The Year I Came, Saw & Conquered

I’ve been back in California for nearly a year now. As I’ve written before, the last year has been one of personal growth and introspection. I’ve lost and gained friendships and lost a noticeable amount of weight (26 pounds for almost 26 years alive LOL). I’ve seriously doubted my self-worth and struggled with some depression….and came out feeling stronger and more defiant than before. But most importantly: I’ve come to enjoy life without the sense of near-absolute certainty and security I had come to embrace for years.

Back when I moved to DC for the internship at The American Prospect, I expected to land some sort of job in the journalism world. But towards the end of my time with The Prospect, I realized that journalism wasn’t the career for me – it’s unreliable (especially in the digital age) and doesn’t pay well for the amount of work that has to go into it. I was feeling homesick and nostalgic for the Golden State and wanted to jump start a career as a political staffer in the LA area. After making several connections and applying for several dozen jobs, nothing really panned out. In the meantime I worked side jobs to keep just enough money coming in to make monthly payments on my (thankfully) small student loan and a couple credit cards.

My next step was to apply for jobs in DC, too. Washington is both the political and non-profit heart of the country – there are countless opportunities for a job-seeking millennial with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. So I started applying for political and PR/communications jobs in DC a few months after moving back home. I scored a few interviews and made some great connections that have since helped me tremendously. But the biggest obstacle to being a young politico in DC again has been the fact that I’m no longer in DC…yet.

This past January, I had to go back to work at my old Starbucks store. Did I want to? Not really. But my source of income was small and unstable. My old employer would at least pay me a steady wage. My manager has also been incredibly understanding and kind by bringing me back onto the team. One never really forgets how to make a Caramel Macchiato or a pitcher of coffee once you’ve spent years making them so my transition back to Baristaland was pretty smooth.

Had I known that I’d be back at my old Starbucks store a year ago, I would have obviously made some different decisions. For one, I would not have quit Starbucks in the first place. Say what you will about the two-tailed, green siren – she provides a good work environment and exceptional benefits for a food service company…and she allows her minions to transfer to different stores across the country. I probably would’ve stayed at the DC Starbucks I was at until I landed a permanent job.

But I didn’t. And that’s okay.

I’ve been forced to accept the fact that life – no matter how well you think it’s being managed and/or controlled – does not always go as planned. I planned on having a career in my field by now. I planned on living and working in the City of Angels. I planned on living and working in Washington, DC. I did everything I knew to do and have accepted all the constructive input I’ve sought out. And yet here I am.

Don’t confuse my acceptance of life’s uncertainty and unpredictability as defeat. To the contrary – I feel more ambitious than ever. My drive to succeed and make my own life has never been stronger.

As a matter of fact, I’ve applied for nearly 30 internships and fellowships since the beginning of May – DC internships and fellowships. My new plan is to once again be an intern in the District while working at (preferably) the same Starbucks store I was at before. I learned my lesson from last year and won’t quit “the Bux” until I land a permanent and full-time communications/PR or Capitol Hill job. The goal: Get to DC, continue to network, and stay. I’ve already had an interview and have another coming up. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back in DC by early June.

Of course this plan could easily change or be upended by another one. But building my resume with a third internship or fellowship – one I am definitely qualified for – is an excellent way to launch a successful career. Just being back in DC will only expedite the process, too. Life threw me some important, lesson-learning curve balls. I’ve taken notes and redoubled my efforts. It’s not in my nature to settle for mediocrity or collapse in defeat if things haven’t gone according to plan. I’ve only got one life to live and I want to look back on it someday knowing that I did everything in my power to make it successful and fulfilled.

As always, stay tuned. 🙂

just me

And the Oscar for Most Outraged goes to…

If you have been living under a Wi-Fi free rock you probably wouldn’t know that the 2015 Oscar Awards were this past Sunday. But since you’re probably not a hermit, here’s a little rehash…

Ratings wise, The 2015 Oscar Awards have got to be one of the most successful award shows in recent history. I know I couldn’t scroll through social media feeds or news reports without reading about it. I don’t have the analytics but I’m sure Twitter will affirm its popularity. Put simply, coverage of the 2015 Oscar Awards crept into every nook and cranny of our digital lives like a zombie virus. I expected Alice from Resident Evil to storm the stage at one point.

Content wise, it was also a success. Neil Patrick Harris brought his signature biting-yet-Hollywood-approved shtick to the stage. Lady GaGa reminded everyone that she’s a classically trained, eclectic artist in a moving tribute to Julie Andrews (…and she channeled a Food Network-meets-The Sound of Music style in her red carpet gown…but we won’t go there). Oprah threw shade. John Legend made an uncomfortably vital point about race relations in America. Patricia Arquette made a powerful statement on gender wage inequality. Oprah threw shade. Graham Moore delivered what was probably the best speech of the night by encouraging those who are seen by others as “weird” and “different” to embrace and love themselves just as they are. And yes, and Oprah threw shade.

All in all, it was a good night for Oscar, even though I’ll admit I find the whole spectacle to be predictable and boring. Nearly everyone on the Web agreed, too – good show. Next.

But this is 2015, the Age of Perpetual Outrage. Deep within the bowls of the Internet outrage machine, self-appointed social justice warriors (SJW) told us that the Oscars were actually “problematic” (a favorite term of the online SJW activist). I’m not going to include the critique of the Oscars as overly white and male since that’s a whole other meaningful and much-needed discussion for a separate post.

Instead, I’m going to ruin your day by reminding you that there are people out there who will literally find anything to be outraged and offended over. In the age of clicks and Buzzfeed, catchy, attention getting statements and provoking think pieces are quickly becoming the way to make a name for oneself online. Why post a video of your cat falling off a shelf when you can write a post about how one of Taylor Swift’s problematic videos perpetrates harmful stereotypes of black female bodies?

The recent Oscars were no exception to the ire of the SJW. The biggest offense: Patricia Arquette’s feminist statements. Here’s what she said, both on stage and when she was asked about her comments backstage:

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

“It’s inexcusable we go around the world talking about equal rights for women in other countries…and we don’t have equal rights for women in America. The truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all…the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

To nearly everyone who heard both the original and clarified comments, Arquette’s passionate defense of women’s rights and equality came across just as they sounded – empowering and thought provoking. To the SJWs of the Web, Arquette committed an unpardonable sin – she, a white woman, apparently told lesbian and transgender women of color that their concerns aren’t equal to those of white women. I wish I were joking…I’m not.

Salon’s Katie McDonough called her speech “well intentioned” but “[ignorant of] the fact that the wage gap for women of color and LBGTQ women is much, much worse than it is for straight, white cis women.” Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check went so far as to claim that she “thoroughly [erased] gay women and women of color and all intersecting iterations of those identities by creating these independent identity groups as if they do not overlap.” Grimes continued, “Arquette goes on to do even worse, which is to demand that ‘gay people’ and ‘people of color’ fight for ‘us,’ a group that Arquette has specifically identified as non-gay and not of color—as very specifically straight and white and ‘woman.'”

That’s modern identity politics 101, I guess.

But the Oscar for most divisive, shrill and nitpicking ranting goes to The Grio’s Blue Telusma. The title says it all (and if you’re into sadomasochism, go ahead and follow the link here): “Dear Patricia Arquette: Blacks and gays owe white women nothing.”

Um, okay. Sure. Be warned, ladies – you have to mention every single variety of woman and their accompanying struggles when you’re asked, on the fly, about how you feel about gender inequality. If not, you’re a horrible person, or something. You see, because she’s a straight, white, cisgender woman of enormous Hollywood privilege, she couldn’t possibly have been calling for unity of these different social justice movements. Battles for equality are not won in solidarity – no, divided we achieve!

Could she have said it a little better? Sure. But she said the comments off the cuff with cameras in her face. Most importantly, it was automatically implied that she was talking about all women, from white and black to lesbian and transgender. By mentioning the LGBT and African-American rights movements, she was making the point that both of those movements should openly embrace and champion feminism (I’d argue that they do, but these are Arquette’s comments). The fact that her empowering statements were mangled to reflect some kind of bigotry goes to show you how frequently pathetic Internet activism is. Fighting for equality is about breaking down barriers, making diverse allies and boldly charging onward, changing hearts and minds in your wake. It’s not about nitpicking every damn word a celebrity says to find a hidden nugget of bigotry or policing speech and conversations for the slightest perceived slip up.

Grow up.

Patricia Arquette kicking ass at the 2015 Oscar Awards

“Microaggressions”, “Trigger Warnings”, and the New Meaning of “Trauma”

This is a must-read. There’s some language, but the points made are overdue. Trauma and feeling uncomfortable are two very different things. “Trigger warnings” be damned….

chrishernandezauthor

When I joined the Marines, I met a man who had survived a helicopter crash during a training exercise. The first time I saw him his head and face were covered in burn scars. A balloon filled with saline, that looked like a dinosaur’s crest, was implanted in his scalp to stretch the skin so hair could grow. Something that looked exactly like the checkered buttstock of an M16A2 was imprinted on one side of his head. He greeted me when I checked in to my unit, and totally ignored the shocked expression I must have had when he approached. He shook my hand, asked a few questions, then left with a friendly “See you later, PFC.” His demeanor left me with the absurd thought, Maybe he doesn’t know how strange he looks.

He had been assigned to my reserve unit while undergoing treatment at a nearby military burn unit…

View original post 1,814 more words

Madonna encounters the IOM (Internet Outrage Machine)

We’re three days into the new year and Internet writers have found the latest thing to be faux outraged at: Madonna. Is this pre-Internet 1984? Or 1989? Or 1992?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what’s happened, let me fill you in. Last month, dozens of demos from Madonna’s upcoming album Rebel Heart leaked to the Internet. The Queen of Pop was obviously pretty pissed and as a response, she and her team released six tracks from Rebel as part of a pre-order (more music is coming next month and the full album release is scheduled for March, 10th).

Since then, Madonna has been re-posting fan art of photoshopped images of famous activists and freedom fighters, from Nelson Mandela to John Lennon, with the black ribbon around them a la the album cover to Rebel Heart. As she explained, she loved the images and found them inspiring.

I would like to thank all my fans for recreating my album cover with the ❤️Rebel Heart ribbon on the faces of so many Great Hero’s. It shows that you are also celebrating and in admiration of these great freedom fighters! When I repost these images i am saying YES! These people are all Rebel Hearts in one way or another from Martin Luther King to Jesus to Nelson Mandela to John Lennon. YES! Lets

But since this is 2015, the fact that she promoted fan-made images of civil rights icons is grounds for self-righteous indignation. Entertainment Weekly ran a hack-job-of-an-article on the images, claiming Madonna was being disrespectful and offensive (hey, sounds like the detractors from throughout her career!) by posting the images. Aside from the ageism and outright Madonna-hatred, this is perhaps the most hilarious line of the piece:

Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t make his “I Have a Dream” speech in order to promote a rich white woman’s record a half century later. And the fact that she’s co-opting the images of three of the most influential figures in the modern struggle for black liberation—King, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley—while America struggles to reckon with its history of systematic racism is bafflingly tone deaf, to say the least.

Not to be outdone in up-to-the-minute Internet fads, Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos joined in the fun to accuse Madonna of personally photoshopping the pictures. He also joined the author of the EW piece by bashing Madonna for not being the superstar they personally wish she would be.

By tweeting these controversial images, she’s (or someone on her team) doing a masterful job at changing the conversation. Instead of talking about how bad “Rebel Heart” is, people are now talking about how disrespectful she’s being.

It’s almost as if things like introspection and fact-checking don’t exist. This is yet the latest example of something Madonna has dealt with since she burst onto the scene in the early ’80s. Now it’s been updated to the Age of Perpetual Outrage.

 

 

The official "Rebel Heart" album cover by Mert & Marcus

The official “Rebel Heart” album cover by Mert & Marcus

California Gas Price Hysteria

I feel compelled to write this. I’m tired of seeing the oil lobby’s propaganda (and influence over economy) spill onto people’s timelines via shoddy reporting by journalists after sensationalist stories. Yes, prices for gas in California have recently gone up. However, slamming the state’s climate change law (2004’s AB 32 – which was also upheld by California voters in 2010) is not only ignorant and wrong – it’s narrow-minded. For one, oil companies making a stir can cause prices to rise…which is exactly what they want to happen so there will be widespread public backlash. But not so fast.

A couple of years ago, Media Matters posted a brilliant smack-down of misinformation from the right-leaning Orange County Register. The paper’s claim was common among the American right: Tackling climate change will kill the economy so we shouldn’t do anything. Except that’s not correct. At all.

In fact, as the post pointed out, climate change policies not only save consumers money, they boost the economies where they are implemented. I highly recommend a read-through of the post – it’s informative and relevant now more than ever. Read it here.

If you aren’t able to at this time, here’s a quick overview some of the facts:

  • Cap-and-Trade policies are the best market-centered ways to decrease pollution and greenhouse gasses (via California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, International Emissions Trading Association, and the EPA)
  • Consumers will end up saving money (via the California Air Resources Board, a UCLA study, and a Stanford University study)
  • Existing Cap-and-Trade laws have resulted in economic booms (via the EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and economic consulting firm Analysis Group)
  • Cap-and-Trade (prior to the recent Frankenstein-esque rise of the Tea Party) has had bipartisan support across the country

Don’t be swayed by Big Energy’s misinformation. Cap-and-Trade is the most market-friendly, cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The planet is warming, feedback loops are being tripped and time is quickly running out to avoid the worst of climate change. Renewable energy is in the midst of a revolution, but this is still the time to rise above partisanship and pseudoscience – the planet depends on us to do so.

hysterical

 

My 2015 Resolutions (Do people still do these?)

Regardless of whether people take resolutions seriously or not, I like to start each year with a fresh set of goals. I’ve done pretty well in the past and am on track to fulfill my “Where I want to be by age 30” plan (hint: well settled in a career and living a happy, fulfilled life in either LA or DC).

As I wrote about a couple weeks ago, the past year was a monumental one for me. From my internship in Washington, D.C. to growing on an interpersonal level, I’m happy with where I’ve ended up. Even though I didn’t land a job after my internship, I still feel accomplished and eager for the new year.

Here are my resolutions for the 15th (or 16th, depending on who you ask) year of the 21st century (order doesn’t necessarily denote importance):

First, I obviously want to start my career within the first couple months of the upcoming year. Congressional staffer, communications associate at a firm or non-profit, some other yet-unspecified job in the communications/writing arena…I’m both picky and open for anything. I’m working hard on making this a reality very soon, so stay tuned.

Second, I want to do more than simply donate to advocacy organizations and charities. I love donating to causes and organizations I strongly believe in. Sure, I can pay them lip service by advocating their goals and blogging about it. But because of their intrinsic non-profit quality, they rely on supporters going above and beyond word of mouth. It’s very fulfilling to be able to look back and know that I had a little hand in their success. It’s also incredibly fulfilling to donate one’s time to charity and advocacy by actively supporting an organization’s goals. Planting trees, serving at a homeless shelter, marching in a demonstration – whatever it may be, I want to do it in 2015.

Third, I want to keep up the great progress I’ve made in improving my physical health. From July to the end of the year, I lost 25 pounds. I feel better. I look better. I’m more confident and, most importantly, down a couple pant sizes! 😉 For the first time in my life, I’m starting to see the beginnings of “abs,” too (no, I’m not going to prove it – this isn’t Grindr, you guys). All these body improvements have got me excited and motivated for another year of improvements.

Fourth, I want to take the time to read more novels. Arthur C. Clarke, the greatest sci-fi author of all time (in my opinion) produced some incredible works of speculative and philosophical fiction. I’ve read several of his novels and I want to read many more. I’d also like to read more from other sci-fi greats – I hear Stephen Baxter is good, too. Why am I writing about this? Because a steady diet of non-fiction and current events – while vital to what I want to do for a living – can become incredibly depressing if not balanced by light-yet-complex fiction. The best thing about sci-fi: It frees the mind to consider what humanity’s future may be like. In a time when progress can seem slow, imagining where we’re headed as a species is a favorite pastime of mine.

Fifth, I want to blog more! For those of you who have followed me for at least a year or so, you’ll notice that I’ve blogged more recently. What can I say? I feel inspired and don’t want to repress it? It’s self-promotion? Well, both: blogging is therapeutic and my writing is appearing on  other sites now, too. Thanks to the people at Bilerico and Gay Fresno! I even did a Q&A during my internship at The American Prospect earlier this year. I’ll work on expanding this list.

Lastly, I don’t want to hold back from letting those I love and care about know how much I love and care about them. My understanding of relationships deepened in this year, something I have continued to explore. The friends I’ve gained and lost have given me an intimate understanding of the human heart. Life is too short to act invincible and discard people. I’m a relatively affectionate person, something I’m not shy of or ashamed about. But I don’t want to feel like I have to hold back from letting those I care about know how I feel about them. Every day, I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people in my life – they have all helped mold and shape who I have become. My parents, cousins, friends, extended family…if you want to know who Micah Escobedo is, talk to them (after asking me of course 😉 ).

Bring on 2015 and endless cover versions of “Auld Lang Syne”!

My dad and me at the Capitol building in DC - May 2014

My dad and me at the Capitol building in DC – May 2014

I became pretty familiar with DC's (infamous) metro system during my internship at The Prospect

I became pretty familiar with DC’s (infamous) metro system during my internship at The Prospect

The Spring 2014 interns were The Prospect's best, if I say so myself...

The Spring 2014 interns were The Prospect’s best, if I say so myself…

My parents liked DC and it was great exploring it with them at the end of May

My parents liked DC and it was great exploring it with them at the end of May

I wish you all a happy, successful, and fulfilled New Year!

I wish you all a happy, successful, and fulfilled New Year!

Be still, my “Rebel Heart” (UPDATED)

 

Madonna is the Queen. No, seriously – she is the undisputed Queen. Let me explain…

For starters, she’s sold over 300 million albums worldwide (more than any female artist) over her 32-year career. She’s the top-touring solo artist in history and those shows are sold out, critically acclaimed extravaganzas. She’s a billionaire…..I could go on and on (a la “Give it 2 Me”). But her royal credentials have been proven yet again by how she worked the recent leaking of her album to her advantage.

In case you didn’t read the news, 13 demos from album number 13 leaked onto the web just days ago. Yeah, the one and only Queen of Pop was not happy about it. ““This is artistic rape!! These are early leaked demos, half of which won’t even make it on my album,” she posted alongside a photo to Instagram (which was later deleted). “The other half have changed and evolved. This is a form of terrorism. Wtf!!!! Why do people want to destroy artistic process??? Why steal? Why not give me the opportunity to finish and give you my very best?”

Well last night (12/19/2014), she literally broke iTunes by releasing her upcoming album as a pre-order – I had trouble downloading it and connecting to the store, a problem I saw happened to many who tried to pre-order. Titled Rebel Heart (Madonna-holics like me have suspected as much since she’s frequently used the hashtag #rebelheart on her Instagram), the 19-track album has six that are instantly available once a pre-order is made. You better believe I pre-ordered faster than she fired someone over the leak.

I say this as a hardcore Madonna fan (I have all her albums, most singles, several vinyls, some books, posters, etc.): It’s her best material since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor. It’s ahead of the curve (classic Madonna trait) and beautifully showcases the magic that happens when she collaborates with amazing artists and producers like Natalia Kills, Diplo, Avicii and others. I’m not saying 2008’s Hard Candy and 2012’s MDNA weren’t good – I loved them. But they sounded like other music of the time (no complaints, by the way). Rebel boldly breaks the streak. It sounds unique and different from anything currently out right now.

There are seven tracks with names, six of which are instantly downloadable: “Living For Love,” “Devil Pray,” “Ghosttown,” “Unapologetic Bitch,” “Illuminati,” and “Bitch I’m Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj).” The seventh – “Joan of Arc.” The available six are all single-worthy and could easily stand alone.

They’re all my favorite. The dance and EDM grooves that have come to define Madonna are fine-tuned into some amazing songs. The lyrics are both deep and lighthearted, the beats are incredible, and the cover of the album is a stunning piece of art by Mert & Marcus. Someone leaked several demos so she released a surprise pre-order that included six songs. Touché.

If you need some confirmation, head over to iTunes and pre-order Rebel Heart. Twenty-fifteen is going to be the year of Madonna and I cannot wait.

The official "Rebel Heart" album cover by Mert & Marcus

The official “Rebel Heart” album cover by Mert & Marcus

UPDATED (12/20/2014)

Since the surprise pre-order “release,” Madonna has also released the first track, “Living For Love,” as the album’s first single (via YouTube).

“I was hoping to release my new single ‘Living For Love’ on Valentine’s Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring. I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift.” – Madonna

Merry Christmas indeed.

 

 

UPDATED (again) – (12/22/2014)

New news of Rebel Heart keeps pouring in! Since pulling what Popjustice calls a “partial Beyoncé,” the pre-order/partial album has rocketed to the top of the iTunes charts in over 40 countries (the U.S. of A. included). Other than Barbra Streisand, no other female artist has had as many chart-topping albums as her – a whopping eight (of her now 13) albums. As examiner.com’s Samuel Lora pointed out, she’s also the only female artist to reach the top ten lists in the all decades since the ’90s.

Hey Madonna haters, do you know what that means? She is still very relevant and popular and will be long after she’s gone. Whether you like it or not, she’s the Queen of Pop.

Yesterday (12/21/2014) she revealed to Billboard that she may sing at the Grammy Awards next year (!!) and how she and her team have been in “overdrive” since the 13 demos leaked onto the Internet. She also sat down with Rolling Stone‘s Caryn Ganz for an exclusive Q&A. A few highlights:

– on song-writing with producers and artists like Avicii, Diplo, etc.:

“And sometimes in the writing phase of the music, there are some people who I really felt a connection to, just as human beings, and felt they understood me as a songwriter and a person, so those people were easier for me to write with. Writing songs, you have to be vulnerable, you have to not be afraid to express yourself and to say things or share. It’s almost like writing your diary in front of somebody and reading it out loud.”

– on the spirituality behind the incredible “Devil Pray” (which does not endorse drug use, by the way)

“[Unity is] another subtle message of the song, and you really do have to pay attention to the lyrics, and I hope people do over time. The way we’re going to change the world, or the way we’re going to ultimately feel joy, is through unity. I’m certainly not encouraging religious behavior; when I say people are thinking in a religious way, I think they’re thinking about rules and dogma and laws that separate. When I say spirituality, I mean a consciousness that has an understanding that we are all in this together, that we are all one. We have to find a way to feel joy and to bring joy to the world together. That ultimately is with consciousness, not drugs.”

– on the meaning behind the ironic track “Illuminati”:

“People often accuse me of being a member of the Illuminati and I think in today’s pop culture the Illuminati is perceived as a group of powerful, successful people who are working behind the scenes to control the universe…The real Illuminati were a group of scientists, artists, philosophers, writers, who came about in what is referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, after the Dark Ages, when there was no writing and no art and no creativity and no spirituality, and life was really at a standstill…when people refer to me as a member of the Illuminati, I always want to say thank you. Thank you for putting me in that category. But before I can say thank you, I feel like I had to write a song about what I believe the Illuminati to be, and what it isn’t.”

She has also taken to her Instagram to thank and praise her fans. We love you, too! We eagerly await February 9th for more music and March 10th for the full work of art. We’re living for the love she’s giving us.

For a great review of each of the six released tracks, head over to MuuMuse. And if you haven’t pre-ordered Rebel Heart, you should…now. 😉

One of the incredible shots from the Mert & Marcus photo shoot for the December 2014 edition of "Interview Magazine"

One of the incredible shots from the Mert & Marcus photo shoot for the December 2014 edition of “Interview Magazine”