Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon

by Joshua on June 18, 2014

From “Midnight On The Desert” by J.B. Priestly, 1937

I have heard rumors of visitors who were disappointed. The same people will be disappointed at the Day of Judgment. In fact, the Grand Canyon is a sort of landscape Day of Judgment. It is not a show place, a beauty spot, but a revelation.

The Colorado River, which is powerful, turbulent and so thick with silt that it is like a saw, made it with the help of the erosive forces of rain, frost, and wind, and some strange geological accidents; and all these together have been hard at work on it for the last 7 or 8 million years.

It is the largest of the 18 canyons of the Colorado River, is over 200 miles long, has an average width of 12 miles and is a good mile deep. It is the world’s supreme example of erosion. But this is not what it really is. It is, I repeat, a revelation.

The Colorado River made it, but you feel when you are there that God gave the Colorado River its instructions. It is all Beethoven’s nine symphonies in stone and magic light. Even to remember that it is still there lifts up the heart.

If I were an American, I should make my remembrance of it the final test of men, art, and policies. I should ask myself: Is this good enough to exist in the same country as the Canyon? How would I feel about this man, this kind of art, these political measures, if I were near that rim? Every member or officer of the Federal Government ought to remind himself, with triumphant pride, that he is on the staff of the Grand Canyon.

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Sixteen Hundred Miles In Arizona

Monument Valley

by Joshua on June 14, 2014

Saturday:
I was nervous as I packed my bag. I generally look forward to travel with the abandon of a curious child but this time was different. I would be driving more than 1,600 miles on this week-long trip – roughly the distance from Augusta, Maine to Miami, Florida. I love to explore the country but I hate to drive. This would be a test of my endurance.

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My girlfriend and I landed in Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport. After picking up a sporty looking Chevy Cruze from the rental agency, we headed out for our hotel in Tucson about two hours away.

Sunday:
On Sunday morning we visited Saguaro National Park East. The giant cacti here are known to grow as high as 70 feet tall and spanned the  landscape as far as we could see. The scenery was beautiful as we circled the main loop in our rental car. We stopped on several occasions to marvel at the beauty all around us.

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After Saguaro we excursioned to Tombstone, a small town about an hour away from the Mexican border. Tombstone, commonly referred to as “the town too tough to die,” is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. We strolled around for a while and then caught a mid-day reenactment of the famous O.K. Corral shootout.

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Tombstone is a nice 3-4 hour visit, but not somewhere you would want to spend a full day. So, we headed back to Tucson. Within our first 15 minutes back on the road, we hit a Border Patrol checkpoint. The agent simply asked us if we were American citizens and then waived us through. You’ve got to love Arizona…ahem…just as long as you’re a citizen I suppose. [click to continue…]

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The NBA went into a feeding frenzy last week (and with it the American media, followed by the American public) over an audio recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling saying blatantly racist things to his fifty-years younger, alleged mistress. The cascade of events that followed could only have been dreamed up by some amazing team of Hollywood writers.

As I watched the events unfold on the tube and across the internet, I knew I’d been transported from reality and into an alternate universe where ordinary people like me get to watch movies while they are being made. This couldn’t possibly be the world I’ve inhabited all my life? A white billionaire with too much time and ego said something bigoted and the entire country responded with shock and anger? And now the crazed billionaire is in danger of losing his most prized asset? Why wasn’t the entire sordid mess quietly swept under the rug? Isn’t that what usually happens? The events I was witnessing could only have originated within a Hollywood script.

I tried to map out the characters in this movie, only I couldn’t find the movie’s hero. All of the other characters were there. Just no hero. What gives?

The Villain: Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling, the eighty year old long-time owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team can be heard on an audio recording chastising his nearly fifty years younger mistress for publicly cavorting with African American celebrities on her Instagram feed. Sterling’s comments on the recording are outrageous, ignorant, and offensive. Yet, are Sterling’s comments so out of step with our modern day American experience?

A simple exercise in self-restraint and critical thinking tells us that Sterling’s comments do indeed reflect the broader American culture we live in. Sterling urges his mistress to refrain from publicizing her interactions with African Americans. His comments reflect an old-school segregationist mentality. Not that he wishes harm on African Americans, but rather that he believes the White and Black races should remain separate. In Sterling’s own words:

It isn’t a question. We don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong. We live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture…I don’t want to change the culture, because I can’t.

Forty percent of African American students today attend schools that are more than 90-percent minority and disproportionately poor compared to their White counterparts. And check out the map below, which shows the racial composition of Sterling’s home town Los Angeles. Each color on the map represents a different racial or ethnic group (the key is visible at the bottom, right of the image). You can clearly see great separation between the different colored dots on the map. Each “color” seems to live in their own neighborhoods.

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Take a look at 8 Mile Road in Detroit (another NBA city). The racial divide along the main strip is almost shocking… Almost.

Detroit

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Sterling wasn’t speaking of a society he knew from years ago and still longs for. Sterling was speaking of the society he lives and works in today. In Sterling’s world, minorities only matter if he can make money off of them (hello Chris Paul!). Otherwise, Sterling has no use for minorities. [click to continue…]

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My trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota was amazing, no doubt about it. In a recent blog post, I describe some of the highlights of my experience there. Yet, there is an even more amazing story to be told about the  Black Hills.

In 1868, the United States government signed a treaty with the Sioux Nation recognizing the Black Hills as part of the Sioux land reservation. The land was to be owned and used exclusively by the Sioux Nation. However, when gold was discovered in 1874, the treaty was effectively broken. By 1877, the U.S. government officially confiscated the land, one of hundreds of broken treaties.

A landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 awarded the Sioux more than $100 million as compensation. The Sioux tribal council refused to accept any compensation. And though the funds were set aside in a trust which is now worth more than $1 billion, the Sioux still refuse to accept the money.

At stake is the Sioux’s legitimate claim to the sacred tribal lands known as the Black Hills. A growing movement, known as “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale” has taken root. The movement aims to return tribal lands to the  Sioux with the understanding that private property and tourist attractions such as Mount Rushmore are off the table.

Aaron Huey is an award winning photojournalist who gave an amazing TED Talk describing the history of the Lakota people, land claims, and broken promises. Watch his presentation below:

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After last month’s trip to Coors Field in Denver, I’ve officially reach the two-thirds mark in my quest to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. I had originally intended to visit all 30 within five years. My five year plan has now turned into a seven year plan. No big deal, I’ve enjoyed the journey and I’m looking forward to these next two seasons.

Here are ten quick thoughts on the twenty stadiums I’ve visited to date:

  1. Yankee Stadium has a certain majestic look to it, but Citi Field looks cooler and just feels better (Disclaimer: I am a long suffering Mets fan).
  2. What is up with the traffic around Turner Field in Atlanta? The street layout and parking are horrible. The Braves and the city of Atlanta need to invest in some serious urban planning. On the other hand, the fans are some of the best I’ve encountered.
  3. Rogers Center in Toronto looks great in person. I wasn’t expecting so much from the pictures I’d seen. The entire downtown area is wonderful.
  4. The single best individual performance I’ve seen was Angels starting pitcher Jared Weaver’s fifteen strikeout masterpiece against the Blue Jays.
  5. Cleveland fans try so hard to support their team. Give ‘em credit – they really do try.
  6. I don’t care that Wrigley Field is a relic when it comes to baseball stadiums. I had a blast there.
  7. I never get tired of going to games at Nationals Park or Camden Yards. Two of the best ballparks I’ve seen.
  8. Pittsburgh might be the most beautiful baseball setting. The stadium, riverfront, bridges, skyline, and hills are all perfect.
  9. The Dodgers and A’s both need new stadiums…seriously.
  10. I feel honored to have seen Mariano Rivera pitch in person at Yankee stadium. There are very few athletes in any sport who have accomplished as much as Number 42.

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Take me back to the black hills
The black hills of Dakota
To the beautiful Indian country
That I love.

Lost my heart in the black hills
The black hills of Dakota
Where the pines are so high
That they kiss the sky above.

And when I get that lonesome feelin’
And I’m miles away from home
I hear the voice of the mystic mountains
Callin’ me back home.

Doris Day and Howard Keel had it right. South Dakota’s Black Hills have just about anything you could want in a nature get-away. Clear skies, natural beauty, engineering marvels, and yes, of course, the Buffalo.

If you ever get the chance to visit South Dakota’s Black Hills…and you MUST visit the Black Hills…here are a few of the highlights you’ll want to see. [click to continue…]

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I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. My job is not fulfilling and it seems to be dragging my spirit down. It’s not that I have a terrible job or that I’m overwhelmed or anything like that. It’s actually a pretty good job and I think I’m very good at it. It’s just that I think I should be doing more. I should be helping more people, affecting more lives, and impacting the world in a more meaningful way.

So after two years of keeping my nose to the grindstone and helping my employers make a boatload of money, I’ve finally started to poke my head out of this little mouse hole to see what other opportunities are out there. There are two ways to look at the job market: 1. There aren’t any good jobs available. Hiring managers are offering low salaries and expecting decades of experience; or 2. There are some amazing opportunities to do important work. It’s up to me to convince these hiring managers that I’m the best and only choice they have and that I’m worth paying for.

I’ve decided that I’m going to go with the second option and bring my passion for life to the job market. And so I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of urgency. I woke up early and headed straight for the gym. After a good workout I decided to do a little house work. I re-potted my Bonsai tree, washed dishes, vacuumed the floor, cooked lunch, and then washed dishes again. Not too shabby for a Saturday morning.

I rewarded myself with a little down time. I logged onto Facebook to catch up on the day’s news. And what do you know? I came across a blog post that helped me understand why I’ve been down lately. “Why You Should Travel Young” by Jeff Goins is an impassioned plea to young people to travel early and often. Goins writes:

Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a new found respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

Goins writes with an intensity and staunchness that helps remind me of one of my key personal motivations. Life is not about where you work, how much money you make, or what your career trajectory looks like. Life is about the impact you have on other people through the time and energy you give to those around you. And what better way to have an impact on the world than to actually get out there and see the world? [click to continue…]

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It’s The Culture Of War, Stupid!

Twisted Gun Statue

by Joshua on December 23, 2012

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
-Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ In The Wind”

In the wake of the slaughter of 20 children and 6 staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, many Americans are asking the question “why?”

Why is it that a deranged young man was able to walk into a school and mow down a classroom full of first graders? Why is it that every week we hear reports of another massacre of innocents by a gun toting crazy? For all of its greatness, why does the United States have such an overwhelming problem with gun violence?

Stated simply, Americans kill each other at a rate that far exceeds any other developed nation in the world. Americans are 20 times more likely to die by gun violence than are citizens of every other developed country.

Some have argued that all of this violence is the direct result of impressionable young kids watching violent movies, listening to violent music lyrics, and playing violent video games. That argument just doesn’t add up when you look at the facts. Japanese youth play just as many violent video games as American youth, yet the Japanese don’t seem to have a problem with gun violence. (Probably because they don’t have many guns).

Consider the fact that in 2010, Detroit had 310 homicides, while Windsor, ON, Canada had zero. This despite the fact that the two cities are less than one mile apart. And youth in Detroit and Windsor largely watch the same movies and play the same video games. In fact, there is little evidence that video games, or any other media stimulant, lead to violent reactions. It is much more likely that violent individuals are drawn to violent stimuli than it is that movies, music and games are generating violent reactions.

If it’s not the culture of violent movies, music, and games, is it the culture of gun ownership? [click to continue…]

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Thoughts On Sandy Hook

Remembering Newtown, CT Victims

by Joshua on December 16, 2012

The events in Newtown, CT are so sickening and difficult to comprehend. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all by reading quotes from fallen leaders and studying random facts from various sources. What I haven’t been able to do is understand the full impact of what’s happened and where we need to go.

My early thoughts on the massacre in Newtown, CT…

Our country is in a deep spiritual crisis. We’ve conditioned our young people to believe that violence and justice are synonymous. We could make enormous progress in this area simply by rethinking our national commitment to chosen wars.

I wish the media would back off. Stop interviewing small children. And what are these kids’ parents thinking?

Victoria Soto’s name should never be forgotten. I would like to see legislation of some sort honoring her. We could create a student loan forgiveness program for public school teachers. We need something BIG to honor the immeasurable sacrifice this young woman made.

I believe that citizens have the right to defend their homes, but how many guns does one person need?

And what is the real purpose of legalized assault weapons? Isn’t the perceived need for these weapons just an egotistical fantasy trip?

The pain I feel for these babies killed in CT is the same pain I feel when I hear about babies killed in countries with an American military presence. Chosen wars are generally stupid wars. [click to continue…]

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: My Bucket List

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

by Joshua on November 13, 2012

When I was in my teens I had plenty of goals, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about how I would actually achieve those goals. Life was long. And though things weren’t perfect, they would eventually get better. Or so I thought. And then I learned some very painful lessons.

I was twenty-one years old when I nearly lost my life in a car wreck. Not long after that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness so painful and debilitating that I wasn’t sure I had the will to live. And my late-teen, early-twenties years were peppered with run-ins on the streets that could have ended much worse than they did.

Through it all my life goals persisted. I wanted to travel the world and meet everyone in it. I wanted to live my life while I still had the chance.

This blog post is my way of taking some of my goals and turning them into a “bucket list.” A list of activities, adventures and accomplishments I hope to achieve before I inevitably kick the bucket.

As I accomplish each item on the list I plan to edit this post with a photo to commemorate its realization. I’m also completely open to amending my list. I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so why not? [click to continue…]

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