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UNITATEM

UNITATEM

K.E. WALTER

Copyright ©2015, 2016 by Kyle Walter

Follow the author on Twitter @kewalterauthor

[_ _]

BACKGROUND

Founded in 2015 by K.E. Walter, UNITATEM was project aimed at creating an encyclopedia, of sorts, for people who were specifically motivated by cultural, musical, and historical interests. In short form, he produced more than forty pieces for the project, releasing them to widespread acclaim, with traffic averaging over 8,000 people per day at its peak. Now, in the interest of preserving these pieces, the works have been combined into a pamphlet, available for download. These pieces are arranged in no particular order, other than that provided by the file names they were saved under. Upon conclusion of the already seen UNITATEM pieces, K.E. has included two unreleased longer pieces, entitled “skane” and “From Ulaanbaatar with Love: Genghis Khan and the Christian World”. In the true spirit of the now defunct “playground for the active mind; homebase for the jiggy”, he hopes that they invoke further thought and discourse on many of the issues and topics presented.

Abu Nuwas: The First Openly Gay Islamic Poet

Born in Persia to an Arab father and Persian mother, Abu Nuwas spent the greater part of his youth in slavery after his mother sold him away, but later would find himself across all areas of the Arab world from Egypt to Baghdad.

His poetry rang clean and irreverent to its listeners, but it was its contents that perhaps gave him the most fame and contempt amongst the people.

Loving young boys, a favorite topic of Abu Nuwas’, becomes a common trope in works such as “In the Bathhouse” where he describes the beauty of a “young boy without a beard”. In Islam, said topics such as the aforementioned, and things like masturbation, were outside of the norm of conversation, and therefore his works pushed against the societal barriers.

Interestingly enough, most of his works have now been censored, with just as recently as the year 2001 seeing the Egyptian government order the burning of his most homoerotic pieces.

He is renowned in the region for his eloquence and brevity, encapsulating the imagination with sometimes forbidden imagery, but doing so with a benevolent tongue. Restaurants and even children bear his name to this day, from the plains of Kenya, to the suburban streets of Virginia.

The example set forth by Abu Nuwas seems to destroy the commonly-held belief that there is a fundamental hatred for gays within the Arab world in its entirety, in fact some of its most celebrated artists are gay.

Abu Nuwas was celebrated in his time by his peers and throughout most of the Muslim world today, he is continuously celebrated for his contributions to the literary field. Though his topics sometimes strayed from the comfortable, they reflected his own reality, the paramount of importance for any artist.

Though there will undoubtedly be problems in reference to Abu Nuwas’ works in the future, he has been revered for the best part of thirteen hundred years, and it seems unfathomable that his accomplishments and writings will simply disappear any time soon.

 

Atlantic City: A Dying Distant Cousin of Las Vegas

Step away from the glittering lights, free drinks, and seaside locale, and the ambiance of Atlantic City takes on a much dimmer disposition. The streets are filled with hollow faces, defeated and broken by the odds at the roulette table. The beaches no longer resemble diamonds, glistening along New Jersey’s eastern border, but have lost their luster, overtaken by seaweed and litter.

Interestingly, Donald Trump made a statement at the first GOP debate that Atlantic City was on the decline, one which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took particular offence to, but more unsettling is just how right he may have been.

At its inception in the 1970’s, the city was injected with mounds of foreign and domestic cash, hoping to establish an east coast gambling hub that would be the prized possession of all New Jersey residents and politicians for the foreseeable future.

Then, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck a harrowing blow to the boardwalk and tourism industry for a short period, but what followed was even worse. Difficult economic times brought on by a recession and strict budget cuts in Trenton forced many of the initial investors out of the shore empire and into more lucrative ventures in places like Pennsylvania.

Springsteen said it best with the line “everything dies baby, that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back”. In his own eulogy to the city he once knew so well as a young man, he propositions one last night in Atlantic City with his lover. That was the purpose that it had always served, a getaway from monotony and despair, but it appears that the once long forgotten problems of the Pine Barrens and elsewhere have found themselves within its own borders.

Prostitution, poverty, drugs, and a rather unpleasant air can be found around the streets these days. The same grand hotels and casinos which were heralded as empirical at one point have descended into hard times. Though many still flock to its gates, Atlantic City stumbles ever so closer to its own demise, brought on by the very innocuous behaviors which gave it a name and purpose in the state and region.

A Land of Immigrants: America and Irish Punk

Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphy’s: the list could be endless if you examined the various hubs of music throughout the United States, but their importance to the cultural conversation in this country is finite and easily represented.

Much discussion has occurred since the Donald Trump Express™ rolled into town, spewing arbitrary facts and opinions into the open air hoping that it would stick, relative to the illegal immigration crisis.

The Boston Globe touched on the issue of illegal immigration in an interesting way in 2014, when they mentioned that “if you had $30 and could walk without a limp, you would be let into this country”.

Therefore, the great Irish-infused music that has come out of the Boston area, the likes of Bruce Springsteen, people such as Robert DeNiro, were all most likely the result of what we call “illegal immigration” today.

One such contester of the claim is Bill O’Reilly.

A product of Levittown, NY, O’Reilly makes staunch claims that his family arrived in this country legally, without skirting the system that he loves so much.

Analyzing further, you see that his family from both Ireland and Northern Ireland, most likely without being so strictly documented, entered this country before the first true implementation of the green card in 1940.

Ballads like “Tessie” and “Shipping Up to Boston” carry with them a unique Irish influence that was most likely the result of a little bit of illegal immigration, if we are to use our current lexicon.

This does not detract from the value of the different cultures in the nation, nor does it suppose that there should be completely unrestricted immigration flow in and out of the United States. It simply shows that on the larger scale, illegal immigrants do more good than harm in the greater picture.

Just as there are areas of New York which still heavily identify with Irish heritage, most of Boston identifies with it, as well. These two groups, in particular, offer a lens into the world of music that was created specifically as a result of immigration.

 

Alexander the Great and the Development of Modern Arabic

Before the vast, all-encompassing hand of the Arabic language stretched from the Gulf to West Africa, it was rooted in a much more intriguing linguistic set, developed in Syria around the 12th century BCE. Aramaic was first used in the cities of Damascus and Hamath, but quickly spread to Alexandria, Babylonia, and elsewhere in the Levant. More modern forms of the language, which are still spoken by around 500,000 people in Iraq, Israel, and Turkey, bear a close written resemblance to Hebrew.

However, early Aramaic was far more similar to Arabic with letters such as the lamadh, shin, and alaph lending their names and sonic disposition to the current Arabic alphabet. As a proto-language, Aramaic was vastly fractured in the spoken word, as well as, written word. Across short expanses, traders and travelers were documented to have trouble communicating at times because of the largely different dialectic lexicons in each part of the Aramaic speaking world. Though it could not be held in a cohesive manner, the language has somehow managed to survive till today, where linguistic scholars are working tirelessly to preserve all possible records and dialects.

Returning to the present, it is easy to understand the nature of the Arabic language throughout North Africa, to the Levant, and all the way to the Gulf. Though they neighbor each other, Libya and Egypt have long since fractured ties of similar dialect. Perhaps you could look to the Italian colonization of Libya and the British colonization of Egypt as a catalyst, but the more interesting issue at play is the beginning of fracturing some 2000 years earlier, when the Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and even parts of the Greek Empire spoke Aramaic in high volumes.

It is widely agreed that Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia was the first catastrophic severance of Western and Eastern Aramaic, leading to the creation of Farsi and Arabic, but ultimately resulting in the fractured nature of Arabic, as well. Nearly 3300 years after the first mention or use of the Aramaic language, Christian communities from Lebanon to Iraq continue to practice with the ancient tongue.

Just as Western European Catholic communities chose to continue using Latin as the official language of the church long after it has ceased being spoken, Aramaic may one day meet this fate as well. For now, it is alive and well, though in small pockets, and is being protected as it remains the oldest spoken language remaining in the world today.

7:43 P.M. // BANGKOK

Sweat drips from your brow, lightly at first, but torrents into a full monsoon by the third round.

You feel a pressure building on the bridge of your nose where a strong left dealt a blow just a few minutes earlier.

It doesn’t feel broken, but it doesn’t feel quite comfortable either.

The bell sounds, and you meander towards the side of the ring where a crisp shot of tequila awaits you.

Throwing it back, you see flashes of the last twenty minutes or so and cringe. You’ve taken quite a few shots that weren’t as beneficial as this one, and now you just hope you can make it out of the fight without being knocked out.

Around your right eye, swelling has begun, but not anything serious.

Your “trainer” applies a cold rag, wrapping it around your head to alleviate all pain in the region. Though you may not have the best hands, you have something the others don’t: resilience.

It’s not abnormal for you to be hit, it’s been a thing for a while at least.

People have always looked at you as out of shape, or not tough enough, but what they didn’t know is that no matter how many strikes landed on the bridge of your nose, or the side of your head, you would be hard pressed to give in.

And so the bell sounds again, ready for the round to begin. One more shot of tequila soothes the parchness in your throat, if only for a second.

Welcome to the world of underground Muay Thai.

4:21 A.M. // BOGOTA

Your own skin seems to be sticking to you like a rudimentary adhesive.

Laying in bed, you’d expect to be more comfortable, but the air conditioning’s broken again, leaving you in a pool of your own sweat atop your covers.

The TV flickers at the foot of your mattress, drowned out by the street noise that seems to never end no matter the time of day.

A fan spins above your head, threatening to come crashing down at any second, but with your current state you can think of many worse things than decapitation by fan blade.

The tiny mouse you used to fear now sits near your desk chair, nibbling on a piece of cheese quietly, a recently accepted guest in your home.

Outside of your window, there’s a late night football match taking place in the middle of the street.

Rain falls lightly from the sky, but with the humidity it holds the consistency of maple syrup, dripping slowly from the clouds.

Forgetting to take your socks of earlier, you curse yourself in your own head.

What could have been a few degrees cooler of respite now makes the fibers of your inner toes slippery.

But what’s coming will have you wishing that you were boiling alive in your hotel room once more.

4:38 A.M.

A knock at the door, but not a friendly one by any means, reminiscent of an angry neighbor trying to sleep through your incessant noise. You try not to move, each step adding more heat, but you reluctantly leave your bed.

As you tear the deadbolt out the door comes careening in smashing your nose on the way down.

4:57: A.M.

Blood trickles down your mouth and begins to crust over as you feel a swelling pain in the center of your face. Your nose is definitely broken, but you’re so disoriented that it seems almost irrelevant.

Sitting in a chair with your hands tied you open your eyes fully to meet the gaze of a moustached man with curly hair and disconcerting eyebrows.

5:00 A.M.

You should have never tried to cross Escobar.

Brand Nubian: Consciousness Forgotten

An unfortunate casualty of the modern hip-hop era has been the value of lyrical ability and conscious content. From the late ‘80s, to the early 2000’s, conscious rap was at the forefront of the community, but slowly slid down the totem of popularity.

One group in particular, Brand Nubian, led the movement into conscious rap on the East Coast.

DJ Alamo, Lord Jamar, Grand Puba, and Sadat X comprised the collective formed in New Rochelle, New York and projected their conscious values directly onto their music. With Jamar’s gift for creating lines intrinsically laden with relevant mental apropos, the Brand Nubian movement was shot into the forefront of the hip-hop scene.

One for All is regarded by hip-hop heads and aficionados of the community as a classic and one of the best projects to come out of the early ‘90s, however, it has lost popularity with the modern young listeners. Though groups such as Wu Tang Clan continue to proliferate their success even today, Brand Nubian has lost the luster they once held.

Arguably one of the best hip-hop groups to have ever been formed, Brand Nubian left an imprint on hip-hop history and the importance of their lyrics can still be seen today. Lord Jamar once said “power equally with the Gods, so you can build and born you cipher” in reference to the youth losing faith. The same people who had lost themselves in the destitution had also lost their faith in their creator.

The art of hardcore hip-hop has seemingly been removed, with a confusion now present with the true existence of the genre. Hardcore hip-hop is found through the lyrics, not through the content describing street behavior. The more real the words behind the beat, the more hardcore the music.

Brand Nubian’s contributions will always shine through, a true great in the history of hip-hop.

One Man Can Change the World: Julius Caesar

Many men, many, many, men, attempt to thrust themselves into the light of power and control without the slightest piece of success until it eats them alive at their core.

For one man, there was simply nothing that could prevent his rise to political prominence: Julius Caesar.

In 60 B.C., alongside Crassus and Pompey, Caesar embarked on a journey that would bring him from Italy to the throngs of the known world in a quest for eternal dominance and legacy. The triumvirate moved with a swiftness and grace that could only have been achieved by these three men at that time.

In history, there are moments of greatness that seem to happen as if a tool of grand design; Caesar’s rise to power is one of them.

At 22, he was sailing through the Aegean Sea when he was captured by a group of marauders and held for ransom. After agreeing to pay the fee, he purchased ships and hired his own crews, at which point he captured the pirates and had them crucified.

This anecdote is indicative of everything Caesar stood for as a young man, and everything he would give to the Roman Empire to ensure its greatness.

After abandoning Crassus and Pompey and birthing the phrase “crossing the Rubicon”, he solidified his position as the eminent leader of the empire. His conquests would lead him through Gaul, into Egypt, and even to the British Isles.

He oversaw the construction of some of the greatest engineering feats in world history including inter-state roads, viaducts, and military advancements unparalleled at the time.

Julius Caesar is nearly more legend than man, as his achievements mirror those of the very Gods he worshipped in private. He reified himself as a holy figure and people genuflected in his presence. For Caesar, he had accomplished the highest form of power acquisition.

As is fitting for a larger than life figure, he perished at the hands of his closest friends, showcasing the true lust for power that drives many people. Sans Brutus, the story of Caesar remains incomplete; however, with his addition, Julius Caesar lives forever.

Falling in Love with an Exchange Student: Yoenis Cespedes

As summer wanes on campus, a fresh face lingers near your dormitory door. They’re polite enough, funny, and astonishingly attractive. You think to yourself: I have no business with them, definitely way out of my league. Sure, this past year you feel like you may have “come into your own” a little more, but it’s hard to forget that you were playing Call of Duty with your floor mates last spring, only leaving the solace of your own discontent to buy more bags of Doritos.

Miraculously, you sum up all of your courage and might, walk over, and start a little small talk. Things go well, you end up with their number and find out that they’re studying abroad in, let’s call it New York for all intents and purposes, for the semester.

Is it really so bad to lose yourself in the heat of that short-lived romance? Though the spiraling tides of a life lived elsewhere occasionally dances bachata in the recesses of your brain you think, nay, I’m going to enjoy this.

For most Mets fans, good timing, good luck, good hitting, a lack of injuries, etc. has been hard to come by for quite some time. So you hurl yourself at the feet of your unrequited temporary lover and hold on for dear life. This year has been particularly impressive, finding yourselves in a playoff hunt for your quinquennial shot at glory. Bad thoughts pushed to the wayside, positive thoughts embraced with open arms, a bottle of cheap Chardonnay, and an unbearable romantic comedy pulled up on Netflix, it’s time to dive right into enjoying your preemptively dated relationship.

Let’s be clear, it’s a fairly consensus opinion that Yoenis Cespedes, a free agent after the World Series, will be on his way, likely nowhere near where the great Shea once stood in Queens. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love him for the right now, the temporary. Batting around .300, 18 HRs, 65 RBIs, there’s nothing that could keep your unrelenting affection away if you dared want such a thing.

When the dust clears in November, and he’s found his new team, just as when your exchange student gives you their Whatsapp and tells you to “stay in touch”, it will feel hollow, but just remember, for those few months, you were his, and he was yours. If nothing else, it’ll make for a good story.

Radical Acceptance and Expression: Burning Man

Each year, in the middle of the desert in Nevada, an astonishing group of more than 50,000 people gather to craft a giant wooden structure, all for the purpose of setting it alight.

In a community referred to a Black Rock City, the visitors gather their belongings in a C-like shape and surround what will become the effigy that will later be burned.

Most years are accompanied by a specific theme, but the goals of the event remain persistent on a yearly basis: inclusion, decommodification, self-reliance, and expression being some of the most important.

The idea behind “Burning Man” isn’t simply as its name leads you to believe. The actual burning of the effigy probably plays the least significant role during the event, as you are meant to uncover hidden truths about yourself, the community you surround yourself with, and the overarching body of humanity you found yourself with during the event.

A bond of community is forged during “Burning Man” that those who have attended in the past claim is stronger than any other you could possibly find. Joined together in the solace of the Nevada desert, stars at the forefront as the sun falls, sand at your back as you lay to rest, you transcend a typical human experience at times and feel truly free.

Starting in 1986, “Burning Man” has only grown in popularity since then, with the most recent ones topping out at over 65,000 people. It attracts tourists from all across the world who wish to engage in the fairly archaic practice.

The lining up of the event with the summer solstice during the first years of the event lends it hand to a Pagan festival called Litha, where their fires would burn bright throughout the night to honor the sun.

The congregation of such a vastly different set of peoples on one point is fascinating and it appears to only be growing large in its popularity as time passes. By 2030, it could very well be a gathering of 100,000 people, all together for the same crucial set of values.

The Premier League of Disdain: Why does everyone hate Chelsea?

You could point to their plastic flags, wealthy Russian owner who has, for all intents and purposes, purchased them trophies, their racist fans, or a plethora of extenuating circumstances which find Chelsea supporters as the categorically most disliked group of people in the greater UK outside of the English Defense League.

Or you could take a swig of logic juice and understand that maybe, just maybe, that’s all irrelevant.

Based in Fulham, southwest London, the utterly irritating group of 11 footballers on a pitch, with their frustratingly tight defense and confounding attack, travel up and down the country, sometimes even to Wales, to evoke screams of profanities from opposing supporters.

DIEGO COSTA

For what it’s worth, Costa is a stunningly good forward who manages to find space and finish with immaculate certainty, but also, simultaneously, happens to be a downright awful person. Elbows flailing, racial epithets possibly cast into the open air, and probably bad text etiquette, Costa infuriates all who watch him, from his shouts of nonexistent penalties to his perfectly slotted finesse shots.

JOSE MOURINHO

English journalists salivate when he comes near because he’s always willing to provide content for the next few days with his brash mode of conversation and aura of disinterest associated with all comments made toward him. Suited wonderfully for the Londoners who most supporters outside the city would deem “posh”, Mourinho never disappoints with on-pitch and off the pitch antics.

CESC FABREGAS

If he stays at Barcelona, he probably keeps his name out of this, but the former Arsenal man willingly transferred to their cross-town rivals in the summer of last year, inciting relentless anger and toothless Twitter quips. How he maintains possession and finds his teammates in the smallest of spaces is remarkable, and it is this type of performance that drives everyone crazy because not a single person disaffiliated with Chelsea wants to see them score.

As people the world over watched their match with Manchester City on Sunday, there was a single consensus opinion: Chelsea cannot win. Even some rival supporters changed guard to support the sky blues, while Liverpool supporters ignored the traitorous behavior of one Raheem Sterling to revel in the glory of a 3-0 City victory.

Maybe it’s their tendency for awful chants during matches, or maybe it’s the silence that pervades Stamford Bridge on most match days, or maybe it’s their ability to make a story about removing a physio a national headline. The reasoning is unimportant, but the effects can be found in every pub and home from Southampton to Newcastle.

Why Love a Broken Thing: The Confederate Flag

Racism, historical abhorrence, and bigotry aside, an individual has the right to determine, identify, and cherish their cultural background. There are those who say that Confederate pride is not a culture, I refer you to the first sentence. Though arguments may be made to squander the existence of said flag in the United States of America for the future, there seems to have been an unfortunate breakdown in the conversation and understanding of America’s purpose.

We are to exist as a beacon of free choice, speech, movement, and accountability. If you choose to purchase a Confederate flag, state your allegiance to the Confederacy, or rally in support of something which has been used in the past to represent a state, vying for independence to maintain ownership over a group of people, you are equally to be held accountable for your either unwise, or uninformed decision.

There are a few things that have been said and claimed to be crucial points in the argument:

  1. The flag does not represent the Confederacy, it was used as a battle flag.

By this same logic, brandishing a Nazi Banner is immoral, but hanging an SS flag is acceptable and you should not face scrutiny for it. Battle flag, or Jefferson Davis’ personal handkerchief, it has been, is, and will forever be associated with a regime which fought against the United States of America to maintain control of their slaves.

  1. People shouldn’t be allowed to buy, adorn, or show Confederate flags.

Unfortunately, that isn’t your, or any other individual’s decision to make or coerce. Individual liberties are meant to be strictly that: individual. Just as it is my individual right to prematurely consider you a bigot for flying a Confederate flag from your truck, it is just as much of your right to fly it there in the first place.

These two points ring true when considering the future use of the banner. Though it is considered offensive, so it most of what is considered free in the United States to at least one person. This does not afford other individuals the right to demand their cease in sale, or removal from private grounds.

But, it is also this just truth that accurately explains and allows for empathy in cases such as that in South Carolina. If it is deemed offensive by the individuals who serve as your constituency, it is to be removed from public buildings. The difference is that simple. Individual liberties give us the leeway to express ourselves and maintain strong opinions, it does not give us the ability to impose those freedoms upon others.

Appropriation: Disassociation For the Sake of Profit

A trope of the last year has been the increasing popularity of clothing stylized with phrases and words in Arabic.

Clearly used for its appearance, the meanings of the aforementioned terms are sometimes misconstrued. Yet, somehow, the pieces continue to be purchased by the average consumer, as well as, members of the international star community.

The idea that a culture or its byproducts are somehow “fashionable” or “trendy” because they are different does nothing except perpetuate an already harmful framework that exists. Writing “strength” in Arabic and positioning it center on a flat-brimmed hat doesn’t denote appreciation for a culture, it shows that the culture can be purchased and used to promote monetary interests above all else.

Though remaining a foothold in certain circles throughout the world, the use of the Arabic alphabet isn’t the first, nor, unfortunately, the last case of this type of behavior. During the late ‘90s, it was common to find a tattoo of a Mandarin phrase on a large number of people.

The lack of connection or true allegiance to the culture being projected is the fundamental problem associated with appropriation. A profit is made from the years of experiences and stories of a people, but the person collecting the profit is oft-times disassociated from that group completely.

Once this swell passes, another will inevitably succeed its position, but as the world becomes more aware of the commonly held beliefs amongst various groups of people, it should be wished that all cultures are appreciated for their inherent wealth, and not that of the wealth our consumers place upon it.

Take Riff-Raff, for example. For those who are generally unaware, he is a rapper from Houston who covers himself in outrageous jewelry, tattoos, and otherwise flashy items. Though he lacks the popularity to face criticism from the greater community, Riff-Raff has taken what he perceives as black culture and turned it into a way for him to make money. His own outlandish perception of the black race, specifically in his home city, is ignored and he continues to profit.

True understanding and appreciation has no dollar worth, it can only be measured in the simplistic value of empathy and compassion.

Devil Wears Prada: The Story of New Jersey’s only Professional Sports Franchise

The unspoken understanding between New York and New Jersey that the Giants and the Jets both play on Jersey ground has been long existing. However, since the Nets left for Brooklyn, the state has been at a loss for a banner to claim in the high-octane world of American professional sports.

Picture it from an economic perspective: you have the highest density population in the country, right beside two major metro areas in Philadelphia and New York City. The opportunity seems to be abundant for recreational profit, but somehow, only Newark’s Prudential Center currently holds a side.

Though the Devils are undoubtedly a source of great pride for the residents of the Garden State, with legends like Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens leading them to Stanley Cups, the idea of forfeiting your home identity in support of either New York in the north, or Philadelphia in the south, is a tad disconcerting.

In their later period, the New Jersey Nets were about as bad as an NBA team could be, yet residents flocked to the IZOD Center to purchase $5 tickets, no matter the quality of the game. Minor league baseball runs amuck in the various wastelands of forgotten towns of the Parkway, imagine the growth and revenue from an MLB side based in Jersey City.

Chris Christie pointed out at the most recent Republican debate that every morning he wakes up, he is a Republican Governor in a Democratic state, facing constant criticism from his constituency for his lack of progressive action, poor tax implementation, forced employment cuts, etc. One of the best things he could do to win the people of the state over would be the attraction of a professional franchise in New Jersey again. After all, I hear Atlantic City has a lot of free real estate opening up.

The Downfall of Joe Budden and Dipset: ’07 in the Tri-State

In the mid ‘10s, two rappers were busy occupying the throne of NYC and the entirety of the Tri-State: 50 Cent and Jay-Z. With his release of Curtis _]followed up by [_Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent cemented his position amongst the elite, while Jay-Z’s American Gangster was an equally well received project by hip-hop royalty.

At the end of 2007, Jay-Z announced he would leave his post as President of Def Jam Records. Simultaneously, Joe Budden, after leaving Def Jam, signed to Amalgam Digital where he would release Padded Room. For the previous few years, Budden had be hailed as the savior of New Jersey hip-hop, and as a true contender in the competition for top spot in NYC. With the destruction of his deal with Def Jam, his potential would lack fulfillment, rarely gracing the airwaves of the Tri-State area for the next 7 years.

Meanwhile, The Diplomats, better known as Dipset, were riding a similar wave of momentum into ’07, receiving comparisons to Wu-Tang, Bad Boy, and every other possible New York collective that had ever been in existence. Signed to Rockefeller Records, heated disagreements between the core members led to a prolonged absence from the hip-hop scene, and relegation of the potential they had once commanded.

As we sit in 2015, it’s simple to forget the times of Pump it Up, Oh Yes, There it Go, and an amalgamation of other work released by the artists in totality. Joe Budden hasn’t lost any of his lyrical stamina or ability, but for some inexplicable reason, he lacks the recognition he deserves. Dipset, after various suspended periods of time, have come together recently and appear to be working peacefully. Unfortunately, the period of time which saw Cam’Ron, Jim Jones, Joe Budden, Juelz Santana, and Freekey Zekey near the top of the charts and dominating the Tri-State rap scene are long gone.

Absence can kill a career if done at the wrong time, and 2007 in the Tri-State era could not have been a worse time to suspend a career. Returning 5 years later meant you would return to the piles of scrap that were once the NYC rap scene. Though giants such as Nas and Jay-Z continued to make music, the heart and soul of New York hip-hop was lost. It wouldn’t be until very recently that it would be found again, this time, by another group of young men thirsty for success and change: Pro-Era.

The Legend of Dr. J: Magic Man

In the upper echelon of professional basketball players in history, one man is categorically underrepresented by new fans of the sport: Julius Erving.

Layers of vitriol and expression, an insane ability to transcend the properties of gravity, and an all-around impressive game on the court, “Dr. J” was the innovator who paved the way for players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Born in New York, a product of UMass, and original member of the ABA, Erving brought together many different aspects of basketball that had previously not exited. He took the braggadocio of the community pick-up game to the spotlight as he lit up the NBA with the Sixers.

For the next 11 years, he would demonstrate elusive control, balance, and confidence while flying toward and above the rim, ultimately winning an NBA championship in 1983.

However, Erving’s accomplishments aren’t limited to how well he played the game. A frequenter of the Rucker Park leagues in Harlem, Dr. J took the culture of basketball that existed on the street and in communities and thrust it into the national stage. Ambitious dunks, incomprehensible reverse lay-ups, and acute dribbling made him a fan favorite in not only just Philadelphia, but most of the world.

His contributions to the game are well documented by basketball historians, but he has fallen to the side for many young fans of the game. While fathers boast of watching Bird, Magic, and Jordan, very few mention Julius Erving.

For me, he was the Holy Grail of players. Indoctrinated from a young age, my father always told me about the unbelievable on-court antics of the mythical creature named Dr. J, and I held a great appreciation for his playing.

Lanky, seemingly uncoordinated, but conclusively ethereal, Julius Erving dominated the NBA for the better part of a decade in the early ‘80s and deserves the recognition for it. It’s only so often you come across a player of his caliber and he should indefinitely be celebrated as an innovator in the game.

 

DRIVE

Blood orange clusters of cumulonimbus fluff conform to the shape of the horizon ahead, riding in perfect synchronicity with the spine of the mountains.

8:17 P.M.

An alarm sounds in the passenger seat, but you let it ring, its hollow repetition a comfort alongside the bustle of the city.

Westward looks appealing, its sweet serendipity beckoning from afar. Blades of grass grow high scattered throughout the fields along the highway. The concrete turns to wooden fences and the open air breathes new life into the open car windows.

8:29 P.M.

The sun sits even lower in the sky now, its blood orange magnifying to magenta as the final seconds of light trickle through the light cloud bed. Crickets sing all around, but the bass from the speakers drowns them out in their entirety.

Feet push down as pistons chirp to life and the speed limit which was once a means of protection and enforcement now fades in the distance. There’s no price tag on the feeling of jubilation achieved from merely living, but you’ll try to find it anyway.

8:46 P.M.

Blue lights flicker far ahead, as is the case when you disrespect the law of the open road. Foot eases from gas and the speedometer descends at a continuous pace until it finds itself hovering in the 5mph safe zone above 45.

Passing a face seems familiar, but ignoring it, the pistons hit a staccato once more. Normally, that face would bring trouble, but instead it leaves as quickly as it enters.

It seems like the further from home you get, the less things you see. Where there once was a convenience store and gas station, you just see cows and horses. The mountains draw you further in like an oversized magnet in an almost uncomfortable attraction.

Careening down the pavement, void of intention, a car passes in your side-view mirror that looks like it’s in need of repair, but again, vanishes into the night. “There’s no time for stopping”, you think to yourself, as you lower your center of gravity in your seat and rest your forearm on the console.

9:12 P.M.

The last twenty minutes feel almost like a blur. Not a single car has passed, just boundless empty space on all sides.

Eyes begin to flutter and movements begin to stutter, but the rumble bar brings you back to full consciousness. A quick shake clears your head momentarily, but soon you fall into the same pattern.

9:16 P.M.

Lights, like a baseball being thrown to you as a kid, grow larger and larger, but very slowly at first.

9:17 P.M.

They’re the size of grapefruits now, but no matter how hard you try to move they follow your every step.

9:18 P.M.

Blinding.

9:19 P.M.

You wake up.

Ferguson: A Year Passed

As the sun set on Ferguson, Missouri, on the eve of August 9th, the tragic anniversary of the death of Michael Brown which sparked protests throughout the country, there was an eerie conclusion drawn. In the wake of seemingly amplified police violence, intensified race relations, and general discontent, people took to the streets to again confront the issues of privilege, violence, and unchecked power that appear to have run rampant.

Things haven’t changed, in fact, they may have gotten worse.

Voices echoed into the warm night pleading for humanity in its simplest form, but alas, it was met with another killing that left the public in confusion, the announcement of charges for Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly for not leaving a McDonald’s fast enough, the arrest of Deray McKesson and other prominent activists, and a complete sense of awe at the lack of progress witnessed.

For a country so dependent upon the rights afforded to it by its own Constitution, it has been surprising how much outrage has been expressed at the desire to assemble by agitated members of the Ferguson community and others surrounding it. A largely peaceful protest has been denounced as inane, idiotic, and disruptive, threatening to remove all of the momentum built up in the last year.

The basis of the United States of America is one of expression, conversation, and inalienable rights which guarantee the safeguard of all who inhabit its borders. However, the last year has seen these things evaporate before our eyes as loud conservative opinions and the perpetuation of past problems dominate the headlines.

Nearly 600 people have been killed by the police this year. To put that in perspective, since 2001, there have been 2,259 American casualties in Afghanistan. By years end, we may eclipse the halfway point of the total casualties in a war that has been ongoing for 14 years.

Rarely does a week go by without news that another unarmed civilian has been stripped of their due-process and killed by a police officer, most of which are black males. This fact does not serve to detract from the importance of the work they do, or that in certain instances there have been provocations which led to shooting, but an all too uncomfortable portion of the deaths are inexplicable.

In reflection on the year that has passed since last August in Ferguson, things have stagnated, which inevitably has made the tension and frustration worse. It should be the hope of the nation that when we look back in August of 2016, we can view this as a turning point in the fight for unabashed humanity.

A City Unparalleled: Florence 1515

There come but a few times when so much innate talent and intellectual clout can be found in a single place, at a single time.

In the north of Italy, the city of Florence experienced one such a time, one which will likely never be replicated in its full likeness. Renaissance lifeblood flowed through the streets, and the budding minds of the community produced works that continue to confound modern scholars.

Leonardo da Vinci, innovator, amongst other things, walks the streets en route to the Duomo. The sun sits high, beating down with a warm greeting as his feet strike the cobblestone beneath them. Street vendors and artists alike gaze upon him in a muted awe, as he nears the end of his time after having accomplished what most considered impossible many times over.

As he reaches the corner, a man steps into his path and accidentally nudges his shoulder slightly: that man is Niccolo Machiavelli. The stoic author of [_The Prince _]greets da Vinci humbly, a mutual respect acknowledged between the two.

Leonardo then continues into the Duomo, a building still marveled by most of the world over. Strolling through the entrance, he sees another acquaintance from the corner of his eye, this time: Michelangelo. A painter, whose works would include works in St. Peter’s Basilica, after his incredible piece in the Sistine Chapel.

At the center of the artistic and intellectual renaissance in Florence resided a single family: the Medici’s.

Led by the incomparable Lorenzo, their funds, most importantly, injected the capital necessary for such a miraculous flourishing of mental might. The things accomplished inside the walls of the city continue to baffle those who look back upon its magnificence. Arguably three of the most intelligent people the world had seen to that point, congregated within the same general proximity.

What was done in Florence will remain the bar for as long as humanity continues. Though our given intelligence at birth has clearly increased in the last five-hundred years, the breadth and magnitude of these people far superseded the understood world at the time.

Halsey: Out of the Furnace and into Stardom

If you fly down Route 57 in New Jersey, you’ll pass Podunk memories along a one lane highway, littered with run down garages and farms stretching on either side. As you gaze to the left and right, the glacial valley’s hills rise slightly to the horizon, Point Mountain creating a peak that looms over the Mansfield Shoprite ominously.

It has remained desolated for near all of its 150 years of history. The fields remain, some barren, some bearing crops. Up atop the hill in front of you is the state police institution, the only one of its kind for probably forty or so square miles. If not for two small towns, Hackettstown and Washington, the area would have been forfeit to drugs and poverty long ago.

I know this, because, I too, grew up here.

Heroin has made itself a staple of the local communities of late, with news of another overdose sometimes only a few days separated from another. With a total county population of about 100,000, it finds itself as one of the smaller counties in the state.

So, then, surprise could be warranted at how the singer Halsey has witnessed a blossoming music career in the face of such adversity. There was a time, not long ago, when she was a Tumblr sensation because of her “Haylor” song, but now, she finds herself primed and ready for launch into full-on stardom.

On August 28th, her album [_Badlands _]is set to be released, a project that has already generated a large amount of buzz.

There’s no telling what will happen going forward, but the remarkable progress made has been nothing short of incredible.

Most people stay on that road in New Jersey for what feels like an eternity. There are rarely few, if any, who dare to avert from its course. As Halsey gains the recognition and fame which are undoubtedly coming to her, it’ll be important to remember where she came from.

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[_ As the Embers Smolder: Heat Fans after Lebron_]

Pitbull blares in the background as you slosh your margarita lightly in one hand. The tinge of yesterday’s tan still feels warm upon your skin, so you button up you shirt in spite of the humid, early night air.

Sunglasses adorn your face and clasp perfectly to the high cheekbones and low self-esteem that outlines your taut face. The faintest line of spikes run askew from your forehead to just below your parietal foramen, mimicking the great Viking warriors of the past, or possibly the pet hedgehog you once had as a child.

Drink nearing aridity, sun fully set, you glide past security into the arena for what is guaranteed to be a disappointing night at American Airlines, but you swallow your usual lofty pride.

Ever since he left, you feel empty. Like a Tiesto song that never drops, a Ferrari going the speed limit, something is missing from inside of you. He was supposed to bring his talents, but instead he only brought you pain. You will heal, things will get better, but the gnawing inevitability of never quite reaching the pinnacle you had with him at your side will fail to dissipate.

The half-time buzzer sounds, much to your delight. Maybe another fruity drink will make this game pass by quicker than the last. You’re nearly out of the doldrums when a young boy prances before you in a number 6 jersey, and the pangs of forbidden love once again thrust themselves deep into your chest cavity.

Third quarter begins, and inbound that lacks a certain gusto, but you dismiss it. You’ve now trapped yourself so far inside your head that you’re watching replays of Ray Allen’s game winning three against the Spurs on the court instead of the conundrum of a starting five currently playing.

As it nears to its end, you see the same sullen look in the faces of those surrounding you. Disappointed, but consigned to defeat and hardship for the foreseeable future. Before Lebron, you and most of the others in the arena were carefree, lax, maybe even whimsical, but the aftermath of his time on South Beach has left you cold and broken.

The future scares you, the present feels numb, and the past is an ever fading memory that you wish would simply disappear forever. And when the ball tips in October, you’ll be ready to do it all over again.

Wash, Rinse, Delete: Hillary Clinton and the E-Mail Saga

When she announced her candidacy for President, it was met with a foi gras of smooth one liners, belligerent exclamations of heinous criminal acts, and above all, an overwhelming sigh at the foregone conclusion made months earlier.

Since that day, media outlets, members of Congress, as well as, ardent Twitter members of the Republican Praetorian guard have launched attack after attack to attempt a shattering blow into the very heart of her campaign phalanx which would send her and her Caesarian intentions back across the Rubicon from whence they came.

Alas, even after Benghazi was uncovered and recovered and uncovered, she purchased Chipotle, and the secret of her private e-mail account was slowly unfurled for the waiting audiences of the world, she stood strong.

However, currently, with Bernie Sanders surging in the polls, dominating a voter-base that Hillary herself cannot seem to gain a hold on: the burgeoning youth population, she has begun to falter ever so slightly.

With news last night that the FBI has evidence of a large scale erase on her e-mail account, contents unsure, in combination with allegations that she shared classified information unwittingly, the case for a President Hillary Clinton has taken a bit of a stagger back.

So shocking is the idea that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, that it would hold the same weight as Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson fighting an unknown in a championship bout, only to be knocked down within the first two rounds.

There seems to be no doubt in the Democratic camp that she will bring all ends of the controversy together and exit relatively unscathed, but, there’s no telling what else a determined group of Hillary-haters could find. Another scandal to this magnitude could see her candidacy all but stutter to a complete halt before it ever had the chance to leave the ground.

Heading into the end of summer and the all-important fall months of campaigning the year before the election, Hillary Clinton has yet to convince most of America’s youth of anything except that she would most likely make a less controversial President than Donald Trump, although, even that now seems like a stretch.

Suburban Youth: Autonomy in Hip-Hop

Whether silent or spoken in vocal form, there has always been a sense of confusion among suburban parents, since the inception of hip-hop as a musical genre, as to why their children love to listen to it so much.

Growing up suburban, many times as a white American, there is a lack of interest and mystery to every day menial tasks. The love affair with hip-hop is the same as it is for any other person in the country: amazing stories, told by people who you believe, with a style that is undeniably audibly pleasing.

However, there may be a deeper root at play here, as suburban youth continue to proliferate their love for the art form in artists such as Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and Shy Gleezy.

If you travel to Chicago or Southeast D.C. as a suburban kid, no matter your race, you are likely to feel as out of place as if you had travelled out of the country in its totality. Having said this, there is still a palpable affection for the music of the “streets” that is emulated everywhere from Maine to New Mexico.

The idea of autonomy is something that rappers and moguls alike having been preaching for generations. Dame Dash famously says that he’s “never had a boss”, and the picture of a life without parental structure, societal constrictions, and otherwise monotonous personality traits reigns supreme in the eyes of an impressionable young suburban kid.

By listening to “Kobe”, you neither have to actually know how to shoot a basketball, behave in a street environment, or even be anywhere near Chicago to feel the sentiment portrayed in the lyrics. The pervasive culture of hip-hop is not on the rise, nor is it a scary, lurking demon coming to get your children; hip-hop is popular culture.

Everyone from Jay-Z to Macklemore has played a role in making it so, and the music alone is one aspect of an otherwise all permeating culture. Clothing, speech, and a menagerie of other epithets flood the airwaves and minds of the young people of America all day long.

It’s time to stop asking why your kids like hip-hop, start understanding.

Internment: The Aftermath of WWII on Japanese-Americans

Pearl Harbor has just been struck, and you set with off with your friends to enlist in a branch of the military with the intention of serving and protecting your nation and family.

You then tell this story to your kids and grandchildren, if you survive of course, and the collective memory is passed down from generation to generation.

Reverent and stoic in your stance, you command respect from your lineage and set forth an example unparalleled for two generations following you.

Now imagine, that instead of serving your nation, your nation views you as a threat.

You’ve been thrown into internment because the people who attacked this nation happened to look and speak like you. Now, instead of just you dealing with the repercussions of your actions, a future is forced upon your family where that collective memory is taken away.

It’s impossible to look back on the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans with anything but disdain, as we abandoned the very foundations of this country in the frantic aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Though it is clear to recognize the immediate effect on the people, the elongated effect may at times be worse. Many Japanese immigrants moved to San Fransisco and Los Angeles, where there currently resides a sizeable amount of Japanese gang violence and proliferation.

Of course, this piece doesn’t purport that each individual effected either directly or indirectly has resorted to a life of crime, but it’s possible that there is a correlation between the two.

When you indiscriminately throw tens of thousands of people into internment because of their heritage, it will ultimately affect many more people than intended. Say each person averaged 3 children and those children averaged three children. That leaves you with nearly a million effected persons as a result of the internment of 120,000.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the United States government determined it necessary at the time, but with vigilance we have managed to avoid doing some in the last seventy years.

Diamonds are Forever: Why Jay-Z is the Undisputed King of Hip-Hop

Birthed into the Marcy projects, in the cesspool that was Brooklyn in the ‘70s, Shawn Corey Carter not only defied the struggle, but did so with grace.

From his early with Big Daddy Kane, to his partnership with Dame Dash, Hov was always one thing: clean. Understandably, there have been allegations, lawsuits, and criminal charges evaded, handled, and disputed, but his image has been flossy.

Reasonable Doubt, a landmark work in a time where Biggie was dominating the New York scene, saw Jay-Z’s stock and credibility as an artist propel forward. Skip ahead seven years, and he’s released five classic albums, critically acclaimed across the board.

From a lyrical standpoint, there could be room to argue the position of Biggie, Big Pun, Fabolous, Jadakiss, 2Pac, or a variety of others depending on preference, but the undeniable truth of the matter is this: not one of them has achieved what Jay-Z has.

In 2015, he sits with twelve solo albums, four compilation albums, and countless other features. His catalogue is both massive and astoundingly impressive. Clearly, there were a few mishits along the line, such as In My Lifetime Vol. 1, but even that had hits like “Where I’m From”.

The braggadocio and bravado that Jay-Z spits with makes his rhymes intoxicating, injecting pure adrenaline and confidence into the listener that is rarely, if at all, paralleled. He could convince you that you really are the “dope man”, or the “bad guy”, and you would own it with all of your might.

Sitting atop the throne is never easy, and [_Magna Carta Holy Grail _]is evidence of that. Unfortunately for the rappers who currently inhabit the top 40 charts, bar J. Cole, Kendrick, and Drake, one of Jay-Z’s least popular albums still unequivocally dominated every other project released.

It’s time to stop pretending that there’s any other members of hip-hop royalty still in the game, Jay has done it better and will, for all intents and purposes, continue to do it better for quite some time. While we all have love for [Illmatic, _]Nas’ collection pales in comparison. _Ready to Die was an amazing album, but Biggie simply didn’t have the time to build his catalogue.

King Hov, Roc-A-Fella royalty.

Lacrosse and the Iroquois: Intertwined in History

What can be viewed as one of the most popular sports in America, specifically in the Northeast, actually started as one of the first competitive games on the continent.

Played by the Iroquois, who inhabited a large portion of New York and the surrounding areas, lacrosse was a game deeply rooted in the spirit and warrior role, as its participants believed they were at battle for the glory and good of their tribe whence they played.

Much has remained the same over the last thousand years of its playing, but one significant difference is the amount of players used on the field at once. There are writings and pictures of thousands of people playing lacrosse at one time in Canada and in New York, but the modern equivalent uses a mere 10 players per side.

Different length sticks denote different positions, such as the elongated stick of the defender, and the full on contact nature of the sport is what primarily led to the warrior association of the players. The Iroquois, as well as other native tribes in Canada, held the game in their highest form of regard, and occasions where it was played were treated as almost holy in nature.

In recent decades, lacrosse has picked up immensely in popularity, flooding the high schools of states from Connecticuit to Oregon. The love of the game still remains as strong as it was a thousand years ago, but the connection between native and settler which lies beneath the superficial aspects of the game is something much more critical.

Looking at sport in the United States, it’s fascinating to consider the impact that lacrosse has had. The first football game wasn’t played until the 18th century, a hundred years before basketball, yet lacrosse remained from the year 1100 in most documented cases, until today.

Leagues have begun to spring up around the world, but the undoubted starting point for the sport was in the forests of New York, where groups of Iroquois would bleed and cry for their side.

Forgotten History: The Lenape People

On the banks of the Delaware River, from southern New York to the bottom of New Jersey, even flooding into Maryland, the Lenape people were the natives who first encountered European settlers in the region.

After 250 years, their population has dwindled to a mere 16,000 in the United States, and it’s important to keep their legacy and tradition alive in world where love and appreciation for others diversity reigns supreme.

Mostly speaking Unami, but some areas speaking in Munsee, the Lenape engaged in hunter gather behaviors typical of the time, whilst maintaining a social structure built upon the foundation of respect and love for your fellow person.

In modern day New Jersey, you can still find remains of settlements, although many have become trapped underground.

Many Lenape have left the area, by force, after new settlements were created in the west and in Wisconsin to further facilitate European colonization of the region. Their name still holds on in some places, like Lenape Valley High School in New Jersey.

It’s unfortunate that though many Unami and Munsee words are used throughout the states where they once lived (to name towns, streets, etc.), their legacy has all but faded into obscurity, replaced by the Italian-Irish majority which now inhabits New York and New Jersey.

The famous book The Last of the Mohicans draws a distinct correlation to the Delaware people, however lacks the true identification necessary to give the Lenape and other tribes the respect they deserve.

Fertile shores, impeccable soil, and a beautiful landscape drew the Lenape south many thousands of years ago, and their memory should live on in the people who currently call these places home.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and the beauty of the Lenape people is their grace, compassion, and uncanny respect for those who have come before and those will come in the future. Long may their history live on and continue to infiltrate the grounds of the Tri-State area.

The Making of a Sports Family: Liverpool FC

For most supporters, whether it be basketball, baseball, or football, there is a deep connection crafted in years of anguish and joy that makes that makes you more than a fan. This sentiment resounds, perhaps most astoundingly, within the community of Liverpool supporters around the world.

  1. Tragedy

Though many were either not alive, or too young to remember the tragic events of Heysel and Hillsborough, their legacy remains in the modern supporter; one who would, at most times, be willing of near anything sans blood sacrifice to see their club prosper. It is not, however, simply tragedy which crafts the sinews of a beating club orifice, pumping energy into the women and men who support them, for joy holds just as much of a place in the story.

  1. Joy

Understandably, Liverpool supporters have become sickened by the memory of Istanbul, as it has been played out on every possible platform, especially with the recent departure of club captain and legend, Steven Gerrard. However, it is important not to forget the magnitude such an event can have on the creation of lore around a club. An insurmountable lead, a formidable defense, and a tale of heroism was born in the hazy night air of that Turkish city. Pure elation filled the streets from Anfield Road to Indonesia as word spread of the miracle that night. As is typical of life, though, joy does not last long before it is cast away and long forgotten.

  1. Hardship

After the departure of Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, and Javier Mascherano, Liverpool FC experienced one of the worst 5 years periods in its history, coming close to the brink of collapse after Comoll, Hicks and Gillett nearly drove club finances into bankruptcy. Mediocre league finishes, poor cup performances, and an overall lack of ambition plagued supporters in their sleep, and the once great club seemed doomed to be average.

  1. Redemption

Following the sale of Liverpool FC to Fenway Sports Group, the most remarkable thing happened. After a prolonged period of dismay and disagreement in the Liverpool camp, they pushed themselves to a second place finish in the 2013-14 season. Far gone seemed the days of bankruptcy and Roy Hodgson. Instead, it was replaced by something not recently seen on Merseyside: hope. With the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquisition and a good league finish behind them, the Reds would stumble to a fifth place finish in the following year, their second best finish in the previous 6 years.

And so, a family was born out of turmoil, pain, joy, and sorrow, with bonds stronger than your typical sports supporter. Men and women who sacrifice sleep to wake up at 3:30AM PST to watch Liverpool play. People who, though continuously disappointed, remain as fervent and determined in their support as ever.

Haka and Christchurch: The Maori People

Sprinkled throughout the islands of New Zealand is a pervasive and longstanding people, known as the Maori. Polynesian by DNA, the Maori people have managed to maintain their culture, as well as, watch it flourish in the last hundred years.

For many native cultures, their initial ideas and practices have been erased by years of colonial domination, however, the natives of New Zealand have fought back with grace to hold onto all things they hold dear.

Picture the famous photograph of the man with the tattooed face, the blueish white ink making his eyes appear much larger and scarier than thought possible. He, like many other men in New Zealand, is Maori.

If you’ve ever watched the All-Blacks play a match, they begin with a strange chant or dance, referred to as the Haka which involves intimidating the opponent. That is a direct contribution of the Maori, a war chant meant to intimidate your enemy in battle.

Perhaps you’ve heard Stan Walker, the world famous musician whose song “Loud” went gold and has released multiple albums since, he too hails from the Maori line.

What occurred in New Zealand is representative of the best documented treatment of natives in world history. Currently, there are Maori seats in Parliament, and they have also been known to win general election seats in the past.

New Zealand is heralded as the forefront of race relations and the beautiful culture of the Maori people has shown through as a result of that. Their ideals and beliefs are celebrated, not diminished, and the country is better off because of it.

In the future, hopefully all remaining natives are treated with such dignity and respect as they hold a much longer connection to the irrelevant land we all now stand upon. They hold secrets, passed down for generations that can only help in moving humanity forward.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Drake vs. Meek Mill

For some inexplicable reason, when Meek Mill decided to openly question Drake’s quality as a writer, he had yet to consider the action he would be required to take when the “beef” eventually reached a prime level of cooked. Maybe it was just a rash series of tweets, fired out without inhibition, unaware of the impending consequences. Or perhaps, Meek Mill really believed he held the upper hand should it come down to it.

Nobody can deny that Meek has credit as a battle rapper and freestyler, especially in Philadelphia; however, what he failed to realize, is that the art of battle rap and true lyrical craftsmanship on the fly is not something which is appreciated in modern hip-hop. I have complete confidence that in a freestyle battle, on the spot, Meek Mill washes Drake 9 times out of 10, but, this isn’t the lane that Meek stepped into.

It could have been a faint dream, a whisper in his ear, that maybe it was time to take down the “6 god” and expose him for what he was. But unfortunately, that whisper manifested itself in something that looked more like a schizophrenic break than the call of the wild. After releasing “Charged Up” and “Back to Back”, while also sending long-time nemesis Charlamagne the God bottles, and having time to correlate his diss tracks with the upcoming Blue Jays/Phillies series, he sat motionless. Maybe it was because he’s on tour, but even when the opportunity presented itself for him to respond, he did so in a convoluted, near impossible to comprehend track.

Of course, the internet responded with disdain and disappointment, but for me, this is always how it has been and how it will be. When you give someone like Drake the time to take control, he will bring you into his arena. You can’t outperform someone who casually drops projects of bangers without a second thought. But you could have out rapped a man who needed a BlackBerry to drop a freestyle.

Moral of the story is, if you truly want to be successful and come out on top, remain in control and keep the battle in your own field. Meek Mill was never going to win this beef once that first track from Drake dropped, it was a terminal disease from the point forward with an unknown life expectancy.

Crime and the NFL: A Relationship too Sweet to End

It’s widely known that the NFL and its players have a long-standing relationship with the law, but the actual numbers of the situation are even more shocking when considered.

Since 2000, the longest period of time without an arrest has been just over 2 months.

The most high-profile of late, perhaps, was the case of Aaron Hernandez and his suspected involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd. We would soon learn that he would be sentenced to prison time, although no one truly doubted it from the beginning.

Most common amongst NFL players, however, is the incidence of DUI arrests, of which there have been 203 since 2000.

On average, there’s a period of seven days between NFL player arrests, meaning an average of one player per game week.

Coming in second, highlighted by the case of Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens and Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back, is the instance of domestic violence.

Again, with a count of 90 arrests since 2000, there is a rate of approximately 6 per year that are reported and result in conviction.

Though these facts seem to be widely known by the public, the incessant amount of crime in NFL locker rooms is astonishing.

At www.nflarrest.com, there is a running tab and accumulation of data from the end of the 2000 season which compiles all arrest information on any player, signed or free agent throughout the year. With them minimum punishments doled out by the NFL, it seems as if the problem of crime in the league will continue in perpetuity, at least for the time being.

Why “Deflategate” May Never End: The Enigma of Tom Brady

There are an uncanny amount of Patriots haters, specifically in the portion of I-95 which run from Connecticut to southern New Jersey, and the false idol assigned to this loathing manifests itself in the form of one man: Tom Brady.

Drafted in an irrelevant later round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady has gone on to aggravate Jets fans specifically, but any fan of the NFL who wished to see the dynasty end a long time ago. After 6 Super Bowls, 4 rings, and 3 Super Bowl MVP’s, the 38 year-old quarterback has overstayed his welcome and the legions of angered fans, spurned by his personal involvement in their teams’ demises, wish to see his legacy unfurl string by string.

In 2007, his organization was accused of using video surveillance to gain an upper hand in a game against the New York Jets, but Brady emerged completely unscathed, much to the dismay of everyone who had been cheering on his downfall.

So when the whisperings began about “Deflategate”, it was only natural for the seemingly endless population of Tom Brady character assailants to acquiesce in its general direction. Accused of having a direct hand in the deflation of game balls in the run up to his fourth Super Bowl Championship, Brady has been vilified and called to testify before various bodies to protect his image.

While all of New England defends Brady, Belichick, and Craft, the rest of the nation looks on, hoping for Roger Goodell to stumble upon a smoking gun that all but transforms Brady’s career into something reminiscent of Barry Bonds’: impressive, unexpected, but ultimately wrought in fraudulent behavior, the extent of which is not known.

Any one person or group of people who has ascended to greatness has dealt with the criticism that accompanies it, perhaps very few more than Tom Brady and the Patriots organization. From the heroics of Adam Vinatieri kicking field goals in the snow in the early 2000’s, to late game interceptions in an entirely new decade, the Patriots have been birthed in a caustic fire, susceptible to the unrelenting calls for their destruction and recession back to mediocrity.

If one thing has been proven certain in the last 15 years since Brady’s arrival to the NFL it’s that his legacy will likely remain for many years to come. The Patriot name has been cemented in the highest echelon of football glory, with players continuously queuing to be the next round of champions.

Straight Outta Courtrooms: Dr. Dre and His Assault Record

Crenshaw sparkled on the silver screen in the last two weeks, as moviegoers gained an inside look at the history of the formation, success, and collapse of Compton’s N.W.A. in the late 80’s and early 90’s. A remarkable accomplishment, clearly detailed in the film, glosses over the many unattractive aspects of life in Compton, as well as, the behavior of their beloved producer: Dr. Dre.

Laden within the cracks forged by police brutality and unadulterated harassment was born a new type of misconduct: that of domestic conflicts within the, often, drug-ridden communities of the time. Dee Barnes, whose piece you can find in Gawker here, was one of the first to come forward and discuss the flagrant transgressions made by a young Dre as N.W.A. was first taking flight.

In response to a segment on the show she was currently working on, he beat Barnes on the floor of a bathroom, thrust her head into a wall, and unleashed a general rage that would see him plead no contest to assault charges, as well as, pay a settlement out of court.

The assault was ignored rather simply, with little comment made in the few years after in reference to the event, and over the early years of his career, it would become a common trope. His onetime girlfriend Michel’le was beaten so severely at times, that she would look to plastic surgery after their partnership ended to repair the damage.

In 1990, Dre assaulted Tairrie B after hearing a song off of her new album, punching her twice in the face at a Grammys party.

The abhorrent and unfortunate history of assault that we see in the life of Dre is not at all something that is uncommon in many areas of the country. Forced into destitution because of drugs, poor schooling, poor communities, men frequently turn to anger against their spouse and others in response.

Dr. Dre’s case is no different than many who have come before him, and hopefully, less who will come after. Though his actions are unconscionable, the deeper reality is the pervasiveness at which domestic violence penetrates American communities. Including just one of these stories in the biopic about N.W.A. could have done immense work towards healing the festering wound.

Real Marketability in Podcasts: The Brilliant Idiots

So rarely is the combination of wit and honesty so fruitfully combined, that an entire podcast decided to dedicate its name to the cause. Though “The Brilliant Idiots” doesn’t seem to be a complex title, the derivative of “idiot” I find most applicable is simply ignorant of social cue and structure.

This, by no means, is a bad thing. The majority of people on the internet are looking for a different version of themselves that they can invest their time in consuming content of, and what The Brilliant Idiots has done for the podcasting community, as well as, for media in general, has been profound.

Charlamagne the God, Andrew Schulz, and an array of other guests, have made for a series compounded with knowledge delivered in raunchy snippets, a snapshot of the normal life lived outside the façade of television and the movies.

The two most successful guests, arguably, have come in the form of Wax and Taxstone. Wax, an outright funny individual on his own, meshes with longtime friend Charlamagne and Schulz because of the brevity and scope of the opinions represented. While Wax brings the street element and Schulz brings the more conservative, white element, Charlamagne remains the voice of neutrality, speaking his mind as truthfully as can possibly be dictated in the moment.

Taxstone had already developed a following on Twitter before being invited onto the podcast, and his episode proved to highlight many of the same characteristics already mentioned. When he discussed being shot in the face, we heard the shock in Schulz’s voice and saw the expression on his face, but simultaneously, witnessed the seeming monotony about Charlamagne response. A telling representation of American culture, it exposed the real problem with race relations in America: a lack of awareness.

As Schulz listened to Tax’s depiction, he showcased what white America feels on most occasions. It isn’t necessarily a lack of empathy or willingness to understand, it’s a simple removal from the truth of the situations that others face, one which could thrust you into positions such as the aforementioned.

To check out The Brilliant Idiots podcast go to:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Q73rEhTVcrh6770mTT0Ww

https://soundcloud.com/thebrilliantidiots

https://twitter.com/brilliantidiots

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[+ +]The Gods of Old and New: Thor, Loki, Odin, Freyja

Much of religion is anecdote.

This fact is neither debatable, nor problematic, for it is the lessons and judgement passed on through the stories that is appreciated and praised upon the most high.

A particularly impressive and intriguing set of anecdotes comes from the Norse people in the form of the Gods Loki, Odin, Freyja, and Thor, amongst others.

The primary four focused upon in this piece, as aforementioned, play a significant role in the early Germanic formation of religion and each individual was bestowed with certain powers.

Odin, the master of intellect in fairness, is proclaimed to have given the Norse people the runic alphabet which they would use for centuries following.

Freyja, who might in modern terms be likened to the Grim Reaper, as she was responsible for choosing the dead amongst those who would ultimately fight in battle.

Loki, whose most significant contribution comes when he murders a fellow God’s child, but still remains respected amongst the chosen elite.

Finally, Thor, whose sole responsibility lies in protecting humanity and avenging his past missteps while wielding his infamous hammer, is regarded as the most commonly known Norse god in the current era.

Paganistic ritual and the religions of old Europe are frequently viewed as outdated, inhumane, and disgusting, but upon further examination the true beauty of the collection of stories is evident. Like a well-functioning machine, each God plays their given role, never stepping above or below another. Each as revered, each as disdained. The cataclysmic deconstruction of the system is what the Nordic peoples sought to prevent.

Balance was everything. It meant that you were never to strive for the utmost, but merely to strive for the solace and consolation of live amongst the creations of the Gods in their world.

Lessons can be taken from the old Gods, as well as, the new. There is knowledge in experience, and these thoughts and constructions come directly from such things, simply a millennia earlier than the current time.

The Dying Languages of Russia’s Far-East: Requiem for a Linguist

During Stalin’s reign, failed nationalistic policies left the country as divided as previous times, in reference to language and culture. The daunting size of such an expansive nation left policy makers befuddled in the face of increasing world tension. Totally removed from the situation, were most people of Russia’s Far-East.

The Udege people have dwindled to numbers as low as under 2,000, with native speakers making up less than a tenth of that population. An endangered language, their people struggle to keep the language alive as younger people continue to learn Russian as a first language.

Also in a similar predicament as the Udege people is a group called the Nanai. Though their numbers are far greater, near 20,000, their close proximity to China and placement within Russia has caused for a rift to be opened in the generational gap. Young people forego learning the Nanai language in favor of Russian or Chinese because of job security and procurement, as well as, social cue.

A relatively forgotten region of Russia, it screams out for the assistance of linguistics students and academics to preserve the written and spoken language of the various groups of people who inhabit the area.

One linguist armed with one notepad could play a massive role in the preservation of the language. Unfortunately, throughout world history, languages have arisen and died as a result of its malleable nature and inherent affinity for positive movement. A social construct, language is the epitome of for and by the people, as their behaviors determine the structure and makeup of the syntax.

Implicit value is held in words because your mind determines it objectively. Once the languages are forgotten in totality, their words mean nothing and their wealth of knowledge is lost forever.

The Queen of Ska: Gwen Stefani

The genre of ska evolved from its roots in reggae and jazz rather swiftly, with much of its influence being centered in the Tri-State area.

Groups like Less than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones made the “ska sound” one of the most popular of the ‘90s, but there was perhaps no group bigger than No Doubt.

Headlined by Gwen Stefani, No Doubt produced highly successful work for the majority of their most popular tenure in the industry.

What she did for ska and women and bands was similar to the effect Debbie Harry had when she came out with Blondie.

Gusto and a quirky voice were her marking characteristics and they propelled her directly into stardom, where she remains to this day.

A judge on “The Voice”, Stefani still influences modern music.

Songs like “Don’t Speak” will forever remain cruxes in the music scene, and for a genre as eclectic as ska, it’s quite an accomplishment.

In 2004 she launched her solo career and in 2006 was nominated for five Grammies.

No matter what lane she enters, she succeeds and makes the people around her perform to their highest degree. Great contributions make for perpetual stardom and her work has certainly stood the test of the last two decades.

The Roar That Fades: Tiger Woods

No one thought possible that after his wife so ironically smashed his back window in with a golf club that Tiger Woods could return to the one time greatness he so clearly personified.

However, the downfall of Tiger has been nothing but painful to watch.

Failing to miss cuts, hitting drives into the trees, chipping past the green, and a slew of other things have seen his stock as a golfer fall dramatically.

His mental state clearly fractured, Tiger has little left to claim in his golf career. Easy to forget given his current circumstances, he was poised to blow the PGA Tour win record out of the water with many years to spare in his time on the fairway. Now, he sits second, likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.

The game of golf needs a healthy, stable Tiger Woods. Arguably one of the most marketable athletes in the world one time, he took golf to new heights and opened its popularity to a much larger base.

On par with Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and Jackie Robinson, he took the sport on a ride with him that will not be fully appreciated until it is further in the past.

Understandably, the community behind the “gentleman’s game” have been harsh on Tiger, believing that he smeared the image and tarnished all credibility that the sport had. However, it should be said that Tiger Woods deserves the utmost respect.

From the iconic fist pumps after long putts, to the emotional photographs of him with his father Earl throughout his career, Tiger has given the world moments of ecstasy, it’s only fair to allow him time to properly handle his situation.

Hopefully, upon looking at these words in a year, they can be deemed false as he mounts a comeback to the pinnacle of the game once again. It should be a universal belief that that would be best for the game and for Tiger.

The King of Controversy: Donald Trump and the Mastering of Scandal

Not many people in the country, let alone the GOP’s remaining field, speak with as much vitriol and outright passion as businessman Donald Trump, the unwanted leader of the republican primary at the moment. Much of the voter base remains confounded by his incredible rise to the top of the field, but the reality is much simpler than it is being represented.

There is an age old adage that says “all publicity is good publicity”, but Trump seems to take the meaning and run. Charismatic speeches laces with fervor and underlying bigoted tones which would typically place a person seeking public office in a KO situation see the CEO smiling and embracing the negative press he receives.

Each time Donald Trump shrugs off an inquisitive probe into sexist or racist comments, it reminds the American people how little concern he has for the opinions of the greater system. Apathy is his greatest weapon as it is the one which the American people identify with the most. The past 15 years have seen outrage over dictatorships, torture, chemical weaponry, genocide, but relatively no forward progress. For all of the energy expended on making voices heard, the American government has done very little to contribute to the improvement of each situation.

Donald Trump represents the anger and overall exhaustion that a lot of American people exude currently. He does not lace his words with frilly intonation and over the top vocabulary nuance, instead he focuses on the basic message.

Avoiding scandal will certainly solidify your credibility in any public position, but embracing the scandal with both arms and squeezing the page-views and television viewers out of it will exponentially grow your base of supporters, especially in the case of Trump.

In a country where general respect for others has evolved into, at times, active support of censorship by certain sects of the political spectrum, a voice such as Trump’s is welcomed. He breaks the flow of normalcy and the most prevalent example of this could be seen in the first question of the very first GOP debate.

Asked to raise their hand if they could not commit to supporting the eventual Republican candidate and abandoning thoughts of an independent run, only one person actually strayed from the norm. Donald Trump may have unpopular, and, at times, incomprehensible opinions, but he represents a fundamental fracturing of the monotony found in modern politics.

What’s eating Chase Utley? Middle Infield and the Art of the Slide

If anybody should understand the pain and difficulty of turning a double play, it should be Chase Utley. The former Phillies second-baseman, now playing with the Dodgers, made a dubious calculation on Saturday night which resulted in a broken leg for Ruben Tejada, and an onslaught of criticism from the media and his fellow players.

Having been on the other end of said slides, Utley would be the perfect candidate to treat the play with dignity and respect; but, just as in all cases, he also would be the ideal double agent: overtly aware of every movement, weakness, and pressure point on the arteries of the shortshop and second base positions.

Does he have a history of this type of thing? Yes.

That can either mean two things, that he’s a sociopath and enjoys hurting his fellow middle infielders, or he is willing to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in order to give his team the little bit of advantage they need to secure a victory, like what happened in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Say what you will about his intentions, motivations, and overall character in the hallowed wooden frame that encapsulates the sometimes outdated photograph of baseball in America, but the result is clear: victory.

For the rest, it is up for decision whether he is evil or heroic, a demon or simply a misunderstood actor working in the favor of the Lord.

As absurd as it sounds, if Chase Utley’s leg had been broken in a reversed play, Mets fans may see the situation a little differently.

Women at Arms: Special Forces

Tuesday, August 18th, will be recorded as an important day for the female community in the armed forces. Two women graduated from Ranger school in Fort Benning, GA, the first such in the history of the program.

Though it certainly calls for respect and congratulations, it exposes an underlying problem that still faces the military complex. In basic infantry divisions, women have begun to see their acceptance on the field of battle, but in the realm of Special Forces, they still lagged far behind.

Understandably, the path towards total equality requires a learning curve and that can involve substantial time. From 2010 to 2011, the numbers on sexual assault in the military spiked significantly, but it was understood that it was more a result of a willingness to comply in reporting.

Recent campaigns in support of feminism have, no doubt, assisted in unveiling the larger issues at play in the United States. One of which was attending in aid to the thousands of women in the military who felt threatened or underrepresented in the situations they were placed into. Now, the more scrutinizing community is obligated to report upon any mistreatment and conditions are improving because of it.

For the greater populous, feminism is an, at times, misunderstood and misrepresented movement. Outsiders see it as an aggressive attempt at inserting female dominance the world over, insiders see it as an all too perfect amalgamation of equality and neutrality. The truth is, feminism is an important, yet sometimes flawed, system that is necessary for betterment in the world.

The values appreciated by feminists and the reasons for pursuit of said values are frequently well-founded, but there inevitably have been, and will be, hiccups along the path for a greater humanity. From a male perspective, it is not acceptable to define what is or isn’t an issue or pressure felt by the female members of society. In the same vein, however, militant abuse of the poor treatment of women throughout the world to build an aggregate base is just as damaging, providing the word feminism with unbridled hatred that would otherwise not be necessary.

Just as the women whom graduated from Ranger school can be proud of their accomplishments as people first, and women second, we as a community should hold it in our highest regard and obligation to continue the pursuit of equality amongst all.

Women in the Middle East: Kuwaiti Business

For years, there has been a vast misconception in the West about the treatment of women in the Middle East. Though there is truth held in the observation that some countries have a poor record in this circumstance, there are also glimmers of hope.

In Kuwait, the opportunities in business for women can be seen frequently, and this year’s list of the 100 most powerful Arab women provided the perfect platform to showcase this.

With 12 entries, Kuwait outperforms all other Middle Eastern nations with a population of only 3.4 million.

Specifically, two names that stand out are Maha Al Ghunaim and Sara Akbar.

Al Ghunaim was co-founder of Kuwait’s first investment bank to be placed on the LSE, Global Investment House. With assets in the 10 digit range, GIH is a leader in the Middle East and has a trusted reputation that has been forged over years of successful business.

Working for KUFPEC until 2005 when she founded Kuwait Energy, Sara Akbar has turned an independent hydrocarbon production corporation into one of Kuwait’s largest grossing organizations. Her tact as a business leader is acknowledged in the Arab world, as well as, in Europe where her oil is sold and purchased.

Though it is true that there is much work to be done in the Middle East in reference to women’s rights, there are many instances in which their efforts go unheralded. Acknowledgement is the simplest form of proliferation and support, and giving the businesswomen of Kuwaiti their proper validation is among those efforts.

Each person on the Forbes’ list has contributed significantly to the betterment of their own lives, as well as, their families’. Their achievements are remarkable and the world looks on in appreciation at all they have accomplished and will accomplish in the future. Women in the Middle East, just like women elsewhere, are being recognized for their work and it’s our job to continue to spread that message.

Xhosa: Pride of South Africa

‘no-sa.

Didn’t quite catch that?

It’s a no with a click attached.

For years, the elusive “clicks” languages of Africa have mystified Americans and captivated their imagination with the thought that, possibly, other languages use other systems of speaking.

The given name for one of the aforementioned languages is Xhosa. Primarily spoken in South Africa, Xhosa has a native speaker population just under 10 million.

Maybe you’ve heard Trevor Noah, the new host of the Daily Show, use Xhosa in one of his stand-up performances. His mother was a native speaker of the language and passed down, at least partially speaking ability, to her son.

With 18 different types of tonal clicks, learning the language can be extremely difficult for Western speakers. The phrase “dikkukushe bananawe”, or, “nice to meet you”, is void of clicks, but the name of the language itself uses one in its first letter.

In the alphabet, the letter ‘x’ typically denotes a click.

Although we have mostly been removed from this language and its speakers, it is important to note the difference amongst clicks languages, and their existence as a whole in the international community. One of the largest families of languages in the world, the clicks languages are spoken by a large portion of the African continent.

Alongside Afrikaans and English, Xhosa is the third most widely spoken language in all of South Africa. From Cape Town to Bloemfontein, the language can be heard in bars, in the street, and in homes.

The intrinsic beauty of language is stunning at times and Xhosa is no different. Hearing a Xhosa tongue twister is akin to hearing language in general for the first time. With a myriad of clicks thrown into otherwise normal syllabic structure, the true nature of the language flows to the forefront.

 

skåne. by K.E. Walter

My eyes were red.

A pain that I practically begged for throbbed with every pulse of blood that coursed through my body as I lifted my head from the hard plastic back of the Ryan Air seat which had been promptly leaned backwards in front of me. Gazing across the aisle I noticed two friends, who for now will remain nameless, both of which were awakening from their short-lived rest as a baby sang a song of agony in unison with their belabored yawns.

As I looked out the window of the cargo plane turned cheap commercial airliner, it wasn’t what I saw that surprised me, but rather, what I didn’t see. A flat plain protruded beneath the wing of the plane and upon it may have stood a handful of trees so small that I could cover it with the width of my thumb.

My side hurt.

Curiously, an elbow had ended up lodged in my rib cage, and I shook the passenger next to me until they came to consciousness. With a slight smile she affirmed her thanks and I returned my eyes to the head of the plane. When you pay 20 pounds for a flight, you don’t expect to have all amenities offered on a luxury liner. From the moment they administered the menus which comprised of a selection of delicacies similar to those offered at a Waffle House somewhere in the Catoctin Mountains, it was clear that this, merely 90 minute, flight to Sweden would be less than sublime. However, with 19 years of fairly sheltered life under my belt and a slight buzz lingering in the cool, salty air, I stepped off the plane and into a world anew with two friends, for now we’ll call them Moist and Wicked.

My stomach rumbled.

Shockingly, catching a red eye on no sleep and an expended source of covalent bonds processing within my phospholipid bilayer (food) left me rather disoriented as I proceeded toward Swedish customs. Yet, with a bold spring in my step I bounded toward the surprisingly empty line into Malmo Airport. For me, I was in heaven. The great yellow and blue flag which flapped in the wind above the hangar gifted me a sense of adventure and absolute bliss as I slid my passport out of its asinine holder and into the hands of the middle-aged man who began to handle it.

My ears piqued.

His English was perfect. With all of my naivety I guess one thing I had never considered was that, perhaps, there were people in the world who were better at my own language than myself, but I found it on a rainy day in Malmo. With Moist and Wicked following close behind, I received my passport from the “handler” as he asked me “Why have you decided to come to Malmo?” My American (slightly New Jerseyian) attitude proceeded a calm, yet collected, “This place looked pretty cool, I guess” With a slight glare he administered the required stamps to our documents and we were on our way.

Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of exactly where we were on our way to. A few steps past customs showed us that the small Swedish airport was rather barren. Who would have guessed that a 20 pound flight would go to a small airport? Well, as it turns out, every taxi driver in the region had guessed just that. As three of approximately eight arrivals to the airport, we looked around sheepishly until we found a currency exchange where we cashed in our British pounds in favor of the Swedish Kronor. Within minutes, partially due to our bewildered expressions, a taxi driver who seemed to be the most adept at the English language, approached our disheveled party with a proposition:

My brain was hurting.

I never liked math. Nor did I like the prospect of being ripped off by a Swedish taxi driver within a mere few minutes of arriving in the country (again, take into account New Jersey). However, the proposition the driver made successful managed to bamboozle every synapse that had ever fired or was planning to fire in the near future within my head. Like a defeated sheep being herded by a shepherd, we put our heads down and headed for the cab.

You never realize how helpless you can be until you’re thrown into a foreign country without doing any prior research (this will come into play later).

A short (thirty minute) drive to the city center (strip mall) left our downtrodden party in front of a McDonald’s that offered something called a “McFeast” with limited phone battery and free wi-fi. Apparently something that sounded like the “Backpack Haven 7” would be housing us for the next week or so, but the only problem was we had no idea where that actually was. Alas, our brilliant (read, American) minds believed that it would be in our best interest to walk to the city center, a mere three miles from the Mobilia (all hail the Mobilia).

At this point I’d like to give all of my condolences to Moist and Wicked who have, up until now, graciously accepted my offer of a trip to the Skane region of Sweden and Denmark in order to see … well, what, we weren’t exactly sure, but we were going to see it.

It didn’t take long to realize that Malmo, Sweden had about as much aesthetic quality as abandoned Pripyat post Chernobyl meltdown, but alas, we were mesmerized. Giant apartment buildings with seemingly no one in them, burned out cars, graffiti, it was as if we had transported to East Berlin in the late ‘80s and we were loving every second of it.

We found a pizzeria which also doubled as a shawerma stand and I decided to drink something that appeared to be liquefied carrots in a bottle. Nearly 50$ in the hole at this point and craving sleep, the merry band of gentlemen departed the shawermaria and headed for the Backiavagen.

Again, you would assume that a hostel which costs about the equivalent of a McFeast a night may not be the most appealing, but as young, wide-eyed Americans, it only added to the allure. We strode past industrial stacks and an abandoned car, onward to our safe haven where we were greeted by a nice Swedish woman … and no other people.

I think at one point we counted six other guests, but for the most part, we had the hostel to ourselves. Stone gray, concrete floors, bunk beds, and a communal shower that would make those from freshman year of college blush, the Barackiavegan was the perfect accoutrement to our romanticized visions of Scandinavia and Europe in its entirety.

The Somalis have a word, “qashinka” which is essentially garbage, but it comes to mind when thinking of Malmo for some reason. It was as if all of Sweden’s destitution and violence had been subjugated to the confines of the city, never to escape. Unfortunately, we learned this after we had already landed in the homeland of PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Upon researching the local clubs, we stumbled upon the fact that most had been closed or didn’t open very frequently because of a spate of violent attacks on religious, ethnic, and socio-economic minorities within the city limits. Everything from automatic rifle shootings to makeshift bombs had rendered the night life of the southern Swedish city immobile. As we peered out the window onto the highway below, we realized we had come to what had dubiously been dubbed “the Scandinavian terrorism capital”.

My feet were sore.

It was six in the afternoon and we took to sleep. As we rested, our new roommate had entered the space and set up his lodgings across from us. We would later find out he was a drug dealer, making trips to Copenhagen each day.

Welcome to Malmö, the most “moist” city in Sweden.

From Ulaanbaatar With Love: Genghis Khan and the Christian World

Picture a collection of cavalry, dispersed across the wide expanses of the Central Asian steppe, tasked to do an amalgamation of tasks, all in the best interest of some distant, but legendary man and his empire.

When he first assumes power in the early 13th century, the extent of steppe power is limited to an area that resembles most burgeoning empires around it at the time. Within the twenty years of his reign, he will see this increase two fold, reaching further than any one banner had been pushed in the region’s history.

Perhaps the most epic-worthy of the cavalry raids comes in the form of Subutai’s accidental arrival in the Southern Caucasus, or modern day Georgia and Armenia. With most sources citing his forces numbered at around 20,000 at the time, what began as an attempted wrap around on the Kipchak would see Mongols force touch down in Christian Europe for the first time.

Notoriously tolerant of religious difference, himself seeking advice in the form of Buddhist monks and Nestorian Christians, Genghis Khan would ultimately come to be feared by the Western European nations. Engaging in an already difficult crusade at the time of their arrival, the additional impact of raiding parties from the East saw great alliances crafted between Georgia, Kievan Rus, and other predominantly Catholic nations.

Though traditionally aligned because of their historical connection to the Papal State in Rome, the arrival of Genghis Khan’s Mongols pushed fringe nations further toward Christendom. Born a servant in the fledgling Mongol Empire, Subutai would rise to become one of the Great Khan’s most trusted Generals, with his paramount accomplishments taking place in the mountain passes of the aforementioned Caucasus Mountains.

For context, the area where he first arrives is modern day Armenia, but he pushes his way north behind a relatively small scouting party, more interested in discovery than total occupation. With the assistance of the surrounding nations, as well as the Papacy, the Georgian military would still witness defeat at the hands of what would later prove to be a meager showing of force by the steppe nomads.

Returning only a few years later, the territories between the Caspian and Black Sea would be totally conquered by Subutai and the equally significant Mongol General, Jebe. Exemplifying the intrinsic belief of world domination that the Khan himself believed were a self-evident truth, bestowed upon his people by a higher power, the cavalry raids in Christian Europe would create an immediate air of uncertainty around the security of the Eastern borders of the continent.

Given the terrible brutality of Genghis Khan’s movements through the world, it is documented that the people of Europe and the surrounding empires in Asia believed his arrival to be a sign of the end times.

For an already conflicted area, this determination that their best hope for survival lied within the walls of the Catholic Church allowed for the proliferation of the faith into a large portion of the otherwise indeterminate region. With that being said, it is then fair to assume that the Great Khan played an immense role in spreading Christianity to the eastern edges of the continent.

To discount his atrocities would be to praise the space travel advancements of the Soviet Union, while ignoring the tens of millions of people who were left dead and despaired by their destructive policies over the course of their history. Though his contributions to intercommunal engagement and trade is commendable, much of his direct influence came in the form of inhumane practices and merciless treatment of his subjects who dared veer from his provided path. For the first time in history, people from the steppe made their way into the European heartland, bringing with them destruction and greater appreciation for the faith which many formative nations identified with.


UNITATEM

Created in 2015, UNITATEM was formed to provide short form pieces, which would eventually be published in pamphlet format to distribute to the large readership it developed in its five months of activity. At its peak, UNITATEM received more than 8,000 daily visitors, leading to its growth in popularity in many circles. K.E. Walter, founder and editor-in-chief of the project, has now compiled the more than fifty pieces for reading ease, hoping to extend their life spans and continue to encourage greater discourse.

  • Author: K.E. Walter
  • Published: 2016-02-18 04:40:18
  • Words: 17729
UNITATEM UNITATEM