Thanks for the Ride

This Friday, MSU’s Class of 2006, myself included, will attend commencement in all its pomp-and-circumstance glory. We’ll place the caps upon our heads (now bursting with knowledge) and stroll our world-class educated selves across the stage and on to start the rest of our lives. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Whoever’s idea was it to call it “commencement,” which signifies the beginning of something, to me, was a little delusional. It is the end of something. The end of college, of 16-odd years of education, and of any semblance of childhood with we\’re left to cling. The. End. Good. Bye. Who are we kidding calling it a commencement? Of course we’re beginning the giant REST that lies ahead, but come on. Graduation is the end of the four-or-so years of forgiven mistakes, endless nights of (mostly) harmless debauchery, days spent formulating passions and friendships, and challenges to almost everything we thought we knew. [seh2]
\”I went to the doctor, I went to mountain, I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There’s more than one answer to all these questions, they keep pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek myself for some definitive, the closer I am to fine\”
I’ve spent the last three years of my life completely dedicated to this magazine, living and breathing it (sometimes a little too much) and giving it my life while giving it life. In these last two years as editor-in-chief I’ve seen it through from the unstable years when we were on a fawn’s legs, into now – when I can honestly say it is a much-needed and well-established alternative voice. Are we perfect? Not even close. But are we here and not going away? God, I hope so.
After my four years at MSU (yes, four), with most of that spent toiling over how to make this magazine better, I still maintain that if I know anything it’s that I know nothing at all. The more I learn, the more I feel there is even more out there to be known.
So, as it turns out I don’t have any parting brilliance for anyone. All I have are my memories (and since I discovered a love for titling), here\’s a titled retrospective of my years as editor, the lessons I\’ll remember and the people I\’ll never forget.
Late Spring 2004
The Little Magazine that… Could It?
In an unexpected swoop, I became a scared sophmoric editor in late March of 2004. How was this magazine supposed to stay afloat? How were we going to stay fresh in a time of a swiftly changing online media? Were people going to want to read us? Would they want to write for us? These questions floated in my 19-year-old brain. With the vision of TBG\’s original designer, Ernie Smith, we headed for a summer of reconstruction and faced sharp staff turnovers. Summer 2004 was when TBG you see now was born. This collaborative labor of love was about to head into an uncertain year.
2004-2005
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Really, Kermit wasn’t kidding. The new staff had to build a magazine from the ground up. We stumbled and fell a few times but always got back up to come out with another issue…every week. We got our feet wet with little gems on East Lansing politics, a certain Jordanian café worker and an article on an elephant treadmill so ridiculous that only Molly Benningfield could have written it. We were beginning to figure out our purpose – to do stories on what matters to students but that our newspaper didn’t have time for – and to do them in an in-depth manner that was both substantive and never self-serious. What do you get when you throw six bad-ass chicks onto a brand new editorial staff? Mayhem, glorious mayhem. And some pretty creative messes and masterpieces.
2005-2006
The Long Drive Home
With a whole year of steady publication under our belt, I decided to throw out the formula and start over as a monthly with more in-depth, heady and issue-oriented magazine writing. After a few bumps in the beginning we rode along without too much stress, mapping the terrain as we went. Soon some of the bumps that could throw us off before looked familiar and were easier the second time around. Settling into the monthly format, we came across more of our purpose – to use our voice for the public good. We found our niche, the place for some 40 \”homeless\” journalists, photographers and designers to hang our media hats. The sometimes thankless and tiring job of editing finally paid off for us when we threw a successful fundraiser, The Big Green Benefit Bash, in April and raised $1400 for AIDS orphans. No one thought we could pull it off. But yet again, would anyone that read TBG three years ago think we\’d be this far now? No, and myself included. But we are, and with a strong, smart and sassy 2006-2007 staff, I\’m sure we will continue to
\”I spent four years prostrate to a higher mind – got my paper, and I was free!\”
Thank you to everyone on TBG staff and to our readers in the last three years who believed in a little magazine when no one else did.
On a personal level there are many to thank for many reasons, some obvious and some obscure. Thank you to Bill McWhirter for magazine-ness. Thank to you to Penny Gardner for radicalness. Thank you to my family and friends for happiness. Thank you to each and every writer, photographer, designer, and copy editor for your efforts, dedication and faith. Thank you to my fellow editors this year and last. Thanks for the good times, the deadlines, for putting up with me, for trusting me, for teaching me.
I suppose the powers that be did not have it totally wrong calling graduation a commencent. It\’s the end of something huge in our young lives, and the beginning of everything else beyond it. Here’s to whatever\’s next. Here\’s to the rest.

**song lyrics from \”Closer to Fine\” by the Indigo Girls**

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The Test of Our Time

On a dry South African winter day in Soweto, the dust I kick up with my boots covers my skin and creates a gritty film in the back of my mouth, choking me and grating on my molars. [1]
It’s impossible to understand this corner of Africa without understanding its dust. The dust has a history and like Soweto – it is history: living and breathing, kicked up anew each day, floating into the sky, burying the dead. The dust remembers the struggle against apartheid and observes today’s struggles against poverty, AIDS and more inequality. The dust witnesses exhilarations of freedom and the joyous steps of children dancing in the streets.
The dust covers everything in the treeless township outside Johannesburg, sweeping up the people in its clouds. This place has a deep history since its founding in 1931, and later when Black South Africans were forced to live there under the apartheid regime’s Group Areas Act from the late 50s to the end of apartheid in 1994. The land in Soweto is scorched and painfully brown, with little evidence of South Africa’s stunning flora or fauna.
Quiet roads in Soweto are stained with schoolchildren’s blood, even though it has long since blown away with the red, chalky dust. In 1976, schoolchildren no longer wanted to be taught the oppressor’s language of Afrikaans and led uprisings that were met with intense violence from the police. Armed with only stones, the children were shot and many were killed in the streets. Today Soweto is a culturally vibrant relic of yesterday’s struggles, a place ironic in its beauty. Its many neighborhoods hold almost 7 million people, most are very poor, and AIDS ravages the land.
[2] Soweto could be a microcosm for AIDS in all of Africa and the rest of the Global South. There is little to no access to treatment, it affects women at a greater rate and paralyzing silence still surrounds the four letters. In a township where twenty-something’s attend funerals on the weekends like American’s do movie theatres, Soweto breathes AIDS even if it can\’t bear to speak of it.
It’s been said before and these words are not only mine. The way our generation handles this pandemic will define us all. With an estimated 35 to 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world, it is the global catastrophe, tragedy and test of our time. For those of us sitting idly on this privileged soil, most with access to medical care, nutrition, education and control of our reproductivity, this is our test. Are we willing to let generations of people around the world – from Mumbai to Botswana to Kiev to Soweto – die at our hands? Many could say that this not our problem, or worse that there\’s nothing we can do. But I beg you to rethink those defeatist excuses. We can and we must address AIDS in our human family. Our lives and our souls will be judged for it.
The facts are simple. If the wealthy Western world wanted to, it could quell the pandemic in every corner of the world with less effort and resources than it took to declare war in Iraq. The answers to the AIDS pandemic are not as simple. Yes, everyone deserves inexpensive access to anti-retrovirals and they must be distributed at Godspeed. But poverty is inextricably linked with HIV and people need adequate nutrition to take the drugs. Sexism also breeds AIDS. Women make up two-thirds of the world\’s newly infected and this also applies to American women who are getting infected at higher rates than men. Unless women are no longer sexually compromised because of rape, poverty, lack of access to land and subsequent prositition and exploitation – we are not safe. No one is safe, and let that be the great lesson of this disease.

What we must do is look in the mirror, all of us, and ask if we are prepared to let our world slip away when we could have helped. Our very humanity is at stake.
[3]When I was in Soweto, our group paired up with families of AIDS orphans and brought them clothing, food and even vanities from America. I gave one of my children, 11-year-old Nokuthula, a striped knit poncho and a hoodie with \”Detroit\” across the chest. She and her siblings were ecstatic that we came to see them and wanted to spend time with them. As orphans left so vulnerable by the disease, a lot of what they lack is hope.
In my desperate attempt to bring them any joy, I found that all I ever received from them was joy. They danced for me, I chased my 3-year-old screaming \”Ntando!,\” with the others laughing at his adorable disobedience. Unless these four children receive care from outside NGOs and charities, they may not get by for much longer. Right now they benefit from a warm and tenacious woman named Carol Dyantyi and her organization, the Ikageng Itireleng AIDS Ministry based in Soweto. Dyantyi is the surrogate mother to over 500 children in 180 homes throughout Soweto. Truly a phenomenal woman, Dyantyi redefines who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize in today\’s time.
When I had to leave my kids that day, I told them all they were beautiful, valuable children that would go far in life. I told Ntando to behave like a good boy, Sanele to take care of his sisters, and the precarious Ntokozo to stay away from too many boys. When I went to say goodbye to the withdrawn and intelligent oldest, Nokuthula, I told her she was smart and that she should keep working in school because she wants to be a doctor. I told her she could do anything she wanted to, and although her life was rough, she would make it out safe and healthy.
[4]I left that day in tears, hoping I did not just lie to her.
South Africa, and Soweto especially, changed me in ways I cannot explain. From those dusty roads I learned so many lessons about freedom, pain and joy. But most of all I learned that we should never stop learning. And that we must use all these lessons to create the change we wish to see. I believe our greatest gift as humans is the power we have to love one another, and that this love is the only thing we need to change ourselves and our world. But do we love ourselves enough to save our distant, and soon not-so-distant, brothers and sisters? This will be our test. I hope you\’ll join me in the great struggle to see this through.

Get active, not passive! Pressure politicians to support NON abstinence-only prevention and funding, volunteer your time and keep the pandemic a priority in all your activism and future work. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, journalists, economists, academics and so on – you can help!
TBG is having a benefit concert for the Starfish Organization, one of the charities that helps Ikageng Itireleng and AIDS orphans around Southern Africa, on April 22. Click here for details.

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Twilight in the Robert E. Lee Fountain Square

Here we are – two effeminate gays and a half-Mexican in the Deep South – one ionic and desperately hot evening. As thin cotton shirts stick to sweat-streaked bodies, the air in Forsyth, Georgia, is so electrically charged that sandals spark cement and insects zap one another in the sunlight. Our tanned and tired limbs are covered in a film of highway dust and mosquito frass. A white, plantation-era town hall stands high above the restaurant, pool hall and fountain square of Main Street. We try to find humor in the situation but the air is heavy with something we can’t explain, and it looms over our unfortunate pit stop.
“There’s something about this place,” I say as we stroll down the street.
“Yeah…it sucks,” Carl snaps, swatting a mosquito from his eye. He’s dark-haired and small in stature but carries a large personality. Carl is the modern gay intellectual: narcissistic and delicious.
[sun2]“We’re stranded so we should just make the best of it; let’s see what there is to do here. I mean, we are on spring break,” Matt says, attempting to ease some on-the-road tension we’ve been experiencing since Ohio.
Matt is good-natured, high-voiced and loud. Even when he’s at ease, he’s in character. In a small car, the three of us set off from Detroit for Florida with our towels, pillows and a case of Coke. We wanted to be anywhere warmer than Michigan in March and we’d never been to Florida, even though everyone from Michigan has been to Florida. That’s where they go when they get sick of “up north.”
“I can’t believe we’ve got to call my dad – he’s going to murder me. And $430, I hope this damn town has a Western Union,” Carl says.
We decide to go in to what appears to be a record store on the left side of the street. The lady behind the counter, inviting décor and an impressive CD collection do not signal anything out of the ordinary. A newish hip-hop song is on radio and the three of us breeze in — snapping fingers, swiveling hips and throwing our hands somewhere above our heads. Then, all at once, we feel something strange and notice eyes peering through dark lids, necks straightening and shoulders shifting forward around us.
The lady looks at us with disdain and it hits me. We are three (mostly) white kids in her shop. And she, a proud black woman in Forsyth, thinks we’ve lost our damn minds. It was like seeing one ant on your toe and then realizing the room was filled with them. With one ant, the whole picture instantly becomes visible.
Soon after leaving we head over to the restaurant – the only restaurant – in this sleepy town off I-75. Retired couples file in for their 5:30 p.m. dinner dates. The town was diverse on the street but inside it’s decidedly one color: white. Being kids from Detroit, we are used to de facto segregation, not enforced by law but by societal pressures, but this is different. In an easy Georgian way, the energy in the room and the very apparent “otherness” the three of us feel makes the hairs on the nape of my neck stand up straight.
“What can I get y’all?” our waitress asks. We politely signal for the only thing on the menu, the buffet. Buttermilk biscuits, glistening fried chicken, fried okra and macaroni and cheese line the buffet trays and we’re happy to see we’ll at least get a good meal out of this town. When the waitress, a plump, fair-skinned teenager, comes back with our sweet teas, I ask if there’s anything fun to do around here at night.
“Well, we usually go cow-tippin’,” she says and we learn that her name’s Toya and she’s 17. Rolling my yankee eyes and coughing on a laugh in my throat, Matt nudges me and Toya gets the point. “If you’re lookin’ for a bar or somethin’ we don’t really have much. ‘Cept the pool hall,” and now she hunches in closer, lowering to a whisper. “But that’s for the other color.”
She leaves and Matt, ever silly and observant, giggles nervously. “What? Did you hear that? What’s that supposed to mean? The ‘other color.’ These people are nuts.” Carl and I agree, and I start to feel uneasy. We leave to find the sun’s still beating down fiercely, the way it does just before dusk in the South. The air is more electric than ever.
“What’s wrong with this town? Am I the only one that feels like we’re in the Twilight Zone?” I say. “No, I know what you mean, Sarah – this place gives me the creeps. I’m getting a feeling things aren’t quite right here,” Carl says in a rare serious tone.
“So much for southern hospitality,” Matt says as he plops onto a bench that rests in a small fountain park. I’m listless and sit holding my knees, unsure what to think of spending the night here until our car is fixed.
[lee]What I didn’t know then was Forsyth County had a troubled racial history. One month in 1912, its entire black population, over 1,000 citizens, was systematically driven from the county in the wake of the rape and murder of a white woman and the lynching of the accused black man. Seventy-five years later the county population remained 99 percent white. Spurred by history, Hosea Williams, a civil rights activist, lead the Forsyth County “March Against Fear and Intimidation” in 1987. Almost 90 demonstrators attempted to parade in Cumming, Georgia, the county seat, but were met with white supremacists, including members of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan and their affiliates rioted and brought the march to an early end. The executive council of the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans still meets at the restaurant we dined in that spring evening.
At the base of the fountain, four black children were playing, their mothers on the adjacent bench. Looking up at the statue in the fountain, the ants creep back and they head for the plaque that says “Robert E. Lee.” All of a sudden, black ants are between my toes and all over the shallow pool and I notice the incredible irony of the children, cheerfully playing, in a fountain with a confederate general on a horse.
“Let’s get back to the hotel, I think it’s got a pool,” Matt says excitedly. No one noticed the allegory of American history right there in the fountain, and I didn’t feel like mentioning it just then. “Sounds good to me,” I say as we head down the long main street to the white-owned Days Inn.
I feel like an outsider here, perplexed by the racial tensions of the town and even more about how I might fit in. Both blacks and whites walk the ghost-like streets, and I realize they are walking on separate sides. Now the ants are here again – first one, then I see the dark, moving shadow of their army at my feet in the road ahead. Thinking back to the record store, it was on the left side — the black side — the side we’re walking on now. They’re all wondering what the hell these kids, likely northerners, are doing here. Now come the sideways looks from whites across the street, and quizzical eyebrows curling on black faces passing us. A few men in an old pick-up with a rifle in the back window pass for the second time.
Maybe it was the heat or the strangeness of the events or the thickness of the air, but I couldn’t process much of the long night we spent in that town. I’d never been oblivious to race before Forsyth, but I had also never understood the deep divisions and unspoken color rules of the South.
[twi]We only needed to fix a timing belt and somehow we landed in a time-warped, segregated place teeming with history’s scars and contradictions. But we were just kids on a road trip then, playful and hopeful about witnessing more of America. None of us noticed all of this then.
At the stoplight, Carl and Matt, as if sensing what I have and not wanting to challenge it, start to cross to the other side. “Wait, guys,” I say. “No, we’re walking this way,” pointing to the side I’m on. They smile approvingly, and I hope they know what I mean; or maybe that they’ll never know what I mean.
The three of us skip along the sidewalk singing radio tunes to pass the time, as the sun loses its potency and the gentle Georgian moon shines above.

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Secrets from the Editor’s Desk

Gentle Reader,
I hope as you’re reading, you’ve noticed some changes in the magazine from our earliest days and even since our evolution into a monthly publication. Each issue we’re trying to do a better job at bringing stories to you that are actually interesting and worthwhile, something not so easy to do if you ask me. We’ve come a long way, and the hard work is finally beginning to pay off. I’m starting to feel like I know you, so I’m returning the favor: here’s a bit about me, my necessary madness, and all the strange goings on as 45-or-so of us put this thing together for the love – and the hell – of it each month.
I do not have an iPod. But I edited the story and wrote the headlines as though I did, going along with the ruse. The truth is I am quite un-cool and have never, even once, pledged anything to an Apple.
-Allisence Chang wrote a great letter to the president about the homeless population around campus. She’s brave with her wit and it’s a thoughtful, irreverent piece as always, but the only reason it came about in the first place was so I could see my friend Willie’s name in print. If only he could read it from jail, which is where I fear he’s headed…
-OK, yes, you’ve got me. In-gym-idated is a less-than real word. And all right, it’s a little hokey, but come on — that shit’s priceless.
-Speaking of priceless, ‘I Fee Dead People.’ Thank heavens for Michael Evans. He’s quite possibly the funniest Sex & Health Editor we have.
-A fun game to play in this issue: Where’s Tommy? Count the number of times Tommy Simon appears in this issue in a photo or in print and you win a year of my salary. It’s a total coincidence too…really.
-We really did find Madame Zostra in ISS 215. That kinky old bag.
-The story I wrote in this issue is a creative non-fiction piece and is actually quite personal to me, so if it sucks I would really appreciate it if you did not use too many expletives when alerting me.
Lastly, it might come as a surprise, but we here at The Big Green work hard (for beans) and care (desperately, really, my therapist tells me I have self-acceptance issues) about being a student publication that’s good enough for you. So let us know how we’re doing.
And this could be the beginning a beautiful, albeit clingy on my part (I’m in a 12-step program), friendship.
All My Best,
Sarah E. Hunko

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Heyhey

norml

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501 Dreams

[sarah6d] The two of them lounge and smoke Turkish Jade’s atop a quilted twin bed, remembering their most recent dreams. Their most current late-night séances are filled with car rides, coercion, penises and old friends.
Laughter erupts when Will describes his latest dream where he was riding in a beat-up truck with several others, including a housemate they refer to as “yam,” for his apparent lack of personality. “It’s so random, I know,” Will says, jolting his head back dramatically.
Craig, also engaging his head, twiddles his hands above it, a nervous habit, snickering as he remembers the time he dreamt of being drunk and how realistic it felt. They’re the first-floor boys. Will is daunting, dark with a large build; he towers over me by almost a foot and a half. His deep voice booms and fills the smoky space. Craig, however, is smaller with strawberry blond hair and a blazer with a pin declaring his devotion to the 80s Brit-cult-rock icons, The Smiths. Will and Craig are the house’s resident smokers, homosexuals and entertainers.
It is this house, the Orion cooperative on 501 M.A.C. Blvd., that is home to 21 contemporaries, 21 dreamers, 21 storytellers, 21 companions. It is four floors of pure college hedonism. A squalor that would make most mothers cry. At least at first glance.[newquote]
But venturing inside the house it becomes full of life. Its racing heart is evident in the living room painted Russian red with orange and yellow flames enveloping the thin walls. Checkerboard linoleum, 1970s acid-induced murals, stained Berber carpet and assorted beer bottles adorn the house from floor to ceiling. With over 50 years of student residents, the house has developed a strong oral tradition and has cave-like drawings on the walls to tell the stories of the beatniks and hippies and rich kids and radicals and drug stars and punksters before.
Countless dreams have floated in and out of the many shaggy, bald, eccentric and beautiful heads that have lied asleep here. These visions of phalluses, dinosaurs, falling teeth, dark tunnels and tantric lovers swirl about the rooms and smell faintly of marijuana and Chinese takeout.
“Maybe it’s cause I haven’t been sober since Thursday,” Will says, rationalizing another dream involving yet another penis and old friend. It’s now that I decide that everyone has a story to tell, and that maybe I can find a piece of that story in their dreams, or at least from talking to them about their dreams. I come to this conclusion because of Will, and his next diversion. Seamlessly, he slips into talking (mostly with himself) about the amount of “booze,” as he calls it, that he drinks. From booze, Will moves to his sister, and how he raised her child for the first year of his life, before the baby boy’s premature and tragic death. Just a simple question about his most recent dream and out pours a few glimmers of Will’s own history.
[sarah2d] Next to Will, his best friend Craig talks about a maniacal dream he had a few months ago. In it, an old friend orders him to douse their apartment, which for some reason is in the basement of a convenience store, in gasoline and set fire to it. “It seemed totally plausible, too, in the dream,” he says. Not everything burned so easily and he had to work at it. “I remember finding the mattress quite difficult.” Knowing Craig, this dream illuminates his character. He’s hyperactive, quirky and a little off- this dream fits him. I tell him this and he laughs, “Yes, there’s me always destroying my life and not even being good at it.”
Moving out of the cigarette haze to the north corner of the house, I knock on Greg’s door. Greg is well, very important to me. About as important as one can be actually. He’s been the on and off very significant, significant other in my life for the last year and a half. Right now we’re only a bit on. He is tall and athletic, with brown hair to his shoulders and wide hazel eyes. Today he’s wearing a yellow t-shirt, jeans and his bare feet are crowned with braided anklets; he’s the house’s reluctant hippie.
Gregory doesn’t dream but I ask him anyway and he tells me again what I already know. “You know that, Sarah,” he says. I do, but I’m trying to get in his head, so I press on. He remembers that he dreamt a lot about dinosaurs as a kid. In many of his boyhood dreams Tyrannosaurus Rexes inhabited his dad’s dairy farm where he grew up. “What about you, you dream.” That I do. But we’ll get to me later.
[sarah5d]It’s clear Greg’s done talking when he starts signaling for me to turn on his tape player. Greg’s dyslexic and gets many of his books on tape, and wants me to turn it on for him when I leave. “You’re mean. You’re only nice to me at night,” I say, surprising myself at how vicious I sound. He looks hurt, denies the claim and makes a familiar sad face with his big, stupid bottom lip jutting out. Goddamn it, I hate that face. I’m rendered defenseless, so I smile coyly as though to say, “truce,” and leave. This house has witnessed so much of our story, I think, as I head to the staircase.
Next I’m headed up the steep, poorly lit steps to knock on another door. A slight blonde answers and invites me in; she’s a psychology major and is already anxious about my subject. Megan has nightmares, I learn. She never remembers what they’re about (or doesn’t tell me) but wakes up in cold sweats, afraid of something. “I know I can’t but I just want to run screaming for my mother,” she jokes.
I barely know her but I learn that she has a nervous personality and is affectionate for someone named “Edward.” She has a reoccurring dream where she’s being chased down a tunnel, laser lights flashing around her, then she goes blind, stumbles for her life and wakes up. As I leave, I wonder what haunts her, what part of her story she’s not ready to tell, and I think that the house must know all of our secrets. Even mine.
[sarah3d]Scotty lives on the first floor and is just one of those decent people. He has droopy basset hound eyes, stretch marks from fatter days and an odd sense of humor. In his most recent dream, his three-year-old niece, Ari, tried to stab him during a supposedly routine night of babysitting. “I was actually scared when I woke up,” he says, looking down and laughing. He also dreams occasionally of his ex-girlfriend Liz and it’s usually just the two of them together in the most banal of situations. “Those are the hard ones,” he says. They remind him of “better times.” Knowing how it is to dream of happiness with an old lover, I begin to feel for the guy behind the big dark eyes. His story is just beginning, I think, as I head back up the stairs to the third floor.
It’s said that a girl hung herself some twenty or thirty years ago in the smallest room on the third floor of the Orion cooperative. The entrance to the attic is also up there, a combination that has vaguely disturbed me since I moved in last fall. There’s just something haunting about the very top of a one-hundred-year-old house.
Missie is the oldest resident with the best room, except that she has to travel three flights of stairs everyday to get to her bed, which sits high above her shag carpeting. Missie, or Melissa “either one,” she says, confesses to dreaming mostly of sex. Looking around the room at the large cage filled with two boa constrictors and a python, and the several long, thick scented candles on the tables and desk, I’m not surprised. As I probe further into her sex dreams she doesn’t get embarrassed. “They’re usually just me, having sex, lately I haven’t been getting any, so that’s probably why.” I asked if they’re ever strange or out of the ordinary. “Not really, but sometimes it’s tantric which is weird cause I’ve never done that before,” she says.
[sarah1d] I imagine Missie, an Irish girl from Southwest Michigan, dressed as the Divine Mother Kali, tongue out of her mouth, practicing ritualistic sex rooted in ancient Hindu tradition. With the carnal and coital on my brain, I thank her and walk in to my room just across the hall, the smallest one with the suicidal past.
My own dreams are not something I usually talk about. I’ve spent many hours in the New Age section of Barnes and Noble’s trying to find answers, but I haven’t learned much else except that I have sleep paralysis. Often when I’m stressed or very tired my body slips into its dream state too quickly, leaving my brain in a sort of limbo between the awake and the entranced. In these dreams I know I am asleep and usually see myself in bed, but I cannot move or speak. When frightful things enter my dreams, I can invariably do, well, nothing.
“You sound like you’re trying to scream, you kind of start convulsing- moving side to side- and you always hyperventilate,” Greg says of my night terrors. I figured he would know the most about how I sleep. He’s estimated that he’s seen me do this at least 20 times over the last year and a half. I’ve become quite a good paralyzed sleeper, however. Starting with my pinkie finger, I focus all of my energy on moving it with my mental strength, as I imagine a paraplegic would attempt to move a limb. Eventually if I can move it slightly, I can jerk out of the paralysis and away from the pending terrors inside my room. These dreams have always been a part of me, and my story, the way our dreams make up a part of us all.
[sarah4d] Lying in bed staring at my earth-orange walls, I think again of all the dreams my house must hold. All the terrors, nightmares and secrets; all the wet dreams, perversions and fantastical sequences. They’re all here, just cycling through the air. Dreams of quarter-aged outcasts fill the rooms with tales of sisters’ babies and Hindu goddesses. How did the girl that killed herself in this room, dream, I wonder. I will never know. I’ll never know all the secrets and dreams of the many ‘yams’ and boozers and lovers of my old eerie house. But I take solace that this house and its people, both of which I love, will hold our stories for the next twenty-year-old paralyzed sleeper.

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Road Warriors

Brown wet leaves, cracked party cups, a few lingering Bush/Cheney signs and SUVs. Ah, home sweet home.
[me2]These are the sidewalks of my street this December. During most of my stroll down M.A.C. Ave. my head is filled with the thought, where the hell am I? My street, and more specifically the fast driving, gas-guzzling, “mine is bigger than yours,” SUV, is a glaring metaphor for our times. While this fact depresses me, it is an allegory that deserves a little elaboration because perhaps I am not alone in my dismal observations.
I have not always been a cynic, but the last two years or so have pushed me over the proverbial edge and I have gone from an informed Pollyanna to a disheartened Daria. Anyway, the world we live in is a troubling one. It is a conservative, patriarchal, bigger-is-better, the-world-is-my-ashtray, one, where we are used to war, spend more than ever and are intolerant of difference. Oh and I forgot God-fearing, of course.[suv2]
It is a world for which the SUV is the perfect metaphor. Especially as American’s we are as excessive, imposing, impractical, and domineering as the SUV. Driving down any highway is proof enough. Trucks, SUVs and my personal favorite excess-mobile, the Hummer, crowd the lanes, their huge grills riding the bumpers of less-endowed motorists. Instead of driving more sustainable, more practical and less ecologically invasive cars, you’re a nobody if you can’t keep up with the highway arms race where the war is over who can drive a bigger, more advanced SUV. I suppose next year the H2 will be replaced with a full out tank. Sigh.
Yet it is not the actual SUV that is to blame, or even SUV drivers. There are plenty of progressive, sound-minded folks sitting behind the barrelling wheels of SUVs. It is the fault of the new conservatism of the last few years. With an increasingly conservative populous, and extremely conservative government, we seem to be running along with a right-is-right attitude. Environmentalism has gone the way of the dodo. Sustainability is a dead word only used by hippies and “gurly men.” We are warring with one another instead of helping our fellow woman or man. Even worse, we’re stuck in a father-knows-best world where patriarchy is so in. Remember, we reelected a president that does not support the queer community, a woman’s right to choose, affirmative action, corporate regulations, positive international relations and affordable health care, but does support a thoughtless war in Iraq and endless cowboy talk. But don’t worry, we’re all safe now. Safe and warm nuzzled between a gun and a truck.
However, through all the muck I can see a thread of hope. Hope that one day we as Americans can breath deeply of clean air, visit foreign nations and feel respected, and see our men and women come home from overseas. I have hope of an America where any girl can get a wife, we can spend our money in places that will improve our communities, where racism and sexism are never tolerated and where people make decisions that treat the whole as the sum of its parts.
I do have hope. And her name is Prius.

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Talkin’ Bout My Generation

We’ve been bombarded by ads and newspaper articles telling us this election is the “most important election in this lifetime,” but most pundits and experts have yet to tell me why this election should matter to my generation. As the writers, business people, decision makers, comedians, parents, police officers, musicians, engineers and peacemakers of the future, we will be most affected by the leadership in the next four years. This election is our chance to decide a piece of our fate. Iraq is our Vietnam. Terrorism is our communism. Gay and lesbian rights are the new civil rights. The new wave of political excitement is our movement. Until only a few years ago we were searching for our own struggle. We thought we could skate by apathetically- without a cause- but history had more in store for us.
[sarah2] Here is my attempt, feeble as it may be, to define for my generation why we need to care about this election, why it will affect the rest of our lives, and what rights we need to fight to preserve.
On the Economy
With the Bush Administration the first to have a net job loss since Hoover , our generation needs to be concerned for our own welfare. Will you be able to work in your desired field at a deserving wage when you graduate? Perhaps, but what about those less fortunate to attend this university, what is their worth? Maybe it is in the low-paying, low-wage manufacturing jobs that the President gloats about creating lately. I know that I won’t benefit any time soon from a tax cut for the rich and powerful, and even if I did, it would be undeserving. Am I the only one that sees a giant tax cut for the wealthy unnerving, short sighted and fatalistic? Perhaps our President, whoever it may be, should think less about wealth “trickling down” and more about redistributing it to those that need it- a dangerous, almost Socialist thought- I know. Yet, growing poverty and unemployment rates are cause for a more interventionist government. Oh, and if don’t think that extreme poverty still exists, you’re hidden too safely within in East Lansing’s fortunate son walls. Take a trip to the projects on the east side of Detroit, any Indian reservation or dilapidated United States-Mexico border town. This is our problem.
On The War
It is our generation that is fighting- and dying- in this war. It’s our brothers, sisters, friends and lovers that have been placed in harms way. And to think that they were sent under the presumption of intelligence- later proved to be incorrect- that said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How did the President get away with this? In any other time this would have been a scandal dwarfing Watergate. We don’t have to let Bush and Rumsfield get away with it anymore.
Our very own President M. Peter McPherson made money off of this war, and still- we stood complacent. Not anymore Melville. It is time to vote out the man that lied to us and sent our generation (many of which were from displaced, low-income families) to die without necessary cause.
On Gay Marriage
It is deeply distressing to think that our current President wants to create a moral divide between Americans by writing discrimination into the Constitution. Religion or no religion, it’s foolish to believe that homosexuality doesn’t touch all of us. There’s no “them” and “us” anymore, they are us. Our generation needs to progress not digress, and taking away the civil rights of any group moves us backward and erases the work that past progressives fought to win for us. Gay and lesbian marriages will not “unravel the moral fiber of the country,” because as humans we seek to benefit from love of all kinds.
On a Woman’s Right to Choose
As a woman of this generation, it is very important to me that abortion remains safe and legal. Bush could very possibly appoint Supreme Court justices that could turn back Roe v. Wade, and don’t be naïve enough to think he won’t do it. To legislate our bodies is to move backward in time. Abortions should be rare, and will be if schools teach about contraceptives and birth control becomes more available to all women.
On Our Environment
After the Bush Administration drastically cut environment spending and rolled back government regulations, we are in bad ecological shape. Our generation is left with the tab, and it will be our children and grandchildren coughing and wheezing from poor environmental decisions. It is unacceptable for our nation, with its capacities and resources, not to be at the forefront of becoming a sustainable society.
On Foreign Relations
It is our generation that must hang our head around the world when we admit to being American. Much of Europe and the rest of the world resents us for ignoring the United Nations, invading an innocent nation and past international relations that led to a sentiment in the Muslim world causing 9-11. It’s time to get back to a positive relationship with the rest of the world. As globalization presses on and we become a truly global society, the United States needs to consider our decisions within a global scope. Our generation will have to pay for this President’s actions but our world-view is not immovable. We can move ourselves into a better light by refocusing global action to more humanitarian efforts and less on military action. This nation has the power to do a great service to the world and should not only focus attention on countries that can make us money or that have oil.
These are only a handful of the reasons why this election is so crucial to our generation. This is a time of great political gravity and it up to us to seal a better fate for ourselves and our future. It starts with a progressive vote at the polls. We need change and we need it swiftly. We’ve found our struggle, and the fight begins by voting out President Bush.

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Mad as Hell

[mad]Angry is not the word. Infuriated. Outraged. Disheartened. None of these words can describe how I feel that ten rapes have been reported on campus since September. I struggle with the numbers and even more so with the way our campus is handling the situation. The administration has yet to take concrete action and our mainstream newspapers fail to talk about the real problems. We are standing frozen as the numbers of reported sexual assaults rise like the mercury for our community’s climate. How dare we be this complacent.
I commend the handfuls of men and women that have gathered against the violence in the last few weeks. I sympathize with the victims and praise them for their courage. The obvious target for my anger is directed at those who raped or assaulted the young women. Yet, in an attempt to look outside the individual, I blame the culture we live in and the climate in which we exist. We live in a system that allows rape, that perpetuates the objectification of women and that lulls men into a sense of entitlement and women into silence. It is a dangerous sleep.
That leads me to the real problem: men’s violence against women. It is not our responsibility as women to take self-defense classes, carry mace or walk in numbers at night (while these are all good ideas). It is the responsibility of men to reexamine our culture and to start becoming accountable for how they treat women. I’d like to clarify that I am not talking to all men by any means. Many men would never think of raping a woman. I am not angry with all men. The men in my life have almost always been positive figures. My father is a caring man that called me his sunshine, encouraging me to be anything I wanted. I am close with my brother and grandfather. Every one of my boyfriends has respected me as a woman. I am not speaking from a biased stance, only a woman’s stance, and it is men that need to raise their consciousness.
Eight out of the ten assaults reported were acquaintance rapes. The men raping on campus are not the lurking predators that we’re trained to fear. They are our friends, boyfriends, roommates and brothers. They are the seemingly harmless guys we let into our dorm rooms. Most likely they have not pre-meditated their actions. But a vague entitlement and tolerance for violence lies within many of our men. There are those five or so crucial minutes when the lines can be blurred, when he takes what he wants, what many times he feels is owed to him. Even more disturbing is the silence that is socialized within her. If only one out of ten rapes are reported, she is too often silenced by shame and fear. She may deny all together that this could have happened to her. “Not me,” she says, “I came from a good home, my parents taught me never to get in these kinds of situations, this couldn’t have happened to me.” Our culture let this happen to her.
By ending the rape culture that permits his entitlement and her silence, and by moving out of a climate where women have less power, we could eradicate sexual assault altogether. But we can’t do it alone. It’s up to all of us, both women and men, to band together to say enough is enough. We need to get past alarmed, move right by pissed off and go straight to mad as hell. We need to force the administration to do something about the rape epidemic; whether it is mandatory sexual violence sensitivity classes, a widespread media campaign or more police on campus. If 100 of us need to carry flashlights and surround Holden hall all night than we should do it. We need to send the message that we will no longer tolerate this violence.

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New Media, New Focus

The media. Ugh. Who needs them? It’s not like they’ve done us right lately.
That seems to be the common sentiment about our media these days. A shrug, a smug look, and an “Eh, who needs em.”
[blah]Well, the truth is we do need them and I’m not just saying that because I’m a journalism student and an editor. However, I admit that in the last few years the mainstream media has failed us. Whether it’s fabricating reporters, partisan corporate conglomerates or shady fact checkers- the people were wronged. During early coverage of the War in Iraq, reporters were busy embedded and did not ask the hard questions like if we went to war as a last resort. Journalists cheered on the present administration blindly, failing to be critical as it swept our civil liberties out from underneath our kitchen tables. Giant conglomerates like Fox News control much of the media, effectively skewing some stories to the point of pure lies. Rupert Murdoch practically has a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas. Network news basically sealed the election for Bush in 2000. One anchor or article can determine the outcome of the Presidential debates, as all the others sheepishly “group think.” Does this scare anyone else?
The media should serve the public interest by telling them the truth. First and foremost, it is the job of a journalist to be a herald of the truth. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell the truth from the lies we often see spewing from the mouths of anchors. So I ask you to start here, with this little online magazine. We can’t give you all the news you’ll need but what we will be is honest with you. This is one facet of the media that has no motives. Uncorrupted by agendas, smooth as a virgin, we have no reason to lie.
Here at The Big Green, as we start our second full year with a new site and many new staffers, we want to make sure we’re doing our jobs. One of our goals is to cover local stories that deserve to be heard but do not get covered by other media outlets. Let us know what kinds of stories we are missing. Write in with your opinions, however backwards or sub-surface they may seem. Send us suggestions or write a column yourself. We won’t be America’s, or MSU’s, or anyone’s cheerleaders.

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