty garage. I enjoy writing when it is either letting the world know what is going on with the world or when it is improving my actual writing. I consider these three things-- the cancellation, the run-around, and the writer's block-- the fire of my week, as they have burned away my patience. Now comes the brimstone-- just out right destruction.
Computers and liquids don't mix. Specifically, Dell computers and water don't mix. Simply put, it doesn't turn on and it smells like burning plastic. A stone might as well have burst through the ceiling and crushed the damn thing. Why a week before finals? I don't know, but I now have a part time residency in the UC computer lab. The chairs are a little stiff and the keyboards probably house a million kinds of germs, but other than that its cozy.
Everything in my flat is broken. This isn't directly related to journalism, but I feel it has a pretty negative effect on my life and that in turn inhibits my writing. The flat has two toilets, both broken. One shoots water out the side when it flushes and the other doesn't flush. The dishwasher is MIA. Well, not actually missing, just broke. But its washing capabilities are missing. The bathroom sink it clogged with my roommates afro-hair. Up until two days ago we, no joke, had no lock and no knob on our front door. Those had been MIA for, ohh, a week. The list goes on and on: from stained carpets, to a struggling oven, to the internet we pay for but have yet to receive. Oh, and the cable went out two days ago--sweet. My cell phone was in the same puddle of water my dell was. Its not dead, but we'll call it "limited." My room's light shorted out. Darkness past 5pm. I lost my running shoes. My roommate had an "experience" at Albertson's that for some reason got me banned for life from there. Trader Joe's is a much further walk.
Well, that was nice. At least I feel a little better now. Not sure what to do, but I'll tell you what im not going to do-- re-read this. I think I'll save myself the added depression.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mt. Tamalpais

Few things are more uncomfortable than dirt trapped in a pair of wool socks. This is never more apparent than when hiking. This dirt, allied with small pebbles, somehow infiltrates the "impermeable" socks just purchased as Sports Basement and gives the slip to the "rock guard" on the brand new boots that guaranteed no rocks shall pass. It then proceeds, unchecked, past the ankle, the bridge, and the arch, and somehow manages, like an unstoppable rebel force, to embed itself in between each toe. A strange cause and effect happens here, it seems dirt scrapping between the big toe and the second triggers the mouth to fire off strings of expletives– who knew?
Adding to the irritation, a fair amount of dampness accumulates throughout the foot and a hundred torturing burs stick through the pair of calf-high pulled up wool socks and prick the pale skin that has other wise been hiding under jeans and khakis for the last six months. After a full day of walking, seemingly all uphill, one can only wonder why hiking is said to be therapeutic. This is why I recommend a different approach to finding gorgeous views and picturesque landscapes: just drive there. The Panoramic Highway, off of Highway 101 north of San Francisco will take you all the way to the top of one of the Bay Area’s finest lookouts, Mt. Tamalpais.
Loaded into a Subaru, my party starts the journey to Mt. Tam heading over the Golden Gate bridge from the University of San Francisco. I ride shotgun, dad is the behind the wheel, and mom is behind us. The first order of business is food. Mom, wearing a USF supporting green sweater with blonde hair fluttering in the rolled down window, yells from the back seat, "Where do you want to stop for food?" Dad decides quickly on fish and chips in Sausalito. Pulling off the highway to Sausalito and up into neighborhood parking, Dad, sporting Wranglers and a very fitting pair of boat shoes, leads us down to the marina. Down near the docks, large crowds swarm the brightly colored tourist shops that promise Bay Area treasures and artwork, offer cheap SF trinkets, and will even sell an Alcatraz t-shirt for $8.99, or three for $14.99– I still don’t know how that works. Everything here is stereotypical– the Asians take pictures, the Eastern Europeans and Russians yell at their kids, and an Italian grandma can’t stop sobbing about something someone did– so we continue on to a less populated spot.
Here we find the Cat n’ Fiddle. This restaurant slash bar offers seafood, steaks, and sandwiches with all the trimmings. Mom orders the Halibut fish and chips, Dad has the corn beef sandwich– he doesn’t recommend it– and I go with the basic burger. All and all, it’s a decent meal, and with a few pints of ale the barely par performance from the Cat n’ Fiddle is barely noticed. Over next hour we let our stomachs digest and then its time to hit the road again.
Speeding down on Highway 101 for a short while we turn off on the well marked Mt. Tamalpais exit and head through Mill Vally, past the famous Proof Lab surf shop and left onto Panoramic Highway. Let the curves begin.
Winding through neighborhoods clumped between coastal redwoods and ferns, the Subaru ramps up rpms, cresting steep hills only to dip down once again. Soon, the Stinson Beach exit sign approaches– stay right for the mountain, detour left for a beach romp. Veering right, up further through the woods, to the summit and a rock star view of San Francisco we go. A lesson is learned here– excessive turns, however necessary, cause car sickness on a still full stomach. My advice is to pull over a few miles up the road at the Muir Woods turnoff to let the nausea subside as well as to enjoy the view of plush forests engulfing the valley below.
Back in the car, taking turns again, the pinnacle of Tamalpais looms ten miles in the distance. From here, the air becomes thinner, ears begin to pop, and the road’s grade reaches increasing heights. We will eventually reach 2,571 feet elevation. Nine miles more and a curious leveling of the road occurs. Don’t be fooled, this is not the top. A steep decent followed by a hulking accent, ending in a five dollar parking lot, marks the crown of Mt. Tam. The view from the lot is gold.
Once the location of "The Crookedest Railroad in the world," the Mt. Tamalpais of old offered passengers in the early 1900's a trip to the top and a 10 mph free fall down of which gravity was the only driving force, according to the trail head’s information post. John McKinney of said the rail had 281 curves each way, but a wildfire knocked this thrill ride out of commission. Now, equally crooked roads and trails climb to the top, giving bikers a grueling pedal, hikers a painstaking walk, and drivers a windy course on which to test their stomachs. At the top, Mt. Tam has a small ranger station that offers trail maps and guides as well as a snacks for slightly exorbitant prices. The parking lot lies about a quarter of a mile from the high point where a rocky switch back trail makes its way up the rest.
The unbeaten path, riddled with jagged yellow shale rock, limits the speed of the accent. Parents with young children beware, the little ones will have a hard time reaching the top. Peaking out from behind the last corner of the trip, an old barbed wire covered ranger station is perched on the highest part of the peak, called the Gardner Lookout. This daunting site is Tamalpais’ welcoming gesture– it shows guests the attitude Tamalpais once had. The memorial plaque on the station said it was constructed in 1937 dedicated to Mount Tamalpais Fire Chief Edwin Borroughs Gardner. Gardner, the fire chief from 1917–1935, died in 1935, after living through the crooked railroad fire of 1930 just five years prior.
Beyond this beacon of the past lies the lookout point, a rock formation wounded with the stabs of time. Cracks and holes, caused from lightning and erosion, plague the boulder outcropping and make standing on it seem a bit unsafe. However, any uncertainty fades with the southern view. The first recognizable sights are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, the towns of Sausalito and Marin. Across the bay and past Alcatraz we have our fist encounter with the wonders of SF, the stretching marina. Scanning the city we admire the great Transamerica Pyramid, the green rectangle of Golden Gate park, and the circular spires of Saint Ignatius. Up here, a person can pretend he is God.
On the way back down, a cyclist flies by our car, but we both pass hikers who’s knees surely ache. Looking out the window at blurred trees, the thought of creeping down this coastal mountain in an open box car moving at 10 mph sounds nice. But drivers shouldn’t complain, so I keep my mouth shut.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Edward Guthman and the finer points I thought he made:
-There is a lot of room for personal interpretation and expression in feature stories.
-"A daily paper is like a consumer guide."
-Having the curiousity and the interest is more important than the writing.
-Read to improve your writing, read read read.
-Fascinating people make fascinating stories.
-Structure is unique with every story.
-It takes a sympathy and a lack of judement to do a true profile.
-Do what you want to do.

Opinion on a mask...sunglasses

Besides keeping a straight face while listening to a harmless, however obviously fake, white lie during an interview with a Haight shop keeper, my challenge was keeping my opinion out of the trend story. I had a hard time writing on such a superficial topic, sunglasses, without throwing in my own ideas on how the trend has reemerged as a blast from the past. Sunglasses, in my opinion--as was somewhat said by Jennifer Hartford in her interview-- act as a protective device over the human psyche--a mask to hide ourselves from the rest of the world. We live in a time of rapidly changing cultures and styles that can bring about a self-consciousness of how we, as people, fit into the change. We can never be sure if our jacket is hip, if our shoes are in, or if our hair is gelling. At least when we wear sunglasses, if our push on the limits of fashion fails, people don't have to see our faces. In short, people use sunglasses to keep some of their cards hidden, especially if those cards are wearing a plaid shirt and neon pants.
I believe in the 60's, all the way up to the late 70's, sunglasses were large in size for the same reason. At this time, youth culture was furthering the boundaries of fashion and a societal condom was needed for protection from critics. Of course people were going to bash the pioneers of bell bottoms and ridicule the explorers of mustaches-- at least with sunglasses on, people could avoid eye contact with their ridiculers. No eye contact means no low self-esteem.
On a more serious note, times are a'changing, much like back then. There is a'changing of the guard for world powers. There is a'changing of powers in our own country. There is a'changing of our perception of how safe we really are--how safe are we? We are in a time of war, debt, and hate. We live amongst racism, elitism, and sexism. The world's deck thickens with complexity each new day at the hands of globalization, cultural fornification, and further class separation. The foundations of our country--despite the army, the navy, and homeland security-- are shaken constantly. Gas prices are at an all time high, morality is at an all time low, and it seems we won't be out of Iraq till the end of time. We have more taxes, less social services, and weaker borders than ever before. I can't tell you the last time baseball, the great American pass-time, went a year without a scandal... In light of all this, it is no wonder we might want to hide behind something--even if it is a pair of large sunglasses.


On a day that could be packaged up and sold, a young woman, like a fighter pilot about to go into battle, puts on her bent sunglasses and hits Haight street ready for a fashion war. What is she fighting for? Of course, a replacement for her broken glasses– fortunate for her, the latest in sunglass fashion is big, beautiful, and hard to miss.
Long since Jacqueline Onassis, the great Kennedy bride, shielded herself from paparazzi camera flashes with dark, oversized sunglasses and Audrey Hepburn wore a pair of eclipsing shades, giving us a black and white pose in Paris worthy of legend, there has been a re-emergence of large sunglasses– ones that haven’t been seen on a mass scale since the 70's.
These aren’t the fuzzy brimmed spectacles adorned by 80's club kids or the full wrap-arounds, half in red and half in yellow, prized by AC Slater in the early 90's, but a return of the high fashion accessories once celebrated by national icons. These new glasses are bedazzling the world with a hybrid of styles, mixing the classical with the modern, allowing just the right amount of a person’s face to be covered– as to show their identity but still keep the mystery alive.
Wearing a pair of Oliver Peoples glasses, reminiscent of large flat opal stones, Jennifer Hartford, 20, said she wears her big glasses so she can lose the makeup while still feeling trendy. Hartford also said she feels protected when she’s wearing her shades.
Michelle Cole-Arnold, owner of the very swank clothing store Lost Horizon, said over-sized sunglasses came into style about two to three years ago and are worn by both sexes and any age between 15 and 40. Cole-Arnold, contrasting a 17 year old’s dress code with a head of silverish-blonde hair escaping out from under her grey Cuban revolutionary style cap, said the big framed glasses, along with military style aviators– as worn by Tom Cruise in Top Gun– are currently in, but the style is always changing. "If you were to open a sun glass store, you wouldn’t spend all your money buying these two [glasses] because everything would change in two weeks."
Lost Horizon is located on Haight Street in San Francisco, a district long thought of as a sort of fashionista’s paradise that offers a reliable indicator to current fashion trends. On the street, my eyes, unbiased by any glasses, can see that the most basic of indicators– that is, what people are wearing– points to large glasses as the go to style for the masses.
Above street level, resting on the front counter of the infamously popular Villain’s Vault clothing store, also located on Haight, hip brands such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, and Dior, along with fashion titans like Gucci, Armani, and Prada all lay their stake in the booming oversized shades market, proving that large glasses are definitely the bees knees. Inside the lofty Villain’s Vault, my personal sunglass guide, personal shopper Laura Santoyo, described the modern trends in sunglasses, ironically, as vintage and large, with some 70's funk styled into each pair.
Santoyo, 23, said hot styles of the oversized glasses include glasses with anything from rims that cross in the front and open up on the sides, creating a flow of peripheral freedom, to others that resemble race horse blinders. Colors include everything from basic black to standout white to a Rastafarian blend of red, yellow, and green. In any case, Santoyo said, a gradient fade on the lense is a must have, which makes the lense color look increasingly erased from top to bottom. Whether or not you prefer the added decoration of rhinestones or glitter is your call, but keep the frame plastic instead of metal said Santoyo. Also, mirrored lenses are out– that would be tacky; that would be Chips.
Giving a commoner’s opinion on the matter, USF student Dave Binegar, 20, said comfortably, while wearing some checkered slacks and a pair of neon colored Ray Bans, that he believes the over-sized sunglasses are coming from a new Golden Girls rave that is bringing back grandma chic– that is if grandma chic was ever in. Binegar said he wants to see even larger glasses emerge from the new trend. Although it is uncertain whether glasses will make the switch from mid-size SUV to Excursion, one thing is, right now bigger is better.
Turning the pages in magazines like GQ, Vogue, and Hommes, I notice that the cooler the brand, the larger the sunglasses on the model. Moreover, the older the clothes on the models look, the larger the sunglasses. So, what’s the deal?
Sitting behind the front counter of Stuf, a youthfully florid accessories shop on Haight, a young woman with afro-ed hair shooting out every which way from her scalp, Jamey Gorman, tells me these snow goggle sized glasses reemerged with the current retro/vintage trend. "The 70's are back," said the twenty something Gorman, who was now leaning back with her bare feet propped up on the counter and tucked half way into her bellbottoms, "I guess things were meant to be showed off back then."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Elevator Experience

In remembering my elevator experience, I forgot to add one aspect of the story. Perhaps it was too tramatic for my direct recolection or perhaps it was my sub-conscience journalistic objectivity's hidden dicision to leave out irrelevant material. Either way, I forgot, so here it is. During the sixth minute, or so, I encountered a rogue professor on a fifth floor stop. He smiled at me dearly, then in a moment seemingly out of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, his diposition changed and in a near violent outburst, he picked up and threw a cardboard box into the elevator, barely missing my head. He smiled again and I will leave this professor un-named for libel purposes, but I feel it needed to be told.

In this story, I was only allowed thirty minutes and I still feel as though I lost control of some of my material, which transfered to my writing. I have been having trouble with this lately, and cannot seem to link my thoughts with transitions and relevency. What can I do? I guess some more editing is in order and maybe some re-writes. But writing on deadline is tuff and time is not always easy to come by, especially at this point in my life. If anyone has some magic organizational punch, Ill take a few gallons. On second thought, Id take a few gallons of jungle juice as well.

Elevator Intro

On this page, Michael J. Robertson’ s Feature Writing class holds witness to six accounts of 30 minute elevator rides, each with its own tale of sensory perception. In one elevator, the stench of stale Nacho Cheese Dorito chips wafts in with an entrant, alleviating in minutes, while the smell of relish and perfume tainted popcorn are the permanent residents of others. Dim florescent lighting and bright colored signs en-trance the eyes of unsuspecting riders while inside these descendants of stairs, recreating the Ca and Mogley scene in the Jungle Book. Profanity, mouse-squeaks, and polite beeps liter the enclosed spaces with some of the most peculiar noise pollution some have ever heard. And characters such as the Brown Hawaiian Shirt Man, the single white nat, and packs of Bon Appetit employees play critical roles in each of the six vertical productions. Accounts, from six different elevators are around the USF campus, describe events beginning with packages reeking of cigarettes to encounters ending in awkward flirtation. Please, read on.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


"Going down?"
"Going up?"
Today, not just any direction could suffice, it took no direction at all to land such an unpredictable experience. As the door opened, the smell was of relish and stale garbage, accented with breezes of cafeteria food. Walking through the entrance, my feet stuck to the floor as my arm grazed the wall, caressing a substance I would rather not have been exposed to. I could imagine if I had touched my tongue to the wall, would it have caused a Christmas Story-esc shenanigan that only the San Francisco Fire Department could save me from?
One dim fluorescent bulb lit the grimy rectangular box and the door closed behind me, I was now the prisoner of one of the most horrific elevators in USF history. Looking up, the ceiling had scratches in it reminiscent of a horror movie and the walls were broken and damaged as if a Veloca Raptor were once trapped inside.
Moving up and down, the elevator grimaced as mostly Bon Appetite cooks traveled between the first and second floor. The capacity warning stated that myself and 2350 extra pounds could fit, but I was hardly convinced. Bon Appetite employees, as I discovered, travel in packs and their conversations are based around "working too many hours" and griping about a certain arch-enemy that someone shouldn’t have "high-fived."
The only relief I had inside was in the friends I made onboard. The first was the emergency telephone bolted to the left side; I knew I could depend on it for rescue if suddenly I had to call someone warning them I was hurling helplessly from the fifth floor to the first. My other friends came in the form of buttons: one read, "push in case of emergency," and the other, "push in case of fire." God save the poor soul who ever gets trapped inside that wretched box during a fire.
Judging by the mustard colored walls that fade into a tope ceiling, one can tell Adolf Loos had no part in its interior design, but still, the rusted metal floor made of six uneven panels gave a sense of home– that is if home was San Quentin. Two USF event staff entered next– puzzled looks and odd stares were exchanged– then out of no where the shorter of the two spoke up, "You are just hanging out in this thing." She had figured me out in less than three looks so I half-heartedly agreed. Apparently the USF event staff stipend their wages with odd jobs as psychics. She then said, "You should get a job at Rasputen’s. They have a guy there who just rides up and down, but he has a stool." Laughter ensued and they stepped off no later than they could.
This was to be my last encounter with human life before the elevator idled at the second floor, the Bon Appetite kitchen, for fifteen solitary minutes. As time passed, the increasing loneliness brought about a certain insanity and I concluded my worst fear would be realized if someone stole my shoes, leaving my bare feet without defense on the soiled floor. On the other side of the dingy silver door, I could hear a strange buzzing mixed with the hybrid language of Spanish and Chinese used by the cooks. The only other noise was an out of tune whistle, which I soon tried to match.
In a brief moment of sanity, I decided I needed to return to the real world, outside this mind trap. Pushing the third floor button, the elevator lurched up one floor and the doors slid open. As I retreated from this travesty and looked back, I saw a green sign printed with white lettering. I could only wonder– if I called 422-6464, would the permits for this elevator really be on file?
written by: Jacob Marx

Video Games

For years video games have been blamed for so many of the troubles the youth of our nation face today, including attention deficit disorder, an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, social anxiety disorder stemmed from a lack of real life interaction, and even a warped sense of reality. But lets face it, in a time of desperate need, video games are a steadfast and unwavering friend. Never has a Playstation, or as neigh sayers like to call it, "the ruiner of lives," been too busy to just hang out and chill. At no point has an X-box ever judged you, calling you too fat, not cool enough, or too ugly to be your friend. When you are stranded inside and alone on a gloomy day as the rain pours cats and dogs over the asphalt on which games of basketball are usually played, who is there to keep you comfort? Nintendo, that’s who, rain or shine. The truth is, a video gaming system does not have it in its circuitry to leave you high and dry, bored out of your mind with nothing to do, its job is entertainment.
So why is it that concerned parents, psychologists, and "the man" alike try to bring down our closest of comrades, Nintendo, Platstation, and X-box? The answer is as complex as it is
disheartening, they just don’t understand. They don’t understand that a friend doesn’t have to be a person. For our generation, the advancement of video gaming has been that of the advancement of a person. When we were entering grade school, we had regular Nintendo and Atari to calm our nerves and dissolve our first day of school fears. As we excelled in playground sports in the fourth grade school, so did our game play at home with Fifa Foreplay Soccer and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on our Sega Genesis’ and Super Nintendos. Upon entering the scary new world of middle school where we actually changed class rooms, we were blessed with the newest wave of systems, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and Playstation. In Highschool we landed our first real girlfriends as well as our first dates with reality based gaming, the Playstation 2 and the internet capable X-box. And now just as we enter the next stage of our lives, the most complex yet, College, a new breed of gaming has emerged, the Playstation 3 and the X-box 360, available soon.
The truth is, we are as familiar with the stages of video game advancement as we are with the growing up of our best friends, maybe even more. For example, remember when your best friend broke his leg jumping his bike in the fourth grade? Kind of. Now, remember one week later when you got a Super Nintendo for your birthday? Yeah, that was the best day of your life! See, and that same Super Nintendo kept you both busy for those 6-8 weeks when you were waiting for your friend’s leg to heel. In the end, friends don’t have to be real, they just have to be there. And for this reason, I know I feel better having a Playstation that has my back.
written by: Jacob Marx

Too long have ball sports dominated the spectator entertainment arena in the US. It is not to say that I, as general sports fan, do not enjoy four pro games a day along an entrancing highlight reel, back rounded with a new Jay-Z rap song, showcasing slam dunks, home runs, and big hits on the grid iron, but I crave more. I want more excitement than the comfort of Saturday college football action or an almost guaranteed 162 games of baseball that my friends over at Yankee Stadium can offer me. I want something other than a pro football game for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Sundays– maybe just breakfast and dinner. I need salvation from the daily grind of batting orders, special teams, and hook shots. Which of the more non-traditional sports will be my messiah? Will the X-games offer me warmth in the cold of a lonely winter night? Probably not. Will hockey... well, I won’t even discuss hockey, frankly, it sucks. So where am I to turn for a fresh batch of sporting entertainment? Don’t be too riddled by my antidote, it lies in six simple letters– NASCAR. Im not exactly sure what those letters stand for, but I know what they mean– country music, fast cars, loose woman, and a little thing I like to call beer, and nothing fancy if you get my drift. A herd of country folk will usually pull trailers into the middle of the gigantic racing track and, from what I can tell, about three days of tail-gaiting will ensue. Now, in my opinion, participation in this "NASCAR world" can’t be healthy in long periods of time, but while the heart is young, I say live it up.
On the actual racing day, super fast cars make an endurance sprint for about 500 miles, looping around and around the oval of hot concrete, taking hard pressed turns to gain position, and passing opponents using the old soccer mom "im late for my kids practice, so its ok for me to cut you off" technique. NASCAR is, despite popular opinion, very entertaining, especially when 20 cars spin out and wreck all at once. Its true, people don’t mind when the cars crash, its just one of those things everyone is secretly waiting for. The world of racing is expanding and immersing American culture, from F-1 circuits to quarter mile drag challenges, and NASCAR as the front man. Im not saying on any given day I will be wearing a Hamm’s t-shirt and a Michelob Light ball cap as a crown while screaming at Jeff Gordon to pass Tony Stewart on the 182nd lap of the Banquet 500, but I might catch a few hours of racing on a Saturday afternoon for some college football relief. Change is not bad, I’m giving NASCAR a chance, besides, its not like im watching hockey.
written by Jacob Marx

Man’s Best Friend
In a recent conversation, a friend told me that a dog is not "man’s best friend," but merely a vessel of unconditional love for all who come near, carrying no real loyalties. Well I say balderdash. Now mind you, this friend is a girl and has no reference to what a "man’s" best friend really is. So let me tell you.
First off, what classifies a best friend? A best friend follows you into any adversity, any struggle, any conflict– without hesitation. Take Lassie for example, swimming out into an ice cold river to save her owner from drowning, absolutely neglecting her own safety. Lassie almost died, but if not for her instinctual canine abilities, or in this case, inabilities, little Timmy surely would have. Im not saying it takes habitual blind action to be a best friend, but a brash decision in the face of danger every once in a while would be nice. The point is, a dog cannot think about consequences the same way people can, so they will react to save your life way before any person would.
Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that dogs don’t think about consequences? Well, take your dog out to an extremely fast moving river (class five), throw a red ball into the rapids, and see what happens. Complete disregard for safety, that’s what. However, that’s precisely what a best friend is for– doing exactly what you say.
Now, I’m not advocated that a person should take advantage of an animal totally undivided in his loyalties, but that a best friend is of mutual standing and either will go to any length to help his counterpart– regardless of future reciprocation or consequence. Here is a true story, from the website for the book, Yorkie Doodle Dandie, written by William A. Wynne, about a Yorkie named Smoky who saved her best friends’ lives, simply because she was asked to.
"Early in the Luzon campaign [during WWII] Smoky pulled a string with vital phone wires attached under a taxi strip preventing the need to place 40 US fighter and recon planes in peril of destruction by enemy bombings. The three day digging task to place the wires was instead completed by this little dog in two minutes. The pipe was 70' long and 8 "in diameter with four inch high sand piles that filtered down at each four feet segment in the drainage culvert. She had never done this before. She came through the pipe because she was asked to." Now if that isn’t undaunted courage and loyalty, then I don’t know what is. Thank you to all dogs– to all of man’s best friends.
written by: Jacob Marx

The Ocean
It seems that the follies of ocean travel have become overlooked by vast majority of the citizens of the world. A false sense of security has taken control of the sea faring public and from what I can tell, this fog of delusioned safety is only growing thicker. Alarmingly, people all over the world have come to believe that we have the obedience of the ocean in a head lock and submission has been guaranteed. I’ll tell you, that’s just not the case, submission isn’t guaranteed.
Cruise ships routinely venture out over the great abysses of the ocean without a care in the world, and more than that, they even mean to party. Fishing has transformed from a means of catching food for the survival of sea dependant cultures into a multi-million dollar recreational industry where commercial boats embark daily on fun filled trips for the whole family. Fearful of the ocean, sea worthy boats were once great vessels of wood and steel, propelled by expansive sails and heavy oars. Now, Sea-doos and Malibu jet boats skip across the waves of the great blue yonder in an almost cocky manner, as to say, "I dare you," to the water beneath them.
From where has this boldness derived from? When did the fears of sharks, sea monsters, and drowning cease to reside in the minds of humanity? In the past one hundred years, the ocean has tried to regain its stature, but again and again, we are persistent in forgetting the dangers of the sea. For instance, the Titanic hit an iceberg and most of its passengers drowned– the next day, cruise ships were still setting off into the cold of the Atlantic. In the aftermath of the great storm retold in The Perfect Storm, recreational fisherman were right back out there. Even after Jaws terrorized that small town, children all over the world were still swarming beaches world wide.
Now, negating the perils of the ocean can be traced to once significant event. Ever since Columbus proved that the a ship wouldn’t fall of the end of the world if it went out to far, its been a losing battle for maintaining the ambiance of a powerful ocean. Moreover, as time has passed, humanities innovations have camouflaged the sea’s hazardousness. Examples of this include the inventions of the life preserver, the life raft, and the lighthouse. Don’t be fooled by the names, these things don’t make the ocean a safer place.
Take for instance the life preserver, it sounds like its adding a mountain of safety to your voyage, because its preserving your life, but its not. What does it really do? It makes you a sitting duck for the likes of sharks and killer whales. It says its "preserving" your life, yeah maybe preserving the freshness of an orca’s next meal.
The life raft– a device used to keep the victims of a sunken ship afloat and dry– sure seems like a great idea. But, did you ever think that the life raft is not only keeping moral people like you and I alive, its also keeping pirates alive and well to hunt on the high seas.
Lastly, the lighthouse, as one would assume, marks where the landmass starts so ships don’t accidently run into it. However, after a little investigative journalism, that’s not the purpose of a lighthouse at all. What they really do is aid in the sailing of ships along coastlines. Hence, a less educated captain could sail straight into jagged rocks, thinking he has another couple hundred or so feet before land and consequently, sink his ship.
The next time you decide to enter the depths of the sea, think about the hidden dangers and don’t be fooled by the world’s current "safe ocean" masquerade. Don’t subscribe to the idea of facing your fears and jumping in feet first, the ocean is a truly dangerous place, just ask Leo.
written by: Jacob Marx

Swimsuit Edition
If a stranger were to approach me on the street and tell me that a bunch of the most beautiful girls in the world would ruin my Friday afternoon, I would tell him he was crazy. Sadly though, this stranger wasn’t crazy, the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition did ruin my Friday afternoon.
From years of subscription, I have come to expect greatness from the parade of beaches, bums, and Brazilian cut bikinis that enrich the pages of the SI swimsuit edition every new February. They once took me from Tunisia to Greece in the 2001 edition: Goddesses of the Mediterranean and then into the heart of Latin America in the 2002 edition: Red Hot. In 2003 and 2005, SI didn’t play any games or beat around any bushes, they just gave the titles Too Much Fun and SI Gets Hotter to their issues, making it clear that they had no other goal that showing beautiful models in risque swimsuits. But now, with the release of the 2006 edition, Beach Party, SI has really dropped the ball starting with three major flaws– location, location, and location.
Now, the locations of the beach parties include: Columbia, Hollywood, Tahiti, an art Studio, Cat Island, and Las Vegas. When did Las Vegas get a beach? And when did Cat Island become a real island? The point is, the "beach party" theme doesn’t fit for one major reason– two of the swimsuit model destinations don’t even have beaches (believe me though, the day Las Vegas does get a beach, the place is going to be unrealistically cool, one could even say, better than Cat Island?). Maybe a more fitting title for this years issue would have been– Hot Girls Modeling Small Swimsuits in Random Locations, instead of the vastly misleading and ultimately deceptive, Beach Party.
Another issue I have with this year’s swimsuit issue, is that there is no hint of any kind of party, fiesta, or soirĂ©e. From cover to cover, there were no party poppers, cone shaped hats, or confetti. Never did I see a boom box, a volley ball net, or a super-soaker fight as I flipped through the pages. And where was the kiddy pool full of jungle juice? Absent, along with the pinata.
Of course, it is not to say that girls in barely-there swim wear can’t be fun, just not the sort of thing one should designate as a party (*I’m not prepared to stand by this statement). One section of the magazine, entitled Bombshell Beach, does come close to a party setting. There is a group of girls. They seem to be having fun. But these characteristics don’t necessarily mean party, they also fit common institutions such as college sororities, all-female dorms, and most Hooters restaurants.
I can tell that the models inside this issue did their best, as not to blame them for this tragedy. So who is to blame? Perhaps the deadline snuck up on the editors, forcing them to make an ill- willed decision. Maybe the different teams of photographers couldn’t converge and decide on any one topic. Maybe the government even had something to do with it. The point is, someone must be held responsible for this catastrophe. And in the end, I can only give one simple answer about these misplaced themes, mis-characterizations, and content flaws– I love swimsuit models and the all the terrific works they do around the globe.
*Note: Cat Island actually is a real island. It’s in the Bahamas!
written by: Jacob Marx

Eviction Notice

It has come to my attention that under certain contractual rent agreements, the treasured security deposit, which is often lost at the end of your stay, will automatically be returned if the not so sacred tenant/apartment relationship ends in eviction. Now, for those of you who don’t realize what this means, its like getting back the money you spent on your girlfriend during your problematic year-long relationship after you break up, as if she’d been pocketing the money, hiding it in a box and in a fit of rage, gave it all back right before the end. I know what your thinking, "I’d like an eviction please." Now, eviction can come quite easily for the naturally talented, but for those who can’t quite get the job done, I’ve devised six simple, and cost effective, ways to get you booted from your place faster than you can say, "Hey guys, we just got evicted!" But not really, cause some of these ideas take time.
In order to achieve a regular business week eviction, because you have to buy a plane ticket to visit that girl you met in Costa Rica next week, I recommend the good ol’ fashion ‘I collect noise in my apartment’ approach. To start off, borrow your friend’s 15' car subs, place them conveniently on the floor above your lower neighbors bedroom, and connect them to a thousand watt stereo. Upon bed time, blast Mace till 5:30 am, ignoring any irritating doorbell ringing, Police or not. Remember, sleep with ear plugs so you yourself aren’t disturbed. At 7:00 am, wake up and make breakfast while dropping every pot and pan you own on the kitchen tile. From noon till four, attempt to mimic the howler monkeys you saw that one time on the Discovery channel. Repeat for five days straight, assuring your landlord each evening it won’t happen again, and next Monday, a pay check in the form of an eviction notice.
For a faster check out, and I’m talking about an unnaturally quick removal, its time to join the big brother/big sister and walk a pet program at the same time. And don’t just enlist once, form different aliases and join upwards to twenty or thirty times; you need your neighbors to think you have opened a day-care and a zoo under the same roof in one day’s time. After you have all your players, a gaggle of kids and a multitude of animals rivaling Noah, organize all sorts of games– tag, hide and seek, kings, flip cup, and, of course, pin the tail on everything. Two days tops, guaranteed.
For those vegans out there, I have devised a much more natural method of eviction. It gets down to the roots of the problem and the origins of our country. However, I am warning you, if you don’t know any Cherokee’s or Navaho’s this probably won’t work. What I’m advocating is a rain dance. No animals are harmed and nature only benefits, especially you, because studies have shown that neighbors hate dancing, specifically rain dancing, and eviction is next to assured.
I’d like to thank my friend Ryan and the United States military for the next measure to be taken against the filth of the security deposit. I have three words for you, sniping and water balloons. Actually I have seven words for you, sniping, water balloons, and your neighbor’s great aunt. You do the math, three plus seven equals ten– a perfect ten.
It’s time to put away the Lincoln Logs and Legos, my last two methods are both unorthodox and illegal, so the blame is on you if you chose to be so bold. The fifth algorithmic program (a thesaurus word) involves a rogue gas leak and a conclusion that ends not necessarily in eviction, but you do get the security deposit back. All I’m saying is if there is no building, there can be no irresponsible damage to a certain apartment in that building, that’s all im saying, hands off.
Finality is said to be certain only in death and taxes. All the same, I have always believed finality is certain in death, taxes, and a doctor’s excuse note. To be more precise, I’ve never met a landlord who is willing to keep a tenant when he is certain that person has a plethora of hepatitis, yes, three fold: A, B, and C. If self respect and pride aren’t your game and you are willing to give up a reputation for future references, than a family friend who happens to be a doctor is your best bet in gaining back a security deposit. Five hundred dollars plus is what you gain. Is eviction worth the price? If so, than I not only recommend, but commend you on your decision to take my advice.