Discovering the Classical Music of William Grant Still

I went for a drive this morning like I do every morning to get coffee, but this drive was different. Today’s drive changed my view on classical music forever. Today, I discovered the music of William Grant Still.

The car turns on and the radio kicks in. It’s on 89.9 All Classical Portland and I’m not really feeling the song (“Swedish Rhapsody No. 2” by Hugo Alfven). I’ve never heard of the composer. Nothing against him, it just isn’t my style.

Put the car in reverse and head out to the exit of my apartment complex and, surprisingly, there isn’t a wait to get out. Traffic is minimal to nonexistent. The drive is now above-average.

As I get to the coffee shop the song changes. It’s a really catchy string piece with a dark and mysterious feel to it (“Humoresque No. 6 in G” by Jean Sibelius; performed by Ilya Gringolts).

I feel like the captain of a newly christened vessel setting off to explore the new world with my feathered bicorne hat and a sabre at my side. It is optimistic but anxious, light but heavy-hitting, and when it ends it leaves you wanting more with an insanely beautiful outro. This piece ends as I am grabbing my coffee from the cashier and I begin exiting the driveway to head back towards my apartment.

When I exit the driveway and get onto the road to head home the song changes again. It pierces my eardrums and brings a smile to my face immediately. This sound that I am hearing is amazing. Who is this amazing composer?

The screen in my center console says it is “Folk Suite No. 2” by William Grant Still.

How have I never heard of William Grant Still before?

If you played me a lineup of Debussy, Dvorak, Bernstein, Gershwin, or any other composer of equal acclaim I would have told you he deserved to be considered right up there with the rest of the best of them. Yet in over ten years of listening to classical music since I first really opened up to the genre I have never heard of William Grant Still.

Who was he? What was his story?

The first thing I did when I got home was look up his piece “Folk Suite No. 2”. I was only able to find a small portion of the suite from a different recording. I could not find the full version anywhere.

I scoured the internet for every  link that was tied to “William Grant Still Folk Suite No. 2” to no avail. Finally, after searching the 89.9 All Classical website I was able to find the album that the track they played came from. It was recorded by the Oregon String Quartet with Fritz Gearhart on violin.

A Google search of Fritz Gearhart led me to a new hope of finding the musical masterpiece by Still. Gearhart’s website was selling the album with the exact Folk Suite I had been searching over an hour for. Just to make sure it was not a fluke I sent him an email. In about an hour or so he responded to let me know it was still available on the website. The album is en route to me as I type this and the link is here.

With my quest for the recording out of the way, the mystery of how I had never heard of William Grant Still remained.

Who was he? Why isn’t his music very prominently played on classical networks?

William Grant Still was Born on May 11th, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi to two teachers, Carrie Lena Fambro and William Grant Still, Sr. His father was a music teacher, but passed away when he was only three. His mother Carrie later moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. His mother remarried a man named Charles Shepperson who took Still under his wing and inspired him by taking him to many live music performances.

After graduating high school as the valedictorian, Still went on to study medicine before deciding that his true passion was music. He would serve in World War I before recommitting to music after “the Great War” ended.

He was a champion of the Harlem Renaissance while he lived in New York during the 1920’s before moving to Los Angeles in the 1930’s.

His legacy as a musician includes being the first African-American composer to write a symphony that was performed for an American audience (“Afro-American Symphony” Symphony No. 1) as well as the first African-American to conduct a major orchestra (Los Angeles Philharmonic). In 1955 William Grant Still also became the first African-American to conduct a major all-white orchestra in the deeply segregated southern United States (New Orleans Philharmonic).

Upon further digging, I came across a piece written on the University of Southern California News website in which they spoke to Still’s daughter. An excerpt is included below:

At the time of his death, interest in his work had dwindled to such a degree that not a single viable recording of his compositions existed and only a handful of performances of his music, including radio broadcasts, were being given on average each year.

In 1980, determined to resurrect her father’s legacy, his daughter founded William Grant Still Music, now based in Flagstaff, Ariz., where she now lives.

“This is going to be easy,” she thought at the start. “But I’d write to conductors and they wouldn’t answer, or I’d write to record companies and they’d tell me black classical music doesn’t sell.”

Reading this broke my heart.

As soon as I finished researching who William Grant Still was I realized why I had never heard of him. He was an African-American classical composer trying to make his way in a country and time that didn’t want to see African-Americans succeed.

How many classical composers have had to give up on their talent because they could not make money playing or have their own music played just because of the color of their skin? How many composers better than Beethoven or Mozart may there have been if we didn’t have a stupid stigma tied to the pigment we are born with? How many great composers’ works do we never hear simply because nobody has fought for them to continue to be heard?

We may learn and talk about the history of segregation in the United States of America, but it goes so much deeper than one can fathom when we speak about the most obvious examples in schools and the media. I guess I should have known that racism has held back the careers of thousands, if not millions, of musicians. However, hearing a piece of music so beautiful and realizing that the main reason you’ve probably never heard it before is due to racism is sobering to say the least.

William Grant Still was an American hero, and his legacy and music should not be forgotten.


Please enjoy some of his tracks that I have linked below and share them so his legacy might live on a bit stronger.






Horne, Aaron. Woodwind Music of Black Composers. Greenwood Press – New York, 1990.

Bell, Susan. “Still standing after all these years.” USC News, USC, January 11, 2013.

How to Build Credit

Bad credit stands out like a Scarlet Letter super-glued to your forehead. If you have bad credit or none at all you can’t easily get a car, an apartment, a house loan, or even sign up for many basic utilities without a deposit. It’s okay though, because unlike changing the minds of Puritans, building and even fixing credit can be much easier than it seems.

One of the big myths about credit is that you need to be rich to have good credit. As someone in their 20’s with no great fortune, I can assure you that notion is poppycock. You can build credit even if you are only making even a few hundred dollars a month if you manage your finances well.

The first step to establishing credit is to open a bank account. I have met plenty of people who prefer to hold cash they earn or cash their checks for a fee rather than put their money in a bank account. It is not a good idea to hold onto all your money as cash. I’m not saying your pet will decide to rip your money into confetti or that you’ll be robbed, but it could happen if you leave it lying around and nobody will replace your torn up bills.

I have had bank accounts with a few major banks and a couple different credit unions. Locally owned credit unions should be your first choice. They care more about their customers which is reflected in their services by offering better interest rates and lower deposit requirements than larger institutions. Credit unions also reinvest into the communities they serve through providing jobs to your neighbors and sponsoring local community programs and events. If you’re nice when you call customer service, they might even reverse some overdraft fees. I’ve had quite a bit of luck with fee reversals at credit unions over the years, but never with large national banks.

If you open an account with a large national bank make sure you do your homework to find the bank with the lowest fees, deposit requirements, etc. Most accounts require you to hold a minimum dollar amount to avoid being charged a monthly service fee. The service fee can be a ridiculous amount if you hold a small amount of money in the account. For example, Bank of America had a $12 monthly service fee to hold less than $500 in an account, but would waive the fee if I had direct deposit. Since I didn’t have direct deposit available from my employer and didn’t hold over $500 in the account I promptly closed that account. Considering they are holding onto your money and investing it to make a profit on top of charging you to keep your money there, the major national banks are a bit unscrupulous.

Once you have set up your account, you should look into setting up a low-limit credit card through your credit union or bank. If you can’t get a credit card through your banking institution, there are plenty of other options to choose from and Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman can tell you so themselves if you watch TV long enough.

For those with low or no credit, I would suggest getting a credit card through a store you enjoy shopping at. Stores that have credit cards often have promotional offers and will sometimes offer you a one-time discount off your entire purchase to sign up. These stores tend to have more lax rules regarding credit approval. I won’t argue that easy credit a good thing, but if you’re aiming to build credit it can be a great option for you to start building credit.

They will run your credit initially to approve or deny you for the card. The most important factor however is usually income. Don’t apply for a $500 limit credit card if you only make $600 a month. Aim for somewhere around 15-20% of your monthly income. The higher the card limit you apply for, the higher the chance you have to be declined. It is not the end of the world if you are declined, but it can look bad to other creditors if you then apply for another card at another institution immediately after.

The key to using credit cards to build credit is to be responsible with them. Always pay on time; do not keep your card near the maximum limit; be mindful of how much interest you pay on your credit purchases. If you don’t pay your balances off or only make the minimum payments the interest will add up quickly. Credit companies will also pile on fees if you are late though, and can lower your credit limit or cancel cards if you fail to pay in a timely manner consistently.

The periods of time where my credit has been the best have been the periods where I had all of my credit cards paid off and held a zero balance on them. Within the course of a month, I have seen my credit increase over 100 points simply due to paying off my credit cards.

Beyond opening a bank account and maintaining credit lines, one last thing that helped me build my credit has been my car. I understand it is not feasible for everyone to buy or lease their own car, but car loans are an incredible way to build your credit.

My first car was a lease through Subaru. They were running a promotional offer on a 2014 Impreza and with tax my payment was only $184 each month. I was approved to lease the car without credit or a co-signer and only proof of income to show the dealership. When I wanted to upgrade to a Legacy a year and a half later I did not have good credit, but since I had faithfully made all my lease payments on time they approved me for a new Legacy based on payment history and proof of income.

I could write a whole blog post on how to choose which car to get or whether to lease or buy, but that’s going to have to wait for another day. With the information I have given you though, you have most of the information I struggled to learn first-hand in the last couple years. I am missing plenty of other good advice so don’t take my advice as the end-all be-all answer on how to build or fix credit, but use this information to build a foundation for your financial future if you haven’t already begun to do so.

Peaceful Protests & Voter Registration, Please

On January 16th, 2017, America celebrated Martin Luther King Day. A day in remembrance of a Civil Rights icon who stood up in the face of everything thrown at him to resist peacfully and change the system in any way he could. A day in remembrance of the struggle Dr. King gave his life for. He believed in the future of this country. He had a dream that we could all live side-by-side with equal rights and protections as Americans. Dr. King endured opposition that today’s protestors will never know in comparison to what the Civil Rights Movement endured, and yet today’s protestors feel a need to act out in violence to change the system.

On January 20th, 2017, we watched Donald J. Trump get sworn into office and protesters turn violent in Washington DC. I agree Trump is not qualified to be the President, but the Civil Rights Movement built itself on the backs of peaceful resistance. Breaking windows of a Starbucks that isn’t the neighborhood one you visit isn’t going to solve anything. You wouldn’t do that to the Starbucks you go to down the street from your house or the bank you cash your checks at in your neighborhood. Your outrage doesn’t make it okay to destroy others’ property or harm people who think differently from you.

Hell, most of the people affected by the damage done during protests are the minimum wage workers that oppose Trump also and are just doing their jobs while you break the window panes of their workplaces in the deepest depths of winter, ushering in freezing winds and scaring innocent people. I find it incredibly distressing that this concept of nonviolent protests needs to be explained to my fellow liberals.

If you claim it is only a few individuals causing violence but you’re standing there witnessing it in person and not speaking out, you are complicit. To any liberals who are passively watching the damage unphased or reveling in joy: it is your duty as a liberal to stand up against violent protests to prevent these acts from damaging your own interests in future elections.

I believe in the future of this country and everything Dr. King stood for. That is why it upsets me that protesters these days have turned to violent means to express their opinions. I think Dr. Martin Luther King would be ashamed at how these protests have turned towards violence instead of using the example he gave us and his life for.

I also believe Dr. King would not only be voicing his opinions but trying to register as many people to vote as he possibly could that agreed with what he was protesting for. He relied heavily on organizations to help him that focused on peaceful resistance and registering voters, with one of the most important being the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee  (SNCC). The SNCC was created in 1960 by Ella Baker with an $800 grant from the Southern Christian Leadership Committee (SCLC) which Dr. King was the first President of.

Dr. King was willing to put himself in harm’s way to deliver a peaceful message to all he could deliver it to, but other groups like the SNCC were crucial to increasing voter turnout and changing the political landscape of the country. The SNCC was responsible for many protests, “Freedom Rides”, and sit-ins. Although they eventually fizzled out of existence by 1970 due to internal struggles, their work was essential to both the Civil Rights and Voting Acts in the 1960’s. They were a driving force behind the Freedom Summer of 1964 and due to organizations like them voter registration increased from below 10% among the black community to over 50% within only a few years in some areas. Naturally, this had a huge impact on elections as communities began to realize the power of their votes after they gained the right to vote.

Protesting is wonderful, but protesting without registering new voters and observing nonviolent strategies in the crucial places lost the 2016 election for Democrats. Occupy Wall Street created the beginning of the recent liberal protests, but they effectively did nothing in the long haul policy-wise. Protesting violently will also do nothing to progress liberal policies, and will only incite more rage in Conservatives and get them to turn up to vote in larger numbers in the future.

In comparison, the Tea Party movement is the root of what gave Donald Trump the ability to win. It grew out of opposition to Democrats and Obama whether it was justified or not. The voters who won the election for Trump in the swing states that went against all the pundits’ predictions are a direct result of the Tea Party movement which grew inside the Republican party. They went out and they got their neighbors to vote, they marched on Washington, they did everything right, and even though I don’t agree with them I admire the tenacity they showed in changing the Republican party from within. The Democrats need to use the Tea Party as a case study without the divisive and sometimes racist elements that came with it.

If Democrats don’t take their surplus of voters in their strongholds like the West Coast and invest serious resources in registering voters in battleground states before the 2020 election then liberals are handing another four years to the Republican party.

We need to fund voter registration drives. We need to increase voter registration in the Democratic strongholds of the midwest like Kansas City that get drowned out by the number of conservatives in their states that are registered to vote. We need to pay to relocate people from cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and New York to move to battleground states and work full time registering voters in places like Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

We need Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren doing voter registration drives in battleground states right now. We need to successfully win an election based on how the election actually works and not the popular vote. We need our Democratic members of Congress and the Senate to spend less time fundraising and more time on when, where, how, and why it is so important if we want to change this country.

We saw the amount of popularity Bernie Sanders gained in only one year of campaigning, imagine if he focused his energy right now on helping with the 2018 and 2020 elections. Only half the eligible voters in this country voted in 2016. We have tons of ground to register more liberal voters and flip swing states in 2-4 years. It isn’t that difficult if we educate people on how to vote and get larger numbers of liberal people to actually show up at the polls in the 2018 midterms and 2020 general election.

Many of the things Dr. King dreamed of are a reality today because of the way he fought for the Civil Rights of all people in this country, and people fighting for civil rights and against oppression today have lost sight of the way he accomplished his dreams even after his death. He built a message and convinced voters who were only white to support his ideas in large enough numbers to change the status quo. We need to do the same thing today in the areas that barely won Donald Trump the 2016 election. It is no secret that a vast majority of white voters voted for Trump, and we need to adapt to that reality and take our message to them so that their opinions might change even just a little.

What do we have to lose as liberals? We don’t have control of any of the branches of the government right now, and it will only get worse if we don’t do something about it sooner rather than later.

Dealing with Canine Cancer

For most people their recollections of the year 2016 were defined by the American Presidential election, the British exit from the European Union, gun violence, terrorism, and a smattering of other issues. My year was defined by canine cancer.

On an unremarkable night in May of 2016 I came home from my second job and went to take my dogs Azzurri and Lilly outside. When I reached down to put Azzurri’s leash on, I noticed a bump on his front right leg. At first I just assumed he’d been his crazy little self and run into something or that perhaps his leg was swollen from running next to me while longboarding, but the bump persisted and did not go away.

Not knowing the area I lived in very well, I got a recommendation for a local veterinarian. The vet saw him and when she first looked at it she poked and prodded at his leg and exclaimed something to the tune of “Hmm, that’s interesting, it seems gelatinous.” Not quite the words I was hoping or expecting to hear. She took a cell sample from the area and said they would call within 2-3 days with the results. He was given some antihistamines and we left to wait for the news.

When 3 days had passed without a peep from the vet I started to get antsy and gave them a call. The results weren’t in yet. Eventually the vet called me back and said that it was a histamine related issue and that if the problem persisted I would need to bring him back in for a follow-up.

The issue persisted over a couple of weeks.

When he saw the vet again they told me that it was a mast cell tumor. They asked if I had received the letter in the mail notifying me of the news or if the veterinarian who had handled his visit before had told me of the news. I had not received anything in the mail and the vet had only told me to monitor it to see if it got worse. The vet didn’t explain that the issue was cancer before and this news came weeks after his results had come in. Had I known it was cancer, I would have been much more vigilant and urgent about his treatment. Thank you Doctor.

Azzurri had a mast cell tumor and these tumors come in three grades, with grade three being the worst. Azzurri’s tumor was grade two. While the tumor did not necessarily have a high risk to spread throughout the body, his treatment recommendation was surgery to remove the mass.

The vet recommended the Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles for the surgery due to the location of the tumor and their expertise. The vet also mentioned they could do it in-house for cheaper, but they said it is possible he may need another surgery and after dealing with their incompetence already I didn’t want to risk going with them again.

I set up an appointment with ASG immediately and took Azzurri to see the surgeon. They recommended surgery and we proceeded with his treatment. Everything went perfect surgery-wise and Azzurri didn’t lose a single bit of his spirit. Even with stitches, a cone, a cast, and not being able to jump, go running, or basically have fun, he remained the same awesome little dog. The only downside was that not all of the mass was removed as some of the tumor had grown between his tendons where the surgeon couldn’t remove it.

At his one week follow-up after surgery Azzurri had his cast removed and saw the oncologist at ASG. She recommended radiation treatment to destroy the remaining mass in his leg. Price tag: around $7,000 to $10,000. One bit of silver lining was at least that the radiation could be delayed for a little while to take time to get the funds for the procedure.

Months went by and Azzurri’s leg seemed fine, but in late October his leg looked like it was starting to grow and shrink in the same area his tumor was removed. I called a different veterinarian and got referred to a new oncologist to get a second opinion on the radiation treatment so we could compare the prices and proceed with the next step. The veterinarian referred me to the Veterinary Cancer Group of Los Angeles.

From the moment we saw the oncologist at the Veterinary Cancer Group there was no doubt in my mind I wanted them to handle his treatment. At every step of the way they showed that they truly cared about my dog. The staff even asked if they could have Azzurri for an extra 15 minutes just to play in the back with him. When it came to billing I’m pretty sure they even threw in a discount as well. At the end of the day though, they confirmed that the best path would be radiation treatment and that the cost was going to be around $7,000 to $10,000.

Raising money was the hard part. I set up a GoFundMe account and it was successful to a degree, but the constant stress and worry about where I would be able to come up with the funding for his treatment felt like I was carrying the globe on Atlas’ back. I hate asking people for money, and knew I wouldn’t be able to raise the money on my own through the GoFundMe account, but I had to do everything I could. Thankfully Azzurri’s grandparents love him and decided they would pay for his treatment. I still tried raising money because I wanted to help out my parents as much as I could, but I knew I would never be able to raise the money for his treatment alone.

On December 1st we went to the Veterinary Cancer Group at their Woodland Hills location. He had a check-up and blood tests to see whether the cancer had spread before starting radiation. Everything came back clear with no abnormalities and we scheduled his treatments to start the next week. His treatments would be every weekday for 18 days from the 5th of December until the 28th of December. The treatments would include putting him to sleep with anesthesia every day and directing a very strong X-ray at the location of the tumor.

Everything up to this point had been pretty stressful, but the stress elevated to a whole new level when radiation treatment started. Luckily for the pups they enjoy car rides and don’t have any idea what a stupid driver or dealing with traffic is, but dealing with Los Angeles drivers and the I-405 freeway every single day is almost hell. Compound that with trying to buy Christmas gifts, preparing my apartment for my family to visit for Christmas, and trying to handle my work responsibilities, my energy was sapped for nearly all of December.

Our schedule was completely out of whack. Azzurri was supposed to fast every day for at least 8 hours before treatment. He threw up while under anesthesia during his first couple weeks and apparently that’s a really bad thing so after a week and a half he got put on a 12 hour fast. With the time added to get to and from treatment it was more like 15 hours. We also normally take a nap or two after work but that wasn’t possible because after his treatment I had to catch up on work.

What really stood out was how Azzurri remained his same happy self throughout the whole ordeal. He showed no side-effects during the treatment and would actually whine when we would arrive for his radiation therapy because he couldn’t wait to see the people inside. His spirit made it a lot easier to deal with the stress brought on by the situation.

Christmas came and Azzurri’s grandparents and auntie got to see him before he finished his treatment and spend the holidays with us. Sadly, he had to wear the cone for their trip, but he still got to enjoy their company.

On Thursday, December 28th Azzurri graduated from radiation treatment.

As much as this experience has weighed on me, I can’t even imagine how Azzurri has felt. While his tumor was present a vet described the sensation as irritating and said it would feel like little crystals inside his skin. After his surgery he wasn’t able to jump and had to wear a cone and a cast, so I moved all of the furniture so he had nothing to jump on and would sleep on the floor with him and Lilly at night. They did have a pretty sweet couch fort though

It took him a while to get used to the cone, but eventually the cast came off and then a few weeks later the cone. When his radiation treatment began however, he started wearing a cone again and it didn’t come off for an extended period of time other than his radiation treatment for five weeks.

I’m not a superstitious person, but when your baby develops a disease like cancer you start to question if it’s because of something you did. Did I use the wrong carpet cleaner? Was there a chemical I left in the house he was exposed to? Was it something I was feeding him that caused it? Was it because Azzurri was sad I adopted a new dog? The endless questions (often ridiculous) with unknowable answers brought on by the onset of cancer in a loved one are daunting.

Every bump and anomaly becomes an anxiety attack, and when you do notice something that looks a bit abnormal you wonder if you hadn’t been paying enough attention to your baby enough and could have noticed it sooner.

I imagine some of the stresses and issues that have come along with Azzurri’s cancer are the same for those who have family members or children who develop cancer. I also imagine that it is much harder to handle this when it’s a child because it would be impossible to keep a child in the dark about how serious the disease is. Even if you didn’t explain it to them, they would know something is not right. With a dog I feel as if it is a lot easier to hide the seriousness of cancer. He may have sensed my body language was different as I was stressed out or that we were going to weird places with people in lab coats more, but taking a kid to the doctor and have them hear the doctor say they have cancer seems like a much more arduous task.

Azzurri can’t understand English besides his commands, but kids are not so simple. Kids ask questions, they wonder, they tell you how they feel. I have no idea how my little boy Azzurri has felt through this ordeal and I think in many ways him not knowing what was happening helped ease his mind throughout the diagnosis and treatment.

Thursday, January 12th marked two weeks since his treatment finished and he’s shown no real side effects other than dry skin at the radiation site. We are back to going for longboard rides and he can run worry-free for the first time in almost eight months.

It feels good to be able to breathe deep and know that this ordeal is over, but I’m always going to have one thought on my mind:

Will his cancer come back?

Who knows, but Azzurri is happy, healthy, tumor-free and can run again, and that’s all that matters right now.

WestWOAHrld: a review of HBO’ s Westworld

When the trailer for HBO’s new show Westworld came out I was in awe. I’d only recently developed an affinity for the western genre, a genre of what it means to be living on the fringe of the unknown in a new world. Western film and television represent and reflect on an era where you could trust your neighbors that were sparsely spread throughout the new American landscape, but what was beyond your neighbors was frightening. Westworld takes classic western motifs and adds a dose of realism as it updates the genre.

My love for western films grew from taking care of my Grandma and watching nearly every John Wayne movie ever filmed over home cooked meals on our family farm. Compared to classic western films and John Wayne films in particular the settings and scenery in Westworld are beyond anything the western genre has ever seen. Westworld is like the old True Grit multiplied by The Alamo raised by The Searchers squared, and even then that’s not an accurate reflection of the amount of boundaries that have been broken for a western film by HBO’s new show.

Back when Hollywood was making western movies routinely it would have been insanely controversial to have the gratuitous violence and nudity that today seems expected to get ratings. In many respects though the shedding of puritanism in film allows for a more accurate depiction of historical times. You would be hard-pressed to find too many John Wayne movies where blood actually explodes out of a wound or the entire town was laid to waste by a pack of murderous robbers. In many of the old films the themes and ideas are the same but only alluded to. Due to the changing of societal norms Westworld is able to not only approach the same themes but go into much more graphic detail than has been done in the past in film. Westworld is probably the most accurate reflection of the old west in popular film to date.

When you move away from the setting of the show and you add the fact that Westworld is a simulation, things just get better. The show concept is unlike anything that I have seen on TV, with the slight exception of Fantasy Island, but it’s really not comparable in the end. Mr. Rourke would never allow the things Dr. Ford allows to happen in Westworld on his own Fantasy Island. On Fantasy Island you go with a goal to better yourself, but in Westworld the world shows you what you really want to be.

To the freshly immersed individuals in Westworld it is a novelty to experience the fruits of an unfettered world restricted by societal norms. You see how those who are just visitors for a moment experience the novelty of the world with a childlike wonder. The new visitor who proudly walks into the crowded street as we await the finish of a new storyline and shoots the main antagonist before it’s end is the perfect example of that wonder; he proudly looks at his wife after he kills the villain. Those who are weathered in the fruits of the world have a much more macabre view of the simulation. The Man in Black seems unphased by anything the world has to offer anymore, including being left to hung and having to find his way out alive.

The casting and characters are incredibly done. Old western films didn’t have too much diversity in their casting whereas Westworld has a wide range of diversity and accents that you would expect to see in an era of American history where nearly everyone were only recent immigrants to this country. The show feels authentic to what one might expect to see if you went back to the late 1800’s.

Aside from the settings, cast, and concept, the music is brilliant as well. The western genre to me is the equivalent of the American opera, and although there is no singing in Westworld I think the show backs me up with it’s use of music to guide the show’s story. From the modern songs playing on the old-school parlor piano to Claude Debussy’s Reverie playing as the Hosts have reveries of the past the show is on point auditorially. Their versions of No Surprises by Radiohead and Chopin’s Nocturne No. 9 are flawless and all of the music fits perfectly with the events that unfold.

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t complain about spoilers if you read past this.

….Seriously, SPOILER ALERT!

The first few episodes gave me the feeling that the Man in Black was not a typical bad guy and just someone playing the game. At that point, we didn’t know anything about him though. Now at season’s end, I feel the same but I am really confused as to how his relationship with Dr. Ford will work going forward as I viewed the two to be nemeses. Now having learned that the Man in Black is William though, I feel as if there is no way Dr. Ford would allow William to become the majority shareholder in the company if they weren’t seeing eye to eye.

As far as Dr. Ford, I have always felt that he was the one to be worried about. I think it might be because it’s hard to see Anthony Hopkins as anything but Hannibal Lecter, but he has felt like a tragic villain since the first episode. He means well, but he’s an evil and maniacally ruthless SOB. He is growing old and knows that him time is running out to see his creation through.

The show seems to have set up that the hosts will rebel against the Westworld operators and succeed this time, but we can’t be sure as the show continues to throw us for loop after loop. For those of you that have seen the finale, I’m not positive that Dr. Ford is dead yet. We have seen his cunning in the past and for him to have a host version of himself killed in front of the Board of Directors would remove a lot of the Board’s power over the park while Dr. Ford could sneak around the world he created while the hosts take over the world outside.

Without diving into more theories on the show I want to end my review. I could discuss much more about what I think about the show and it’s characters but I’m just going to leave it here. Fan theories are great but I would rather read them than make them because I know I’m likely to be wrong and would rather experience the story as the creators release it sans expectations.

Final Review: 10/10, would highly recommend to anyone that is not a Puritan.

My College Entrance Essay

I was going through my computer and reading some things I had written in the past when I came across the essay I wrote to accompany my application to the University of Oregon. Being as this is the only school I ever applied to and I was actually accepted with only a 3.25 high school GPA that was right at the acceptance level, I guess this may have been what influenced them to accept me. Whatever their decision was, looking back on this brings me a nice little chuckle.

The prompt for the essay was something to the effect of “The University of Oregon’s motto is Mens Agitat Molem which means Minds Move Mountains. How will you use this to guide your education?” or something like that….


My goal is not to relocate Mount Everest. It is simply to move the mountain that I like to call ‘Myself’. The main obstruction of this goal however, is a lack of a focused area of study. However, despite the fact that I know I want to study accounting, marketing, or entrepreneurship, after receiving my education through the University of Oregon, I anticipate that I will have moved my mountain forward.

In my senior year, more than ever before, I have found that it is particularly hard to make important life decisions. The next four years of life seem to be a complete mystery, yet I understand that a four year degree can open options as decisions come along.

Eugene is the place I feel I want to be to decipher my future. At present, the options I have had to study, and grow personally, have been limited. In order to succeed, I need to be around individuals who can challenge my ideas, yet help me to fine tune them.

This is where “Minds Move Mountains” comes into my plan. Without being able to surround myself with other ideals and mannerisms that differ from the ones I have been around my entire life, I cannot possibly establish my own directions.

I believe that exploring many different subjects at the University of Oregon will enable me to develop a love for one area of study. At the same time, experiencing life outside of my hometown will give me another perspective not only in what ever field I will go into, but how and where I want to live in the years that follow.

Essentially, I want to make a difference in the lives of the people who I want to live for: my future children. Looking back at all of the steps my parents have gone through in order for me to be where I am today, it shows me that the most important thing in life is not how much status you have, so much as the sacrifice we make for our children. I plan on making the most of my education through the University of Oregon and using it in the world to support my family. No matter how much sweat, tears, or blood may come out of it, in the end it will all be worth it if I can keep my family happy, and growing to ‘move mountains’ on their own.

Looking back and reflecting on this short essay now, I have to say I am proud of my 17 year-old-self for wanting to expose myself to new and challenging ideas from outside of my circle of family and friends, as well as my local community. Today’s liberal culture seems to be creating “safe spaces” in colleges and wants to keep out dissenting opinions, but that goes directly in the face of one of the main tenets of liberal ideology which is freedom of speech.

On the part where I thought I might be able to focus on one area of study….that was quite a bit naive. After being accepted to the University of Oregon I did end up focusing on one subject in Accounting, but I learned so much more about the world and life through other courses than I ever could have imagined.

I studied political science, philosophy, religion, geology, geography, oceanography, drug treatment and criminology, wilderness survival and outdoor photography, Japanese, Farsi, Chinese film, among other subjects. In fact, in addition to my Accounting degree with a minor in Economics, I am only a few courses away from an additional minor in Geology as well as another in Political Science. Thankfully, the University of Oregon will allow me to go back and complete those minors later when I have the time (and funds) to.

America Can Do Better than Clinton or Trump

We are exactly one week away from Election Day.

I feel bad for young people who are voting for the first time in the 2016 election though. When I first voted in 2008, Obama was running for his first term. The man was a breath of fresh air. He was not a warhawk or Democratic Party icon like Hillary Clinton; he had a great energy about him. He was not a hardened war-veteran or maverick like John McCain; he was an empathetic, cool, calculated man who believed in working together to solve our nation’s biggest problems.

This year, however, the Presidential election choices are nowhere near as respectable as in 2008. The Democrat and Republican candidates are both a damn joke. They quibble like five year-olds on the debate stage instead of talking about actual issues on the national airwaves, and they are both untrustworthy to boot. Is this the best you have to offer us America?

On the Right hand, you have Republicans propping up the orange-tinted, bigoted, misogynistic, 5-time bankrupt businessman and arsehole Donald Trump; on the Left hand, you have Democrats propping up the conniving, shady, morally and ethically bankrupt career flip-flopper Hillary Clinton.

I won’t be voting for either of these two asshats, and you cannot tell me that it is my fault by voting for a third party that either of your candidates loses. It is not my fault that your parties chose such shitty candidates and that I don’t feel comfortable voting for either of them.

This election is the grandest satire ever played upon the American people by the political elites.

Democrats complain that Russia is tampering with the election while turning a blind eye to the elections and regimes Hillary Clinton has tampered with in the past. Even if it were Russia leaking the Clinton emails, how is it Russia’s fault that the emails exist? It shows the true nature of Hillary Clinton and the people she surrounds herself with that they turn a blind eye to corrupt practices if it is Democrat insiders who are benefitting.

Wikileaks has become a tool Republicans are praising because of their vendetta on Hillary Clinton when they made the website out to be the devil reincarnated in only the recent past. Just before Wikileaks released anything about Clinton, Republicans were attacking the website for releasing information they claimed had put US lives in danger. Republicans are a significant part of the reason why Chelsea Manning is in military prison, Edward Snowden is in asylum in Russia, and Julian Assange is in hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in England. That they now cling to the Wikileaks emails makes me laugh.

Both parties had better spend the next two years building up a new candidate to run in 2020 because Clinton will lose against any Republican that is not a racist and bigoted prick, and a bigoted racist prick will lose against any Democratic candidate.

Hillary could make history as the first woman president, and she could also make history as the first female president to lose a re-election bid. Her ego needs the presidency and she is lucky that it only came down to fighting against Trump this time or she may never have realized that dream for herself assuming she wins. Since her ego will be fed by victory and making history, why doesn’t she do what she can in four years and then retire? She knows that she will be facing an uphill battle again if she needs to run as the incumbent in 2020, so why should she waste the last year and a half to two years of her presidency campaigning when she could pass the baton to someone who is not disliked by over half the nation?

All it will honestly take for the Republicans to win is running a fiscal conservative that leans towards liberal social values to beat her in 2020. That’s what Hillary is already, which explains why some Republicans are able to vote for her even though they know they’ve spent their lives vilifying her. The Republicans will just need to point out the racists and bigots who lost them 2016 election and chastise them for what they are. If Republicans have an epiphany and suddenly supported marriage equality, higher minimum wage, and believed in separation of church and state they would crush Hillary when she runs as an incumbent.

You might be wondering why I dislike Hillary Clinton so much, and I will tell you a few things off the top of my head:

  • Voted for the Iraq war which led to Iraq becoming a failed state
  • Honduras fiasco which led to human and ecological rights activists being murdered
  • Instrumental in failed Libyan regime-change which led to Libya becoming a failed state
  • Supports a Syrian no-fly zone that will lead to civilian deaths and possible war/failed state
  • Cozy to wall street who has paid her mightily
  • Collusion with the DNC against Bernie Sanders
  • Arms deals increases to Clinton foundation donors
  • Only supports certain positions when they are politically expedient or needs votes
    • Gay marriage, higher minimum wage, BLM, anti-TPP but still pro-TPP
  • Has a public position and a private position, also known as being two-faced

Donald Trump could make history as the first Cheeto president, and just to be fair to all you Clinton supporters, I’ll make a list of what I dislike about him as well:

  • Has promoted sexual assault whether or not it was privately or for show
  • He is a misogynist, a racist, and a bigot, among other things
  • Terrible businessman
  • Tax evader and welfare queen

I won’t be voting for either of your shitty candidates Democrats and Republicans. I will be voting Gary Johnson for President, Kamala Harris for California Senate, and on many other issues, but I will not vote for either of your terrible candidates.

I will also not sit idly by for four years if Hillary is elected and accept her presidency without criticism. She is disliked for a good reason, and she is nearly losing to a life-sized cheddar cheese mold because she is a shitty candidate, as is Donald Trump. You can do better America, so do better in 2020 and give us less shitty candidates.