Things That Matter

A Hiker Found The Decapitated Body Of a Man In Los Angeles’ Griffith Park

A hiker in Los Angeles was horrified to find a decapitated and dismembered body in Griffith Park, near the intersection of Griffith Park Drive and Camp Road, on Monday morning. Around 9 a.m., the hiker encountered the body of a white or Hispanic man who seemed to be in his forties or fifties, immediately reporting it to local police. A homicide investigation was launched according to protocol, though Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Ryan Rabbet did tell the media that investigators do not believe a crime was committed. As of now, detectives are investigating the possibility that the victim had been living near the park in a homeless encampment.

Although the police don’t believe that foul play was involved, they cannot yet say for sure what the cause of death was.

Credit: visitcalifornia.com

Because the body was found in Griffith Park, authorities have suggested that the body may have been mutilated by wildlife—though, based on the wildlife that inhabit the park—this outcome is somewhat unlikely.

According to LAPARKS.org, Griffith Park is home to a variety of mammalian species, including mule deer, raccoon, coyote, gray fox, opossum, skunk, bobcat, and mountain lion. While raccoons can be aggressive, deaths that result from a raccoon encounter are usually due to the contraction of rabies following a bite. In the case of coyotes, the only known fatal coyote attack on an adult occurred in 2009, when Canadian country folk singer Taylor Mitchell was mauled by several coyotes on Cape Breton Highlands National Park‘s Skyline Trail in Nova Scotia. The only remaining animals that could have decapitated and dismembered the body found on Monday are bobcats or mountain lions—and even that is dubious.

Although bobcats and mountain lions have been known to attack humans, it happens very rarely. Both feline species are largely solitary. They normally hunt at night and hide out during the day, generally avoiding humans unless infected with rabies, which can make them unusually aggressive (in this case, they have been known to occasionally attack unprovoked). Three has never been a fatal mountain lion attack in Los Angeles County, and fewer than thirty in all of North America, according to the Mountain Lion Foundation.

Plus, there is only one known mountain lion currently living in Griffith Park—a male known as P-22, whose past diet and behavior patterns do not suggest he would have attacked a human.

Credit: Steve Winter/National Geographic

While it could still be possible that a wild animal caused this man’s death, officials have speculated that a homeless person may have died of other causes in or near the park, only to be later dismembered by an animal—not only was the body’s head missing, but various body parts were also found scattered throughout the surrounding area. The man is estimated to have died two to three days before the body’s discovery.

“The evidence suggests that the person had passed away and animals may have gotten to it, possibly a homeless individual staying up in the area,” said LAPD Lt. Ryan Rabbet.

 Still, detectives are proceeding with a murder investigation.

Griffith Park is located in city Council District 4, which has seen a 53% increase of homeless populations just this year—the highest jump in all of Los Angeles.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, Council District 4 has seen a 111% increase of Hispanic/Latinx homeless populations between 2018 and 2019—the highest of any ethnic group. As a way of addressing the current boost in homeless numbers, City Councilman David Ryu proposed the construction of a new housing shelter on the southern end of Griffith Park. The shelter, as it’s been proposed, would be able to provide 100 people with shelter, and while the project could cost up to $4.6 billion, officials say that it would be fully funded through the city’s “A Bridge Home” program, which receives funding through California’s state budget surplus. According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s website, Los Angeles alone received $85 million in 2018 and $124 million from the state in 2019 to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors. 

The “A Bridge Home” program was first introduced by Garcetti in April of 2018 as an initiative to implement temporary emergency shelters throughout the city. Each shelter is scheduled to remain for a period of three years. The first shelter was erected in September of last year, and five additional shelters have emerged since then.

When speaking about the forthcoming shelter in Griffith Park, David Ryu said, “In times of crisis, parks have always helped meet our highest challenges and serve our greatest needs. By opening up this lot to Bridge Housing, we will not only meet the crisis of our time, but we will also help build community around this shared purpose of ending homelessness.”   

Here’s Why The Oprah Winfrey-Promoted Book ‘American Dirt’ Is Getting So Much Heat

Things That Matter

Here’s Why The Oprah Winfrey-Promoted Book ‘American Dirt’ Is Getting So Much Heat

LA Times / Twitter

Whether or not you follow Oprah’s Book Club, you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding the most recent novel on her list: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. The book follows protagonist Lydia Quixano Pérez, a middle-class Mexican bookseller who escapes Acapulco with her 8-year-old son, Luca, after a drug cartel massacres their family at a quinceañera. When Lydia and Luca flee to the US on a freight train, the story unfolds as a chronicle of two migrants’ dangerous journey across the border.

On the surface, American Dirt appears to draw much-needed attention to the experience of countless people seeking safety and prosperity in the US—and while many folks are debating whether or not the book actually succeeds in doing this, it was definitely marketed that way.

After igniting a bidding war between nine publishing houses, American Dirt was ultimately sold to Flatiron Books for seven figures in 2018. With its topical and pervasive subject matter, the publishers assumed that the book would be a hit—and at first, it was. It was endorsed by major writers and celebrities, from Stephen King to Salma Hayek, and it received glowing reviews from several Latina authors, including Sandra Cisneros, Reyna Grande, and Julia Alvarez. Preorders from booksellers were so abundant that Flatiron increased its first printing from 300,000 copies to 500,000. And, of course, Oprah announced that the novel would feature as her Book Club’s first read of 2020.

But with all the hype that preceded American Dirt’s January 21 release came questions about its validity.

Credit: Youtube / CBS News

In May of last year, Flatiron held a book promotion dinner honoring the novel, and the event featured floral arrangements wrapped in barbed wire—an aesthetic choice that sparked a fair amount of early skepticism about the book (on Twitter, the decor was decried as “border chic”). Several prominent figures in the literary world are accusing Cummins—who referred to herself as “white” in a 2015 New York Times essay, but now identifies as “white and Latinx”—of cultural appropriation, asserting that she is capitalizing on the suffering of a group that she doesn’t belong to (though one of her grandmothers was Puerto Rican). Many Latinx writers have expressed disdain for the publishing industry’s tendency to support white authors telling the stories of marginalized groups, rather than elevating authors who actually identify with those groups themselves. Others are simply critical about the prose, lamenting Cummins’ clumsy reliance on racial stereotypes and use of a Spanish not typical of Mexico.

And although several Latinx folks are either actively critiquing or distancing themselves from the book, others remain optimistic about its effect on pop culture. Cristian Perez, a 25-year-old teacher who is Mexican-American, told the New York Times that he” had not heard about American Dirt or the controversy, but he was glad to see a writer using her ‘privilege’ to ‘bring light to the misfortunes of other people.’”

Mexican-American poet and novelist Erika L. Sánchez had initially said that the novel was written with “grace, compassion, and precision,” but recently mentioned in an interview that she wouldn’t have supported the book so fervently if she had known it would cause so much tumult. Still, she added, “I hope this book inadvertently opens up doors for people of color.”

Cummins insists that her aim was to do just that—to highlight the very real, very urgent plight of Latinx immigrants, though she realized she may not be the best person to do so. In the afterword to the novel, Cummins wrote that she wishes that “someone slightly browner than [her] would write” this story—another statement that has not sat well with her critics, as it seems to dismiss the many excellent Latinx authors writing this type of story every day.

Credit: Heather Sten / The New York Times

In regard to the controversy, Cummins stands by her book and the creative decisions she made while writing it. “I do think that the conversation about cultural appropriation is incredibly important, but I also think that there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people,” she told the New York Times. “Everyone should be engaged in telling these stories, with tremendous care and sensitivity.”

As the contention surrounding American Dirt runs its course, all eyes are on the publishing industry, which continues to fumble its attempts to make the literary landscape more inclusive. A 2015 study showed that white people made up 79% of the industry overall, with only 6% of the industry comprised by Latinx folks. Let’s hope that after the conversation sparked by American Dirt, 2020 looks a lot different.

And in the meantime, here’s a quick list of books by Latina authors that you should read right now! Thanks to our Instagram followers for the recommendations!

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo

In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, by Raquel Cepeda

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

Dominicana, by Angie Cruz

Malinche, by Laura Esquivel

In the Country We Love, by Diane Guerrero

Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez

 

The Best And Worst National Anthem Performances Of All Time

Entertainment

The Best And Worst National Anthem Performances Of All Time

CavBuffaloSoldier /Youtube

Belting out any song in your best voice can be tough stuffings. But when it comes to performing the “Star-Spangled Banner” only singers in a completely different league of their own can actually do the national anthem justice. The songs poetic lyrics are notoriously difficult because of its wide range. So of course, naturally, in the decades of performances in which “Star-Spangled Banner” has been song at sporting events and the like, there have been some mishaps. 

This year, both Shakira and J.Lo are set to perform at the Super Bowl’s halftime show while Demi Lovato will make a career come back by singing the national anthem for millions of viewers. Here’s a look at all of the times singers have rocked and flubbed the national anthem.

That time the Dixie Chicks did a beautiful country rendition of the song.

Fans of the Dixie Chicks fell further in love with the country music stars when they stuck to the original lyrics and sentiment of the song when they performed at Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. 

When Whitney Houston gave a GOAT performance back in the 90s.

The queen of pop reigned supreme back in the 90s and thanks to her outstanding vocal range she had the full anthem in the bag. During the 1991 Super Bowl XXV,  Houston sang and hit each and every note. Not only that, she recorded the song and released it as a single and when 9/11 happened she re-released the single and gave all of her earnings to charity. 

In 1983, when Marvin Gaye gave the national anthem a whirl and blew our minds.

Twenty years ago, the beloved “Aint No Mountain High Enough” singer took the anthem to the next level. The singer’s  1983 NBA All-Star performance had a traditional MoTown feel and to this day is celebrated. In fact, his rendition was used in a 2008 Nike commercial featuring the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team.

When Chloe and Halle gave the classic ballad a twist of their own.

Back in 2017, the sister duo stole breaths at the NFL Draft Kick Off when the two sang “America the Beautiful”.  Beyonce did us a solid by discovering them.

That time Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem in a fire pantsuit. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU_UEVp2ynU

Lady Gaga rocked Stadiums at the 2016 Super Bowl. During her performance, the Lady of ladies hit all of her notes and reinvigorated both sides of the crowd. 

That time Fergie went for an eye-popping performance. 

Beloved singer Fergie did a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner’ in 2018 that was one for the books. The strange performance went haywire when the singer attempted to go for a sultry version of the national anthem that just… did not slay. During her perfroamce, camera panned to find audience members stifling giggles and soon enough an internet meme was born. Poor Fergie.

When Roseanne Barr gave us a peek into just how problematic she was.

Back in 1990, Barr made an appearance at a Padres game and sang the national anthem. (Still no word on who booked her for this.) Barr’s cringeworthy performance, which was off-key and oddly high pitched, was made worse when fans realized she was attempting to make the patriotic song into a joke. The racist comedian dared to even spit on the pitcher’s mound as she was leaving the field. Yikes. 

When Christina Aguilera forgot the lyrics.

In 2011, Aguilera came out to sing the lyrics to our countries beloved anthem and pretty much bombed. The famous singer had been celebrated for nailing the song hundreds of times. Even when she was kid. Video of the singer proves that she started out of the gate spectacularly but ultimately, things took a turn for the worse when she skipped over lyrics and even began the song again. According to an interview with Aguilera on Elleh, the singer let her get the mood get to her so bad that she forgot most of the lyrics and tried to improve.