Court Decision a Victory for Mosquera’s Rightful 2011 Qualification & Election

(TRENTON) – Assembly Women & Children Committee Chairwoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman on Thursday praised the U.S. District Court decision that declared that the residency requirement in the debate over Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester)’s election was unconstitutional.

The District court rejected a previous decision by the state Supreme Court in the challenge to Mosquera’s 2011 election, where she overwhelmingly defeated her Republican opponent.

“The District Court’s decision is clear, rejecting a partisan sour-grapes effort to prevent Assemblywoman Mosquera from being seated, despite her overwhelming victory in November 2011.” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).  “The courts and the people of the 4th legislative district have spoken–vindicating Assemblywoman Mosquera’s qualification and election despite a partisan lawsuit.  Having been decisively and duly elected in 2011, Assemblywoman Mosquera is laser-focused on fighting for the middle-class.  It is a shame that a partisan lawsuit and partisan court decisions have caused the 4th district to hold an unnecessary election this November.”

“The only leverage that Assemblywoman Mosquera’s opponents had was the state Supreme Court decision that her residency was invalid.  Today a federal court judge declared that was not the case,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “I think it’s time for her opponents to accept defeat and allow Assemblywoman Mosquera to focus on the needs of the people who overwhelmingly elected her to office. The taxpayers should not have to incur the cost of an unnecessary election, but unfortunately, partisan concerns mean they will have to foot the bill for it anyway.”

After the 2011 redistricting process and the ensuing legislative elections, Mosquera’s election was challenged by the losing candidate, who claimed Mosquera’s election was invalid because she had moved into the newly-configured district 10 months before the election. Despite a 10-year old federal precedent declaring the residency requirement unconstitutional in the election immediately following redistricting, state courts permitted Mosquera to be seated but required her to run in a special election in 2012.

Earlier this week, the United States District Court held that the failure to follow the federal court order was not proper.

The following Assembly Democratic women joined Lampitt and Watson Coleman’s call:

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano
Assemblywoman Linda Stender
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey
Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker
Assemblywoman Grace Spencer
Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter
Assemblywoman Marlene Caride
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner

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What We Can All Learn About Responsible Gun Ownership From the Tragic Mistakes of Others

Anyone who knows me knows that I, like most red-blooded American males, enjoy a good explosion every now and again.  Michael Bay movies were great for a while, but then I turned 13; and with the onset of puberty began what I hope will be a lifelong responsible relationship with projectile weapons.  You say “hope,” because as anyone who doesn’t live in fantasy land is painfully aware, people are not perfect; they make mistakes.  Mistakes can be painful and embarrassing, but mistakes made while in possession of a firearm can be downright life-altering.

I know that many people, myself included, are not immune to the “it will never happen to me” philosophy: I was one of them.  However, a recent tragedy in my own backyard of Boulder, CO involving the mistaken shooting by a homeowner of a drunken college girl who mistakenly wandered into his house caught me seriously off guard.  Essentially, a married couple were asleep in their bed late last Wednesday night when they were awakened by the startling sound of someone crashing around their house.  The unidentified perpetrator made its way to the couple’s bedroom after coming in through the closed-but-not-locked screen door, and woke the couple.  The man (who’s name is Justice, by the way, how fucking awesome is this line from the article: “Justice fired one shot,”), after screaming that he had a gun and he would use it if whoever-the-fuck-you-are doesn’t beat pavement right now, wound up taking a shot that hit this unfortunate girl in the hip.  The rest is history: Colorado’s make my day law protected the homeowner from criminal and civil liability in the matter, and the girl survived, though she is still in the hospital.

My initial reaction to this incident was one of horror: shooting someone mistakenly is a worst case scenario for a responsible gun owner.  In my world, just because I wouldn’t be charged with shooting her or having to defend myself in civil court would not mean that I could just let the whole thing wash off.  I’m not trying to judge, because after all I think the shooters did a lot of things right.  They heard someone in their house, outside their bedroom.  If that doesn’t get your hairs standing on end, I don’t know what will.  They shouted a warning to the intruder and told them they had a gun and would use it if they came any closer.  The intruder was silent: eery shit.  Then, he fired one time, not some spray and pray gangster crap.

However, while I can totally understand that armchair quarterbacking this scenario is unhelpful to everyone, there are some pretty valuable lessons that I learned from this and wish to share.    After all, if you’re going to own a weapon, you must temper that awesome power with responsibility less you wind up as a cautionary tale like these poor folks.  Better to have too much responsibility than not enough.

Lesson 1: A Locked Front Door is Your Friend

The trespasser gained entry through closed, but unlocked, screen door.  Given that the cops measured her BAC at .2 after they showed up, it strains credulity that this woman would have possessed the necessary motor skills to have found her way past the simplest (yet often most effective) security mechanism: the pesky deadbolt.  If she had to break into the house rather than simply gain entry through an open door, chances are it would have taken her longer to accomplish, and she would have made more noise that would have alerted the couple to her presence before she got to the entrance of their bedroom.  This may have given them time to have oriented themselves properly and maybe even make a better decision about whether to pull the trigger (though that is still not a guarantee).

I say this because my housemate constantly makes fun of me for locking the door when I am at home, as he thinks it is unnecessary.  I most passionately disagree, as even though the presence of our two dogs might provide some early alert to a potential intruder (though likely it won’t, as they tend to bark at goddamned everything that moves outside), it’s still not going to buy enough time to escape out the back or take up a defensive position in the (admittedly unlikely) scenario that some dude is busting through the door looking to fuck up my day.

Lesson 2: Back Light Your Target If At All Possible (And It’s Always Possible)

Shooting in the dark is hard, and shooting when you just woke up (I imagine, because I’ve never done it) is hard as well.  You can’t see what’s going on, and if you just woke up you’re not going to be 100% oriented and on the ball, so mistakes will be magnified.  That being said, you want to give yourself every conceivable advantage when dealing with these situations.  It is said in countless places that back lighting a target provides for a serious advantage.  If you turn on the lights in your bedroom, but the target is down the hall, that will just make you more visible to your target, and actually make the target less visible to you.  Advantage homeowner if you can set up a system that shines light on the target and leaves you in the dark.  That way you can see them and they can’t see  you.

As someone who maintains a nightstand gun, I have to admit that I never thought about the idea of back lighting until this article really brought the point home.  If you own your home, it would not take much to set up an electrical switch next to your bed that turned on the lights in the hallway outside the bedroom.  After reading this article, it is something I will most certainly do the minute I move into my own home.  If I’m in an apartment, and I want to keep the nightstand gun with the legitimate intention of using it if threatened, there is no excuse–run an extension chord to a standing lamp down the hall and connect that fucker to a foot switch near the bed.  Then you can be in a real advantageous position, as you’ll know what the fuck you’re shooting at before you pull the trigger, which brings us to…

Lesson 3: Know What The Fuck You’re Shooting At or Don’t Shoot At All

That’s basically the first rule of gun safety, loosely translated: don’t point a gun at anything you are not wishing to destroy.  When you aim a barrel at “shadows” you wind up putting lead through walls and into the baby’s room or a neighbor’s house, or in this scenario, a drunk chick who unfortunately got too schwasty after graduation and didn’t know what the fuck she was getting herself into.  I have a lot of sympathy for the girl, having done a lot of dumb shit myself while a bit too seduced by the water of life.  Thankfully, I never GOT SHOT IN THE HIP for my troubles.  I’m not making excuses for her–people need to be able to handle their shit–but I sympathize.  I sympathize with the guy who shot her too, because I’m sure he feels like a real goat (his wife had legitimate fears about stalking, and let’s be real, psychiatrists are the type of people who would be more exposed to actual crazies, which brings us back to Lesson 1…), but that’s the thing about sympathy: it just doesn’t put hemoglobin back into the circulatory system.

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Populist Rage and the Specter of Neo-Nazism in Greece, oder Mein Kampf mit der Politik

It is doubtful that anyone in America has heard about this, or frankly could give two shits if they had, but the European community has reacted with disgust at the recent results of the Greek parliamentary elections held on May 6, 2012 in which the Golden Dawn (a party advocating Neo-Nazism) received a startlingly high 7% of the vote.  Of course, the European community has reacted with disgust at these relatively high electoral numbers, with bloggers heaping shame on the Greek electorate for its perceived proto-fascist bent.  (Neni Panourgiapenned an article for Al Jazeera critical of the party’s frequent vigilante and racist ideology in which she identifies such a proto-fascist movement as a more general ‘European Problem’).

Ms. Panourgia’s article nicely documents the terrorist tactics employed by the Golden Dawn since the 1970’s, and identifies their racism and bigotry.  However, the article leaves unanswered its author’s most potent question, posed in the last third of her piece:

“Why would Greeks, who fought against totalitarianism in massive numbers and paid one of the heaviest tolls in Europe for their participation in the resistance against Nazi Germany, vote for this despicable, emetic, and deeply anti-political formation, even as a protest?”

This is a question that is not on its surface an easy one to answer, yet with some careful consideration, one can pose a partially satisfactory answer.  Being an amateur student of Western history, I for one am not surprised that the populist Golden Dawn party should see a surge in public support at a time when Greece and the rest of Europe are being driven ever closer to the brink of economic disaster.  The austerity programs which left millions of people unemployed and begging in the streets have been perceived as a massive failure by all but the financiers of the European monetary system (not to mention Germany and France, who were forced to shoulder heavy burdens in order to inject capital into the Greek economy and who saw their continued entanglement as an undesirable alternative to restrictive austerity whose principle effects would be felt only in Greece), and given the rise of serious talks of kicking Greece out of the Euro, one must expect a steep incline in populist anger to manifest itself in the polls.

A rise in public outrage is to be expected in times of economic decline—we’ve witnessed it in America in recent years with the Tea Party movement, and before that with the much more subdued xenophobia of Pat Buchanan’s failed presidential campaign.  Both of these domestic movements contained more than a hint of racial or other types of bias and short-sighted reactions, but even by the worst accounts they are not seriously comparable to Nazism.  However, given that it seems to be only natural for people to lash out at something—anything—in difficult times, one can’t help but wonder whether criticizing these movements on their face, as many in America have done with the Tea Party and Mr. Buchanan, and as Ms. Panourgia has more recently done with the Golden Dawn, is a constructive project.  Not surprisingly, such tongue-in-cheek criticisms—almost always made with a condescending tone from a privileged universalist position of multiculturalism, which always risks nothing but words—will be well received by the indoctrinated left, and conversely easily dismissed by those on the right who are consumed by populist rage.

Slajov Zizek, an intellectual hero of mine for some time, has written extensively on the subject of populist anger, dedicating an entire chapter to it in his 2008 book, In Defense of Lost Causes (IDLC).  Though he himself ultimately disagrees with the theoretical implications of populism for reasons too complicated to get into here, he nicely elucidates some of its more desirable practical qualities.  From a starting point, he describes populism as occupying a position that is:

“ultimately always sustained by ordinary people’s frustrated exasperation, by a cry of ‘I don’t know what’s going on, I just know I’ve had enough of it!  It can’t go on!  It must stop!’—an impatient outburst, a conviction that there must be somebody responsible for all the mess which is why an agent who is behind the scenes and explains it all is required.”  (IDLC, 282).

Zizek’s initial observation seems similar to the much rehashed critiques of populist movements levied by liberal-multiculturalists who esteem tolerance of otherness as the highest virtue; namely that such movements are the product of an infantile lashing out at the world, or an oversimplified view of a complex situation.  Anyone who has had any experience with the Tea Party or has studied the rise of Nazism after World War I can attest to the fact that these criticisms are undoubtedly well founded.  However, they fail to recognize the aborted revolutionary potential that is present within all populist movements from the rise of fascism in post-war Europe to the modern day reprisal of Nazism in Greece and elsewhere in the Eurozone.  The problem with populism, is that it correctly identifies an injustice (almost always capitalist excesses that have led to difficult economic times for the “average” citizen), but fails to recognize that the source of that injustice is systemic.  Rather than direct criticism at the system directly, populists movements almost always take for granted the fact that the system is inherently sound, moral, and good, preferring to single out a behind-the-scenes actor whose excessive qualities have poisoned the erstwhile harmonious structure.  Or, from Zizek:

“For a populist, the cause of the trouble is ultimately never the system as such, but the intruder who corrupted it (financial manipulators, not capitalists as such, etc.); not a fatal flaw inscribed into the structure as such, but an element that does not play its part within the structure properly.  For a Marxist, on the contrary (as for a Freudian), the pathological (the deviant misbehavior of some elements) is the symptom of the normal, an indicator of what is wrong in the very structure that is threatened with the ‘pathological’ outbursts…. This is why fascism definitely is a populism; its figure of the Jew is the equivalential point of the series of (heterogeneous, inconsistent even) threats experienced by individuals: the Jew is simultaneously too intellectual, dirty, sexually voracious, hard-working, financially exploitative  . . .” (IDLC, P 279).

The problem with populism is not that it is inherently “proto-fascist,”—far from it.  In many ways, the populist rage that is so easily condemned by self-described rational thinkers as childish outbursts of temperamental dilettante political actors is in actuality only slightly misguided.  If we are to single out one problem with populist rage, it is not, as its critics would allege, that it is too radical in its ideology and openness to brash or even violent political action.  On the contrary, the problem with populism is that it is not radical enough in its thinking and execution—it does not pursue the logic of its own presuppositions to their rational end.

 For example, in post WWI Germany, instead of directing anger toward central bankers and speculators, the National Socialists fixated on the figure of the Jew, upon whom all of the properties of the evil capitalists were transposed.  This was rather convenient for those who were in power at the time, as they ultimately had used all of the dirty capitalist tricks to consolidate wealth for themselves.  It would have been patently against their own interests to direct populist anger against the very system that ensured their survival, and so the Jew—a figure that had historically been mistrusted in European history—made a convenient scapegoat.  Modern populism is strikingly similar, except that the specter of illegal immigration has been transplanted in the place of the figure of the Jew.

It is for these reasons that the holier-than-though, let’s-all-just-talk-about-this, criticisms of the multiculturalist left are ultimately misguided.  Leaving behind the obvious fact that it is impossible to use reason to diffuse rage (be it justifiable or otherwise), the liberal multiculturalists completely overlook the positive aspects of populist political movements—namely, that they are essentially 85% correct in that they identify a serious problem, only they fail to look for solutions in the proper way.  One can’t help but wonder whether there is not some kernel of truth within modern populism that can be harnessed and put toward some more positive revolutionary purpose.  These movements at their most profound can be used as engines to affect positive change, or they can devolve into self-destructive forces of horrific proportions–begetting childish violence for its own sake. 

At a time when popular anger is on the rise, it would behoove those on the left to take notice of the revolutionary potential at its center, especially at such a key time in history.  Perhaps the biggest difference between our current situation and that which gave birth to National Socialism in the 1930′s is one of scale: in post WWI Germany, the state of economic inflation and the general destitution of the populace had gotten so bad that people had taken to burning their paper money for heat rather than spending it.  The situation in Greece has not yet become so dire, though it is fast approaching a tipping point.

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Ah Poo is Here

The camera comes into focus on a brightly lit room—podium standing majestically at the center with microphones glimmering under harsh lights.  Looking conservative and regal dressed in a gray suit and black tie, Our Attorney General paces nervously backstage, flapping his hands at his sides and muttering quietly to himself.  In a few moments, he is scheduled to address the nation about the many scandals that have plagued his administration, most recently the extrajudicial murder of two of our citizens.  Given his proximity to the Rich Old Farts who control the media, he is confident that the well-orchestrated cover up will have taken effect, and he will not be required to answer too many difficult questions before retreating back to the comfort of his insular home.

“Like swine to the trough,” he assures himself.  Nevertheless, he continues pacing, as there have been rumors of far-off tremors preceded by the honest blue ozone smell of lightning in the distance.

Inconspicuously, a young man in a patchwork jacket two sizes too large and a ridiculously outdated fedora with a conspicuous “PRESS” card jammed into the brim leans confidently against the back wall, checking a gold pocket watch and carefully surveying the room.  He gives off the appearance as being just another fixture in the back stage area—so seamless that you’d almost never notice he was there, ridiculous as that sounds given his curious mode of appearance.  He had been told that the secret to maintaining a low profile in a public space is to see everyone else before they see you, and that was what our young friend had been doing; standing and surveying, taking note of everyone who walked in and out of the area.

Suddenly, as if in response to some unknown signal, our young friend snaps his watch shut and replaces it in his jacket pocket, walking assertively toward Our Attorney General with a congenial smile and an outstretched hand.

“Just wanted to thank you, sir, for your consideration in letting me back here to talk with your handlers—erm—assistants.  It was a fantastic opportunity for me, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the story when it hits the papers tomorrow morning.”

“Yes,” replied the man in the grey suit as he shook the reporter’s hand, “I trust that I will.  Now, if you will excuse me, there’s the matter of this press conference.  You should have a seat in the audience.  I’m sure you’ll want to take good notes for your story.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” replied our young friend.  “I have already accomplished everything that I came here to do.”

Perplexed but unfazed, Our Attorney General broke his grip of the reporter’s hand and went back to pacing and muttering.  The reporter simply walked away through the door in the back of the room, quickly removing a thin latex, skin-colored, glove from his hand as he went, and deposited it in a trashcan outside.  Once outside, he casually lit a cigarette, took two long puffs, and got into the backseat of an idling Lincoln Town Car.  In another instant, he and the car had vanished, leaving behind nothing but a faint puff of blue smoke.

Back inside, Our Attorney General enters briskly from stage right and approaches his awaiting public.  He steps up to the podium, as he had done countless times in the past, and opens his mouth to speak, but the words do not come.  He clears his throat with a loud “harrumph” peculiar to men steeped in power and privilege, and tries again, but to his horror—instead of the carefully practiced speech—a small but utterly recognizable piece of shit comes flopping out of his mouth and lands with a splat on the top of the podium.  Silence fills the room.  Appalled by this irregularity, but never one to lose face in public, Our Attorney General quickly clenches his teeth and claps a clammy hand over his tight mouth, betraying more than a hint of embarrassment on his sallow face.  He coughs twice quietly to keep up appearances, arranges a pile of papers on the podium, and again looks into the uncaring glow of the teleprompter.

Tentatively, he opens his mouth again and begins to speak, but is suddenly stricken with a feeling of dread as the words again catch in his throat.  Something is building inside him.  Something is not right.  Horrified, he draws in a deep breath and attempts to hold it, but the pressure proves too powerful, and as he opens his mouth to begin his speech, a torrent of foul-smelling excrement is propelled from his gaping maw, showering the reporters and onlookers below with flecks of shit.

“SHIT!” he exclaims to himself, white with terror, standing transfixed by the piercing gazes from below.  But it was building again, and there was nothing to be done to stop it.  Like a volcanic eruption, the shit began to flow freely from Our Attorney General’s helpless orifice, landing in a resentful pile on the papers in front of him, dripping down the microphone wires, and pooling in a fetid puddle at his feet.

It kept coming for what seemed like an eternity, spraying every corner of the room, collecting on the lenses of the television cameras, and defiling the reporters’ notepads.  A high-maintenance blonde cast a look of disgust at Our Attorney General as she attempted to clean a persistent glob off of her new Prada pumps.  Women screamed, and a few of them fainted.  Some of the veterans weathered the storm without a bit of surprise: they had come prepared with umbrellas and plastic ponchos.

As quickly and unexpectedly as the torrent began, it stopped.  No longer did Our Attorney General feel the building pressure inside his stomach—gone was the feeling of dread as his throat cleared up as if by some miracle.  Astonished, but relieved that the worst was behind him, he opened his mouth to speak to the people below:

“I  most sincerely apologize if any of you were offended just now in some way,” he began, “I must confess, I have been feeling under the weather today.  My adviser begged me to cancel my engagement.  It appears that I should have listened to him.  Not to worry, ladies and gentlemen, the Office of the Attorney General will gladly pay for dry cleaning and, um, any other expenses that this unfortunate illness may have caused. “  Looking around the room sheepishly, he paused for a moment and again looked into the teleprompter.

“I resign!” he shouted violently.  And again, he covered his mouth with a hand reflexively, his eyes darting furiously back and forth, looking desperately for a way out.

“I RESIGN!” he shouted uncontrollably through his hand and clenched teeth, “I RESIGN, I RESIGN, I RESIGN, I RESIGN, I RESIGN!”

By now, the entire experience was too much for Our Unfortunate Attorney General to bear, and he took off running stage left like a frightened school child.  The reporters looked around instinctively at one another, but generally made no new expressions of surprise.  A man in the front row looked up from his notebook, of which he had filled a solid four pages with frantic scribbling, and, almost as if annoyed at being short-changed by the whole ordeal, cast a wistful glance at his watch, got up with a prolonged sigh, and made a casual exit toward the door.  The others soon followed suit, heading back to their offices and studio apartments to churn out tomorrow’s story over four fingers of whisky.

Meanwhile, at the outskirts of town, the Lincoln pulls up to a small house and stops.  Johnsons with gleeful smiles eagerly step off the front porch and open the back door to the Town Car, excited to greet the Director of the Germ Warfare Division as he steps out; looking somehow regal dressed in his patchwork jacket and fedora.  He returns their knowing looks, shares their good cheer, and enters the house behind them with a bounce in his step.

“Really, it was nothing.  Just a simple truth serum and nothing more….”

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Alfa Art Gallery’s New Brunswick Salon ~ Call for Artists

New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall 2011 – Call for Artists

About the Exhibition

In the 18th and 19th century, Art Salons were the greatest annual or biannual art events in the Western world, celebrating the farthest advances in academia and the arts. The Alfa Art Gallery, in order to bridge talented and highly esteemed artists with the New Brunswick public, holds its own Art Salon exhibition biannually in the spring and fall.

Call for Entries

The Alfa Art Gallery would like to invite artists to submit work for the New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall ’11. There are two artist categories: newly emerging artists and professional artists. All submissions must be in by September 25. Artists will be notified if their work is accepted by September 30. The exhibition opening will be held on Friday, October 21.

Theme

For this exhibition, artists must submit works celebrating diversity or unity in a community.

Submission Requirements

All applicants must be associated with New Brunswick as a resident or as an artist who exhibits in New Jersey. Students and faculty members of Rutgers University and neighboring schools may enter. You must at least be pursuing an undergraduate career to participate. Degree does not need to be related to art.  There is no limit to the number of works entered.

To enter for consideration, please email the following to info@alfaart.org:

  • Images with title/dimensions
  • Resume/CV
  • Statement about your work
Or contact:
Jewel Lim, Event coordinator,

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Reflections of a Philosophy Major ~ Ben Kharakh

I’m a philosophy major, which means that I like having things spelled out for me. Case in point: my first day of philosophy class, wherein it was explained to me why thinking is important. “Thinkin’? Important?” Whodathunkit?! Simon Blackburn thunks so because how you think about something affects how you do it or if you do it at all. Could I have provided you with a list of reasons why thinking was important prior to that moment? Maybe, but I’m not a fan of arguing over guesses. “Was Mona a character on Who’s The Boss? Or Charles in Charge?” So, instead, I quote Blackburn a lot because I find his comment to be profound.

“You mean obvious!” If it’s so obvious, why aren’t you teaching a philosophy class? “I don’t want to!” Really? All you’d have to do is say a bunch of obvious shit for eighty minutes to a bunch of idiots. “Why idiots?” Who if not idiots is gonna pay to listen to some stranger spew obvious shit for an hour plus? “Good point!” It’s obvious though, isn’t it?

That a knife in the face might kill you may be obvious, but if you didn’t know that you’d be dead by now or have half a face.  ”I wouldn’t pay someone to tell me obvious stuff!” Obvious stuff isn’t necessarily worthless though. If philosophy’s worthless, then my degree isn’t worth squat. And by that logic, raising kids is worth less than squat because that’s what we pay our mothers. “But mothers are priceless!” And that’s what I’d call my degree: priceless. Well, two-fifths of it. One fifth I’d call timeless since I minored in history, and the other two-fifths I wouldn’t know what to call if you wanted to debate the merits of English.

For the sake of argument, though, I’ll grant that philosophy is obvious. In fact, I’d say that the philosophy that resonates with me most is the most obvious, indisputable (yet controversial!), and blandest stuff anyone could tell me about myself or the world. “I coulda told you that!” Huh? “I coulda told you that you learn about yourself from others.” Holy crap; keep going! “You often see ourselves as others do!”  This guy’s a genius! PUT THIS IN A BOOK! There’s not going to be anything to put in a book if you keep spoiling it like this. That took me six pages to say! (I had to put that in italics so that you’d know I was doing a third voice. And I had to put all this between parentheses so that you’d know it was me, Ben. Hope you can keep up!)

One of my issues with philosophy is how long it takes many philosophers to say what they say.  Example: Thomas Nagel’s What is it Like to be a Bat? In this essay, Nagel talks about how we can study a bat and imagine ourselves as a bat, but we still wouldn’t know what it’s like for a bat to be a bat because the objective study of a thing does not reveal the subjective experience of being that thing. A very accurate description! Unfortunately, in the amount of time it takes Nagel to say all this I could have actually dressed up as a bat, flapped my arms around, eaten some bugs, and then thought, “Something’s gotta be missing because these bugs are gross, my arms are tired, and I haven’t flown an inch!”

I think there’s a good reason for writing philosophy the way that it’s often written, though. This is because I often think of philosophy as horribly, unfunny satire. See, a lot of philosophers try to give as accurate a description of everyday stuff as possible, but they do it in such a way that the everyday appears alien. That’s why so many philosophers write circuitously, use unfamiliar language, make up their own words, or just use traditional words and phrases in untraditional ways. They’re trying to wake you up to the world around you! Luke Wilson wakes up in the future in Idiocracy, but he really wakes up IN THE PRESENT! Philosophy’s a trip! So, if you love rollin’ dubbs, you’ll love Wittgenstein! Just don’t smoke Schopenhauer; he’s a bit of a downer!

“Long words? Telling me stuff I probably already know? These people sound elitist!” I’d say there’s more to elitism than using long words. You’d have to, for example, think you were better than other people because you used long words, sorta like how you think you’re better than elitists for thinking they’re better than you. “OH SHIT!”

Not all philosophers are elitists, of course, but a number of people I’ve come across seem to think that they’re engaged in privileged thinkin’. “I’m wonderin’ bout stuff common folks couldn’t even imagine!” I think of philosophy as just another type of thinkin’, which means that I think philosophers and non-philosophers think about the same stuff. “Like what it would be like if Arnold Schwartzegger was shrunk down to teeny-tiny size and injected into someone’s body like in Inner Space?”  The 1987 action-comedy-adventure, staring Martin Short, Dennis Quaid, and Meg Ryan?! “The Joe Dante picture?” Who? “ME! Directing’s been slow, so I’m taking on roles in third rate puppet shows to supplement my income.” Third rate?!” “Listen: I get paid by the hour, so unless this is going somewhere you better wrap it up!” Right, so, yes, I think about Arnold Schwartzegger being shrunk down to teeny-tiny size. I also think that a philosopher’s no more likely to find the truth or think rigorously than a non-philosopher.

I’m also of the opinion that there’s no necessarily inaccessible knowledge, although some disagree. I’ve had people (more than one!) tell me that there might be biological reasons why I couldn’t know or understand something. “I think they called you retarded,” my friend said. (I had to cite my friend on that one not so you’d know I have friends but because I’m writing a joke research paper. Thanks B.C.!) So if anyone knows something, I think they can explain it to you. And claiming otherwise is just a lie the man made up to keep you down!

When philosophers do explain things they often use analogies, which is fine if you recognize that thought experiments only highlight what’s similar between things rather than what’s the same about them. And when people fail to recognize this, they end up taking seriously something that’s absurd, like wondering if we’re always dreaming. Don’t worry, we’re not, because that’s not what it means to dream! Unfortunately, too often philosophers forget or aren’t aware of obvious stuff like what it means to dream or how we use words. Plenty of people make the same mistakes, but they don’t know they’re making them. As a result, people find ludicrous things to be genius. And that’s why hundreds of years later I end up having to write essays explaining how we use words and why we can’t always be dreaming; or why I find myself in a classroom being told that it’s a strike against a theory if it disallows time travel.

That’s right: in philosophy class, it’s minus points if your plans mean you can’t Quantum Leap into Genghis Khan. I’m pretty sure “no time travel” isn’t a problem anywhere else. “Hey, you wanna hang out?” With dinosaurs and Richelieu?! “No, with me.” Nah, I’m good. “Hey, I’m gonna order a pizza. Want some?” Is it one of those time traveling pizzas? “Is that like a pizza that’s already eaten by the time you get it? Because I’m not paying for an empty box.” Then, no, I don’t want any.

And that brings me to my final (for now) gripe with philosophers: they spend too much time mulling over stuff that cannot be practically applied to everyday living, like whether the world is made out of stuff or ideas. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to be told you didn’t understand someone’s long, convoluted, and circuitous paper—or book!— on why ideas are more real than stuff could ever be? Euch! And then, to cap it off, the author says that she’s figured out philosophy forevers. So we can rest our heads because the debate over whether stuff or ideas are the real deal is over. We can finally go on living our lives because she’s done all the important thinkin’ for us! No dice says this guy!

That’s right, lady I made up. I saw through your purported shangri-la of heuristics for what it really is–a dreamed up world of rules and regulations that shields you from an indisputable matter of fact:  that you, like me, are the same– just a couple of animals. And, like all animals, you and I will one day die. The real tragedy is not that your behavior alienates the people most likely to help you, but that you’ve been living in a dream for so long that you’ve come to mistake it for waking life. But, you know what? You can put up all the walls you want and stick porcelain or tile wherever you please, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re all squatting when we shit, that we all shit outside, and that everybody dies. Yeah, where’d you think the houses were? They’re outside! And maybe if Gargamel knew this stuff, he’d stop trying to kill the Smurfs (they’re just fun-sized humans!).

That’s what I think of when I think of philosophy: trying to understand the world and what about it makes me laugh. Along the way, I hope to break down walls, bring us all closer together, and be a good person.

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JVP Speaks: Wikileaks & Transparency

In the wake of the latest Wikileaks disclosure, how much should we, as people, know? Is there such a thing as knowing too much? Or are some things best left unsaid?

Rebecca Zandstein: I cannot answer what we should “as people” know, but I strongly believe that as American citizens we should be extensively educated on matters that can allow us to become better political activists and voters. The government should not be hiding relevant information on wars, for example, since it relates to those that are representing us and whom we vote for. Information should be disclosed as long as it is not secret information relating to positions, strategies, and informants’ names. Otherwise, just like The Pentagon Papers allowed us to see the corruption within our government [officials]. WikiLeaks allows us to have more accurate body counts in Iraq and shows the public that Iraq is indeed a “bloodbath on every corner”.

Everyone chooses to live and see their own version of reality but in the end there is only one. The reality that the American government sets out for the public should not be masked in an attempt to make the public “safe” and “secure” in knowing untruths. As long as our national security is not at risk, there should not be such extreme restrictions on publications released for the public to become more educated.

Mike Stuzynsk: The problem with the stuff released by wikileaks is that it is shockingly bland.  Australia doesn’t think Iran is the devil–holy shit, no way!  It seems so me like these leaks are really a non-issue and the government is making a bigger deal about it than needs to be made.

Jhoany Benitez: There IS such a thing as knowing too much. Some things are irrelevant pieces of information. Curiosity is not always a good thing; it can lead to paranoia and losing trust. While it is good to know things, it is also a bad thing to know everything. Part of the beauty of life is its mystery.

Ben Kharakh: I endorse the idea of Wikileaks with the hope that the fact that we now know what’s going on will make people change for the better (as opposed to staying the same and just getting better at hiding information). Will this actually happen? On this issue I remain agnostic.

I also think, though, that power should not be focalized in such a manner that individuals are able to affect the lives of so many people so quickly. And in those instances when it’s unavoidable that people become this powerful, I’d prefer that their activity be as transparent as possible so that I know just exactly what’s going on with that power.

Some of the leaked info seemed private and some may argue that, as a result, the information is not inappropriate to know (and in this case I don’t mean people’s names, etc). I don’t buy the whole private/public dichotomy, nor the offline/online distinction. Private stuff is just public stuff we don’t want other people to know about (and I don’t mean your email passwords). And how one behaves in private, methinks, is indicative of how one behaves in public. Unfortunately, too often a lot of the behavior showcased in the cables is treated as gossip rather than a justification for improvement. Although, given that all the starlets the media harangues have yet to better themselves, maybe I’m naïve to expect the same of diplomats and leaders.

Lastly, I’m gonna paraphrase my friend Maximum Barkley (Barkley to the max!) and say that the success of Wikileaks is indicative of a failure on the part of contemporary journalism. The fourth estate, I would say, has dropped a ball in terms of being the party to get this sort of information. Sure, the press is writing article about this stuff, but it’s not the press that’s getting the stuff in the first place. They need to hit the pavement harder!

Brendan Kaplan: I think that as individuals that make up a larger body politic, complete with its own behavior, rationalization process, and mechanisms of action, it is important to understand what that body is doing.

In other words, we need to understand the processes being carried out by society through its aggregation and direction of our behavioral outputs. What is not necessary, however, is to release content beyond that which is not necessary to fully describe the process to which the content claims to be relevant.

In the case of the Wikileaks, it is important for the public to understand the types of practices that the United States carries out. If this could be done without releasing the names of specific dates, then it should be.

Additionally, Wikileaks would be able to take the moral high ground in any argument claiming, “We were vague… claiming that this foreign power is worried about that foreign power. Then the 1st power started arguing and claiming that we were only making it up. We were thus forced to release the details to back up what we are saying. If they had just accepted the truth in the first place instead of trying to lie about it, we would have spared that nasty details”

Basically, process is necessary to understand, and some content is required for individuals to understand process. If content is released that is not necessary to understand process, than that release is done so for publicity or political purposes.

Personally, I think Wikileaks walks a fine line between the two and has engaged in both. One thing is for certain right now though: Julian Assange is in way over his head and is part of something he can no longer control.

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Inside JVP: An Interview with Brendan McInerney by Ben Kharakh

I joined the JVP too late to get to spend much time with Brendan McInerney. But the few days that I did get to see him, he was nothing but delightful and fascinating. So, getting the chance to speak with the person behind such wonderful photographs was a great opportunity.

From talking to Brendan for just a little bit, I was able to tell how much of him is in his work. Brendan captures emotion with his lens in the same way a poet wrangles up feelings with words. He doesn’t take photos; he snaps haikus. And that’s only scratching the surface of Brendan McInerney.

What brought you to Rutgers? Originally I wanted to go to RIT in Rochester, NY because they have a great photography program. However, due to budgetary constraints, I decided to head to Rutgers instead. I had decided before I went off to college that photojournalism would be the best way to pursue an interesting career in photography while not starving to death. Since Rutgers didn’t have a photojournalism major, I decided to study plain journalism (unfortunately), though I never took their photojournalism class. Since the journalism ‘major’ only consists of 30 credits, I was done with it in a couple of semesters. I was also taking Spanish classes at the time. I had intended on it being my minor but I did the math and realized that I could double major. So, I did.

What sort of aspirations did you have growing up and which of these, if any, are you putting the most effort into making a reality? I’ve had a million aspirations growing up, I’ve wanted to be every type of scientist, a politician, a historian, I even considered majoring in African studies at one point. The closer I got to graduation, the poorer my idea about my future was. I have since graduated and I am now a ‘committed lost soul,’ as my dear friend Alejandra so deftly put it.

I started to look into photography at the end of high school although I had always enjoyed taking photographs. After I finished the journalism major, I realized that journalism was a big joke. To me, my professors made it seem that journalism amounted to nothing more than trying to keep people’s attention for as long as possible. Once you lost that attention, you move on to a different subject.

I heard few successful photographers speak and taking a class called ‘Engaged Anthropology’ with Prof. Daniel Goldstein, I realized that the work I want to do involves becoming a part of a community so that I can understand it and share that understanding with the rest of the world. Hence, I am going into the Peace Corps where I can, hopefully, engage and improve a community while creating a significant photographic work.

Did your professors say the same thing about investigative journalism? Not in so many words. Apparently, some students were taught about OPRA, but I was never taught about it. The classes I took consisted of the history of news media, how to strictly abide by AP style, how to put the most relevant information (and only information) at the top of the article and how journalism is a dying field so we’ll never get the same opportunities they did. The journalism department is waiting for some successful alum to give them money so that they can change the name of the school from SCI. But that will never happen as long as they are preparing their students so poorly for the field.

I feel that I am very self-centered when it comes to the things that I want to do with my life. The fact that I have left out music in this interview is a good example of my egocentrism. During high school, I was heavily involved in music. I went to Sparta High School and the people who taught me there are, hands down, the best teachers I have ever had. They really pushed me as a musician and helped me to achieve a great deal of success as a high school musician. During my senior year I applied to a number of schools as a music major but at the last minute I decided that I couldn’t do it. I regret that decision. It’s funny how even though the majority of my education from 5th grade to the end of high school focused on music, I often forget about it completely.

What was and what is your relationship with music like? At the moment, music is purely a hobby for me. I still pick up my clarinet occasionally (though I should do it more often) and I’m getting into blues harmonica. I like the harmonica because I can take it wherever I go and practice while I’m driving or waiting for someone.

What inspired you to not study music? Is the regret something that bothers you? I chose not to study music because I don’t think I have the right personality. All the successful music majors have an obsessive interest in music and nothing else, I just couldn’t dedicate myself to one field at such an early age. The regret doesn’t really bother me, I like to think that I would have done well in music but it can enrich my life as a hobby just as well as it would a career.

What sort of scientist would you have been? I wanted to be an astronomer, it was my ambition to gaze longingly into the night sky and to think up new and creative ways to measure the velocity of different sized rocks. It seems to me that most scientific fields consist of mind-blowing, universe altering discoveries in between months or years of mind-numbing, universe contingent math equations. I think I would be good at that; I may yet make a good astronomer. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

What happened to being a politician or historian? I wanted to be a politician, but I stopped acting like a 5-year-old when I turned 6. Politicians are people who work for their own interests under the guise of helping others. Except for Barack Obama, that man can do no wrong. I actually want to help others. There’s nothing wrong with being a historian. I often consider pursuing a life in academia, but if I do, I want it to be in a field that will help others in a direct way. I’m not saying historians don’t help others; they do, just not in as direct a manner as I would like. If photography doesn’t work out, I want to study linguistics and preserve the world’s dying languages.

How would you describe your relationship with photography? Photography is the easiest way of sharing with others the beauty that I find in the world. I’ve also tried poetry, but I generally I find the poems I write to be pretty corny. Alex Webb is one of the photographers that I’ve seen speaking about their work. He said, “if I was any good at writing, I wouldn’t have to trouble with photography.” I’m most proficient at sending a message visually, so I use this proficiency to help people in any way that I can.

How did you develop an interest in helping others? I have no idea why I have an interest in helping others, I’m also pretty good with children, though I couldn’t tell you why. I think its just part of being human, we are inherently social creatures and the drive to help one another is an evolutionary feature that has helped us survive.

What about people who seemingly hurt others? I don’t know really; there are always things like greed and mental illness that overcome the desire not to hurt others. But I think that those who hurt others lack an understanding of the world or an open mind about people. They don’t realize what it is like to be in someone else’s situation, or else they would know the damage they are doing. Really though, I’m not sure.

What was your first encounter with photography like? I’ve attached the first picture I ever took (which I’m quite proud of). I remember when I went to Ireland for a few months the summer after 6th grade to visit my relatives and explore the country. My mom had given me a bunch of disposable cameras to take pictures of my trip. When I got back she was pissed, “where are the people? How come you didn’t take any pictures of people?!” There isn’t one specific moment that I was hit by some divine inspiration to take photographs, it has been a gradual progression. I got into photography in high school and then I got into it more in college. Soon I hope to get into it in a way that will help me support myself.

Who are some photographers whose work you enjoy or appreciate? I don’t enjoy any other photographer’s work. I’m inspired by others, but its always tempered by jealousy.

I heard a great joke once:

Q:How many photographers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Five. One to screw it in and four others to stand around and say ‘I could have done that.’

That being said, there are many many photographers that I admire. Of course, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern ‘photojournalism’ and James Nachtwey, the current grand master of photography, if you will. Emilio Morenatti is another, he has really striking and unique images, I’ll never forget seeing this image on the front of the New York Times. Julio Mitchell has captured the essence of an entire continent although he has lived in relative obscurity until recently. Peter van Agtmael is my real life inspiration whom I saw speak with Alex Webb recently (Alex Webb was caught by the border police a couple of times because he was following illegal immigrants over the border to shoot photographs of them). If you look at the list of photographers on the Magnum website, you can pick any one of them and I can tell you why they are incredible and I want to be like them. I could go on for days.

How did you change over the course of your time at Rutgers? Over the course of my time at Rutgers, I recognized the value of a good education and the need for one to pursue wisdom and knowledge, not just have it given to him. I had this idea as soon as I got to college, but I didn’t really act on it until my second or third year. As I went through college and learned more about the world, I realized that the more you know, the less you know. Which is a pretty tacky phrase, but still one that holds some truth. I hope that I can continue to know less and less every day.

How has your education helped you seek knowledge and wisdom? If four years of education has taught me anything it is that I truly know very little about anything. This makes me want to know more, as futile an effort as that may be. Think about every single book you have ever checked out, every song you have ever listened to, every movie you have ever seen and every person you have ever listened to. I feel like a silverfish chomping away at the corner of a page of a book and my goal is to eat everything in the library. But it’s not just school, I think that listening to people has helped a lot too. Living in New Brunswick, there are few moments that someone is not trying to speak to you. It makes you realize that, although you may not agree with something someone is saying, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. People are much too quick to discredit one another these days.

So, how’d you find out about the JVP? I remember working with Mike Stuzynski at the Daily Targum and always having him talk about creating a publication in opposition to the Targum. I think he used to use the phrase doppelgänger, though I’m sure he’ll correct me if he reads this. I slinked in and out of the organization until Alex G took over, he really pushed me to produce content for the site.

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Iron & Wine’s Walking Far From Home ~ A Review by Megan Rusciano

 fell in love with Sam Beam (the voice behind Iron & Wine), his guitar, his ginger locks, and his trademark beard in high school. But 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog’s shifted away from acoustics towards a more country/ folk-rock feel. This left me wondering where Sam Beam’s poignant guitar rifts had gone. I wanted to go back to the drifting melodies that rocked ever so slightly by Beam’s hushed voice. So, I had my doubts when it came to Iron & Wine’s new EP: Walking Far From Home.

Walking Far From Home gives us a taste of where Iron & Wine will head in their upcoming album, Kiss Each Other Clean, set to be released in January ‘11. From the glimpse provided by the EP, it appears that the album will not be a return to the older Iron and Wine that I believe many of us, myself included, initially fell in love with. But for those who were dissatisfied with ‘07’s The Shepherd’s Dog, this EP represents a divergence from Beam’s earlier work. The EP moves away from a country and acoustic sound to confront an interesting musical juxtaposition: Beam’s rustic voice situated within an electronic and jazz setting. By doing so, the album stands upon a musical threshold, straddling a number of genres–each song acting to illuminate Beam’s versatility.

The opening track “Walking Far From Home” (the only track that will actually appear on the new LP) gives the initial impression that Iron & Wine has gone electronic. The song, however, is driven by a composite of piano, the consistent beat of a snare, and Sam Beam’s slightly distorted voice. It invokes a repetition both in lyric, tempo, and melody that is reminiscent of Iron & Wine’s well-known track “The Trapeze Swinger”. The subtle use of piano acts to reinforce the profundity of Beam’s lyrics. This accentuates the track’s transcendent quality that displaces me, the listener, if I let myself wander with it. The ending almost seems to mirror the conclusion of a Sigur Ros song: subtle, whispered voices that are slightly indistinct.

But it’s a quick transition into the next track: “Summer in Savannah”, a song that blares jazz from the start. Filled with amazing syncopation and a fantastic horn solo about 2 minutes in, the song ends in a wonderful climax of utter jazz. Sam Beam’s voice seems somewhat misplaced in a sea of horns, but here emerges his versatility. The contrast between his voice and the jazz disrupts the distinctions of typical musical genres illustrating that Beam can move beyond folk and folk-rock labels.

The final track “Biting Your Tail” initially sounds like something out of the new Sufjan Stevens album or perhaps The Postal Service’s Give Up. It gives off an electronic feel with a synthesizer and a cyclical rhythm. However, it is supplemented with profound lyrics: an Iron & Wine staple. Indeed, “Walking Far From Home” and “Biting Your Tail” stand out with verses that I find myself repeating under my breath in an attempt to further encapsulate their warmth and insight.

If avid fans are expecting a return to the older Iron & Wine, they may be unimpressed with this EP and perhaps the upcoming album. But if they set their expectations aside, they will realize like myself that Sam Beam does not disappoint. Instead, he proves that he can move beyond acoustics and find innovative ways to make music. People should give this EP another listen if they don’t enjoy it at first: it is well worth the second chance.

At the end of “Biting Your Tail”, Beam advises “May your words be well worth stealing/ Put your hands on your heart when singing”. I believe that he follows this advice quite well in this new EP. Evocative of the Iron & Wine I fell in love with, Walking Far From Home sets me adrift within Beam’s passion. But instead of using a guitar, Beam has found new avenues through which to express his reverent melodies.

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Inside JVP: An Interview with Alex Giannattasio by Ben Kharakh

I found out about the Johnsonville when I overheard co-founder and former editor-in-chief Alex Giannattasio talking about the JVP with Professor James Livingston. (You call it eavesdropping; I call it journalism!) It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that I’d reached out to the JVP. Once I did, I fell head-over-heels. It was as though I was at the top of a snowy hill, leaned too far over the edge, and suddenly found myself rolling downwards at a high speed– throwing up all over myself, and throwing up even more after having swallowed my own throw up (effectively regurgitating what I’d just regurgitated).

The downhill vomitorium is an effective analogy of what my relationship with the JVP was like when Alex was around: I’d make my way to Alex’s, tell him everything I’d thought about that week, he would give me his insights, I’d mull over his take, and a few days later I’d have my latest article.

While Alex might be in law school and no longer physically around to chat about my latest piece, his presence is always felt whether it be in his comments, guidance, or ever-growing legacy as a contributor. And while this Q and A isn’t the same as having Alex around full time, it’ll have to hold you over for now.

What brought you to Rutgers? The State of New Jersey. I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into where I would be going to college. Rutgers offered me a quick and cheap option with no fuss. I took it primarily out of convenience and now I’m glad I did.

In JV Press On, you said your high school guidance counselor said you were lucky to get into Rutgers. Why was that? Simply because I didn’t shop around for schools or put much effort into the admission process at all…

How’d you decide on your major(s)? My first semester classes were laid out for me upon arrival. One of them was Introduction to Ethics, taught by Professor Ruth Change. I loved the material as well as the professor, and I got really into the class. (I recommend to anybody taking a class with her if you can). It was such a good experience that I signed up for more philosophy classes and a major just followed from there.

I also undertook a history major later on in my undergrad career. Around junior year, I realized that I already had quite a few history credits under my belt simply as a result of taking classes I was interested in and that had been recommended to me, most notably among these Professor Phil Roth’s classes in Luso-Hispanic Dialogue and Colonial History. He’s an excellent professor who’s extremely knowledgeable in his field, and I’d definitely recommend taking his class if you can.

For the most part, my major selections were happy coincidences.

What about history and philosophy clicked with you? Argument. The two topics take slightly different approaches, but in the end, they are all about argument. Crafting arguments is something I’ve been naturally drawn to since I was a little kid. That, and the material is interesting. Of course, it’s easier to sit down and read something if you’re interested in the topic. Historical and philosophical writings can be very interesting.

What’s your relationship with writing? What’s my relationship with writing? That is a tough one…

Writing is just another means of communication. Objectively, there isn’t really anything special about writing that makes it any better or worse than any other form of expression or means of communication. What is important is that people are communicating, expressing themselves, because this is how we as humans learn and share, build societies, and get things done.

Personally, I prefer to express myself in writing as opposed to in person. I always feel more confident in an expression of my opinions and positions when I’ve had the chance to sit down and think about them first. Writing them out gives me the opportunity to do that. I also really enjoy the satisfaction I get from producing a quality piece of writing. And of course, it’s a nice feeling to know that my writing is improving all the time.

On the other hand, I have a tendency to labor over my writing. I invest a lot of time and emotional energy when I write, which is good for the final product, but it can also be very draining. In order to improve your writing you have to keep pushing the limits of your ability, which can really stress you out while you’re doing it. Having worked with a number of writers, I get the feeling that really good writing comes more naturally to some people: personally, I’m not one of them. I’ve had to put in quite a few hours to get anywhere. But in the end, it’s like anything: practice makes improvement.

What sort of aspirations did you have growing up and which of these, if any, are you putting the most effort into making a reality? When I was real little, I wanted to be a scientist, an archeologist or an engineer. Clearly, those aspirations ended when I took up philosophy, and especially when I committed to law school, although I sometimes regret giving them up…

Growing up, I always found different ways to make money. I always had a new scheme, some more effective than others. That ambition has stuck with me to this day. In the short term, I’m focused on establishing a comfortable living for myself and my family. In the long run, I’d like to be able to transition from a more lucrative but stressful lifestyle to a more peaceful, self sustaining lifestyle. I’d like to retire to a farm and grow produce for myself in the next thirty years. I’d love to be surrounded by a natural setting using my hands to produce real products. But that is more an ideal than a goal. We’ll see what happens….Right now, I’m focused on entering the world of productive adults. I get money, you know?

When do you find yourself regretting them and why? I like to build things, to work with my hands to a more tangibly productive end. With a humanities degree, the closest I ever get to that is by writing. Science, on the other hand, gives you more opportunities to build stuff. So I sometimes regret the choice. On the other hand, if I make enough money to pursue a few hobbies, like carpentry and farming, I think it’ll be worth it…

What sort of things do you like to build? I enjoy working with wood. I got into woodworking and carpentry in high school; I was something of a shop kid. On one occasion, me and some other students built a couple of 6 foot tall, functioning trebuchets, medieval catapults. But I’ll build anything, as the situation and circumstances necessitate.

What sort of schemes have you been involved in? I’ll give you an example. When I was in high school, I used to take breakfast orders from kids. Then I would wake up early, run down to Mcdonalds, BK and Dunkin Donuts with a wagon, and pick up the orders. I’d deliver the purchases in the morning for a nominal fee. Eventually, the school decided to put an end to that scheme, but I made a buck while it lasted…

What inspired you to go to Law School? I wasn’t so much inspired to go to law school; it was more like I fell into it. Law school is the natural next step after a humanities degree, specifically one in philosophy/history. Of course law school is the place to be if you want to make something of yourself. So many people are going off to law school now for just that reason, and I’m among them. I have high hopes that by the end of my 3 years at law school, I’ll have a good idea of how I can make a positive impact on the world while doing interesting and engaging work. And the skills I’m learning are invaluable. At this point, I couldn’t be happier about my decision to go.

What were some of the biggest surprises you found in Law School? It’s nice to be surrounded by a group of very intelligent people inside as well as outside the classroom. Also, nothing can really prepare you for the workload, or the style of learning and writing they seek to teach law students. But you pick up on it as you go.

What’s the work load like at law school and style of learning/writing like at law school? Basically, the work load is not so difficult that it’s beyond you, but you still gotta bust your ass to do well. Personally, I enjoy law school quite a bit, though so many of my peers think I’m crazy for that. Frankly, it’s not something anyone wants to read me talk about, so I wont.

You live in DC now. How would you compare New Brunswick and DC? It’s certainly not easy to compare a small town of 50,000 people to a major metropolis holding several million. For one, DC is less dirty; there is less trash in the roads, the sewers are well managed, and you wont see gas leaks spouting fire on any given day. On the other hand, both cities do have quite a few homeless people walking around. In both places you can find significant disparities between the well to do and the poorly off, though these discrepancies are, of course, much more stark in the major city. I enjoy[ed] living in both places for different reasons: in DC, there is always something to do; the charm of NB, however, is that if there isn’t really much to do, you can always do-it-yourself, so to speak.

How did you change over the course of your time at Rutgers? Unavoidably, I grew up. College is where you learn about yourself, and I certainly did a lot of that at Rutgers. More specifically, each year I had a new independent project, just to keep myself busy and engaged. The most recent of these, of course, was the founding of the Johnsonville Press. I suppose the best I can tell you is that I became who I am today while I was at Rutgers, and I have no regrets.

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