T-minus 4, 3, 2, 1…

All right folks, this season’s first reading is only four days away! Besides distributing the fall issue, we’ll feature two stellar writers: Cynthia Plascencia and Darlene Campos. Both come from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.

Darlene will have her story “Lost Angeles” appear in the new issue. You’ll see her work on this site pretty soon. In the meantime, check out her blog D-Dazehttp://darlenec91.tumblr.com/.

As for Cynthia, she is a poet who graduated with her Bachelor’s in 2010. She currently works as a Senior Writing Consultant and Studio Facilitator at UH’s Writing Center. Cynthia received the 2009 Robertson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Lex Allen Literary Prize. Her work has appeared in Glass Mountain, Pebble Lake Review, and Prairie Margins, among other venues. To acquaint you with her verse, we present one of her latest poems. Its title is “Steak House.” Enjoy and see you Thursday.

The Editors

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Steak House by Cynthia Plascencia

Poetry is dangerous, says Lauren,
You write to either hurt yourself, or everyone else.
I have no desire to dispute this.
It is her leading question of then why do it
that I consider through the entree course – braised ox tail.
I slice through the dark slab with my knife
shredding until I meet the bone,
a sick satisfaction rising
having seen the slaughter to its end.
What an easy association this is to my love
for crime documentaries.
More specifically, murders.
More specifically, the adrenaline I feel
when the motive is announced –
Just felt the need the assailants say into the camera,
taking a quick sip from the tepid water set out for the reporter.
Is it wrong that I identify with this desire?
Not the heinous result, with found bodies,
cut in half, drained, and wrapped
in a terry cloth towel by I-10 and Federal,
but rather the lack of intricate explanation for it?
I tell myself it’s okay, this feeling,
because I’m attracted to crime under the premise
that I will never commit any.
But is that even true?

Poetry is dangerous, my friend repeats,
pushing, the lack of silverware on the table
signaling a change in course is imminent.
Shrugging at her, I don’t see the problem.
Let the crimes I commit leave open wounds,
I’d say into some camera, its blinking red dot agreeing,
and the motive be as simple as urge.



What’s in a Day?

Thursday — it has been the day of choice for history’s rockstars. The Romans associated it with the god Jupiter, he of the sky and thunder. Norse pagans later attributed the day to their own version of Jupiter, Thor, hence giving us its name. Heck, the day is so cool that Jesus decided to schedule his last supper on it. (On the other hand, it’s possible that Thursday was simply what worked best with the disciples’ calendars. Imagine trying to schedule a sit-down dinner with twelve of your friends without using Facebook or Evite.)

Well, “Thor’s Day” is about to get more literary. Starting this October, The Aletheia will host its readings on the first Thursday of the month. Thus, this semester’s first reading will be on October 4th. Same time (7:00), same place (Avant Garden, 411 Westheimer), same quality mix of literature and art. Stay tuned to this site and our Facebook page for more updates on the event, including who will be the featured artists. So mark your calendar — we look forward to seeing you.

The Editors

“If you want to become a better philosopher, you need to be comfortable with a lot of uncertainty”: A Conversation with Sam Huang

Blueprint LSAT prep instuctor bio picure - Sam

By Edward S. Garza

Sam Huang is a man of many disciplines, as you’ll see in a second. I could give you his biography, but I think he does that better on the website for Blueprint, the LSAT prep company he works for. That bio reads:

Sam follows two mantras. First, as Sun Tzu says, “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” Second, as another venerable scholar and philosopher (Ice Cube) says: “Check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self.”

Sam grew up in the Mile High City of Denver but emigrated to the east coast to study business at U Penn’s Wharton School (cue Rocky theme). After a brief investment banking stint (yep, not so good timing), he went back to school to get a Master’s in engineering at Stanford. Because that wasn’t quite enough schooling, he’s currently at Rice University working on a PhD in philosophy (cue Jeopardy theme).

You’ll find Sam to be friendly and personable. He sprinkles analogies and stories throughout class (lyrics from Weird Al and Flight of the Conchords have been known to make an appearance) to help illustrate the study habits that helped him obtain a 170 on his own LSAT. Rumor has it he will also provide an occasional song if the situation calls for it and if you ask him nicely.

When he’s not teaching or discovering new music, Sam rocks out with his blue beta fish, Nemo.

I think that tells you what you need to know before reading the interview. In it we discuss Sam’s academic backgrounds, doctoral work, favorite philosophers, and, of course, H-Town.

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Since your academic narrative invites the question, could you discuss what’s driven your interdisciplinary journey? In other words, could you describe what turned a young finance major into an engineering grad student and then into a doctoral candidate in philosophy?

I guess I’ll try to give the relatively short version. In high school I was initially interested in medicine, then I slowly gravitated toward the business and policy aspect of health care, so I decided to major in health care management and finance. After college, I worked in investment banking, but I found that I missed the academic environment. Upon leaving investment banking, I decided to look apply for graduate school again. I chose to do a Master’s in industrial engineering, which essentially looks at certain systems and tries to make them more efficient. I chose to enroll as I wanted to strengthen my quantitative skills and apply these tools to analyze health care systems. During my time at Stanford, I became increasingly interested in studying more theoretical and normative issues related to health care, especially in bioethics. And soon enough, I was hooked on philosophy. I started taking some more classes in it, then applied for doctoral programs. Philosophy, I think, is a subject that for certain people has a pull that is hard to resist. I find a good philosophical discussion to be a uniquely enjoyable and rewarding experience. It’s unfortunate that philosophy often has a reputation of being esoteric, because I think it’s a field that most everyone can find some interesting questions in, contribute to, and benefit from studying.

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