The Tuya: By Tim Blomquist, Mark Ling, Emily Hanss and Noah Zweifel

Maria drove the Durango across the rocky Icelandic plain toward the mountain in the distance. She inspected it through her windshield as she approached.  It wasn’t especially large, but its top was unusually flat, and it jutted out from the middle of the valley. Despite traveling all over the United States, she had never seen a formation quite like it. When she jumped down from the driver’s seat and scanned the horizon, she realized she was the only person around for miles. The feeling brought her fear and solitude, all at once.

She began walking toward the mountain. As she got closer to the base, she noticed the increasing size of the sediment under her feet. She wondered why the rocks were sorted in this way. She knew that sediment in streams would be deposited based on weight, since the water could only carry rocks of certain sizes so far, but there was no water-source anywhere in sight. She wandered a little farther towards the mountain and sat down on a large rock to take in the view.

She pulled her water bottle and her guide book from her backpack. As she turned to the page diagramming the area, she took a gulp of water, its smoothness refreshing and icy. Continue reading “The Tuya: By Tim Blomquist, Mark Ling, Emily Hanss and Noah Zweifel”

An Ocean Between Us

The Republican National Convention has been underway for four days now.

I had to Google that. I set out to write a fairly BS’d post about the chaos of American politics and how it relates to the chaos of other countries’ politics and then tie it all together in some really deep and meaningful way and thought that would have been a decent opening line. But the truth is I am not a “political person” (or a very deep and meaningful thinker for that matter, especially when I’m on a deadline, but that’s beside the point). Certainly, I’ve been a bit more involved this election cycle than last, partly because this is the first election I’ll have voted in, and partly because this election, like no other election I know of (I’m not really a history person, either), has rocked our culture to its core, sucking up even the most apathetic and ignorant of us into its frenzy of slogans, sound-bites and Facebook brawls. But, despite all that, I’d still rate my interest as relatively low. I do feel guilty about that now that Donald Trump has America by the throat, and is ready to squeeze as hard as he needs to so he can achieve whatever wild goal it was he set out for when he joined the Republican ticket as nothing more than a running joke (is that a pun?). But, at the same time, I’m a white, middle-class guy who has, at this point in his insulated life, heard about quite a few political and national tragedies but felt the consequences of absolutely none of them (not directly, anyway). As much as I can say to people that it would be a nightmare if Trump were president, how hypocritical it would be of Sanders’ supporters to sell themselves out and vote for Hillary, and that we need some sort of ground-up restructuring of our political system, I can’t say that I really feel as though the quality of my life for the next 4-8 years is hinged on who gets elected and what we do about it as a nation.

Continue reading “An Ocean Between Us”

The Significance of Place

Place is typically defined as a point or position in space. Obviously, place is all around us. It is the backdrop of our existence. So if place expands infinitely and connects each of us, what separates this place from that place, my place from your place, a good place from a bad place? What are the components of a place? How do these affect place? How does place affect us?

The easiest pop-culture go-to for any argument regarding place is rap. I’m willing to bet money that even your grandmother sensed the rumblings of the East Coast/West Coast rivalry of the 90s, spearheaded by Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, both giants of the industry, and heroes of their hometowns. Following the untimely death of these artists, the violent tension has settled, but still there remains a divide in a genre that is typically viewed as one of unification and empowerment, and a particular emphasis on place. From Westside rapper Vince Staples’ Norf Norf: “Real Norfside nigga, never went to Poly, Wilson or Cabrillo… From the city where the skinny carry strong heat, Norfside Long Beach, Norfside Long Beach.” From the East Coast, ASAP Rocky’s Purple Swag: “I’m sitting high, I’m tipping slow, I’m Texas trill, Texas trill, but in NY we spit it slow.” From Chicago-based Chance the Rapper’s Hey Ma: “7-7-3, Oh, since Kanye was a three-old, Down the street from D. Rose, was practicing his free-throws, Shout out to that Gulf Shrimp, shout out to King Gyro, Shout out that Ms. Moody, auntie Toni them my heroes.” Place for rappers elicits pride. This is not a rap phenomenon, but a human one. Place is more than a point or position in space. It is every action and reaction in the world converging onto a single point and pressuring it into a slightly new form with each passing second. Place is the home of my culture and my beliefs, and my most important steps happen in my place. It has every right to be a point of pride. My place is MY place. It suits me, and it constructs me.

“Gaze long into the abyss, and the abyss shall also gaze unto you.” A cliched quote, but one still with impressive magnitude. Writers write what they see. What they see is dictated by their place and so they attempt to communicate place by writing, but place affects the writer as much as the writer affects place. The core difference between the West Coast and the East Coast comes from geography. Speaking very generally (perhaps even offensively so), the image of New York gleaned from rap songs is one of a shaded, foggy skyline against a gray sky. It has a rich and electric culture, but there is a cynicism and sense of impending doom. Perhaps this is why New York rap has in recent years tended away from themes of material excess and towards spiritual and personal fulfillment. From Joey Badass’ Unorthodox: “See with your eyes dilated for the sake of the Gs But keep it sacred G, fuck a rat race, we take the cheese..Cause money ain’t a thing if I got it I won’t spend All I got is my Prose, I don’t need no friends Feel like this glory road is coming to an end The only soul that won’t sin No he won’t give in.” The West Coast on the other hand has always seemed more optimistic in its prognosis, fueled by sunny weather and the dream of Hollywood and celebrity just over the hills, but still showing struggle between wealth and fulfillment, and work and entitlement. From Kendrick Lamar’s Money Trees: “A silver spoon I know you come from, ya bish, And that’s a lifestyle that we never knew, Go at a reverend for the revenue, It go Halle Berry or hallelujah.”

Place affects everything, from your appearance to your walk to your talk to your outlook. The significance of place is that it is a single immobile point or position in space, yet every place you’ve been to stays with you forever and is communicated through everything you do.