The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Monthly Archives: January 2014

VOTE NOW: $10K to Send Inner-City Chicago Youth to Summer Camp!


Please take one minute of your time to vote for Camp Greenheart. Your vote will help us win $10,000 to send marginalized inner-city youth to camp this summer. Chicago is a wonderful city, but it can sometimes be a violent place, especially when the temperature rises. Help kids escape the city for a bit and have a fun, adventurous summer that will benefit them in various ways! Please vote. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO VOTE. You can vote up to 4 times using various social media and email. Help give these youth a summer to remember!


About Camp Greenheart:

• Engages youth to explore their natural surroundings, to work creatively, collaboratively and independently
• Fosters a holistic sense of well-being for self, others, and the world
• Challenges campers through increased responsibility, independence, and outdoor activities
• Is a celebration of youth and togetherness with music and nature

Camp Greenheart will hold activities that address the areas of volunteerism, environmentalism, responsibility and team building, personal development, cultural diversity, creativity, health and music. Through these activities campers will leave with a greater understanding and appreciation for each of these themes and will adopt changes to their own life to reflect what they have learned.


The Life of Someone in a Magazine (Story Prompt 1)

A few coworkers and I began a creative writing group where we plan to meet twice a month after the workday. Today was our first day. We used a prompt to get us going because many of us haven’t written creatively in awhile. We tore pictures of people out of magazines, put them in a pile, and each of us chose one. We then had to write about our person using the following questions as a guide:

  • Where were you born?
  • What are you good at?
  • What is your expertise?
  • When was your first kiss and what was it like?
  • What is a secret you will never tell?
  • What is your favorite smell?

We had ten minutes to write. The following is the magazine photo I chose and the story of that man.



There was nothing but flat, brown plains. A few houses interspersed between the seldom cars on the road with families packed inside—sitting on each other’s laps because that is how people left—all together to travel to a nearby city or state, for fun if they were lucky, but usually because they were broke and had nothing left to keep them there. This is where I was born.

I left as soon as I could—not to a nearby city, but I hitched my way to one halfway across the country. I did all sorts of jobs from cleaning the floors of one of the local grammar schools to packing products in a factory. I eventually found myself moving up the ladder in a business where I started as a mailroom worker and “Coffee Fetching Assistant.” One day I saw the head CPA’s work lying in the mailroom, which she apparently forgot to take back after she told me to make a new pot of coffee. I took it upon myself to fill in her calculations. Numbers. This is what I was good at. Math always made more sense to me than anything in the world. Numbers. Numbers rocked.

When the CPA came back—no I never got her name—she took her papers without looking at me. I remember thinking, “Shit, I need to make that coffee,” which I proceeded to do.

Long story short, the CPA recognized that I had completed her calculations to perfection and they gave me a job as a tax assistant. Numbers—that was my expertise. I never knew anything but numbers. I am now a partner of the firm. I went from smelling coffee all day to smelling money. Lots and lots of money. I think money is my favorite smell. The numbers never end with money.

I love numbers; they never lie. Sometimes, I do.

Dear Obama, It’s Been 12 Years; Close Gitmo!


Since January 2002, it has been twelve years since George Bush opened the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama vowed to close it as part of his presidential campaign.

“As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”

When Obama assumed office in January of 2009, he again, vowed to close it within a year:

“This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”

In a speech about national security in May 2009, Obama stated:

“instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantánamo became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”

President Obama actually signed an “executive order” to close the prison.

It is now 2014, but the prison is still open. There are still over 150 men held without charges and with no trial, victims of gross human rights violations. I wrote this little poem for President Obama, which is on the way to the White House at the moment. Will he read it? Probably not. Will he read the other letter that I mailed to him? I doubt it. Will somebody read it? Possibly.

Winning the election of 2008,
Obama is President of the United States,
Campaigning on HOPE, speaking of CHANGE,
The freedom of Gitmo prisoners waits.

No trial, no charges, the injustice quite large,
There are a lot of grievances with which to charge,
Torture and violence are only a small part,
Will 2016 serve a dishonorable discharge?

Campaigning on promises meant to be broken,
The “first black President” is only a token,
To coat the citizens’ eyes with white paint,
And subdue their anger, keeping them soft-spoken.

It’s been twelve years so you think it may have worked,
But never fear a people continually jerked,
Their government, their system, filled to the brim with lies,
We are angry and outspoken and perpetually irked.

Enough is enough, tell the truth for once,
We are sick and tired of your imperialist stunts,
Close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,
Do it right now, not in six to twelve months.

We are disgusted with this empire that’s been built,
This country will crumble with all of its guilt,
You think you can outrun what history has taught,
But every empire eventually becomes unbuilt.

There is still time to make this one right decision,
You may scoff and laugh at our protests with derision,
But your term will be over in two short years,
Closing Guantanamo Bay should be in your vision.

Write your own letter this week or this month and tell the White House how you feel about this injustice, this gigantic waste of money, this horrible system we call the government of the United States and tell President Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Reading List for 2014, Give or Take, More or Less


I feel like I didn’t read many books last year. I read a lot of articles pertaining to art and design, which was great, but I often found myself going through phases of book reading and phases of article reading instead of doing both. I would like to do both going forward.

My favorite books I read last year were:

  • Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, currently my favorite play—it is utterly hilarious.
  • Cities of Salt by AbdulRahman Munif, excellent novel about American interests in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, specifically) & the destruction of Bedouin life there. Oil!
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, an interesting sci-fi novel discussing power and the ideas regarding “solutions” for social issues.

My reading list for this year, give or take, more or less, in no particular order, or maybe others not even on the list right now in place of ones that already are (I often read based on my mood):

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  • The Trench by AbdulRahman Munif
  • 9.5 Theses on Art and Class by Ben Davis
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin
  • Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by Najla Said
  • Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology by David Graeber
  • Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
  • Everybody Talks About the Weather . . . We Don’t: The Writings of Ulrike Meinhof
  • From Palestine to America: A Memoir by Taher Dajani
  • Out of Place: A Memoir by Edward Said
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • Northwest by Zadie Smith
  • Seeing by Jose Saramago
  • Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed
  • I’d also like to read a book about the Lakota, a book on intellectual property, and some poetry.

My Theme—Not Resolution—for 2014