2016 planPOP podcasts

Student podcasts on SoundCloud from the 2016 Planning in POP Culture Winter Intersession course:

https://soundcloud.com/user-4094299

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Two #planPOP15 song entries from Nicholas Hnastchenko

(Environment)
“This Land Is Your Land” (Cover of Woodie Guthrie)
My Morning Jacket

I believe this is relevant to this class because this song, as it was written in the early 1940’s has a strong environmental message. I read that Woodie Guthrie wrote it in response to “God Bless America.” He wrote it because he was speaking to the privatization of America and how every plot of land is privately owned, and therefore there is no land that belongs to America. I think most students can relate to this song as well because it is one that we all sang at one music concert at one point; additionally it paints an image of the ideal America. It is as relevant today as it was in the 1940’s; this cover was made through the efforts of The North Face, as the got this band to cover the song for use in their advertisements and their movement towards preserving the environment. This beginning of this song repesents the idealized America that we wish to achieve, yet the second half of the song goes into some of the things that are preventing us from preserving the environment as we wish we could.

(Transportation)
“Bullet Train”
Gardens & Villa

This song is relevant as it relates to transportation and popular culture. It is talking about how Americans overwork themselves in the city (Where everyone crowds) and we are forced to move out to the suburbs, and therefore are forced to a longer commute to our jobs, this tight schedule going between our homes and the city causes us to speed up our pace of life which prevents us from enjoying it. It suggests we slow down every once and a while and enjoy whats around us.

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Brian Temple, @BjLamont) 

Once Piece at a Time by Johnny Cash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWHniL8MyMM

I chose this song mainly because I am in the transportation group. I believe the song really speaks to the the industrial era in the United States just after the war and the boom of General Motors in Detroit. I also think the song is a good choice because back then having a car and especially a Cadillac was something cool and Johnny and others like him clearly would go through anything just to get one. The song really speaks to the automobile culture that was blooming in the United States around the mid 1900s.

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Riley Haney, @RJHaney)

The Horizon has been Defeated by Jack Johnsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTCaZVIUNp0

I chose this song because Jack Johnson speaks about the horizon referring to our cities and land and how we (the pirates of the new age) are abusing it. Its also basically saying that we’re too dependent on machines and oil.

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Morgan Taylor, @MorganTaylor131) 

I chose Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer because I felt that it was relevant to this class as it talks about society and how many people want to change but we all seem to be waiting for the world to change. Instead of becoming the change we are simply waiting for everyone else to change. I decided to share this song because I find it very relevant with my life, sometimes its easier to throw away a plastic bottle than wait till you get home to recycle it. People tend to take the easier path and often this means nothing changes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBIxScJ5rlY

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Kyle Cooper, @CoopDeVilleSTL)

Don’t Go Near the Water by Johnny Cash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yY3saN_iMI

This song has a very clear message – our society’s high dependence on motor vehicles and toxic chemical use in manufacturing has cost us a large price – our pure water. Its relevant to planning because the majority of this problem originates in cities – cities that planners and designers have say in. Mr. Cash say’s it himself ,

“When it gets down to the cities
Then the water turns into a dirty gray
It’s poisoned and polluted”

I chose this particular song because I am a Johnny Cash fan and think the scene with the father talking with his son while fishing is very powerful.

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Kesley Helland)

Where Do The Children Play – Cat Stevens (1970)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-V3l7qDsR0

In this song, Cat Stevens describes the development and sprawl of metropolitan areas in a time when sprawl was rapidly increasing. From highways cutting through grassy fields to buildings cutting through the sky, he describes a typical city that grows not only two-dimensionally, but three-dimensionally as well. At the end he asks an important question: will you keep on building higher, ’til there’s no more room up there? This is a question that is still, if not more, prevalent today. As population increases and the densification of cities becomes greater, how much becomes too much?

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Brian Conklin) 

Desaparecidos, “Greater Omaha” (2002) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdLxVBTEHgI

Well traffic’s kind of bad

They’re widening easy street
To fit more SUV’s, they’re planting baby trees
To grow to shady peaks

A little shelter from the sun
Or the upper tax bracket
Here on the cul-de-sac we’re not giving back
Until the community repents

‘Cause we can’t afford to be generous
There’s closing costs and a narrow margin
So go earn your degree and we’ll take you out to lunch
You can work for us but you gotta eat ’em all up

Yeah one more mouth full and we will be happy then
Yeah one more mouth full and we will be happy then

Out west they’re moving dirt
To make a greater Omaha
Another franchise sold
So there’s even more restaurants per capita

And they all got a drive-through
Yeah who’s got time to dine
Although the floors are clean
The color scheme it compliments me every time

So no one starves in this cattle town
The semis pass making squealing sounds
And it’s all you can eat and they will never get enough
They’ll be feeding us, they’ll be feeding on us

Just one more mouthful and they will be happy then
Yeah one more mouth full and we will be happy then

All those golden fields, lovely empty space
They’re building drug stores now until none remains
I’ve been driving now for 100 blocks
Saw 50 Come and Go’s, 60 parking lots

Yeah one more mouthful and they will be happy then
Yeah one more mouth full and we will be happy then

One more, yeah one more, one more, one more, one more
Just one more, just one more, just one more, just one more

This song epitomizes the notion that in the early 2000’s when this song was written, a new height of suburban sprawl occurred and in this particular instance happening in Omaha, Nebraska. The open land that once existed around this Midwest City is now being consumed by chain and franchise stores and filling up the land with parking lots. I feel the song even suggests that people should join in on the craze and work for the franchises and help buy up this land to build more stores. The lyrics “Yeah one more mouthful and they will be happy then” to me suggests the greed that these franchises have that yes if we just get one more store in then we will not need any more around this area but that inevitably happens and more continue to pop up.

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A #PlanPOP15 Song (from Devin Brown)

Anna Sun by Walk the Moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDVW81bXo0s

I selected this song because I really can imagine and relate to the place he is singing about. He is singing about college and the house he lived in during college. He is broke and the house is falling apart. There is also an excitement to the song because he has graduated at this pointand he is singing to express his excitement to be out in the world. It is just a song that a lot of young people could relate to being in college or having recently graduated.

Some other songs I considered: Coney Island- Death Cab For Cutie; American Kids- Kenny Chesney; Los Angeles I’m Yours- The Decemberists; The Old Apartment- The Barenaked Ladies

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Short Science Fiction Stories

In one of the final classes, we read and discussed a short science fiction story. Science fiction is a great genre for talking about urban and regional planning because it is focused on the future. Some stories explore what the future will be like if current trends continue, other stories look at the impact a technological innovation or a new institutional arrangement will have. To expand on some of the themes that we have been talking about in class over the course of the two weeks, we wrote our own short stories — collaboratively. One person introduced a character or two, set the scene and foreshadowed the action. Another person built the action, deepened the characters and created a climax. A third person resolved the actions and brought the story to a close. The results ranged from hilarious to profound. We have included a selection of a few of the stories. Enjoy.

Katherine Nesse, PhD (@katenesse)

Steel Bars
Harper and I sat on the front steps of the apartment watching the roadways. The area was being zoned to begin the construction of the new lightrail system. Our block was the final stretch of road to be zoned before construction began.

It had been five years since China sold us the “transportation method of the future.” Now cities across the United States were constructing new railways that not only connected the city as a whole, but connected the country.

Harper couldn’t help but to ask, “Is this the answer?”

Would this solve our city’s problems?

I was trying to convince Harper that this was the way to go. What instead happened was he totally changed my perspective. The lightrail system would be using coal to produce the electricity which would keep increasing global warming almost as much as driving cars. Harper explained how our country was not like China because of our large suburbs. The resources to build the rail and the fossil fuels used to run the rail would not be worth it in the US.

Now I was thinking that China just wanted us to go further into debt for them to make more money. We needed to stop this so we created a YouTube video to protest the lightrail system before the construction starts.

The video Harper and I made never reached the masses. In fact, no one ever saw it. Harper didn’t live to even see the video completed. A drone strike hit us as we were filming near the construction site. I was hit but survived.

The police found me and I am writing this on the wall of my “holding cell.” It has been 10 weeks. I have seen no lawyers, doctors or family. I have no trial date. There is no hope here from this. If only we had left the issue alone, we would still be free. I am sure the railway is being built. I am sure my home is gone, my family relocated.

The Choice Matters
A bitter wind bounces along the banks of snow, through frozen branches, between frosted glass towers, finding its way into my collar. Taking the cold personally, I hurry into the droning hum of Union Station. Like a hive, complacent workers arrive and depart from across the country faster than ever before. Yet I wait among the artifacts (the marble floors, limestone columns and brass lamps) for him to arrive, reminding me of a time when we could have driven there by now.

A scuttle near the main platform grabs my attention. As I watch, a homeless man gets pushed away by a man in a fine overcoat with white trim. Apparently, the homeless man was begging for spare change. I watch him as he makes his way across the platform, meekly approaching each waiting passenger in turn. They all refuse him. He’s not your typical beggar: scrawny, yes; but apparently clean.

“After all,” I mutter with a wry smile, “I can’t smell him from here.”

I check my watch. My train would be 20 minutes out still. If only I hadn’t insisted on leaving so early!

When I look up, the homeless mas is almost to me. Homelessness was supposed to be as much a relic these days as marble floors and columns. At least, that’s what the news reels said. I pitied the man and prepared some change in my pocket as he approached.

Then I paused. Was not this generosity I premeditated actually the cause of homelessness? As the news reels would say, the proper and humane thing to do would be to direct the man to the department for homeless persons. In fact, my “generosity,” would be considered treason by most. Yet, this man was still begging. I was torn between my wish to supply an immediate need and my desire to obey the law. Or, as the news would say, my desire to, “fix the core problem.” I didn’t know what to do.

“Excuse me sir, could I have some change?”

As I was still thinking, “What I should do? Which would be the best way to solve this problem?” I heard the train coming. I felt suddenly relieved as I was trying to avoid this situation. Just at that moment, when I looked up, I did not see the man. I heard a woman scream really loud. I and many people gathered around her. As I walked closer, I saw a little boy fell down between the rails. People are talking and wondering what to do but no one actually gets down and helps the boy. I saw that man again. He quickly walks down through the stairs and towards the boy. I saw the light. The train is coming.

“Hurry! Hurry up!” I shouted toward him. He passed the boy toward his mom quickly and then climbed up. Suddenly I know the answer at that time.

“Hi. Thank you,” The man said to me a few months later, standing beside the platform in a tidy and clean uniform. I smiled and got on the train.

The Robot Fireplace
At 7:00 in the morning I woke up. I went to the bathroom to take a shower and ready myself to go to school. But when I open the door of my house, I was shocked to see robots standing in front of my house.

One of them asked me, “Where do you want to go?”

I didn’t answer his question and closed the door immediately. I called my friend but nobody answered. Then I checked the date on my phone. It shows today is April 1, 2060. I don’t know how to explain my feelings at that moment. Maybe I should go outside? Or stay at home and wait for someone to come and help me?

April 1, 2060 – what? That means I had traveled 30 years back in time. I am so confused. No one has even invented time machines yet. I wasn’t even alive 30 years ago! 2060 sounds ancient.

Oh, but today is April Fools Day. Nice job, Mr. President. At least the leader of our country can pull some messed up pranks. Then again, there were robots outside…and robots never leave their homes. They are always at work for the family they are assigned to. Were these two robots lost? I went back outside to see if I could help them. When I went back to where they were standing, they were blazing in flames.

Perfect.

I went and grabbed some marshmallows from the pantry. This is going to be a good day.

I don’t know how, but the robots were now my own personal fireplace. The marshmallows tanned to perfection over the roasting robotic parts. I hustled inside to grab the rest of the supplies for s’mores. On my return, there was a group of seven robots staring into the fire.

I wasn’t leaving without my marshmallow. I slowly crept forward to retrieve it. The robots all sat down around the fire and stared at me. They gestured for me to make them each one. They consumed the delicious treats made from their own kind’s ashes. Come to find out, these robots are from the planet Hershey. Robots are selected to be sacrificed and buried on their home planet in order for them to create s’mores. S’mores are their version of fuel.

As a thank you, the robots jump started my time machine and sent me back to my present day time.

Upon arriving at my home an alien was destroying my apartment. As I charged at him, he pulled a zipper and the costume fell to the floor. It was a robot. He shouted,
“April fools!”

This was all a prank, but he had destroyed my apartment. This was how the robot vs. human war began.

A Development Cat-tastrophe
I live in Joplin, Missouri, once destroyed by a tornado but now completely rebuilt in the image of the rest of the sprawl that makes up the area surrounding Kansas City. Like everywhere else, it was an area covered in strip malls, drive-throughs and super stores. It is crisscrossed with busy two-lane roads and littered with the trash of the stores they give access to.

Joplin is considered the edge of the Greater KC area and I lived on the edge of Joplin. The exact neighborhood is Shady Farms, and while you couldn’t differentiate it from anywhere else in the US, I liked it. Across my backyard and through a runoff creek, there was a patch of woods. Not very big, but I considered it mine. And now the developers did too.

Except these developers were different. They would set up in the middle of the night and use strange looking instruments to measure the ground, the trees, the water, everything. They were planning something. But why at night? Why so secretive?

There were no notices of development, no attractive pictures on big billboards next to the site. The city never had a public meeting. I knew these woods better than anyone so I began making my way in, slowly, quietly.

The trees let in just enough of the light of the full moon to be able to navigate my way but not blow my cover. Hiding behind a big tree, I began to listen but could not understand. I wasn’t sure what language I was hearing. Then, startled, I felt a tap on my shoulder that told me to freeze.

What on earth?! They were cats. Big, talking cats who had razor whiskers. They spoke in a strange sort of meowing/hissing language. But somehow I could still depict what they were saying to me. They wanted me to be still so they could catch three rats that were nearby. I did as I was told. The rats were easily captured by the strange cats. I watched as the cats used their razor whiskers to shave the hair off the rats – probably for easier digestion. They looked like they had forgotten I was still there. They told me to leave their area.

I left.

The next day I heard tornado sirens and thought of the cats. Tornados sure do bring in some weird things.

Town No More
They all arrived at the center early. No one said a word to one another. They were from different quadrants in the town, yet went to school together. They waited in silence until the bell rang; signaling that it was time to be socially involved. Bob, a child, sat across the room and stared at them. The bell rang and interrupted he silence, finally. Relieved, the group separated and dispersed throughout the building. Then, a second bell rang an they looked at each other.

Weird.

They all made eye contact. What did a second bell mean? Something was out of order. The day was not going to be a normal one. Interruption in a day’s schedule meant there would be chaos.

Chaos was never good. The first bell was known to be the “all clear” bell, but the second bell, what was that? As talking was forbidden, the student quietly passed notes to inquire the meaning. The conclusion, through the notes, was that the second bell meant that they would go outside. This caused great fear.

Now, no one looked at each other. Some of the smaller children held back tears. Bob smiled to himself, knowing the answer. The students did not know that they were outside, but Bob knew.

Bob had called in a bomb threat to the town center. All four quadrants of the town turned on each other when they heard the announcement. The fire station appeared from quadrant two and searched the building. BOOOM!! The town was shocked and started yelling at one another. Bob had not only called in the threat but also set up the bomb. He then put a shot into the air. Everyone vanished, breaking into shops for weapons or returning home to get fire arms.

The town went crazy shooting each other! The cops drove away the grandparents, locked their doors and the children cried and ran into the woods. Bob, chuckled, pulled out his detonator and clicked the red button. The town was no more. Only the kids in the woods survived. Plus Bob. The cops never returned and the city was left for deterioration. It turned out Bob had anti-social personality disorder and didn’t care about anything. He just did it because he felt like it.

Suburb
Will could not imagine the thought of camping. Who would be willing to sleep outside? He often took the train to go out of town, but work needed him to go at the last minute so he rented a small electric car. Driving always made him nervous. Will thought it gave people too much control. Driving was so unpredictable, with traffic congestion and road construction a simple 200 mile trip could take hours, not mere minutes on the train.

As Will passed the outer rings of downtown, he came to the place of his nightmare, the suburbs. He had heard stories about how bad it was, but had never dared to stop there. He was thankful to live in the safety of the city where the lights and hustle of people felt warm and safe. The suburbs were dark, isolated, and lonely. Here people lived in houses and had plants in their yards.

As Will drove down the interstate, he could see acres of these slum suburbs. He felt pity for the people who lived there. And was thankful he didn’t. The sky was turning darker, and traffic was starting to thin out. He had gotten a later start than he hoped. Not even packing a change of clothes, he just left the office for this trip.

All of a sudden, his car shook and coughed. The dash lights flashed. In a moment of panic, Will exited the highway and pulled into a suburb called Oak Brook. The sign had been tagged and one of the two street lights was burned out.

He quickly turned off his lights because he didn’t want to stand out in the darkness. He didn’t want to draw the attention of anyone, especially any of the neighborhood’s teenagers. They had a reputation for causing trouble for city people unfortunate enough to be in the suburbs.

Will nervously got out of the car to check under the hood. As he neared the front of the car a group of teenage boys could be heard yelling somewhere in the distance, but still too close for Will’s comfort. He already felt exposed in the open suburbs. As he checked the car, their voices seemed to be getting closer and Will started to panic. The boys rounded the corner and immediately spotted him. Without thinking he turned his back and started running. The boys chased just because he ran. Because they decided he was prey.

While he ran, he clicked the emergency button on his phone. Someone will come save him. After one minute, the police came. All the teenagers ran away. After some interrogation and examination, the police left. He went.back to the car and drove back to his home in the city. He felt safe now. But he couldn’t stop thinking about the things that happened in the suburban area.

The Resistance
My name is Alyssa. I was raised and born in NB9. NB9 is what used to be Russia 20 years ago. In 2014, Obama bombed Russia with 9 nuclear bombs as we posed a threat to him. What was left of Russia was radiation in the cities. My people had to retreat into the mountains where the land was clear from radiation exposure.

For some reason, when my mom was pregnant with me during the bombing, my genes altered and I received a mutation. This mutation gave me wings so I can fly as well as laser beam eyes and sharp claws whenever I get mad. I am sick and tired of the hardship Obama gave us and I am bound to get our revenge on the US.

The Bush and Obama administration set in motion actions that would change the way in which the world lives. Everything we do is recorded, calculated and stored. The act of free will is slowly being diminished. Choice is not a factor anymore. Obama still reigns on his throne in Washington. 28 years of power will get to anyone. Every country is now watched by Obama and his NSA, but not NB9. Not anymore. We are taking back our way of life and we are spreading. Our actions will be seen around the world.

We will recruit like-minded individuals to form a resistance. These individuals will be moved to a top secret location for training that will provide the skills needed for the last stand. It is their job to protect the population of NB9.

After the soldiers are fully trained, it will be my duty to capture and kill Obama and put an end to this. It is our time to take back what was destroyed.

Innovations in 3D Printing
3DP is a company founded by John Smith. 3DP is the leading provider of 3D content to print solutions, including 3D printers, print materials, and on-demand custom ports for professionals and consumers.

John and his 3DP team have designed and built printers that will create anything from toys for children, prosthetics, or even working guns.

Due to the decline of farmers and the food sources 3DP is currently working on a new design that some say is impossible: a printer that will print food on demand with a touch of a button.

Although the completion of this design would change the world, it has been met with mixed viewpoints. 3DP has made some of the top 3D printer products that the world has ever seen, but those products were not meant to be eaten. New activists protest that the government backing of this design has sealed our fate. What will we be putting in our bodies? And will what’s left of the farming community survive? The gears are already in motion, but will the activists let his idea survive?

John looked at these viewpoints, but only because he wanted to find flaws in them to exploit for his own arguments. He didn’t care if what he was doing was considered to be morally wrong by some. He was just going where the money was. He knew that if he could get the food printing off the ground, it would eventually come to dominate the food industry. It would be faster and cheaper to get food. That out-weighed every argument about health and jobs.

A New Life
They came to a bank of a river.

“I don’t think this is right,” said Maggie. Maggie with her older brother, Sam, who was tall and awkward, but starting to fill out his body, began to look around cautiously.

Sam pointed out the boulders in the river as a way to cross. As the approached, they realized the boulders were not intentionally placed there. They were chunks of a road. Maggie looked up and noticed where the road bridge had once connected at both ends of the tall bank high above them.

That is when Sam remembered crossing the bridge to a campsite his family would often use to escape the city in the Summer. Maggie was too young to remember this but Sam was sure of it.

“Come on. Let’s move,” Sam commanded Maggie. He had to just keep moving forward in order to block out what was left behind them in the skeleton of a city they once called home. He was in charge now.

They moved slowly through the dense pine forest in hopes of reaching the campsite with the cabin their family owned. Sam paused for a moment and looked up at the canopy of the forest. A smokey haze blotted out the blue daytime sky. A teardrop streamed down his face as he let out a sniffle. Maggie stood still for a moment looking at her brother before embracing him in a hug. Neither of them said a word as they held each other tightly amidst the eerie calm of the pine forest.

“Come on. Let’s keep moving before ti gets too dark to see,” said Sam. Maggie let go of Sam and they continued onward. Without a car, roads or a map, they knew finding the cabin would be a challenge. As they walked, images of their city before the war filled their heads.

“Just think happy thoughts,” Maggie told herself.

Though there would be much missed: friends, family and the like, it wasn’t worth it. The glamour, lights and friendly faces of the city left with the army. The war had taken everything they loved about the city and turned it to dust. They wanted a new life in this cabin, away from the sadness, pollution, and hurting of the city. They just wanted peace.

Through the forest they pushed, more difficult than they had anticipated. But it didn’t matter. They were determined. As they walked quietly through the hills, they saw something protruding out of the ground about 200 meters ahead. As they squinted and got closer, they began to make it out.

Was it? It was. The cabin they had been searching for. With a new life ahead of them, they ran towards it, finally feeling free.

The Wall
Every day when he got home from school, he liked to watch the construction machines build new houses and buildings. They looked a lot bigger and nicer than the building he watched from. This made him excited, though, because his teacher told his class that smart adults were going to be able to get new jobs and move to the new houses. And his dad was smart.

He owned the store down the street that sold parts from old machines and he knew how all of them worked. He always said that it was important to know how things from the past were used, just in case we needed to use them again.

Jimmy know then why his dad thought this, since people were inventing new things all the time. But since his dad was smart, Jimmy figured he was right.

Not too long ago, people were very angry that new houses were being built. Jimmy was very young when his mother was killed because of all the angry people. Now that he was 8, Jimmy knew that the people had been angry but he never remembered it. People seemed fine now.

One day Jimmy came home from school and went to his usual spot at the window. But he couldn’t see many of the new houses anymore because a large wall was in the way. Shooting about 30 feet into the sky, this wall blocked his view to every direction. He had never seen such an immense wall. Jimmy later learned from his dad that since there was so much crime in the previous decades, gated communities started to increase the height and the strength of their walls.

It wasn’t but a few days after the wall was erected that the people of the town were angry again. They were constantly talking and complaining about the walls bordering the new development. A week had now passed since the walls had been built and Jimmy rode the bus home from school as usual. But today, things were different. He came home from school that day to find people attempting to tear down the wall. The angry townspeople lined the wall with hammers, shovels, nd even pans, hitting the walls in every which way. His mother would be happy to see this scene. She never wanted walls of this height! She was only a developer of homes.

Then Jimmy realized something was very wrong. The people hammering at the wall were not right. They moved awkwardly and moaned and groaned. They moved slowly too, and many of them seemed to have broken limbs and dead, vacant stares.

The next thing he knew, his dad put his hand over Jimmy’s mouth and dragged him back inside the house. After motioning to Jimmy to be quiet, his dad pointed at the crowd of people and mouthed, “Zombies.”

Jimmy understood. Suddenly the 30 foot wall didn’t seem so bad anymore! Except they were on the outside. Jimmy’s dad took our family onto the roof and several things started happening at once. First of all, Humvees drove up the street and started firing into the crowd of zombies attacking the wall. The next thing Jimmy knew, one end of a ladder hit the roof, the other supported by two soldiers perched on top of the wall. Then he heard a dull roar and, looking back, he saw a hoard of zombies slowly stumbling down the street.

“Go!” Jimmy’s dad yelled. And they went, one by one over the wall via the ladder. We were saved that day because of that wall which I had hated only a day before. And that’s where I was when the zombie apocalypse started.

They’re called “Trees”
There used to be trees. There used to be much more. There was open land with wild plants and animals dispersed along riverbeds and grassy plains. I hear the 2000s were beautiful.

What’s an old man like me supposed to do in 3082? I suppose I could continue to sit about, watch wreckage on TV, admire the hardscape, and pray for some vegetation.

Rooksta is always yelling about the energy bill around the first week of every month. Through these paper thin apartment walls, I hear him complain about unnecessary electricity usage to his family.

“Turn off your bedroom light if you’re not in there,” he would yell. Did he care about the wasted money or the environment and all of the harmful ways we go about collecting our electricity? Maybe he did care about the environment. Maybe he wants the trees back just as badly as I do.

One morning I went to get all of my money out of the bank, take a spaceship to a star called “2250.” The reason I went there was because there was a store that sold the seed of a tree. Because these seeds are rare, it cost a lot of money. I bought 5 seeds and the owner of the store gave me a machine for free. This machine can clean all the chemicals from the soil of the earth.

After shopping, I went back home and started to use this cleaning machine to clean all the soil in front of my house. It took one month to get all of the soil clean. After a month, I started to plant the trees. I bought clean water from the store to water the trees. Sometimes my neighbor, Rooksta came to help me take care of my trees. After 3 years, the trees are growing well.

I woke up this morning to the sound of mail falling to the floor as the mailman walked past my apartment door.
“Here comes the storm,” I thought to myself, expecting Rooksta’s monthly rant to his family about his bills. Instead, there was silence. In a confused and groggy state, I walked to the front window leaving the ruckus I had expected.

Standing there on our lawn, beneath the lush trees, was Rooksta, preaching to an ever-growing number of neighbors.

“Here! Come stand here! Feel that? It’s the trees!” Something once so common was now the awe of our city.

“Look at this electric bill, and all we did was plant trees!” The people felt cool in the shadows, feeling the cool breeze on their skin.

Priorities
A man sits on a bench alone in a long black trench coat. He looks really tired as though he has not slept for several days: Unwaxed mustache and short brown hair.

“Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow is the day,” he mummers. June 5, 2045. Exactly 10 years after he promised the man that he would figure out the solution for the huge project. As the man thinks, a ball rolls beside his feet. A little boy about 6 or 7 years old runs toward him. “Hi, can you pass that ball for me?” the boy asks. He picks it up, stares at it for a few seconds, then throws it gently to the little boy.

“How can I destroy this place? How can I do that to all the children and families here?” The man stares at the boy in thought.

With a long, slow sigh, the man raises to his feet, buttoning his trench coat, lifting a worn and tattered briefcase. Long shadows reach across the collection of grass and leaves in front of him as he drags his feet, walking to the park’s North side. Old oaks twisted and knotted with time, crack in the wind. As he reaches the edge of the park, towers of offices and apartments reach into the clouds, turning his meandering, tree-lined path into a rigid valley among monuments of concrete. Any evidence of his ten-year investment will vanish before dawn. Yet he has nothing left.

This project had been his obsession for the last decade. He was on the verge of losing everything he had and could ever want. He had so much riding on tomorrow. But he could not get the image of the little boy out of his head. He remembered his son at that age. Then, suddenly, he picked up the phone.

“How long has it been?” he thought, his fingers dialing a number he didn’t use enough.

“Dad?” the voice on the other line said.

“Uh, David…hi. I’ve decided to retire early. I want to see you and catch up.”

Obtaining Unobtanium
It was a dark and stormy night. A dozen men moved about in the mud beneath the rain shield, dragging hoses and positioning equipment around the entrance to a mine shaft. After all, Unobtanium was far too precious back on earth to let a little acid rain stop the mining.

Unobtanium had been discovered 18 months ago on this tiny planet, and already the first crews were dropping out of hyperspace, ready to tap into the flow of subterranean wealth. They weren’t the first humans on the planet though. No, several small colonies of settlers had lived on Ursa Minor for nearly a half century. Still, the only planet within 50 light years of earth to have a livable atmosphere had attracted very few colonists. Until the precious ore was discovered, that is.

The journey back to earth took eight and a half months, and the first crews had arrived a mere two weeks ago. That meant that as soon as the news hit, they had been ready to launch within two weeks. Two weeks is an unbelievably short time, unless unobtanium is involved.

Under the rain shields, one of the men pauses and looks up. His name is Faro and his face shows worry. The rain was slowing them down and his small crew hadn’t brought any weapons or other forms of protection against pirates of their precious cargo and gear. After all, 2 weeks is a short time. He is quickly distracted by a cry from the mine shaft.

“We’ve found it!”

Without another thought, Faro leaves his position and finds the woman that had announced the discovery. What was awaiting him, however, was not unobtanium. Before he had time to process the amount of weapons pointed at him, 3 men had restrained his arms and were preventing him from reaching his own weapon. The woman who had shouted, a woman he had never met before, addressed him.

“Faro, do you realize what this operation is doing? Will money and glory really prevent you from seeing who you are harming? We,” sh said, gesturing to those standing beside her, “are residents of Ursa Minor. Many of our homes used to be located where this mine is.”

Faro looked at all of the faces. He wondered how it was possible for this operation to have been infringed upon already.

“We have been watching you for some time, Faro,” said the woman in charge. Faro looks back at his crew held captive, unsure what to do.

Asks the woman, “Who are you? What do you want with us?” The woman looks at Faro with beaming eyes and says, “You are interrupters and we want you to leave.” She goes on to explain the importance of unobtaniumin maintaining Ursa Minor’s natural resources and how the mining process was beginning to destroy the colonies’ livelihood.

Faro claims, “I’m just doing my job. I was never told of the consequences of mining here.”

The woman points her gun at Faro’s head and says, “Well now you know. And you can leave or we can make you leave.” In a moment of hesitation, Faro thinks about retaliating but then he utters, “I’m sorry, we’ll leave.”

The Complex
He looked down at the fog layered street from his penthouse on the 80th floor of a luxury skyscraper. He imagined walking in the fog and breathing the moist air of the outside, Like everyone else who lived in the complex, he’d never stepped foot outside of the building. Inside, there was everything he needed to survive. Yet, he felt like something was missing.
A curious mind is tortured by a state of unknown. He longed to journey outside, onto the dark streets and see where he could go. He knew there were people down there because they told him so. They also told him that these people are inherently different and even dangerous. They lived in small packs and survived in primitive conditions.

“I’m gonna do it. Just for once. I know I have to do it,” he said to himself. He took his brand new coat, put it on carefully, tied his tie one more time. He looked into the mirror and he knew he was ready to go. He took a deep breath and pretended to go to the bar as usual. But only he knew that there is a small door that led to the outside. As he walked into the elevator, several drunk men came in. They chatted and laughed. As the elevator stopped, he made a fist but took no action. He was so nervous he did not realize the when those guys had stopped talking.

With a nervous grip, he turned around and saw that the men were not men at all, but the robot guards that stood quietly at every corner of the complex. Their eyes lit up red, a sign of danger.

“How could they have known what I was about to do?” he wondered as they advanced on him. The elevator doors opened and he rocketed down the hallway to the small door and found it unlocked. Inside he found himself alone in a white void of a room. Frightened and desperate, he hurled himself onto his knees, hiding his face in his hands. The robot guards came slowly towards him, finally administering a shot that left him unconscious.

The director of the complex watched the action from a large screen in his office and ordered his robot personal assistant to return the man to his room for the tenth time this year.
“If this continues to happen to this man,” the director stated aloud, “we will need to eradicate him.”

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