Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Thorn in the Midst

I'm in my Halloween costume already--suspenders, straw hat, plaid and jeans as the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Just spent the past hour trouncing around the house with a trail of little straw flakes billowing out behind me. It's been a joyful kind of week, month really, with the upcoming election and the brilliance of San Francisco autumn.

It's funny how the starkest of realities bring us back down to earth just as we are the most oblivious. I get frustrated when my blood sugar wakes me up in the early morning, or when the copier breaks down at work, and then I learn about frighteningly real tragedies like the death of my former classmate Jake Thorn.

I met Jake as a sophomore at UCSB--2004, shortly before the last presidential election. The campus was full of a palpable electricity: students were mobilizing, registering voters and protesting the ongoing war in Iraq. We wanted Bush out. My second week back at school, I joined the Campus Democrats club. Immediately we were put to work: flyering freshman dorms with voter registration information, canvassing for the local supervisor race (I had a John Buttny sticker on my bike basket for the duration of the election, until he lost to the beer-brewing, father-of-"The-Bachelor" Firestone), tabling on the quad. Jake was one of the first fellow volunteers I met.

Jake epitomized the kind of friend you never quite have the time for, but always admired and wanted to actually know. He was thin, and smiley, with reddish hair, and a penchant for Amnesty International and equal-opportunity education. He wrote well. I remember him editing the club newsletter (it had a "donkey" theme) with a girl who later became my housemate here in San Francisco. He was one of those community members who you could count on to have an editorial in the paper at least once a week.

Throughout my time at UCSB, Jake's interests and passions often criss-crossed my own, whether it be voter registration, a local nonprofit we tried to start called Free Skool, the underground belly that was co-op culture and independent music.

All of these characteristics and memories slide into view now, two years later, when all I know of him are a list of hobbies and interests from his Facebook profile and a half dozen digital photographs from community events. I can't claim to have known him intimately or even well; he was one of many classmates who accomplished great things and had plans to accomplish even more.

I heard from him for the first time since graduation when he posted a note online about his May 2008 lymphoma diagnosis, a startling and fast-moving disease. Suddenly he was bald, suddenly he was excited about popsicles and writing songs about doomed youth. It wasn't until today, the day he passed away, that I noticed a small link on his webpage advertising his music:

There are few things more chilling than hearing someone's recorded voice shortly after they have died. I can only imagine what this must mean to his family and close friends, and the people who mattered the most to him. His voice sounds fragile at first, but then I recognize the quality of sound not as a weakness, but rather an informed complacency. He knows what is happening to his body, just as he knows which politicians are screwing up the country, and which animals are being mistreated. He knows, he knew, he always will know.

Perhaps the greatest pity in all this is how much he wanted to see next week's election. I remember the fervency with which he followed politics, and the idealistic hunger that pushed him forward. What's more tragic, I wonder: that so few people can maintain this intellectual idealism, or that those who do are often prevented from creating change?

Yet another reason to vote--vote for progressive change, and you'll be voting for Jake Thorn.

May 11, 1985--October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Hawaii Chair: Fact or Fiction?

Critical thoughts / questions: The sexual tension in this infomercial is so transparent, and yet the product itself just might attract an office worker.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Two Takes on Global Warming--Commercial Vs. Public Service Announcement

The broadcasting class that I am taking at the City College of San Francisco requires that I consume and evaluate news of different mediums every week. Last week's theme was the commercial. The following ad is from the League of Conservation Voters and promotes an idea rather than a product:

A refreshing view on the neverending 2008 presidential eleciton? Perhaps. Both the sound ("It Ain't Easy Being Green") and the images (photographs of candidates from the past year slowly turning green) work well to carry the overall message. The ad only fails in that it doesn't provide any real solution--just food for thought. It functions better as a PSA than as a commercial.

Speaking of--this week we are focusing one was the public service announcement. I got this one on global warming at



This PSA relies on two things: the celebrity status of actor Kiefer Sutherland, and the appropriate urgency of his aptly named show, "24." He appeals to viewers as an everyman, saying that we must all monitor our "carbon footprint," and mentions enough scientific-sounding jargon to make the announcement seem legitimate. He almost had me until he referenced his own network as a valid resource for global warming information. At that point the PSA became less public, and more corporate.

Given this choice, I'd say the first ad appealed to me more as a young working woman. The information was better delivered through a variety of mediums, rather than relying solely on the popularity of an actor on a specific, conservative network. Thumbs up to the League of Conservation Voters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

anniversaries of sorts

The sunset was godly tonight.

Our house was quiet all evening. It was my night to cook, and for the first time in weeks I had the entire kitchen to myself. My brain was as full as the sky. There is an imperceptible calm that covers the world every night, and yet we are rarely paying enough attention to even notice.

It is October. Octobers are always red to me, pomegranate season. I've lived in San Francisco exactly a year this week. Two years ago this week I moved to Spain. Three years ago this week I broke up with my college boyfriend. Four years ago this week I was in love for the first time. Five years ago...five years ago, Santa Barbara was covered in smoke and fire and I felt guilty for thinking the sunset was prettier after all the smog had cleared.

How calculable is change?

Is it something that politicians can actually bring? Is the change we seek the same as the change we need? Do we notice good change as much as bad?

I try to. When the workmen finish on our block, I notice the smooth, slick asphalt. When a student at our school finally understands the difference between "he" and "she," we point it out. When the office staff adopted compost and recycling, we put up green and blue reminders all over the walls. When my blood sugar is normal, I give myself a golf clap.

When we have a new, progressive president, I'll stop holding my breath for health care reform, an economy with potential, and a set of ideals that might just be that--ideas.