Living in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is known for its immense amount of idling cars, the bourgeoise, and of course it’s weather. Sunny Southern California may make a name for itself by the pastel colored beach sunsets, or the incandescent neon specks of light that blanket Downtown. And while the original length of its name is debated(LA Time), we can readily assume that a city melted down into two letters is quite an impressive feat. Just two letters, the same letters that make up “the” in French (la in french denotes the feminine the), can be assigned to 3 and a half million plus individuals. I think that the significance of this fact cannot be overstated. Something as foundational in one language can be the hub of population for another.

LA is a name so ubiquitous that it is the American West Coast city. It contains an assortment of races, religions, classes, abilities, talents, and views that show the diversity that America holds so dearly to its ideals. Los Angeles is the place where people who’ve “Made It” go. Movie stars, artists, musicians, academics, and athletes all find their home in the City of Angels. We like to assume that LA is a city that is the home of the unreachable, of the people so successful that we have no chance of ever living in such a place. At least, that is what I thought before living here for the past 5 months.

I find that with every wish granted with a shooting star, another opportunity is taken away from the less fortunate. What I mean is that I live close by to communities where tents and parks become their beds. I live close by to such poverty that a one mile drive away from campus reveals the ramshackle community beyond with their anxiety riddled faces, and a shopping cart to their name. The campus of USC is north of Compton, but only just so, that we see the edges of a world that is just trying to get by.

We can blame the desperation of such communities to White Flight, but that is not what defines them. What defines them is the fact that they’re still holding on. I think that because USC seems so much like a bubble, that I forget that LA is not a collection of maintained red brick buildings. There are things that we forget because we don’t want to remember them. We don’t want to remember poverty, and so we block it out. We don’t want to remember our horrendous past, so we formulate a different history. We want to believe that LA is a city that contains all the great parts of the country, and so we stop talking about the world beyond the glamour. Even if the world beyond is the one thing we need to talk about.

And when people bring up the fact that we have a homeless problem, I would like to correct them by saying that we have a housing problem. We have an inability to take care of our most in need individuals. But I see this as an opportunity to create lasting relationships between community members. The Dalai Lama is quoted saying, “When our focus is on others, on our wish to free them from their misery-this is compassion(The Dalai Lama 38).” We need to be compassionate to the people living within the same limits as ourselves. I am not impervious to looking a different direction when I confront these types of situations. And I feel so guilty for doing such things, because I had the ability to alleviate some misery, but I didn’t. In some cases, I ask to be ignorant because knowing the truth only makes me feel worse. But LA has forced me to confront the truth, not with a slow transition, but with a sharp and painful realization. I have been fortunate. And by some dumb luck, I am in such a position that my basic needs have seemed trivial.

I know that LA is my city. It is a place that I have become accustomed to and grown to enjoy. But for LA to be a city greater than what it is, it must confront the problems of its less fortunate citizens.


Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho, and Nicholas Vreeland. An open heart: practicing compassion in everyday life. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002. Print.

Rap Times Infinity

Rap can’t just be shoved off as an annoyance that rebellious teenagers listen to. As an art form, rap holds many complexities waiting to be unraveled. While some consider Eminem as the Michelangelo of this generation with “Rap God” as his Sistine Chapel, one must ask themselves how that came to be. Throughout its history, rap has morphed into a genre of music that has affected the whole world in intricate ways. Rap is art because art is portrayed to reflect the pressures and hardships minorities undergo, allowing for these issues to be looked at more thoroughly by the average American.

While art is accepted by the modern masses as an expression of the creator, art is rather a complex reflection of the hardships and pressures that artist faces. Humans are hardwired to document their world, which explains why history appeals to everyone. It answers the questions of who we are, how we came to be, and why we are here. In that same way, art is a visual representation of history. I consider art to hold not just the connotations of history, but also the effects that part of history had on the artist. These effects manifest themselves in how the art is created, causing a biased account of what happened. For example, I find it difficult to comment on an event without adding my own position. Say, if I am to hypothetically get in a fight, I would twist what happened to my advantage, which is synonymous to how art is created. Art is created when a negative event happens, causing negative feelings, then the artist addresses how they feel, and uses their art as a medium to channel their hardships. One such art medium, that allows artists to process their struggles, is rap.

As with any art form, rap has historically been used as the rapper’s self expression. While rap can be traced back to its origins in Africa, where a village storyteller would tell tales of their village, rap has become a relatively new form of music. Back when slavery had a strong grip on the southern United States, the African-American population would have field songs to express their situation. During their church services, there was a system of call and response to songs the congregations would sing, which had sprung from the call and response system of the field songs. Eventually these field songs gave rise to the Blues in the beginning of the twentieth century, hip hop in the 1970’s, and rap in the 1980’s. The creation of each of these genres of music were first met with disdain, but is now an integral part of the music scene. This trend can be seen in the Billboard charts. In 1965 the charts consisted of the Beatles, boy bands, and songwriter or singers, while in 2010 the charts held an assortment of Rappers, such as Usher and Eminem. The ideas and concepts talked about in modern day rap, are analogous to the treatment of slaves in early America. Because of art’s history of documenting struggle, rap has stemmed out of the difficulties oppressed populations face.

Rap as an art form, is utilized to be a vehicle to communicate the struggle of a certain group of people. Regardless of the situation, everyone has had to overcome a difficulty and through rap, Watsky is able to document his personal ordeals. He began his rap career by performing self written poetry, which forced the problems he was facing into the public view. A poem titled “S for Lisp”, was one way for Watsky to indicate how he feels about his lisp. He says, in the middle of his poem, “…So I will say this/My subtle lisp is not sinful. I’m not sorry Saturday, I’m not sorry Sunday; I’m spiritual and when I speak I celebrate the Sabbath seven days a week…” First, Watsky recognizes that he has a lisp, then early on explains how other people see it as an impediment, and finally tears apart the claim that he can’t say things well. However, Watsky was successfully able to convey his world to his audience, just as any artist would present their artwork. Rap as art takes the struggle of the rapper and is used, not only to explain what happened, but what stance the rapper takes.

Used to show the rapper’s life to the rest of the world, rap is also a platform for the rapper to push their own political stances. Art has always been subtle pointers to current events and political events. Although not subtle, rap comments on events in the news and tells what the audience should think about what happened. For example, in Watsky’s most recent album called x Infinity, he references a certain political candidate in “Pink Lemonade”, who he doesn’t approve of. “…I vote Yeezus/Deez Nuts 2020/You want to run a country? that makes me shiver/Bitch I wouldn’t trust you to run with adult scissors…” He takes an approach of ‘endorsing’ Kanye West as president, but then one line later, states that he wouldn’t trust Kanye West with something so small. Watsky is essentially saying that if someone can’t do something small without messing up, he wouldn’t be able to trust that person for running a country. His following song called “Don’t be Nice” also becomes a political when he says, “…Politicians switching positions like it’s the Kama Sutra…” While being crude in language, Watsky passes his point across that regardless of who the politician is, they change their ideals and stances on policies and issues. Watsky has a strong political view, and he conveys it through his artwork, allowing messages, both subliminal and overt, to be absorbed by his audience. Political messages have been implemented in art even before rap was ever created. For example, messages can be identified in the works of propaganda artists. These messages have the potential to change a whole society, which is why Watsky’s ideas of politics hold so much power. However, Watsky doesn’t just use references to convey his message, he uses ingenious diction and syntax to allow his message to seamlessly hop from his mouth to the minds of his listeners. Watsky’s use of diction in rap include rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, and other less visible techniques to push his message. In the song titled “Brave New World” Watsky raps, “…Two fleets keep peace on the mean streets/One treats brown people like they’re beastly/Nothing like the force that police me…”. Watsky first of all takes rhyming to the next level. He doesn’t just rhyme on the end of the line, but he does it words in the middle of lines. This causes an effect of a smooth transition between lines and thoughts. The rhymes include “fleets”, “peace”, “streets”, “treats”, “beastly”, and “police me”. The meaning behind these lines calls out some police who treat people of color badly and the contrast of how those police treat him, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement. In the same song, Watsky says, “Where did all the people at the supermarket go that used to scan my groceries?/Vanished mostly/And wassup with all the homies in the camo and the ammo with the rifles on/Their shoulder walking through the city thinking that they’re Annie Oakley?” This brings to light race relations between white people and every other minority. Watsky is pointing out that minorities do low skill jobs, i.e. cashier, and that he sees less of those people. This allows the audience to assume that those minorities had either lost their job, or moved away. In the following line, Watsky questions the hostility of stereotypical white people. He also makes an allusion to Annie Oakley, who was a sharp shooter. All these small parts of Watsky’s songs, really adds a deeper meaning to every song. Art should be multilayered, which is why I consider Watsky’s rap with its diction and syntax art. While rap can be controversial and negative, it is still art, regardless of how it is conveyed.

Although some rap has strong language and dark connotations, it is a way for rappers to explain their situation, rather than creating more tension. Watsky is not immune to using curses, and in “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa” he doesn’t hold back from cursing. “…Like my teacher taught me when I heard the crowd applaud/I thought I was an atheist until I realized I’m a God/It could hurt a bit when I murder shit/in a moment I’ll be tying off a tourniquet…” Like many rappers, Watsky succumbs to using curses to not only continue his rhyming scheme, but it’s necessary to emphasise his emotions. On the surface, it looks as though Watsky takes every opportunity he has to use negative word choice, but it makes sense in the context of his message. In another one of his songs “Stick to Your Guns” he looks at the horrible situations of mass shootings. “…You’re the sorry flock of sheep who made me rot to core/and of course you’ll make a break to escape through the corridor/don’t be late – I’ll set you up on a date with the coroner…” This is taken from the view of the shooter. Its dark language allows the audience to know what’s going on in the mind of the attacker. However, the song continues, but switches viewpoints from the shooter, to the media, and then finally to a politician. It’s essential to the flow of the song to use the mind of the shooter and the references to killing to provide a platform for Watsky to comment. Dark language, without looking too deeply, can make rap seem less artistic and more violent, but if seen from a deeper vantage point, art has to be a little risque or obscene to allow the rapper’s emotions to transplant themselves into the listener.

Rap has been vital as an art form to help minorities cope with their troubling world around them. It is important to listen and fully understand what rappers are hinting at. Without knowledge of the struggles of others, it is difficult or impossible to make it through a personal problem. The lyrics of rap also bring up huge issues society has to face regarding race, poverty, and violence. Art is suppose to create discussions and controversies that the general public must look at thoroughly before moving on, which is why rap is so vital to the American society as an art form.


Watsky. “Brave New World”. x Infinity. Steel Wool Media, EMPIRE. August 19, 2016. Watsky, Kush Mody, Russell Simmons, Anderson .Paak, Frans Mernick, Mikos Da Gawd, Daniel Riera,Wax, Andrew Oedel. MP3.

Watsky. “Don’t Be Nice”. x Infinity. Steel Wool Media, EMPIRE. August 19, 2016. Watsky, Kush Mody, Russell Simmons, Anderson .Paak, Frans Mernick, Mikos Da Gawd, Daniel Riera,Wax, Andrew Oedel. MP3.

Watsky. “Pink Lemonade”. x Infinity. Steel Wool Media, EMPIRE. August 19, 2016. Watsky, Kush Mody, Russell Simmons, Anderson .Paak, Frans Mernick, Mikos Da Gawd, Daniel Riera,Wax, Andrew Oedel. MP3.

Watsky. “S for Lisp”. April 18, 2010. Youtube.

Watsky. “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa”. All You Can Do. Steel Wool Media, Welk Music Group. August 12, 2014. Anderson .Paak, Mister Carmack, Mikos da Gawd, LODEF. MP3.

Repetitive Print in Modern Culture

Recently I was watching the iconic movie: The Shining. And while, I will not specifically talk about the plot or its meaning, I’d like to observe one specific scene. It is where the wife is taking a closer look at Jack’s book, and notices something scary. The line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” is repeated for what seems like hundreds of pages of text. This scene is probably one out of a handful of scenes that sticks like something unpleasant. Stanley Kubrick was notorious for making sure scenes were perfect, even if it took a hundred or more takes. I think that in a sense Kubrick is channeling his obsessiveness through Jack and onto the physical paper. And in the movie we see Jack devolve into a compulsive murderer with needs to silence his son and wife. The use of repetitive text put this transition into a physical format even Kubrick’s audience could understand. The audience is left to wonder in disbelief what kind of person repeatedly types something over and over again. The scene has such an astounding effect that I was left in the same mental state the wife was in when discovering the papers. But I think that this repetitive use of words isn’t just a trick that Kubrick has utilized, but it has been used quite effectively throughout pop culture.

While Kubrick allows the repetitiveness to emphasize the extent of his character’s crazed mental state, we find that other forms of film have taken an opposite approach. In the Simpsons, the use of this repetitive text is used for a comical effect. Bart writing on the chalkboard has been a staple to the franchise and is used in every episode in the intro. But everyone knows this, and what is important is how crucial the board is to Bart’s character. From the beginning the audience understands that Bart is writing repeated sentences because he’s being punished by presumably his teacher. And in what seems like a 2-3 second instance, the audience already knows Bart. They already see how defiant he is, and it hints as to his actions later on in the episode. We tend to find what he writes to be comical because the actions he is being punished for seem so odd and out there. What I mean is that we are taken aback and surprised that this character we’ve met for 2 seconds has committed such bad things. I think we find the incongruity with childhood innocence and Bart’s knowledge of the adult world almost funny, partially because every adult has gone through the same process. Maybe not every adult has gone through the same drastic transition that Bart is in the middle of, but we have all at one point shed out innocence to accept the reality of the world. It is possible that as an audience we find the actions as funny, and that’s simply it. Or we are able to create a full narrative out of the simple sentences that Bart writes, somewhat similar to the famous story written by Hemingway, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I think that our imaginations run wild when given only a minute amount of input, and so we must fill in what happened.

Another example that utilizes this repetitive phrasing, but in another aspect is Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” album cover. I will mention before getting into the meat of this example that Drake also uses this approach in his artwork for “Hotline Bling” but I think that their goals are similar enough to be able to look at only Kanye’s artwork. In his most recent album, Kanye West takes a phrase “The Life of Pablo” and allows it to populate the cover. In Kanye’s instance, I think he is trying to achieve an almost subliminal message. Kanye West has been known to compare himself to Pablo Picasso, which seems to be the inspiration of the artwork, but I think it has to do with something else. The life of Pablo is a way for Kanye to say that as Picasso, this is his life, and his lifes work. But I would like to present the idea that Kanye put the repetitive phrase on his album, not for his audience, but for himself. I think that as large as his ego is, he must be insecure about himself about something. And the cover is Kanye confirming to himself that “Yes, I am as great as Picasso”, but he has to remind himself of this. It’s as if he requires Picasso to tell him that his work is great. And yet, I also find another motive for creating such an album cover. I think that aestetically, humans like patterns, we like things that are predictable. The repeated phrases take advantage of this fact and gives the audience a feeling of familiarity.


I think that the repetitive use of text isn’t fully utilized in our current culture, and graphic designers haven’t fully realized its uses. It can contain messages far greater than other techniques can achieve, and it has found itself to be in the center of pop culture wherever it pops up.



Torture as Explained by Trump

Today, as surprising as the words may seem, our current president, again has pushed his views of torture to the forefront of the political conversation. Trump has been quoted in saying that he believes that torture works(CNBC). And while this may be the common view among people who side with Hammurabi’s Code, I know that as the United States, we are far above such penalties. As a civil society, we should treat everyone humanely, even if we are holding Prisoners of War. My reason being that we must present ourselves above the level of other countries. We must be the better society when everyone else isn’t. This has a massive importance to the treatment of people from other societies.

Trump however, has absolutely disregarded this fact, and used the Presidential platform to voice his uncensored opinion. He said that we should “fight fire with fire”, in reference to terrorist actions. Now I have to step back for a hot second and realize how absurd this statement is. We have a man in the high position known to the free world and he’s outright saying we should torture other people. Like, I tend to wonder if Trump would be able to pass the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”, but replace fifth, with first, because that is how elementary he is thinking. He has absolutely no comprehension of the effects of such actions.

Let me establish a hard and solid fact: Torture does not work. It is such a compromising way to obtain information, that we would be better off without forcing information out of our POW’s. The goal of torture is to obtain information pertinent to the enemy forces. And Trump fancies that if we push hard enough, we will get this information. What I don’t think he understands is that with torture, you have to view it from the point of view of the prisoner. They have the mindset that, the best way to get the enemy to stop torturing them, they must give up information. However this information will not be the information needed, it will be the information the interrogator wants. What the interrogator wants won’t necessarily align with the facts, with the real information needed. And while comical but also starkly true, Key and Peele shows that the interrogator will hear whatever he wants to hear.

The better way to obtain such information, is make the prisoner’s guard to falter, allowing genuine information to flow freely. In torture, the prisoner’s guard is always up because they perceive that they are in a hostile environment. But I believe the more important part to Trump’s thumbs up of torture is its implications to other nations and opposing forces. The idea that “If the United States plans to treat our men like garbage, we must do the same”. Thus, this will cause members in the military, if they become POW’s, they will be treated horribly. They will be tortured. And they will be harmed. And so the best way to prevent such things, is to treat the POW’s in our possession humanely.

Now, I will end by saying that legislation and laws stand to prevent such horrendous actions to occur. We may live in a country where the president finds it appropriate to torture prisoners, but I believe that our military knows better than to carry out whatever he says. We can only hope that these laws continue to stand and for us to stand with them, regardless of our president’s words.



My Thoughts on the Dakota Access Pipeline

I am an environmentalist. I believe that as long as we are present on this earth, we should treat it with respect and take care of it with our greatest ability. These ideals may be a product of my upbringing in a town where you are able to see the effects of climate change. The glaciers in Juneau, Alaska are rapidly receding, and so I find it crucial that we both recognize and take action to stop such things from happening. And I will say that, regardless of what other people say, I know for a fact that Climate Change is real, and that we have been a part in causing such problems.

I find it a shame though, that I have to state solid facts, because for whatever reason, our current president disregards such fundamental things. If he were born in my place, or if he didn’t have money ties to oil companies, it is possibility that his position would be different. And yet, today we are in situation, where the environment and Native American voices are not taken into account. The fact that the president has advanced the Dakota Access Pipeline, shows how long these next four years will be.

My only hope is for us to leave our country in better a shape than we found it. That we clean-up our messes, and the messes of past generations, but this event has shown that we can disregard everything about the environment and the safety of American citizens. Personally, this has caused an astounding turmoil within me, as I feel that I cannot do much to prevent detrimental actions to the environment. Today, rings reminiscent of all the times the United States has forced its Native American population into a horrible position, where the potential for disasters are so massive that an estimated 17 million people could be at risk of harm (CNN).

And when the oil companies, or the president reassure us that “The pipeline won’t cause harm, or affect the environment” we must remind them of very recent oil disasters. We must point to Exxon Valdez, or the BP Oil Spill to denounce how safe oil procedures are. This is a massive step back for the environment of the United States. It not only will mess up the land surrounding it, but also signal to other oil companies that it is okay to do as they will.

We cannot let our land be bastardized by companies only looking to turn a profit. We cannot let them take advantage of a land that cannot defend itself. We have to be the ones that force these actions to stop, because their concerns are not our concerns.

I am sad that the corruption has wiggled itself into the Oval Office. I am sad that with all the actions taken to prevent the pipeline they can be overturned by a simple signature. And most of all, I am sad that we weren’t strong enough to prevent a man so vile in his actions to be allowed in the White House.


What’s the Best Suited Job for You?

In my Philosophy class today, we discussed something that I had been mulling around in my mind for quite a while. We talked about how a person who doesn’t want to do a certain job/task should be the exact person to do the said job/task. The reason being that the person who wants to do such a job/task will not have the proper skills. It had come from an excerpt of The Republic by Plato, but I also remember reading something to that effect from East of Eden. In East of Eden, the son who wanted to fight wars, was not allowed to, while the father made the son who didn’t want to fight, go into the military. As far as I can remember, the son who went into the military managed to do a good job.

And so, this has got me thinking about other aspects of our lives that this applies to. As a society, we tend to tell teenagers ready to enter adulthood, to “Do what you’re passionate about!” or “Follow your dreams!” and while these are important to tell the younger generation, it presupposes some aspects of that person. We like to think that a person likes to do something that they are good at, which if the expressions above are taken to the heart, there is nothing wrong with such a reality. However, being good at something doesn’t mean that you like that thing, and the opposite is true, where someone who wants to do something, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be good at it.

And so, this brings up the question then, why do we tell the younger generation to follow such actions? And I believe in a utilitarian society, assigned jobs to cater the best skills of that person would be the best action. But, we are not in a utilitarian society, and big problems can quickly be seen with this system. It is simply the fact that happiness would not be achieved. And so, maybe the goal of the above phrases are not to benefit the greater society, but to nurture the self-interested aspect of ourselves.

I feel that the best suited jobs for people are not what they desire, but what is their nurtured skills. However, when these two facts line up, it is possible to have your dream job and are fantastic at it. We discussed in my class how, this is so applicable to leaders, how the ones who do not want to lead, will be the best ones. Especially in our current political climate, we do  see candidates wanting to lead out of their own self-interest, such as business ventures, or fame, or more air-time. These are the types of people we want to avoid, because they don’t take the job seriously, they don’t fully contemplate the effects their actions can have. They are in it for themselves, and that’s how I see our current president. A man not fit for the job, because he wants to have the job. But in a society so driven on the “The American Dream” we sometimes have to sacrifice our passions for others, because it’s selfish to not do so.

My alteration on the above phrases, would be to the effect of “Follow your dreams, if they align with what you’re good at.” But this sounds hard-pressed and demoralizing, and so my only thought is that we may want to rethink how we approach this subject.

Why We Should be Cautiously Optimistic with All This Rain in California

As I write this, the city of Los Angeles is being dumped with what seems to be weather from Juneau, Alaska. What I mean is that, it’s raining, and it’s raining a lot. I am very familiar with rain, and so I am not as concerned or intrigued as other LA citizens are. But I’d like to take a moment today to look at the weather from my perspective, because I find it vital for us to know where California stands with its water. In the past five years, California has been hit with a drought that has ravaged and wreaked havoc on its agricultural economy. And this was the cause of multiple concerns about California’s ability to sustain its citizens.

But recently, California has seen rainstorms that have given life blood back into the state. At least, that’s what the average citizen believes to be true. As I watch my friends film the effects of the rain on their Snap Stories, or talk about it in passing, they remark that, “California is out of the drought!!” Not that they are wrong, but only parts of California are safe, while Southern California is far from that target. This misconception can have massive and detrimental effects on the Los Angeles community. If this thought is reciprocated throughout all of Southern California, we may be in more of a disaster than before the rainstorms. Now, I’m not saying the rain is bad, but I am saying that the people thinking that we’re out of the drought is bad. Let me explain.

When say, you are told that you have to conserve water, you don’t question it if you see the effects of the drought. You are more aware of the importance to try your best to prevent drought. You see dead or dying plants, and you don’t question why you should stop watering your plants. The average citizen will see the reasons why they should conserve water to the best of their ability. However, this whole rainstorm will throw things off. LA citizens, and possibly all of Southern California will watch the large amounts of water before them and assume that since it has rained, we have no worries.

This will allow Southern Californian’s to rationalize that they have no need to conserve water. But this conception is totally wrong, as Southern California is still in a heavy drought. Water use will then increase, and possibly spike as citizens are frivolous with their water consumption. The combination of an increased use of water, the continuation of the drought, and the misconception that Southern California is out of the drought can be a home run for water consumption collapsing into a disaster. And so, I advise everyone in Southern California to use water as thrifty as if we never had rainstorms. This will at least allow for Southern California to rebound quicker. And so California citizens, hold off on watering your plants, hold off on taking longer than necessary showers, and understand how crucial water is to the California economy, and ecosystem. (As a side note, I would like to observe that Los Angeles-at least nearby USC-is unable to handle torrential rainstorms as of recently, and so water, is not being collected efficiently as it should be, but it is improving.)