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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Monday, September 29, 2008

What is Right

I rarely get to be on the cutting edge of the news so this will be a new experience for me.

 The Associated Press reported two minutes ago that the House voted down President Bush's emergency $700 billion bailout plan. 

Even before the plan was shot down, Wall Street seemed to smell something was up and the Dow stocks fell over 500 points.

So that's it. That's the news. In short, I got my way. In an unprecedented move for me, I devoted two whole blog entries this past week (this makes three) to America's flagging economy. The bailout seemed like a done deal then and I was quick to question its effectiveness. To me, it seemed like an irresponsible move. America's future has already been jeopardized  by our mounting debt and the bailout just seemed to add more money on top of that. I don't know every intricate detail of the economy but I know what is right and that wasn't.

And now comes this day. This day, I am no longer one of many voices in the ether yelling "nay". This day I am now one who supports the majority. What I wanted happened and now I have to deal with it. Because I know what I wanted was fair but none of us know if what I wanted, what many wanted is safe. Like it or not, we as Americans are closely interconnected. We live disparate lives and tend to our own, but the culture we have created is that of reliance. If one of us falls, we all feel it. If the economy fails because of bad decisions made by the few, all feel the repercussions. 

President Bush believed strongly in this bailout plan, more strongly perhaps than any other issue he has dealt with during his presidency. Maybe it was because he was buddy-buddy with corporate America or maybe it was because he truly believed that the bailout was what is right for the American people. 

Congress said no. Just simply no. Some congressmen and women didn't feel well versed enough on the issue. Some just wanted to get the damned thing over with so they could hit the campaign trail before November 4 came. But many inevitably though it was what was right.

Whether it be through man or fate, the American people now have to face a difficult challenge. Because now we must finally face what is right instead of what is safe. It is safe to accept the bailout plan and face the devil you know now instead of the devil that you must face later. After all, that $9 trillion in debt is just a number, right? It hasn't hurt us now and why would it hurt us later? And if the economy if hurting us now, let's just toss $700 billion extra onto that debt. That is safe and that doesn't scare us. But that is not what is right.

We are now past the time where we can listen to presidential candidates promises to fix the economy. They can't fix the economy. Only we can. But between playing Guitar Hero, catching up on episodes of CSI and repainting our house to keep up with that snide bastard next door, it can be hard to find the time to act like a responsible adult and be smart with our money.  So we spend what we want to spend and buy what we want to buy even when we have more than enough. Then every four years we walk out of an election booth, satisfied that we are helping the economy by voting for the man who has the prettiest promises of economic prosperity.

The truth is: we are not entitled to anything. That is not right and that is not fair. It isn't our birthright as Americans to be economically successful. Corporations do not owe us anything. The government does not owe us anything. America wasn't founded so its citizens can watch the free market and wait for someone to blame. America wasn't founded so it citizens can be rescued by the government when things got too tough. We failed and the economy failed. And now we have to live and deal with a real challenge for the first time in decades. That is what is right.

Right is taking responsibility for your actions. Right is spending money when you have it and saving it when you don't. Right is facing challenges on your own. Right is succeeding or failing. Right is adapting or dying. Right is acting like an adult.

Right is acting like an American

We are all  partly responsible for the success and failures of all our brothers all our sisters and all our neighbors. I do not know much about economics but I get the distinct feeling that some pretty tough times lie ahead. As the masters of our own destinies we must finally face this so future generations don't have to.

After all, being an American means shouldering as much power as all the Emperors the world has seen. We need to take this responsibility seriously. But don't worry...there will always be time for Guitar Hero and CSI.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Morning Links pt. 2

Well, it has been a good weekend for me, I ate my own weight in buffalo wings at my new favorite restaurant (I am curious to hear some guesses, A-Towners), saw a pretty good film in Choke (fun and bizarre but not the masterpiece Fight Club is) and watched/endured the Bobcats shaky first win of the season against a vastly inferior opponent. Now it is time to cap off the whole experience with a (very very early) Sunday Morning Links...and hopefully, a fantasy football win!

-First up is this little number:,,20228603,00.html
I gotta say, the good folks at Entertainment Weekly have outdone themselves with this cover. It is brilliant! One of the many reasons I subscribe, along with Jessica Shaw's report on what is cool of course.

- Now if I had read this terrific article before embarking on my "Anonymous" post, I am not sure I would have bothered. This writer does a lot better job of describing the phenomenon and its implications:

- I love pop and essential culture as much as the next guy but music has never really been my thing. I just don't have an ear for it and it just not as big a part of my life as it is for many of my peers. But, I gotta say, I stumbled on these dudes about a year ago and they are the only indie band on planet Earth I can stand. That in and of itself warrants a listen:

- Here is a good one for all you Dark Knight fans, and by "Dark Knight fans" I mean everyone with a pulse. This is a pretty in-depth analysis written by a critic I had never heard of but whose work I will now pursue:

- And finally, I must succumb to a little bit of self-promotion. The Bobcat Blogs site is now up and producing some pretty original and intriguing material regarding all Ohio University sports. I urge that all sports fans check us out. You won't be disappointed:

And with that, I take my leave. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and R.I.P Paul Newman.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dunder Hogg

(Author's note: This post contains heavy spoilers regarding the newest episode of The Office so if you have not seen it: tough luck.)

Fall is finally here!

I do not say this because the leave are falling off the trees here in Athens (although it is a gorgeous sight) or even because the season known as Autumn literally began about a week ago. No, friends, I can safely say that Fall is here solely because the TV season has officially begun! Heroes debuted Monday and I was mildly impressed. Last season was an unmitigated disaster and I have made peace with the fact that Heroes is never going to reach its near-limitless potential but nontheless, I was engaged by the episode. If Tim Kring or any of his homees EVER use a voiceover of the best poem ever written at the end of their mediocre TV show again, however, I will be forced to burn NBC studios to the ground. You can only crank out the "Yeats" when you are sure you have a masterpiece on your hands.

Dead Irish poets aside, the premiere I was really looking forward to this week came last. Astute readers will know by the headline of this post will know that I am referring to The Office, of course. Now, I am not the biggest Office fan. As a matter of fact, when 30 Rock returns in about a month, The Office won't even be the best show on NBC within the 9:00 hour on Thursdays. But I must admit, the show makes me laugh fairly regularly and I have rarely missed an episode. As I watched last night, I was particularly impressed. Not simply because it was good, but because it was just as good, if not better than when it began more than four seasons and sixty episodes later. It is very rare for any comedy to remain fresh and funny for an extended period of time (R.I.P Scrubs) and I would like to give all involved on The Office a big ol' metaphorical pat on the back.

But that is not all I intend to say today (otherwise, this would have been the most boring blog entry in the history of blogs). While I found last night's episode very funny, it did continue an interesting trend that I have been noticing since the second season of the American version of the show. Last night, the insufferable blowhard of a boss Michael Scott convinced Kelly Kapour that she was beautiful despite any perceived flaws, Laconic office drone Stanley realized his dream of losing seven pounds, Long-suffering saleswoman Phyllis finally got to bitch out Dwight for finally going over the line and of course, Jim and Pam did something pretty special and heartwarming. In short...good things happened.

For those of you confused as to why this shocks me, I will kindly direct your attention to the British version of the Office or the American version's series premiere which was essentially a shot for shot recreation of the British version's pilot. To anyone who endured the brutally awkward, hopeless and uncomfortable twelve episodes of Ricky Gervais's British series, did you ever think there would be a single moment where these poor pencil pushers would ever experience even the slightest glimmer of hope? I will spare you the thought of it: the answer is "no".

 In the dark BBC series, there was never a single moment where there was even faintest flicker of hope that these men and women's lives were anything more than meaningless tragedies. The lovelorn pathetic salesman never got to be with the cute receptionist. No one ever mustered the courage to stand up to the bizarre, out-of-touch assistant to the regional manager. And more than anything: the sexist, egotistical, wildly inappropriate, attention-seeking bastard of a boss never met any other human being who was remotely fond of him in any way.

This show was so brutally awkward that I could never watch more than one episode in a row. I needed to take a mental break and let my soul quietly weep for these poor office workers being slowly tortured to death by their idiotic boss. And, yes, this show was funny. And yes, the American version is too. I am not going to declare that one version is better than the other but I am going to raise a question that I have no answer for and I can't imagine anyone else does either. What is the fundamental difference in American and British societies that led them to produce two versions of the exact same show: one soul-crushingly hopeless and one infinitely more optimistic and bright. 

I am not saying that the American version is without its dark or awkward moments but there are always breaths of fresh air in-between them. Characters in the American Office change, grow professionally and personally and frequently conquer their various tormentors and fears. Characters in the British Office, however, are small, weak and insignificant creatures. They do not stand up for themselves or demand anything better. They quietly give into the bureaucracy and live their lives in quiet insignificance. 

Is there something in America's history that has made us infinitely more optimistic than our English brethren? Do we really view ourselves as the strong, enlightened individuals in The Office or are they who we wish we were? And what in the hell made those Brits so damn grumpy???  I would theorize that America's age has something to do with our current cheery outlook. Maybe when we acquire thousands of years more history of Dark Ages, pain, War and evil like the British Isles we can finally learn how to do dark humor like they do but for now they have the market cornered. But ultimately, I have no definite answer for this phenomenon.

Oh well, at least my television viewing won't require me to think this hard again for another two or three months. That is when Lost is King.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Call Me Mr. Sunshine

I am a pessimistic bastard.

I don't know if I was born that way or if someone, somewhere down the line indoctrinated me to hate all that is sunshine and daisies but a pessimistic bastard I am and a pessimistic bastard I remain. So as I took some time off from my Misanthropes Anonymous meeting this week (no such organization exists...but should) to glance at a paper or watch some television, I was bombarded with news that people like me celebrate: bad. 

Apparently, the economy is in pretty bad shape. I know this is not necessarily "news". As a mater of fact, I wrote about the situation exactly one week ago. In that post, I mentioned that the government was tossing around a plan to rescue the failing banks and financial institutions that were dragging the economy down with them. But here is the "news" aspect of this old story: multiple news outlets are reporting as soon as two hours ago that "key Democrats and Republicans of Congress (i.e elected ideological hacks with lots of money) "  have come up with an outline for the proposed $700 billion buyout of the failed institutions. 

That is scary. Very scary. As an informed citizen, I do not know how to react. The idea of a total economic failure is scary...but so is the idea of adding nearly another trillion dollars to this ever growing debt of ours. I can't fully comprehend the impact of what "economic failure" means.  Will we simply be waiting in line for our weekly gas ration, or living on the street burning $100 bills for warmth and eating out of garbage. Conversely, I do not fully understand the complications of the government stepping in to rescue corporate executives who have failed at their job. As an informed citizen, it turns out I am not very informed. But as a pessimist, this is a rare opportunity. This is an opportunity to see men and women in the public eye and how they react when the public eye turns to them for answers and perspective. 
I am really only referring to men in particular: President Bush, Senator Obama and Senator McCain and how they have all dealt with this crisis and more than that, how they have dealt with each other. Earlier this week, John McCain publicly requested to Barack Obama to postpone their first presidential debate so that the Arizona Senator could focus on the bipartisan Congressional effort to develop a bailout plan. Obama said: no thanks. Okay, what he really said was he believes the debate should go forward so the American people can better get to know the men who could potentially dealing with this crisis . Then President Bush's disembodied head appeared on television and gave sent America a dire warning that the economy is failing and that the only solution is to trust the government.

Can I get a collective: Whaaaa? All three of these men stepped forward and did something that us pessimists despise: something different. Familiarity breeds contempt and even MORE familiarity is how pessimists are born (that and the molten lava of a is a complicated process).  The campaign and politics-weary among us EXPECT politicians to do more of the same. We expect John McCain a.k.a The Maverick, to ignore the economy and a bipartisan effort to fix it, after all, didn't he say he didn't fully understand the economies ways and isn't he well, The Maverick. We expect the rookie Barack Obama to continue to preach the ways of change and help the bipartisan effort to not only fix the economy but use it as an opportunity to further express disappointment in the Bush presidency. And we certainly expect George W. Bush, perhaps the most vilified man on planet Earth for the past eight years, to stay in his corner, wait for the nightmare be over and preach the Party mantra: "everything is fine"

But they didn't. And  the pessimists among us begin to lose hope. Of course, we can always pray that McCain used the crisis as an opportunity to take a break from the brutal campaign life, that Obama is a heartless jackass who sensed weakness from his opponent and refused to let him give in and that Bush is just exaggerating the situation to try to justify John McCain's request to halt the debate. There is hope for all us pessimists that that is what these men did, but I don't think that is the case.

I think John McCain believes that now is the time for action, tangible action and he wants to roll up his sleeves, drop what is important to himself as a man and do what is right for the country. I think Barack Obama believes in his cause and believes that what is right for the country is to help pick who will be running it just over a month from now. And I think George W. Bush, yes him, believes that now is the time for candor and to say: "you know what, everything ISN'T okay and as much as I don't like it: the government and a Democrat-controlled Congress are the only ones who can fix it."

Here are three men that are couldn't be more different in their beliefs, couldn't be more different in their life experiences and couldn't be more different in the power that they hold but they are three men who, for what its worth, decided not to be politicians for a brief moment. So try as I might, I can't be a pessimistic bastard today. I can only hope that the political machine swallows them whole. Can you imagine an entire government of non-partisan people who say what they mean?

Blech! If that happens I might even crack a smile. I shudder at the thought.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All For One and None for All

Ever wonder how the technology would change our lives?

Stanley Kubrick thought it would send us into the quiet nightmare of space. Ray Bradbury thought it would disillusion us from the real world and cause us to systematically destroy our past. And George Orwell, God bless 'im, thought technology would reveal the most awful aspects of an over-organized human society.

So here we are: the future. How has technology changed our lives? Well, we aren't in space, firefighters don't burn books and we aren't all controlled by the poster of a man Big Brother. But there are subtler ways that we have been changed. And I am not talking about the environment or our world being changed, but ways WE have been changed.

To me, there is no better example than the "group" Anonymous. I type the word "group" within quotation marks because there isn't quite a word to describe what "they" are. This being an online blog, I am sure there are many in my target audience of readers who are familiar with the group Anonymous, probably even a few that would identify themselves as a "member". So who the hell are they? Well, that is not an easy answer. They cannot be described in many of the terms we use for groups or organizations. They have no one particular home or meeting place. They have no goals, no hierarchal structure, as a matter of fact: no hint or whisper of any type of organization whatsoever. The members have no names, no agendas. The group is essentially nothing...but it exists very much so.

Confusing? I know. Before I delve any further, Reporter Chris Landers, of the Baltimore City Paper is credited with a quote that I believe does more to describe Anonymous than anything else I've read. He writes: "(Anonymous is the first internet-based superconsciousness. Anonymous is a group, in the sense that a flock of birds is a group. How do you know they're a group? Because they're traveling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave or peel off in another direction entirely. "

In short, Anonymous is an organization that exists solely due to the communal nature of the Internet. Anonymous started on humor and message-board based websites like and Members of the websites or even just curious passersby try to amuse each other with funny pictures, or anecdotes and many popular internet memes or phrases emerge. You can credit Anonymous with discovering the precious LOLcats and the ever-bizarre "Chocolate Rain". And for all of you who have ever been "rickrolled" (you know who you are), you have Anonymous to thank (or blame). But Anonymous did not produce these images or ideas as a group. Usually, someone has a funny idea, posts a funny picture, or even makes a humorous spelling error and then the rest of the Internet community catches onto it and keeps it alive.

This "group" is really not a group at all but a collection of individuals. The only thing that ties them together is the name Anonymous and the collective bemusement over outsiders who just don't seem to get "it". The name came from the fact that almost all posters on 4chan's "Random" board, post as "anonymous", so the joke became that Anonymous was a single entity who had way too much time on his or her hands and internet access. The aforementioned outsiders are those who don't know what "ZOMG" is or have never done something for the "lulz" or who don't understand the importance of "Mudkips".

And because they have no hierarchy, or no rules, or even any type of temporal goal, this loosely-connected group has been responsible for an endless array of pranks and mishaps. Sometimes, they are benign like hacking the Habbo Hotel website to shut down the virtual pool or protesting Scientology churches while wearing "Guy Fawkes" masks. But other times, they are slightly more sinister like e-mailing threats to journalists and media members or hijacking a presentation at an Epilepsy conference to show flashing lights and colors. Their ways as diverse as the individuals yet they remain one entity united under one name. And THAT is where technology has taken us today.

Technology has torn apart paradoxes that have existed for centuries and answered questions that seemed unanswerable. Without today's capacity for communication, we would never have this new entity that combines the contradictory ideas of individualism and collectivism. Since man has existed, he has had to answer the question: Do I honor individuality, or cohesiveness? It is one of the most basic questions we have ever had to answer. Historically, the West went in one direction and the East went another. But now, technology seems to be turning that essential question, that paradigm on its head.

Anonymous, and the Internet in general is connecting people of all cultures. Ideas are being confronted, challenged, changed and sometimes strengthened. I believe that the existence of such a "superconscious" is a sign that the times, they are a'changin'. The Internet is its OWN community and it does not demand your allegiance to a flag, nor give you a choice in deciding its leaders. What it does do is connect us all. We are all individuals in it, yet we all are a part of a larger collective. Hmm...almost like we all share a "collective unconscious" perhaps...

But while the present is confusing and the future, even stranger, I do feel resolutely certain about one fact. Had Bradbury, Kubrick or Orwell wrote or filmed about THIS kind of future technology, no one would have bought a single book or ticket. 

Way too Sci-fi.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Day in the Life of "The Man"

I am "the man".

I wake up in the morning to the sound of the alarm on my cell phone. I scroll through all the numbers of the people I know looking to send an early morning text. Then I put my pants on (one leg at a time, obviously) and place that phone in my pocket. Everyone I've ever known; all in my pocket. I open up my personal laptop and receive only news I want to receive. I read the blurbs that I want to read and watch the videos that I want to watch. Then I close my laptop and head out for my day.

I walk the streets I want to walk. I take out my iPod and push the bulbs of oblivion into my ears. I pick the soundtrack for my life and go on my way. I see things how I want to see them as I pass others in their own sphere of musical bliss. I sit down at a bench to check my e-mail. I delete the spam messages from companies all wanting my money, my attention. They found me directly and solicit me directly. After all, I am the man. Disappointed with my e-mails, I open up Facebook. Headlines on the front page of the internet's ultimate vanity shout out every details of all my friends and acquaintances lives. Apparently, so and so aren't dating anymore and whatshisface got a new piercing and the pictures to prove it.

I go to lunch and read the posts of my favorite blogs in-between bites of a cheeseburger. I know which ones I want to read and which ones I want to avoid. They exist solely to be chosen by me and augment my current ideas. After I have eaten I go back to my tiny corner and write my own blog post. I spill my ideas out onto the (digital) paper and write about what I want to write about. Later, others will read it...but only if they want to. After all, they are all "the man" too.

I get lost on my way to class so I text Cha Cha for directions, receive them and go on my way. During class, I instant message my girlfriend asking when she wants to do dinner. 6:00? Excellent, plenty of time for me to update my iTunes playlist. Before dinner, I get some homework out of the way. When a question confounds me, I solicit Wikipedia for help. Which, in turn reminds me to update the Heroes page to include the early critical reception regarding the third season premiere.

After dinner, I see someone stumbling around my hall, clearly intoxicated. So as my responsibility as "the man" compels me to do, I take out my phone and take a video of the spectacle to put onto Youtube at a later date. The world can then see what I see and share in this man's self-inflicted pain. I then settle in to watch some late night football and check up on the stats of the players on my fantasy team. After all, I am "the man" and they play for me and only for me. I then lay down to go to bed, but not before watching clips from Saturday Night Live on my laptop. I missed last weeks episode but thankfully they exist online for me to watch when I want to watch them.

I fall asleep soundly, looking forward to tomorrow.

But across the world there are those who sleep less soundly. Those who we all used to see as part of the establishment. Politicians, corporate leaders, men and women in power: all who used to wear a slick suit and speak with venom in our minds' perception of them. The ones who we used to refer as "the man". They all go to sleep wondering what happened. Wondering how they went to bed one night with populations and demographics to appeal to and then woke up the next morning to find a world of over six billion individuals. Six billion individuals who all want to remain individuals and now have the technology to stay that way. Six billion individuals who can tailor the entire mass media to their very whim. Who can watch whichever movie they want to watch and when they want it, or can receive news regarding their current location whenever and wherever they want to. It is now a scary world for these men and women of the "old model" of media.

But the rest of us simply get to live our lives as the new "man". And I think we can all agree: it is good to be the man.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hanging My Head in Shame

Maybe I will have better luck with the Oscars.

So, in my first Emmy prediction column, I just happened to go an ugly 5 for 14. Although I would just like to casually point out (scream from a mountaintop) that I got Best Comedy and Best Drama down pat. Having gotten that out of the way: I would also like to point out that the show was about as bad as I was at picking winners so I wasn't the only one off my game. But for all its suckiness, it did offer plenty of surprises; some of them good (Bryan Cranston, it is about damn time), some of them bad (freaking Jean Smart AGAIN?).

Things I loved about the 2008 Emmy Awards:
-The aforementioned Bryan Cranston
-30 Rock's domination
-Steve Carrell's eyes brimming with (hopefully fake) tears at Ricky Gervais's vicious (and again, hopefully fake) beratement.
-Jeremy Piven's third consecutive victory(!!!)
-The Colbert Report finally getting in on the Emmy love
-Heidi Klum's accent

Things I hated about the 2008 Emmy Awards:
-Number of hosts: 5, Number of times I laughed at anything they said: 0
-The aforementioned Jean Smart
-The supposed rush to get the show done even though it ended right on time
-Music playing off the winner for BEST FRICKING DRAMA with five minutes to go in the whole show. Probst needed five minutes to say goodnight more than the Mad Men folks deserved to celebrate their victory?
-Having to now learn to spell "Zeljko Ivanek"
-Michael Emerson and the rest of Lost being completely ignored
-Josh Groban...don't ask why, I just don't like that talented, handsome bastard

Things I am upset that the scheduling of the Emmys opposite of Entourage, Sunday Night Football and the final game at Yankees Stadium made me miss:
-Alec Baldwin winning one of the most well-deserved, no brainer awards in TV history.

Well folks, that's a wrap on the 2008 Emmy Awards. Now lets go back to our daily lives so we can forget it ever happened!

Sunday Morning Links pt. 1

Since, I am all about change here at my little corner of the web, I thought I would switch the format of my blog up a little bit. Up until now, I have just been making posts on the Collective(ly) Unconscious without any type of pattern or plan. It was fun to experience a little verbal explosion every day or every other day or so but now, since I am all about organization as well as change (go ahead and try to figure that paradox out), I now have a good idea of how I want to organize my blog. 

On The Collective(ly) Unconscious, you can expect to read new material, analysis and perspective written by Yours Truly every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I have decided that Tuesday's academic and extracurricular schedule is just a tad too demanding to concern myself with a blog entry that day. And Saturday? Well, that is just a day off. Give me a break, I love college football.

Of course, that brings us to Sunday. Henceforth, every Sunday starting now will be home to a feature I like to call the "Sunday Morning Links". I will use Sunday to post several links to all the news stories that I found interesting or journalistic essays that I thought were of a special quality. Hopefully, this can hep broaden everyone's horizons, including mine and also give you, the reader a little more understanding of the particular writings that I think are worthy of notice. I know the term "Morning" might be a little subjective, seeing as this will probably be posted around 1:00 kickoff and I will try to crawl out of my tomb/bed earlier on future Sundays. 

Now here it is: your first ever edition of the Sunday Morning(ish) Links!

-Bill Simmons writes about the TRUE implications of Monday Night's Cowboys-Eagles game before making his Week 3 picks. I couldn't agree more. If the Browns lose every week, I am fine. But if my fantasy team out:

-Apparently, people are racist. Why did it take more than two years of polling and campaigning to figure this out:

- And creepiest story of the year goes to:

- Amid all the supposed sports journalists weeping over the loss of Yankees Stadium, I found one man sane enough to focus on the REAL story of the 2008 baseball season. Hell has frozen over:

And finally, Entertainment Weekly helps me question and belittle the very Award show I was so excited about yesterday:,,20045108_20045120_20213234_9,00.html

So there you have it: your first Links of all-time! I hope you get a better idea of where I am coming from now and why my future line of work will be with these media folk. Come back tomorrow when I write about something sexy and exciting (gotta nab those readers however I can), and look out for my first entry on the OU Sports site, which should be coming up sometime shortly after this Tuesday.

Hasta luego, Peace, Love and all that fun stuff!

Friday, September 19, 2008

And the Award Goes To...(TV version)

TV is probably the most creative art form we have right now.

Go ahead, chew that over, you know I'm right. If William Shakespeare, Jackson Pollack or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were around today they would drop their respective quill/brush/baby grand piano and head out to a studio lot to start producing the real art. The time has now come where you don't need to even leave the house or quality entertainment or stimulating intellectual media. I for one, couldn't be happier and to show solidarity with the finest art form we have going right now, I am going to publish a Preview for the Primetime Emmy Awards, airing this Sunday. Pretty straight-forward: just a list of nominees in important categories, my picks and my commentary. Sit back, pop a TV dinner in the microwave and enjoy!

Outstanding Comedy Series
30 Rock
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
Two and a Half Men

The Pick: The Emmys have already told us that 30 Rock has this award in a stranglehold. Those 17 nominations seem to sending a pretty strong message. I would be very happy with either 30  Rock or Entourage, The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm would be okay and I will light myself on fire if Two and a Half Men wins

Outstanding Drama Series
Boston Legal
Mad Men

The Pick: Boo to the Academy for listing Boston Legal and House under the Drama category! Anyone who has seen either of those shows can clearly tell you that they are NOT, in fact, dramas. Emmy will be attracted to the new shiny object of the bunch in Mad Men and having never seen the show, I can offer no commentary only to say that what I have seen does look excellent. But regardless, I am hard pressed to believe that any show could ever be better than Lost. It took a hell of a season for the Emmys to even nominate this once-in-a-lifetime show again (God knows why) and it deserves to win, just as it has every season of its existence. Oh and another side note: Dexter rocks.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin- 30 Rock
Tony Shaloub-Monk 
Lee Pace- Pushing Daisies 
Steve Carrell- The Office
Charlie Sheen- Two and a Half Men

The Pick- Please don't let Tony Shaloub win AGAIN. He is pretty funny and all but is it really necessary to give him the award every year. Oh well, at least he isn't Charlie Sheen. I am ambivalent toward Steve Carrell and Lee Pace, but one man I am not ambivalent toward is Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwin has now taken the torch away from Will Arnett from Arrested Development as FUNNIEST MAN ON TELEVISION. Anyone who doesn't laugh til they pee watching the scene in 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy helps Tracey Jordan reconcile his daddy issues in therapy is someone I don't care to meet. So of course, Tony Shaloub will inevitably win his 598,272,092nd Emmy this year.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
James Spader- Boston Legal
Bryan Cranston- Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall- Dexter
Hugh Laurie- House
Gabriel Byrne- In Treatment
Jon Hamm- Dom Draper

The Pick: The Academy will pick Hugh Laurie and it is hard to argue with their logic. He is the only thing that makes an entire show not only watchable, but pretty excellent. It is no small feat, especially for a man acting in a foreign accent for five years. Plus, he gives great acceptance speeches. I myself, will be campaigning hard for Michael C. Hall. He literally gives me goosebumps as forensics expert by day-serial killer by night, Dexter Morgan. Bryan Cranston was robbed in his Malcolm in the Middle years and is now even better on Breaking Bad. Jon Hamm is an interesting dark horse, Gabriel Byrne has no chance and I pray to God that the Emmys give James Spader the shaft but he can never be counted out

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey- 30 Rock
Christina Applegate- Samantha Who?
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss- The New Adventures of Old Christine
America Fererra- Ugly Betty
Mary Louise Parker- Weeds

The Pick: What a difference a year makes. A category that was once the weakest is now, without a doubt, the strongest. I do not think there is a person who I can safely count out on this list. My gut tells me Louis-Dreyfuss won't win, simply because she did last year and the Emmys want to stay fresh. I think they go with Fey and I will certainly raise no objection. It is hard work playing the straight-person to an entire cast of loons and she does it as well as anyone. America Fererra would be a good dark horse candidate.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Sally Field- Brothers and Sisters
Glenn Close- Damages
Mariska Hartigay- Law and Order SVU
Holly Hunter- Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick- The Closer

The Pick: Booooooring. This list is just a who's who of women that the Emmys are fond of. Sally Field will win because I believe every Emmy voter secretly loves Brothers and Sisters and she is the only one on the list not playing the prototypical "tough chick". Not an awful choice but I think I would prefer Hartigay seeing as her show is the only one I ever really watch. Sedgwick has a shot as well.

Now here are my picks for (most of) the rest:

Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series: The Office- Good Buy Toby
Should be: Entourage- No Cannes Do

Outstanding Direction of a Drama Series: Mad Men- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Should be: Mad Men- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Outstanding Reality or Competition Program: The Amazing Race
Should be: Project Runway

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Neil Patrick Harris- How I Met Your Mother
Should be: Kevin Dillon- Entourage

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Kristin Chenowith- Pushing Daisies
Should be: Kristin Chenowith- Pushing Daisies

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: John Slattery- Mad Men
Should be: Michael Emerson- Lost

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Sandrah Oh- Grey's Anatomy
Should be: Chandra Wilson- Grey's Anatomy

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series: Saturday Night Live
Should Be: The Colbert Report

Well, there you have it, be sure to come back Monday morning when I am contrite about how wrong I was.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let it Be

Remember the show Rugrats?

Neither do least not very well. But there is one scene in particular that I remember rather vividly. Tommy Pickles, the brave and intrepid two year old baby, had once again been separated from his mother and was on an adventure of his own (why didn't anyone call Child Services on this woman?). This time, he was crawling his way through some type of corporate trading Wall-Street-type building. Being the ever-curious Rugrat that he was, he ended up  in a back room surrounded with computers and complex machinery. So Tommy did what babies seem to do best: push buttons. 

And something remarkable happened; every time that irrepressible rascal pressed a button, the scene cut to a crowded, loud room of stock traders, where Tommy's button pushing had caused a giant monitor to either show little green numbers with an arrow pointing up, or little red numbers with an arrow pointing down. Depending on the color of the numbers, the over excited traders picked up phones and began to yell: "BUY! BUY! BUY!", or "SELL! SELL! SELL!" I bring this up not to reminisce about 90s Nickelodeon television shows (although I often do), but to rather come clean on something. In the twelve or so years that that Rugrats's episode aired, my understanding of the economy has not changed in the slightest. 

To me, Wall Street might as well be a place where men in suits panic or celebrate depending on the color of numbers produced by the fickle whims of an infant. So, traditionally, I have been one to avoid economic issues at all costs. The past couple of days, however, have brought such a bizarre whirlwind of economic performance that it has become impossible for even someone like me to ignore it. 

Yesterday, I awoke from my nightly slumber and grabbed my laptop to catch up on what the world had been up to while I had slept. The world had been up to a lot apparently. Headlines shouted louder than any message of panic since Chicken Little that the Dow Jones's numbers had plummeted. Talking heads talked, reporters reported, all those men in suits presumably yelled "SELL! SELL! SELL!" into their phones and I went on with my life. Then this morning, as I am getting ready for a Precision Language quiz, I look on and am greeted with the headline"Dow Jumps 410 on Hopes for Bank Rescue Plan" This intrigued me. Who is rescuing these banks, Bizarro Robin Hood? So being the curious soul that I am (not entirely unlike Tommy Pickles)  I read on a little bit only to find that the banks's knight in shining armor is good old Uncle Sam! Yes, that's right, in a development that probably came as a surprise to no one other than me: The U.S Treasury Department is going to wipe "bad assets" off the books of several failing financial institutions (MSN credits CNBC with the first report).

Isn't that quite a concept? When a private company fails, the government will be there to pick up the tab. If only the government was feeling so charitable a week ago when I bombed my first college quiz so they could wipe that off the books too. Oh wait...they WERE this charitable a week ago when they brought Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under their safe wing instead of having to face the harsh reality of financial failure.

Is it just me, or does that interfere with this whole "laissez faire" thing we are so crazy about?And I don't want to come across as an ignorant grouch screaming "it's every man for himself" (too late, I know) so I will concede that I understand the need for government interference in extreme cases. But is this one of those cases? Of course, we are living through probably the worst financial credit situations since the Great Depression but is breathing life into select public and private institutions that should remain very, very dead the right way to intervene?Let me step behind my objective curtain to politely say: NOOOOO!

We are $9,648,996,263,984.36 in debt! I did not make that number up ( Now is not the time for the federal government to be rescuing ANY institution financially. But maybe Uncle Sam's conscious simply got the best of him. I am going to go ahead and conjecture that the reason so many banks and financial institutions are failing is the federal government, itself. People are having a rough time paying back loans in a world where gas prices are flirting with $4.50 a gallon. And stock traders may be a little hesitant to invest in institutions with any public ties thanks to...well, that whole ten trillion dollar debt thing. But I sympathize, I really do. You know how it is, some of your friends trust you with their money so you go out, buy a little bit of this, buy a little bit of that and before you know it, you are ten trillion dollars in debt with their money. Happens all the time.

As I have said before, I do not really understand money or how the economy works per se'. But I do know people. And I know how they act when they live their lives knowing that they have a permanent safety net. A safety net in the presence of an ultimate authority who can correct your failures, make them as if they never were. When they don't feel there is any risk in their financial decisions, they begin to act like our friend Tommy Pickles: pushing buttons, taking out loans that can't be paid back, buying homes that are unaffordable. Don't worry, the federal government will cover the cost of all our failures, just like it rescues any innocent bank that needs help. 

But if I were you, I would act now. Pretty soon there might not be any money left for the government to save you with.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Killed the Radio Star

Music is dying.

Every time I watch MTV or pick up a Rolling Stone, I am assaulted with  new facts about falling record sales, corporate record companies being greedy and the problem of digital piracy. The sky is falling, artists will be put on the streets and it is all those damn computers fault. Why bother trying to change marketing policies and strategies when record companies can just complain, then sit at home and pray that the Internet will soon go away.

If you think you know where this post is going, then I regret to tell you that, unless you are unusually perceptive, you are probably wrong. I am not going to be another one of the eight trillion other reasonable voices telling corporate America to start embracing new technology instead of bemoaning it (although that is a very worthy cause). I am simply going to tell the truth about why the music business is struggling and who or what is responsible.

ITunes is not killing the music business. Neither are poor marketing techniques, nor the advent of any other media. We are killing the music business. This holier-than-thou music culture is killing music. The obsession with finding that next new, cool sound is tearing talented existing bands apart. 

To me, there is nowhere that this phenomenon is clearer than the use of one of the most hideously absurd phrases ever. Ever hear of a "Sophomore Slump"? If you follow the music business in any capacity, I am betting you have heard of it. The Sophomore Slump is the idea that a popular music artist or band's second full length album will pale in comparison to the first album. At least that is the industry and culture's concept on the term. My interpretation on any music critic's use of the word Sophomore Slump is this: "This album either sounds the same as the previous album or is way more experimental and subsequently way better but it is not certified platinum like the previous album so I am going to label it with a witty, alliterative phrase invoking a college athletics terminology to explain the fact that consumers are more interested in a shiny new band that just came on the scene." You can see why they went with the phrase "Sophomore Slump"; the actual definition is quite a mouthful! 

Only being 18 years old, I can remember the phenomenon of the Sophomore Slump existing as  far back as 1994. The band, Green Day's, first album, Dookie was by any account: just a damn good time. It revived simple chord structure that the pop music audience had not heard since 1970s British punk. Dookie was the band's first major label debut and as such, it featured ideas and sounds from its entire music-writing and playing existence in the Bay Area. It was a clean, concise record that was the summation of years of experimentation and good ideas. America simply ate the album up. Critics showered it with praise, it won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album and was eventually certified diamond. Then just over a year later, Green Day released its second major studio album, Insomniac. America didn't really care for Insomniac. It didn't sell nearly as much as Dookie, critics lamented the loss of a promising new band and Grammies were nowhere to be found. But you know what? Insomniac was a far superior album in every sense of the word. Having spent all their creative lives on Dookie, there were no stock songs or ideas left for Insomniac. The band simply had to dive into the darkest parts of their creative souls and just spit whatever came out onto paper. The result was darker, more visceral and far more artistically filling than their first effort. It was cute when the punky lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong declared on the first record: "No time for motivation, smoking my inspiration", but it was scary when he snarled on the second album's opening track: "I must insist on being a pessimist. I'm a loner in a claustrophobic mind." And what is good art, if not scary. It should go places we don't expect and be as genuine as possible. 

But we as Americans had moved on. We were done with this particular band, and had moved onto the next big thing, not stopping to think that maybe some of those old dogs were producing new tricks year after year. Since the Green Day example, many other excellent albums have been labeled as Sophomore Slumps. We largely ignored one of the finest alternative albums of the decade, Weezer's Pinkerton, simply because it's powerful riffs and messages of desperation, self-deprecation and mediocrity wasn't quite the same as the poppy surfer punk of Blue Album. We scoffed at The Killers' attempt to be the next Bruce Springsteen with Sam's Town even though it was actually an excellent pop-grungy meditation on American life even though it abandoned the new wave sound of Hot Fuss. We were disappointed by Gnarl's Barkley's Odd Couple because the slow, deliberate songs of pain and sorrow couldn't match "Crazy's" frenetic pace. And time after time after time, these albums have been and will continue to be labeled as Sophomore Slumps. Sometimes the music culture chides artists for doing the same things over again (T.I vs. T.I.P) or  changing the sound of the previous album TOO much (Pretty. Odd.), either way, the artist can't win, they just have to give in to the fickle ways of the machine.

And while this obsession with the "next big thing" isn't unique only to the music biz, it is the harshest instance of it. In the film industry, there is room for a brilliant creative mind like Quentin Tarantino to make a successful gangster movie like Pulp Fiction immediately after making a successful gangster movie like Reservoir Dogs without anyone complaining of a sophomore slump. No one in the literature world abandoned the Harry Potter series when the sequels were either too different or not different enough from The Sorcerer's Stone. And television viewers didn't call the creators of Lost sell-outs when the plot of Season 2 differed from Season 1. Only the culture of music chews up, then spits out talented artists with such regularity. 

They are so regular with it, in fact that I will make a prediction right now with Swami-like certainly. About a year and one month from today, Katy Perry will make another album. The studio will market the record heavily and she will make several public appearances promoting her new work. If it sounds similar to "I Kissed a Girl" in the slightest, critics and audiences alike will tear her limb from limb from not being able from growing as an artist. If the new albums experiments with different sounds and musical ideas, critics and audiences will tear her limb from limb from for deviating from what she does best.

Ahh, the glamorous life of a musician! 

Monday, September 15, 2008

(Political) Partying Like a Rock Star

Somewhere deep inside of me, the dark, depraved aspect of my nature is cackling.

Don't worry; the outcome of the Browns-Steelers game hasn't pushed me over the edge into nihilism (no thanks to Romeo Crennel's baffling decision to kick a field goal and surrender the ball back to the Steelers with 4 minutes left in the game when the Browns needed a touchdown to tie or win the game anyway). The reason for my nefarious awakening has to do with a certain bespectacled Alaskan governor. No, I do not believe Sarah Palin is evil, nor do my eyes glimpse any flashes of red horns beneath that perfectly maintained hair. That little sliver of my darker conscience, rather, has been tickled by one of the single greatest down-and-dirty political moves I have ever seen.

I hold no political persuasion. I align myself with no political party or organization. I simply watch this quaint little game of political "strategery" safely from the sidelines (as I would like to think most Americans do). But every now and then, something happens so deliciously dastardly, so mustache-twirlingly nefarious, so...well, political that I have to stand up, wave a towel and scream as though someone just got posterized at an NBA game. The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate was one of those moments.

Flashback, if you will, to August 28th of this year. America had been curiously watching the Democratic Convention and enduring the awkard (Hillary Clinton), the boring (Joe Biden) and the bizarre (Al Gore), all waiting to hear the much anticipated speech by Barack Obama. And what a speech it was! Even a moderate, pessimistic grump like myself had to appreciate that the young Senator from Illinois knew how to give a speech. It was the nadir of a long, impressive run to the White House from a man who had just entered the Senate years before. His fresh message of change, natural charisma and intriguing life story had made him somewhat of a rock star on the political scene. His popularity was so immense that he won over one of the most prominent political families in U.S history (Kennedys), beat another one in the Democratic primaries (Clintons) and had the American people (and media) so intrigued that Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show routinely lampooned the media's fascination with him. 
Anchors everywhere from CNN to NBC News even had to defend themselves from accusations of bias.

Then the GOP awoke from its slumber. On August 29th, John McCain (or whoever the man or woman behind the curtain of the Republican party is) choice Sarah Palin to be the vice presidential candidate on the party's ticket. And in a move equivalent to flipping over to the cold side of a pillow, America's attention span flip flopped on itself. Suddenly the Democrats weren't the only party who had a demographic changing nominee. I don't mean to suggest that the attention being paid to Sarah Palin is simply because she is a woman; that is only a small part of the equation. We started paying attention to Sarah Palin because she is a cool chick. She sports a charming Midwestern accent, she has the most endearing and intriguing family since the House of Windsor and most importantly: as a governor, she has no congressional voting record to examine or critique. And I didn't even have to mention her personal appearance!

And if you think the GOP backed itself into a corner by choosing someone with limited political experience, making them seem hypocritical when they paint Barack Obama with the same brush, you would only be half-right. Yes, the McCain camp has sacrificed that ability to chastise Obama's supposedly limited experience, but they have gained something else so much more important! They found their first political "rock star" since Ronald Reagan. And as is the case with everything, the press coverage speaks for itself. Sarah Palin has been the leading subject on every news show in the country for weeks, she is on the front of Newsweek, most Americans can probably name all five Palin children sooner than they can name the first five Presidents of the United States and if you don't know what a "hockey mom" is at this point, you probably live in the Earth's inner core.

The Republican Party knew and understood the fact that Americans are fickle creatures with short attention spans. They took that short attention span from Barack Obama and placed it on Sarah Palin. Barack Obama appeared on The O'Reilly Factor two weeks ago. Few heard it. I know I didn't. Aside from a blurb in The New York Times "Caucus" blog and a mention here or there, the media largely ignored it. Why? Sarah Palin made her speech during the Republican National Convention just the day before the interview took place. Later, when Obama made a casual reference to McCain's campaign "putting lipstick on a pig", America took the common, nondescript phrase as a blatant sexist attack against Sarah Palin. 

Putting aside the issues being debated, and the office at stake for a second and simply looking at the cultural and demographical impact, the choice of Sarah Palin is the shrewdest political decision since Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for a third term. And you know what...I love it. I love it because it has added a new dimension to a political season that was shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones ever anyway. I love it because I enjoy all the players in this bizarre show as politicians AND as people. But most of all, I love it because it. is. so. diabolically. POLITICAL. Yes, we have responsibilities as citizens to be well-informed on issues, and yes, sometimes it is sad to see an upsetting political slam ad appealing to the lowest common denominator. But I think it is high time to embrace the nasty, dark, he said-she said side of politics. 
The founding fathers knew this dark side existed through countless years of European political experience. They created a system in which power was restricted through a dilution: sharing of responsibilities, checks of balances, limits, etc. Power has always corrupted, it corrupts today and it will continue to corrupt future generations across all types of political systems...but the pursuit of power is a game. 

So as long as we are aware of this ugly game of politics and its base, selfish, reprehensible nature, why don't we crack a smile when a king is placed in check by a pawn? Preferably a pawn with a pretty smile and nice glasses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Getting Baked..But Not the Way You Think

I now interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a satirical public service announcement.

Teenagers are crazy.

They are crazy, and they are hormonal, and they are constantly on the prowl for the next high. I should know because I am one. Every night I watch my esteemed peers get dressed up (or dressed down in most men's cases), hit the town, partake in their favorite indulgence, then come home to the dorm to either a. puke on themselves, b. puke on their friends, c. puke on strangers, or d. puke on a various array of inanimate objects. It is quite an experience. Unfortunately, being the boring, abstinent scrooge that I am I do not get to join my fellow students in these time-honored traditions. But fear not for me: I am privy to certain information that my peers are not, and that information I intend to share now.

There is a drug, far more powerful than any barbiturate, hallucinogen or depressant that exists. It has existed far before alcohol, far before nicotine, far before marijuana. Your parents have used it, their grandparents have used it and the very first human beings to walk the Earth used it as well! It exists in abundance and is relatively cheap. Give up? This obscure drug I am referring to is: food.

Food is the most potent, exciting and intoxicating substance on the planet. It is also, until the governments of the Earth lose their minds, very, very legal. I have never heard of an experience involving food ever ending badly or being looked back on unfavorably (aside from maybe Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka's factory). 
There are so many things that one does not have to worry about when it comes to food. No one has ever looked back at their High School or College experience and regret that they spent their days in a cheeseburger or burrito induced haze. No one has ever had to undergo an intervention to save them from their salted cashew addiction. No one has ever been busted by the cops in a back alley for pushing tuna-fish sandwiches. No one has over overdosed on pretzel sticks. And no one has ever posted embarrassing pictures on their Facebook under the influence of cucumber slices.

But, however dismissive I seem of my peer's lifestyles, I am not naive. I know that bingeing/smoking/sniffing/drinking/shooting/consuming is not just about the high, it is a social activity. I can only argue that if the social aspect is what is important, than why can't food simply be substituted for the substance in question. 

In most cases the substance, itself, strives to taste like food anyway (and fails miserably). Upon a recent visit to a hookah bar, I perused the available flavors which included: strawberry, blueberry, banana and all types of different blends and combinations. If someone wanted the flavor of a strawberry in his or her mouth, why not just eat the strawberry? Why sit in a dimly lit room, all huddled around a massive device that looks like Dr. Seuss crafted it while on acid, suck on a tube (which is not cleaned when passed from mouth to mouth, by the way) to receive a collection of tobacco and smoke that tastes virtually nothing like the fruit it is supposed to taste like when you could just eat a strawberry. 

I feel that I must be missing something. But still in my mind the equation still comes down to this simple list.
Things that food is:  
1. Tasty
Things that alcohol, hallucinogens, tobacco aren't:
1. Tasty

And if you do a little further research (i.e.- live on a college campus) some more information becomes available.
Side effects of food:
1. Expanding waste-line  

Side effects of alcohol, etc.:
1. Expanding waste-line
2. Disturbingly receding waste-line
3. Bad breath
4. Lots of vomit....lots of it.
5. Nights in jail
6. Nights in girlfriend's doghouse (much worse than 5)
7-2,085,234. Bad decisions
2,085,235. This:

So now that I have unquestionably and effectively ridded the world of all illegal and/or harmful substances, it is time for me to take my leave. 

There is a dime-bag of skittles with my name on it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Too Much News Fit to Print

I have a confession to make. 
I hate newspapers. I hate them. Perhaps I should have taken that into account before pursuing the profession of Journalism but I live my life by a fairly strange philosophy. I would love to tell you, dear reader, what that philosophy entails but I have not quite created it yet. Suffice it to say, I am a Journalism major that hates newspapers, the rarest breed of them all.
Do not get me wrong, I quite enjoy the content in the newspapers, it is just the presentation I can't wrap my head around. First of all, they are too massive. Anyone who has every tried to fold one of these monstrosities into a manageable reading size can certainly empathize with me. If I want to read an article on page 3 in the Arts & Life section about fireflies possibly going extinct (Don't fear for our bright insect friends, or my that article would be in Arts & Life I just made this tidbit up), I have to unfold the ENTIRE 3-6 sectioned paper, choose the section I need, open the page up to number three and then; while making sure that none of the other extraneous pages fall out, fold the paper on itself TWICE over to make sure I have the desired article showing and in a satisfactory size so I don't have to hold both my arms shoulder-length in front of my face for the duration of the article.
Who in their right mind wants to endure that every morning 365 days a year? Not only is the struggle to fold the paper grating but the material is hardly worthy of the content printed on it. I understand that the economical feasibility of producing a large amount of papers is rather limiting (as it is for all industries), but the actual paper used to publish a newspaper on is just gross: gross to the eye, gross to the nose, gross to the touch. If the type of paper newspapers were printed on did not have any type of journalistic content on it, I do not think anyone in their right mind would allow the grimy, recycled compost into their homes...much less place their coffee mug or breakfast plate on it.
Now, childish arguments and bizarre rants aside, I do have some good news to report. I believe I have stumbled upon a newspaper renaissance that may bring me back to the world of Daily Editions. You see, I hail from a suburb of a tiny backwards little town called Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is home to nearly 500,000 good Ohioans and one, count 'em, one newspaper.    Now as a college student, I spend my day in the bustling metropolis of Athens, Ohio which boasts a population upwards of 20,000 people (and probably two people for every farm). And because it is correspondingly huger than the small hick-town of Cleveland, with its professional sports franchises, art museums, county and state government buildings and entire ethnic communities, of course Athens is home to three newspapers.
I think I should say that again for emphasis: 
Cleveland, Ohio=One newspaper.
Athens, Ohio=Three newspapers.
And that is only the beginning. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer is guilty of every aesthetic sin I described above. On any given weekday edition, the PD can feature at least four whole sections which act independently of each other creating a spatial headache for anyone who just wanted to know the score of last night's Indians game. It is just simply too much. I do not, however, have serious qualms with the newspaper's writers or any of the stories they generate...but then again, if there were a better way to present a story, or a different angle, or a more entertaining way of writing it, how would the reader know? The Plain Dealer is the only show in town and there is no one else to say differently.
In Athens, I have finally found three periodicals to work into my daily routine. The three papers in question: The Athens News, The Athens Messenger and The Post all offer different takes and different stories but oftentimes they (very entertainingly) offer different takes on the same story. The Post recently ran a small blurb in the middle of it's September 11th issue about the ongoing renovations and subsequent closure of a dining hall on campus. Near the end of the article, the reporter quietly quoting a worker from another dining hall saying that they have had a little bit more traffic during mealtimes, possibly as a result of a nearby hall being closed. On the other hand, The Athens News September 11th issue features an a giant photograph on the front page of confused Freshman packed into a crowded dining hall with expressions on their faces as if they were in a refugee camp and a headline that boldly states: "FALL QUARTER BRINGS PACKED DINING HALLS" and a smaller headline below it reading: "OU says situation should sort it self out".
Here I am, the responsible reader/citizen/student with two different view points and two takes on the same issue with the opportunity to make my own conclusions (I think I side with the Athens News on this one, by the way). Such an ingenious concept! It is almost like there is an open "marketplace of ideas". Hmm, maybe I should copyright that statement before someone else gets to it.
So where am I going with this? Truth be told, I have no idea. I can only say as a consumer, I know what type of market appeals to me. I prefer to have the option in print media to read different perspectives from a series of different organizations. I also like the presentation of the the small market papers. They are small, both in articles and length and they are free of all the extraneous sections in other papers (fear not, number nerds, they both have room for Sudoku).
As a future member of the media, however, I cannot come down too hard on The Plain Dealer. It is not The Plain Dealer's fault that it is the only rag in town. The newspaper business is suffering and the big city papers are being hit hard. Many urban areas only have access to one or two newspapers as it is.
But if in the future, the overlarge, bloated big city paper continues to struggle and a collection of small town periodicals continue to survive and even flourish, then I hope I can live to a ripe old age reading "Small-town Daily" and enjoying a nice hazelnut coffee downtown.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago

We all know how the pharaohs lived. 

We know many of their names. We know their customs, their glories, their defeats. At any given moment, there is a human being admiring the massive enduring structures built in the pharaohs' honor. In books, in films, online or in person, these structures stand as testaments to one of the most influential and enduring cultures to ever to walk on Earth's soil.

Years from now, whether it be 300 or 300,000, anthropologists will descend upon the ruins of the great American Republic. The sight of out monuments and our buildings and the tributes to our heroes may impress them...but it will not be what they want to learn about. 

They will want to know about us; We, the people, as a wise man once collectively referred to us as. Future generations will want to know who the citizens of the most powerful nation at the turn of the turn of the second millennium were. How they lived their daily lives, how they dealt with the surreality of the world around them, how they participated in the Great American Experiment.

Thankfully, unlike our Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Ancient Chinese counterparts, the second millennium Americans now possess the technology and the wherewithal to publish and record their history, their impressions and beliefs on the political and cultural backdrop of their nation. The mass media has now given us the chance that maybe, just maybe our words can endure forever.

So that brings me here. Welcome, Planet Earth, to my little corner of the internet. I hope you enjoy your stay. I am an American and I am an active part of the Western culture that those curious anthropologists will be so damn interested in one day. 
I am an 18 year old student of the E.W Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. The goal of this blog is not to rave and it is not to rant. The goal of this blog is to add one more voice (albeit a quiet one) to the world's collective unconscious: the mass media. Carl Jung once theorized that we all draw from a pool of universal symbols and ideas deep in the dark corners of our minds that allows every human being on planet Earth to share in the same experiences. Now psychologically, philosophically and biologically speaking I am sure this idea is as wildly wrong as it is interesting and intriguing. But I believe technology and the journalistic spirit to share information and offer analysis has connected us in a way that would shock even Mr. Jung, himself.

Case in point: today. The date of my first post of this blog is very deliberate. September 11th. Seven years ago, every man, woman and child in the world experienced something huge and every man, woman and child experienced something huge together. We all watched, listened read and felt together the events of that day. We heard the panicked cries of innocents in the streets on radio broadcasts, watched the never-ending coverage of tragedy of television and read about heroics, motivations and the stark finality and pain of death in newspapers, magazines and online articles. I myself, wrote a poem. The quality and content of said poem is not significant, but what is is the significance. That poem made me realize that we all have a stake in the world around us. And that we all have the means and the mediums to express ourselves, offer our perspectives and provide others with new information.

This day seven years ago all put our lives on different paths. My path was to invest myself in harboring my writing, reporting and explaining to provide future generations with information and ideas. To be a citizen. To be a writer. To be a journalist.

Henceforth, I will offer my perspective on this crazy American life we all live. I will write about the media, the American political machine, entertainment, sports and maybe even a humorous anecdote or two about college life. 

I encourage everyone to enjoy the rest of their day, reflect on the events that changed all our lives and of course, stop by again sometime to read a different perspective on all the subjects that concern us as a society...but hopefully with more jokes next time.