Posted by: spencermorris | January 22, 2012

Funny how it plays out

I now have one of two earned income reports and the other is available online for me to peruse at my leisure… and a funny thought struck me looking at all those different numbers.

I can’t believe how poor I am.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking about sending my son to an Ivy League school. Honestly, not even a state school. But how is it that the numbers I’m looking at on these (what should we call them, “pre-tax”) forms and the numbers I look at on my monthly balance sheets (again, truthfully said, “screens” would be more appropriate) are so out of proportion?

Eating out?

Truth be told, I hit a food cart for $6 big ones about once a week.

Gross expenditures at the apparel stores near which I work in such intimate proximity? With any luck, someone reading this knows me and will let you know exactly how out of fashion my fashion dresses.

Self-help books or, more generally, self-improvement costs of any kind? I have a couple’s therapy guide purchased after the end of my last relationship in the last year. And I bought some bike parts to keep the gears aturning…

So where is it going for me and the whole “99 percent” brigade?

I did take some time off this year. In total, between scheduled vacation and two sick days I think I missed seven days of work in the last year. I also left work early by an hour one day to meet my son at the hospital and I think I might have left half an hour early back in July because I was bored and it was a beautiful day to do something exciting… not that I did anything exciting, but at least I could open myself up to the opportunity.

Looking at the numbers, I have to say almost every cent I earned this last year, barring a small percentage for personal indulgence, went to the upkeep of me or my progeny. Half, if not more than half, of my income every month goes, directly and indirectly, to the care and maintenance of my son. Then there are student loans, for which I am undeniably grateful and perpetually (?) indebted.

Added to that are the multiple credit cards I was forced to use when the state in which I was attending university (I won’t name names, but it’s initials are C and A) kept upping the cost of attendance to students to cut property owners a break… after the federal financial assistance folks had already done their math to allot the appropriate funds to attend university in (un)said state. The difference went to ye olde creditors who don’t still want me to hold their card without an exorbitant annual fee, but are happy to collect my payments each month.

The rest you can put down to food, insurance, sundries and, if addictions are your thing, coffee and a couple packs of cigarettes in the last year. Beyond that, every cent went to upkeep and/or raising of a small boy who graduated from infancy in the last year and wobbled into toddlerhood with a mischievous grin and an eye set on the first broken limb. This is how expenditures go.

Ironically, in the last several months of this year, Two Thousand and Ten, of which I am speaking and for which I am paying, a lot of people got out on the streets for a moment and suggested with varying degrees of enthusiasm, mischief and decibels, that something about this system was wrong. I am not inclined to disagree.

But I am desperate. And that kid is destined to break at least one bone before he reaches five (his favorite stunt is STANDING on the seat of the push scooter he got for his first birthday and pushing himself along with a huge grin on his face). So I will keep at it. Working for THE man and slogging away. I will probably vote for the ever-so-slightly more liberal candidate. I will probably voice my concerns to a bunch of other lower-income-tax-bracket people who don’t really mean much in the grand scheme, and the game will go on as it has for… years?… decades?… ever? Long enough to know a bunch of hippies planting a garden in a public park in November probably won’t harvest much.

So here’s to the rest of the 99% out there. Quit buying crap. Don’t waste your money on frivolous entertainment. Read books, gain knowledge, and accept that none of it is worth anything if you don’t figure out how to form close bonds with other humans and feel the intimacy of true love and trust in at least one (if you’re lucky five) other human(s). If you can’t do that, go get drunk on a credit card you’ll later never pay off, eat the delicious swill-soaked sodium we call food and consume to your heart’s (enlarged, pulsating) content. A drain on the system is as good a way of defying THE man as mucking up the grass in a downtown park.

In the meantime, try to be kind to five people in one day and see what happens.

Even if it’s nothing, it’s something.

And it would be nice to count on one thing more than death and taxes.

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Posted by: spencermorris | September 7, 2010

Belaboring the Day… posthumously

The US Department of Labor Web site claims Labor Day was originally observed with, “a street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. ”

My apologies for posting this story after midnight… meaning the day following Labor Day. A hectic schedule, working multiple shifts at multiple jobs and projects; this, before submitting eleven resumes to prospective employers, prevented a more timely publication of the story.

Never fear, I was not alone!

We were there in force: Punching cash registers, scrubbing floors, scraping gum from the undersides of tables and saying “how can I help you” and “have a nice day” time and again to the droves of humanity celebrating a(nother) three-day weekend without us. Of course we were present and punctual, pleasant and puerile, pleased as punch to help with customers’ appetites, apprehensions and avaricious pursuit of the much vaunted “ONE DAY ONLY SALE!”.

America.gov, the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs Web site, said the Service Industry accounted for 67.8% of the United State’s 2006 GDP. Loosely interpreted, this means more workers in the U.S. are likely to serve a hamburger or carry luggage than build an automobile or even dig a ditch. Less loosely interpreted more than half of all U.S. industry is expected to punch the clock on Labor Day. After all, the millions of workers fortunate enough to have gained and kept mid-, and upper-level employment positions in which nationally recognized holidays pay homage to their work. As published by the Department of Labor: “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

I myself had the privilege of being paid to pick up cigarette butts and wipe blood off a toilet in Oregon, the first state to legally recognize Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. Prim, neat families played in the park with mouthfuls of organic food from compost-friendly packaging. “Natural”-themed, brown napkins with recycling symbols blew off their tables and laps, out of their children’s greasy fists and organic, hemp, reusable shopping bags. This detritus of eco-conscious avarice gathered in small tornadoes heaped in the corners, nooks, and niches of public space. I, and a hundred like me, shuffled one side to the other of allotted spaces, like crabs with pistol-gripped claws, latex gloves and economy-size quantities of hand sanitizer.

We worked.

We labored.

And we were lucky to do it.

Which takes us back to the deeper irony.

Labor Day was originally advertised as a way to recognize the poor schleps busting their backs every day, forming the skeletal core on which this nation built the entire culture, economy and political system comprising the morbidly obese behemoth it is today. It was just one day to say “thank you. Why don’t you take a load off?” to the workers of the 19th Century who certainly wouldn’t reap rewards in the form of middle-class wages and full medical benefits.

Today, the poor schleps worked. They wiped. They smiled. They gripped tightly to the tenuous thread the job market has left them despite their best-laid plans. And most were thankful more than they were bitter.

After all, with any luck maybe they’ll get Thursday off. Maybe even Friday so they can spend time with the fortunate friends who work the conventional weekday schedule. With a little more luck a customer will recognize the service and convenience offered on a day to praise people who work. Maybe offer an oversize tip or at least a kind handshake. And with a little sincerity say:

“Thank you so much. That was great. Have a nice day.”

Posted by: spencermorris | August 28, 2010

Shame-faced resurrection… thanks for your patience

Just to get it out of the way:

I would like to apologize to the people (seriously, there was more than one) who kept up on the blog and commented on the lack of updates for the last several months. The shame-faced part is that they asked for more because they enjoyed reading. Which is weird, in and of itself, but sad since I promptly ran to home and did nothing. I’m sorry.

Your comments, complaints and, particularly, criticisms are welcomed and encouraged.

Now onto other news!

Posted by: spencermorris | December 20, 2009

Eviction from the Fourth Estate?

I just finished classes at San Francisco State University for my BA in journalism. A bittersweet achievement from one vantage, since my degree makes me employable for an industry in the midst of a monumental sea change. Against my natural inclination, however, I am keeping an optimistic outlook and so polished off one of my final research papers as an undergraduate with an eerie realization.

The press (meaning ME!) is the only career or job in all of history that was so important to the highest aspirations of mankind it was directly included in the Bill of Rights. Need to brush up? A helpful reminder since not everyone is nerd enough to keep, in his living room, a copy of the original Bill of Rights “begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday, the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.”

Article the third….. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On a side-note, perhaps instead of the Pledge of Allegiance, children should recite the original ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution every morning they attend school so the words are indelibly burned into our brains as a culture and when governments infringe on them we make a conscious decision to permit the transgression. In effect, supplant our apathy.

But to the point: The founders of this nation thought the work of the press was so essential to democracy, to the very nature of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they included a specific protection for the industry at the heart of the nation’s soul.

I think this while I glance over the eighteenth story about Tiger Wood’s alleged infidelities, in the Business section no less, and reports about the Copenhagen Climate Summit offer exactly zero specific details about proposed agreements. Twenty minutes perusing two papers, and I was still looking for “news” between the photographs and advertisements.

Which is when I stumbled across my favorite opinion article of 2009 in the San Francisco Chronicle. David Sirota, columnist and radio news host in Denver, Colo., admonished media and public reaction to failed campaign promises made by President Obama. According to Sirota, it has become a truism that what is promised by the candidate can’t be reasonably expected from the elected official. The media, he says, treats disappointment at such behavior as naive and child-like so the populace feels comfortable laughing at the simpletons who expect follow-through on promises.

Sirota claims such cultural myths break down the fundamental structures of our representative government. It is viewed as “worldly” and “experienced” to accept false promises from candidates. Conversely, if you took the promises at face value, well… “Oh, come on grow up!” With Obama, who promised hope and change, the string of disappointments has abandoned gays in the military, people dependent on prescription drugs, opponents of the Patriot Act and civil rights advocates.

This odd acceptance of the unacceptable, justifying with an over-simplistic “because that’s just the way it is” has permeated much of our culture recently. When Wall Street firms were provided with more H1N1 vaccine than some New York City medical centers, at the height of tension about the “Pandemic That Ate the Headlines!” and insufficient doses for those most endangered by the flu, there was no mainstream media coverage of the story. The story broke on the back pages of a couple smaller papers, none based in NYC. A couple Web sites gave the story serious attention, but no groups picked up the banner of injustice. A week later, in an ironic twist, The Wall Street Journal ran the story, reassuring investors Wall Street was prepared for the disease, so while babies and elderly might die their stocks would be just fine.

Three weeks after the travesty was posted to the Internet,  major media ran the story and there was no public outcry for misappropriated funds, cures or morals just a collective shrug. Like, “well it’s the evil stock brokers who run everything; what’d you expect?”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg regularly hosts parties where all the power money can buy is present for dinner and entertainment. According to New York Magazine, Rupert Murdoch, Mort Zuckerman, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publishers of New York’s three daily newspapers were present when the mayor was announcing his plan to run for mayor again. Interestingly, before his own term limit was approaching, Bloomberg was quoted saying defying the terms voted into law by NYC voters was not acceptable.

Bloomberg, with one of the largest election coffers in the entire nation, easily defeated City Comptroller William Thompson with a barrage of advertising, a slur campaign and political influence. When the dust settled, once again the general consensus was “well he owns the city, so what did you expect?” with a rueful shrug at the ignorance implicit in a question like How Can That Happen?

Lying is not okay. In your two-year-old, your drunken relative or your elected representative. The inevitable pull of rationalization and relativism is like the ocean waves shifting the sand and eroding the features of the world. Real news reporting is the bedrock, holding fast to one simple goal: “Seek Truth and Report It”. Truth, with a capital “T” because the verifiable, vetted and transparent information sought and reported by The Press honored by the founders of these United States is an absolute heart in the middle of so much darkness.

Be it Tweeted, YouTubed or printed in an antiquated newspaper, I will pressure my news providers and my (ever-so-nearly-tangible) future employers. With my tiny little piece of paper flapping in the breeze, and a college debt looming darkly on the horizon, I  step out into the abyss to pursue that guiding light for all of us. With luck, we may all be illuminated.

Posted by: spencermorris | December 17, 2009

On publicly gratifying oneself

Just finished a really fantastic article by Roy Peter Clark published on Poynter Online. Granted, as with my hyper-hyperlinking in the preceding sentence, the ostensible subject matter of the story is a little esoteric but the meaning of Clark’s message might benefit us all.

Clark explains journalists can benefit by using the right tool for the job, which is to say the appropriate diction for the context of a story. Thinking carefully beforehand to choose exactly the best word to convey the meaning is great, but the way the words are composed can convey the spirit of your work. As an unapologetic word-nerd I tip my hat to his overall message, and beg the non-journalism folks to give it a read.

Clark writes he “surprised some readers” when he called Osama Bin Laden “that spelunking meshuggeneh” which was criticized by some as inappropriate to some readers. Then he delivers one of the better statements of 2009 (in my sporadically humble opinion):

“I confess that I still loved the phrase and hope that such self-love is not literary onanism, but an essential form of self-respect, a writerly requirement. You can’t please others if you fail to please yourself.”

Are we still such a puritanical culture onanism is still taboo, regardless of context? Literal interpretations aside, it seems quite possible that popular culture and technology have dovetailed to create an environment welcoming self-gratification for public consumption.

The BlogosphereInformationSuperHighwayTechnobabblingWiFiWiredEverywonderyouEverEnvisionedInfoverse has already cut the hamstrings of conventional journalism better than Bill Murray on a golf course, and the one saving grace may be the absolute austerity permitted to any semi-sentient organism that can click/command/enablescript upload/ftp their message into an abstract realm of ones and zeros.

Online dictionaries, combined with the general apathy of internet consumers, mean you don’t have to write to a fifth-grade reading level unless you want to set the mood of a fifth-grade cafeteria. Which may offer hope to an etymologically bankrupt generation.

David Howard famously lost his job for an accurate adult vocabulary, if a questionable display of tact. His diction was lacking given the workplace context. I still advocate for new dictionaries to the whole staff before termination, but were Howard a blogger or Web site developer the worst consequence might have been a deluge of negative comments (how often does the publisher ever read those anyway) posted to his page.

I am pleased Clark defended adult vocabulary and a writer’s control of his medium and I like a new, more reasoned perspective. How often does a professional fine art painter get told to use primary colors, as though for children to see on the canvas, for the Gallery and Installation crowd? Perhaps the Internet, in all its winding and wending frenetic fury, will permit reporters to say what they mean, not the best approximation an overgrown toddler can ponder.

For the moment? Hats off and bottoms up to the new Fifth Estate. And to the onanists? Keep it down we’re studying the OED out here!

Posted by: spencermorris | December 10, 2009

Staring harder at the goats

A friend recently gave me some unnerving news. He told me, without batting an eye, I am the most sentimental person he knows. Shocked, I told several friends his impossible statement and each of them nodded quickly and rolled their eyes at my obliviousness.

How is this possible?

Admittedly I have stood in the street crying over a squirrel recently run down by a car, while a companion squirrel darted between cars to investigate his fallen partner, but what kind of cold-hearted stoic just shrugs at tragic roadkill? With time I reassured myself my friends were only remembering a few impassioned episodes most others were too shy to exhibit in public.

And then I watched a comedy film, alone in a nearly empty theater, and discovered true meaning beneath the slapstick and snarky humor of a movie sold to the world as a rip-roaring escape from the stress of contemporary life. “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, starring Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, is based on the book of the same title written by reporter and documentary film maker Jon Ronson. According to Ronson, the movie is adapted from the true accounts of his experiences covering the First Earth Battalion, a U.S. military unit pursuing experimental tactics using psychic and telekinetic abilities for success in conflicts.

In the film Bob Wilton, played by Ewan McGregor, is a staff writer for a local newspaper who is lost in depression and apathy after his wife leaves him for his domineering managing editor. Desperate to make a change and add a semblance of greatness to a mundane life, Wilton heads to the Middle East to cover the war in Iraq. With no assignment from a publisher and no contacts in the military theater, Wilton is left idle in Saudi Arabia inventing stories of adventure for his ex-wife back home. Fate or luck introduces Wilton to Lyn Cassady, played by George Clooney, who claims to be a “Jedi Warrior” trained for years in psychic warfare as part of the New Earth Army. The NEA led by Bill Django, an exceptionally zany Jeff Bridges, who discovered the new path for military training after years of immersion with love-fests and drug binges.

The film is clever, witty, hilarious and smart. Every comedy fan looking for a good laugh will get their money’s worth at the cinema. But as the recently appointed Most Sentimental Person You Know, I alternated between cracking up and wiping wispy tears from my eyes because something really meaningful is also inured in the story.

Wilton, Cassady, Django and virtually every character shares a single trait in the film. Each is searching for meaning in his life, and a reason to give his life value. Wilton is looking for a story to make him a great reporter. Cassady, after his release from the army, is living in the past dreaming a time he was admired and respected. Django has become nearly catatonic with drugs and alcohol after watching his dream of peaceful resolution to military conflict crumble. Every character is looking for something to believe in when materialism and avarice are the new standards of the contemporary era.

What an appropriate movie for a nation approaching its ninth year of military conflict around the world. Django greets the new recruits with a simple mission statement.

“You have to dream of a new America, an America that no longer has an exploitative view of natural resources, no longer promotes consumption at all costs,” Django says. A mission statement that hits home even more today.

If my tears seemed a bit over-sentimental, I was reassured by Jon Ronson himself when I listened to an interview on All Things Considered on NPR. Ronson said he enjoyed the movie and was pleased with the adaptation of his work, though acknowledged it was a bit different. “My book is very funny in the first half and then takes this dark lurch in tone,” Ronson said. The screenplay was lifted from the more humorous side, but a hint of the darkness may have left a mark.

As a culture, we have watched fighting and killing and death in two nations perpetuated in our name. We are tired. The news, the updates, the figures of trillions of dollars and thousands of fighters heaped on foreign soil with barely a glimmer of hope left to us. I am tired. I want all of it to mean something when all is said and done. I want what Wilton and Cassady found while they cradled a baby goat. And of course, I want a good laugh at the movies for a snide little respite from my hard and incredible reality. Then again, maybe I’m just sentimental.

Posted by: spencermorris | December 1, 2009

Ethics, free parking, and a (slightly) tarnished hero

My investigative sniffer has besmirched a personal hero. It’s a little bit of narrative, so please bear with me.

There is a writer for The Oregonian named Tom Hallman Jr. who was kind of motivational for me as I took my first class preparing for journalism. He won the Pulitzer for a feature series he wrote in 2000. I took a creative nonfiction writing class at Portland Community College, my first class after returning to college after years of bike-messengering and my Traumatic Brain Injury. The goal of the class was to verify my gray matter could handle learning to produce journalistic material. I had decided the only thing I liked as much as riding bicycles was writing and asking questions, and so devoted myself to the love with less likelihood of early death.

In the class, one of the assigned readings was a feature story by Hallman about, of all things, a MAN RECOVERING FROM A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY. Needless to say, I bawled in class as we were reading. But the important thing is that I didn’t cry because the story brought up self-pity or anything like it. I cried because the experiences described by Hallman were more accurate than anyone had ever been when I spoke with them. Suddenly, there was a person out there who really knew what the process was like and it blew me away. I wasn’t alone in my experience for the first time in almost a year.

Hallman was able to pull you into the story and deliver absolutely accurate and clear details from a subject who was physically impaired from communicating as clearly as uninjured people. I was so impressed with the writer I planned to introduce myself after I moved back to Portland.

Which brings me to today, ethics and exercising your perceived objectivity muscles to avoid bonehead mistakes. I was reading a story from The Oregonian and saw it was written by Tom Hallman Jr. Except it was local news about a pedestrian hit by a car. I clicked on Hallman’s link to read some of his feature stories, except they were all local people killed or hurt. Hard news. I couldn’t find a single recent feature story. Weird. Huh.

Enter the sniffer and the faint odor of every cat ever killed by curiosity.

Why was a Pulitzer winner, who was nominated a few more times for the award as well as winning a few prominent journalism accolades, writing straight-up hard news? I started searching and reading stories, but couldn’t find a bio with details more recent than 2002.

Then I found a Willamette Week story. WW is one of the local free weeklies in Portland. Their writer, Nigel Jaquiss (who won the Pulitzer in 2005) wrote a story spotlighting some really stupid ethical thinking by Hallman.

I am so disappointed. I really like the guy’s writing, but how can he do something so stupid?! I was thinking renown and experience as a feature writer maybe allowed the ethical muscles to atrophy. A feature writer famous for telling the stories of victims and heroes maybe doesn’t remember to guard against perceived bias because enemies aren’t beating down the door.

Seems like a good reminder that no matter how the industry might change, ethical values and judgment are integral to good journalism.

His writing has been called dense, labyrinthine and immense. Even the unofficial Web site devoted to his work acknowledges some truth in accusations like “you’ll need a dictionary and an encyclopedia to understand all the scientific metaphors, historical references and obscure words.”

He is Thomas Pynchon. Hailed early in his career as one of the great fiction writers of the Twentieth Century. Compared with Nabokov, Swift and Joyce for his satirical convoluted alternate realities, Pynchon has achieved great critical and reasonable commercial success blazing his own trail with intricately woven narratives for almost fifty years.

But you won’t see Pynchon on Oprah’s Book Club, any Chicken Soup collection, or even most university reading lists for English and Literature programs. His plotlines are complicated, rife with obscure scientific and historical details, and often lead several hundred pages to no discernible conclusion. On the other hand, his fans are avid, enthusiastic flag wavers who cry out his insightful skill digging into the nether regions of the human psyche, global conspiracies and misunderstood genius into the fish-eyed stares of naysayer critics.

Full disclosure. I am one such fan. But I’ve kept my flag at half-staff for more than a decade as I gave up recommending Pynchon’s books to friends and associates after Mason and Dixon proved too complicated for almost any of said friends or associates to enjoy as a pleasurable read, or even finish before putting the thick hardbound tome I had given them out to pasture on nightstands and end tables across the West Coast. As with many of life’s lessons gleaned from books, it was from Pynchon I learned to quietly appreciate my own personal passions for their own sakes. Getting yourself into the erratic swing of his style is not recreational reading for many.

This time I’m making an exception.

Inherent Vice, Pynchon’s most recent fiction novel, follows one protagonist along a narrative that is temporally and geographically streamlined. No zeppelins, no talking dogs. Not even ultrasonic animatronic ducks or a single mention of Tesla.

Inherent Vice is a true-blue detective story with an apparent burnout gumshoe, with just a hint of deeper humanity. A real person. Who likes drugs, music and sex… not a caricature of the sixties, man.

Doc Sportello, a private detective with a penchant for marijuana with an occasional dash of harder hallucinogens, takes on job after job for ex-girlfriends, local riff-raff and the odd convicted felon more for curiosity and kindness than the eventuality someone somehow will pay him for services. Sportello lives in Los Angeles of the late Sixties, and more importantly embodies much of spirit of a generation who defied the traditional roles of youth just as the age was winding down and disenchantment with the dream of the preceding decade was blurring the stars in the eyes with the smog and smut of the world they lived in.

Deep into the book, and especially its conclusion, Pynchon uses 20/20 hindsight to stare into the future from the cusp of a cultural sea change as it was happening. Almost offering an explanation of how we got where we are today, without the didactic overtones many who lived through and speak of that time.

And if that sounds too cerebral, Inherent Vice also offers a taste of the manic, frenetic reality Pynchon can craft like no other: Biker gangs, guns, drugs, government conspiracy, dirty cops and drug dealers, gang wars, frivolous sex, and resurgent underwater cities.

If history is doomed to repeat itself, Inherent Vice may yet prove a survival guide to the next explosion of peace, love and overarching idealism in the modern era.

Posted by: spencermorris | November 5, 2009

Election? I thought Obama already won…

Unless you are an avid news hound (the kind who checks RSS feeds or watches Comedy Central’s snarky observations over and over or Fox News’ “balanced” coverage) it is perfectly reasonable to assume you missed there was an election yesterday. As in you didn’t know it was happening.

What? You did?

Then congratulations on being one of the tiny fraction of humanity who upheld their civic responsibility as citizens in a democracy and managed to inconvenience themselves with a cursory appearance at the voting centers. Or maybe you mailed in your ballot. Congratulations. Consider buying a lottery ticket, as you are a statistical anomaly.

Traditionally, the annual election following a national Presidential election has a low turnout. But the Nov. 4, 2009 election had an abysmal number of ballots cast, with almost no news coverage or community participation. One would think government was running on an even keel without any feedback from their constituency. That nobody minded the current economic depression was a direct result of decisions made by governmental regulatory decisions. That everyone felt elected representatives could be trusted to make smart decisions about wars in other nations or national security around the world.

One would think we were a nation of smiling and happy people without a care in the world.

In the Bay Area the numbers are incredible. San Francisco County Department of Elections reported 16.76% of registered voters cast ballots. Alameda County had a slightly better showing with 28.66% of registered voters. This while the best estimates from the U.S. Census are that 64% of the total population is registered to vote. That means fewer than a fifth of the slightly more than half of the population who bother to register at all showed up to express their concerns and needs for representation in the most powerful democracy on earth.

If you can find the results (they are out there, but you might have to dig deep on the Internet since some major metropolitan newspapers neglected to post results) you are seeing the opinion of a fraction of the populace. What those few people valued and chose for the rest of us.

Apathy? Ignorance? Self-entitlement? Every criticism of the United States voiced by detractors from every corner of the international community? The history of the fall of the Roman Empire offers some illustrative guideposts for a nation whose system of government exhibits evidence of decay.

Democracy doesn’t operate on agendas. The election of a mixed race president is a moment in history, and an achievement in its own right, but meaningless if it is just a new masthead on a sinking ship. Voting is a right AND a responsibility we bear for ourselves and the generations we leave in our wake.

Posted by: spencermorris | October 27, 2009

Students enjoy sunny weather at San Francisco State University

By Pedro Lorenzo, Edwin Librado, Cornelio Terraza from Fremont High School Media Academy

One of the few sunny days at San Francisco State University, Tuesday afternoon, brought out crowds of students to enjoy the pleasant weather. Despite strong wind gusts it was still a beautiful day and dozens of students and faculty ate lunch, talked on phones and with each other and generally just relaxed in the sun.

Neekta Khorsand, 22, is an English major at SF State and spent the afternoon reading books for class. She said the weather helped, because she was so overwhelmed by school, it was nice to get some relief from the stress.

“It’s nice,” Khorsand said about the weather and sitting outside. “But it’s a bummer because of the workload after midterms last week.”

Camille Gillett, an 18-year-old liberal studies major at SF State, sat on the grass and listened to music on her headphones. Gillett, who had just returned to San Francisco from a trip, said the weather made coming home a little easier.

“Because I was just in Seattle, and it was raining the whole time,” Gillett said.  “And it’s beautiful, and I can see all the blue sky.”

Some students were able to enjoy the sunny day as a pleasant surprise. Sean Castillo, a 22-year-old English major sat on a bench sketching cartoons for his own zine publishing company after showing up late to class and finding the room closed.

“Class was cancelled,” Castillo said. “And I decided to stay outside because it was a beautiful day.”

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