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Some Thoughts on This Week’s Heroes

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By Chris Ferro

3/21/2011

Defining a hero in modern American culture is a difficult task. On one end of the spectrum there are people like Charlie Sheen who publicly humiliate themselves for the sake of attention. On the other end there are soldiers in Iraq who live, fight, and die each day in the name of liberty. It seems that in the 21st century the former example fits the definition of “hero.” But does it really? Does a man who claims to have “tiger blood” have the guts to endure a firefight? Does a man who claims to be related to Adonis have the courage to search through a burning building for any survivors?

If a celebrity was to switch places with your average citizen for a day, maybe they could see the true definition of a hero. Maybe they could witness the daily agony of a firefighter, policeman, or janitor. Maybe they could contemplate their own actions and, for once, keep their lives to themselves.

As amusing as Charlie Sheen may be, I no longer enjoy seeing his face daily. The sad reality is that if the earthquake and tsunami didn’t occur in Japan, we’d still be subjected to his miserable life. The lead story on the news would still be “what Charlie Sheen said today”. Luckily, reality obscures the unreal. Which is more real: the whining of a grown millionaire or the suffering of thousands of Japanese villagers?

It is unfortunate that people need a reminder of what life really is. Most of the world doesn’t care about Charlie Sheen or his antics. The reality is that most of the world undergoes harsh tragedies and we do nothing to make them better. We sit at home poking fun at Charlie Sheen, and I am one of those people. I was closely watching his every move. For a week I had forgotten about reality. I had forgotten about what a hero truly is like, then the earthquake off the coast of Japan hit. It was soon followed by a devastating tsunami that inundated everything in its way. I woke up. The world of our designated distractions is but a dream. Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Auschwitz, Chernobyl, Pearl Harbor, Haiti, and Japan are the realities.

Thankfully, with every reality comes a hero. To me, the people living in Japan at the present moment are heroes. They have witnessed close relatives die and have watched their homes float away. They have searched through the rubble trying to find any fellow survivors. They know what real blood looks and feels like, and as a result, they are the ones with tiger blood.

But let’s not forget about our local heroes: the men and women who voluntarily devote their time to people they’ve never seen or met before, the martyrs who love their fellow human beings, and the heroes that search the rubble (alongside the Japanese) just for the hope that someone might still be alive. These people are related to Adonis, and I don’t care how much money Charlie Sheen donates to the earthquake/tsunami relief fund, because he doesn’t know what it is like to step into their shoes. He doesn’t understand that no amount of money can assuage the pangs of despair. The damage has been done.

In a few months the tragedy in Japan will fade away into the shadows of other natural disasters and newsworthy occurrences. In a few months the American public will be subjected to the daily whims of celebrities and non-heroes alike. Another disaster will then unfold in some unexpected area of the world and the wheels of reality will turn once again. The heroes are the one constant in all of this. No matter the time, area, or situation they will be there, and they will heed the hero’s call.

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Written by cromo1969

March 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Posted in World

My iPhone: Is This Love?

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By Robbie Farewell

3/21/2011

Things get old. Whether it’s your family’s beloved cat or dad’s first Chevrolet, possessions that we loved and cherished at one point eventually degenerate into a pattern of uselessness. Sadly, this just began to affect me as I have slowly and painfully watched the deterioration of my iPhone 3G. I feel it’s like watching a grandparent go, one by one, parts slowly becoming less useful, and everything a little slower and less functional. Starting with the internet not moving as fast as it once did, my grandmother seems to be following a similar trend. The sleeper button doesn’t work anymore, and the silent button always fails in the simple task of muting my phone.

Nevertheless, I still love it no matter the age, the wrinkles, and even the scratches I take responsibility for. Although busted up and battered, my phone rarely says no to a challenge. Say I get lost and need directions, the iPhone comes through. With turn by turn directions from the current location to my destination, my phone is my guide, and yes, my friend. Taking the Metro through South Central, it had me covered when my music mood was feeling some NWA.

It’s important to have limits as social networking can be very addicting. It’s important to distinguish the difference between convenience and a relationship. This is why it’s important to have some ground rules. If used in the right way, a smartphone is pretty nifty. It’s more than a phone: it’s a way of life.

In all honesty, I can’t imagine a day without it. To those who haven’t had the experience of using one, you wouldn’t understand my feelings. For those who do, I’m sure this provides some gratification that there is someone else who feels the same. Although mine may be old and feeble it still comes through like a friend and, who knows? This could be love.

Written by cromo1969

March 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Technology

An Album You Must Own: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

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By Christian Romo

3/21/2011

The first minute or so of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill seems innocent enough. A teacher calls roll in a classroom and all of the children are present except for a young Lauryn Hill. The rest of the album is dedicated to her “miseducation” by omission. Attending a spontaneous grammar school lecture about love may have robbed her of the material that created this wonderful album, but it also may have given her the wisdom to avoid the tumultuous romantic events of her life. After all, there is only one Lauryn Hill album, and as great as it is, no artist should be reduced to one piece of work.

Although the album is considered the crowning achievement of the neo-soul movement of the 1990’s, it can also claim the title of one of the best records of the 90’s and one of the best female solo records ever. It’s hard to imagine any artist as talented or conflicted as Hill, one of the few that can flow and belt with the best of the best. Her opener “Lost Ones” shows a Missy Elliot confidence and the ability to shred any male challenger to pieces with her strength, wordplay, and insight.

“Ex-Factor” is a heart-wrenching and simultaneously beautiful song that presents a songwriting talent matched only by the most pitiful in the music industry. “To Zion” is her heart-over-matters blast of feminism that is equally praiseworthy and disappointing (she has stopped recording due to her duties as a parent).

As the album continues, pieces of the lecture on love are interspersed between songs making it seem as if the tracks themselves are the filler to the simple childlike wisdom on love. “When it Hurts So Bad” and “Nothing Even Matters” are Hill’s consequences of her unexplained truancy, and though it seems she has learned her lessons (through “Doo Wop (That Thing)” her #1 single), she had to go through an immeasurable amount of pain to attain them.

Songs like “Every Ghetto, Every City” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)” are endlessly fun and show that Hill has the ability to spread her gospel through the boomboxes of the city and the nationwide waves of Clear Channel. Her rapping talent is spread throughout, notably on the haunting “Final Hour” and the swaying “Superstar”, and her voice, though not at a diva level, can be simply beautiful at times.

Between “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Superstar” is the most important line of the album: “There’s a difference between loving someone and being in love with them”. Delivered by any ten-year old girl your imagination creates, it props up the energy and leaves the lecturer speechless. It’s the centerpiece of the album, and though Hill does an admirable job of trying to match that girl’s bliss, her impressive endeavor can’t help but land short.

Some other noteworthy tracks include “Everything is Everything” and “Forgive Them Father”, but her most impressive effort is her cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”. It’s full of the passion that Frankie Valli lacked when he first recorded the American standard, and Hill’s version far surpasses his and the hundreds of covers made since.

As was the problem of many classic 90’s albums, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is way too long to listen to in one sitting. Fortunately, like the Gospel, there is no one way to take it in. Shuffling the tracks or even picking and choosing when and what you listen to will prove to be just as gratifying as weathering it from cover to cover. Lauryn Hill is not Jesus Christ, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the one who understands his pain and love the best.

Written by cromo1969

March 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Music

Revolution Rattles Libya, Gaddafi Retaliates

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By Christian Romo

3/1/2011

As the second month of 2011 comes to a close, it has already been one of the most newsworthy years in recent memory. The Sudanese in the south voted for separation, rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt have created a quick, dramatic change in leadership, and social revolutions have broken out in Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, and China.

The most compelling story of the year, however, is still unfolding in Libya where anti-government protestors have enacted a full-scale revolution against 40+ year dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In the past two weeks, anti-Gaddafi forces have taken the cities of Zawiya and Benghazi but have made little progress in capturing the capital city of Tripoli.

Gaddafi, unlike ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, has shown no reluctance in denouncing and attacking his opponents. In a series of bizarre television appearances, Gaddafi has blamed the revolution on Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s plan of spiking Libyan coffee with hallucinogenic drugs. Pro-Gaddafi forces have come out in droves teaming up with the military to silence the revolution. Clashes in Tripoli have killed nearly 1,000 demonstrators, but the opposition and scare tactics have not stopped the flow of the revolution. Thousands of Libyan men have enlisted for a rebel force that isn’t even organized yet. The scattered rebels have already liberated the eastern part of the country from military rule.

Gaddafi (right) with Italian P.M. Silvio Berlusconi

The Obama administration, which was hesitant to support the upheaval of Mubarak in Egypt, has come out in full support of the revolutionary forces in Libya. Gaddafi is reputed to be one of the most brutal dictators still in power and has caught the public attention in recent years with his ranting speeches at the United Nations and his record of inhumane practices.

The UN has imposed weapons sanctions and a funding freeze as Gaddafi looks to maintain control of Tripoli. Nearly 100,000 Libyans have fled across the border into neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, some relaying information from the successful Tunisian and Egyptian protests. International humane societies, such as Amnesty International, have started to call the situation in Libya a “humanitarian crisis”.

The organization of demonstrators in Tripoli has been strong, but scattered. Internet access in Libya, a rarity to begin with, is now even sketchier and is giving organizers a difficult time without access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Many people didn’t see the government upheavals of Egypt and Tunisia coming, but a successful revolution in Libya may create lasting shockwaves throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Many countries are already organizing anti-government demonstrations while larger countries such as Iran, fresh off last year’s dramatic presidential election, may be susceptible to the revolutionary fever.

 If anything can be predicted, it’s that the events in Libya will unfold slower than the events of Tunisia and Egypt. Even if Gaddafi prevails and maintains control of his people, his influence will be lessened and the fight will continue elsewhere. Nearly a dozen countries have experienced anti-government sentiment in the first couple months of 2011, and big players such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China may be next. It will be interesting to see how the world looks ten months from now.

Written by cromo1969

March 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Posted in World

Bahrain: An Island in Turmoil

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By Sean McCreary

3/1/2011

Bahrain, a small oil-rich island nation in the Persian Gulf, is not particularly well known to most Americans.   Recently, this has changed as the chaos in the Middle East has spilled over into another Arab nation with a tremendous youth bulge.  Not only are the young protesters in the streets of Bahrain bitter over the lack of economic opportunities for themselves, there is also an added layer of ethnic tension with a Sunni Muslim minority ruling over the Shia majority. 

Such an ethnic imbalance is reminiscent of Saddam Husain’s Iraq and present-day Saudi Arabia, with the latter taking extensive precautionary measures to prevent a similar situation from developing within its borders.  Sunni-Shia animosity has flared up before in Bahrain between 1994 and 2000, tensions which left over forty dead and many hundreds wounded.

During the current protests, the international community has been genuinely shocked at the brutality displayed by the Bahrain Defense Force, which is primarily equipped with American weapons systems. The nation is also the base for the Navy’s 5th fleet with reports of shooting into massive crowds of protestors at the Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain’s version of Egypt’s Tahrir Square.  

After funeral services were held for several demonstrators killed on the 15th of February, police fired on mourners and even emergency personnel that were attempting to load the wounded into ambulances.  The drain on medical resources led to the halting of practice sessions for the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix Formula One race, with the event having since been postponed indefinitely due to the deteriorating security situation. 

On the 22nd of February a crowd of anti-government protestors was estimated to number in excess of 250,000, more than 12% of the entire nation’s population. As of press time, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators continue to demand the release of political prisoners with many more extreme groups demanding the abolishment of the monarchy. 

The situation on the ground continues to be uncertain, with the monarchy maintaining a strong hold on power while demonstrators refuse to back down.  As a major oil-producing power, the outcome of the Bahrain protests carries global significance and the rest of the world is sure to be watching closely.

Written by cromo1969

March 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Posted in World

Labor Battle in Wisconsin

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Photo Credit: CNN

By Christian Romo

3/1/2011

In the past two weeks, not even the United States avoided the rebellious mentality that has swept the Middle East. As a result, the center of the American political world is currently in Madison, Wisconsin.

Thousands of pro-union demonstrators have flooded the state capital in protest of newly elected governor Scott Walker’s proposal to curb union power to cut the state’s deficit. His proposal calls for the end of all public union collective bargaining rights, significant cuts to healthcare for lower-income residents, and the ability for private-sector organizations to take over public utility plants. The governor’s office claims the reduction in spending will save the state $165 million over the next fiscal year.

In what is considered the largest demonstration since the passing of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, Wisconsin workers, mostly teachers and factory employees, have come out in droves to bear the bitter cold and support union rights. The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but some rhetoric and signage bears an uncanny resemblance to the presentations of the Tea Party during their rallies in late 2009 and early 2010.

In response to Governor Walker’s proposition, 14 Wisconsin Senate democrats fled the capital when the vote was set to take place. Many of the hiding Senators have been found in Illinois, and this tactic, though strange, has been successful in blocking an attempt to vote for Walker’s legislation. The Governor threatened a layoff of nearly 1,500 state employees if the bill wasn’t passed by Friday, but Walker has yet to declare whether or not he will fulfill his end of the ultimatum.

Many conservative leaders have placed the blame, if not the explanation, on the Wisconsin voters themselves. Wisconsin, traditionally a blue state, experienced some incumbent distaste in the 2010 midterms by voting in the conservative Walker and voting out the 17-year democratic senator Russ Feingold. Walker’s office has said the voters should not be surprised by the policies endorsed by Walker and that any blame should be placed on the voters.

Many on the left disagree with Walker’s sentiments. Although it is true the voters should be held responsible for a dramatic change in policy to the right, they claim Walker lied in his campaign by claiming he would negotiate with unions to decrease benefits and salaries to avoid massive layoffs. His proposal, they say, would be historic in that it would revoke any power unions have accumulated over decades of existence.

It’s safe to say the clashes will not get violent, but it would be unreasonable to assume the hostility will be limited to Wisconsin. Many states are considering similar pieces of legislation and many pro-union lobbies in Washington are scrambling to give support to the nervous labor organizations they represent. It may not be as dramatic as what is currently happening in North Africa, but the tremors in Madison may give organized labor in the United States a facelift.

Written by cromo1969

March 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Spectrum

Editorial: Egyptian Rebellion or Revolution?

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By Chris Ferro

3/1/2011

The headline of the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday, February 15, 2011 reads, “Tide of Revolt Sweeps Mideast.” The first line: “Inspired by Egypt and Tunisia, protesters in Iran, Bahrain and Yemen rally to demand reforms.” So, people are actually influenced by the actions of others? A revolt or “revolution” in one nation can cause others to attempt the same? I had no idea.

I’m sure that the actions of America in 1776 influenced the French in 1789 have no relevance. It’s shocking to believe that the Middle East has been a hot pocket since the 1960’s. I have no recollection of Desert Storm or the War in Iraq. These events seem to have taken place so long ago.

If we were to go back in time to, let’s say, 1776, the British newspaper headlines would read, “Tide of Revolt Sweeps America.” The first line: “Inspired by the actions of Philadelphia, colonies in Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey have rallied together to demand reforms.” People actually standing up for what they believe in; at the time, this was an outrage! Luckily, England happened to be 3,000 miles away, and with the support of foreign countries such as France and Spain, we won our independence.

So what do historians call this event? The American Revolution. In 1789, what is the “revolting” called? The French Revolution. What exactly is the difference between a revolt and a revolution? First I thought about the bloodshed. It’s safe to say that a revolution has a fair amount of bloodshed. Then I pondered the aftermath of such events. America wrote the Constitution and became one of the most powerful nations in the world. France, slowly but surely, decayed itself on the inside and returned to its pre-revolutionary status.

These examples represent the extremes of rebelling against the system, or “raging against the machine”, so to speak. Fast forward two hundred and thirty-four years and you can see a similar type of situation is unfolding in the Middle East. People are, once again, revolting against their oppressors in the name of democracy.

It does not surprise me that people in the East are tired of fighting. If I lived my entire life in perpetual movement from one bunker to the next, entrapment in a camp for ten years, and a gun placed in my hand for self-defense, I would be sick of it too. I might even consider revolting.

But there’s no such thing as a peaceful revolt. That’s an oxymoron. America didn’t win its independence by standing by and watching British soldiers invade their homes. France didn’t overthrow its monarchy through nonviolent resistence. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words. Back then people didn’t have the common sense enough to realize that a sit-down strike is just as effective as a war, sans bloodshed. Well, history often repeats itself. I hope the revolts in Egypt and the other Middle Eastern nations don’t end up being another “revolution.” If so, let’s hope it turns out more like us than France.

Written by cromo1969

March 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Posted in World