Being Noah Tesfaye #49: We’re All to Blame

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That definitely doesn’t any ring to it. But that’s okay. And, as much as I disagree with him as a human, his temperament, his opinions, his accusations, all of it, I knew he would eventually get confirmed.

Back in 2013, the United States Senate, under Democratic control, changed the rules for federal judicial nominees and executive office appointments. Up until November of 2013, for forty years, the senate required a super majority of 60 votes to confirm these appointments. However, Democrats voted to change that, requiring only a simple majority in the Senate to pass a nominee right through.

This motion was designed to allow three more US Circuit Court of Appeals DC Circuit nominees picked by President Obama. The concern was future filibusters, that these nominees should be able to receive their nomination fairly and directly without any sort of holdback. This idea, to invoke this voting method, is what is known in politics today as the “nuclear option.”

Democrats saw that holding the Senate during the 2014 midterms would be able to prevent any sort of backfire for this decision, to break out the nuclear option. But, as we all know, that didn’t happen. Republicans ended up gathering control 54 out of the 100 Senate seats by the end of that election, and it set course for what we have just seen today.

Last year, the Senate Republicans decided to lower the threshold for a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed, from the super majority to a simple majority of 50 votes. That enabled the confirmation of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who would not have been confirmed otherwise, with a vote of 54–45, the biggest split since Clarence Thomas’s vote (which is a whole different story to get into).

As I wrote last week, I was still in surprise at the complete lack of composure Kavanaugh demonstrated through his response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. And it was in that vein, on top of the very accusations themselves, that I did not and do not believe he should have been confirmed. How can I trust one’s judicial temperament if they cannot speak up for themselves respectfully? Again, I would have no issue with just disagreeing with someone on a philosophical way, like with Gorsuch. But I cannot deny how respectful and focused justices like Scalia were.

I don’t know if this system will ever be effective. A super majority could at least ensure that a higher percentage of the country has their values represented in the justices on the court. However, when the two past justices have been put onto the court by a president that did not even gain the majority of votes, that begs the real question: why have lifetime appointments? And if we want to have lifetime appointments, why not use the House to confirm justices, where population matters?

Representation with strong judicial experience is what is needed on all courts across the country, especially on the Supreme Court. What this court appointment has resulted in is a discussion about the process itself, the reasons for why we have decided to continue to place so much power in the judicial system, to trust that those in power will reflect our values. I’m that one avid Supreme Court fanatic amongst my friends, the one that bores people about the importance of the court itself. This confirmation has, I hope, brought the awareness the Court deserves. It needs to be watched, not just for its landmark decisions, but for every decision. Follow SCOTUSBlog on Twitter, keep your eyes on the court, but if we want change to truly happen, we’re going to need to do more than just vote.

Till next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #48: What is Chief Justice Roberts Thinking Right Now?

There is no single news story that is more important today than this one. This story has been everywhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people were claiming, “Can we just be done with this already?”

And to some extent, I could agree with you. Yes, this process is long and tedious, but it is imperative to the function of this democracy. It is, as I’ve said in previous posts, the most important branch of the US government. And the single question I really want the answer to is this: what in the world does SCOTUS, and Chief Justice John Roberts especially, think of these confirmation hearings?

If you remember, I wrote the weekend following Associate Justice Kennedy’s resignation that I believed that he would be a severe threat to so many precedents, and more importantly, as a threat to continue to make the court more partisan. I did not discredit him as a person, and it appeared, up until these hearings, that although strongly conservative, he appeared to be a good human being. That was, of course, until the accusations became public.

These accusations were clear and credible. They were fact-checked and backed with hours of research, and many major news outlets believed these stories to be sincere. I believe them.

After watching Kavanaugh’s Fox News interview that aired last Monday, I really began to feel like he wasn’t truthful. His outlandish claims about his virginity as a young man, along with his proud claims he only moderately drank in high school sound like jokes any kid who participates in similar activities at my own school would say. He didn’t accept the claims that he was sometimes seen visibly unaware while under the influence, and once his yearbook was discovered, what doubt was left to really believe 100% of that interview, let alone what he had claimed in public.

We get to Thursday, and Dr. Christine Blasey testified to her allegations as clear as anyone who has suffered sexual trauma could. She recalled clear details, yet at times did not remember other facts, like how she got home. There is psychological evidence to backup the idea that she very well does not remember due to the horrific events that could have taken place. Again, I believe her.

But the most convincing, telling behavior of that day was with Kavanaugh himself. He was erratic, indirect, and unclear with most of his direct answers. The questions about his drinking especially, which could have possibly caused lapses in his memory to not recall the events of that evening, were about as combative as I’ve ever seen. He lacked composure, poise, and most of all, respect for those questioning him. In one memorable moment, after Senator Amy Klobuchar asked him about him ever blacking out while drunk, he fired back asking if she ever had, not attempting initially to answer the question.

This, combined with the irrational display of anger by Senator Lindsey Graham all was telling of the fact that this was certainly one of the most important days in Senate confirmation hearing history.

And so we finally get to Friday, where right down party lines, 11–10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move forward to a vote for Judge Kavanaugh. But, in a sudden change of pace, Senator Jeff Flake proclaimed that he would vote yes to the motion to vote so long as there was a thorough FBI investigation that would take place over the next week, delaying the vote. Whether it was to save his lobbying prospects after he leaves the Senate, or whether it was to assure that Kavanaugh did not do anything he was accused of, the nation is waiting for the FBI to, hopefully, figure this out.

We’re waiting. But back to my earlier question. Let’s set aside Clarence Thomas for a second, who’s confirmation most certainly warrants a whole other blog post, and let’s look at the court’s perspective on this. One could argue that some justices are appalled with these hearings, in both directions. As much as I believe that Judge Roberts has made some terrible decisions over the past couple years, for me most notably him striking down the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he does care about his reputation and the public perception of the court. That’s why the ACA wasn’t voted unconstitutional. Having a justice as divisive as Kavanaugh on the Court could not only hamper his court’s reputation, but it could motivate the country to drastically swing left both in the midterms and in 2020, facing off directly against the court.

Hypothetically, if I were a conservative, the risk is too great. Regardless of whether or not Kavanaugh is guilty of these allegations, which based on all current signs are most likely true, he hurts the conservative agenda at this moment. His confirmation, from both sides, is making the court even more partisan than it already is, especially when Kavanaugh went all after left-wing groups in his statement on Thursday. The best case scenario is to just to walk away from him and pick a new candidate for the court. The worst case? The allegations are true, he does not get confirmed, and in a demonstration of power, Democrats reclaim both the House and Senate, and no one is confirmed by January.

I’m going to say that, although for bad reasons, the court is at least in the spotlight. These nominations are so powerful, and who knows, maybe the lifetime appointment is not a good idea? I don’t know for sure, but that will be a post for another day. I’ll see you all next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #47: The Brockhampton Story

It’s a cool summer June afternoon in 2017. I’m in Morningside Park, amongst friends, and we’re on our lunch break from class. In typical fashion, I bust out my UE Roll and ask for music suggestions. I get summer favorite suggestions like “Redbone” and others. But I got one suggestion, one song, from a small independent group originally from Houston and now in LA. Their name? Brockhampton. The song? “Milk.”

After that first day my friend introduced me to “The Best Boyband since One Direction,” it’s been a journey to see the group grow. From listening to Saturation just days after its release, to enjoying Saturation II at school. What made them unique, what made them truly special, was their commitment to just being themselves, expressing their hardships so genuinely. There was no “toning down” of content, nothing except for unapologetic honesty.

The first Saturation brought the world a style of music for the nerds, the outcasts, the forum browsers, a collective of rappers, singers, producers, and videographers, all living out their dream together. They made all their own videos, produced all of their music inside their house in South Central LA. They made an app filled with exclusive content, merchandise that was affordable and cool, and most of all, they kept that same energy for nearly a whole year.

Through Saturation II, and through Saturation III, Brockhampton continued to make music that I loved, music that made me appreciate life for even it’s most subtle intricacies. From “GOLD” to “JUNKY” to “BLEACH,” every single album provided a different sound that continued to develop, continued to sound more grand and majestic as the trilogy unfolded. There were no samples, which resulted in each song sounding truly unique. No track was the same. Everything seemed to be heading in a great direction. I saw them at the Warfield last March, and they played an incredible show from start to finish. It was one of the greatest experiences I have ever witnessed.

The group announced their fourth album, Team Effort, the day that Saturation III released, on December of 2017. They later called the album off on March 20th, but fortunately, they announced their next album, Puppy, scheduled for this past summer. Just ten days later, they announced that they had decided to sign with RCA. Things were proceeding like normal in Brockhampton, and we all were excited for another summer trilogy.

But on in May, rumors surfaced surrounding Ameer and possible sexual misconduct. And swiftly, on May 27th of 2018, Brockhampton announced that Ameer would no longer be in the group.

I was stunned. For one, Ameer was on every single album cover. He was the literal face of the group. Yes, Ian aka Kevin was the frontman for the group, but Ameer was the blue man. He was an great lyricist, with a great story. But, as the info began to leak, I knew it was the right decision. He did some very bad things in his past, and most of all, he wasn’t truthful to his family, the group. I don’t know whether he did anything he was accused of, but I know that his dishonesty about the circumstances to his group mates is what makes me believe they made the right decision.

Now, we’re in a new trilogy: It’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” era. Iridescence just released yesterday, and it’s the album that I’m the most proud of for the group. Against the odds they faced dealing with becoming a signed group to losing one of their core group members, this album is the perfect way to begin this new chapter. I will continue to be a Brockhampton stan for the foreseeable future. Thank you Ian, Dom, Matt, Joba, Merlyn, Romil, Jabari, HK, Ashlan, Kiko, Jon, Robert, and of course Bearface for helping shape music for the future. Let’s see what this next chapter holds…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #46: Why Tweet?

I’ve been on Twitter for over six years.

When it comes to social media, I’ve been fortunate to jump on to most of the platforms early. That is, of course, aside from Facebook, which was known as the “parent/adult” platform. It makes sense that as a young kid, being in Silicon Valley especially, no one else was online outside of your local proximity. Your friends in other states and other countries wouldn’t be on social media because it wasn’t quite mainstream yet for teens (granted, I wasn’t even a teen yet).

It wasn’t really until the 2012 presidential campaign that social media truly began to become a platform where people would actually see and hear news. It became the place where certain events would be discussed and contested, how stories about people like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown got spread so rapidly. Now, Twitter is the platform for where news happens, and whenever 45 tweets, it becomes the single headline on any major network.

For me personally, Twitter was the place I saw as a chance to connect with my favorite YouTubers. I would retweet for giveaways and tweet out my favorite videos, praying for those coveted likes by verified users. I remember the first day I got a like from Marques Brownlee, better known as MKBHD, and I ran up to my mom and told her about it. She barely even knew who he was other than him being the black tech guy on YouTube. But for those first few years, that was what Twitter was for me; it was me seeking validation from those I admired. Here’s that first tweet:

Those tweets are cringe-worthy of course. But it was just me trying to understand how to use a platform I thought I could be truly heard on. I thought that my life would instantly be better if someone like UnboxTherapy gave me a follow, or if LeBron James retweeted me. But (obviously), that wasn’t the case. In fact, the things I was searching for from Twitter was not validation; it was the opportunity to learn more.

Over the years, as I matured, I began to search for new ways to use the platform, ways to be able to learn about the world. I began to read more journalism, follow my favorite writers, and try to add my own input into any discourse for topics I was interested in. I still would tweet out random video game montages and EDM songs, but for the most part, I chose to use the platform as a way to better engage myself with the rest of the world.

But this past year, something changed. Instead of just engaging in dialogue with people online, I started to look for opportunities to gain in the real world through Twitter. I connected with local people I admired, trying to help make this world a better place. I reached out and got an internship from an initial Twitter exchange. I used Twitter to get in touch with two of my favorite writers at a major publication. I had no intention of ever receiving a complete “yes” or “no,” but I just wanted to ask if anyone wanted to help me accomplish my goals. It just took that first point of contact, that first opportunity to ask someone about what they do, how you can learn from them, and most often, people are always excited to help you!

Twitter is a weird place. It sucks out a ton of my time, makes e want to hate the world I am a part of, and even want to just delete my account and never look at it again. But for all of these moments of anger scrolling through my timeline, I see real relationships being forged, real people getting the chance to share their stories. We got to understand the Arab Spring because of Twitter. We got to understand the Ferguson protests because of Twitter. We saw first hand what was happening in Charlottesville because of Twitter. It’s a platform I learned about journalists and activists really changing the world. It gives me an opportunity to hear out perspectives on all sides of the aisle, which I don’t really get in my daily life.

This platform is by no means a perfect platform. But I’ve gained a lot because of the platform that has been written off as a place to completely waste every second of your existence on going after trolls (which I don’t really do either of). This isn’t a post on the backend, with what Jack Dorsey is doing, because honestly I have far more to say about that than a few sentences. But for what Twitter is, at its very core, is a place to share short bursts of ideas, ideas that if you’re open to thinking about, could very well change your life.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #45: There is Always More Than What We See

Yesterday was an amazing day. I was having a great time at school. We just finished Pride and Prejudice and discussed the ending of conflict resolution. I did a mellow lab in science, and in stats, well, it’s the best math class content-wise I’ve ever had. Walking into our journalism class, I was feeling good. We had birthdays to celebrate, and we were going to discuss the new Op-Ed from the Times. But, during web brainstorm, someone said this: “Mac Miller died.”

It has been since then that I’ve kind of been in a shock of sorts. I could not believe that music just lost one of its most seemingly sincere people. Mac Miller dealt with a lot in his past, but he fought. He fought to turn his life around. During the past month especially, with Swimming releasing, he looked like he was in a good space, in a zone where he was excited to help connect with the world. He looked like he was going to continue to become a person that helped bring people from all walks of life together with his music.

Yet, we can only see and hear what artists are creating. We can only understand what the put out. Looking and being a certain way are two different things. The disheartening and tragic part about Mac’s story is that we won’t ever get to know his state of mind. And it crushes me to know that the world never is going to see him grow even further into the man we were seeing him become. We won’t hear his next story, we won’t hear his next album, but more importantly, we won’t ever get to hear him, Malcom James McCormick, ever again.

This is a moment of true reflection for so many of us that listen to music. We are living in this age of information, this time where we just assume that everything an artist may put out, no matter how genuine and honest they may be, is their reality. We make assumptions that a projection is a true reflection of someone’s state of mind instead of a projection, a possible deflection from what may be truly going on in their heads.

I’m not going to act like I may have felt the magnitude of feeling that Mac may have felt, what may have caused him to relapse and overdose. But I do know what it is like to project a different version of myself, to always show and make the appearance as if I am okay, that everything is fine, when in actuality, I was dealing with far too much. I would mask how I was feeling, portraying on social media or in person that I was doing great when in reality I was feeling horrible. I would care too much about my own image instead of sharing with those I care about what was really going on in my mind. Had I dealt with those circumstances on my own, chosen to just hold in whatever I was feeling, who knows if I would be here today, writing this blog post.

Music, unlike any other genre, is the one place where we unfortunately see this happen too much. There is no place for artists to reach out to each other, to share their true circumstances with one another. Shawn Cee, a YouTuber who reviews music, put it best in his own video discussing that these are preventable tragedies. It’s a business that does not do anything to ensure that the mental health of these artists are truly protected. We can help support those we care about. We need to stop shying away from saying anything, no matter how it may make us feel. No matter how crazy or embarrassed you may feel, always just check in if you start to notice a change in behavior or change in mood. Just reach out and let them know that you’re there for your friends, family, even peers that you may not know that well. Why not just speak up? Why not just do what we can, and maybe, just maybe we can help someone.

Seeing a therapist helped change my life. I recognize that privilege in itself to talk to someone professional, but if you can or cannot afford it, reach out for help. Use the hotlines, and no matter how weird or awkward they may seem to be, there is always someone who will listen to you. It may not be someone close to you, but someone will listen. I don’t want people to feel the way I have in the past because I know how miserable it is. I hate it. But I want anyone to know that if you want to chat about anything at all, you can reach out to me and I can just listen. I don’t have to say anything at all, but I am here to hear you. I am here for you.

Rest in peace Malcolm. Thank you for being you.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #44: Share your Story

This past week, I had an article that went to print in my local paper. To my surprise, a lot more people seemed to read it than I thought, and to those who did see it, I’d like to say thank you. This story was about racial profiling in the Bay Area.

Now, if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve written on this subject, sporadically at times throughout pieces, and more in-depth back in post #5, The Life of a Black Student in Silicon Valley. This piece was inspired by a Latina friend of mine who chose to speak up following her and her friends’ harassment at an Urban Outfitters at Stanford. I’ll leave the article linked right here.

I’ve been spending a lot of time just thinking about the possible reach of ideas, of articles I’ve been attempting to pitch to publications, all in hopes of getting stories like the former out in the open. When you’re from a very sheltered area, it truly makes you question what people think, and for people to understand that story, I am very grateful.

There are moments when I’ve felt like my voice won’t be heard. I’ve spent most of my life just thinking to myself, keeping ideas and thoughts all insulated. And the truth about that is no matter how innovative or insightful I am in my mind, it doesn’t matter if I don’t just share it. There is no way for people’s minds to change, no way for those who need to hear a message to actually understand its importance if we can’t say it.

I look towards the greats, those who didn’t shy away from spreading their stories. From Dr. King and John Lewis, to an much smaller scale like Ta-Nehisi Coates and even LeBron James, I chose to share my story because that was how I was able to learn, to become a better person, to further understand what it means to change the world. When Dr. King chose to write a letter from jail, or spoke in Memphis in that April of 1968, he told the story of a vision, a vision that had he chosen to stay quiet, we would never have been able to hear.

Those who have made an impact in society did something that some of us fail to do everyday: put their livelihoods on the line for the very essence of humanity. Obviously, most of us cannot afford this, both literally in terms of finances, and in terms of the obligations we have. But those who shared their truths with the world didn’t put any of these concerns to the forefront. They put everything out there for society to truly succeed and for it to become the place they envisioned in their minds.

Whenever you try to think about the moments in your life where someone influenced you, pushed you to be yourself, in spite of any odds telling you to behave otherwise, it was ultimately you who made that final step to do the right thing. I can’t go on an talking to you, the reader, had I not begun to at least try to understand myself, trust myself, believe in myself. Otherwise, I would not write. I would not speak up and proclaim how proud I am, of my heritage, of my experiences if I didn’t truly believe in myself.

Regardless of what you may think, someone will value you for the way you are, the way you think. It may not be those right next to you or around you. And that’s okay. Sometimes those around you, those who are closest in proximity, may be the people who need to hear your story, and in other cases, they don’t. But the internet gives everyone that chance. Someone will hear your story and support whatever you may be doing. Email your favorite writers, scientists, athletes, and professors. Share your story because you have the power to truly help someone discovery something about themselves. You would never know unless you try.

Whenever I think about my life, from its infancy, the first ever In-N-Out trip at two, all the way to now, sitting in my favorite coffee shop listening to Brockhampton writing to you, I’ve been searching for what fulfills me, what gives me the true joy in the world. The truth is I don’t know completely what that is yet. But, I know at least part of that joy is sharing my story and others stories that are important for the world to hear. It gives me a purpose to continue to work hard, to continue to do everything in my power to help make this world more compassionate and aware of the circumstances that affect the less fortunate. I’ll keep sharing my stories with everyone, to my timelines, in person, and everywhere possible, because if even one person begins to question their reality, or begins to think differently, then I’ve done my job.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #43: Thank You John McCain

Today, we lost a patriot.

When I watched my first presidential election, I didn’t think much about his policies. I didn’t think much about policy at all to be quite honest. All I saw during that election in 2008 was a black presidential candidate who looked like me and had African heritage. He made me feel like I could one day become that successful, and as a result, during the elementary school election, I voted for Barack Obama.

But over the course of the next eight years, and especially during the past two years, I’ve learned more about this man’s story, from his torture in Vietnam, to his work in Congress for immigration reform. But most of all, I learned about one of the most respectful and sincere people American politics has ever known.

I finally discovered who John McCain was.

There is no video that further exemplifies this very fact than during a town hall during the 2008 presidential campaign. If you have not seen this video, it’s linked above, but I’ll share with you the transcript of this exchange he has with a white women who asked him a question:

“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.”

He shook his head instantly, grabbed the mic and responded:

“No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

The way he responds, focusing on the policy and not the character of Obama, is something we don’t see often in politics today.

Even with his supporters surprised by his answer, he continued to speak on this same idea:

“He is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as President. If I didn’t think I’d be one heck of a better President I wouldn’t be running, and that’s the point. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are. Because that’s the way politics should be conducted in America.”

It was in this single video that I believe you truly see what John McCain stood for: America. In every sense of this country’s true values, McCain fought for his own vision of this nation, but respectfully. He did not care whether he would be alienating his supporters by making a statement like this, nor did he attempt to later clarify what he said. He meant every single word in that video and continued to have the same sentiments in the years following that town hall. In today’s political climate, he was a rare constant believer in the American people.

Our president, on the other hand, thought otherwise of him. After McCain spoke out against his concerns about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, Mr. 45 responded with “He insulted me, and he insulted everyone in that room… He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” It didn’t matter what his party’s presidential candidate believed. Even through these comments, he continued to speak out for respect and dignity within politics. And I’m thankful for that.

I disagree 100% with his lackluster pick of Sarah Palin for VP, which he even agreed with after the fact in his memoir. I did not personally like his vote against the ACA back in 2010 either. I don’t agree with his past jokes and comments that were not in good faith at all. He’s said some comments that I am wholeheartedly against as well.

But at this point, that is not what we should talk about.

For all the things I may have disliked about his policy and his preferences as far as how our country was run, I supported his singular goal of trying to make America a better place for all people. His immigration reform support, his vote to not repeal ACA last year, and his attempts at bipartisanship are truly to be commended. He strayed away from complete partisanship because he believed that representatives should think independently and share the values of their citizens.

John McCain was the first true Republican I got to know in politics, and most importantly, the one I respected the most. His service to this country and to every single person living in this country and serving abroad is far more than almost anyone in recent memory. He will be missed dearly, and I am sending my wishes out to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Thank you John McCain.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #42: Apple: The Brand that Shaped My Childhood

June 24th, 2010. It was a warm, breezy Friday afternoon on University Avenue in Palo Alto. I was excited all day because I knew that after our weekly Friday night dinner, I’d finally get to go to a very important teal store. That’s what it looked like then, before it moved down the street and had echo problems. After watching the keynote, and being the avid Steve Jobs fan I was, I could not wait. That evening, the day the iPhone 4 launched, was moment I became an Apple fan.

At around seven, the line still wrapped around the back of the store. I nearly sprinted into the front door of the store, and waited, and waited, and waited. Then, I finally got my chance to hold one. It was unlike anything I had ever knew was possible. It was glass on both sides, slippery and shatter-prone. Nonetheless, I wanted one. I begged to get anyone around me to buy one, just so I could get a chance to have access to it everyday. I couldn’t even see the pixels on the screen! It was so crispy, before I even knew what the term meant.

Over the past eight years, I’ve watched every single Apple keynote, and in many respects, I do it out of the same excitement I had when Steve launched the iPhone 4 or the original iPad. I became so invested in his work that the second the two most important biographies on him released, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, I devoured both 400 page plus books. He apparently had kids that went to one of my old schools, and I wish still to this day that I had the chance to at least say how much I appreciated what he did for the world. He still to this day inspires the way I do presentations: less is and always will be better than more.

I won’t deny the fact that Apple has pretty much influenced everything I do. Being in Silicon Valley, and just fifteen minutes away from Apple Park, I have been indoctrinated with Apple fandom. The first computers I ever used were Macs. My mom had one of the first white plastic MacBooks, and my dad had the Cinema Display with a seventeen inch MacBook Pro. At school, we all used those newer plastic MacBooks, and every single thing we did at school had an Apple logo tacked onto it. Every Prius I saw at one point in the late 2000s had an Apple sticker on it. Every coffee shop you’d walk into, would have no one talking to each other, but there were still glowing Apple logos that faced you as you’d walk by. Apple was everywhere and used in almost every single digital activity, especially at school.

Back in first grade, I remember using the original iMac. It was one of the teal ones, and even though it was over five years old the day I first used it, something about it fascinated me. It’s design, which was dated, still seemed to be iconic. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I knew it was special. Little did I know that that computer was one of the ones that was given to the school by Steve himself (to my best recollection). Everywhere I looked, there was a Mac. And when the iPhone came out, I slowly saw people carry those around everywhere. Heck, I see the people who developed all of these gadgets at Baskin Robbins or school events at times. They may blend in for most, but I always recognized HairForceOne or Eddy Cue for their contributions to technology in our daily lives.

It was during fifth or sixth grade that I saw kids begin to get iPhones. I begged my parents constantly and nagged them to buy me one. I thought I was the cool kid who had bought himself one of the new iPod Touch models, but I couldn’t make phone calls or text anyone. I was about as jealous as any other kid in Silicon Valley without one. It was on my 13th birthday that I got that first iPhone: the 5C. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. The Apple fanboy in me was angry I got the “kids” version. I saw my other classmates with the 5S who didn’t even know how to use half of it’s features, and it made me angry. I knew everything there was to these phones, and yet in my head, I felt like I wasn’t as cool because I didn’t have the one that I talked to everyone about for months. Nonetheless, I was grateful that I got any phone at all, and I made sure to use every single feature I could on that blue gadget.

What I slowly began to realize that what was a hobby and a passion for me personally was a status symbol for others. I hadn’t realized that, beyond those around me who all carried iPhones as if it was merely their car keys, Apple was a brand that made you feel like you were wealthy. Not surprisingly, this is very much a true proxy, and it was proven in a paper recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I didn’t see it at home, but whenever I would go back to Ethiopia, I saw the status of the phone, the brand play out. Only those who were wealthy compared to everyone else had iPhones, and that was only because you either went to the US and bought one, or paid the ludicrous up-charge by resellers in Addis. With that, I quickly began to be much more aware of the privilege I had of being to afford a gadget I just thought of as an essential.

Ever since I would say about 2011, I’ve gone through to understand this fact. I’ve gone through an iPhone 5C, 6S, and now I’m currently using the 8 Plus as my daily phone. As for my laptop, it’s the last good Retina MacBook Pro 15 Inch, the one with ALL the ports (2.5, 16GB RAM, 256GB). It’s the tool that I depend on to do everything, from working on homework to video editing to writing these blog posts. There have been many points at which I’ve wanted to stop using a Mac, to just switch over to Windows, and possibly pick up a Dell XPS 15, or switch to Android and get a Pixel or a OnePlus. But I haven’t, and I probably won’t. Apple fanboy, Apple fanatic, Apple nerd, whatever you may want to call me, I’m fine with that. But I’ve always gone with Apple maybe most of all out of sentimental reasons. It was the company that I associate my childhood with, as many do with brands like McDonalds, Disney, or Xbox. So I’m going to continue to type away, click away, and take pictures with things with an Apple logo on the back for the rest of my life. Thanks Steve.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



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Being Noah Tesfaye #41: FOCUS on What’s Important — Racism Alive and Well

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking lately. I know. Most of you assume that’s a lot of what I do. And you’re right.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. I still cannot believe it’s already been a year. Nonetheless, I have spent most of past week thinking about this very topic, and more broadly, how racism has permeated throughout society and how, if at all, has it affected me and the lives of those I care about. Granted, although I spend a lot of time thinking about this year-round, this is the right time to take a deeper dive.

We don’t have Richard Spencers out in the open, nor do we have the Christopher Cantwells roaming outside as much. And that’s great. We don’t need racist, ignorant, narcissistic, selfish people attempting to constantly incite violence. I am the first person to say that, in many ways, we need them out in the open for one reason: to remind us all of how stupid and illogical their opinions are. I am a proponent of all speech, and in particular hate speech, because I truly believe that you can break down the flaws in those arguments. I am not going to deny that there are people that will follow the words and actions leaders of the white supremacist movement, but I do believe that you can almost let these people make a fool of themselves. I really believe this.

But the scariest part of these ideas is that now they’ve permeated into the mainstream, that it has become almost a position for certain conservatives. Again, I really value conservative opinions and really do want to hear out their policy. Silencing opinions for disagreeing with them, no matter the circumstances, is ridiculous. But when people like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and of course the president openly begin to speak of the very dilution of American heritage, and that immigrants are only coming to this country for the purposes of hurting our elections, I know we are facing a real, radical, significant problem.

What I fear the most at this time is not that some conservatives continue to spread these ideas across America. What I fear, and what I have seen, is that liberals, independents, and all others are continuing to focus on the very ludicrous things these people are saying instead of focusing on what the current administration is REALLY doing. As an independent, I admit that I do side with liberal policy and ideals in almost all circumstances. But I cannot get behind this focus on the polarizing figure that is 45. We read his tweets and not his policy. We watch his rallies and not the rest of his cabinet’s actions. We aren’t really focusing on what’s important. And that’s what’s the most terrifying: we do not spend enough time looking at what is truly affecting us. There are journalists doing that work at all publications. They are digging, hunting for the real truth of what’s going on in Washington. We just need to read their work. They are focusing on what’s important, and we as a country should do that too. When the president tweets reiterating how Charlottesville was an “all sides” conflict, look elsewhere, and even just taking this small of a step can lead us to a more informed future.

Journalism is the first step, but we all know that the law is the true place where we can ensure that the law is equitable for all people. Racist policy will change only if we can ensure that we elect officials that share our belief in protecting the rights of ALL Americans. Voting for your representatives and, most importantly, your DAs is how we can truly make a difference. It’s frustrating I can’t vote, but I’m going to find the best ways I can to help out. Campaigns always appreciate younger volunteers, and even if you have an hour or two to make calls or door knock, turning even one voter is better than none. Getting the right elected officials is the one way we all can sleep better at night. Let’s do everything we can if we truly want things to change.

I won’t ever stop reminding the world that racism is one of the most important building blocks this nation was founded upon. I haven’t been significantly affected or inhibited from doing anything by being black. I haven’t been rated for a house mortgage at a fraction of the value asked for like my parents. I haven’t been kicked out and searched of an Urban Outfitters like my Latina friend either. I am thankful that no one has openly done such a thing to me. Yes, it’s weird to be looked at wherever I go in my local downtown. Yes, it’s weird when you have to explain your heritage and your experiences being black to adults all the time. Yes, it’s annoying to always scan the road and be aware of every single police car when I drive. But I can’t do anything about any of this. The one thing I can control is how I deal with these circumstances. That’s why I’m proud of who I am: a first generation, Ethiopian-Eritrean African American. I’m going to work hard in sharing my stories, sharing the stories of others who have to deal with these same things, and earning every opportunity I can to educate myself and become the most equipped to help change this country. Till next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #40: The Power of The Podcast

For the past six or seven weeks, I’ve been commuting three days a week to Oakland for an internship. And it’s been tough. I’m not going to act like I had the greatest time in the world going an hour and a half twice a day. Nonetheless it’s been well worth it and I’ve enjoyed every day at work.

What I wanted to talk about today is the form of media I want to dive more into: podcasts. When you have a commute like I have had for the past month and a half, and you’re too tired to completely concentrate on a book, podcasts are the go-to medium to learn and pick up tidbits of information. And in many ways, podcasts made my commute genuinely interesting and spark new ways of thinking every day.

“The Daily” by the New York Times has been the very epitome of this. You get twenty minutes of information about what happened the previous day or about a relevant topic that you may have not learned the story about. It’s concise, to the point, and leaves. That’s what makes it such a great podcast and it truly makes the most of this platform. That’s why it’s consistently one of the most listened to podcast everyday on iTunes.

There’s “Still Processing,” my favorite newly discovered podcast, also by the New York Times. Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris are two black culture writers and they pick apart media with an eye for its historical and cultural significance for black people. They make me giddy and so excited about all of the references they make throughout the show and their positivity always lifted me up when I was having a bad day.

The power of this medium extends beyond just information-focused podcasts like “More Perfect” and “FiveThirtyEight Politics.” When I want a laugh, I listen to “Bodega Boys” by Desus and Mero, or “The Brilliant Idiots” with Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Shultz. If I want a deep dive on hip hop, I’ll put on “Rap Radar” or my favorite, “The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory and Mal.” Tech? How about “The Vergecast” and “9to5Mac Happy Hour.” No one does long-form conversations like Joe Rogan either on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” You kind of see where I’m going?

There’s a podcast for nearly any type of topic, which gives each one, almost like a YouTube channel, its own personality. Depending on the mood, I’d just throw on a podcast and learn, laugh, or get frustrated at the world, without anyone understanding why my facial expression would change so much on the BART. Each podcast I tune into helps engage me in different ways and caters towards different interests. The result? I’ve always got something to listen to and learn.

Podcasts are the perfect medium because it allows you to work on other things while consuming information. It allows people to do physical work, whether it is going to the gym or commuting, and still learn something new. From driving to walking your dog, the medium can be used during lots of times throughout the day. I want to further explore the medium this year with my school paper and have longer discussions, or even short daily podcasts about what’s going on everyday and publish them to Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud. I can imagine doing investigate pieces, where we have the people involved in stories talking to our audience. You can have more powerful stories and new ways to share those stories, and this is the part of the future in news.

And do you want to know the best thing about the platform? It’s not oversaturated! This means that anyone can create a podcast about anything and you still could attract a substantial following if you have great content. It’s better than YouTube in this way, and most of all, you do not have to have the 100% focus of your audience. It just makes sense to create this form of content in 2018, and who knows, maybe someone reading this may just become the next Joe Rogan. I’ll see you all next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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