Friday, April 29, 2011

First Impressions

A short story:

I wanted to see her again. It was that brief connection. That moment where I didn’t know where my feet were, that was the moment.

My knees buckled slightly, I wasn’t prepared for this. There have been few times in my life where I have been in convulsions of laughter, unable to see through my tears. And she made me feel weak, vulnerable, and at ease within just a few minutes of knowing her.

Then she was gone, almost as if she weren’t ever there. She had a vague connection to one of my friends but no reason to ever see her again.

The next morning at breakfast, I asked my friend who she was. My friend wasn’t in a bullshitting mood, “if you want her number you should have asked.”

“That’s not what I was getting at.” It was exactly what I was getting at.

“I’m going to lunch with her tomorrow. Come along with us.”

“I already told you,” I was interrupted.

“You got all misty-eyed and looked like a forlorn and abandoned puppy last night after she left. Don’t bullshit me.”

“Fine, if you insist then I will come.” I could feel my face get red, and I thought about being around her again. I was giddy. But I had only known her for a few minutes, what if it was just a spark not a fire? What if she didn’t even like me? What if I snarfed water all over the food? Why was I getting anxiety over someone who was basically a complete stranger?

Walking around I would hear her name and my heart would skip. Just slightly. Just enough to tell me that I was feeling faster than my thoughts.

I became oblivious to the world for a moment, the walkways and paths faded for a brief moment and I ran through every scenario in my head; most of them ended with me embarrassing myself and never seeing her again. Then I bumped into someone in my haze. Not a slight bump, one of those big, corner turning bumps that are always in movies.

And it was just my Hollywood style luck that the person I had hit was her. I smiled sheepishly at her and started trying to help her with her papers. They were scattered everywhere. I was frantically trying to gather the papers and apologize at the same time when I heard her mumbling.

“And it had to be the hot guy from the party last night…”

“Excuse me?”

“Did I say that out loud?” She looked surprised and horrified.

I started laughing. I was excited for lunch tomorrow, it would be great.

Draft: Batman's Justice


Batman...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Case Center's View


Some drawings from today. Skidmore, as I saw it

Distorted medium

When I get into my body it is scary. I realized that when I am grounded it almost hurts. I remember as a child being bewildered by how to use my limbs and fingers.

I used to fall flat on my face, instead of throwing my hands out to save myself. I never wanted to ruin my hands, so I would just fall flat on my face. I always had cuts and bruises on my face as a child. One day my dad told me to just throw my hands out and I would be fine. I didn't believe him, my hands and fingers were so small. They couldn't have possibly saved my head and body from harm.

But they did, I remember falling in our hallway and throwing my hands out in front of me. It barely hurt at all. I remember looking at my hands: they weren't scraped up, they weren't bloody. I was fine. It was hard to imagine that would be the case, I always thought that I would hurt my hands along with my face.

This translated to my fine motor skills as well. The connection between the pencil and the picture in my head has never been a direct one. It feels like there is a distorted medium holding my ideas back. The art that flows out of my body, when it is good, is wholly different from what is in my head. It is like the picture in my mind can't quite connect with my fingers and hands.

My fingers and hands take over at some point and drag me through my project. It is bizarre to watch something come to life without feeling like an active participant. And that is what happens when I really hit my zen points with my art.

Last night was a bizarre experience though. I started drawing and I felt the line between the disconnect and the control the whole time. I couldn't stop fluctuating back and forth between being in control and losing it. Every line I drew was so specific. It felt like my hands were going to swing wildly like a seismograph.

It felt like I was a child again. Unable to concentrate on the paper, but determined to control it. I felt like my hands and fingers were too sensitive to my mind's input. A slight motion would be a radical swing. A change in pressure would break the tip of the pencil. It was a radical moment, feeling the distortion lowered was difficult. Suddenly there was direct input from my head to my hand.

When that happens, I need to learn how to control it. I need to learn to find my center, ground myself when I draw. I want my thoughts to become actions. Practice makes perfect I suppose.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Long Wharf Hotel

We entered the room. A bar on the left with an array of expensive liquors. Two televisions sat above the bar on mute. A couple was talking at the frosted glass counter while the bartender cleaned behind the bar. In front of me was a large oak table, arranged in four circles; three on the outside and a raised oak circle in the middle. I sat at the table with the group; an echo of freshman year.

I had been treated to a night out with Dru's dad once before, at the end of freshman year. It had been so long since that moment; a surfeit of changes had occurred. I had aged a bit, I ordered a martini instead of a coke.

The room was arranged in a large half circle. There were floor to ceiling windows that looked out on Boston Harbor. There were high clouds that reflected the purple and orange lights of the city. The city sparkled on the water. The cold day had turned into a safe and warm night.

I had just finished watching the EDC (Emerson Dance Company) show. It was a reaffirmation of the life that was impending. I watched as the seniors did their performance piece; many families and friends flooded the exits waiting anxiously to congratulate the performers. I saw the ritual I would be part of at a bizarre distance. I knew these people, but this wasn't my college, and this wasn't my last anything. It was my first, and I had enjoyed it.

Ciera and I chatted with friends: Jim, Joan, Dru, and Dru's family. It was a young night, only 11 and we were tired. But the conversation drifted around the future, musical theater, and odd jokes. The group was nothing less than eccentric.

We had just visited the North End, got a canoli, and took in the air. We then walked to Fanueil Hall and absorbed the city after the rain. Black shiny streets. Purple, orange, red, green, yellow lights.

The hour struck and Ciera and I walked to Haymarket. It was a new day, midnight. We were the only ones in the station for fifteen minutes. It was a bizarre space, lit up for no one.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, Ciera and I woke up about mid morning and decided to take a walk around her neighborhood. Beautiful red brick buildings blend into the red brick sidewalks. Trees with light green leaves use their roots to break up the sidewalk into an uneven texture. Pure bred dogs guide their masters. The air is still, the streets quiet. A tree with bright pink and white blossoms moves without a breeze, it is spring dancing with the flower petals.

We walked into a cute little store, specialty goods with prices beyond high. If I only had disposable income. We bought a loaf of French bread and went back to the apartment. The sun warmed my back, young parents walked by with their child.

At the apartment I proceeded to cut the bread into thick slices and dip them in my egg concoction. I cooked them and made really thick French toast. A breeze kicked up outside and blew in through the window. Ciera set the table, made a fruit salad. She chopped up some strawberries, tossed them in a pan with a bit of water and sugar. We had strawberry syrup. We sat in her living room with tea candles lit, and grapefruit juice.

Ciera wore her sun dress, a green and white floral pattern. Spring was here, if only for a day. After breakfast we walked to the Prudential Center and people watched all of the cosplayers at Anime Boston. It is a convention where hundreds of people come and play dress-up for their favorite characters. It is like an Anime themed Halloween. Some of the costumes were really cool; one person was dressed as a pixilated character, a costume made purely out of cardboard.

We walked on the esplanade. We watched the MIT sailboats run courses and practice. The wind had picked up significantly since the morning. As we talked to each other we couldn’t help but pause for long periods of time, just enjoying the day.

We found a restaurant by Back Bay station. Ate a light, late lunch. We sat by the window, a huge open frame, and let the sun pour into our booth. We talked about the future, something infinitely distant and alarmingly close.

We returned to Ciera’s apartment, perhaps my last real trip there, and took a brief nap. After that I was on the road, a long drive back from a perfect weekend.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Disaster Zone

Writing a blog a day has become amazingly hard. I have only to set aside 30 minutes of my day for writing it, but somehow it feels like an imposition on my life. I have it merely to make sense of the world around me; sometimes it serves as a surrogate for the world though. I have to find that balance.

I sat in the kitchen of Regent Street. I had tried to fix the window, and the light. Neither seemed to want to cooperate. The house was slowly falling apart, and not due to anything the inhabitants had been doing. It is the tragedy of owning an old home, they fall apart with only the slightest nudging. The downstairs toilet had stopped working a week ago, and now the windows were a mess.

So I sat, resigned to the fact that the house would collapse on itself if it so desired and there wasn't anything I could do to fix it without a clamp, a screwdriver, a hammer, some wood glue, some wire cutters, a stepladder, and pliers. Instead, I tried to control my laughter as the activity around me escalated to chaos.

I texted Ciera, “this is a disaster.” Alicia was rummaging through the cupboards, searching for something, and coming up empty. She idly twirled her hair between her fingers and bit her lip. She looked innocently in the lower right cupboard like a child searching for monsters in a bush. Unsatisfied with the cans of corn and beans, she turned to us and listened in.

Claire had been on fire, everything out of her mouth was a mixture of honest commentary and innocent oblivion. Her volume fluctuated wildly, leading her to speak her whispers and mumble speak her most eloquent ideas. In the meantime Alex was trying to get someone to respond to her inquiries and had devolved dramatically. She was frantically saying, “am I in a bubble? Can anyone hear me? Hello?” I was laughing so hard that I couldn't acknowledge her, further confirming her suspicions. In the meantime Piper was jumping everywhere, excited to do anything. It was a surreal experience to watch someone vibrate visibly.

It was nice to have a quiet night and just be with friends. It was what I needed. Later, we tried to watch “Never Been Kissed” and that was an absurdly bad movie. So don't watch it. I was very disappointed in it. I felt like I was watching a parody of the genre.

Before I went to bed, Alex and I had a DMC (deep meaningful conversation) about my state of mind. It was nice to know that she is there for me, that everyone is. My year has been hard, and I know that. I am so appreciative of everything they do, even if it is just a hug.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Soccer and Ethel

When I found her I was not really sure who I was. But that’s the beauty of other people. I never had to find myself to find her.

I wanted to join a sport, get out and see the world. I felt like there was a hole in how I was living. I had become a machine sitting at a desk, churning out numbers and words for a purpose I was unsure of. I joined the local soccer league to get back into my youth. I found out quickly that my body was not what it was in high school. My fingers were delicate; my brain was soft around the edges. Sitting at a desk had helped me grow a little around my waist; I barely fit into my old soccer shorts for the first practice.

But there was still a semblance of my former glory, on the field my body started to instinctively find its place again. I played defense, a tough position—no glory, just a constant barrage from people seeking it. My lungs burned and the first scrimmage reflected my lack of practice. The only thing that kept the score down was the moment that my body kicked in and attacked in anticipation of the opponent. It didn’t happen much, but by the end it was becoming more natural.

After that first practice my new team offered to take me to drinks to welcome me on. It was a nice gesture. It had been a long time since I felt connected to people in the world. It was a typical sports bar, covered in TVs and sports paraphernalia. It smelled like light beer and fried food. When we sat down at our table I finally was able to take in the people around me. What was once a blur of bodies on the field in the gray spring air was now replaced with faces and stories. I noticed the captain—an affable older lady that had been enthusiastic to have me join—banter rowdily with a man sitting near her. I soon found out they were married.

They had met in high school. They went to opposing schools and competed with each other in everything they did. Being on a team together didn’t stop them at all. They poked fun of each other, took occasional swipes at each other when one wasn’t looking.

“They’re just showing off, normally they are quite loving towards each other.” The face across from me spoke. I nearly choked on my beer; the face had a contorted expression. Something priceless, it was saying, “I know something you don’t, but if you ask I’ll tell.” The face returned to normal, I started laughing and noticed how stunning the face was. Her slightly curly dusky blond hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. But that didn’t stop more than a few hairs from haphazardly falling into her eyes. She brushed a couple wisps behind her ear, a motion that drew attention to the three piercings in her ear.

“That was some decent defending today, nobody under the age of 12 is going to get past you.” She teased me.

“That’s a lie, I’m sure a few of them could kick my ass.” I hadn’t flirted in a while, I wondered if I was too obvious. I looked at her face, it was red from running around so much, but I could see she had a couple freckles and blue eyes with a green ring at the edges. I smiled after a slight pause—a moment where we both regarded each other—and turned to the captain who was picking a fry out of her water.

I soon found out about everyone at the table. The team was made up of about 14 people—give or take the drifters that would be around for only half a season because of their ‘real’ lives. Most had spouses, about half had children. The few exceptions were me, the spunky woman flirting across from me, a very loud and angry stick figured lesbian with a pixie cut, and the oldest man on the team. I learned that he was the pixie cut woman’s father. They had been playing soccer together for 10 years—a little after the death of the man’s wife.

“You are so young, don’t worry that I got a few by you today, you’ll get back in the swing of things—umm… I forgot your name again, what was it?” The old man grabbed my shoulder with his arm.

“Jake.”

“Right, Jake. You’ll be ok, just try not to get in my daughter’s way, she’ll kick more than just a soccerball.” He paused, chuckled to himself, “actually, she’s all hot air, I have learned that as long as you don’t compliment her hair you are fine.”

“Shut up old man, you couldn’t last five minutes in the ring with me.” The pixie cut girl—whose name was Riley—retorted.

“We play soccer for a reason; it’s the sport you are worse at than me.” The old man shut her down and went back to his drink.

I looked at the dusky blond, she gave me the same look, “I’m picking up on a theme here. I’m not sure I’m too good at this soccer business.” I said with the slightest tinge of truth.

“It’s not the sport, it’s the people, and you seem to fit in well.” She blushed; at least I thought she did.

“If you want me to stay you can just say so.” That might have been too obvious from me; Riley rolled her eyes and pretended to watch one of the TVs.

“We do need more benchwarmers, Jake.”

“I can red-shirt it. You say my name so forcefully. You know I don’t have ammo to shoot back at you. What is your name?” Her face contorted, this time saying, I know something you don’t and if you ask I won’t tell.

She gave a slight chuckle, “my name’s Erin.”

Riley slammed her glass on the table, “that’s a lie! For the 24 years we have known each other you have always been Ethel. Don’t lie to this poor boy, can’t you see he’s nervous about meeting new people! So stop trying to make Erin happen, it’s never going to happen.”

I couldn’t stop laughing, Riley was a little riled up. Ethel put her face in her right hand, shaking it. “You just won’t let me get away with a halfway decent name.”

And that became the ritual. Practice twice a week with a group of characters. I started getting better too. Not good mind you, but better. After, we might go get drinks, most people on the team had lives to attend to. Only Riley, the old man, Ethel, and I didn’t have much to do Tuesday and Thursday nights. I liked our time together. It was hard to go home; not just because staying out was fun, but being alone reminded me of my directionless existence.

I had stopped searching for meaning in the world and was restless. It’s so hard to find a cause that a celebrity hasn’t already taken up. I felt like a sell-out. Riley and the old-man ran a soccer camp in the summer. Ethel worked at a micro-finance NGO. I had missed the liberal altruistic bandwagon and was stuck in an accounting firm that consulted for companies that spent their time hiding money from my teammates’ passions. I was surely a bad guy in the most modern sense of the word.

At least the bulge around my stomach had started to subside. And I had real friends now.

I found out that Ethel lived quite close to me. Something I couldn’t believe given the fact that my apartment was in a largely abandoned neighborhood. When it was just a few of us, Ethel would suggest a place that was walking distance from both our houses. I think she was trying to get me drunk. One night she did. We were the last ones in the bar, and our captain made a shoddy excuse about berating her husband and left. We chatted while the bartender noisily closed up shop. We left her a generous tip and scuttled off to Ethel’s home. I walked her home to be a gentleman, even though she insisted she was fine.

By the time we got to her door, I realized that I had consumed a few more than I had meant to. We stood awkwardly at the door. The ritual goodnight kiss wasn’t my thing. She was giddy too, that calm moment before the kiss probably wasn’t going to work. I half tried anyway. I leaned in just a little too close. She wasn’t paying attention and knocked me in the ribs with her elbow.

“Come on in, I’ll make us a little tea, I have to show you my latest project.” She said it all as if it were one word. She grabbed my hand, started to walk in the door, stopped and turned to me, “you do have time right?”

I paused for effect, “yes.”

She smiled and practically dragged me in the door. Her apartment was absurdly warm. I immediately took off my sweatshirt and looked around. The walls were decorated with posters of art exhibits in the area. If she wasn’t an art collector, she certainly was an art poster collector. I heard her rummaging around in the kitchen. Something fell and crashed.

“Is everything all right?” I asked.

“Just fine, make yourself at home, there’s probably a magazine to read in the couch cushion.”

I laughed thinking she was being sarcastic. But when I sat down on the couch, I noticed a People jammed between the cushions. I picked it up and browsed a bit. She walked in with the tea, and we chatted for a while. She sat across from me in a rocking chair; she was so energetic the chair creaked nervously under her. I watched her tuck one leg under and I thought about how much I wanted her to sit next to me on the couch.

We got on the subject of our college days and she told me about a video project she did for fun. I insisted that we watch it. After a lot of hemming and hawing, something I could tell was a bit of a façade, she agreed and we started watching it. The light was bad, the audio was worse, but what I could make out about the film was actually quite hilarious. It had something to do with the characters you see walking around the city.

She came and sat next to me on the couch when we watched it. About a minute and a half in she was asleep on my shoulder. I smiled, finished watching the movie, and gently shook her awake.

“Huh? Wha?” she swung her arm wildly, grazing my nose.

“I’m going to go now, thank you for the tea and the movie.”

“Don’t go.” She said it with a childish finality.

I giggled, I felt a little childish too. “I have to get up and run off to work tomorrow. I’ll see you at practice.”

“Ok. Lemme…lemme…let me walk you to the door.”

As I walked home, I thought about quitting my job. After the next practice I pulled Ethel aside, “I like you a lot and—I’m not good at this—I forgot what I had to say. Umm...”

“Yes?” She looked at me imploringly.

“Do you want to umm…go…on Saturday…”

She laughed at me, “you are so traditional. Yeah, sure, let’s hang out, how about you pick me up at eight and we’ll do something.”

The old man and Riley were hanging back a little trying to hear the conversation. They weren’t very good at disguising their motives.

“I’m not that traditional, I don’t want us to have a chaperone, and I won’t pay for you if you really insist.”

She contorted her face, smiled, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “c’mon, let’s go. Riley and the old man are conspicuously waiting for us.” She grabbed my hand. I squeezed it. She squeezed back, and we were off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

(Dis)orderly Women

An article I wrote up for the Office of Campus Life:

“We wanted to bring disorderly voices to campus,” says Katie Cullum, 2011. Professor Beck Krefting asked her students to organize a weekend of events based on raising awareness about the “necessity of recognizing all subsets of our community,” adds Cullum.

To do so, students in the class organized 4 events for the weekend: a Late Night performance by Screaming Females, Youth Understanding Difference arts project, (Dis)orderly Voices film screening, and spoken word artist Andrea Gibson's performance. The weekend of events for all ages was an extension of the materials and philosophy of the class.

In class students “spent the semester interrogating the definition of disorderly for specific women in their historical and cultural contexts. These can be leaders in activist movements like Mother Jones or Ida B. Wells who denied socially imposed definitions and instead self-defined themselves,” explains Cullum with enthusiasm. To fully understand this, Professor Krefting applied her philosophy of hands-on work to her students. She asked them to raise awareness about the differences and power of minority views through these events.

After the screening of the (Dis)orderly Voices film, the students held a discussion on how to build a more productive and open community. They came up with a list of ideas and discussed many issues of community and how to engage it at a more personal level. Among the many in the long list was to “challenge yourself,” and “take action, make your ideas realities.”
For lighter fare, the students in the class also organized a performance by Screaming Females, a punk rock band with driving riffs and discordant harmonies. This socially and environmentally aware band brought a loud twist to the festival’s name. “They were great, my ears were ringing for hours,” says Cullum hoarsely.

To tone things down a little, there was a different form of the use of the female voice. “After the first sentence I started crying and did not stop,” Cullum says about Andrea Gibson’s performance. Andrea Gibson, noted slam poet, stopped by the campus as well to add in a powerful and expressive exhibition.

The class also put together a day of activities and events for children in the Saratoga mentoring program. They performed several skits about diversity and acceptance and held art projects for making a mural, sculptures, self-portraits, and other crafts projects. The idea was to promote self-awareness for the children, a project that Brenda Schin, Director of Saratoga Mentoring, characterized as, “fun and successful.”

Cullum described the event’s overall importance, “As a class, we had full ownership of this project from the beginning. We started with no money and no outside resources and ended up with a very successful festival.”

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Thanks to everyone that supported me during the writing of this project, especially those who lent me their expertise.

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Ostrom, Elinor, James Walker, and Roy Gardner. "Covenants With and Without a Sword: Self-Governance is Possible." The American Political Science Review, 1992: 404-417.

Ostrom, Vincent, and Elinor Ostrom. "Legal and Political Conditions of Water Resource Development." Land Economics, 1972: 1-14.

O'Toole, Randal. The Planning Tax. Executive Summary, Washington, D.C.: The Cato Institute, 2007.

Paytas, Jerry. "Does Governance Matter?" (unpublished), 2001.

Peek, Greg, interview by Nick Hara. Interview on Regional Development (July 24, 2009).

Portney, Kent E. Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003.

Purcell, Mark. "The Decline of the Political Consensus for Urban Growth: Evidence from Los Angeles." Journal of Urban Affairs, 2000: 85-100.

Rast, Joel. "The Politics of Alternative Economic Development: Revisiting the Stone-Imbroscio Debate." Journal of Urban Affairs, 2005: 53-69.

Razin, Eran, and Mark Rosentraub. "Are Fragmentation and Sprawl Interlinked?: North American Evidence." Urban Affairs Review, 2000: 821-836.

Reid, Sienna, interview by Nick Hara. Interview on Regional Development (January 2011).

Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

Reisner, Marc, and Stephanie Bates. Overtapped Oasis. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1990.

Rusk, David. Cities Without Suburbs. Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1993.

Rusk, David. "Inside Game/Outside Game."

Rusk, David. "Tuscon - Pima County."

Savitch, H.V., and Ronald K. Vogel, . Regional Politics: America in a Post-City Age. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996.

Schlager, Edella, and Elinor Ostrom. "Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: a Conceptual Analysis." Land Economics, 1992: 249-262.

Sferrazza, Jessica, interview by Nick Hara. Interview on Regional Development (July 30, 2009).

Shipman, Madelyn Heikka, interview by Nick Hara. Former Reno City/County Counsel, Author WC-3, Lawyer (November 2008).

Shipman, Madelyn, interview by Nick Hara. Interview on Regional Development (July 22, 2009).

Stone, Clarence N. "Looking Back to Look Forward: Reflections on Urban Regime Analysis." Urban Affairs Review, 2005: 309-341.

Tiebout, and Charles M. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures." The Journal of Political Economy (The Journal of Political Economy), 1956: 416-424.

Torrens, Paul M. "A Toolkit for Measuring Sprawl." Applied Spatial Analysis, 2008: 5-36.

Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency. Regional Utility Corridor Report. Regional Utility Corridor Report for TMRPA, Reno: Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, 2004.

Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Commission. Handbook for Spring Mountain Ranch. Handbook for Spring Mountain, Reno: Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Commission, 2009.

Truckee Meadows Tomorrow. Community Wellbeing Report. Report on Culture and Economy of Reno-Tahoe Area, Reno: Truckee Meadows Tomorrow, 2008.

Truckee Meadows Water Authority. Water Topics in Our Community: Water Rights. Fact Sheet, Reno: Truckee Meadows Water Authority, 2008.

Vogel, Ronald K. Handbook of Research on Urban Politics and Policy in the United States. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.

Weatherby, James Benjamin, and Stephanie L. Witt. The Urban West: Managing Growth and Decline. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1994.

Western Regional Water Commission. Amendment to the Comprehensive Regional Water Management Plan. Western Regional Water Commission, 2009.

Wray, Lori, interview by Nick Hara. Local Activist (November 2008).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Conclusion for My Thesis

Conclusion

Ostrom and Rusk have looked at the institutional arrangements that make resource management effective; geography, scope, rules, structural stabilizers, and self-interest. Their general principle is that if an institution isn‘t working, then it must need to be redesigned. For Rusk, a boundary that follows the appropriate geo-political constraints is necessary to prevent the tragedy of the commons. Ostrom‘s counter-point is that it is the institutional arrangements that make it function. For Ostrom the playing field needs to be leveled to allow for a diverse set of voices an equal chance at forming the political decisions while different institutional actors check on other actors‘ power.

In the case of Washoe, Reno, and the Tahoe/Truckee Watershed, these elements are very important, but what Ferman says also holds true: politics matters. Washoe County neatly fits into the arrangements that Ostrom and Rusk have defined, it encompasses a wide geographic area and most institutions are free and open to the public. But those elements don‘t explain developments like Spring Mountain. What can be seen from a fairly objective standpoint as economically dangerous, has been turned into a successful political issue. For that matter, Ostrom and Rusk can‘t explain how WC-3 passed overwhelmingly, but none of its proponents got elected.

Ostrom and Rusk build the playing field, the conditions that the local governments play on to make their decisions. But the game needs players, and arenas show the composition of the teams and how they score points. In Reno, the team that supports sustainable policies is underweight and underfunded—not to mention that the strategy is weak.

Given that information, we can see the political and institutional back and forth that occurs. Some institutions are not prone to change quickly. The Western Mentality that the water is as endless as the sky and the land is pervasive and ingrained, but the appropriate political forces can force some changes. As much as developers have tended to have a home field advantage, VSG was able to get WC-3 passed, changing the rules slightly.

To some extent this is a critique on the mantra of sustainability. No one encountered during the interview process didn‘t have a strong conception of the philosophy of sustainability or fail to see its advantages. But as much as the development community, the politicians, the activists, and bureaucrats wanted to implement such projects, they all lamented their limitations in a political context. So the region continues to run on its own momentum; sustainability remains the philosophy, development by habit its nasty addiction.

To promote Eisinger‘s economic development, it is imperative to politically arrange within the institutional structures in the way that manages the common-pool effectively. By forming political coalitions, durable relationships with a diverse set of interests, the tragedy of the commons can be avoided. Currently, every arena is dominated by a fairly homogenous group: the bureaucrats dictate the RPA, the politicians manage the RPGB, the developers own the economy, and local activists have the public arena.

But these institutions are not created equal. Dominance in the political and economic institutions has a disproportionate voice in shaping the region‘s future. The institutions exist but the outcomes that Rusk and Ostrom predicted didn‘t come to fruition. The lack of political will to change the structure, function, or composition will continue to perpetuate the same outcomes until the Truckee is depleted.

The necessary reforms lie in restructuring the mindsets of the ‗enemies‘. Connections matter. Atlanta was able to see resurgence in its downtown through the right combination of activism and economic coordination through businesses. Finding the political will to manage the future of the area effectively will not be easy. Currently, the odds are stacked in favor of the incumbent team; the wealthy, well-connected growth machine still sees the limitless west, and finds that the current system is in line with the black ink in their books.

If a VSG-like group really wants a lasting impact on the management of water in the region, it needs to find permanent long-lasting relationships with diverse interests. Everyone has a very real stake in effective resource management in the region. Developer Greg Peek lives in Reno and expressed his appreciation for the region‘s issues, ―I go to the grocery store with these people, I don‘t want to make a development that everyone hates…of course I have a stake in the water here, we all do (Peek, 2009).‖
Ultimately it‘s not a game of winners and losers, Ostrom and Rusk both acknowledge that their institutional structures center on creating a collaborative framework within arenas of governance. The tragedy of the commons is a cautionary tale of a game where everyone loses; the proverbial saying in the West, ―whiskey‘s for drinking, and water‘s for fighting‖ is all too portentous without a sense of shared fate. The question still remains; can the Washoe region avoid the tragedy of the commons and manage its water resources effectively?

The answer lies in how everyone with a stake decides to face the truths that water rights will run out, water will be a scarce commodity, and the area will not be able to do what it has done. That day could conceivably come within 30 years. The new question is not a matter of can, but how will the Washoe region avoid the tragedy of the commons and manage its water resources effectively?

Abstract for My Thesis

Abstract

Urban sprawl, economic imperative, sustainability, and politics. All are important things to consider in managing a region’s scarce resources. Washoe County, Nevada is a perfect place to analyze the tragedy of the commons in action. It is a high desert environment with ample room to grow but the severely limiting factor of water. What mechanisms are working for the region and what aren’t must be analyzed closely. Further, to understand the question, can the Washoe region avoid the tragedy of the commons more fully it is necessary to understand the underlying theories and approaches to the problem. Therefore, a critical eye must be taken toward the definition of sprawl, the viability of sustainability theories, and the political economy of a complex region. By gathering extensive anecdotal, quantitative, and qualitative material on the subject, regime theory—and more importantly its sub-framework arena theory—was used to analyze how geography and institutional design—while important—do not always determine the fate of a region.

Done Minus Bibliography

I have finished my thesis. Finally. Minus the bibliography. It took officially three years to do. Unofficially it has taken much longer. Getting to this point is an odd feeling. I feel liberated, exhausted, excited, directionless, happy, sad, ready.

As a cop out I am going to post my conclusion and abstract for the days I missed. Hopefully those will illustrate just a little how much work I have put in. Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing needs a lot of work but it is ready to be defended.

That’s the next step (after the bibliography) I have to defend it. Three professors with ample knowledge in their fields of work will quiz me on how I meshed together their three areas of expertise to make an original paper. I am ready for them though. I have never been so sure of my own underlying knowledge.

This week will be hectic. It is Fight Week. Our week of conflict resolution related events. All sorts of stuff to promote the good work that has been done with this club. I am running on Wednesday a discussion with Reverend Rick Chrisman on the power of Forgiveness. It will be a potent reminder of the times that we way that pain can perpetuate itself without effort.

I’ve been listening to Ra Ra Riot a lot recently. They are an excellent band; an indie sensation with an orchestral flair. I took another listen to the Avett Brothers and they are a folksy, bluegrass, rock mixture that finds the perfect tone for their lyrics, dripping with naïveté of young love.

My world is spinning too fast, the weather won’t stay constant. Not the rain, the gray, the sun, the wind. It is always in transition. Even the robins in the yard barely remain in a spot long enough to get a glimpse of them. This space I live in is out moving. Moving so fast. I can feel the earth spin at a dizzying rate, the sun shoot through the galaxy, the galaxy through infinity. It is a little disorienting.

I read Orson Scott Card’s latest book Pathfinder. It is written with the same sort of simplistic style that middle schoolers love. I liked it still, because at the end of the day he is an excellent storyteller who brings interesting concepts to what he does. Read Pathfinder if you want a new series to get attached to.

This is sporadic. But so is my life. I saw the movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The actors are great, the story is quirky, and Emma Roberts is adorable as the love interest.

I really appreciate my friends these days. A lot.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

KAB: Korena Burgio


Korena, with the appropriate amount of attitude and friendly aggression.

Tom Andres


A picture of my favorite French Foreign Exchange Student that I share a bathroom with.

Jacob


Another Portrait. This one is of Jacob. If I had one of him reading BBC.com I would post that instead.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Campus Climate: Respect

Finally, I was struck by something I heard recently about the campus climate, “we can’t talk to each other as people anymore; we don’t respect each other.” It struck me. It struck me in its hopelessness. It struck me in its simple truth. The argument against it is, “of course that isn’t me, I treat all my friends and professors with respect.” I cannot disagree with that statement; I should hope that we can respect our allies. But can we give strangers that same courtesy? Can we give our ‘enemies’ that respect? Is it possible to treat people as humans regardless of the wrongs and pains they have caused? Do we sacrifice our dignity in acknowledging the irrefutable mantra of our liberal arts education, that all people deserve love and respect? Everyone has dignity. Everyone is a human. And for me to be consistent in my beliefs and not feel like a hypocrite, I must always give someone the basic courtesies that every human holds. I will always do unto others as I would have done unto myself. There is no limit to my capacity for basic human respect.

This is not an easy thing. Real respect does not happen everyday, every moment, to everyone. Real respect takes time and many people struggle to find it. I have many burdens that I carry with me; I have much pain in my life. And I acknowledge my truth. I acknowledge that I have been wronged, and that I have wronged people back. I acknowledge that I myself am a human and I can cause a lot of pain. I acknowledge that pain abounds in a world of unsaid hurts. And I take that and I try to give it back. I request that my dignity be upheld, that my reality is acknowledged, and my needs are met. And then I open up to my offender’s humanity. I open up to the world of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean I condoning, forgetting, revenging, or condemning. It is acknowledging the harms that have been caused and making a concerted effort, without expectation, to heal those wounds. It is difficult and takes a long time. Forgiveness is a process that takes time. And I wake up every day to start the process again. I give back the harms caused. I try to rectify the frayed relationships, I give people respect.

Because after all of this, we are still humans. And humans don’t always do right or good. Sometimes they do not do right by me. And I try to forgive that. I try to give my offenders their humanity, I try. And I don’t feel like a lot of this campus is trying anymore. I feel like many have given up—it is hopeless. Skidmore is an opportunity to make the world the place we want to see. We are closer to the world of what ‘should be’ than many of us would like to believe. And every day I try, using the tools at my disposal to get us a little closer. So I ask: if we treat our friends as humans, why can’t we treat everyone else that way? If our humanity is inalienable, what gives any of us license to diminish that in any form, or in some cases remove it, from another human?

Of course my statements are controversial. Of course I cannot fulfill them everyday all the time. But I will try as best I can everyday. And I will look at my actions critically. I will ask about things that may hurt. I will do what I can to clarify everyone’s experiences. I will do my best to forgive transgressions upon me. I will do my best to ask forgiveness when necessary. I will be fearless.

Campus Climate: Hate

Third, the power of hate is far larger than I think many of us believe. I believe it ranges from the slightest lack of compassion to violent and open aggression. Every time a person’s beliefs are belittled, ignored, or put down we are severing the lines of human connection and opting instead for a path of misunderstanding, resentment, fear, and ultimately hatred. What I see happening on Skidmore’s campus is a willing indifference toward each other. This comes in forms as simple as derogatory comments behind people’s backs, or ignoring people to their faces. We can be extremely rude as people and incredibly hurtful.

I have seen friendships disintegrate before my eyes. Sometimes people just do not get along, and that is ok. But the mean things that people do to each other, the rude things they say to each other, the utter lack of respect for human emotion that they show toward each other is not acceptable. I’ve seen it all, from blame games to open aggression. And everyone walks away feeling hurt. They feel just a little less accepted in that part of the community. Just a little more alienated and alone. Sometimes it is based on aspects of privilege, love triangles, room mate conflicts, disrespect to other friends or family, jealousy, misunderstanding, incompatibility of personality, awkward hook-ups, indifference, egotistical behavior, and the list goes on. What part of our campus climate has taken us this point that we would walk in the opposite direction just to avoid our First-year room mate? What part of our campus climate has made it so that we will never talk to that person we had a one-night stand with because it’s just too awkward? What part of our campus climate has made us so bitter that it affects our academic life?

Hatred comes in the form of non-engagement as well. When we say to ourselves that we will never talk to that person again, we will never acknowledge their presence or validity as a person, we are perpetuating the cycle of hurt and hate. We all have a part in leaving our wounds open to further transgression. Hate can manifest in non-action. It is the pain that controls our lives and offers no reprieve from a life of sorrow. We all carry pain. Extraordinary in scope and depth. We cannot continue to ignore the wide ranging consequences of our hatred. And we cannot ignore our own agency in stopping it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

100 and 22

Ciera and I stared at the pond. We barely talked. A turtle crawled on the fountain. A duck swam around the pond. The air was humid but not thick. I sang a few lines from “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. Ciera had played it for me in the practice room of the new Zankel Music Center moments before. My mind drifted to my party the night before. It was crazy. It was revealing. It was my birthday party.

I started the night with Greg Yuen setting up his DJ equipment. Somehow it ballooned suddenly. And it was great. In the space of three hours my life in college exploded in my face. It was one of those moments where the intricate patterns of my life suddenly came together in a mesh of bodies pressed against each other just to be in the same space.

I knew it was going to be good because the tub from sophomore year was there. The tub that had the now very faded sign on it, “Jugo de la Jungla”. It was the summer that Korena held a party in our Scribner house; all the expatriates of the Summer Programs gathered at our house and we drank a lime green liquid. And we drank that same concoction, Natalie’s special recipe, again. It disappeared much faster than I had anticipated; an indicator of the number of people that had shown up at my party.

I spent a lot of time outside, hanging out with anyone who wanted to smoke a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but being out in the cool night air was my way of welcoming the spring in. It was the 99th day of the year. Just under a third of it had been spent in a torpid state. I was rejecting that winter. Waiting for the 100th day, a sea change would occur. I could feel it.

I did handstands with Chris Lord on the front lawn—well, sort of. I found out quickly how much alcohol I had consumed when I tried to actually do handstands. It was a mess. But there is a cool picture. I failed at pong against Korena. Except I did get a death cup—that was nice. Sergio tried to jump on me, I grabbed him but he let go and he slammed his head on the concrete. Alex and James left me a hilarious video tour of my room. Jacob tried to take care of Sergio, but maybe not in the most productive way. Yelling at someone who is drunk with a head injury sometimes is not the best way to get them to sober up.

I found Alex Moller though, and his training as an EMT was great. He checked Sergio for a concussion and took him home to bed. At the pinnacle, Natalie stood up on a table and told everyone to shut up. She gave me a great birthday speech. Greg Yuen played birthday sex. I got down off the chair I was standing on and gave Ciera a kiss. We had had a wonderful day together before. We had sat out back drinking wine and cooking. Tom awkwardly came in to shower. It was fun.

The duck flew away from the pond. Leaving a trail of ripples on the pond. I thought back to the day before where Ciera and I walked around Broadway. We observed the cute little town full of white people, joking about different things. We went to Borders; the last 4 days. Sarah Palin books were everywhere, 2 dollars. It was sad to see the end of an otherwise awesome bookstore chain. We ate on the patio of the first restaurant that I ever went to in Saratoga Springs. I ordered the same thing I ordered back then, a root beer. Ciera ordered an actual beer under the misconception that I had done the same. It was warm and beautiful out.

Ciera readjusted herself next to me. I looked at the few other people hanging out by the water’s edge. I thought even further back to Ciera’s birthday on Friday. She had endured a hellish bus ride behind two misogynists. We went out drinking, found ourselves at Desperate Annie’s. She kept getting free birthday drinks. I helped her split them. We went to Thirteen, a skeezy dance club. It was skeezy. I was happy to make it home and crash in bed.

The best day. Ciera and I did exactly what we wanted this weekend. Natalie barbecued lunch for us out in the front yard. Katherine baked me a carrot cake and Ciera a chocolate cake. They were both delicious. It was a nice birthday celebration. We ate cake and then ran over to Regent for a movie. Ten Things I Hate About You. Ciera had never seen it. We watched it. It was so nice. We slept in on the 101st day of the year.

Campus Climate: Anonymity

Second, anonymity is the wrong debate to be having. The Faculty of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work has voiced concerns for safety and respect in their latest article. They believe that by stopping the anonymous postings on the Skidmore News comment sections, they will stop anonymous hateful speech. Skidmore News has stood by the position that in all cases but what they deem unprotected speech, they will not censor their comments section, expressing a need to maintain their integrity and freedom of expression. I cannot help but feel that limiting speech in any form will not stop the opinions of people that have expressed themselves as potently as I have seen on the forums. Anonymity is a tool for expression and release. Crime has not increased with the wider availability of anonymous outlets for expression. I’d argue the opposite, the lack of accountability to the words expressed does not generate an obligation to action that a non-anonymous comment does—it provides a release without the necessity of follow through. In a different sense, anonymity is important for other reasons. Skidmore’s successful post-secret event is predicated on the power of anonymity. People can express their pain, their secrets, and their desires without having to own up to the personal stigma that would otherwise be created. Anonymity is just another way for people to express themselves; fighting to remove that outlet will be ultimately ineffective at stopping the hatred behind the comments.

Anger and hatred are emotions with just as much validity as any other. To single out the angry and hateful anonymous comments is to ignore the productive and insightful anonymous comments that have been posted as well. While I would certainly prefer if everyone signed their name with their comments, we cannot get rid of an outlet that may give the timid a voice. Ultimately, if this is a community as we say it is then these hateful anonymous comments belong to all of us. It is our responsibility, together as a community to find the needs behind the fire and help these anonymous voices come out in the open without stigmatization. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts—be accepting. Hopefully, in starting that process, we can openly engage in a real debate; give this community the opportunity to collaborate together to find the solutions that work for all of us. Not just the progressive, the liberals, the racists, the conservatives, the blacks, the whites, the jocks, the sluts, the art kids, the prudes, or whoever. This campus is for all of us.

Campus Climate: Privilege

There is a distinct complexity to the debate about the campus climate. I have taken the journey across the spectrum. I listen closely to how this vast topic has been approached, and the short answer is that everyone is wrong. The longer answer is that everyone is very close; some more than others. I have been yelled at; I have yelled at people; I have listened quietly while conversations went on without me actively engaging. I have listened carefully to people as they tell me about their pain; I have offered my perspectives on my experiences. At every stage I have struggled to do one thing—respect the person talking to me. Take them as their human selves.

My disagreements are many and wide-ranging; to pin down one is to negate my misgivings about how the debate has been approached thus far. For brevity’s sake I’d like to address a few issues: the framework of privilege, anonymity, the power of hate, and the power of respect.

First, my main objection to privilege as a framework is not that it does not exist or that it doesn’t have valid points. Rather, the framework is limiting and can obscure some pretty major issues. Privilege, as I have come to understand its application on this campus, has dealt predominantly with race and class. That does not negate its application in other manners but it has been used mostly in that context. And to me that is disheartening. It creates a privilege hierarchy; maybe unintentionally, but from what I have seen, it has done so unquestionably. The most direct implementation of this has been in cases where one’s privilege is used to validate or detract from someone’s argument or opinion. I know that my privileges have been used as negatives, a “you just don’t get it” approach to what I have to say. My opinions and experiences have less value simply because they come from the perspective of someone with certain privileges. While the experiences people have because of their lack of privileges cannot be denied, neither can mine simply because of certain privileges I hold. Intentional or not, that is what I perceive to have happened—we cannot continue to use privilege as a tool to silence voices.

I spend a lot of time taking people where they are. When someone tells me something, I do not contextualize it beyond what they will contextualize it with. There is not always a larger societal implication to a simple conversation with another human. My every word does not need to be scrutinized for some concrete harm to my campus community based on a socially constructed framework. Words have meaning, but only the potency that each individual gives them. And while we must always look to their experiences and what has created the mentality we are facing, it is far more productive to inquire about the personal context and their underlying needs. Further, privilege uses the very structures that it purports to fight. By calling my Polish protestant friend the same as my Dutch Jewish friend the same as my Anglo-Saxon Catholic background, I feel privilege’s framework perpetuates the stereotypes that it says it fights. I don’t see how I can elevate my conversation with other people on a personal basis by putting them in a category that they may reject. Culture is deeper and more complex than the five boxes in the census seem to suggest. While it may make sense from a Sociological perspective to analyze large groups of numbers, it utterly fails at the deeply interpersonal level where people no longer have numbers but faces and rich lives.

For me, privilege in the campus debate has also had significant drawbacks in terms of scope. As general topics of inclusion were addressed at the students-only dialogue, they did not center on race or identity. Certainly those were topics, but issues as simple as support in the community, acceptance, and personal control were expressed. Students of many backgrounds told stories of pain and exclusion based on factors as simple as being new in the Skidmore community and became as complex as the long-term disintegration of friend groups. Topics such as athletes, majors, personal identity, the party culture, culture-shock, race, class, and privilege all came up. Skidmore’s campus is a Pandora’s Box; a community unaccustomed to talking about the issues openly and honestly. The intertwined layers of close living and a transitory existence in a diverse and new academic setting makes untangling the layers of society, culture, prejudice, and individual autonomy difficult to decipher.

In the Compton’s Incident, race and identity have been identified as the main problems on this campus. I offer a different narrative; one that is right on at least one level, but not the truth by any means. Nine students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning after Skidmore held one of its largest events on campus; one where, because of many cultural and normative factors, heavy substance abuse is tacitly encouraged. Four Skidmore students went out after a night of drinking to Compton’s and physically assaulted a man after a heated verbal altercation. A visiting student drinks heavily, loses track of his friends and wanders into the woods on a cold night, dying later of exposure. Every year on Skidmore’s campus bias incidents, vandalism, property damage, verbal and physical fights, sexual misconduct, drunk driving, and much more occur on nights where alcohol consumption is the highest for the campus. There is a heavy correlation between these sorts of incidents and drinking or other substance abuse. I do not call this the answer, but certainly it is another dynamic that must be analyzed carefully. Duke Fisher, on April 19th, will be holding a dialogue to talk about these complex issues and how they have impacted our lives. I encourage everyone to bring their experiences and an open mind.

Drinking does not quite fit into the framework of privilege at Skidmore, yet it is a huge problem. As further evidence to support my hypothesis that the debate should be widened, I would like to offer something disconcerting and tragic to me. I have spent four years at this institution and find myself saddened by the many enemies that people have found in their time here. Living in the dorms was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It was hard to find friends, I didn’t understand my room mate, and home was across the country. To say I had a difficult time might be the slightest bit of an understatement. But I am grateful that I did not dislike my room mates, I found friends that were supportive, and that I found a place on this campus. I have seen disrespectful and mean room mates, I have seen friendships fall apart, and I have seen people alone and without a place on this campus. No possibility for hatred, ignorance, or animosity can be excluded if we are to have a real discussion of Skidmore’s malaise. For that reason, I reject and affirm the framework of privilege. I reject it as the explanation, but I welcome the elements it does illuminate. I welcome the discussion it has generated, but not at the cost of other topics that also need a voice.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Little Dessert

Katherine’s Yellow Cake

2 tsp Baking Powder
3 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter

Mix the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the milk and dry ingredients together. Mix in a large mixing bowl. Put the mixture in a buttered cake pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 35 minutes.

Korena and Nick’s Batter Balls


½ container of vanilla icing
Katherine’s Yellow Cake, cooled
1 pkg Semi-sweet chocolate chips/ meltable chocolate
some crushed nuts
some sprinkles


Crumble up Katherine’s yellow cake, leaving the crust out of the mixture into a bowl with the icing. Mix together thoroughly, be careful not to mix all the icing or all the cake at first; finding the right ratio is a balancing act. Roll the cake and icing into balls and put on a tray. Freeze for at least 1 hour. Melt the chocolate in a bowl. Using a spoon, toss in the batter balls and roll them in the chocolate until they are covered. Put on a tray and add nuts or sprinkles. Freeze again if necessary.


Now, you can put my chocolate-covered batter balls in your mouth.


Enjoy.

Pigs in a Blanket


I drew this a while ago, it now hangs in our living room

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Year and A Half Out: On The Eiffel Tower

A year and a half out: On the Eiffel Tower.

After we had walked up all those stairs we were rewarded with a view to the whole of Paris. I had just met Katie, Piper, and Jess. I barely had spent any time with Alicia. I had only known Claire and Alex for 9 weeks. I had only known James for a little under two years. Yet we all were happy to be together. On the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Americans huddled together. Abroad students looking to mutually enjoy the once in a lifetime experience. All of us independent for once, adults seeing the world. But all of us children on the inside, just as insecure, unable to see the world right side up.

Quite literally.

“Do this, it's so much cooler this way,” Piper said as she leaned her back over the edge and watched Paris upside-down. I followed suit. So did Claire.

A deep blue emptiness with pinholes of yellow greeted my disoriented body. I was falling into nothingness, holding onto the railing of the Eiffel Tower. I leaned back a bit more and terra firma, a black and orange city became my ceiling. Paris was beautiful, but this view was surreal, and somehow it felt like the real view—the correct one.

I slowly rotated forward until the Eiffel Tower, shooting into the night, appeared. It was a mess of beautifully lit steel, a ramp from the edge of the earth into nothing. The spotlight swept across my view. It illuminated nothing.

“Wow,” Claire said. We looked out on the city for a while. Soon our whole group had seen Paris in its correct form. And we made our descent through the steel carapace, the symbolic soul of Paris.

I remember the oddest bits about that night. Piper wore blue. Katie was in heels. Katie found me and grabbed me. She told me she was going to get to know me. Carefully making our way down the stairs, I think we chatted about feminism mostly. I got the sense that she was intensely smart, someone testing my brain, seeing what lay beneath. I had walked all day. I was exhausted and hungry. Starved. But the city was far too beautiful. Under the enormous arches of the Eiffel Tower, I took a look around the plaza. My legs were shaking I was so tired. But my friends were standing in a group deciding where to go next.

As much as I remember the light, I remember the dark. I was never sure what I was looking at. I had met people whose faces I now know so well, but back then they were dark shadows wearing dark colors. A mass of people I was slightly overwhelmed by. For that brief moment upside-down on the Eiffel Tower I felt alone and together.

Alone in that I felt so small against the endless black. A ground that was an empty nothingness. Together in that humanity was the sky, new friends the tethers holding me to the orange lights.

It was the briefest of moments. Infinitely long in my mind, my world. And permanent in my consciousness. But gone forever. Just a blurry line in a photo. And that is how life is. A smudge against an otherwise beautiful cityscape; indefinite, transitory. Gone. But that’s ok.

That moment, a fraction of myself, has become such a huge part of who I am. And so it goes with much of life. That uncertain moment where the world isn’t quite upright, the body is tired, and people of great importance arrive silently. They join into the fold without the greatest of impressions; a mere seed planted in the consciousness. And some seeds I have watered and cared for. And they have grown into trees that give me blossoms at the end of a dreary winter, and shade in the hottest parts of the day.

I walked up the stairs to see the view from the Eiffel Tower. I found seven people that I cannot imagine my life without now. I walked up all those stairs and was rewarded with friends that have a view to my life that no one else ever will.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Few Recipes

Spinach-Pepper Sandwich

½ bell pepper
2 slices of bread
Some spinach
A little margarine or butter
As much cheese as you want, I like Sharp Cheddar

Take the bell pepper and julienne it. Put a pan on medium high and put the oil of your choice in the pan. Put the pepper on the pan and fry it until it browns on the sides. It should cook quickly. Build your sandwich: bread, cheese, spinach, pepper, a bit more cheese, bread. Toss it on the stovetop and cook it grilled cheese style. Add a spicy something for an extra kick.

Make-shift Alfredo

1 tbsp butter
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Red pepper
1 ½ -2 Cups milk
3 tbsp Flour
1-1 ½ cup cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice up the onions and bell peppers, put them in a pan on medium heat in butter and any appropriate seasonings (basil, thyme, rosemary, salt, chili pepper, paprika, pepper. Really whatever you like, just remember that it’s going to be creamy). Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the onions turn clear. Add milk and cheese, turn heat down to med-low. Stir in flour until it reaches desired thickness. Stir occasionally to mix the cheese in with the other ingredients. This should take 5-10 minutes.

Leftover Fried Pasta

Leftover pasta
Olive oil
Salt and spices

Put some oil in a pan on med-high. Add the leftover pasta; turn the heat down to med. Add salt and spices for flavor. Add olive oil as needed. Fry until crunchy (about 5-7 minutes). Add whatever you want to flavor it accordingly. The little bit of crunch adds a new dimension to the pasta’s texture and enhances even the most mundane sauces.

Fried Tofu

Tofu
Olive oil
Spices

Put the olive oil in a pan on med-high. Cut the Tofu into desired shape (probably some variation of a cube). Toss your shapes in the pan. Toss spices on top of the tofu. Fry until browned. Flip and do the same. Approximately 10 minutes total. Once done, add to other dishes or serve alone. The trick is to add the flavor that tofu does not have. That means creating texture and mixing the flavors of the tofu’s seasoning with whatever dish it will be paired with.

Natalie Petrillo-Alvarez


Portrait

Doug Cohen


Another Portrait

Ciera at Sunset


I think I will start doing portraits of people in my life...

Friday, April 1, 2011

April's Fool: An Ode

April’s Fool: An Ode

This is the beginning of my favorite month. It snowed. I’m done with snow.

The beautiful flakes, gently falling, and putting a chilled pallor over the landscape, creating a serene space which is only disturbed by the crunching steps of a wayward soul braving the frozen weather only to find their home is done.

No more of that. April means spring. Now. And I don’t understand why Spring has not come, why the birds are not out in full force, why there are no buds on the trees, why it is still cold and not fun. April is the warm weather, the light spring breeze, the deep blue sky, the barely pink blossoms, and the neon green grass. It is not the morbid white that hides the sprouting annuals.

What awful joke that the weather has played on us. A drawn out prank of April, that the weather would be nice in the days before and upon the day of fools the weather leaves us cold and covered in snow. I am not bitter, the only bite upon me is that of the frost that has turned my nose red. I am bewildered, a body in a blizzard that should not be.

Is it truly April then? I would not know it if I judged by just the weather. I say it is early March, still a month away from the sun. I do not feel its warming rays, its yellow light, or its healing presence. Instead a dark gray turns everything brown, the trees are barren and I feel the fool for having believed the lie that is April. April, a month of celebration, new life, and youth. April, the month that starts with a day for naïve fools to be tricked, continues with the resurrection of God’s son, has a hazy day, and ends with a teary goodbye.

Where is my beloved April? Is my month in a terrible mood? Is my month not ready to show like its portent son the groundhog of February? Where is my April? Hidden away, afraid of its own shadow? I cannot understand what sun would shine to cast a light that would keep my favorite month from me. Come back April, be not the fickle month that others say you are. I love you April; break from your hidden gloom and come be the shining month that has captured my love. I will wait for you April, just do not fool my fragile heart.