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Well, after my last post on Britney, I thought it was fitting that I write about something that receives far less press attention but far greater significance. While many people, and admittedly myself, focus far too much of their energy on the latest tabloid drama or a upcoming television miniseries, I think the genocide that occurred in Guatemala, and went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, deserves far more attention than Hollywood’s pop stars and celebrities.
After taking my first Ethnic Studies class at UC Berkeley this past fall, I was forced to open my eyes to the daily genocide that plagued much of Guatemala’s Mayan community. According to United Nations’ research 200,000 people were killed, 1.5 million people were displaced from their communities, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. Over 600 massacres were committed, and while 3% were committed by the Guatemalan insurgency, the overwhelming majority of these brutal, heartless massacres were committed by the military.

Using ChunkIt! to do some research, I found out that the indigenous Guatemalans’ livelihood depends on access to good, sufficient land; they are subsistence farmers. Over 60% of the population is rural and 2% of the population controls 70% of the land. For the Mayans, their land was not providing them with enough subsistence, and they needed relief from the horrible conditions of plantations and subdivided lands. As a result, 160 Mayan families created a colonization project in the Guatemalan jungle and built from scratch the village of Santa Maria Tzeja. In 1980 Guatemalan soldiers came and destroyed the town that had taken 10 years to build. They looted, slaughtered, and torched the town; they raped, beat and murdered the women, and when they found Mayans hiding in the village the mercilessly killed them.

Professor of Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley, Beatriz Manz, recounted her firsthand experience in Guatemala titled Paradise In Ashes.


Manz hypothesizes that perhaps the genocide that occurred in Guatemala and more specifically in Santa Maria Tzeja, because the military felt threatened that the indigenous people were setting up their own villages in the jungle, or perhaps the military was attempting to discourage the Mayans from joining an insurgent movement, or maybe, the killing occurred simply because the military could. Whatever the reason, nothing can justify the lives that were taken, and the families that were destroyed as a result of this ruthless genocide.


Tonight, I attended the fall showcase of a UC Berkeley student theatrical group, Theatre Rice.  TR is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year, and always puts on two great shows per semester.  The shows are usually a medley of performances, and in the past, I’ve seen improv, student films, comedy, drama, one-acts, and even a musical.  TR shows are almost always fantastic, and tonight was no exception.

I saw my first TR show as a freshman, and I was hooked, because I haven’t missed a show so far.  This year, Paul joined TR, so I usually go with a group of friends to be his personal cheering section.  The cast is a group of super talented and hilarious individuals, and I give them kudos for being capable enough (and insane enough) to put on two quality shows per semester while juggling classwork, other extracurriculars, jobs, and life as college students.

Here are a few video clips of my favorite performances from past shows.  Please be advised that most of these would be rated about PG-13 or above for language:

“Definition: Normalcy Part I”: An engaged couple, a frustrated job applicant, and a couple with marital problems all sing about pretending to be normal — but what if everyone is a little crazy in this delightful musical?

Highlight: The cleaning aisle song spoofing The Little Mermaid at 2:58.

If you liked this, be sure to see:  Parts II and III of the musical.  Totally great.

“The Girl From Yesterday (Trailer)”: Andrew has a crush on his classmate Kristin, but his bumbling attempts at flirting and her seeming indifference offer more than a few setbacks.

Highlight: Seriously jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography of the UC Berkeley campus by student director Huy Vu.

If you liked this, be sure to see: The entirety of “The Girl from Yesterday,” around 33:00 running time.  Huy Vu’s other films with Theatre Rice, including “Darkness, My Old Friend”,  mockumentary “Theatre Rice: Behind the Laughter,” and the trailer for tonight’s film, “Anniversary”.

One clip that I wish I could show you is Theatre Rice’s Experimental Troupe, which has been doing great things this year with percussive dance performances (think Stomp with dining ware and luggage).  Unfortunately, no clips are on Theatre Rice’s YouTube channel yet, but new videos are added periodically.  In the meantime, if you go to UC Berkeley, you simply cannot miss Theatre Rice’s shows in the Spring 2009 season.  I’ll see you there.

The Project

In my senior year of high school, my final Physiology group project was to formulate a plan to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Africa.  (At the time of our project, 62.5% of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide were in sub-Saharan Africa, and 1 in 4 adults in Zimbabwe carried the virus.)  Ambitious?  Quite.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

The Facts

FACT: In Zimbabwe, there is a 90%+ awareness rate of HIV spread and prevention, thanks to education and free condom programs, yet the disease still has a 25% prevalence rate.  There is a general attitude that if there is no treatment available, it’s better not to be tested:

“With no access to antiretroviral drugs in many areas, [many Zimbabweans] see testing as pointless.”

World Health Organization Report, 2006

FACT: Zimbabwean artisans handmake gorgeous batik prints and intricate woven baskets using techniques that have been passed from generation to generation for centuries.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

FACT: Socially conscious consumers in the United States are willing to pay a premium for folk art that benefits entrepreneurs in developing countries.

FACT: Pharmaceutical companies have developed antiretroviral drugs, which help slow the replication of the HIV virus and can extend a patient’s lifespan.

Pharmaceutical companies are willing to discount ARV drugs in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

Pharmaceuticals are willing to discount ARV drugs for patients in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

FACT: These drugs are, unfortunately, expensive and require an ongoing and complex administration process.

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

The Proposal

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

The result

The result is a win-win-win-win-win situation.  The artisans support their families, the customers preserve Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage, the pharmaceuticals engage in philanthropy while covering costs, the students gain valuable field training, and the HIV patients live longer, fuller lives. All parties involved contribute one critical piece to create a viable, self-sustaining cycle of benefit.

I’d like to hear what you think.

Some of you may think that football is a primitive sport closely mirroring the historic clash of the Neanderthals versus the Cro-Magnons.  I confess that I used to be one of you.  Before I came to Cal, I couldn’t understand what made football fans so passionate, what made my dad jump to his feet in front of the television yelling “GO GO GO!”, and what made millions of fans impatiently ask each week, “Is It Monday Yet?”

Marshawn Lynch played for the Bears against USC in 2006, and was drafted in the NFL the next year.

I’m still not a fan of professional football, or even of watching college football on TV, but there is something incomparable to being in the student section of Memorial Stadium at a Cal football home game.  The entire student section becomes one entity, collectively holding our breath, groaning, and cheering as the game unfolds.  When Cal scores a touchdown, the atmosphere in the stadium is wild.  The six points are heralded by a loud explosion from the victory cannon and the marching band’s victorious rendition of “Fight For California”, while in the student section, I jump up and down inarticulately yelling something really intelligent like, “YEAH!  YEAH!  YEAH!”, high-fiving everyone within a two-bleacher radius, and assisting brave crowd-surfers on their ascent to the top of the stadium, gliding upwards upon a sea of jubilant hands.

Those of you who went to Monta Vista may recognize these rather rabid-looking fans, featured on Sports Illustrateds website last season.

Those of you who went to Monta Vista may recognize these rather rowdy-looking fans, featured on Sports Illustrated's website last season.

No matter how many times I’ve seen it, this year’s promotional video for Cal football always gets me pumped.  I think it’s exceptionally well edited and visually strong, and if I didn’t already have season tickets, this video would certainly prompt me to buy them:

I will certainly be watching tomorrow’s home game vs. Oregon.  There’s only one way to end a post like this, and that’s with “Go Bears!”

Next Saturday, UC Berkeley’s International House will host the “Free Culture Conference 2008,” a gathering to discuss many controversial issues regarding copyright infringement and technology ownership.

Free Culture should be a pretty interesting talk; speakers include professors from UC Berkeley and Stanford in the departments of law, information, and medicine; representatives from the Stanford Fair Use Project and Google; and John Lilly, the CEO of Mozilla.  Throughout the day, there will be local DJs and games, and the night will end, I believe, with a party at Blake’s on Telegraph.

“[Free Culture 2008 is] a conference for, and about, free culture, technology, copyright, remixing, and free software.”

Free Culture 2008

Here are the details of the conference content, as posted on Free Culture Conference 2008’s website:

WHAT: A conference with keynotes, talks, workshops, activism, and parties.

WHEN: Oct. 11th 2008, with a smaller and more focused student workshop day on Oct. 12th

WHERE: International House at Berkeley, University of California

WHY: It’s time for our community to spend time and learn from each other.

WHO: You, other free culture activists, professors, students, artists, musicians, coders, organizations like EFF and Creative Commons, and anyone interested in our community.

Students from all over the country as well as free culture enthusiasts will be flying in from all over the country, so if you’re in the Berkeley area, you should check it out.  Details:

October 11th, 2008
10 AM—7 PM
Chevron Auditorium, International House
2299 Piedmont Ave
Berkeley, CA 94720

The conference is co-organized by Students for Free Culture and Free Culture Berkeley.  One of my organizations, Students for Responsible Business, will be volunteering at the event.  See you there.

I’m in a club on campus called Students for Responsible Business, which is hosting a labor relations panel on campus on Wednesday.  The panel will include a mini case competition and speakers from the Haas School of Business and HP.  The speakers will be discussing the challenges of maintaining a balance between lowering operational costs by hiring workers overseas, and being sure to pay those workers fair wages.

I’m not always a rabid fan of the events we hold, but I think this one is going to be pretty interesting.

My marketing committee has been hard at work to promote the event through different mediums on campus.  Here are the flyers that Anna-Claire and I created to post on campus.  We tried to make them visually arresting and representative of major issues in labor relations today:

SRB’s main focus is Corporate Social Responsibility, a new trend in the business world to describe the belief that corporations have a responsibility not only to their shareholders and the financial bottom line, but also to the myriad of parties they impact, such as the environment, their workers, and the communities in which they are based.  I personally believe that it is possible to be socially responsible without sacrificing profits.  Consumers are more and more conscious of how their dollar votes, and find it increasingly important to patronize businesses with socially responsible practices.

Last spring, one of our professional events was a screening of The Corporation, a 2003 documentary that explored CSR.  Here’s a clip from that documentary describing the gaping disparity between how much companies charge for garments and how much they pay their workers:

If you go to Cal or if you’ll be in the Berkeley area on Wednesday evening, I highly recommend attending our “Don’t Sweat It” labor relations panel.  It’s on Wednesday, 9/24/08, 7-9 pm, in 219 Dwinelle.

What’s your take on labor relations?  Who’s responsible: The government?  The consumer?  The corporation?

If you haven’t already read my first post about my Literature and Linguistics class studying Bob Dylan’s imperfect rhymes, this post will make no sense to you.  I know that Alex from Michigan, at least, is reading.  This one’s for you, Alex.

Update: Friday 9/12: It turns out that Professor Hanson doesn’t really know why Bob Dylan uses imperfect rhymes, but we did pick up a few stylistic effects his imperfect rhymes have.  First of all, there’s a pattern in his imperfect rhymes.  They almost always end with a [d], [t], or [s], but the vowel sound stays constant (thus in “Blowin’ In the Wind”, “man”/”sand”/”banned” becomes [maen]/[saend]/[baend]).  This creates a feeling of cohesion but unsettling imperfection, often related to the subject matter of the verse.  Conversely, in all the songs we studied (“Blowin In the Wind”, “Masters of War”, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”), Dylan is careful to use perfect rhyme in the final verse to create a sense of finality and conclusion — see the final verse example below.  Then again, looking past the literary and linguistic analysis, it’s just some beautiful poetry.

How many years can a mountain exist

Before it’s washed to the sea?

Yes, and how many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

Pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Bob Dylan

Fact: Bob Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize this year for “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

One of my favorite things about going to school on such a large campus is that like the Hogwarts castle, there are always hidden surprises and quirks waiting to be discovered around some unfrequented corner.  Today I ran an errand at the School of Optometry’s Minor Hall, which is an inherently unimpressive name.  Sorry, Ralph S. Minor.  You must have been teased a lot.

I guess being Mr. Minor is better than being Major Major Major Major.

I guess being Mr. Minor is better than being Major Major Major Major.

But the best part was being directed to the annex building for Minor Hall and reading its name:

This is a bit of a misnomer.  This building houses all School of Optometry clinics plus administrative offices.

This is actually a bit of a misnomer. Minor Addition houses all School of Optometry clinics plus the administrative offices.

Getting the budget and building approvals must have been a cakewalk.  Can you imagine?  “Oh, not to worry sir; it’s just a Minor Addition.”  “A minor addition?  Well, I suppose it’s all right then, carry on.”

When I interviewed for a copy editing posititon at The Daily Cal, one of the interview questions I was asked was, “What is your favorite punctuation mark and why?”  We’re all nerdy grammarians at the copy desk, so my response was, “I’m so glad you asked that question.  I love the interrobang.”

The what

The interrobang.

Feast your eyes on that. Aww yeah.

The interrobang.

It’s a combination question mark and exclamation point, to be used in instances like, “SHE SAID WHAT” or “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT“, when the normal ?+! combo just won’t do.  I love the muddled combination of utter surprise, confusion, and exitement an interrobang conveys.  And visually, it’s one of the most beautiful punctuation marks out there.  I mean, look at those curves and that serif stylizing.

It’s fallen out of fashion to use interrobangs (they were invented in 1962 and were the hot new thing to have on your typewriter keyboard for a while), but I think that retro styling just adds to the interrobang’s charm.

If I ever form a rock band, I want to be called The InterroBANGS.  Too bad this band already beat me to the punch.  Check out this facebook group dedicated to the revival of the interrobang.

One of my classes this semester is English 179, Literature And Linguistics.  Today we examined the work of Bob Dylan and the linguistic pattern choices he makes in his lyrics.

In “Blowin’ In The Wind”, his rhymes are often not perfect rhymes; he includes a [d] sound at the end of some lines and not others:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

“Man”, “sand”, and “banned” don’t really rhyme.  They have the same [ae] sound but the endings are quite different.  Dylan definitely knew this; why did he sometimes include the extra [d], sometimes emphasizing it (“banned”) and sometimes dropping it (“san(d)”)?

My professor seems to be suggesting that emphasizing or dropping the sounds makes certain words stand out more in Dylan’s message.  I could go into lots more detail, but do you think the theory is reasonable?  Or are we just reading too much into it?

Update: Wednesday 9/10: Professor Hanson dithered around a bit more about “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, but right when we were about to get to the really exciting point where she reveals what the heck the purpose behind imperfect rhymes are, she decided to tell us on Friday.  This is just like watching a TV drama where they keep luring you back with “Next week, on The Hills…”