Devils in the White City

Midterms-in-hand, ASU Real Estate Development Master’s Candidates set out Sunday to join their alumni and prospective employers at the Urban Land Institute’s fall meeting in Chicago, Il.

The sun set early as the Devils ascended into the eastern sky, their trek a welcome change from the design-studio-style class of almost thirty.

The faction of future financiers, who attend class together Monday through Friday in the nine-month accelerated program, will tour some of Chicago’s most revered real estate.

This year’s candidates range in age from mid-twenties to early sixties.

They are artists, brokers, accountants, realtors, landlords and engineers.

They are Arizona natives and foreign exchange students.

Their goals for this week are as diverse as their resume´s.

Some will face more challenges than others.

“I’m a little nervous because it’s really hard for me to follow you guys sometimes,” said James Hwang, “I have a story but I don’t know how to interact.”

Hwang moved with his wife and son to the U.S. from Seoul, South Korea a year ago.

He worked for a real estate company in New York before he was accepted at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

“It’s hard for me to talk to people,” he said in perfect English. “It’s hard for me to raise my hand and discuss in class, and about this conference I have no idea.”

Hwang wants to learn from U.S. developers so he can eventually return and modernize undeveloped areas of North Korea and Russia.

“I want to meet some key people, I’ve got some key targets,” said Tom Haney. “I’m interested in adaptive re-use, adaptive places.”

Innovation is certainly not unique in a city where dill pickles are served atop hot dogs and even McDonald’s features a revolving glass door.

ULI hosts two annual summits in roving iconic American cities to showcase innovative and economic solutions to urban challenges.

“I want to see some stunning modern architecture,” said Melissa McCann, a landscape Architect. “There’s some new things here.”

McCann has been building for over thirty years.

Her craft has taken her all over the globe.

She splits her time between Phoenix and San Francisco, where she lives with her husband who is also an architect.

As part of their tuition, the MRED candidates will experience an insider’s tour of notable landmarks, past and present, including a private tour of Wrigley Field and the Prairie Crossing conservation community (urban farm) residential development.

They will learn about Chicago’s retail staple, Merchandise Mart, from the perspective of its current owners.

Their itinerary includes several traditional and modern skyscrapers too.

But It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns at the airport Sunday.

The group were handed their Market Analysis mid-terms as they arrived at the airport.

By mid-flight, they were socializing, watching movies, or catching up on rest.

“I can’t think right now, I’m dysfunctional without food,” said Max Gomez, a twenty-four-year-old real estate broker from Tucson.

U.S. Airlines charges for peanuts and pretzels, so only some ate anything on the plane.

“I helped a very nice elderly gentleman open his crackers,” said Ryan Garret with a sardonic grin. “I’m looking forward to a 64-oz steak.”

Garret, 35, was a budget planner with NASA before moving to Arizona for the program.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know my classmates,” he said earnestly.

Gomez and Garret were not the only ones whose stomachs grumbled during the flight.

“It used to be you’d get a full meal and a glass of wine,” said Steve Grimes, a former Arizona appraiser in his sixties.

Grimes wasn’t impressed with the flight itself, but enjoyed getting to know his neighbor, a Chicago developer who was not affiliated with W.P. Carey.

“We swapped stories and business cards,” he said.

Thousands of industry players are expected to attend this fall’s conference.

The ASU Candidates will learn from, and rub elbows with market moguls throughout the week.

“They’re in one of the best examples of architectural cities in America,” said Andy Conlin, a developer and professor at ASU. “They’re going to be introduced to people who were successful bringing forth developments, and building a sense of comeraderie they will carry with them the rest of the year.”

Conlin co-teaches market strategy with fellow developer, and program director Mark Stapp.

Conlin organized a majority of the trip.

“The downtown area of Chicago has undergone incredible renovation,” he said while viewing the Chicago night skyline. “The number of people who live in downtown has increased dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years.”

Conlin said there was a real possibility one of the candidates would meet their future employer during one of the dozens of seminars elaborating on post-crisis market analysis, strategy, and design.

“The camaraderie will happen by default, he elaborated. “There will be things that will occur you couldn’t anticipate.”

The crowd of cohorts were eager to get to their rooms at the chic James Hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago.

“It’s good to see people in boots,” joked Robbie Thompson, a broker and native of Canada. “It reminds me of home.”

Rain or shine, wind or warmth, the cohorts will rise early tomorrow for their first real test, the opportunity to network with today’s and tomorrow’s industry leaders.


“Twerk and Shout” Sundevils React to Changes in the Dictionary

(click the link to read the published story, edited by ASU State Press Magazine Editors.)

(Originally written version, including some commentary along the way and a writer’s note at the end.)


Long before fire and the wheel, humans figured out grunts and clicks to convey ideas.

We haven’t shut up since.

What we now call a dictionary existed long before last week, when publishers of a respected English reference decided a word was needed for pretend sexual intercourse performed on one’s feet, presumably in rhythm to synthesized drumbeats.

Why the Oxford Online Dictionary digitally enshrined twerk for the ages is not nearly as clear as what we can watch Myley Cyrus, former-Disney-daddy’s-girl-turned-glorified-skank, do over and over at the 2013 MTV music awards.

Of course, there’s nothing new about slang or sex in western pop culture.

Both have been cash crops of entertainers since before the Beatles commanded girls “twist and shout,” because “you really got me going now.”

But the speed by which ideas are being immortalized digitally is unprecedented.

“Language is changing and they’re trying to keep up,” said ASU Linguistics Professor Patricia Friederich. “There’s a stage when use is so widespread it justifies being in the dictionary.”

Friederich described herself as a descriptionist, a scientist who observes word phenomenon in societies.

She’s not interested in “right” or “wrong” judgments but how use changes through time.

“There is a natural progression,” she said. “Technology is making it a lot faster.”

She said twerk probably wouldn’t be added to other references anytime soon.

The scholars at the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford Online’s older brother) preserve thousand-year-old texts to translate meaning from their roots.

They have yet to acknowledge the hybrid of “twist” and “work.”

Regardless, pictures of Cyrus’ ecstatic writhings inspire 1000’s of words.

Their “official” title will be shelved digitally with other pop-culture-inspired English tweaks like “aint,” “refudiate,” and “irregardless.”



Cristina Garcia and three friends burst into laughter when asked about twerk.

“We were just talking about it,” the global sciences junior said with a wide grin. “One of our classmates was on the computer and said ‘this is a no-twerking-zone’ and we all just laughed.”

The group decided ‘twerking’ means to “shake one’s butt vigorously to a beat.”

“Twerk is slang,” said Alyssa Timms from across the table.

A political science junior and Army ROTC cadet, Timms said there is a difference between pop slang and useful jargon.

“Jargon in the military is more about efficiency,” she said. “It’s not made to look pretty or cool, it’s made to get things done.”

Elly Van Gelderen is a Regent’s Professor in English at ASU.

“There is no one official language,” she said “Each person has (their) own variety.”

Though Van Gelderen said slang and jargon are legitimate parts of language, they are different than words made up arbitrarily.

“Slang is a kind of linguistic dressing up,” she said. “From a linguistic point of view there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Van Gelderen teaches that meanings in language evolve through cycles, expanding and contracting.

“If a word becomes useless it is dropped,” she continued.

Van Gelderen said concepts like color, shape, and negation may have existed before language, but conditions like “if” cannot be understood looking around the world.

“When a child learns a language it builds up ideas in its head,” she said.  “That’s how language goes about: re-analysis by a child.”

Both Friederich and Van Gelderen said it was natural for slang and jargon to start with exclusive language among groups trying to form identities, only to become so widespread they are accepted into general society.

“I think the vital question is, is (a word’s) use stable?” said Friederich. “We all know words that burned down quickly, so much so we associate them with a particular time.”

(Think groovy.)


About 70 students were selected at random in the Memorial Union to participate in a snapshot surey.

They were asked to identify which of three provided meanings “they most closely associate” with six commonly used words.

To allow students to focus on their own perceptions, they were assured there were “no wrong answers,” and shouldn’t worry about “official” definitions.

“These are some tough choices bro,” said Simon Patterson, a mechanical engineering junior.

He asked if the word gay was on the survey before he was handed the sheet.

It did, with choces: “cheerful,” “foolish,” or “homosexual,” each a historically widespread usage according to Oxford English Dictionary (the one still holding out on Myley.)

“Gay just always sticks out,” Patterson explained. “Maybe it’s just my generation but they really tried to enforce in grade school not to use that.”

He said teachers assumed kids meant derogatorries when they really meant something was stupid.

Just under 75% of Sun Devils surveyed primarily associate gay with sexual orientation, though its original meanings, noble and showy, had nothing to do with sex or gender.

“I think people put way too much thought into words most times,” said Jacob Cook, a secondary education junior with a minor in biology. “Words don’t necessarily mean what they mean in the dictionary, they mean the intent behind it.”

His friend Alexus Demetres is graduating with an Anthropology degree next semester. She didn’t like the available choices for awkward: “reverse,” “clumsy,” or “embarrassing.”

“I’m trying to think of a better word but I can’t,” she said. “Depending on what context you use, the meaning could change.”

Twice as many students selected “awkward” as a synonym for embarrassment.

Nearly all (94%) associated nice with “pleasant” whereas it was originally a polite adjective for someone who is “simple” or “stupid.”

Students were ambivalent over the word: manipulate. Only nine chose the word’s original meaning, “to re-shape.”

The rest almost even split between “control” and “ deceive,” the latter denoting ill will.

Respondents were assured choices were “associations” found in the dictionary. In the case of “ironic,” which has remained relatively un-changed, two of the three choices provided were commonly misused antonyms.

Three-quarters chose “coincidence,” which would be two un-related events with similarities occuring at the same time.

Such is not ironic.

An ironic situation is almost perfectly opposite of what one would expect given circumstance.

Less than 20% chose “Opposite.”

Likewise, a vast majority (89%) indicated respect is most closely related to “honor.”

Literally translated from Latin (“Re-specere: ‘to re-see,”) respect more traditionally suggested re-consideration of a person’s position and behavior. The word is contemporarily used to imply virtue, begging the question: would it be ironic to honor authority without question?

“If I decided today I was going to call a chair a table, and a cat a dog, tomorrow no one would understand each other,” said Friederich. “It’s perfectly acceptable so long as it makes sense.”

The SPM survey was designed to provoke conversation. The results indicated Millenial’s usage is very differently from the words’ original meanings.

“So many words change I don’t think its possible to say whether it’s right or wrong,” said Brianna Steele, a psychology freshman.

“My mom’s culture is very much about respect and honor rather than obey,” she said. “But my first instinct was obey.


There is a principle in law that allows attorneys to transcend even the most complex arguments of philosophy.

Res ipsa loquitor, literally translated “let it rule the thing speaks for itself,” commands that the very essence of something be defined first by virtue of itself.

This is why trials focus on evidence, translated from Latin, “what can be seen.”

So, even though a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, it’s important to remember its thorns will prick your finger.

Friederich jokingly blamed billionaire reality TV sisters Kardashian for incorrectly using the literally in place of figuratively on a regular basis.

“Every two words that they say, one is ‘literally’ and not correctly,” she chided. “You can’t say literally unless something is to-the-letter.”

Friederich said various uses of “awkward” and “gay” don’t bother her because their meanings evolved and can be connected over time.

It is embarrassing to be clumsy or backward and many stereotype homosexuals as non-serious and overly exuberant.

“Using words that are more positive in the people you’re talking to will generate more goodwill in the world,” Friederich said. “When you change language you can also change society.”

She said new definitions appeared for “sustainable” and “green” in the last decade.

“Who uses the word really matters,” elaborated Friederich. “Some people feel (African-American) is a good term because it’s without negative connotation, while there is disagreement within that community that the word signals they are less of an American.”

“What we really need (for a word to evolve) is a social movement in one direction.”

As for Miley, creative writing junior Jeff Kronenfeld said he didn’t like “twerk” but it’s not his place to decide if it should go in the dictionary.

“Obviously it was done to try to use controversy to gain some attention,” Jeff added. “Everyone was bashing on Miley, but nobody’s said anything about the dude who was sticking ‘it’ up in there.”


Ours is a world in which Tweets have toppled governments and newspaper comics insight slaughter.

A Florida jury recently acquitted George Zimmerman for killing an unarmed teenager outside their home, after the State failed to prove the shooter used racial slurs.

Arizona passed a law, portions of which were struck down because it allowed police to detain people for speaking languages other than English.

Academics like Freiderich and Van Gelderen not what’s right or wrong, but rather in what direction are we heading?

Are we all headed in the same direction?

Are we excelling toward an enlightened future of peace-inducing communication norms or are we careening off the rails into an Orwellian pit of misunderstanding and ignorance?

These are questions that sexualized pop icons, dictionary definitions, linguists and student surveys can’t answer, directly.

Hopefully generations to come will have something “nice” to say about a society that codifies gratuitous sexual displays because they’re popular.

SB1070 Exclusive: First Man in Line is an American and Mexican

The first man in line at the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments in Arizona’s historical immigration case is both a Mexican and American.


Video:Pre-Immigration Bill Interview with Border Sheriff Tony Estrada

Originally published in Fall 2009, before news of Arizona’s controversial immigration bill SB1070 broke.


Tucson Businessman, Health-guru, and Rapper

Click: 2008 feature article published in Tucson Citizen

International “Kinky” Band Spices Up T-Town

Citizen Kinky


Preview: Pima Community College Kicks “Footloose”

Click to Read

Dillinger Days Draw Depp? (My first published article)

Click to read