For much longer than I am willing to admit I have been obsessed with flags. My trusty yellow legal pad was covered with tiny drawings of real and imagined flags, and I talked extensively about the tackiness of specific flags to anyone who would listen, and, perhaps most embarrassingly, I referred to my study of flags as vexillology. I love the way the perfect geometry of a good flag looks when it is billowing freely in the wind, and a flag at half mast brings my world down with it. A flag is noble and monolithic and is ideally the distillation of a place, but there is also massive weight in the symbolism of a flag. Flags can tell the story of oppression, and they can symbolize a history fraught with complications. I love Los Angeles, but I hate its flag (it is just undeniably ugly). For centuries, a black flag with a skull and crossbones made grown men quiver, and now it is reserved for children’s games. The black, red, green, and white of the Arab flags unite those ancient, bickering states, and the stars and stripes tear through the wind on diesel pickups as they roar down highway 33.
The American flag is also the focus of the first section of Arthur Grace’s America 101. The photobook describes the way Grace sees this glorious and hypocritical paradise of oddity. I spent so much time reading this book that it changed the way I take photos. But it has also changed the way I see the American flag in general. Grace juxtaposes the immense pride Americans have for the flag with the mundane usage that it receives in advertising or on smokestacks. These two parts of Arthur Grace’s America, one, comically capitalistic, and the other, powerfully patriotic, have become the lens through which I look at my own nation.
When flying, a flag can be seen on two sides. From the perspective of my Latino heritage, I see those stars and stripes representing employment and the opportunity to support a big family. With entirely different circumstances, my Jewish point of view is focused on the underpinnings of the American beliefs in freedom and expression. The symbolism of the flag is different for everyone who views it, and that is one of its strongest powers: being something everyone can relate to.
As much as I love the American flag for personal reasons, from a design perspective, it is flawed in one way: it cannot be drawn by a child with a box of crayons. This one simple test is the true mark of a perfect flag, and the American flag falls short. There are simply too many stars for it to be crayon-able. But many great flags are similarly afflicted. The Union Jack, for example, is almost stellar, but what child knows that it is not horizontally symmetrical. Or the Mexican flag—beautiful, bold, and impossible to scribble. There are, in fact, perfect flags, unmistakable even in chicken scratch like the elegant Swiss flag and the simple beauty of the Japanese hinomaru.
To me a flag is a poem. At first it presents as simply beautiful, but with time and knowledge of its history, a flag unfurls the silky layers of its meaning, its true power. A flag can be glossed over, or it can be analyzed and decoded and still maintain its original beauty. Flags tell a story, a history of a place, and that is why I am still fascinated by them.
I woke up under the stars the other night. There were so many and, though I couldn’t nearly see all of them, it reminded me of how pretty, plain beautiful our universe is.
I woke up on a slick rock in a canyon in Utah. I woke up a couple times that night, the rock was pretty slanted and not that comfortable, but I didn’t mind. Everything around me was too beautiful to mind being awake.
I woke up and my nose was cold. Aside from that, I was cozy in my sleeping bag, but the breezy fresh air made my face all cold. But, once again, I didn’t mind.
I always forget how much I love camping. But then, when I go, I fall in love with it entirely. I love hiking for hours and watching the landscape change around you. I love having nothing to worry about other than making a good fire and finding water to filter. I love to not set foot into a building for days and I love waking up at night underneath the stars, being reminded of how pretty our universe is.
Of course camping can be stressful sometimes, like when the blisters on your feet are burning and you know you still have miles left to go or when you’re wearing all the layers you can possibly wear, but you’re still freezing in your sleeping bag. But, again, I don’t really mind those things all too much. The freeze-dried food, the soaked shoes, the farmer’s tan, it was all worth it once again. Because, the other night, I got to wake up underneath the stars in Utah and it was so beautiful.
A couple days ago, on a camping trip in the Alabama Hills, we all sat in silence in the pitch-black and looked at the stars. Seeing the hundreds of shining dots of light scattered in the sky was breathtaking; yet, some part of me felt a morsel of sadness. In order to see these stars, it was a four-hour drive from the small town I live in and a seven-hour drive from the nearest large city. In Las Vegas, LA, or even just in my backyard, I can look up and see no stars and no moon, just black.
There are 40 billion stars in the Triangular Galaxy, 100 billion stars in the Whirlpool Galaxy, 250 billion stars in the Milky Way, and 1 trillion starts in the Andromeda galaxy. In the universe, there is an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars; yet, due to human-caused factors, such as light pollution, only 5,000 stars are visible to the human eye across the world.
The average star is 109.1 times larger than Earth and the largest star is 32,730 times larger than the planet we live on. It’s also ten million times brighter than our sun.
These stars are so much larger than our earth; yet, in America alone, over 80% of the population is unable to see them.
You may wonder, so what? Why does this matter?
Here’s why it matters to me:
Every star I see reminds me of how small I am, how small you are, and how small the human population is. Nowadays, so many people view themselves as giant. Humans kill other animals, destroy the wilderness, and essentially destroy our elves with how we treat our planet (climate change, over population, the list goes on).
I should stop saying how we treat our planet; it’s how we treat the planet.Humans don’t own it; it is not something that we can claim as ours or threaten until it gives in. No, Earth is a powerful force of nature being affected by the billions of small, ant-like creatures called humans who live on it. It is not ours; it is not ours to destroy. So, humanity, please stop fucking acting like it is.
Humans are not the biggest force to be reckoned with; we aren’t gods. Our current superiority does not give us the right to kill everything in our path. One day, a meteor will hit; a black hole will swallow the earth; countries will fire nuclear bombs and wipe out all life; the global warming we caused will result in an atmosphere unsustainable for all life; or, just like the dinosaurs, an astroid will hit. Even if all life on Earth just magically disappeared, the planets would keep spinning, the suns would keep burning, and the stars would keep shining.
Whenever you can, look at the sky and stars. Remember we are small, but, even though we are small, we have the power to protect this planet we call Earth.
Well, the Saints’ bounty gate case has been resolved, and each person involved has been freed from his suspension.
That doesn’t really matter now that the season is 3 games away from concluding. However, the Saints still have a slight mathematical shot to reach the playoffs. So anything is possible. Sean Payton might come back.
But there’s still one more guy that hasn’t been relieved of his suspension.
That man is Gregg Williams, the head of the entire bounty operation.
Well, the reason he’s bad this time around isn’t because he decided to pay Jonathan Vilma to break someone in half.
This just sounds like another excuse he came up with to try and get back in the league.
As an athlete myself, I understand that taking benefits to break someone is unacceptable.
While I do not condone the actions taken by Gregg Williams, I also believe that this is part of the game. This isn’t just the Saints. Each team has their own type of bounty system set up. These players are glorified criminals. I love this league, but the players are maniacs. I love the league because of it.
Gregg Williams, take your blame and don’t throw the blame on someone like Vitt who had nothing to do with the continuation of the program.
Stars and the galaxy are things that attract photographers. After seeing a few pictures of star trailing photography, one of my friends fell in love with the beautiful circles the stars draws. And soon I found that it is actually really interesting.
Star trailing is basically shooting a picture with a very long exposure time at night. While the sky is being exposed, the earth will rotate but the stars will not. Therefore, the light of the stars are captured by the camera over time and the light will draw curly lines or semi-circles.
Creating star trail images is a fun technique that can occur a lot of different results depending on the shooting location, foreground objects and number of visible stars. While the technique can be simple, proper setup and then proper post-shooting preparations are very essential.
Shooting star trail pictures requires a camera with a tripod in order to make the lens steady. The camera should not move at all during the shooting process. Find north and aim the frame at that direction to get a centered and circle shaped star trail. Set the camera to a very low ISO and long a exposure time to shoot, and it works even better if the camera has a bulb mode.
Due to the length it requires to shoot the star trails, make sure there are not any moving objects around that may run into the frame, because they may mess up the whole picture. Control other light sources and be sure not to let any other light come into the frame except the stars. Set the focus to infinity so that star trails will be sharp and clear.
Charge the battery to full, then put on warm clothes and begin shooting tonight !!!
Currently, I am reading Hamlet in my AP English class. Now, Shakespeare hasn’t always been my strong suit. But sometimes, I find myself getting lost in his beautiful wording.
This quote says it all.
People will always question the heavens above them and the ground that they stand upon. Even more so, people will question the words of those they know, even those that they are very close to.
However, there are a few sure things in life. One of them is love.
Whether this love is directed towards family, a close friend, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a pet, a picture, a passion, or a song, love is always there.
Sure, love can be a confusing thing at times. Especially for those near my age, when awkward teenage love is beginning to mature and we are just figuring out who we are and what we are capable of. But for the most part, people can clearly identify love.
This is a universal feeling. It’s something that Shakespeare knew clearly hundreds of years ago and it’s something that holds true today.
I say, trust in love. Trust in your mother and your father. Trust in your best friends and your enemies. Trust in your boyfriend or girlfriend or whoever your special person may be. Trust in that feeling. It is one of the few sure things that will persist throughout time.