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I stepped hurriedly onto the late bus, with eyes weary and somber . They had been glued together into apathy by the Sunday night haze that had followed me well into this Monday morning. The chill of the grayness outside seemed to be pushed in with me as people scurried left and right on the gum-dotted pavement. They were clothed in blue by the bright light of a Citi Bank logo that shown bright in my watery eyes.

I made my way to the very back and took a seat in the leftmost corner of the bus. A row of hats and balded heads caught my eye as I sat. Then back I was to observing the littered floor of the bus. I looked up and leaned my head on the side of the bus window. Between my lazied morning eyelids I could make out the slender figure of a girl make her way on the bus just as the doors closed.

Wow, she looks nice. Maybe she will sit with me. Is my hair all right? Pat, pat, pat. Yeah it looks OK. Let me pretend not to have noticed her, it’ll up my cool, am I right? I turned my glance to the cars going by outside.

Just then, a large sliding at my right reminded me I already had a companion, a large, balding gentlemen who took out a book in Spanish and began reading. The girl ended up sitting with her back to a window, diagonal from me.

I sighed. Oh come on. I’m so unlucky all the time. Time? Time. Time! What time is it? Damn, 7:40 already. Late again. I nipped a bit at my thumb nail. This week is going to suck I thought. Four exams, and I haven’t even started studying for any yet. I won’t get time to do anything but school work this week. Man, life sucks. I pressed by cheek on the bus window.

The bus had stopped at a red light and through the tinted glass of a dented and grayed, decade-old Chevy Malibu I could make out a young face. A man bit his lips as he puckered them slowly at the thin air. He stared intently at his hands on the steering wheel, and then at the glare of the red light on his car’s hood, and back.

He seems to have it worse. His eyes are emitting worry like lasers. I’m probably complaining about nothing. Who’s to say a couple of tests are more important than some of the things other people have to go through. Gahh, people are dying of hunger in the world Bruno, get your crap together.

The bus had started moving again. I turned my head back to the girl, but not so much to her face, as to her feet. I was afraid she’d notice I was looking at her. I focused on her clean, leather flats. I rose my eyes a bit, following her tight black jeans to her knees and then to her waist. On her belt was a large skull she had for a buckle.

Well I wasn’t expecting that. I leaned back on the window with my eyes still on her, and like a lighthouse on shore I gave a quick scope around the bus, so she wouldn’t suspect I was looking at her. At each turn I got a quick glimpse of her thick eye makeup and her hair which fell loosely on her shoulders and around her breasts. It had a long, thick stripe of green on it that pierced my eye in a manner inexplicable.

Woaw. What made her want to do that to her hair? It probably would look nicer naturally. Oh well. Who am I to know what goes on in a girls head? I can barely figure out what they’re saying when they’re talking to me. Still she looks so pretty. Oh well, I probably won’t see her again and my life will go on, as boring as ever.

I turned my glance outside. Hot damn, is that a horse on a car! What the hell? Oh, its just a large cabinet tied to the top. I snickered. Wow, I have a short attention span. Did anyone notice I just laughed to myself? I looked around, as if I had been caught with my hand in a cookie jar. Nope, no one.

I kept looking outside. I looked at everything and nothing at the same time. I couldn’t quite focus on any single thing because I kept thinking about how tired I was. Suddenly I was struck with the thick blur of trees. They looked like they were mocking me. They never get tired. Haha. Oh how much I would love to be a tree I thought. No responsibilities, no fatigue and plenty of friends around you all the time. 

I kept my eyes outside. Wow I think about stupid things. I wonder why. Why; it’s a word that opens up so many worlds. Why? Like why do I always have to be tired? Why do I have 4 exams this week? Why does that girl have a skull on her buckle? Why has this large man next to me been on the same page of his book for the past 20 minutes? Why does his perfume smell like wood? Why is this bus so dirty? Why am I so late to class all the time? Why am I asking why? Why do we even exist?

The bus was almost at my stop, the last stop on the route, and the girl and just about everyone else had left already. I looked around at the ugly seats and the dirty windows. It was like I owned this bus; this stupid, disgusting bus that never smells right and never comes on time.

And, though I had gone through a spur of profound thought as my head had rested on that window, all I could think about as I stepped off the bus was how damn cold it was outside.

*****

School, grades,work, lateness, fatigue. These are all things that produce stress, an they have become a definitive part of our modern-day culture; a culture that is pervasive in the cities. Even when relaxing on a bus, we cannot help but be haunted by the problems in our lives and sometimes we cannot see that they do not define who we are. Yet, to push them out of our minds we think about anything and everything else, maybe even with a bus window aiding our very souls.

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Today I was walking around a bit, stretching my legs and dreading that school had started once again. School had made my steps lumpy and my face dreary. I made my way past a robust building clad in glass frames with the “Planet Fitness” logo staring at my stride. And, might I say that I felt as if the very building was mocking me in my simplicity, as inside half of the floor was organized with people on treadmills and bicycle machines.

They bounced in place on the mock pavement speeding below them and they gasped and groaned on the highest settings of the bicycle machines. Above their heads, countless television sets infrequently met their eyes, and air conditioners blasted sweetly brisk air at their faces. Most of them had armbands to hold their MP3 players plugged in so they could  find a total recluse from the outside world. And what have you, the ones that didn’t sure weren’t doing too bad a job. They would share their blank stares among the tvs and the brick walled deli grocery outside, in front of them.

Once in a while they stared at me, my awkward face pressed against the thick glass, as I stopped and looked in awe of what I was seeing. On the street corner, peering down Lydig Avenue I could see the park, and in the corner of my eye, the sweaty people begging for the artificially cool air of a machine glued to a wall.

I didn’t get it, and I can’t say I do still. Have we become so reliant on technology that we replace it with even the simplest of things we can so easily find otherwise? Why weren’t the dozens of runners and bikers going through a shaded park; a park with natural cool breezes and a beautiful scenery and scent. Surely that can’t be matched by a soulless commercial building shaded instead by a rusted train track and the height of a residential building with a corner store in its lobby.

I feel that we should not become so sheepishly reliant on technology so as to use it for such unnecessary and debatable conveniences. We allow technology to dictate our lives and to seclude us from interactions with others. God help one of those runners in that building if they go run in a park instead and someone wants to have a conversation.

This doesn’t just happen in one place; in all technologically advanced nations people are jumping on treadmills when governments invest millions on park spaces. It has become an odd international phenomenon showcasing the collective absurdity of human nature.

It seems that this culture of becoming engulfed by technology on all sides and embracing it so much so that we let it make us look foolish! Go out and run or bike out in a park, not in a gym; you aren’t making sense. And to those people that visit the gym to walk on one of those treadmills, you have a twisted soul for mushing up my brain in confusion.

At least those people are exercising, though. This can’t be said for nearly enough Americans nowadays.

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(above) Carl’s Jr.’s latest campaign, because a burger juxtaposed with a beautiful woman is more likely to sell.

As I flipped through the channels on my TV I came across an advertisement where an attractive couple met ultimately because a BigMac brought them together. I have bought plenty of BigMacs only to be disappointed that the BigMac did not attract any of “da’ ladies.” As a matter of fact I continued to be ignored because of the weight I gained. Today businesses are desperate to sell their products even if it means they must use misleading and brainwashing advertisements, and it also seems they are only growing in their influence.

Businesses are key to the American economy and even to American politics, to some extent. Take McDonald’s for instance. It is one of the largest corporations in the US. With more than 12 thousand restaurants and a hundreds of new ones opening on a monthly basis, McDonald’s is truly one of the most powerful franchises in the restaurant business. Without McDonald’s restaurants millions of jobs in America would be lost. Not only do they contribute so much to the economy but they also impact political views in the U.S. government. This is so because large businesses lobby political representatives and support their campaigns.  These representatives are to meet the businesses interests of said corporations. McDonald’s demonstrated this when they were able to get away with controversies over their slaughter houses by playing on their good relationships with political officials. Other, larger, companies like ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart and Chevron, for example use their lobbyists in Congress to advance legislation that helps them. Arguably they have more say in what Congress passes than do the people who elect officials.

These large corporations target consumers using advertisements. In order to make us buy their products they use beautiful scenery, fun characters, celebrities, and even sexual themes. We are constantly bombarded with these brain washing and misleading advertisements everywhere we go.

In fact, there is a sometimes such a plethora of advertisements that we sometimes become unconscious of their even being there. For example, when was the last time you looked up from Times Square to actually look for ads. Unless you consciously try to formulate the ads, you simply are shanked in the eye with their collective brightness. As another example, consider a movie scene where the actor reaches out to drink a can of Pepsi. In the past couple of years it has become so that we cannot just let this pass as a random choice because that’s what the set-producers first picked off a grocery shelf. The can of Pepsi in modern movies will have been specifically chosen, it’s logo likely re-sized to be more easily seen on the big-screen and the producers will have been paid thousands, in advance, for its appearance in said movie.

These corporations tend to advertise heavily towards kids because of their gullibility. A kid watching a commercial with the ninja turtles, happy as clams in a dam, eating pizza in a Poppa John’s will go through his entire day sure that Poppa John’s is the sole-trusted provider of pizza to Leonardo and his team. Then guess where they will want to go to eat later that day.

Kids aren’t the only consumers that are targeted by misleading advertisements. Adults are met with hundreds of advertisement that contain sexual connotations. For example a car commercial may contain a lady half naked climbing on the car just to get the viewer’s attention. Most of the time they do, and sometimes, subconsciously that gray, midsized sedan enters a whole different gravitational field in your mind and you end up buying/leasing it for no good reason except that you were influenced to.

Advertisers as of late have been become more bold in their campaigns as it has become quite hard to actually grab the attention of anyone without being so rash, considering  it has almost become so that people are likely to see more advertisements in a day than other actual people! The largest of corporations seem to be abusing their “artistic privilege” to  create misleading advertisements that at times focus more on the diversion than on the actual product. When was the last time you saw a Super Bowl commercial in which you could actually figure out the product it was trying to sell you? Advertisers are constantly using new tactics to generate interest in the products and sometimes they go so all-out on the job that it’s laughable.

What are some commercials that, as of late, have clearly tried to mislead you?

*Article proposed and drafted by M.A.M.

With the coming mid-day, most men in Yemen gather in their homes to chew on a shrub they know as khat. They have spent most of their day occupied with their jobs and they now head home with a stack of khat as their days salary; a salary of psychedelic stems and leaves. As much as 90% of the adult male population in Yemen chews khat on a daily basis. A newcomer might compare the apparent ritual to sights of a group smoking a joint or partaking in the addiction of other drugs more popular in the US.

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The legality of khat in Yemen has wrecked the impoverished nation.  It has one of the worst economies in the Middle East and is one of the most socially deprived states in the region. The drug has established a firm grasp on the advancement and modernization of the nation, which it has held back almost entirely. The society has developed into one seemingly backwards, in which women are oppressed. This is arguably because people’s freedoms are too firmly established. They can choose not to go to work, they can choose to grow khat and chew on it all day, and they can choose to fantasize about their superiority in a psychedelic universe they sit in all day.

“You sit up discussing all your problems and think you’ve solved everything, but in fact you haven’t done anything in the last four hours, because you’ve just been chewing khat and all your problems actually got worse,” says Adel al-Shujaa, a professor of political science at Sana’a University and the head of the Yemen Without Khat Association. He aslo adds, “all the decisions you’ve made are bad because you’ve made them while on khat.”

The country is facing a food crisis and more than 5 million people, nearly a fourth of the country, have problems with hunger according to a U.N. Agency.  One of the reasons as to why there is a crisis at all is that a huge portion of fertile lands is used to grow khat. Nearly 50% of agricultural lands in the mountainous regions of Yemen, where people don’t have as much access to produce, are used to grow the shrubs.  Most families spend more money on khat than on food, according to many government figures. There is no federal say in what people can grow on their lands, and there is no federal encouragement or pressure to grow more beneficial plants and produce instead of khat.

A khat-addicted public is more inclined to complacency about the failings of the government. Khat ceremonies reinforce the exclusion of women from power and, as is obvious to anyone finding a government office nearly empty on a weekday morning, khat is keeping the country awake well past its bedtime.

Yemen is not completely at a loss, the ability to grow a cash crop does diversify the economy somewhat, and does serve as a source of income for many, but despite this somewhat small benefit the drug has taken over the minds of the people and has rendered them weak and useless. It has even corrupted the politicians there, with many prominent leaders on khat as well. An analogous situation would be if it was public that our president and his cabinet smoked marijuana while contemplating new policy.

Despite the danger, Yemen isn’t about to go cold turkey anytime soon. Not only are most of the country’s leading landowners deeply involved in khat production, but khat is only one of the few things still holding the country together following a quite recent unification of North and South. Khat does play a big role in keeping people calm and keeping society temporarily stable, but it is also delaying change and making it hard to convince people to act. The result is a sessile nation that refuses to deal with its problems and continues to allow a select class of politicians and landowners to undermine the power of any concern to boil over into some sort of a change.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, and yet it seems so that it can be abused and misused to such an extent that it acts as a detriment to society. Yet, any citizen must not concede to allow the government enough power to determine the freedoms of the people, because that is the job of the people. Nonetheless, there are many parallels to the US that may be drawn from Yemen and the khat issue, and those, LemonOpinion asks you to draw out by yourself and with context to your society.

*Article proposed and drafted by M.A.

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Okay, so earlier today a friend of mine was telling me about all the wonderful things about Minecraft (a pixelated-type game where the user can create new worlds/games/etc.). I felt that I would too be able to appreciate a game that so many others do as well, and so I joined him in a multiplayer game. I was surprised to find out that Minecraft was indeed a piece of crap, or so I believe, as I lacked the attention span to learn anything from my friend and ended up only digging holes in the dirt and following the pixelated pigs and cows around.

This made me think about something most people rarely do because most people suffer from the actual topic of thought: a short attention span. I normally do not have a short attention span and can listen to information being shoved into my brain day in and day out, however, it seems even I am not immune from the ways in which the modern youth is being influenced by technology.

I contest that technology has shortened our attention spans to such an extent that we cannot stick to anything for too long. On a daily basis, from the moment we awake to the moment we sleep we are confronted with cell phones, televisions, i-pads and i-pods. We have come to assume that whatever we want to get, we will get in a short amount of time or even instantly because after all, we have wifi in every corner of the globe and a device connected to the internet for each pocket in our jeans. These kinds of things have created a modern youth that is content only with instantaneous delight and one that lacks the attention span to really stick to something for a long time.

Nowadays, it’s unlikely a song will ever go over 4 minutes. It’s unlikely that any important news story will be recognized as important for longer than a couple of days. It’s unlikely that a youth will know anything more than is taught in schools about any subject, but it is likely that he will know more about the ‘freshest’ brands and crappiest, most repetitive singers than at any time in our history.

These little things may not seem like big deals, but they actually do eventually hinder our attention spans. How can we ever focus on learning to appreciate anything, even a how to play a simple game or how to do something cool, when we have 50 Facebook updates to check on every hour and 50 devices in our homes that we can check them on? Or how are we going to ever have real conversations with other people if we become so easily distracted by things in the digital world?

I can’t say that I don’t fall under this category of people, because I am but a human who follows the same crowd of humans as my generation does, however, it’s important that we are aware of such things.

Since the mid-July debut of PSY’s hit “Gangnam Style,” the world has exploded with a sudden excitement regarding Korean popular culture. The wild and free-spirited music video seems to have created a buzz among American youth especially, and what has followed has been an array of parodies from all over the world.

Yet, the odd thing is that, in retrospect, the video is not all that unique in that just about every pop singer nowadays is going head over heels trying to establish themselves as a witty free spirit with unique hobbies and lifestyles and friends who party in horse masks. The music itself is also very similar to American pop music. This is to be expected as K-Pop has been heavily influenced by the American pop scene. So what’s up with all the buzz about K-Pop all of a sudden?

Well to blurt out the truth, American pop music has become generic and boring. Anyone can pretty accurately predict the next Taylor Swift or Nicki Minaj song without it even coming out, because one will inadvertently be ranting about her ex-boyfriend and the other will be generating views whilst wearing a thong on a motorcycle. These kinds of things have become so overused that American youth, as well as people all over the world that listen to American pop music are looking for something else.

Although they should be looking for the real talent that exists outside the overdone pop scene, they turn to what has become a sort of exotic spin on traditional pop music, which has come from South Korea. It seems that although K-Pop songs are equally cheesy and generic they have become the new ‘in thing’ and just about anyone with access to a computer has heard of them. This, mixed with the beautiful faces of the Korean singers/dancers, achieved through years of investments in plastic surgery, have established a base of popular support in America and throughout the world regarding Korean popular culture.

The fundamental driving force for all of this has been the K-Pop labels’ sudden surge of investment in foreign music markets, as they try to bring K-Pop to popularity all over the world, and especially to the United States. Marketing campaigns have put PSY and Hyuna all over American billboards, website advertisements and daytime television shows and they seem to be successfully winning over the favor of the American youth.

Korean pop culture will eventually become well established throughout the world because it shares the same tones of the politically correct choruses, beats and bridges of American culture, but with an Eastern flare. And though this is true, I will never understand the way pop music has the ability to establish such a strong, almost robotic impulse on its listeners to stay almost sheepishly loyal. But that’s just my two cents; music is music no matter what genre (unless it’s dubstep, then it’s actually two, decade-old computers having sex).