Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Week In Closing IV

So technically it is Sunday night, so many of you won't even see this, and I guess it isn't actually quite the week in closing. But, honestly, who cares? 

I'll keep it light!

This week's poll winner was San Francisco with a narrow margin of only 47% of the votes. 

Make sure to check out this week's poll. It'll be open till next Sunday at noon. It'll be yet another travel related poll!

I've been falling behind on has gotten the best of me. And it seems all of my readers have been busy as well. It's been a sparse and barren land here at The Column for the past two weeks. The Mystery of Music is still to come. I know I keep mentioning it, and by now you're probably thinking that it'll never be up...but never fear, I promise it'll debut eventually. For those of you who are wondering, I'm thinking I'll do an article on the "identity crisis" I noticed when I was in South Korea and I will eventually get around to writing a piece on Cuba. Probably an informational thing on the trip I'll be taking in May. I'll also be posting an academic essay I wrote on the energy crisis in Turkey in a few weeks. I know, super stimulating. But a portion of this blog is supposed to be at least halfway cerebral and maybe some of you future diplomats will be interested in reading.

The "Let's Talk About Drugs" series is all finished and uploaded. Be sure to check it out. For a collection of all three articles please click here. Be sure to leave a comment.

I posted an essay from high school with some of my creative writing. If you haven't already, it'd be awesome if you checked that out as well. You can find that piece by clicking here.

As always, thanks for the views, reads, and comments. Please continue to stop by. Have a fantastic week, and again, feel free to leave a comment with anything you might want to say.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Flashback to IB via Creative Writing

Below is the final piece I turned in for my IB English class. It's a pastiche. If you haven't read the books I used as bases you should definitely check them out. It takes place around my trip to South Korea. I definitely took a creative license. No real purpose in posting, just a look at some of my more personal writing~

A Pastiche of Running in the Family and The Alchemist 

Statement of Intent 

The piece of writing that follows is a pastiche of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family. Both of these books are connected in the sense that the main character in each is presented with self-discovery through journeys of cultural identity and world travel. In The Alchemist, Santiago is faced with an epic journey in which he travels North Africa in order to identify his own place in the world at large. In Running in the Family, Ondaatje details his journey to Sri Lanka in which he identifies himself with his lost culture. Both pieces utilize the themes of cultural and personal identity through travel. I intend to emulate this in a pastiche in which I detail my journey of personal and cultural identity to South Korea. 

I intend to write in the manner of Ondaatje’s style while focusing my piece around five key themes found in The Alchemist. My writing will be broken into three sections, mimicking the nature of Ondaatje’s sections in his memoir. In particular, I will be emulating Ondaatje’s sections titled “Asia”, “Tabula Asiae”, and “Last Morning” with my self-titled sections “Korea”, “Tabula Paeninsula”, and “Final Nightfall” respectively (21, 63, 202). My emulation is told in first person in order to correctly emulate Ondaatje’s style, and will be told in a stream of consciousness style in order to adequately demonstrate post-modernism styles utilized by Ondaatje. Also, I will be using fragmented sentences, italicization, inconsistent tenses, and idea flow similar to that of the three sections selected from Ondaatje’s work. In addition, each section will follow one of the four central themes of The Alchemist, as well as demonstrate the idea of a “personal legend.” I have drawn the following four quotes from The Alchemist to structure my three sections, in the appropriate order: 

o “The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and he saw that he could have the same freedom” (28); “This wasn’t a strange place; it was a new one” (41) 

o “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie” (18). 

o “He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world” (44). 

The Prose

I. Korea 

It began with the flutter of a thought through my mind that could hardly be captured in one moment. A continent that covered half the map, with a people vigorously entrenched in their own personal histories. A place novel in my mind, a place so strange that it would be hard for an outsider to truly understand. I felt the idea crawl across the sheets and I struggled asleep, and in a land of dreams, I became captured by new and strange lands. It came to me by night and this new and magnificent place was to be my reality. 

I held to my personal legend, to travel and discover this great land of Korea. I wanted to move through the air and through the skies, and land with ease on this great continent. I saw how the wind could travel from place to place without a second thought, and I wanted to grab the reigns and ride with it. It came to me then – that every moment until this had built up to this new and entirely strange land. 

Somewhere between my imagination and a passion I had lost sight of my goals, and I had allowed my personal legend to slip between my fingers and float into the wind. But now, I had realized, that Korean lands would soon be under my feet and that my journey will have begun. South Korea. The concept was as fleeting as the wind itself. The word was divided, as was the nation, the people, the language, and the personal legends found in this grandeur concept of Korea. The wind had caught my dream, and all I had to do was step on. 

Upon stepping into the urban jungle of Seoul, and tasting the smells of Korean life, I was confronted with a world that I had never seen, never imagined, nor could have tried to. I was surrounded with the bizarre, and the most literal sense of foreign. The block writing matched the block streets, and the neon obstructed my view. In that moment I realized that my personal legend had taken me to a strange land; but with strangeness came an overwhelming sense of new. 

II. Tabula Paeninsula 

In the minds of every Cold War psyche rests the false images. An outdated sentiment of Korea. The thoughts seem to differ in inappropriate ways. Due to red scares, concentration camps, Kim Sung Il and his Kim Jung Il to follow, and big brother Stalin and with neighboring China. A perception of a nation that simply does not exist. South Korea had grown, and she inevitably experienced growing pains. She morphed from one to two, and split heavily down the middle. Her face bore the scars of battles and lost brothers. 

She was a sister of the Land of the Rising Sun, and she was ready to have her life back. She had been exasperated for years, occupied, and shaped like the daughter of an overpowering father. She had been controlled by fate, and in this moment, in this modern society, she realized that this was a lie. She realized that she had every right to heal from her wounds. She took her well being into her own hands; for the first time, she was standing up to fulfill her personal legend. 

She began with the tunnels. On her edges she had been gauged by midnight diggings, by defectors and warriors. In her heart she preserves the nature of the Korean personal legend, she maintains herself, and she takes fate into her own hands. But on her coasts, her borders, she has been oppressed and her fate has been pried in all directions. She was showered with western gifts – American presence. Her personal legend had fallen to pieces. But now, she was standing. 

And I found myself in the midst of her might. In the midst of my personal legend she found her fate, and she took it justifiably under her own control. Namhan, Hangook, South Korea. At the center of her soul, and her thirty-eight parallel, at this point on the map, her bosom trembled, and I stood glaringly against her lost twin. Here she found her legend. 

III. Final Nightfall 

Half an hour before midnight I stand in awe at the sight of a nine thousand mile distance. The humidity had fallen. The world whispered in this language I had learned to hear. This language without words. I stand gazing, waiting for my last twelve hours in South Korea. 

My mind must remember everything. The way the world seems to exhale in unison, the way I can communicate without words. The way a glance can share an understanding of compassion and global cooperation. I must remember the towering buildings that frame the scene of slanted rooftops in the distance. I must remember the language without words, the language of the world – I must remember what it was like to speak in glances of understanding and love and compassion. I must let it filter through my veins. 

I watch trails of light whisk through my camera lens and notice the condensation on my cheeks. Everything in my life had led to the achievement of my personal legend – and now, standing here, I could speak to all and anyone who wanted to listen. I could speak the universal code of love and compassion. I could look at you and we could connect in every way. I continue to stand waiting. I want this concept of vast distance from home to overwhelm me. I want to understand the way the buildings lean and frame the landscape. I want to hear all of the whispers of the wind and I want to absorb the last bit of silent communication before I depart. 

I saw her face in my memory. Ji Eun Baek. A girl with a pretty face and the richest of hair that fell over her shoulders. I could speak to her with a look, I could communicate with a gesture. I had learned to speak to her parents without saying a word. I had learned to speak to the city, I had conversed with Seoul herself. During the still, on my final nightfall, all this Sigur Ros and silence. 

Works Cited 

Coehlho, Paulo. The Alchemist. Trans. Alan R. Clarke. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993. Print. 

Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family. New York: Vintage International, 1993. Print. 

Let's Talk About Drugs - Part III


The Legal Battle

This is the final question - should marijuana be legalized for recreational use? Simply put, my stance is yes. I will use this last installment to explain why.

Firstly, there is not justification to keep alcohol legal yet ban marijuana. Marijuana, in many cases, is less damaging to the body than alcohol. Marijuana is not physically addictive. What does this mean? This means that after prolonged use of marijuana, users will rarely to never feel physical withdrawal symptoms. This means no tremors, no shakes, no headache, no throwing up, etc. Now, this isn't to say that marijuana has addictive qualities - "pot heads" will often become mentally dependent on the drug. Their bodies may be able to go without pot, but their minds may still crave it; however, certain studies have shown that these negative mental withdrawal effects will dissipate after two weeks of sobriety. So, on that note, I feel that the issue of addiction really can't be a main cause to keep marijuana illegal.

Furthermore, I really feel that marijuana is a personal decision. It frightens me that the government can come in and tell us what we can and cannot ingest. I can understand the case against meth, heroine, crack/cocaine, and "date rape" drugs - they are very dangerous to users, they form physical dependencies, they can severely damage internal organs...etc etc. But aside from those drugs, I really don't see the need to keep the others illegal. We are pouring a gross amount of tax dollars into housing drug related "criminals" - a bulk of these so called criminals are linked with marijuana. Now, I completely understand sending someone to jail for selling large quantities of marijuana to young children - same with alcohol. I also can completely support any violence-related charges. But marijuana possession for personal use? That's disgusting. We are putting the same people who smoke a bowl in their homes for personal use and enjoyment in facilities with armed robbers, murderers, and rapists. Enough said there.

Finally, the US government is really a pain in the butt (to save from harsher terms) when it comes to marijuana research. Despite what many anti-weed people have to say, marijuana smoking has never been directly linked to a single case of lung cancer...ever. Sure - emphysema and other pulmonary diseases can be brought on or worsened by marijuana, but that's typically due to very prolonged and chronic usage. The US government allows a disgustingly small number of facilities even run tests on marijuana (last I heard, the number was one). When positive results do come in from marijuana testing, it is said that oftentimes the results are overlooked by the government. This is slightly controversial and a bit based on rumor, but it is hard to deny the fact that the US government has turned a blind eye to the marijuana issue. Additionally, the government has always loved to take the issue on in a half-assed manner. Ever heard of marijuana tax stamps? No? Ok-

So a ways back in history, the US government put in place a law that would provide a legal means to recreationally use marijuana. If one purchased a marijuana tax stamp, it could be smoked legally. The catch - you have to present the marijuana to get the stamp. All stamp-less marijuana was illegal. What? Yeah, it's quite the paradox. 

So with all that said, the marijuana situation in the US is completely stupid. I could go on forever, but hey, it's the weekend, who wants to spend an hour reading what I have to say on a Friday afternoon? 

If you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to leave a comment! As always, thanks for the reads and have a fantastic weekend. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Week In Closing/Opening III

Hey guys, really sorry for the lack of posts over the past few days. I was out of town all weekend celebrating my birthday and didn't have any time to post on The Column.

I just thought I'd let you know that Japan won this weeks "Where Would You Travel?" poll. I'll be putting up another poll with four more destinations for this week, so be sure to check out the poll and cast your vote before this coming Sunday.

Parts I and II of "Let's Talk About Drugs" are up and open for reading. I'd really love to hear some feedback/thoughts/comments on those posts. It's a very controversial topic and I am really anxious to hear what readers have to say.

Blog traffic has slowed down and so has blog maintenance, so bear with me! Part III of "Let's Talk About Drugs" will be up within the week, as well as "The Mystery of Music."

Keep stopping by at The Column. All of you readers are awesome. Don't forget to use the share gadget in the right toolbar if you like what you read. All of you Facebook and Twitter users are just a few clicks away from spreading the word about The Column.

As always, please feel free to give me any topic suggestions. I got my first topic suggestion in a long time the other day from a friend. Eventually, I will be writing about my trip to Cuba which will occur in  May of 2013. (Well, hopefully)

For those of us in college, isn't it crazy to think we're almost at midterms. For all you other readers, I don't have any time-relevant shocking piece of news for you, so sorry about that.

I hope everyone has a fantastic week. Be sure to leave a comment and answer the weekly poll.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthday Science: The Oddity of Aging

My birthday is today. I have finally reached the decrepit age of 19 years old. Yes, there is some definite sarcasm in there, but at the same time, for me, the mere 18 year old, 19 seems like a far off and elderly number. For a lack of a better blog post, I thought I might look into why we celebrate birthdays, and the strange way that age is totally relative and hardly inborn. Birthdays, age, growth - they are truly strange phenomenon that deserve some looking into.

The way I see it, it's somewhat odd that we celebrate yet another year here. I mean, yes, it's obvious to celebrate one's ability to overcome life and live through all of the struggles; however, in a society that so strongly represses any indication of aging it's strange how we still strive to be one year older. There is definitely a clear division in "birthday science" when one looks at age brackets - from age 5 to 20, one cannot wait to get older, but once the age of 21 is reached, it seems pretty grim to get older. We dread 30, 40, and god-forbid, the ancient age of 50. We are terrified of getting older. So where did this celebration come into place?

Just as everything in life seems to follow, it is bizarre how we are always striving to be what we are not. As young children we want to be older, and once we're older we can't wait to be even older. Once you get your license we want to be 17 to see R rated movies; once we hit 17 we can't wait to be 18 to... (oh yeah, that's right, 18 is a lot more hype than anything else); once we are official "adults" we struggle through the uneventful nature of 19 and 20; finally upon reaching 20, we all strive to hit the magic 21 - the age of inebriation. But after 21, who really cares? We all move towards being broke, working hard, losing sleep, and getting cancer. Each day puts us closer to death - easy enough to understand. But when landmarks such a driving and drinking are passed, as we age the prospect of death seems to linger even closer than before. 

So now it becomes a catch-22; as we age we celebrate the fact that we have been given the opportunity to age (less sugar coated: we haven't died yet), yet as we age we reach closer to dying. So what exactly are we celebrating? I think that most people could agree that it's simply because we're still here, we're still kicking. That makes sense, and is pretty irrefutable. But why do we celebrate the birthday's of children who die prematurely? Celebrating birthday's of the deceased really is an incredibly strange facet of our society. It's as if we are reminded of death through the acknowledgement of life, and celebrate one's aging posthumously in order to strike some life back into the memory of a dead person. It really is, all said, pretty counterintuitive. 

Finally, to touch on the abstract nature of age: why do we keep track of age anyway? How is age really even standardized? Why do we set restrictions on others based on a universally uncontrollable part of life? It really is odd. The ethics and morality behind "birthday science" could be greatly elaborated, but for the sake of a light read I'll leave it at that. 

In closing, it is simply a strange thing that we do when we celebrate our age. It is somewhat counterintuitive and anticipation for birthdays seemed to be derived by whatever we are not at a certain point in time. 

So, happy birthday to myself. Happy birthday to Jared and Jayelon, and Alex and Alice, and Graham and Max, and all those October birthdays, happy birthday to you too.

Have a great weekend, and as always, thanks for stopping by. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Let's Talk About Drugs - Part II


Marijuana As A Medicine - The Legal Paradox 

Before reading, it may be helpful to check out the following FAQ provided by NORML. 

In 16 states, as well as in the District of Columbia, there are enacted laws pertaining to the use of medicinal marijuana. Click here to get a full listing of each state will enacted laws and the legal details for all of the laws. (This number seems to range from 16-18 based on the site I look on, so don't take my word 100% on precise numbers.)

Let me make one thing straight - medical marijuana, despite state law, is illegal and possession and/or use of medical marijuana is punishable by federal law. So like many people, you may be wondering, "what?" Totally rational response. So how is it that despite 18 states having some form of medical marijuana legislation in addition to the capital of the United States, one can still be federally prosecuted for the use of medicinal marijuana? Good question.

So before I get all wrapped up in the state vs. federal viewpoints of medical marijuana, it is important to note the the vast majority of medical marijuana users who have valid medical marijuana identification are not being oppressed by the federal government; however, it is worth noting that dispensaries for this "medicinal marijuana," especially in areas such as Oakland, CA, have a constant worry that federal law enforcement (DEA) will shut down their operations. This seems to be a catch-22. Well, to be frank, it really is. 

The reason for this back-and-forth with medicinal marijuana is due to the federal law that bans all and any use or distribution of marijuana. Marijuana is a Schedule One drug in the USA, which means (in short) that the federal government recognizes no medicinal or clinical value for marijuana. For those of us who paid attention in Civ/Econ back in high school, we know that federal law trumps all state law. So it's all good and dandy that California allows the use of medicinal marijuana, but with a contradicting federal law, technically all marijuana in the state of California (or any other state) that is being used for medicinal reasons on account of state legalization is illegal. So no, doctors in states that have legalized medical marijuana are not allowed to write prescriptions for a drug that is legal illegally. 

I'll let all you readers determine the best course of action for the above scenario. For now, I'll move on with my opinions on medical marijuana. Here we go.

Is Medical Marijuana Medicinal?

So in short, yes, I do think that marijuana can be used to treat symptoms of a series of ailments. Before I get into my opinion on the matter, I'll provide a really brief framework of medical pros and cons.

If you are interested in detailed information on the medical marijuana movement, this might be a good place to start. For a really quick overview, you could check out a more refined list of important factors here.

Marijuana can curb naseau and therefore is useful in treating a large variety of naseau inducing conditions; cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. What is the practical reason to reduce naseau other than comfort? If naseau can be reduced, then perhaps patients will be able to sustain more complete diets which will in turn help them stay healthier to fight the disease that they are being treated for. Marijuana can treat pain in a way that is much less habit-forming and liver-destructing than most opiate based drugs. Morphine is hard on the liver, and patients can become both mentally and physically addicted. Marijuana is not physically addictive, and kicking a habit due to mental dependence can be done in as little as two weeks with the proper support and determination. Opiates, on the other hand, are far more risky of a drug to be taking in terms of dependence and habit formation. The list goes on. 

So here's my take on the whole issue. I feel like the medical marijuana issue in the US is a waste of time, energy, and funds. Firstly, if a patient has cancer or HIV/AIDS, or something else to that level of severity, than I really don't think we need the federal government to step in and tell them that they can't smoke a bowl if that's what makes them feel better. If people with a legitimate need are smoking pot for a legitimate medical purpose, they are almost positively doing the drug in a safe manner. Those who are struggling with cancer are most likely not lighting up before they go to a concert. They aren't getting high to get high. And hell, if that's what they want to do, who's to tell them that they can't? 

Now, though I do support the use of marijuana for terminal illness, I do think much of the pro-medicinal marijuana platform is a ridiculous one. When people attempt to "prescribe" pot to treat depression and anxiety it's essentially an excuse to get high to cope with your problems. Let me get this straight:  if getting high helps people to sustainably deal with their issues, then by all means, have at it. I am not in a position to judge. However, getting a doctor's prescription for an illicit drug to treat an "illness" that is often a malicious side effect of the drug being used to treat the issue in the first place is just a completely ludicrous cycle. Marijuana may indeed help reduce stress and anxiety, and it can even help those struggling with depression; however, this is, in my opinion at least, a strictly recreational affect. Seeing as paranoia and anxiety are two of marijuana's leading malicious side effects, prescribing the drug to treat these symptoms will almost always be a shot in the dark. Yes, other medicines, namely antidepressants, tend to tote symptoms of suicidal thoughts; an yes, again, this is counterintuitive. However, the malicious side effects of these prescription drugs are rare enough to be used on a mass scale. In the case of marijuana, anxiety and paranoia are almost a given when it comes to the use of pot in many, many cases. Depression can also linger after the high has worn off. This is not a given for each and every individual who dabbles with marijuana, and some will still say despite experiencing anxiety, the drug's high has an overarching beneficial effect. The issue for me is that you cannot rationally use marijuana as an anxiety treatment when such a high frequency of recreational users who don't struggle with anxiety in the first place experience elevated nervousness and paranoia.

Another issue concerning our current medicinal marijuana system is that those who need it most are likely not getting it. In places like norther California, many of the prescription wielding "patients" are recreational users of the drug. (Remember, all pot use is technically illegal) The vast majority of terminally ill, and often elderly patients are not using marijuana. So the entire system in many respects is a joke. We are trying to quasi-legalize a recreational drug that is being used by recreational users based on claims of illnesses such as anxiety disorders...when the drug itself induces ridiculous amounts of anxiety in many of its users. This, for me, really doesn't make much sense.

One final note on medical marijuana stems from my skepticism to even call the drug medicinal. This isn't to say that pot has beneficial qualities. I do wholeheartedly believe that someone with AIDS or cancer can strongly benefit from the naseau alleviating tendency of the drug. I also think people suffering from serious chronic pain disorders could also legitimately benefit from "medicinal" marijuana; however, to call marijuana medicinal outside of these extreme conditions just doesn't seem accurate enough. Pot gets you high. People with mild anxiety do not need to be intensely mind-altered to be treated medicinally. A sense of time loss, loss of ego, and sensory enhancement are recreational effects of a borderline psychedelic drug. This cannot be considered 100% my opinion, at least. And on top of all that, regardless of whether or not marijuana is considered medicine or not, the system of medical marijuana in the US is essentially "allowing" recreational users who live in certain states to illegally "legally" use a drug that someone in Georgia can get charged with a felony for possessing (under 3 grams, that's right).

In closing, let me iterate:  if someone, regardless of age or condition, feels that marijuana helps them to treat whatever they are dealing with, I will support their cause endlesslessly. My only apprehension with marijuana is that it is used solely as a coping mechanism to ignore larger problems. No matter what your vice is, if you aren't in one way or another facing an issue, that vice becomes an issue. I would not want to deny anyone the use of marijuana if it is really going to help them. I just don't think that the "medical marijuana" platform is doing the pro-pot cause any good. Those against the use of medicinal marijuana (or those on the fence) are often turned off by it due to it's illegal status, unfair distribution, sketchy dispensary practices, political ties, and quasi-medical benefits. Now, before everyone says "hey, I thought you were super supportive of the use of pot? This doesn't seem to add up? Why are you so critical of the medical marijuana industry?" Just hold your horses.

Next we will be looking into the topic of weed legalization and how I feel about it. This series is very opinion based. Not to say it's completely unfounded, but it focuses on my thoughts pertaining to the matter. So, with that said, please feel free to leave a comment if you agree/disagree with anything that I have talked about. This is such a huge topic so there is definitely a possiblity I have missed something! If you think I missed a viewpoint, feel free to let me know.

When Part III is up, you can find it here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Week In Closing II

This will be quite brief!

Firstly, I wanted to say thanks for the continued support. I've gotten close to 600 page hits in one week. Thats phenomenal. The blog is really branching out and that makes me incredibly happy. I hope that you guys are all enjoying what you read! If you ever have any topic suggestions, you can comment on a post such as this, or the Request for Topics article. Either would suffice. Keep reading, keep commenting, keep sharing! And definitely keep me in the loop as to what you want to read and hear about.

A note on commenting - this past week has seen far more comments than weeks past. That's a great trend I'd like to see continue. I got some really good feedback on my Alimentary Contemplation series. Always express your opinions. I will and always will read and respond to all comments left, as long as I see them as appropriate. So far, everything has been dandy.

The results from last week poll put Death Cab for Cutie in first place. Obviously. This week's poll closes Sunday at noon, so make sure you vote while you still have a chance!
Keep an eye out for my new series Let's Talk About Drugs.  Parts II and III will be up later this week, but you should definitely check out Part I before the other two get posted! There has already been some interesting commenting going on associated with that post. Be sure to drop a line if you care to share! Part I discusses the very basic chemistry of marijuana. Parts II and III will look into the medical aspect of marijuana and the legality of the drug, respectively. Keep your eyes open. As always, all of the articles will be linked with each other as well as easily accesible on the main page of The Column.

Other articles to come are Birthday Science:  The Oddity of Aging and Mystery of Music.  Just a little preview of what's to come. Again, please feel free to suggest any topics you might find interesting and I will do my best to accomodate. Otherwise, thanks, and please, come again! 

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend and rests up! I know I need it. 

Thanks for the reads! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Drugs - Part I

We call her Mary Jane, weed, pot, kush, grass, sticky icky, purp, bud, reefer, ganja, hash, herb, chronic,  Cheeba, and a whole slew of other more peculiar names that you can fancy yourselves with here. The drug we are talking about here is marijuana. Marijuana is the most used illicit drug in the world, and among many people, pot isn't even considered a drug in the first place. Ask another person, and weed is the spawn of the devil. So why so many strong opinions? Today, that's what I am going to try to look at. This article is controversial, and I would highly encourage comments. However, due to the nature of the topic, if you are going to leave a comment in which you refer to your own drug use, please use an anonymous identity, otherwise I will not publish your comment. I do not want this to become a slew of self-incrimination. 

I am going to be up front before I write this article so there is no confusion - I am in full support of the legalization of marijuana. Do not ask me, however, if I have smoked pot, what my personal experiences with pot have been, or the names of anyone I know who uses marijuana. Again, I will not publish any comments if they are going to be in reference to specific names. 

I plan to organize this article in several sections:  the science behind weed, the medical concerns, and the legal status dealing with the drug. Much of the information I am going to present is from my own knowledge. I have studied pot and its effects pretty closely, watched countless documentaries, and talked to many friends and marijuana smokers. However, if you are more interested in some of the information I am going to be presenting, please check out state laws and effects on health. Let's begin.

The Science of Marijuana:  What Gets You High?

To cut short wordy jargon and technicalities, the stuff in pot that gets you high are called cannaboids. Of these, THC is the main active ingredient in marijuana that gets users high in ways that can be read here. THC is a chemical that attaches to THC receptors in the brain. This psychoactive chemical produces several mind altering effects, such as enhanced colors, music, and taste, a greater sense of environment, the transformation of time, increased awareness of peculiar things, decreased perception speed, and short term memory loss.

Marijuana inhibits the user from making short term memories while under the influence. THC has an effect on people that is often described as an experience similar to being in a strobe light. Many would call it a jerky sensation in which each moment is a particular frame, and despite user desire, is uncontrollable. This is due to the lack of short term memory function while high on pot. THC keeps the user from making memories, which in a sense, creates the illusion that the present is the only moment of time in the mind. In other words, the minute one stops doing one thing and moves to the next, it's as if the previous action never occurred, or seems far off an distant. 

In addition to this lack of memory making, pot can shift the user's sense of time. Someone under the influence of marijuana is likely to experience time much slower, and at times it will seem much quicker as well. 5 minutes can feel like an hour, and an hour can pass in mere seconds. This is again associated with the inability to form new memories. In a documentary I watched on time, one theoretical physicist speculates that time passes so strangely for pot smokers because the user is unable to create a "landmark memory." For example, if you are high and walk into your room, you may have no sense of how long it took you to get to your room because you have to sense of when you left your original location. This inability to form relative time based on short term memory creates a sense of timelessness in which the user doesn't feel bound to the contraints of time.

Other side effects include anxiety, paranoia, and depression. From what I've gathered, much of this is related to your surroundings. Just like a roller coaster, if someone gets you excited to ride the attraction, you will enjoy it much more than if someone terrified you of it prior to riding. The power of suggestion is very relavent to the experience of a marijuana high. One would not want to smoke pot in an environment in which they are unfamiliar with their surroundings or with people that they do not have trust in. These negative side effects are often deterrents for people when trying to decide whether or not to smoke pot, and as we will see later, many try to use these side effects as justification for the continued illegal status of the drug. But, there will be more on that later.

Pot can also help users to cope with their present situations. Again, many would denote this as a bad thing, but many users would say smoking a joint after a stressful day can help them sleep and be more relaxed in general. People smoke pot to see the world in a different way, to enhance creativity, and to elevate artistic perception. Marijuana is often popular among those who play music and do art because they feel as if the high elevates their creative side. (This isn't to say that many artists, if not the majority, do not use drugs. Plenty of artists will lead drug-free lives.) Marijuana is used by people from all wals of life, and by no means is it a demographically selective drug. This is a commonly misunderstood detail of the drug.


This is an incredibly brief overview of the effects and high of marijuana. In later sections, I will touch on medical benefits/risks of smoking pot, and I will conclude with the legality of the drug. If you have any questions on the effects of marijuana in terms of the chemistry and mind altering sensations, please drop a line. If I cannot answer your question with my own knowledge I would be happy to point you in a direction in which you can read more on the details. Again, this blog is not endorsing the illegal use of marijuana and I am not interested in entertaining personal anecdotes unless they are clearly left anonymously. 

Thanks for the read! 

Keep a lookout for Part II and Part III

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Note on Commenting

Hi all, just a quick note from MGMT.

I updated the commenting availability to everyone. Now anyone can comment, with or without a Google Account. I would ask that you at least provide a first name in your comment so I can follow up with any content using a name. I am still screening all comments, so if a comment is inappropriate you will be marked as spam! Just a precaution. If you're still having trouble leaving a comment, let me know. Please continue to use your Google Account if you already have one, however!

All you have to do to comment now is write in the comment box and then select how you'd like to leave your comment. (Google Account, WordPress, Name, etc)

Let me know if you have questions!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Becoming Okay With "I Don't Know"

A little something I whipped up for class:

I sat face to face with my interviewer, the sun shining slightly in my right eye, just enough to make me a bit uncomfortable. It felt like a natural interview; we both put on a smiling face, showed immense interest in what the other person was saying, and struggled to find that balance between sitting still enough to not look antsy but moving enough to not look rigid and up-tight. All things considered, the interview went better than expected, and upon leaving I thought that I might have a shot at being named winner of the Beta Theta Pi Men of Principle scholarship. Despite having a successful interview, as we left the Arts Center and met the Charleston sun, one question from the interview lingered in my mind: ”what legacy would you like to leave at the College of Charleston?”

All of my life I have been presented with questions pertaining to the future. “What college will you go to?” “When will you get married?” “Why don’t you have more friends?” “Why are you spending too much time with your friends?” “Have you done your homework yet?” And more times than not, I seem to pull together some satisfactory answer that suggests that everything I am doing is moving me rapidly in the direction of ultimate success. But this time was different. When asked about the legacy that I wanted to leave at CofC, I actually laughed. For the first time in my life, I let myself not have an answer to impress. “You know, I’m a freshman. I like service, I like diversity. I’d like to work on building the diversity on campus, maybe through a program like LOI.” A conservative answer – no frills, no aspirations of the grandeur. But an honest one.

I finally realized that everyone asking me questions about “what if” and “how will” didn’t always deserve some fabricated answer. I was tired of trying to defend my future before I even got there. I was tired of justifying why I deserved something for the present on account of the things that I will be “surely” doing in the future. I finally let myself be okay with “I don’t know.” College is a time for discovery, and though I have a lot figured out, I also have so much more to learn. And I am absolutely okay with that. I don’t need the answers of tomorrow for today. As long as I stay motivated with a general sense of what I’d like to do and a healthy sense of “I don’t know” on hand, I think I will surprise myself at the end of the road with a succes that can only occur with a certain amount of spontaneity.

The series is continued here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Snapshots of S. Korea...or Azeezat

This page is dedicated to my dear and long lost friend Azeezat Adeleke, one of the most impressive young ladies I have ever met. She is a phenomenal human being and means the world to me, despite only knowing her for two weeks. Oh, and my lovely friend Nowrin Chowdury is featured in one of the shots. These are the various faces of Azeezat while in South Korea. All shots were taken in Seoul, and a bulk in Insadong.

So this is all! Thanks again to Azeezat and Nowrin. Let me know if you all like the occasional photo post!

A Week In Closing I

Hi all! I thought I'd start a new weekly series with the oh-so-creative name "A Week In Closing." Though I'd love to say "sure, I'll definitely post it every week and I'll be positive to do it at the same time each week," life happens, and as we all know, life messes up our plans. So what is "A Week In Closing." This series will be posted on Friday or Saturday nights. The idea is to keep it light. Much of this blog contains heavy material - Chick-fil-a, social implications, diet contemplations, and thought provoking (maybe?) material - and who am I kidding? On Friday and Saturday nights, no one wants to sit down and read an essay. So this first article will be a rough example of what is to come each week!

Which Would You Choose?
-This was a new addition to my blog as of last week. Each week I'd like to post a new topic. The poll is meaningless, just for fun. I'll pick four random things that may or may not be related just to see how people feel about whatever it is that I choose to post. Last week dealt with movies. The options were A Clockwork Orange, Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Fight Club. Fight Club, naturally, took gold. This week's poll is open for a little while longer to be sure to check it out.

For future reference, polls close each Sunday at 12 P.M. and there will be a new week long poll each week. Last week I got about 18 responses, and as of Thursday morning at 1:45AM, I've only gotten 8 pollers for the band poll. Though it's silly, it's a fun little thing and it gives me an indication of how much traffic I'm getting on the blog. So be sure to check it out each week. It'll be in the same place.

Notes on the Sidebar
If you look to the right of the page there are lots of little gadgets running down about half of the page. By the time this article is up there may or may not be advertisements at the very top of the page. If there are, don't worry too much about them. If there aren't just ignore the black empty spaces sporadically placed around the page - they'll be worked out in due time. In addition there is a blurb on navigating the page. It essentially describes what I am about to tell you. There are several features on the blog that I'd love to see utilized. If you like what you read, it would be super awesome if you shared The Column via Facebook or Twitter. The more people who share it, the more people will be directed to The Column. You can either share the blog homepage or your favorite article. You also have the option to subscribe to the blog via email. If you subscribe that'd be awesome - just don't forget to stop by and leave a comment and answer the weekly poll! As I accumulate more page hits on a particular article, it helps to make the next gadget effective. On the sidebar you'll notice that three articles with short intros are listed. These are the three most trending articles of the week. So if you subscribe, be sure to visit the article pages of those reads that you really enjoyed! Finally, don't forget about the polls!

These links are 100% my photography so far. I've hardly had any page hits on my extras, and it'd be awesome to get some feedback on my photos. Good or bad! I update with a new photo about once a week, so be sure to check them out! You can find the list of "Extras" on the right side of the page in the sidebar! 

I have this really embarrassing problem of not editing my posts before posting them. I really have to work on that. If you notice, as hours/days go by from my original posting, the article will morph slightly. I type quickly and oftentimes late at night, so it is natural that I'll make some mistakes. PLEASE don't hesitate to leave a comment if you see any blunders. It will only be a help for me! 

I miss them! On some of my earlier articles I got some good conversation going, but the Blog has become almost devoid of comments as of late. Please leave some thoughts if you enjoyed what you read. Even if it is simply "that's cool." It's great to hear from your readers. Feel free to challenge what I've said - a good debate is always healthy! Plus, we can all grow from hearing others' perspectives. If you comment, I will always read and respond. I have to read them because I am a comment moderator. So whether I like it or not, every time you make a comment and I respond, I get 3, yes 3 emails giving me updates pertaining to comments. So yes, please drop a line every now and then.

Thank You! 
Finally, to close this first series, I'd love to extend a warm thanks to all of my readers. It's incredible. When I started this blog less than a month ago, I doubted I would even maintain it. Despite my promises, I figured it would be a dud. I never expected it to grow to what it has become. I'm approaching 900 page views (that doesn't include my own views), and some of my most popular articles have more than 60 views each. Perhaps even more exciting, I've had views from a total of 10 countries outside of the U.S. That is really encouraging. So thank you to all of my readers and please continue to stop by. It's really been an awesome endeavor so far. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Five Things You Don't Notice But Absolutely Should

So I thought it'd be a nice change of pace to talk about some of the quirks that I pick up on that many other's don't. We all have these things. Some of us notice eyes first, some us notice the way people pronounce certain words, and other people, well they seem to have an affinity for the bizzarre. For today's post, I'd like to point out five things that I find hard to ignore. And hey, maybe you'll pick up on them too! I find them useful, but maybe you won't...after all, this post really is about nothing other than the quirks of the world. After reading please feel free to let us all know anything unique that you pick up on!

1. Color Juxtaposition

No, this isn't some fancy ability that only the keenest of eyes pick up on. Let's do a simple translation of "color juxtaposition."

color juxtaposition - the way that colors look next to each other

I have taken three years of photography classes, and after taking thousands of pictures, any photographer will agree that a certain tendency of involuntarily picking out "aesthetically pleasing" color layouts starts forming in your mind. One of the first things I notice when I see a new snapshot of the world around me is the way colors lie on top of one another. So what exactly does this mean? Imagine a leafless tree standing alone on the top of a small hill. Now cover that hill in a pristinely white covering of snow. Yes, this is super beautiful and awesome and makes you want to take out the camera and take a snapshot to make the image last an eternity. However, the first thing that I typically see is the sharp contrast between the color of the wood and the sheer white of the ground.

Is this really a bizarre quality? I wouldn't say so. But, I enjoy seeing the world through these eyes. It gives everything an extra dimension. Instead of "oh look at that nice red rose on the yellow table cloth" it seems so much nicer to look at it in terms of "oh look at the way the red lies on the yellow to create a very intriguing mood." That sort of thing.

Okay, enough of that. Onward. 

2. Silence

I think that silence is a sound that often goes far under appreciated. The Buddha stresses the value of silence, and in today's society is it nearly impossible to find complete quiet. Even in the hours of the night, there is rarely a time where you can escape the hum of an air conditioner or the ticking of a clock. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to create some objective way to compare the value of various types of silence. That's somewhat ridiculous, right? However, I do strongly hold the stance that silence is valuable, and oftentimes people miss that nowadays. 

I remember being in South Korea and stumbling across some pretty majestic scenes. I would either race ahead of the group of students or lag behind (more frequently the latter) in order to find a few minutes of quiet to soak in the view. Once the hoard of people followed in they seemed to just go unappreciative. Like they missed the que. They missed the point. It took every inner bit of power to resist the urge to yell "guys, just shut the hell up. Just shut up." 

As much as it would've felt wonderful to get my frustration out, adding anger to the noise would only obfuscate the point of silence in the first place. Silence can often be the loudest of times. Utter silence can lead to utter clarity, and utter clarity holds some pretty awesome understanding.

So maybe next time, just hold you mouth and breath in the air, listening to all that silence has to offer. 

3. Soundtrack

What does this mean? Good question. If someone told me they notice "soundtrack" I'd probably immediately write them off as a loony. Understandable. This little quirky facet of my mind is far less deep, far less practical, far less normal. I think it is fun and interesting, nonetheless.

When we listen to music I'd hope that the majority of us take in some of the song meaning. This doesn't mean that each time we hear a song we must be fully invested in the lyrical depth (or lack thereof) in a song. I know that many people ignore the lyrics intentionally. However, whether you listen to the lyrics or focus on the music, this whole little mind game works the same.

When I listen to music, I find it nearly impossible not to do one of the following:

1. Create a vivid image of what the song means to me, whether lyrically or instrumentally
2. Match the music to my surroundings to let the words/music shape the world that I am observing

Try it out sometime. You may find it appealing. I know I do.

4. Ways of Speech 

I think that peoples' speech patterns are often key characteristics of their personality. This isn't suggesting that someone's way of talking dominates their personality, but I do think that the way someone presents ideas says something about their personality. Or, perhaps, it's the other way around. Maybe personalities influence the way people speak. Regardless, I think that the way people speak is a fascinating attribute to their overall "existence."

I don't have a whole bunch to say when referring to speech, but I think that it is worth noticing, worth thinking about. Next time you meet something new pay attention to the way they form their words, they way their mouths move when talking. I think it is a charming little quality that people don't even know they have.

5. The Small Things

Yes, this one is somewhat cliche, but it couldn't be ignored. I thought'd I'd close on a universal note. We should all try our best to appreciate the small things in life, whether it be strange things like the ones listed above, or more normal things, like when your friend says "good morning" or the cafeteria is serving your favorite food for dinner. We could all be a lot happier collectively if we spent more time focusing on all of the little positive things than being weighed down by all of the petty negative things. Sure, this is so much easier said than done - trust me, I really need to work on this myself. 


Thanks, as always, for reading. I know this post lacks serious thought and deep contemplation, but I felt that both my readers and myself needed a break from heavier topics. Expect at least one more post by Saturday night! Feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you guys pick up on.

Don't forget to take the weekly poll! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Alimentary Contemplation - Part III

Due to the approaching obnoxious length of this series of posts, I'm going to do my very best to keep Part III cut and dry. Almost like an afterthought. Haven't read Parts I & II? Follow the links below to catch up before reading Part III:

Check out Part I 
Check out Part II

So you are quite possibly wondering, "what else can you possibly discuss in a blog post relating to vegetarianism?" And if you are, it is completely understandable, because I do like to think I did a pretty decent job covering a broad but detailed analysis of the diet and the effects of such a diet. 

The final thing that I'd like to touch on before wrapping this series up is the connection of vegetarianism and our fast food markets. I wrote quite an extensive article on my views pertaining to the Chick-fil-a issue (gay rights, etc), and I have been enlightened to know that Chick-fil-a and other such restaurants go beyond making a social stance - they impact the health of those that eat there.

Now, let me be clear when I say that this is not an attempt to single out Chick-fil-a. All fast food joints are guilty of serving a strange hybrid of real meat and processed food. But since Chick-fil-a has been such a hot topic lately, I thought it'd be at least somewhat appropriate.

If you go back and check out Parts I and II of this series, you can learn all about the not-so-great things in our current food processing system. Fast food restaurants are cheap - that's why we love them. The question you have to ask yourself is "why?" Well, because the quality of meat they are serving is certainly subpar. I cannot remember the numbers off the top of my head, but I believe that KFC slaughters roughly 2 billion chickens annually. And no, as much as we'd like to hope that KFC has mom and pop farms and humane slaughterhouses at HQ, the reality is that they are major proponents of the factory farm system. And I can't blame them. It's quick, easy, cheap, and it satisfies you, the mouth-watering customer. 

To be frank, I am very tired of writing on this topic. But I felt that I should close on a note that allows the reader to draw some of their own conclusions. The next time you eat at Chick-fil-a, not only should you be aware of the social implications that sandwich has, but you should be conscious of where that food comes from. I think we tend to actively try to deflect attention away from our food markets. Most of us don't do the research - we eat in blissful ignorance. When we figure out where our food does in fact come from, we make excuses. "I only eat red meat." "I only eat meat a few times a week." (P.S. - If you have to make excuses for what you're doing, you're probably not doing whatever it is that you're doing in good consciousness.) And finally, when we cannot escape the reality of what is on our stoves, we can forget about our food system when we indulge in prepared food at "fine establishments." 

This isn't to say that McDonald's and the like are doing this out of bad intentions. They are a business, satisfying a customer. But did McDonald's always have salads on the menu? Of course not. Not until a wave of pro-health frenzy swept the country. Your mouth dictates the menu. Your hunger feeds into a system that is pro-torture, and pro-unnatural.

So as much as people like to say the Chick-fil-a issue is a dead issue, it really isn't. Social issues aside, restaurants, especially fast food, will continue to feed into this system of abuse and animal destruction as long as our stomachs crave it. 

So, let's conclude. I've had enough of this topic, and I'm sure you have too. (My views have steadily gone downward.) So let's move on, but not without some serious reflection.

Next time you sit down to take a bite of your chicken sandwich, please ask yourself:

Where did this come from?
What exactly is it that I'm eating?
It this healthy?
How does this fit in with my morals on animal rights?
Who's rights am I hurting by putting my dollar towards this sandwich?

If you can answer all of those questions and leave with a 100% clean conscious, then I implore you to eat on. Otherwise, please reconsider.


Please drop a line if you care! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alimentary Contemplation - Part II

Continued from Part I

Introduction to Part II

Ok, so here we go with more of the opinionated stuff. Let me start that my opinions are not the only answers to what I will be discussing, and I don't want it to seem that way. I'm just offering what I have to say on the whole matter. Thanks again to those 4 vegetarians who offered their opinions to add to the topic! Like all four of the vegetarians who interviews, I too hold a view that when it comes to eating everyone should more or less have a to each his/her own kind of attitude; however, just like the Chick-fil-a issue, I strongly feel that everyone should be making an informed decision. So here's my decision, broken down, and as brief as possible! 

The Dichotomy of Eating Animals 

Below you will find two very cut an dry outlooks that I have. They deal with animal suffering vs. animal slaughter. For me, the ongoing suffering of animals is easily separable from the actual slaughter. So for all you readers out there who are thing "well this is a drag...he really provided no information other than surface level no-duh speculation," just keep reading because I can assure you that this will be a lengthy one. Hang tight. 

On Animal Comfort and Such

I think that it is not only difficult, but entirely impossible to derive an unclouded and unequivocal solution to the animal rights issue because it is just not possible to empirically determine the level of animal awareness and cognitive level. Yeah, sure, science can definitely help us to understand the cranial capacities of animals, and it doesn't take any scientific instruments to be altered of an animal's discomfort, but when it comes down to determining the value of an animal's life, especially when juxtaposed to that of human life, it is impossible. Animals cannot cannot accurately express themselves in terms of cognitive function because they cannot speak. And do to this lack of vocal ability, it is easy to dismiss animal misery as a simple instinctual reaction to pain. So what is all this getting at? I'd go as far to say I'm suggesting the debate of whether or not animals have souls. This can, in fact, play a role in animal rights viewpoints. However, I'd really rather not delve into the world of the spiritual right now. So, on to my opinion.

I feel very strongly that animals do experience pain. Whether or not one wants to label it as an instinctual reaction or a complex sensation of dread, it is undebatable that animals do experience nerve reactions when put in painful positions. Anyone who has a dog would also know this without much second guessing. When I accidentally step on my dog's tail, she never fails to let out a blood curdling yelp followed often by a defeated sounding whimper. Whether or not we want to call that a conscious process of identifying pain and intentionally responding, or an instinctual reaction to pain, both options suggest that what the dog is experiencing is malicious, and should be ceased on account of either personal comfort or biological well being (or both). Think about when you step on something sharp. You will lift your foot before you even have processed what really happened. Oftentimes people yell "ouch" before the pain is even felt. So no, even us humans don't "experience" pain in a way that is always completely conscious - we are simply hardwired to avoid pain because pain typically alludes to something that is not biologically advantageous (death, maybe?). So with all that said, I think that any argument that tries to say that animals do not feel pain is stupid. Sure, stupid is somewhat harsh and unsophisticated, but rather than going on to waste my breath detailing a more insightful way to express my disagreements I thought I'd throw the word out there. Now that we have that settled, it will get a bit more sticky.

On Death

This is where things start to change shape, and where many of the vegetarians will loose sight of my views. Many vegetarians would suggest that death alone is reason enough to avoid eating meat. I cannot agree. Though I have always hated to see animal cruelty, I am able (whether for better or for worse) distinguish between animal suffering and the death of an animal for food. I do not think that animals should be treated the way they are treated currently for them to land on my plate and settle in my belly...but more on that later. If an animal were to lead a decently comfortable life up until death, then it is okay to eat it. Animals eat other animals. In a natural setting, animals would probably be way more hungry and thirsty then if raised properly for meat. In the end, both a natural setting and a farmed setting lead to the same demise - death. And oftentimes, this death is by way of food-seeking. So if we're looking at this whole meat-eating issue from the insanely oversimplified view of animal welfare:  no, I do not think that it is okay to treat animals in a painful and/or abusive manner while being raised for food, but yes, I do think that the humane slaughtering of animals for human consumption is moral. My reasoning lies in the above to sections. But, alas, the issue is not this simple, and I would be doing my audience a disservice if I failed to provide a more detailled outlook on animal eating. So here goes.

The Next Nine Yards

So here goes the sticky stuff. Since there is so much that I could get into, I'm going to pull an English class technique - outline my main points in the intro. So for the sake of my own sanity, let's take a sneak preview of what you are about to read:  the value of animal life, the personal-impact syndrome, sustainability, health, and conclusions. Have patience, young padawon. We shall arrive at our destination in due time. I'll do my best to be brief. 


In Foer's book, he included a letter written by a PETA spokesperson. As I mentioned earlier, the speaker essentially equated the value of human life to animal life. Now, I am a strong supporter in the idea that all life is important and all life deserves a certain element of respect; however, I almost find it insulting to equate the value of my dog's life to my potential child's. This is ridiculous. Though animals have every right to live, they do not contribute to the complex emotional and philosophical aspects of life that make us so human. Does this mean that I am in support of mass slaughtering animals for the sake of slaughtering animals? No. But, it almost pisses me off to hear a PETA representative telling me that I shouldn't eat an animal if I wouldn't eat a loved one. To me, at least, this indicates that a major reordering of priorities needs to be done!

Let me give you some information. Living conditions for animals who are raised as food sources for humans are disgusting. Even if you don't think animals are entitled to a single living right on this earth, there are major health implications that can affect you, yes you, oh mighty human. I'll save that for later. Anyways, I'm going to save you the long list of terrible statistics and give you a brief idea. Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder in a cage with people stacked in cages above you, in the complete dark, with just barely livable ventilation, with about...30,000 other people. Oh, and you are put through periods of extreme starvation and dehydration, and then forced to eat and drink until you can't stand anymore because your body weight is too much for your undeveloped legs. But wait! You're standing so damn close to every other person in this hellish nightmare that you can't even fall over. Meet modern farming. Tyson farms. More like concentration camps. So you're probably thinking, "my meat doesn't come from there." Wrong. Upwards of 99% of chicken raised in America that land on your plate at the local KFC are raised in this fashion. Yes, this does include said "organic" and "free range" farms. Let's return to that senario in where you were standing shoulder to shoulder. Now, at the end of this darkened building, there is a tiny door that only one person can fit through at a time. On the other side of this door is a 10ft x 10ft barbed wire enclosure that meets fresh air. You are now a "free range" item for consumption. Meanwhile, you are being pumped with antibiotics at alarming rates, which in turn gives you resistance to the drugs that are being given to you.

This doesn't even tough on the slaughterhouse portion of this process. Let's now kill the chickens (after quite the treacherous transport of 24-48 hours sin proper provision of oxygen) in the most systematic way possible. This slaughter process is often filled with chickin-shit, literally. After the chickens are executed, they are sawed in half which can clearly spill fecal waste all over the chicken on account of a severed intestine. These chickens are then soaked in a coolant bath with this waste all over. Now you have a bunch of unhealthy, medicine-pumped animals, soaking in a bath with thousands of other chickens, with literal shit floating around. To economy centered individuals:  ~11% of the chicken you buy is legally permitted to be made up of this absorbed concoction of water and waste.

In cow slaughter, it is horribly frequent that cows are not killed in the first stun (which typically involves a quick blow to the cranium via metal-to-bone crunch). Cows are then subjugated to whatever the sick whims of the slaughterhouse employees are. Granted, these employees have been recorded to have a 100% turn over rate. I'll let you do that math. So let's not hate on the workers too much.

So for all of you who eat chicken because it's the "safe meat," think again. And for those of you who are "#1 chicken fans" and "can't live without your chicken," the meat you are ingesting so religiously could in fact be killing you. Now, I am an avid eater of chicken. So where does that put me? I'll address that later. 

Microeconomics of the Decision-Filled Activist

So let's switch gears here for a second. Here's where I'd like to take a look at this whole idea of "do I really make a difference?" I whole-heartedly think that though vegetarians and vegans alike are fighting a battle that they will almost inevitably never win, they are doing their part for what they believe in. They are unable to change the market, but they are very suited to abstain from it. And this is exactly what they do. So the idea of being a vegetarian and/or vegan, in a practical sense, is almost, well, for a lack of a better word, meaningless. However, on a small scale, on that person-to-person, how-are-you-living-for-your-world, making these types of decisions are monumental. And I commend all of you who abstain from eating animals for personal beliefs - good for you. There are way too many people in today's world who don't stand up for anything.

So vegan v. vegetarian. Personally, I think that it's a matter of choice. I choose to eat meat, some choose to eat some meat, others no meat at all, and finally there are those that abstain entirely from the realm of animal food products. (For those of you who don't know: vegans refute all and any animal based products, i.e. cheese, milk, ice cream,  butter, etc) So for me, no, I don't really care whether or not you choose to be vegetarian over vegan, but I can certainly see the vegan frustration on the situation. Animals raised for laying eggs and providing milk are treated essentially just as horribly and are ultimately euthanized. Their lives are filled with abuse and mal health. Yes, vegans, you do have a point. And a pretty good point at that. But as long as the vegetarian doesn't condemn the omnivore for his/her eating habits, I don't see why vegetarians and vegans can't coexist with similar goals in mind.

Now for us omnivores. As I think more and more about this whole situation, I truly am beginning to feel that being an omnivore is an irresponsible decision. I'll save this for the conclusion, but just keep in mind, everything I say is directed just as much as everyone as it is myself. 

Sustaining Unsustainablity: Environmentalism 

So we hear a lot about sustainability now a day, and oftentimes I feel that many people don't really understand what the term is referring to. It is apparent then when people talk about sustainability in an environmental sense, normally they are lecturing us on the negative things that our current generation is doing to our natural resources. Global warming and such. And because of this, many people tend to write-off the term sustainability, even when it is being used appropriately. So how does sustainability play into our food markets?

This means that the way we currently produce our meat is not able to continue indefinitely. Eventually, we will exhaust the land and supplies. We have already destroyed water systems near factory farms and slaughterhouses, and in some cases humans have suffered respiratory issues when in proximity to these plants. That's what sustainability means. The system we are using will eventually collapse. It is not feasible that we can even develop a system to meet the needs of the almost disgusting demand for meat products, especially in America.

Our food system is hurting the environment, and it is simply not built to last forever. Eventually, this system will end. Either do to a lack of health, growth of awareness, or exhaustion of resources. This may not be incredibly eminent, perse, but it certainly has the potential to grow into quite the issue. 

Where Art Thou, Mr. Turkey?

So this is where we run into this fear of genetics. Are you aware that even if a small farmer wanted to open a locally run operation, it is almost impossible to find a "heritage turkey." This means that the genetics of our animals are so skewed on such a large scale that essentially almost all genealogies of Turkey in the United States are flawed. Genetic engineering is quickly erasing the Tommy Turkey that we all think about when we sit down for Thanksgiving. 

So even for those of you who just feel so strongly that you need to eat a Turkey to preserve Thanksgiving tradition, the fact of the matter is the turkey you're eating is almost definitely not the turkey-schema we have sitting in our imaginations. The idea of farm animals has morphed into this horror show. An alarming fact:  the animals that we factory farm and systematically slaughter for human consumption are so genetically fucked-up that they cannot reproduce. So for anyone holding onto the thought that our food is brought up locally in this organic world need to seriously reevaluate the food industry. This is not like the Chick-fil-a issue. In that case, we can have some wiggle room when we look at the eating Chick-fil-a to gay rights support correlation. This is different. If you have any inclination that our food market is clean, healthy, or in any way natural, you are wrong. 

This issue of genetics isn't the end. The forced intake of mass quantities of antibiotics into the food that we eat not only destroys the purpose of the medicine in the animals, but it works to degrade the effects of antibiotics in human systems. Doctors have been interviewed to reveal that they account much of this new and unknown disease to our current food system. This is highly disturbing, at least to me. 

To save much more length, I highly encourage you all to look up the percentage of disease-infested chicken that hits our grocery stores. That's right. Salmonella, e. coli, it's disgusting. The chicken you pick up at the grocery store has pretty solid chances of being infected with something that can realistically kill you. 

My Omnivore Status 

So, after all of this, it may seem a bit confusing why I still take a omnivorous position. I am confused myself. I do think that food is an intrinsic part of culture and human being. We need food to survive, and as many people have stated before me, eating is very personal. Eating builds relationships. We take people on dates to eat. We eat family meals. Our holidays are focused around meals. Feasts. And this is not an American-exclusive phenomenon - the world around us thrives in a culture that embraces food, and meat, in a way that really stands out from other cultural behaviors. I think that it is not only rude, but simply ignorant, when vegetarians and vegans alike attempt to demonize those who eat meat. Though there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports a vegetarian diet, there is also a tremendous amount of human-interconnectedness that centers around meat eating.

As many meat-free eaters would admit, the world is far from becoming universally vegetarian. And unless there becomes a global lack of meat, I highly doubt that we will ever come close as a global community to becoming vegetarians at large. But, that isn't to say that there are trends that suggest that vegetarianism is becoming more common. As as more and more people become aware of the food industry, more and more people gravitate away from the American cookout favorites. We have all been at least semi-aware that our food comes from places that we'd rather not think about. That in itself is pretty startling. However, when we really look at the nitty-gritty details, we can really begin to get an understanding of how messed up the system really is. And maybe even worse, the potential it has to backfire on human health and species existence.

Call it extreme - in some ways, it is. But again, nothing changes without a hint of extremism. I think that everyone should choose to eat the way they eat, but with reason. I thought long and hard about my eating habits after reading Eating Animals, and I ultimately felt that eating meat was the right choice for me; however, with each day I become more and more apprehensive about what goes from fork to stomach. I have never been fond of beef and pork, so I am slowly fazing them out of my diet. Like I said, cattle are often raised in better conditions than chickens, but that's not my reasoning. My reasoning is this: why eat something you aren't drawn to that will cause more suffering if you eat it?

So, no, I'm not saying that you should stop eating meat. But I am saying this much:  our system, no matter what argument you want to throw at me, is flawed. And it certainly is not at a level of optimum health, for animals or humans, at that. You can continue to eat meat, but unless we stop driving the demand for this meat through the roof, we are running on thin ice. Americans are known as the ultra-consumers, and to be honest, I'm damn tired of hearing fellow American's making excuses for American habits. America is a great place, but we are consuming the hell out of, well, everything. 

All I ask is this: whether American or not, it would be in everyone's best interest if you stopped for a minute to think about what you're putting in your mouth. As Thanksgiving lingers, and your mouth watters for Tommy Turkey, you may want to think twice before indulging in what is a far-cry from a storybook animal.


Thank you so much for reading. I know that this is a controversial topic, so everyone please take it with at least a grain of salt. I would absolutely love to hear what everyone has to say about this topic.

Keep posted for Part III of the series. It will be the final installment! In the meantime, check out what you might have missed, and take a minute to answer the weekly poll!