Tori’s Inferno

Hell, according to Dante Alighieri, is comprised of nine circles of suffering within the Earth. But Dante missed a circle. Somewhere encompassing the entire nine circles is the horror of an unpaid internship.

Many students spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars on college; only to end up with an expensive piece of toilet paper. What’s more, they learned nothing and are now condemned to endlessly send out resumes that are fit only to line bird cages. Post-graduation, We see a mountain in-front of us. The sun shines down at the top of it; where our future career awaits us. In our attempts to climb up it, we find that our path is blocked by three beasts—a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf.

Overly confident, we try to fight these beasts because hopping a fence is much easier than going around it. Beat and broken, we come to terms with the fact that we cannot conquer these beasts, and we must take an alternate path.

This is where we meet the ghost of Virgil, who informs us that: In order to land a job, we must first perform unpaid labor. unpaid labor is all the rage these days.  The “unpaid” attached to it is smart because of the way it’s phrased: you aren’t a volunteer because you are — allegedly — getting payment in the form of education. And hey, it’s chill. We’ll buy into it as students scared shitless of imminent unemployment. Virgil will show us how some unpaid internships aren’t so bad. You’ll be given meaningful duties to balance out the menial ones, network with influential people, and stack your resume like all the dolla bills you won’t have. But this isn’t always the case, and some internships are more of a temporary job than a training experience. Virgil escorts us to the gates of Hell; you’ll look up and see they’re marked by a haunting inscription: “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The first circle we enter is “limbo,”  where the souls who, in life, could not afford to work without pay.  They are forced to run against upper-class offspring in a futile chase after an elevator. Day after day, while hornets bite them and worms lap their blood, the doors close before them, and they make for the stairs.

Next, you’ll enter the inner circles; and inside are plenty of interns with horror stories as nameless coffee gophers. You’ll witness their suffering with repugnance and pity.

So, young people considering an unpaid internship: Use this journey as a lesson. Do your research, and figure out what you are getting in return (there should be something). Take the leap if you can afford it. Put forth your best effort — make sure they miss you when you’re gone.

But if you find yourself to be led astray, and are illegally being used for free work; consider walking out the door. Give those demons what they deserve, and don’t feel bad about it, either— they’re getting what they paid for.

Journalism for Dummies

Why are people losing their right to free speech in public places? Public schools, for example. Kids should be encouraged to say whatever reckless shit they want — because then a teacher could say, ‘That’s a stupid thing to say, and [here’s] why.”  If kids are denied the right to free speech, there’s no debate. And if there’s no debate– then nobody learns anything; and in an establishment apparently aimed to educate, that sure doesn’t sound right.

In high school, kids are experimenting with boundaries– and if they’re not accustomed to cross them every once in a while, they’ll never learn. Teachers and administrators can be just as stupid as the students, and that’s why free speech in public schools is so important.

Much like in public schools, journalists: the people who spread information, knowledge and awareness to the public, are also limited to what they say. According to Linda Foley “The vast majority of reporters will tell you that they entered journalism because they wanted to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.” People who work in the industry are saying they feel bad about their jobs. They are producing things they do not morally agree with.

Unions are important, and reporters get walked over without collective groups. However, for reporting, and many other fields, consolidation leads to fewer and fewer jobs; one company buys out another, production gets centralized, and less people are doing a larger amount of work. Even back in 2004, journalists felt they did not have job security. With the job market being so scarce, journalists are afraid of losing their jobs. As a result, content becomes limited, quality decreases and trust in the news goes down.

“The biggest thing we can do is to realize that corporations are created by us, the people. In various states we give corporations a corporate charter, which must be legally installed. We are the reason in some sense that corporations exist. We the people control them. We support them.” -Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters

Perhaps I’m a moron or naïve or close-minded or all of the above, but the way the so-called news operates never ceases to confound me.  I think about the world — all the things happening, all the things that could possibly be reported on, written about, discussed – then I look at newspapers and TV news shows and, lo and behold, they all report the same things. How is this even possible?  What are the chances?  Is it all an endless coincidence?

The fact is, there is a conspicuous lack of critical public discourse. Sure, there are plenty of Op-Ed pieces, radio talk shows, cable news hours that pretend to proffer critique.  But it is always so familiar, so canned…. so pre-determined.

If I were a journalist, I’d be the dirty bits, the forbidden chocolate and the locked chest your mother always told you not to go in. I would coax you into multiples, and I would urge you to invite another. I’d tell you to challenge authority and question everything and demand answers! I’d tell you that the 1 percent is nothing without the rest of us labeling the 1 percent as the 1 percent. I’d teach you to cook anarchy and embrace diversity and defend freedom of speech in public places. 
I’d teach you to sail a raft and swim against tides and dance in towns where dances aren’t danced.

….And I’d lose my job, but you know what? I’ll find a new one, and even if I don’t, I may have burnt the only bridge that kept me from drowning, but at least I wouldn’t go against my ethos.

We’ve all got sucked into a maniacal system of going against our beliefs. We think the only way to be successful nowadays is by doing what we’re told; whether we agree with it or not. So let’s stop this talk of action because action comes easy. It’s the moments just before it –when you’ve got to get your voice and your fists on the same page as your heart — that’s hard. Let’s stop pointing our fingers at them because the things we find unethical in politicians, corporations and foundations are the same things we find unethical in ourselves. And let’s stop this talk of words because when journalists go against their own morals, words like corruption, selfishness and greed aren’t as distant to us as we’d like to believe. Maybe if public schools encouraged free speech, we wouldn’t have this problem.

Know your job; understand its function, and your function within it. What is the impact of what you produce?

Calling All Consumers!


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

-Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

You’re walking through a city and everywhere you look there’s an ad. Billboards, posters, magazines, cups on the ground and planes in the sky. Advertisement can take you in even when you don’t realize it. They have done it before, and they will do it again (and again, and again, and again…). America has become such a consumer culture that advertisements are simply impossible to avoid. In this, we agree and are friends. But let me explain:

Corporations suck.

Let me further explain:

Ad’s are not like books. If you don’t like the content, you cannot just close it and make them go away. We the people of the United States of [corporate] America are controlled, but more importantly, we’re being lied to. So if corporations wont bring truth to the ads, let’s bring ads to the truth! Welcome to the world of culture jamming; where politics is mixed with graffiti, and satire is mixed with paint. It consists of subverting imagery based on logos, graphics and slogans which attack, belittle, challenge, identify, mock, question, and generally scorn capitalism and neoliberal globalization in its various forms. Culture jamming is extremely powerful…..kind of illegal, but extremely powerful.

Joeseph Von Stengel is a professor, graphic artist, and proud culture jammer. Many of his subvertisements include an 8-bit filter or game pieces from the game of life, and other toys from our childhood. I found this interesting; how a harsh reality could be disguised with innocence. Operation taught me from an early age that I would never make it as a surgeon (mostly because of my less than stellar hand-eye coordination). There was no strategy involved in Candy Land and you were never required to -actually- make choices or use any skills. Simply follow directions and you may or may not win; an incredibly motivating outlook if you’d ask me. Oh, and with pit stops like Lollypop Woods, Ice Cream Sea, and Home “Sweet” Home, it’s to no surprise an increasing amount of America’s youth are experiencing early onset diabetes. More well known culture jammers such as the “Guerilla Girls” and Bansky have found it in their best interest to keep their identities a secret. They chose to do so because “using freedom of speech in a public space is, in fact, illegal.” (Stengel).  But much like a board game, advertisements too, hide harsh realities behind innocence. You’ll see perfectly airbrushed faces, posed laughter, mouthwatering burgers and slogans that ensure you to “just do it.” What you don’t see is the corporations support for sweatshops and plethora of workers they just laid off.

But with every ying comes a yang, with every good comes a bad, and with every culture jam comes the many violations of vandalization and copyright laws. So without further ado, I offer alternatives. Friday November 23rd, millions of consumers will be going, as the saying goes- bat shit crazy over sales and competitive lines. What you may not know is that millions of OTHER people around the globe will be doing the exact opposite by going “cold turkey” on consumption for a full 24 hours. #BuyNothingDay is just another way to challenge the values of capitalism.

This post isn’t about making you a “better person.” It isn’t. I don’t care what type of person you choose to be. I don’t know what you value, worship, or what laws you hold dear. It’s about awareness. Admittedly, the spiteful rendering of ads into “anti-ads” will not lead us to success. Our sad, flapping jaws will keep spitting out positive affirmations like trained seals clapping for the ringmaster. But we have to stop standing in the shadows of corporate America reassuring ourselves that without darkness, we’d never be able to understand the properties of light! Calling all people of every shape, size, gender, class and race! If you would just open your eyes instead of getting lost in your hopeless dreams you would realize that THERE IS NO LIGHT! There is only WE. We the people, we the begrudging mob, fat with plunder and hungry for grievance, knowing there must be a way. A way to make things better? Nah. But at least a way to try.

Freedom of speech is at steak here, people! “It’s been real easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades we haven’t had to risk anything to defend it. But those times are going to come! And one of those times is right now!” (Southpark). It’s much harder to believe in free speech when it’s being threatened. But this is exactly when it should be defended most. As far as copyright goes, there is a fine line that separates protecting an individual and their work under the U.S. Constitution and just another selfish way to make money. By all means, give credit where credit is due, but allow for fair use without any further constraint. Identity should not be used as a justification for copyright. Real dialogue happens when the power of language is unbounded, not restricted. If this offends and hurts? All the better, because sweeping the bitter truth under the rug doesn’t eradicate anything. It just conceals it. If you don’t defend free speech when it’s most immediately threatened, then you don’t actually believe in it. Always remember that actions speak louder than words, and if you’re gonna raise a ruckus, here’s one word of advice; If you’re gonna do wrong, buddy, do wrong right.

*drops mic*

All the News That’s Fit to Print

I hate lobster. Of course something’s going to taste good if you gob it in melted butter, however, the hour-long process of surgical labor to remove a sliver of meat seems a little redundant. Every time I mention my dislike in the eating of Zoidberg, I never fail to get a reaction of shock and disregard. “What?! You don’t like lobster?” They’ll say, as they drop their glass of scotch and New York Times on the ground. “Obviously, you must never have had real lobster.”
Upon this common dispute, I always seem to be treated as if I must be mistaken, or that i’m just downright wrong. And they’re absolutely right. Two different people having a different opinion? Impossible! Obviously, this viewpoint is not specific to lobster, or even food for that matter. I’m also not claiming to be innocent. For example, if you don’t like Breaking Bad, that’s fine. I get that. But you’re wrong and I hate you.

The problem is that people are close-minded.

I wandered into one of the campus dorm-halls today to take advantage of the vending machines and free pool. Next to the pool table was today’s issue of The New York Times. Each dorm hall on campus gets this newspaper delivered daily because reading The Times is one of those things well-educated, liberal New Yorker’s do. How else would we start our morning conversations?

“Have you read the article on prison abuse in Georgia?”

“No. No, I haven’t. Nor do I plan to. Is that a pumpkin latte?


“Smells delicious.”

However, when I stumbled across the paper near the pool table, today; I decided to pick it up and actually read it. Right there on the front page, I couldn’t help but notice the small print on the upper left corner that read: All the News That’s Fit to Print.  

That motto stuck out to me considering, upon finishing my read, there was not one single article that i found illuminating or informative. Where was all the stuff that mattered? Where was all of the news? Don’t you think all of this “news” The Times shares with us is rather dangerous? It states a few facts, consumers read it, accept it as news, fail to look further into it,  then consider themselves to be informed. I mean, why would a reader look further into a subject when “all the news that’s fit to print” is right there? This is, yet again, an example of closed-mindedness. They fail to recognize the abundant amount of information -the news- that is going on around them.
One article in particular, Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Angry at Online Video, explains how the Arab world is upset at the US over a deliberately offensive film. If one were to look further into this subject, it wouldn’t take long to realize that the Muslim rage isn’t really over a film. The article fails to explain the problem with the US foreign policy, or the fact that Israel and Iran are possibly looking at a nuclear war. What’s more, Occupy Wall Street is back (and ready to rumble) in Zuccotti park, Indian’s are protesting against corruption, the student strikers in Quebec celebrate victory, European societies are being restructured with the European Project, Protestors in Mexico are demanding the media to “Tell the truth!”, China is trying to find someone to take over as leader, as well as in a large-spread Japanese protest, and the teacher’s in Chicago just ended a huge strike. Across-the-globe protests are in the current (something that hasn’t been seen since the 1960s), and people all over are calling for changes to the system. Where was that in the news? There was no reporting, no discussion, no measurement or assessment of the situation. Media, unfortunately, is more focused on their audience and advertising than they are focused on content. This is not because we lack the information, but because we lack the way to discuss, articulate, and make sense of this information.

All this data is right there in front of us. And yet we ignore it because, well, we’re reading all the news that fits to print.

On the Chicago Teacher’s Strike

Our parents taught us that the world doesn’t revolve around us, and if you act like a selfish asshole, the general consensus would be that you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. According to Noam Chomsky, it is our nature to be communal. Therefore, to only care about oneself is opposite our nature. So why is it that the majority of American’s are becoming seemingly more and more self-interested? People used to think the Sun revolved around the Earth. Nowadays, despite what we were previously taught, people think that the Sun revolves around them, personally. This does not mean that Chomsky is incorrect; because what we are culturally-designed to do is not what we are naturally-designed to do. The media has planted a seed of fear into each of our brains. Fear that American’s are doomed, and unlike during the great depression, things are not going to get better this time. Fear that compels us to not change what needs to be changed. Fear that is insulting our intelligence, and has us running around like well behaved, miserable robots. Well, the sad truth is: if we do not take action upon the problems that are so clearly present, miserable robots we will remain.

Nevertheless, it is easier said than done. You realize that it’s easier to say that you believe in world peace than it is to quit your job and start a non-profit dedicated to the cause. You recognize that you are unhappy about something. You think about whether or not you are going to act upon this particular belief, but lack of conviction arises and you ultimately choose the comfort of inaction. You realize that, while distracted by this internal thought, you just lost your game of temple run. The thought is lost, completely.  You don’t have to devote you’re entire life to a foundation, and you don’t have to major in gender studies to prove that you support equality. All’s I’m saying is: What’s the value of a belief that’s only theoretical?

Currently, teachers in Chicago are on the front line of battle, striking in order to defend public education. The Chicago Board of Education is pushing to add 85 minutes to the school day, two extra weeks to the school year, eliminate pay increases for seniority, and to link teacher-salary’s to student success on standardized testing. The two political parties in the US wasted no time in displaying their vulgar attributes by rushing to squeeze this event for political gain. Both in which agree this current event is, more or less, bad.

On the one hand, people are supporting the strike. They agree that the teacher’s should refuse to accept this mistreatment in job security and wage, and the students do not deserve to learn in such poor conditions. On the other (more media present) hand, people think the teachers are being selfish.  Donald Trump tweets: “The onus of the Chicago teachers’ strike falls squarely on the teachers & their union. Inexcusable to leave children without school.” Mr. Trump: I’d imagine that, considering you’re one of the wealthiest men in America, the current wage-crisis and concentration of wealth in our nation is not a main concern to you. In my humble, unimportant, normal sized opinion, your view on the matter is completely invalid.  In oppositional articles, arguments include that over 350,000 kids are currently going without education. While this is undeniably true, perhaps these people should take into consideration that these children were not being properly educated in the first place. Overcrowded rooms, no air-conditioning, lack of material, and an overall misdirected syllabus are unacceptable conditions to be “learning” in. Fellow American’s; rather than squandering the issue, we should just be happy that for the first time in 25 years, teacher’s (or anyone for that matter!) are not only standing up for their rights, but for the future of our nation. Besides, if it is largely agreed upon that standardized tests are an unfaithful portrayal of student progress, then why is it so radical to say we shouldn’t have them?

Between 2009 and 2011, 88% of national income growth went to corporate profits; while a mere 1% went to wages. In terms of economic inequality, the “CIA World Factbook” places the US behind the Ivory Coast and just ahead of Uganda. The striking teacher’s in Chicago feel that they, as well as their students, are being wronged, and they have decided to stand up for what they believe in. 98% of the teachers support the strike, and their students are standing right there beside them. (You can support the strike, too! Donate here).

No matter how you choose to view the issue, voices are being heard, and American’s all over the country should be inspired. Action is not “liking” Obama’s facebook page or writing a tweet about how you support the strike. Unfortunately, iphones are cool, and blogs like Instagram exist; reminding us that this is America, and we should want what everyone says we want. As Chomsky points out, we are not a tightly controlled society like Egypt, where if you choose to voice your opinion, you choose to do so knowing you may very well be killed.  Freedom of speech is our main pride, so why don’t we use it? Perhaps we’ve gotten to the point that we’ve accepted and found comfort in not having things.  Maybe we want change without action. It’s a problem of motivation. We could devote ourselves to other people; we could work tirelessly to battle injustice; we could give up our comfort and lives for what we believe in; or we could drink some beer, smoke some weed, and have lots of meaningless sex, ’cause you know—YOLO!!!