Monday, May 07, 2007

Diversity Series

Two Steps To The Right, Then Two Steps To The Left
By Lindsay Cooper

It was a formal reception in which classical music was playing in the background and champagne and hor d’oeuvres were served in the upstairs room of the “Firebird” restaurant located in Midtown Manhattan. Within half an hour my father, Douglas Cooper, the groom was married to Barbara Benisch, a tall slender woman dressed in a silk white long dress with her blonde hair pinned up. They appeared like a typical bride and groom.

Soon after the quiet and elegant ceremony, everyone aged 50 and under piled out of the restaurant into the crisp afternoon air and the caravan of eager party guests set out towards the New Jersey skyline for the festive reception party. Arriving in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, I walked into a small, cozy suburban house and heard the loud beats of drums and the scratching sounds of spoons running up and down a washboard wafted into my ears.

Suddenly, a traditional style wedding was turning into an unexpected non-traditional evening. The crowd was extremely diverse: from suburban Jews to Louisiana Bayou natives. I’ve never met nearly half of these people. Walking through crowds of people chatting and drinking, I made my way to the bride’s small, quaint living room, which was filled with dozens of people dancing closely together. I could feel the heat rising as everyone’s feet and hands moved quickly to the pulsing sounds of the Louisianan band.

My father introduced me to a woman named Lisa, known as “Zydeco Lisa” who was dressed in tall black boots. She taught me the basic Zydeco steps. “It’s quite simple,” Lisa said, “you move your feet two steps to the left and then two steps to the right.” As I followed her moves to the beat of the music, she told me that Zydeco dancers develop their own variations based on the simple two-step.

As I left the dance area shortly to catch some fresh air, Lisa strolled over to me and immediately explained to me how she got involved in Zydeco music by attending concerts and lessons at studios held throughout New York City and New Jersey. She also said it only took her a short amount of time to master this type of dancing because she had previous experience in other similar types of dancing that used a lot of the same steps. She enjoys Zydeco dancing, almost on a daily basis and is even interested in becoming a Zydeco dance instructor.

Zydeco is a modern form of Creole music from Acadians, which developed soon after World War II. It is a popular kind of music based on the accordion and rooted in the southern Louisiana Creole culture. Today, Zydeco has adapted many pop music elements like the blues, soul, disco, rap, and reggae using modern musical tools such as the drums, electric and steel guitars, saxophones, horns, and keyboards. Songs may be sung in English, French, and Creole.

As the evening progressed, I noticed that the Zydeco culture my father and his new wife were passionate about attracted quite a few older eccentric people. Another couple named Jeffrey and Laura who I talked to at the wedding party knew the bride and groom from Zydeco lessons they all took together in the city. They were an older couple that initially appeared quite serious and conservative— one would not have guessed that they were experts in this type of Cajun style dancing. Both of them told me how much you have to appreciate live music to really enjoy this kind of dancing.

An hour later, they were confidently swinging each other across the dance floor. Another guest who I spoke to was a younger man named Arturo who also became very interested in Zydeco dancing because he felt that it was not a competitive and high pressure activity like some of the other types of dancing. To him, Zydeco dancing is “simple fun” and a very relaxed activity that helps distress him from life’s other stressors.

Although most of the people at the reception were quite experienced and fully involved in the Zydeco culture, the band members truly represented the essence of this southern folk scene. The band was originally formed by Chubby Carrier who started this family orientated music group in Louisiana. His brother, Troy Carrier, known as Dikki Du, played the drums.

The band has been around for eight years now and is currently touring New York. In a brief discussion with Neal Carrier, the youngest band member and son of Dikki Du, he expressed his passion for Creole style music as a traveling musician. Carrier, also known as “Zydeco Neal” plays the Scrub board. He explained to me how Zydeco music and dancing has influenced a large part of his identity growing up and that performing it across the country reveals a sense of familial pride.

The other band mates are Charles LeMark Jr, Kevin Carrier, and Levi Rivers. Charles LeMark Jr., known as “Big Red” or “Cool Daddy” plays the drums and has played with Chubby Carrier for two years. Kevin Carrier plays the bass and is the nephew of Roy Carrier. Levi Rivers is the new member of the “Krewe” and plays the guitar. He is very experienced in Zydeco dance particularly the two-step and the slow bunny hop. “I didn’t even think twice about hiring this band for the wedding—they are just very friendly and always attract a large crowd of people” my father informed me.

At the end of this eventful and unforgettable night, it became clear what the craze and excitement of Zydeco dancing was all about, which attracted many older, working city dwellers like my dad. It is a vibrant, and loud folk type of dancing that has gained popularity among a variety of people because it also creates a strong social network of people. This holy union today occurred because of the unordinary and energetic hobby of Zydeco dancing that brought two of these soul-searching individuals together.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


The Rise of Hope, As One Man Tells It
By Leigh Baker

We are constantly reminded of the conflict in Darfur and the AIDS battle in Africa, but have you heard anything lately about the North Country Mission of Hope (NCMOH)? I hadn’t either until Ben Peryer, a fellow student at Marymount Manhattan College spoke of it.

In speaking with Peryer, I learned just what it is and what it means to him. “These projects not only helped me grow, but they made me realize what I wanted to do as a career.” It is something that he has been heavily involved with since age 16.

What exactly is NCMOH? The organization was created in 1992 as a humanitarian effort in response to Hurricane Mitch. When the opportunity to help someone in need presented itself, Peryer jumped. It was started at his rival high school, but that was no matter because a recent family vacation to South Africa had taught him of the horrors of desperate poverty.

“As we drove from the beach to a restaurant or wherever we were lucky enough to be going, we would pass miles and miles of shanty towns. To me, they looked like garbage fields, so you can image how shocked I was to see people living in them,” Peryer says of his vacation. “Our air conditioned sedan created this line, this divide, between myself and reality as it drove along the road,” he said.

This divide would soon be broken with his involvement in NCMOH. Peryer was sent to Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua where, he explains, that he became a part of the community. “We lived in a compound right in the middle of the village. It would seem wrong to do it any other way.” This mission team was given jobs that would benefit the shattered community, such as food delivery, and establishing medical clinics and shelters, to name a few.

Peryer says he enjoyed the daily run of food because it allowed him to interact with the others, but his most rewarding experience was building a home for someone. “Community members started to get involved in the building. We taught them a little, they taught us much more.”

Audaciously, Peryer tackled another hurdle by establishing a pharmacy in the name of a close friend and a founding sponsor of NCMOH, Gary Moore. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore had passed away shortly before one of Peryer’s trips. “[I did it] to honor him and all that he did for me and the organization,” he explains.

Peryer didn’t stop there. He increased his efforts at home by fundraising, joining the Board of Directors as a student representative, and sponsoring the education of a child. He knew the child, Rodolfo, for a year before sponsoring him, providing time to build a relationship. He speaks of Rodolfo with utter adoration. “He's a good friend, and a killer soccer player.”

Though Peryer is no longer on the executive team due to his inability to attend each meeting, he is still as active in the organization as possible. Attending speaking tours and hoping to revisit Rodolfo in the near future, Peryer expresses his gratitude and sheer appreciation for the opportunity that he has had. I think we can all say that the world is one step closer to breeching the divide that Peryer initially saw, while hope continues to rise for others around the globe.


A Seriously Funny Man With No Hidden Talents
By Julie Buntin

As Matt Rasmussen and I entered the stairwell from the library, a blonde girl stopped him with hair falling out of her ponytail. “Hey Matt!” she said brightly, obviously pleased to bump into him.

“Hey,” he said back, “I’m having a party this Friday night. Be there?” His tone carried a note of urgency, which didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’d read his Spring Break story posted on the MMC Chronicle website, and assumed well before this (our first encounter outside of class), that Matt is the kind of guy who has serious good times, and those good times are probably facilitated by large quantities of alcohol.

The fact that he is having a party this Friday was simply confirmation. Don’t get me wrong. Matt’s no generic, thumbs-up, beer downing frat boy, by any stretch of the imagination (sorry Matt, you‘re not Senor Rock). He just possesses a friendly, open demeanor that immediately puts people at ease.

After our forty-five minute conversation, I came away with one image I think anyone genuinely interested in getting to know Matt would consider valuable. Imagine the following: a huge, fiberglass ice cream cone, tall enough to reach the eyes of a standing Matt (around 5’7 I’d guess) when balanced on its point, and as wide (at it’s thickest place, the top) as the distance between his two elbows, according to Matt’s description.

This item (what shall we call it? Relic? Object of intrigue?) was discovered by Rasmussen on some unspecified NYC side street on some unspecified date within the last month. These factors are not the illuminating ones. What is pivotal for an initial glimpse of Matt’s essential Matt-ness (in my understanding) is that Matt lugged this fiberglass confection to his home in Astoria, Queens, where he is currently brainstorming possible uses for the freakishly large ice cream cone.

A sampling of his current ideas includes; lamp, catcher of power balls (he explained the game, kind of lost me), a place for people to hide, and a prop in a personal re-staging of American Gladiator. Rasmussen is the sort of person who sees the power ball game hidden in the guise of a gigantic, abandoned fiberglass ice cream cone.

Perhaps because this image was a large subconscious force in our discussion, much of our conversation revolved around ice cream. Real ice cream. In fact, by the end, I thought I would go crazy if I didn’t get a cup of Tasty-D-Lite (that craving remains unsatisfied).

A day in the life of Matt Rasmussen (not a typical day, just a kind of day) may include planning an informal ice cream social with friends, during which a miscommunication occurs, paid for ice cream never appears, yet toppings abound, even obscure ones like walnuts, and expensive ones like strawberries. Rasmussen takes these little pitfalls of life in stride. Vanilla is his favorite ice cream flavor.

When a guy walked by us in the hall wearing a Virginia Tech hockey t-shirt, I asked Rasmussen to tell me his immediate reaction. “Well, that guy, he probably knew someone. You can’t really just go online right now and order a shirt like that. But honestly, I’m borderline outraged by how everyone’s dealing with the situation. Like, writing letters to families of victims and students, that’s a really nice gesture. But some people are literally just like I’m going to change my buddy icon to a VT logo and that’s going to be a huge, meaningful thing.” The shallowness of the average college student’s response to this tragedy seemed very disturbing to him.

Rasmussen confessed cheerfully during a topic change that he has no hidden talents. “All my talents aren’t hidden,” he said. “If I have a talent, I immediately exploit it!” Whistling, singing, and snapping are no exceptions -- Rasmussen can’t successfully do any of the triumvirate of stupid human tricks. However, he can “sling drinks” as his face book profile says, and he does nightly, at his bar managing job at Studio 54.

After talking with Rasmussen, I came to two overwhelming conclusions. One, Rasmussen is funny. Seriously, you should go talk to him. You’ll laugh.
Two, I’m sincerely sorry I have to miss that party.


Mera’s Got Skills!
By Lindsay Cooper

Another stressful week had gone by, and Mera and I were looking for a fun-filled, random party to go to. While our expectations for the night were not exactly going as planned, our mutual determination finally landed us at a bizarre, pseudo-exclusive party in the upstairs room of Mantra, an Upper East Side lounge. The night was just beginning to take a sudden but exciting turn where Mera Szendro was able to show off her PR skills.

Szendro is a junior at Marymount Manhattan College who was born in Hungary in 1986 where she spent most of her childhood. “My grandfather owned the biggest Hungarian theater in which he showed controversial plays involving the Nazis. She says her grandmother, who she considers her “guardian spirit,” was a secretary and a communist spy.

“I believe my diverse background and adventurous experiences in Hungary and Amsterdam has made me into a social individual who craves unordinary people and situations.” She also thinks that any connection one makes is meaningful even in the most mundane situations.

As we were sipping our overpriced drinks and trying to look social, the host of the upstairs party pranced in and quickly glanced over at our table. Szendro broke the awkward vibe he was giving off and casually engaged him in conversation.

In a gaudy manner he said, “ Hi my name is Javier, you girls should totally join my party upstairs!” In an excited but relaxed manner Szendro replied, “ Of course we would love to join your party upstairs, what are you throwing a party for?” One could easily see how she was confidently able to apply her journalistic skills in her brief conversation with Javier.

Within a matter of minutes we were upstairs at an exclusive VIP table drinking champagne and mingling with his so called “entourage.” As the party was really getting started and the music was pumping in the background, Szendro tried to continue her conversation with Javier. In a loud voice she asked him what he enjoys most about his high profile career.

He briefly expressed how he tries to fulfill what he couldn’t have in his models. After he said this, Szendro spontaneously got up and pretended to be one of his so called models walking down a catwalk. Javier started laughing and said, “Well girl that was a good imitation but you had too much bounce in your step.” Szendro’s impulsive humorous side continued to make people feel naturally drawn to her authentic presence during the night.

Szendro explained that when she was growing up, it was very difficult for her to communicate effectively with the people around her. “I had all the emotions, I just didn’t know how to express them in a way where I felt like people really understood me.” Her childhood difficulties with expression manifested in her later desire to really become involved in acquiring professional communication skills as a communications major. “I find that at this time in my life, it is really important to take advantage of all the opportunities available to me in the city.”

Currently, she works for a PR agency in which she is hoping will help her progress further in a career that she will absolutely love. In the few weeks of getting to know Szendro, one can simply see her desire to spend a lifetime doing what she loves but being successful at it too. “ I want to be able to keep my personality wherever I may go and be valued for it as well.” It is Szendro’s genuine curiosity and sustained interest in people that make her respected and intriguing to many.

Art & Artists

The Voices Of Radical Art
By Parisa Esmaili

It was cheap and opened the art world to millions. Designed as an easy way to develop and distribute social viewpoints on contemporary issues, Radical or Political Art, has been a successful tactic in the activist culture since the 1930s.

Radical art is strong and opinionated, and anything one draws has a definite message. However, the value of aesthetics and form goes hand in hand with any message, so radical art attempts to assume the, “tool of enlightenment,” said Stephen Duncombe, a professor of media and cultural studies at the Gallatin School of New York University.

On Tuesday April 24, 2007, the CUNY Graduate Center held a panel discussion on the meaning of radical art in an activist and resistant culture which included Duncombe, who is also an author; founder of ‘United Graffiti Artist,’ Hugo Martinez; Curator at Creative Time, Nato Thompson; filmmaker and world renowned graffiti artist, SKUF; and Nicole Schulman, an artist and editor of World War III Illustrated and Wobblies: A Graphic History.

“Sometimes we don’t know what the hell is going on in the U.S. and art is an interesting way to inform in journalism,” said Nato Thompson. Radical Art is not, by any means, a new form of art. Its recent popularity has grown because the art has increasingly begun to speak the, “exact language and desires of what our society sees and need,” Duncombe explained.

The covers of Schulman’s comic books, World War III, for example, have always had strikingly descriptive cartoons pertaining to their topics such as, September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and a number of Iraqi covers, including an illustration of the holy Golden Mosque in Samarra (60 miles outside of Baghdad) that had been bombed. Other covers included uranium poising, different cancers, women’s rights, and George Bush. World War III has been producing radical cartoons since 1985.

In recent years, radical art has made its way to the street, exposing the rift between graffiti versus street art. SKUF, a tagger turned ‘clean’ said, “to be honest I don’t know how politics correlate to graffiti. Graffiti is about respect. If you see my name, then you know who I am when we walk down the street. It’s not about any political war, it’s a war of ownership. It’s about turf.”

“Kids aren’t into government and political bullshit,” said Martinez, “They’re into inventing, being heard … creating a culture.” SKUF, Martinez, and other taggers agree graffiti is the act of destroying private and public property and bringing attention to one’s self, and nothing else. While street art is destroying property, the art is assumed to make a statement.

Tagging, “Blood ain’t easy, but it sure is fun,” “New York Taliban killers,” “Kill Muslims 9/11,” and “Sirdripsalot,” are examples of street art, no matter how disturbing the context may be. Graffiti entails one’s name tagged differently or in some instances, the names of gangs are tagged. “Call it capitalist if you want, but writing my name and people who use aerosol as aesthetics to ‘make a statement’ is completely different,” SKUF argued.

The tarnish of America’s national and global perceptions is not something taken lightly to many people, and radical art is a way to, “break the barrier of what an artist is,” Martinez said. Our culture has become embedded with politics that we may not particularly agree with and this is one highly influential way for people to speak out.

City Life

True Life: Working For MTV
By Jennifer Rozansky

“Oh my God you must love working here!” Six out of ten teenagers yell this at me throughout the day when I work. Honestly, by now working for MTV is just a job and becomes boring after about the second week.

Last July after living in the city for almost two months, I finally got my job working for the MTV Store. At first I was ecstatic and thought I would never get bored. By the second week, I came to realize one could only take so many tourists at one time. It is great that people come here to visit but, when it is 11:30 at night and I’m trying to get home to go to sleep after a long night and there are people in my way it gets real frustrating!

I have been at the store for almost a year now, a lot has come to my attention. Since we are only the store as far as the upstairs “higher ups” are concerned we are pit bottom and we should get no say in anything. My store manager likes us to have ideas as to what should be in the store, but our ideas usually are turned down.

During the winter months we would be freezing. The heat in the store doesn’t work well, and on the weekends when not many people work upstairs, the heat is turned down, which affects us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some perks, the best one being the MTV holiday party for employees only when the food and drinks keep coming all night. Another perk would be that we can go to any MTV taping with VIP access, except for awards shows, such as the Video Music Awards.

I do enjoy the people I work with, even though management can be strict at times. Everyone is great and we have a fun time together. The days can sometimes be long and we are like a “family” keeping each other company to make the days go by faster.

I decided to do a video project for the Communication Arts Department at Marymount and focus on major things in the store. I was fortunate to be able to get the chance to interview my idol on MTV, Damien Fahey, the host of the show “TRL.” This was easy to get, because he knows me by name now.

We do get some nice things, and it can be a pain, but at the end of the day, it is just another job to pay the bills and school like anything else. There are both pros and cons but every job has those, so people should take a step back and realize it before putting us on a Pedi Stool.


Escape And The City
By Mark Moran

In a tiny shoebox dorm room, the classic and timeless story of a small town girl making it in the big city is being replayed by another wide-eyed youth. Thousands of young women have traveled to the “greatest city in the world” in hopes of living a Carrie Bradshaw life of designer labels and tumultuous big city love affairs. Before Sex and the City, these girls made their pilgrimage to be one of the Friends.

The televised motivator for small town gals wanting to become NYC dames goes as far back as That Girl. Jennifer Rozansky, 21, begins to resemble a real life “That Girl” as she sits on a standard issue bed in the Vanderbilt YMCA. However, unlike many who have made the same journey, Rozansky feels no need to emulate Carrie Bradshaw's glitzy, fast lane life. A dirty blonde with a relentless desire to escape Greencastel, Pennsylvania, Rozansky seems to have found refuge in the hustle and bustle of New York City.

According to Rozansky, growing up in Greencastel epitomized the small town, nothing-to-do stereotype. “There's absolutely nothing to do in that town. Wanna know what is considered a fun night in Greencastel? Hanging out in the parking lot of Mikey's ice cream while sitting on the back of people's pick-up trucks and talking.” Boredom seems to be an understatement when it comes to Greencastel's sorry nightlife. “It nearly drove me crazy!” she says through clenched teeth.

Nothing-to-do syndrome is why many young people escape to New York City. The city's bright lights, diverse people, and grandiose disposition are the perfect cure for this chronic boredom-based disease. Rozansky, like many, was running from her fear of Saturdays spent in parking lots; but New York meant a lot more to her than exciting weekend plans. For Rozansky, the Big Apple was a key: freeing her from gossipy, narrow, and oppressive small town thinking.

“I knew I had to get out after Aaron died.” Aaron Cristman, Rozansky's best friend, died before he reached 18. Carbon monoxide killed him friend and Greencastel nearly killed the dignity of Aaron's memory.

Aaron died February 2004 alone in the parking lot of a local diner. It had snowed the day before and the diner had shoveled the parking lot, leaving snow banks at the top of each parking spot. A fight with his parents drove Aaron to that fateful parking lot so he could collect his thoughts and have some time by himself. He backed into one of the lot's spaces, keeping the engine running so he could stay warm. Little did Aaron know that his extended tail pipe was clogged by a bank of know. The carbon monoxide went back into the vehicle and a little while later Aaron was dead. There was so much gas in his pick-up truck and he had been dead for so long that identifying his body was almost impossible.

“Losing Aaron was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. He was my best friend. I didn't know how I'd be able to go to school the next day knowing he wasn't going to be there.” Getting to 3:00 p.m. the following day at school was in fact too much for Rozansky. “Greencastel High School is a very small public school. There are probably 800 kids in the entire school, so by the next day everyone knew about Aaron's death. I had to leave early because I was still so upset.”

Small towns tend to foster busybodies ready for the next piece of juicy gossip. Rumors began to buzz throughout town regarding Aaron's death. “Someone told me that Aaron had committed suicide. I knew for a fact this wasn't true. He was a happy person, he had good friends, family, and a new girlfriend.” Suddenly, a tragic accident became a word of mouth suicide with an entire town picking apart the memory of the deceased. It became too much for Rozansky to handle. She found out who started the rumor and phoned them to inform the gossiper of the facts about Aaron's death. The next day at school the truth came out about Aaron, the rumor of suicide seemed to have been squashed.

However, the truth set no one free: the rumor had merely evolved. “They thought I was lying and telling everyone Aaron killed himself.” Rozansky doesn't seem to look back on these events not in anger. A deep sadness is the obvious emotional tone, as her pained eyes look downward. “The entire day at school everyone harassed me. It got to the point that I had to go home early again because I couldn't take it anymore. I had just lost my best friend and now I was being harassed for starting a rumor I didn't start.”

The cruel ridiculousness of the situation marked the moment when Rozansky knew college in New York City was a means to escape. “When I was 10 I visited New York and I knew I wanted to live here. My parents laughed when I told them, but I knew I could make it in the city. After senior year and everything that happened with Aaron, I knew it was now or never.” Rozansky left Greencastel and didn't look back. She enrolled at Marymount Manhattan College as a Communication Arts Major and got a job at the MTV store in Times Square.

The past is like gum on the bottom of your shoe: no matter how much you try to scrape it off you can never fully rid yourself of it. It's a part of you. Once you think you have a clean shoe, another chewed up wad is waiting inches away to be stepped in.

Rozansky can't seem to scrape Greencastel off her shoe. “After I got a job at the MTV store, one day this woman cuts the line and is just rude to me. She hands me her credit card when I'm checking her out and it's from Greencastel National Bank. I was courteous to her, but once she left I looked at the person on the register next to me and said, 'That's why I left!'”

Rozansky is no Carrie Bradshaw and she'll be the first to admit it. She didn't come to New York City to live a Sex and the City life. She came here to start new, try to scrape all the gum of her shoe so to speak. As she rests her head on her standard issue YMCA mattress in her shoebox dorm room, she doesn't complain about her meager refuge. The escape plan went off without a hitch and the city offers her the endless possibilities of a clean slate. “I started fresh when I came here.” Rozansky can't get the gum off her shoe, but she most certainly can buy a new pair.


Give Her (Sur)reality Or Give Her Death!
In a quest to uncover magic in the mundane, Julie Buntin and Matt Rasmussen wax philosophical on Pinkberry, the Bonner family, and reality television

By Matt Rasmussen

You know who wants to kill George Bush? Julie Buntin (among many, many others). It’s just one of the things I found out in a recent conversation with the college sophomore.

She might be 19, but the fact of the matter is she knows what she wants, and there’s (almost) always a method to her madness. In a period of 20 minutes, we covered everything from novelty ice cream to her dream-murder, if given the opportunity to have a consequence-free chance to take a hit out on someone.

I didn’t go into this interview expecting anything interesting. It isn’t to say I dismissed Buntin as boring, but rather my rather cynical view of humanity as rather insipid in general. In fact, I had even come up with a plan to simply print her answers in mad-lib form (sample excerpt: “Ever since she was a little girl, Julie has always been committed to the art of ____”). What I didn’t see coming is finding a thoughtful, funny, and well-spoken subject who I happened to share quite a bit with. Example: we both agree smoking cigarettes will always be cool, except for the people who it is already uncool for. That makes sense to us, at least.

The truth is I’m lazy, and I like to save time whenever I can. And that I’m terrible with exposition. To combat this, I decided to ask, rather bluntly, how she would describe herself to, let’s say a professor. She answered by telling me she would ask the professor what he expects from her. She then confesses to me her ideal course involves her reading voraciously a plethora of materials, anything and everything on the topic. And then writing her take on it.

From this point, two things become clear: Julie is a people-pleaser, who sets high expectations for herself and tends to fulfill them, and, that she has an addiction -- she is dependent on literature. By the end of our initial interview, which couldn’t have run more than a half hour, she was nearly shaking, in need of a lit-fix.

But there was so much more that I had not yet learned. It turned out we had a multitude of things in common, and some things not-so-in-common. For starters: Tom Bonner. I know him, you know him, and he knows that talking to us mid-interview meant he’d probably make it into the story. Unfortunately, his distraction was one that ultimately took away from the insightful and thought-provoking conversation we were having. We happened to be talking about ice cream and about how butter pecan is unreasonably high up on America’s flavor priorities – number three, actually.

We took turns teaching each other about the world. Buntin explained to me the dessert phenomenon known simply as “Pinkberry” (though I still don’t think I get it), and I tried to unload the vast wealth of pop culture droppings (trivia?) in my head in exchange. After trying to explain American Gladiators and failing, I figured it was probably time to fall back on traditional interview techniques again. In which I get the subject to do the work for me:

“Well, I…uh…sort of have a habit of blacking out far too much, so I don’t think I’d be coherent at that point,” she confessed when asked how she might describe herself to someone at a bar.

Knowing the lowest common denominator is always a possibility, I switch gears again: how might she describe herself to a producer for a reality TV show? She wouldn’t. It just so happens, in addition to having radar for spotting sophomores and Communication Arts majors, and agreeing that a good basis for most impressions of stupid people involves Yogi Bear in some capacity, that she detests reality TV, and doesn’t own a television.

Having being raised by a wild pack of televisions, I wasn’t sure how this was possible. Surely, were it to be life or death, she would be able to pick a reality show to be on (and given the state of the entertainment industry, I don’t think we’re far from mortality-based competitions). She wasn’t sure if death or The Real World was a worst fate.

By the end of the interview, there might not have been any jaw-dropping revelations (besides that butter pecan business – seriously, what kind of crap is that?), but I did make a determination. If given the choice, I’d rather see Julie Buntin on Fear Factor than dead.


Not Your Long Island Stereotype
By Cara Schweikert

Hillary Trautmann stands a mere 5’2 and is attractively petite but embodies a persona that is larger than life. She has dark brown-wavy hair and chestnut colored eyes. She comes from a Polish, Bulgarian, German and Italian background, a mix of different ethnicities but says that her family is “extremely Americanized.”

Born and raised in Roslyn, Long Island, she is not the typical Long Island stereotype, you know the type, bleach-blond hair, shallow, fake, “spoiled little rich girl”. Trautmann is unique in every sense of the word. She is independent when it comes to her style and character, an individual who, “doesn’t try to be fake, and I don’t wear what everyone else is wearing just because it’s expensive or “in”. She is a modest, free spirited individual when it comes to her religious beliefs, relationships, and just her everyday way of thinking.

Trautmann was born on August 18, 1986 to Jodi and Adrian Trautmann and has an older brother whom she “gets along with pretty well.” Her mother is a paralegal who she describes as, “very caring and supportive, I tell her almost everything.” Her father, however is physically “non-existent”, her parents divorced when she was three and she has not seen him since she was seven years old. She says he “calls occasionally on my birthday, but not every year and never on the right day.”

She describes the town in which she grew up as, “a very Jewish community, wealthy, and I am neither of those.” Until age six she says, “I was pretty quiet, after that I became very wild and talkative.” Her favorite childhood memory was hanging out with neighborhood friends who she remains in contact with, “a handful of them.” Her worst childhood memory, “My dad.”

Now she is a full time student at Marymount Manhattan College and works as a delivery driver for “Hunan Taste” a Chinese restaurant, which she says, “the money is good.” Her major focus is becoming a journalist for a major newspaper or magazine such as Vogue, Elle, or NY Times and after reading her Diversity Story, “Making a Choice: Family Over Career” she appears to be well on her way.

She is currently involved in a serious relationship with her boyfriend, “Brett” whom she has been with for the past three years. “He is pretty great and we are very supportive of each other.” She also says she believes in love at first sight because that’s how she and Brett “ended up together”.

One thing that she has learned from her past relationships, “is that you are with different people throughout your life that compliment you at that time. Then, that love may fade, but that’s the reality. You can’t be scared to hurt someone’s feelings if you don’t want to be with them anymore because you have to do what’s good for you.”

Her relationship with Brett is “natural and we don’t push things, we understand one-another.” She hopes to be married once her career is established and she plans to have kids when she is financially stable because she, “wants to spend as much time with the kids as possible”.

Trautmann’s religious beliefs are pretty much as open-minded and accepting as her persona. She says, “I don’t think I believe in God, but I do believe in Karma to an extent, if you are a good person, good things will happen to you, and if you are a bad person, bad things will happen to you.”

Is there something about her family, herself, or her significant other that she has always wanted to know but never asked, “I’ve always wanted to know why my father doesn’t want to be in my life. My parents divorced when I was young and at first my brother and I continued to see him, but by the time I was about seven we just stopped seeing each other. I guess I’d like to ask him why it isn’t important to him to know his own children.”

Trautmann says she is proudest of the fact that, “I guess that I’m not easily influenced by other people and I’ve always been told that I have a good head on my shoulders”.

That is clear as day.


Trying To Put Down Music Tracks In New York City
By Hillary Trautmann

Cara Schweikert dreams of being a bigwig in the music business, and New York City is probably the best place for her.

“I am a Communication Arts major, and I want to do music management. You know, work for a major record label. I would love to work for Universal, scouting, signing promising new artists and promoting new artists that are signed to the label,” Schweikert says. “Oh, and to be more in depth, I want to primarily work with hip hop and R&B music, because that’s what I love.”

Overall, Schweikert appears to be on the right track for her future. When asked what her proudest moment in her life so far has been she said, “moving to New York.” But living in New York and working in the music industry is not all she hopes her future to hold.

“I want to be successful in what I hope and plan to do in the music business. I never want to depend on a man for money, or anything for that matter! I want to be independent, but I do hope to one day own my own home, get married, and when I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to do, I hope to have kids of my own.”

Cara Mary Schweikert was born to Dawn and Paul Schweikert on September 1, 1983, in Cleveland, Ohio. She grew up in Cleveland, in a typical middle class suburban neighborhood, which she describes as, “quiet, without much to do.” No wonder she dreamed of living in The Big Apple all of her life, and now for the past four years she has.

Schweikert says, “I always have and still feel as if my parents will never understand me. They are both convinced I’m crazy for wanting to live in New York and never believed I would stay here, but now I have been here for four years, and they are still living in Ohio.”

This is not to say that Schweikert has a bad relationship with her parents, but merely that in most parent/child relationships there is always some gap in understanding each other. She does describe her mother as “caring and supportive”, and her father as having “a great sense of humor, and laid back,” yet also describes both of her parents as introverts.

This could be why as a child Schweikert was very shy and attached to her mother’s hip. Even now as an adult she describes herself as, being shy, “until I feel people out, then I am very outgoing and talkative.”

With such a large family, an older brother and sister, and a younger brother, it is no wonder her parents may think she is crazy for moving so far away for school, when her three siblings are still home in Ohio.

So what if Schweikert’s plans don’t work out as she has hoped? Will she then be unhappy? Definitely not. Schweikert believes that everything happens for a reason. “You cannot reflect on the bad situations that are dealt to you. Sooner or later you wind up realizing that the bad situations you may have been dealt are what make you stronger person. Really they make you who are.”

Maybe the reason Schweikert believes so strongly in dealing with what you’ve been given is because she grew up as a believer in the Catholic faith. As a child she attended church regularly, but now has realized that with a busy New York lifestyle it is hard to attend anything regularly. Yet, she still has a strong faith in the religion she was brought up believing in.

“I still have a strong faith in God, and I think God plays a major role in the things that take place in our lives. I think God plays a major role in certain things that have happened to myself and people in my life.”

With an attitude like Schweikert’s it will be hard to keep her down. It seems that she will make her life the way she has always dreamed it to be. She’s already half way there, but even if it doesn’t work out as she has planned, it seems that she believes it will work out for the best nonetheless.

Millenials In The New Millenium

Residents Of The Material World: Looking At Echo Boomers
By Aimee LaFountain

CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ recently did a segment profiling the children of baby boomers who have been dubbed the “echo boomer generation.” Some defining traits of echo boomers t the program listed were that they trust their parents and the government, they live in an instant gratification mindset, and they are very materialistic. A friend of mine once told me “Even if we want to reject today’s society, we are still influenced by it in responding to it.” By looking at the society that echo boomers presently live in, one can gain a better understanding of why they tend to exhibit these traits.

One major trait mentioned in the program was that echo boomers trust their parents and the government. It may be argued that these two characteristics are often dependent on one another. Many echo boomers do indeed have good relationships with their parents. This relationship also has an influence on echo boomers’ political beliefs. Children who admire their parents often (though not always) share similar beliefs. For example, many echo boomers who are Democrats have Democratic parents and the same goes for Republicans. It is too generalized to say that echo boomers tend to trust their government. In order to learn why echo boomers trust their government, though, one might gain knowledge from looking at the upbringing of echo boomers.

A second trait attributed to echo boomers is that they tend to seek instant gratification and basically spend money like “drunken sailors.” Unfortunately, this behavior is often displayed by members of the echo boomer generation. It should be noted, however, that the money spent on material things often serves as positive reinforcement for accomplishments. Yes, it’s sickening to see someone drop $100 for a pair of jeans. But this action is often accompanied with statements such as, “I’m rewarding myself because I got an A on my exam.” As stated in the program, echo boomers are a generation bombarded by pressures to do well from a young age, from the SATs to the GREs to finding a substantial job. And, in order keep themselves going, echo boomers reward themselves from time to time. Now surely one could argue that echo boomers shouldn’t need such reinforcement for their work, but it goes to show that their sense of priorities isn’t entirely lost.

Thirdly, the program stated that echo boomers are a generation that revolves around technology and materialistic things. While this statement is true, the daily demands of echo boomers often require them to employ the use of such things as technology and cars. I had to laugh when the program mentioned that the car brand Scion is targeting young people as customers for their cars because my friend Tracey does drive a Scion. At first glance, one might wonder why a teenager needs her own car. Tracey has a car so that she can commute to college and to work. The program went on to mention that many companies are targeting young people by placing ads on the Internet, which is brilliant because the Internet is something echo boomers use everyday. Being a student in modern America, though, requires such behavior. Students and professors often correspond through the Internet. For example, one needs the Internet in order to submit this assignment. Echo boomers do have close relationships with their computers, but it’s not entirely by choice.

Naturally the advantages of the echo boomer society also come with disadvantages. The fact that echo boomers are always technologically connected can lead to emotional disconnection. Text messages have replaced phone calls and people opt for e-mails in lieu of hand written letters. Now some may argue that advances in technology translate into more spare time. One fears, though, that spare time is the only thing echo boomers don’t know how to spend.

Millenials In The New Millenium

Echo Boomers: Not Your Daddy’s Rebellious Youth
By Matt Rasmussen

Echo Boomers is a term designed to refer to the offspring of Baby Boomers who fall between the MTV Generation of 1974-1985 and the Internet Generation that starts at about 1995. An inability to agree on the name and years of this generation says a lot about the general lack of knowledge about this sect of the personality.

Here’s what is clear: they (read: we) are self-absorbed, but they (we) are also self-aware. Our generation knows what is popular, a factor that comes into play when forming opinions. It is not uncommon for things to be rejected simply because they are perceived to be mainstream, yet at the same time, we ironically champion products of mass-hype.

Reality TV is lampooned and laughed at, but also a drug that we consume in copious amounts.

In the 60 Minutes segment on “Echo Boomers,” correspondent Steve Kroft and a number of Echo experts weighed in on who we are and what we think. One of those most “insightful” revelations was that everyone in Gen Y is special, and as Middlebury College student Andie Gissing points out, there are trophies given out for just about everything. While this is no secret, the fact is our quest for self-esteem doesn’t end there.

Even in grade school, the fact that thinking highly of yourself is allegedly beneficial to your health is hammered into us (but not really, because if teachers used violence that would hurt our feelings, and thus, make us sick). Being constantly reminded how great we are and with the prevalence of grade inflation, well, we started to believe the hype. Fulfilling Andy Warhol’s famous “fifteen minutes of fame” quote, we really have gone on to prove the idea that, well, as far as we’re concerned, it’s all about us.

We have MySpace and YouTube, which are just the beginning of a very long and very well known list of sites designed for us to sell, well, ourselves. It’s not just important to be popular: it’s important that people know that we are popular.

Why is popularity key? Because we learned what we know from TV.

Our ideas of normality come from its portrayal on sitcoms and melodrama. “Saved by the Bell” is a normal high school with wacky kids, “Salute Your Shorts” is the standard summer camp. We know what we think because of media, but not in the way marketers would like to think.

We know we’re supposed to spend time playing video games and on the Internet and eating fast food and watching cartoons and smoking, drinking, having sex (but wearing condoms!), driving drunk (but wearing seatbelts!), and going to parties (but calling our parents!). How do we know this? Because we’re told to (and because we’re told not to).

We’ve been called a generation that is not rebellious, but the fact is we are rebelling in ways that other generations couldn’t. We don’t rebel against the government because we’re not told that it’s great. We rebel against good taste because we’re told it’s cool to listen to mall-punk and rap-metal that gets Tipper Gores and Jack Thompsons pissed.

We rebel against marketing because we download music and use the Internet instead of watching commercials and calling up radio stations. We are united by common interests, but understand the value of noise-canceling ear buds and personal computers.

And you know why it’s always going to be all about us? Because once the boomers and gen-x caught onto this, they practically shat themselves. Once we were old enough to determine what marketing conventions were and how the world worked (or at least as far as we understood it to work), we decided we didn’t like it. If we have the power to make television companies figure out how we can watch shows whenever we want, make websites give us a place to talk to friends and share pictures for free, and make government agencies waste millions of dollars telling us what not to do, we’ve gotta be doing something right.

Millenials In The New Millenium

Who Is To Blame For The Echo Boom?
By Amanda Yazdi

No, we are not talking about the sound of an airplane traveling faster than the speed of sound. We are referring to a sound much louder and farther reaching—it’s the sound of corporate America cashing in on the largest and fastest growing generation of Americans since the ‘60s—CHA-CHING!

Echo Boomers is the name that has been given to the group of pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults born between the years of 1982 and 1995, according to a recent 60 Minutes story profiling this ever-growing group. They are the offspring of their Baby Boomer parents, but the similarities end with their DNA.

In terms of modern conveniences and accessibility to them, the Echo Boomers have grown up in the best of times. What their parents would consider to be luxury items, these youngsters call necessities. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed an Echo Boomer student and editor of his college newspaper at New York City’s Columbia University. When asked if he owned an iPod, he quipped, “Of course--aren’t they a legal requirement now in the subways?”

There are some sweeping generalizations made by the so-called experts on the behavior of this generation. Particularly bothersome is the comment made by historian Neil Howe, who claims that, "Sometimes, they don't know what to do if they're just left outside and you say, 'Well, just do something by yourself for a while.’ They'll look around stunned. You know, 'What are we supposed to do now?'"

Even though I am officially a “Gen X-er” (the predecessor to Echo Boomers—also know as Generation Y) I take offense at that comment. Not everyone between the ages of 12 and 25 grew up with their hands glued to a remote control or a computer mouse. Granted, some may have been sent to summer camps to learn how to play outside, but others of us spent our fair share of afternoons riding bikes and learning how to throw a spiral football from our big brother.

Other criticisms included the Echo Boomer’s constant need for praise, ‘at-a-boy’s, and slap on the back reassurance on the job. According to Dr. Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina, the phenomenon is called “visual motor ecstasy, where any cultural accoutrement that doesn't produce instant satisfaction is boring. As echo boomers grow up, they'll have to learn that life is not just a series of headlines and highlight reels.”

In support of that statement, it may be true that a generation eager to please is also one that has gotten used to instant gratification. But whose fault is that? The original Boomers have brought this one on themselves. However, they are not the only ones to blame. Their desire to track the every move of and provide for every conceivable want and need of their precious cargo has been enabled by the dollar driven media and big business conglomerates who put credit cards and cell phones in the hands of anyone old enough to dial or swipe. Still don’t believe that marketers are to blame for the gotta-have-it attitude? The cost of a brand new Toyota Scion (made to order online): $15,000, Apple iPod 80GB with video: $349, having what you want at your fingertips: priceless.

Can you hear me now?

Millenials In The New Millenium

A Generation Driven By Instant Gratification And Praise
By Lindsay Cooper

A generation driven by “immediacy” and “praise”--- yes, that would be the Echo Boomers, the generation of young people born between the years 1982 and 1995, as highlighted in the 60 Minutes report, “Echo Boomers.”

Since our parent’s generation, new and faster developments of technology have been made that grab our attention instantaneously. Many of us rely so heavily on our high tech gadgets -- Ipods, blackberries, mini laptops, we just can’t seem to really function without them on a daily basis. Why worry about the steps we need to take in order to accomplish a task when nowadays you can get the job done much quicker and even with less effort too!

There is an automatic expectation to be connected to our friends, family, professors, and even the warping consumer world the minute we wake up. While even having the option to do things tediously without modern technology or buying a product that might not be the latest high tech trend -- many of us would gravitate, or at least try to towards the latest hot item on the market. Otherwise, we would feel completely alienated from everyone else.

Most of us could also testify to those grueling weekday schedules as children filled with piano lessons, soccer practices, language lessons and all the other same activities that would make us appear “well rounded” to these competitive admission boards. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in New York City where many of the most renowned pre-schools and high schools are located. This growing trend of parenting in today’s society is getting ever more intense with some parents pushing their children to the limit where some are feeling inadequate and frustrated with the demands placed upon them.

It seems that the “quality time” parents are spending with their children is fading as more focus is being placed on how to make “today’s perfect” child. When children excel in school and become a star player on their sports team they are being “praised” by their parents but only momentarily it seems as parents are quickly thinking of the next big step their kids need to take in order to guarantee a “spot” in these institutions. For kids and even adolescents, the finish line just never seems to be in sight!

Today’s younger generation is so caught up in how their needs are being catered to in multiple ways that it does make it almost impossible for many of these young adults to work efficiently with many of the older generation workers. So many of us think that a paper degree from an approved college is a golden ticket to immediate financial success, but clearly this is not true as Dr. Mel Levine , who is considered one of the well known authorities in the country on how children learn, said in the 60 Minutes report. Many of us cannot deny the fact that CEO’s are right about our inability to think “long-range” we just never had to survive on this type of thinking.

Although we are a flourishing generation with all the pampering and modern products we have acquired, there is still time to improve the quality of our journey to success.

Millenials In The New Millenium

Do Echo Boomers Have The Makings Of A Great Generation?
By Mark Moran

The 60 Minutes report on Echo Boomers was disturbing to say the least. What I gathered from the story is that the Echo Boomer’s are being defined as product consuming, needy conformists whose possibility of causing change collectively is slim. I would love to call the report false or sensationalized, but as a member of the Echo Boomer generation it’s hard for me to ignore mine and my peers actions.

I thought 60 Minutes made a valid and apt point when they mentioned how this generation has been raised in controlled environments with watchful parents guiding and validating their every move. Kids don’t go out in the neighborhood to play anymore with the assumption of their safety from parents. Now, a child’s life and, well, childhood is micromanaged in the name of safety. Media has a lot to do with the creation of an over-pampered generation.

Almost nightly parents see reports of kidnapping and child molestation. The media overtly sends a message to parents that their kids may be next. In response, parents bubble-wrap their kids in an attempt to keep them from making mistakes and experiencing consequences. Learning through trial and error seems to be outdated for American youth.

It’s no surprise that when these children grow into adulthood they are constantly looking for the next socially accepted fix. The pampered, validated childhoods they experienced lead them to believe that these objects will make them happy. Since hide and seek was replaced with Playstation, older Echo Boomers replace hard work with a sense of entitlement.

Not only is our generation’s label of pampered consumers troublesome, the label of conformist is even scarier. Now more than ever we need the youth to evoke change in our government and society. It seems that my generation is too busy “team playing” and being “consumers” to start a revolution. One of the sources in the report called Baby Boomers egocentric for thinking they could change the world. If that’s what being egocentric is, then we need some individuality stat.

When we went to war with Iraq, I wondered why weren’t people my age raising hell in the streets. From what I gather from talking and befriending people my age, a lot of us are against the war. To be honest, a lot of us against many things are government is doing. Why aren’t we as confident that we can change the world as the baby boomers? Is it because we have had so many things spoon-fed to us that we expect the same with social change?

I personally would like to believe that I don’t fall into the category of a typical Echo Boomer, but then again I feel entitled to some degree. However, I also want change. I want to work for what I get, and most of all I believe that my generation can change the world. I don’t want my generation’s legacy to be that of a materialistic conforming pre-Madonna. The World War II generation has been labeled the greatest generation, why can’t we be the greatest generation II?

Millenials In The New Millenium

Can We Be A Special Member Of The Team?
By Hillary Trautmann

After watching CBS’s 60 Minutes piece on Echo Boomers (i.e. my generation) I was slightly confused. Yes, we love to shop, yes, we expect things when we want them, which is usually right away, but that is because since the time we entered kindergarten that is what we have gotten. Also, most of the Echo Boomers don’t know what they are good at. Most other things they said though seemed off to me. Maybe I am just not acquainted with that part of my generation.

The part of the 60 Minutes piece that seemed most off was historian Neil Howe’s quote. "When you ask kids, 'What do you most hope to achieve there?' Where they used to say, 'I wanna be No. 1. I wanna be the best,' increasingly they're saying, 'I wanna be an effective member of the team. I wanna do everything that's required of me,'" says Howe.

What I have observed about my generation is that, as like the Baby Boomers, we too want to be number one. Most of us are self-absorbed, even if we are accepting of diversity, and even if we do want to fit in. Just because some people may buy a hat or a T-shirt because Paris Hilton has it, I find that people buy those things not just to fit in, but because they want to be like Paris Hilton, which means having the world at your finger tips, and which most defiantly means being self-absorbed, and believing you are number one.

It seems that 60 Minutes may have contradicted themselves. If they think our generation is so full of team players, then why do they later ask, “Why do they consider themselves special?” If we consider ourselves special then how are we team players? Then we wouldn’t be any more special then anyone else. And if we didn’t think we were special why when Levine was asked, “when a young person shows up for work at his or her first job, what do they expect and what are they finding?” would he answer with a statement about us expecting to be heroes?

"They expect to be immediate heroes and heroines. They expect a lot of feedback on a daily basis. They expect grade inflation, they expect to be told what a wonderful job they're doing," says Levine. "[They expect] that they're gonna be allowed to rise to the top quickly. That they're gonna get all the credit they need for everything they do. And boy, are they naive. Totally naive, in terms of what's really gonna happen."

It could have to do with the fact that the Echo Boomers truly have been too spoiled. We have been used to instant gratification, so that’s what we want, and because that is what we have gotten, we are lost when in a situation that it is impossible to get it, because we are no longer working primarily with technology, but with real live human beings. Even when we deal with ourselves we are confused because we aren’t computers and we can’t spit out answers even to ourselves.

That is why when many of the Echo Boomers go outside, "They'll look around stunned. You know, 'What are we supposed to do now?'"

Millenials In The New Millenium

The New Nation: An “Above Average” Generation
By Laura Matteri

“Over achieving,” “over-managed,” and “very pressured” were some of the sketches that were drawn of us during a 60 Minutes’ segment called “The Echo Boomers.” We, the Echoes, are the coming of age generation that is taking the world by storm.

Our parents, the Baby Boomers, are getting pushed off the map as we enter the big, scary world that we have all been warned about. Our parents have done everything they can to protect us and give us structure in our lives that would turn us into successful adults. Boy, have they done wonders.

We’re beginning to break away from our “self-absorbed, egocentric Baby Boomer parents.” We had an extremely organized childhood that included a different lesson or practice every day of the week. Somehow, I feel like that was a reflection from our parents that they never got to experience that in their own youth. We were pushed to be the best and to reach for the highest of goals so that we will come out on top. However, it seems that we work together to better ourselves as a generation. Teamwork is everything.

Although the segment makes it seem that we want to take over the world, we are really just using the tools that we were taught as children. If you do well in school, you can get into a good college and then get a great job. Okay, so we got the message. That’s why we affect so much in society. We have affected “school construction, college enrollments, product development, and media content.” According to Jim Farley, the head of Toyota’s Scion division, we are also extremely close to affecting “car business.” He said that Toyota “can’t afford” not to appeal to the new generation.

Ranging from grade school age to freshly graduated from college, we know that we’re the head honchos. Our parents have praised us from the start of our lives and now, we want to world to do the same. “Protected and polished, [we] are trophy children in every sense of the word.”

It seems accurate enough. Children from the last decade or two are still on the pedestals that their parents put them on. Whether the bragging rights consist of if their kid scored a goal in the soccer game last week or what college he or she got accepted to, or where in the world he or she is traveling to, it’s not only the parents that love it. We hear the praise and take to it. Our egos are boosted and once again, there’s another reason for us to believe that we are pleasing everyone around us.

Values don’t seem to be entirely changed from previous generations. Family is very important, as well as staying focused to lead a good life. If anything, it’s possible that the Echo Boomers cherish family more than ever. That probably leads back to the praise that we received growing up, but instead of running from our families, we are drawn back. A girl in a study that was aired during the segment even called her parents her “best friends.”

Success isn’t a question with the new generation. We all know that we have been successful until now, whether it is academically or socially. The next step is to become and succeed as adults because let’s face it – only some of us are eligible to vote. The diverse and accepting generation is here and we’re going to raise each other to create a flourishing nation.

Issues In The News

Did Imus Really Shock Us?
By Hillary Trautmann

Early in April 2007, Don Imus made a comment about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team. In the comment he referred to the players as “nappy-headed hos”. Right after this comment was made a huge controversy began. Was Imus wrong in making this comment? Should he be punished for making the comment, and what should his punishment be?

Personally, as a woman I took absolutely no offense to the fact that Imus used the word “ho”, to describe a woman. That word is thrown around so liberally in this day and age, that I have become numb to it. All one must do is turn on the radio and you will hear countless hip-hop songs, with rappers describing their “girls” as “hos”. So, why is it okay for “artists” to use the word? Is it because they are using the word to create a masterpiece? I think not. And I highly doubt that these girls on the Rutgers basketball team do not go out to clubs with their friends and dance and sing to this very music, because this type of music is directly marketed towards their age group.

Regarding Imus’s word choice of describing these “hos” as “nappy-headed” was surprising to me though and I found it to be quite uncalled for. The thing about this comment though, is that things like this happen every day. Maybe it is not publicly broadcasted, but it does happen. It bothers me because I feel with all the attention that was given to this story, that it will only cause more comments such like this one. I think that Imus was used merely as an example, for MSNBC to cover themselves from taking a hit, and being affiliated as sexist and/or racist.

Don Imus has practically been known for inventing “shock” radio though. And didn’t this comment do just that? Shock us? It is so hard to live in a world like the one we live in, filled with so much hate for people who are different from us. In my opinion it is frustrating enough to keep up with what words are now appropriate to be used when describing someone. It seems that the more times a word is used in an offensive way, the sooner it then becomes appropriate for every day use. For example, describing an African-American as black. When I was growing up in the 90s I was told that black was an unacceptable term to use, yet now, black is apparently a suitable word to use.

My question is, when will the people of this world be prepared to look at a word in context rather than just the word? And maybe Don Imus just thought that he was being “shocking” when he made his comment, and that he was doing his job? Maybe he as well got confused about what was now acceptable to say.

Issues In The News

Launching Hope
By Parisa Esmaili

It is possible to presume thousands of women die each year in the name of preserving a family’s “honor”. Given that honor killings often remain a private family affair, murders go unreported, official documents do not exist, many go unpunished, and in the eyes of some societies, preserving “family honor,” justifies all acts.

According to a petition signed to the U.N. in 2001, the Human Rights Watch defined honor crimes as, “Acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family.”

The rise in honor killings since the U.S. invasion in Iraq will be one of the topics discussed by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and MADRE in their new tour beginning in April.

A Window of Hope: Standing with Women in Iraq to End Violence is, “Hoping to attract regular people. Our belief is that a lot of people know in their guts the U.S. occupation is wrong and counter productive,” said Yisat Susskind, Communication Director of MADRE. “If people really knew what we were doing, they would agree U.S. military in Iraq is more harmful than it is helpful.”

OWFI fights for women’s human rights against both forces of rising Islamic political powers and the U.S. military occupation. In 2004, OWFI joined with MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization that collaborates with women’s community-based programs focusing on educating women on human rights issues and demanding action. Together, the two coalitions have joined forces in calling an end to military occupation and establishing secular freedom in Iraq.

OWFI Director, Yanar Mohammed and Executive Director, Vivian Stromberg, of MADRE, will be speaking during the tour. The two women will be traveling the East Coast and Midwest, speaking at local colleges, churches, and civic centers. Mohammed is known as one of Iraq’s most outspoken feminist activists.

The goal of A Window of Hope is to creating awareness of gender-based violence in Iraq, Susskind said. According to OWFI, rape and abductions have risen sharply since the invasion, making many women afraid to leave their homes. Women are literally hunted down for their lives in order to restore the family’s “honor,” Susskind said. Flirting, the desire to choose a husband, divorce, going against a male’s wishes, or even failing to bring a meal on time, may be seen as defying family honor. Those who have been arrested, kidnapped, or raped are also often blamed for tarnishing the family’s name; therefore honor killing can be seen as justifiable.

“Honor killings predate Islam and Christianity, but many people don’t know that, Susskind said. “People believe violence for women is assumed in Islam, and that is simply untrue.”

Since 2003, the U.S. has backed right winged political conservatives in governing Iraq, who do support honor killings. “In Iraq, before the U.S., women lived under the Personal Status Law and enjoyed their growing rights. Citizens say they hated Saddam but the U.S. is much worse,” Susskind continued.

OWFI estimates that militias in Baghdad and its surrounding neighbors execute no less than 30 women monthly, and yet most American’s never seem to hear about this news. Susskind believes the media does not primarily cover this area because of racism that still underlies this country; racism against Islam. “There is so much hostility between the different worlds, especially after 9/11.”

The tour will address issues, including the Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women, women shelters located throughout Iraq to help relocate women escaping “honor killings.”

City Life

The Nor’easter Is Not Over Yet
By Julie Buntin

The recent bout of warm temperatures in the metro area means more than changing outfits for some New Yorkers. The temperate weather follows one of the worst nor’easters in the city’s history, according the National Weather Service, which measured seven and a half inches of rainfall in Central Park by midnight on April 15. This abnormally heavy rainfall created drastic flooding on the coast of New York City and Mamaroneck, as well as Bound Brook and Manville in New Jersey. Several major highways were underwater, and storm fatalities numbered fifteen.

The losses experienced by the family members of those perished in the worst nor’easter the East Coast has seen in over 100 years are this storm’s major tragedy. However, there is a more widespread minor tragedy whose gravity is just beginning to sink in for many NYC and New Jersey citizens. The property damage and financial losses accrued by families up and down the coastlines of New Yorker and New Jersey who experienced flooding during the four day storm may even be permanent for some.

“My apartment is right by the East River, and it’s in the basement. The first night of the storm the water got like six inches high, and so I called 311,” said Ashley Oeffinger, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College. “They connected me to 911 and they sent over the fire dept. The fire department didn’t really know what to do, so they made this mark on the wall and they said if it got over that to call 911 again. Fifteen minutes after they left the water passed that mark. It got three and a half feet high that night—we lost everything. We have to move.”

Oeffinger isn’t the only one with a tale of woe following this spring’s nor’easter. Her bed, clothes, books, couch, DVD player, laptop cord, and dresser were among thousands of dollars of property damaged in the flooding of her apartment. As of now, her landlord refuses to reimburse her for any of the damages, or pay for her move.

Brenda Carlisle, an event planner who lives in the 80s on York Avenue also suffered extensive damages when her basement apartment flooded. “The water was over eight inches deep. I had over a hundred pairs of Manolo Blahnik’s ruined. I need them for my job. Who’s going to pay for that?” Carlisle said. Her landlord says it’s the city’s problem for not having the right kind of draining situation to deal with potential flooding of this nature. The city will not respond to her calls. “All I know is someone’s going to have a nasty lawsuit on their hands if this is not taken care of,” Carlisle said.

Diversity Series

The Silent Plague
By Parisa Esmaili

Hundreds fidget with their gadgets while others obsessively rummaging through their bags quietly reciting their checklists as they bring clear Ziploc baggies of liquids to their sides. Others read and re-read their gate information as they graze their fingertips along the edges of their tickets.

Some people mutter and let their heads fall back to their neck, their eyes rolling side to side, scanning the never-ending line. The air has become a thick muggy mixture of old women’s perfume, stale cigarettes, coffee, and little boys who smell of wet dog.

Once the four airport security guards, who point their fingers monotonously directing people where to go, come into sight, men begin unbuckling their black leather belts and untying their shoes. Women carefully take off their rings and necklaces and unzip the sides of their chocolate colored boots.

For many travelers, the security gate is the most frustrating part of the airport experience. Yet, nothing could compare to the experience of first time flyer, Fatima Lawal Aliyu, a 34 year-old Nigerian fistula patient. “You know the security has to check you very well so that you cannot enter their country with something that is illegal,” she says.

Aliyu suffers from an Obstetric Fistula, which occurs when a young girl or woman endures a prolonged obstructed labor. Over the three to five days of labor, the infant slowly suffocates and shrinks; this is the only way the woman is able to deliver the baby. Due to the labor, the blood supply to the tissues of the vagina, the bladder, or the rectum is cut off. The tissues die and a hole, known as a fistula, forms. Because of the fistula, urine or feces can pass threw uncontrollably.

“You see, I had two or three big towels that I put behind me, and at that stage if I cannot do that, there is no way for me to escape from the stains or being soiled with urine. When the security guard began to check my body I was praying he would not touch this section, because if he does he will think there is something illegal on this woman,” she said. “He just asks me, ‘great lady, what is it?’ I said ‘it’s a kind of pad.’”

The security guard continued to patronize Aliyu, commenting on how large her “pad” was, and then led her to a search room where a female guard awaited them; Aliyu was given a strip search. “Imagine. I feel very bad because I had been degraded. I’ve got all the embarrassment.”

The guards then asked Aliyu to remove the pad, “So he sees, and I say, it is just a pad. He asked if it was an illness and I said yes. After I share all my secrets, all the [shame] I have for life […] it is something unpredictable even to us patients. Terrible and so devastating.”

In February 2007, Aliyu was the first woman affected to speak in public forum about her own personal history with fistula in hopes of bringing awareness in Brussels before the European Parliament. Following immediately after Aliyu’s speech, a declaration urging to support fistula was written. Before Aliyu, there were no formal documentations of fistula suffering patients who speak and understand both their Native tongue and English.

Women who develop fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands, rejected by their communities, and forced to live an isolated existence. For some, it could mean the rest of their lives. Shame and loneliness are bound to meet.

Fistula has been coined as, “the women’s plague in developing countries.” Since 2003, the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, has been dedicated to end fistulas. “There was no coordinated global effort being done with fistulas at the time,” said Saria Stewart, Media Officer of UNFPA. “What UNFPA decided to do was pull all the community-based organizations together to create the ‘Campaign to End Fistula.’” The campaign works to prevent fistulas from occurring, treat those who have been affected, and support women post-surgery. Their goal is to eliminate fistulas by 2015.

Over two million women are living with fistulas in more than 35 countries including, Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Arab region. However, according to UNFPA, those figures were taken in 1989 and are grossly underestimated because it represented the number of patients who had or were being treated. Many are unaccounted for due to the lack of knowledge and under-representation. An estimated 100,000 cases develop each year. The Fistula Foundation, created by Dr. Catherine Hamlin, reports roughly 6,500 women receive treatment each year.

In 1974, Dr. Hamlin and her husband, Dr. Reginald Hamlin, opened the first fistula hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was also the first free fistula repair center. For over 30 years, Dr. Hamlin’s hospital has treated over 25,000 patients, roughly 1,200 per year with an additional 30 long-term patients.

During her July 2004 United Nations Population Award acceptance speech, Dr. Hamlin, often referred to as the “Mother to fistula” said, “childbirth should be a joyful occasion. But for these fistula girls, it has developed into a nightmare and a horror, to suffer the agony of days of labor, with nobody but the village women to help and nothing to relive the pain, to deliver their longed for child as a stillbirth, and then to experience the awful consequences of this ordeal.”

The whole picture is an unimaginable plight, and one which no woman should be called on to endure, but one that is being repeated all over the Developing World, where women have no access to medical help. All these injuries are preventable. Fistulas are treatable. But, as with many developing countries, women with fistulas are either unaware that treatment is available or they simply do not have the financial resources to afford it.

Those who are fortunate to learn of available treatment, often hear through radio or by other women who have come back to their home villages after being treated. The cost of treatment, including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support is $300. The fistula surgery itself costs $80.

For many women seeking treatment it is the first time they have stepped foot outside their village. Sadly, these women are poor, illiterate, and living in remote rural areas. When they come to the hospitals, they have been traveling for days; perhaps weeks and either have little or no money.

The most important goal to accomplish, concerning obstetric fistula is education, says Stewart of UNFPA. It is the key in knowing fistula is not a woman’s fault and it is the key in preventing more fistulas from occurring. “So many are poorly informed about the risks of childbirth and the need for medical care,” Stewart says. UNFPA, and countless other organizations, feel it is imperative to emphasize pressure in educating men.

“Men hold the key to education. Community, religious, political leaders… it’s all men who have the say in women’s health. We live in a man’s world, especially in areas where things like this occur,” Stewart said. Informing men about reproductive health issues through the community can encourage and empower them to be aware of the issues.

Empowering women is also very essential in acknowledging and preventing fistulas from occurring. There are certain stigmas whispered, slandered, and passed through villages and communities about fistula patients. Often they are blamed for their uncleanness condition and the years of isolation a woman experiences as, “For their own good,” but it is long, painful and enduring torment.

Once women go back to their villages many of them do not want to talk about their experience. After years of attention drawn to their isolation due to their condition, they do not want to draw any more attention for having been treated. “In their mind, it only further reminds the community and humiliates the woman. That’s the problem,” Stewart said, troubled by her own statement. Enduring shame, mentally and physically, for so long, the last thing they [fistula patients] want to do is become a walking advertisement of what happened.

From February 21 to March 6, 2005, UNFPA launched the “Fistula Fortnight,” a two-week training and treatment project that addressed the problem of fistula in Nigeria, one of the larger areas affected.

Twelve Nigerian doctors and forty Nigerian nurses, as well as four volunteer doctors from the US and UK, participated in the Campaign. An additional 60 Nigerian nurses and Red Cross volunteers trained in counseling and post-operative care for patients.

After two weeks of learning and maybe a little bit of self-growth, doctors preformed 572 operations on 564 women. According to the campaign, the closure success rate was 87.3% determined at six to eight week’s post-operative. The other 20 to 30 percent were expected to progress over the following months, but determined as normal.

When Aliyu spoke in Brussels, the media and Parliaments asked the same repetitious question, ‘What can we do?’ Her answer was fitting, “The solution for people in the world is to raise a helping hand or to raise capital towards good medical facilities, attendants and medical personnel. I have to repeat the point again. Better birth attendants, and better health care facilities and also a kind of community-based intervention program have.”

During the Clinton administration, a signed proposal guaranteed setting aside $34 million in funding towards UNFPA. Instead, since 2002, the Bush administration de-funded UNFPA on claims they [UNFPA] support Chinese government in force sterilization and coercive abortions.

In June 2005, New York Representative, Caroline Maloney, reintroduced legislation, “Repairing Young Women’s Lives Around the World Act,” that would mandate $34 million strictly for fistula support.

Stewart’s eyes scanned the perimeter of the cafĂ©, taking in the women on their lunch breaks, chattering to their girlfriends and laughing. Her eyes softened but remained adamant, “I think everyone would agree, this is not something political, this is strictly women’s health, and something needs to be done.”

Diversity Series

A New Beginning Makes A World Of Difference
By Laura Matteri

War broke out all around. 100,000 people were killed in the fighting. A girl and her family left everything they’ve ever known behind, including family, and moved to the safety of another country. While in Bosnia, the girl witnessed killings, massacres, and shooting of innocent civilians, including her mother. All of this happened before the age of seven.

Lejla Dobraca and her family fled Bosnia in 1993 and found relief in Germany. Dobraca’s father had been on a business trip to Libya before the war, so he and the family were separated for three years until he joined them in Germany. The Dobraca family kept their strength throughout the journeys they have made.

Bosnia is bordered by Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. Its independence was established during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. Its capital is Sarajevo, which is located high up in the mountains.

There were several sides of the war. Serbia supported the Serbs who were loyal to Yugoslavia, while Croatia supported Herzegovina-Bosnia. Since there was involvement from so many sides, it was questioned whether it was a “civil war” or a “war of aggression.” It was ruled a war of aggression, although the genocides were not blamed on Serbia. There were mass killings and rapes, along with the siege of Sarajevo.

Dobraca started school without knowing a word of German. According to Dobraca, going to school there was “awkward.” Used to her native Bosnian language, she entered a program similar to the American ESL (English as a Second Language), although hers was GSL (German as a Second Language). “When you’re surrounded by [German] for eight hours a day, you just learn it,” Dobraca said

Dobraca, also known as “Leki” when she was young, was seen as a “troublemaker.” She was often jealous of the attention that her younger sister got. Once, Dobraca inhaled a bean to divert the attention from her sister to her. Needless to say, Dobraca’s mother had to call 911 because the bean got stuck. Despite her issues of jealousy, she loves her family immensely.

Dobraca, her mother Azra, her father Ekren, and her sister were a close family. As a child, Dobraca was “happy”, and her best memories are of time she spent with her grandmother. Days of cooking and storytelling were best spent while her parents worked every day. An ideal day of her childhood would be “playing in the park in Germany with my friends.” Her best friends were Amanda and Anita. They met at school in Germany and still keep in touch today.

In addition to witnessing the war as a child, one of the worst memories of living in Europe was when Dobraca and her family packed their apartment in Germany when they moved to America. The furniture remained in the apartment. They just “left the key downstairs and left.” It was hard for her to leave somewhere that she knew she would never see again.

The Bosnian war ended in December 1995 when Dobraca’s were living in Germany as war refugees, so they had to leave the country. The family visited Bosnia and Dobraca said the ruins were “surreal.”

Memories flooded her mind as she went through the towns that she knew so well. The memory of her mother being shot by a sniper will be with her forever. Thankfully, her mother survived with the loss of a kidney. After the visit to Bosnia, her parents applied to move to America and arrived in Vermont in 1999.

Family traditions were always important to the Dobraca’s. They speak Bosnian at home. There are a lot of family get-togethers and their Muslim religion is important to them. Dobraca said, “I was never pushed to learn about [my religion], so I’m going to learn about it on my own time. I don’t say that I’m Muslim just because my parents are. I want to learn about it when I’m ready.”

The war had a great affect on Dobraca’s life. She feels she has no hometown; that she doesn’t belong anywhere. “I’m a foreigner in my own country.” Even with Bosnian traditions practiced at home, it’s not the same. If she could do anything right now she would “go to Bosnia.”

Life has taught her many lessons. As a student at the University of Vermont, she works two part-time jobs in Burlington. She has learned from watching fellow employees “not to bring my personal life to work.” She’s deciding between working towards a major in journalism or psychiatry.

As for social aspects of her life, Dobraca said she hasn’t fallen in love yet. She has cared deeply for some, but no “love” yet. From previous relationships, she has learned to “do what you feel at the moment. Don’t hide feelings. You are going to want to look back and be able to say that you did everything you could to make the relationship work.”

Despite the harsh world she left, Dobraca has managed to create a new environment for herself where she can thrive. Her life in America is quite different from that in Bosnia or Germany, but a home is what one makes it. No matter what’s going on, if family is present, it creates a world of difference.

Diversity Series

Touched By An Angel: How My New York Super Kept Me Afloat
By Julie Buntin

Angel Marquez is the mechanic for my building. Before our conversation for this story, he was just the guy who hovered around the shed outside my stoop, lugging a bright orange toolbox and wearing a dirty white t-shirt. I noticed him, smiled at him, thanked him when he fixed the leaky water pipe in my roommate’s ceiling and filled the mouse hole behind the stove—but I never asked him a single personal question or even offered him a glass of water.

On Sunday, April 12, when my apartment flooded drastically, Marquez was the only person in the building who helped me. Together we transported several bags of stuff from the flooded basement into the upstairs kitchen, and Marquez even waded into the deepest sections of the downstairs living room to help me move my books to safety.

The water continued to rise, and after an hour or so, sweaty and soaked in dirty rainwater, the two of us sat down in exhausted, amiable silence at my kitchen table. To thank him for all his help, I insisted that he stay and help me eat a pizza I ordered from Ray’s across the street. The first thing one notices about Marquez—he is a shy man.

His voice is soft, and low, and often I found myself asking him to repeat answers to various questions. He has a round, kind face, framed by white fuzzy facial hair and an almost French looking white mustache. While we devoured huge slices of cheese pizza and the water in my basement continued to rise, I found myself growing more intrigued with Marquez by the minute. His heavy Spanish accent began to make sense to me, and through it, I could detect all the hallmarks of a quick and lively sense of humor, as well as a keen, observant mind. It isn’t that I hadn’t expected Marquez to be intelligent. I’m not that backwards. It’s just that I hadn’t expected to like him so much.

After a few minutes or so, I rather awkwardly asked him if he would allow me to interview him for my journalism class. It seemed somehow the perfect time. Disaster was striking me from every angle, and downstairs the notes for my other journalism story were floating in a soggy mess. At first, Marquez seemed tense and unwilling to answer with any great detail the questions I asked him about his life. But after a few minutes, he loosened up, and by the end, I dropped my notepad and let the conversation flow freely.

Marquez was born in Spanish Harlem on August 12, 1950, into a working class family of Mexican immigrants. This information was the first surprise of our conversation. From Marquez’s accent alone, I would have guessed English was his second language. The perfect encapsulation of a culture in my own city had never occurred to me. That someone could manage to speak Spanish more often in an English speaking city hit me like an epiphany, which speaks to my own lack of observation. According to Marquez, he grew up in a small apartment on 117th street and Third Avenue, sharing a room with his younger brother Javier.

During adolescence, Marquez’s father worked as a cab driver while his mother went through a stint of jobs—waitressing, working at a Laundromat—while attending night classes at CUNY. She never completed her degree, but the necessity of a college education for success in American culture resonated with Marquez from an early age.

“Getting a degree, that is what matters here. I didn’t listen, I did other things, never cared about school—I was making plenty of money doing odd jobs for people by the time I was sixteen. School was worse than a job, it was a waste of time… but even when I was skipping I could hear my mother saying no, Angel, this is a bad idea… I told my girls every day, go to college. And now they do!” Marquez said, before taking a huge bite of pizza.

Marquez has two daughters with his wife of 25 years. When he talks about his family, he grins uncontrollably, and his eyes grow a little distant. “My oldest daughter is an accounting major at Hunter College,” he says. “And the youngest, she hasn’t picked her major yet, she doesn’t know what she wants to do. She goes to CUNY. She’ll figure it out. Be a lawyer, that’s what I say, you can take care of me when I’m old!” Marquez laughs.

Following the questions about his family, I asked Marquez a list of favorites. His favorite food is steak. Good old American steak, medium rare. His favorite place to walk is right along the East River. Color? Blue.

Growing up in Spanish Harlem wasn’t as difficult as the media or even New Yorkers would have you believe, according to Marquez. “There were punks, and gangs, and people who would jump you walking down the street at night, sure, but it was no worse than anywhere else and if you kept your eyes out, you’d be fine.” At this point in our dialogue, the fire department arrived and we were interrupted.

Now when Marquez is over refinishing the floor down stairs and helping fix the flood damage, I make sure to chat with him for a few minutes and offer him something to eat or drink. In fact, I’d say we are friends. The last question I asked him? If he could go anywhere in the world, he would go to New Zealand. “No place like it in the world I hear.”