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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."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Morning Links pt. 11

As a staunch Harry Potter-head it was hard for me to figure out what to make of this little Twilight phenomenon.

Part of me wanted to embrace it: "Look! Here is other fiction that deals with supernatural elements!" And part of me wanted to shun it: "Look! Here is other supernatural fiction that will compete with Harry Potter for attention!"

Ultimately, I came down on the side of ignorance. I largely left the books alone and resolved to never read one word. Being the entertainment junky that I am though, I did manage to glean some information about this vampiric series (enough information to inadvertently spoil a crucial plot point in book 3 for my girlfriend, apparently). It sounded decent, but not really for me.

Then came a boring Saturday night with nothing to do. You know how the rest plays out.... "let's go to the movies!" So I packed the girlfriend, friends and brother into the ol' Jeep and went on my merry way to the nearest Cinemark. Said girlfriend had already seen Twilight and said it was an unmitigated disaster, which naturally meant I had to see it.

While I have now seen it. Annnnnnnnnnnddddd.........

It's actually pretty good.

Having never read the books, I got the unique experience of being the only one in the theater who didn't know how it was all going to end (although one wouldn't have to think long to guess it). It certainly doesn't come close to Harry Potter in my eyes, but then again, I don't think it really wants to. It is a relatively "small" picture. It had a small budget, a small running time (for the huge tome it was adapted from anyway, and a release date that is traditionally associated with small-scale films. 

Twilight told a fairly entertaining, if original, story and told it pretty well. The lead actors completely sold me and thanks to their charm, I never really fell out of the loop or was disinterested in the outcome of the plot. Aside from a few hiccups and an awkwardly accelerated ending, I dug the thing.

S0 there you have it, now here are your Links:

- You know what really blows? This. 

- Gamblers beware, the National Football League is now the Wild West. There is no home-field advantage anymore. And that is not a good thing.

- I can't tell if this is good news or bad news but I know it certainly gives me a chuckle.

- Need anymore proof that the War on Terror is an absolute success? Girl-bands.

- And finally, one of the web's best bloggers treats us to one of his earlier, very special posts in the tradition of giving thanks.

Well that's all for today. I have to go read Deathly Hallows to atone for my sins.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An American Nightmare

There are very few things in life that make me sublimely happy.

Indians games at Progressive Field, buying the latest DVD of my current TV obsession, blizzards that give me a reason to stay inside and get fat; these are a few of those things. But there is one sight that will make me so deliriously happy that it puts my heart in danger of exploding. That sight is a marathon of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America.

I don't know what it is about this show but if one of my loved ones passed out in front of me during Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, I sincerely think that I would wait until the program was finished  before I drove them to the hospital. I know I have always liked British people, good food and explosive anger (not necessarily in that order), but who knew that when combined those three aspects would create one of the most compulsively watchable TV shows ever.

To those of you who are unfamiliar with the brilliance of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, or worse, only know the fiery British chef Ramsay from his Hell's Kitchen reality competition on FOX, let me explain what you are missing. Gordon Ramsay is a cranky man, but Gordon Ramsay also happens to be one of Britain's most talented and popular chefs. In Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay uses his food expertise and his knowledge of the business aspect of running a successful restaurant to save struggling British restaurants from bankruptcy and failure. Inevitably, the restaurant owners are unsure of Ramsay's advice at first and their pride clashes with the ornery chef's ego. But usually, they have given in to Ramsay's ways by the end of the episode. And when they don't....well, that's just good TV. Gordon, himself, serves as our narrator through the whole ordeal, informing the audience of just where these overzealous cooks and businesspeople are going on. 

The program is brilliant in its simple format and structure. And the presence of Ramsay as a grumpy, yet life lesson delivering Mr. Kotter elevates the proceedings to must-see levels. In short, it is the one sure-fire reality program that cannot be messed up or ruined. 

Or so I thought.

The United States of America has raped Gordon Ramsay and his brilliant BBC show. The show entitled Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on the FOX network is not Kitchen Nightmares at all. FOX should have called it: "FOX tearing apart everything you hold dear." "FOX exploiting fresh British talent and programs like the British used to exploit its colonies" "FOX being a network full of dumbasses", or my personal favorite "FOX, stop doing this to Gordon, Oh God, please stop now." 

I am not very happy with FOX's incarnation of Kitchen Nightmares. Remember all those things I described above about why I liked the show? Well, they're all gone. Gordon Ramsay still goes to failing restaurants and still attempts to rescue them from misfortune, but the soul of the show is simply gone. Instead of the real men and women that populated the BBC program, their is a virtual cadre of idiotic tools who would not seem out of place on the next season of The Real World or Big Brother, and who all happen to be quite young and quite photogenic. Gone is the quirky British soundtrack that was used so sparingly, and it its place is a constant symphony of ominous music that attempts to "build the drama" when drama just isn't there to build. And then there's the narrator. Instead of having Ramsay describe his practices for himself, there is a smooth toned American narrating the proceedings who sounds like the jock that used to beat you up in High School and can only say things like "the customers are upset," "the kitchen is moving to slow," "Gordon is going to try to fix things pretty soon."

It isn't Kitchen Nightmares. It is a Cribbs Notes version of what Kitchen Nightmares used to be, only with obviously replicated drama replacing genuine human drama. It is a travesty so severe, that I think I may not even watch 24 this year just to teach FOX a lesson. 

I usually am not the type of person who bemoans the supposed dumbing down of American culture. I am traditionally of the opinion that Americans are just as smart as they have ever been and the presence of a few idiotic shows are nothing to worry about. But FOX's handling of this show's (former) brilliance may cause me to rethink my cheery proposition about American life.

Hell, it may even make me rethink that "tea party" we Americans threw a few years back.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

Here is what I am thankful for this year:
  • Friends.
  • Family
  • All that other crap
  • Cats
  • Milky Way bars
  • The one pair of jeans that survived the first quarter
  • LeBron James and the Witness Mo Boobie era in Cleveland basketball
  • Saturday Night Live's election coverage
  • My re-discovery of Pokemon Diamond's brilliance
  • My sanity
  • The significantly above-average summer movie season
  • Super Bowl XLII
  • Finding Arcade Fire's Neon Bible on my iPod.
  • Blogging (the definition of "mixed blessing")
  • Tony Gonzalez and Greg Jennings saving my Fantasy Football season
  • Not having to work
  • Jesse Jackson's earnest reaction to Barack Obama's victory
  • Jesse Jackson saying a few months earlier that he wanted to "cut (Barack's) nuts off."
  • Discovering BBC America
  • My subscription to Time
  • Figuring out how to use my Macbook
  • Cliff Lee's Cy Young
That's all. Now go eat some damn turkey!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Radio Somewhere

As I sit here at my kitchen table and watch the snow gently falling onto the already white landscape outside, I can't help but think: it's good to be home.

Don't worry, I am not going to get sappy on the particulars of my home-life, nor am I going to reveal that I have finally run out of things to write about by talking about the weather. Instead I would like to let you in on the one thing I missed most about this home of mine. It isn't the family, it isn't the friends, it isn't the cats, it isn't the town and it certainly isn't the weather. It is the that classic old timey medium: the radio.

I didn't have a car down on campus. Not a big deal for me, I am not really a car nerd, nor do I really care for driving that much. But little did I know that without the car, I would be without the most communal and immediate of all auditory media. And I must say, you don't realize how much you rely on something until its gone. Judging at my reaction upon coming home to a car and its radio, the radio must be the most basic tool of human existence. 

When I turned on my car for the first time in months and heard the staccato sounds of local sports-talkers, I nearly dissolved into ecstatic tears. I have been driving for a little over two and a half years now and I have found that driving opens up all kinds of doors for you. There is the obvious opportunity of being able to go where you want, when you want. But the radio in that car opens up a different, far more subtle door. 

The car-radio is the door of community. I have lived in Northeast Ohio for 8 years and it wasn't until year 6, when I discovered AM talk radio that I actually became a part of Northeast Ohio. As communities get larger and geographic areas are widened, it becomes harder for the idea of a "community" to exist. So how do we stay together in this day and age? Naturally, and because this is a media-centric blog, the answer is the media. 

Now, the newspapers did their part, and so did television. And the internet has democratized communication across the globe. But when it comes to drawing community lines and keeping everyone in the loop and everyone talking about the same subjects, no media can hold a candle to the radio. 

When I got home, I couldn't wait to visit some of my oldest friends. Tony Rizzo, Mark "Munch" Bishop, Greg Brinda, Bob Frantz, Andre Nott, Mike Trivisano. I have spent countless hours listening to these men, commiserating about the state of the Browns and talking about community issues. I don't always agree with all of them and some of them are just outright dicks. But regardless of their vocal performance or political views, they are a part of home. And they are the voices that represent a community.

Take WTAM 1100s Mike Trivisano for instance. Triv is an obese cranky old bastard with a Midwestern accent who is in constant disagreement with all elected officials. Sounds a hell of a lot like Greater Cleveland to me. For better or worse, radio personalities reflect the times and populations that created them. Plus, they are just absurdly entertaining. I don't know if I would ever even drive if I didn't know whether Bob Frantz was going to be there in the morning to complain about Democrats in the state Senate in the morning or whether Munch was going to be there in the afternoon, trying to reassure us that LeBron won't leave town in 2010. These guys are there for the city.

There is a time, however, everyday where the radio is a barren wasteland. 12:00-3:00 in the afternoon; I like to call this Radio Dead Time. That is when the national "personalities" begin to harsh my local buzz. Rush Limbaugh is no more cranky, biased or cantankerous than he other radio show hosts, but he just isn't fun when he can't relate to the viewer on a local level. He is all drag and no fun. He can't follow up a segment about how Nancy Pelosi is a succubus with a funny quip about an experience in a famous Cleveland bar, or a story about local politics in Shaker Heights. And the only other option is Jim Rome: he of the 15 second pauses between sentences, the nauseatingly repetitive soundboards, and the stale decades old in-jokes that are still funny for about only 9 or 10 people. It's enough to make one switch over to the CD changer or (gulp) FM radio.

No, radio is a local medium, my friends and that is the way it always should be. If you don't believe me, try turning off your radio for a week and see how much of an outcast you feel. Or maybe you can just talk to people in your city to glean information and a sense of community like a normal person.

But for me, all I can say is: it's good to be home

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet the Economists!

Note: The Collective(ly) Unconscious has unearthed this secret document in which President-elect Barack Obama develops an idea for a TV show. It is our understanding that he pitched the show to executives at FOX earlier in the year. They declined to purchase the pilot.

Imagine this, if you will. 

The world's economy is crumbling apart and falling to pieces. Housing markets have crashed and governments are beginning to buy out banks so they can try to stabilize the economy in any way they can. Fear grips the globe as families struggle to make a living and fear a future where their hard-earned capital will mean nothing.

Then a man steps forward from masses; a man elected by America to save the world. He has a mere two months to find and develop an eclectic band of heroes whose only mission is to save the economy. Their name is "The Economists" and they must join together to accomplish their goals and to accomplish their mission.

This is how I see the whole thing going down. The show will borrow its name from its heroes' and be called "The Economists" or "The Adventures of the Economists" or something like that. It will be an hour long adventure program in which a crisis is arisen and The Economists have to come in to save the day. Of course, each season will feature a story arc of an ongoing crisis to be resolved in the season finale. If picked up, the first season's story arc will be the threat of the credit crisis. The show will also have some humor, derived from the Economists cantankerous banter and familial-like relationships with one another. Think House, only with more than one funny character. Speaking of characters, the four Economists will be the back bone of the show.
Timothy F. Geithner (T.G for short) is the leader of The Economists and the closest thing the show has to a main character. He is a smart man with a sharp wit. His background will be in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is happy with his job, but the President's invitation to be Treasury Secretary and the itch to go leave his quiet life for more adventures prove too much for him not to join The Economists. Throughout the course of the show, Geithner's optimism and abilities will be sorely tested, but he will be saved by his close relationships with the rest of his team. I see a heroic-looking Anglo American actor portraying Geithner. I see Adrian Pasdar or Skeet Ulrich in the part.

Melody Barnes offers an interesting component to the Economists chemistry. As the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, she often clashes with Tim Geithner over the budget that The Economists must work under. This constant clashing can also be due to Melody and Tim's ongoing sexual tension. She is also a stone cold fox. Some of her most noticeable characteristics are her intelligence, nobility and compassion for the little guy. Someone with an exotic look like Catherine Zeta Jones should play her, but they have to be able to express a certain depth.

Christina Romer is second in command to Tim. She is the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. She has the muscle and experience that the team needs to effectively combat the problems they face. She is the wily veteran of The Economists. I also have a feeling that she could play in a big role in the past of this show. Maybe she helped to combat the 1970s economic downturn with Tim Geithner's dad, Peter. She saw how much fighting the economy-monster destroyed Peter inside and is now trying to prevent Tim from falling into that same fate. If you were to hire a big-name actor to fill any role, this would be the one. I see someone with all the grace of Helen Mirren, only decidedly less British.

Finally, there is Lawrence "Larry" Summers. Larry is the gregarious National Economic Council director. He spent the last few years as President of Harvard and is looking to get out of that stuffy atmosphere for and adventure with his old friend, Tim Geithner. Larry is a large, jolly man that traditionally plays the role of comic relief and always has a wisecrack after The Economists escape certain doom. But for all his comic sensibility, Larry Summers is still an integral part of The Economists and is steadfast in their struggle against the economy. The casting for this is really wide open. I just imagine hiring the funniest and most natural man that we can.

So that's the show. I think we can shoot a good, solid pilot that introduces all the plot-lines for a potential season and offers plenty of laughs and action in about three weeks and for about $5 million to $10 million, depending on actor's salaries. I thank you for your time and await your decision regarding the pilot.

I would like to wrap up by simply saying, America is ready for a show like "The Economists."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Morning Links pt. 10

There's no place like home.

Oh, Twinsburg, how I've missed you! I have had a few hometowns in my day, but you, Burg, you take the cake. I promise I will go for more walks, talk to more human beings in person (provided they are Twinsburgian) and frequent your many splendid restaurants and attractions.

The show will now go on, albeit from a different home-base. Just know that your resident blogger will be writing from a 44087 area code for six weeks and not a 45701. I can't imagine that changing the content of the blog much more (aside from making the tone far more cheery, optimistic and humane). I rarely blog about local Athens issues anyway, unless something in The Post or Athens News catches my eye. Maybe you will even see a blog or two about uniquely Northeast Ohio issues or events.

So keep reading and check out the Sunday Morning Links. I will be rolling around on my front lawn, kissing the beautiful Northeast Ohio soil.

- Here is an splendidly entertaining article about one of the more bizarre "sports" ever. And yes, I just used "splendidly" in a sentence.

- Entertainment Weekly gives you an early Christmas present: a list of the Top 25 Entertainers of the Year. I must say, #1 wasn't necessarily a surprise.

- James Berardinelli, the best film critic you don't know exists, argues for a fairly dramatic decision regarding a sequel to a certain film that may or may not have starred a Welshman dressed as a bat. 

- From the "This is what Hell must be like" department is this horrific medical affliction. Can you imagine the tragedy of only being able to recognize Sean Connery's rough Scottish brogue?

- And finally, Entertainment Weekly tracks down a certain anonymous celebrity that you are definitely going to want to read about. 

That's all, readers. Enjoy home!

Friday, November 21, 2008

That's All, Folks!

I should be furious right now.

I should be starting a petition, picking up a pitchfork and catching a Red-eye to Los Angeles. I should be attempting to burn down every building, set and studio that the Warner Brothers corporation owns. I should be out for vengeance and not rest until the I am holding Bugs Bunny's life-less head and am covered in CEO Alan Horn's blood.

Maybe I should backtrack a little bit.

I am a Harry Potter fan. Like... a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I pride myself in knowing everything there is to know about the book series. I am a frequent visitor of I listen to The Leaky Cauldron's Pottercast. I have a Wizard Rock band's website saved on my web browser. What's Chapter 12 of The Deathly Hallows called, you ask? Magic is Might, in which Harry, Ron and Hermione infiltrate the Voldemort-controlled Ministy of Magic Headquarters. I'm THAT kind of fan.

Anyway, the sixth installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was originally scheduled to be released this very day. Right now, I would have been in bed, my brain happily swimming with images of the film that I had just seen at a midnight showing. But it didn't quite work out that way. Alan Horn and the decision-makers at Warner Brothers decided to push the film back about eight months to July 17th, 2009. In a press release they said that due to the Writer's Strike that took place earlier this year, they do not have a viable juggernaut film to earn them kaboodles of money in the summer of 2009. So they decided to push the completed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film back to the summer so they have a proven commodity in the scary box-office days of summer. Also, it doesn't take a genius to realize that thanks to a little film known as The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers has already made more than enough money this year.

In short, Warner Brothers made the smartest financial decision that a corporation can be expected to make. The problem is....folk like me exist; people that are so dedicated to the Harry Potter story that they seriously considered performing some of the atrocities described above.
But the thing is: I am not really mad.

Sure, I am a little peeved. I would much rather be going to see Half-Blood Prince right now than *shudders* Twilight. But I get it. I get that Warner Brothers made a financially sound decision and can't really expected to be handcuffed by rabid fans of literature every time they try to make a business decision. There is something else in play for me as well.

As far as I am concerned, the Warner Brothers film division has earned at least a decade's long pardon. Meaning that Warner Brothers can do whatever it wants for the next ten years and I won't raise a stink. Want my first born, Warner Brothers? It's yours! Killed my dog, Warner Brothers? No biggie; I will get a new one. Wanna remake Giligan's Island as a serious science fiction trilogy written by George Lucas? I'll buy some tickets now.

Whatever Warner Brothers wants, Warner Brothers gets. Why is that? Because Warner Brothers let The Dark Knight happen.

To those who don't know much about the entertainment industry, let me explain to you how much of a miracle The Dark Knight is. 99% of movie-making is business. Movie studios greenlight movies that make money. And movies that make money aren't always necessarily good. Movies that make money are movies that appeal to a demographic, that teenagers will go see on a Friday night, or parents will go see when the get the money to buy a babysitter, or toddlers will want to see when a poster has bright colors and fuzzy animals. Movies like The Dark Knight don't happen, they just don't. But Warner Brothers found the stones somewhere to let this film see the light of day.

Warner Brothers released this film with its two and a half hour running time, a psychotic clown killing indiscriminately, acts of terrorism, complex moral issues, a man with a dissociative identity and only half a face and a vigilante that struggles to uphold law against an agent of chaos. Not only did Warner Brothers movie let this movie be released, they gave complete creative control to a brilliant, yet dangerous artistic mind (Director Christopher Nolan), sunk over $200 million into his dark vision and mounted one of the most creative and successful marketing campaign of all time.

Do you have any idea how dangerous that is, financially speaking? Who gives $200 million to an artist to make a dark masterpiece that possesses the potential to alienate every single audience demographic in America? Warner Brothers did. And keep in mind, that they didn't have only their own image to protect, they had the image of Batman to protect as well. Batman has to sell: action figures, lunchboxes, Happy Meal toys, pajamas, videogames, comic books, cartoon VHS tapes and DVDs and other memorabilia. Warner Brothers had a billion dollar industry to protect and it gave the reigns to an artist: the most volatile and unpredictable of all God's creatures.

And surely, you know how it ended. Warner Brothers now owns the second highest grossing film of all-time, near-universal critical praise and potentially Oscar gold. Warner Brothers made the riskiest decision it possibly could have made. It trusted an artist over economics.

So no, I am not mad at Warner Brothers. And yes, I will wait eight more months to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Because I can stand eight more months of no Harry Potter.

But I can't stand countless more years of pre-packaged, by the numbers, "safe" movies.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We Can't Say "Carson's a Tool" Anymore, Can We?

So....MTV's Total Request Live is done.

I am betting none of you woke up the morning of the 17th, eyes red from crying and the whiskey you used to drown your sorrows on your breath. TRL finished its ten year run on Sunday night with the reappearance of Carson Daly and a few live shows on (the probably now relieved) Times Square. From what I saw, the ceremonies were heartfelt and MTV certainly let the show go out with a bang.

Now, I hate to be the guy who trivializes ten years of a variety program that many professionals put their blood, sweat and tears into by saying "what's the point", but.....

What's the point?

Or what was the point, I should say. I don't remember TRL as a cultural phenomenon as some undoubtedly do. I remember TRL as something ubiquitous, something that was always there. You know, like Herpes. 

I remember one day, on the bus home, one of the "older kids" asked if I had seen Korn's new music video. I said no, of course. All I watched was Nickelodeon. He scoffed at my immaturity and told me how, as Korn performed (I had no idea who "Corn" was by the way), a bullet ricocheted through a series of mirrors and glass. Having no idea what a "music video" was, I imagined a few Eric Claptony-looking gentlemen on a stage performing a soft rock song live as a bullet flew dangerously among them. To this day, I have never seen this Korn video and I hope I never do; the image in my head is better.

Anyway, I assured the older kid I would watch MTV, the source of this "video". I then undoubtedly sunk back in my seat and wept and peed my pants simultaneously (older kids are scary). That was my introduction to MTV and conversely, Total Request Live. So as long as I have watched any television channel besides Nickelodeon, TRL has been on TV. Meaning that TRL has been on forever.

I never quite forged a concrete relationship with the now-dead show. I don't know what things were like in the rest of the country, but my classmates perception of TRL was wildly inconsistent. Depending on who you asked and when, TRL was either as cool as smoking tobacco, talking back to your mom and beating up nerds or it was "just totally gay, bro." Not wanting to step in line with either way of thought, I just ignored TRL for a decade. 

TRL has a reputation of being the "it" thing for a whole generation that I don't quite think is fair. At a certain point in the early 2000s, if you asked an older gentleman or lady what interested the young folks of the time, "That MTV show where they count backwards from ten", would be one of their answers. I think that is what baby boomers thought and what MTV told to advertisers, but I don't think that was the case. Some people at home watched and enjoyed TRL, and the psychotic crowd present at the TRL studio certainly enjoyed it, but I don't think very many other people did. I personally don't remember any of my friends getting excited on the way home from school to see Carson Daly sleep through an interview with Usher, then reveal the latest #1 video. Then again, if people like that existed, we probably wouldn't have been friends.

TRL certainly was a  bold venture though: re-capture some of the old American Bandstand glory, with Carson Daly in place of Dick Clark. It worked during the Boy Band years, with a whole legion of hormonal teenage girls tracking every move of the Backstreet Boys, N'SYNC, 98 Degrees and LFO (most badass boy band ever. If such a declaration is possible). But when the Boy Bands went away, so should have TRL. TRL didn't, however. Instead, it spent the second half of its life trying to recapture the supposed excitement and glory of its first half and never did.

So, I will not mourn TRL because it was not a quality program. But I cannot say it won't be weird that it is gone. I never watched it, but I took some bizarre solace in the fact that it was there. Maybe I identified it with the beginning of my adolescence, and now that the end of it coincides with my entering college it is making me nostalgic.

Maybe that is "the point." Maybe regardless of how much something sucks, regardless of how inane a supposed piece of "entertainment" is, regardless of how many minds it turns to gray pudding, regardless of how many idiotic "pop stars" it turns into gods, we will still miss something a show that was just always there.

You know what, I may have just talked myself out of that.

Good Riddance, TRL. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beating Around the Bush

Watching TV the other day, I was drawn to some curious creature.

He was what looked to be a Caucasian male, although something wasn't quite right. His eyes reflected the deepest sadness and defeat the world has ever seen. He looked deflated, diminished; beaten down to the ground. An interviewer was asking him questions and he was answering them with forced personable tones. The text below this sad being read George W. Bush. 

The President? Surely, this shell of a man couldn't be the most powerful person in the world. But alas, it was. As I turned the volume up, the interviewer asked this soon-departing President if there was a moment he regrets about his Presidency.

Eight years ago, George W. Bush wouldn't have answered this question. As a matter of fact, eight years ago George W. Bush didn't answer this question; as witnessed in a a scene that is recreated word for word in Oliver Stone's film W. (for the record, I haven't seen the movie). When asked during a press conference if he had made any mistakes, Bush stumbled over his words for a bit and then said that he was sure he had but he couldn't remember any of them. That forgetfulness stands in stark contrast to what Bush said this day.

"I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said," Bush said without missing a beat.
"Bring 'em on."
"Dead or Alive."
"Mission accomplished."


It is such a blessing in this country that we have term limits. I don't mean to criticize Bush and say that it is a blessing that he is out of office (although and the majority of the electorate are fairly happy he is, myself included). I am merely trying to say that it is so refreshing to see when politicians come back to life. 

For eight years, George W. Bush the person was essentially dead. George the politician, George the Party loyalist and George the President were the only George-es we saw. And let me tell you: they were a drag. In the most technologically advanced media age of all-time, a day of instant access and no barriers, we may have had one of the most secretive, guarded, private and perhaps, dishonest President ever. Bush was elusive; rarely granting interviews, generating cryptic press releases and spending an inordinate amount of time on his Texas ranch. 

George the President made controversial decisions and made them in private. The public was allowed very little information regarding the War in Iraq: the reasons for invading, the progress of the invasion and the objectives we hoped to achieve by invading. George the President was simply the man who lived in that White House, doors securely closed, taking consul from shadowy GOP operatives. Some began to use Orwellian imagery to describe his regime and he showed shockingly little self awareness, even as his poll numbers dropped to record lows. 

But that George is dead.

And we are now left with the new George; the George that is for all intents and purposes: done. President Bush only has two months and one day left in office. It is in these two months and one day that George W. Bush can finally show the country just who he is. He can finally show us how he feels and what he would have done differently in his Presidency. History hasn't quite yet had the final word on him yet, but it has already said quite a bit. In broad-strokes, we can all concur that he was an unpopular President in a difficult era who started a war that we can't quite fathom the reasons for to this day.

 But in these two months and one day Bush has a chance for some slight redemption. I am not demanding, like others, that Bush make an apology. I am merely asking that he show the same honesty and candor for that he did in that interview. In these two months and one day, Bush can go a long way in convincing the United States that he is not an idiot and that some of his decisions had a rhyme or reason. Or in these two months and one day, Bush can acknowledge that he had no master plan and was not prepared for the Presidency. He can use these last two months and one day however he sees fit as long as he uses them to finally tell this country how he feels and what he really thinks is the right course of action and not what those shadowy GOP soothsayers tell him to think. I for one, hope that he uses his last days in office to reaffirm to us all that we are moving into a new age of bipartisanship and tearing the old model of "red vs. blue at all costs" down. 

Power is restrictive. You cannot always say what you want to say for fear that those fickle publics will take that power away. You cannot always do what you want to do for fear of alienating those who gave you that intoxicating power in the first place. And you can NEVER be the person you were before because the person you were before was human, imperfect and power is reserved for only the strong and the flawless. But now George W. Bush is free from the burden of the Office.

So it is time to bury George the President and finally hear from George the Person.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bojay's Baseball Blog Sneak Peek

This blog was originally intended to be strictly a media-culture-politics-entertainment blog. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I have been unable to keep my baseball nerd-ness from seeping through. So, to indulge my love of baseball and to uphold the original intentions of The Collective(ly) Unconscious, I will be starting a weekly Baseball blog. Every Saturday, curious sports fans can visit to see yours truly's thoughts on Major League Baseball. Sometimes it will be an essay-like format describing an overarching issue in baseball, sometimes it will be a recap of the weeks events and sometimes it will be a prediction for the game's future. In December, however, I will commenting on all the Hot Stove action, and then starting in February I will be undertaking the most complete, in-depth and all-encompassing 2009 MLB preview you will probably ever find on the Internet.

Don't worry about remembering the web address,  On December 6th, I will be putting up a link to Bojay's Baseball Blog (hugs to anyone who begins calling it "The Triple B") on The Collective(ly) Unconscious. So be patient baseball fans, here is a sneak peak at what you can look forward to for December. And non-baseball fans: give me a break, it is Finals week and I am clearly running on creative fumes.

I used to like the Tampa Bay Rays.

Of late I have been finding it difficult, however. Don't worry, St. Pete, the Rays have done me no wrong. They didn't call me fat, or scuff my shoes, or forget to RSVP to my birthday party. No, the Rays have committed a far more insidious sin: they started winning.

I remember buying tickets to Indians-Devil Rays games every year. The Rays were so bad that tickets were always easy to come by. Even die-hard Tribe fans had a hard time watching the slaughter on a Summer afternoon. I have seen CC Sabathia shut out Tampa's team over 7 innings, Julio Lugo miss a foul-ball because a fan yelled "I got it" and Ben Francisco drive a dagger into Tampa's hearts with a 9th-inning, game-winning shot to deep left-field.  And with all this failure, all this never-ending mediocrity I grew to love the little guys from the South.

I saw them in person every year, I watched them on TV whenever I could (which was not very often) and I even considered buying a Carl Crawford jersey for awhile. Why was I so obsessed with these Devil Rays? Because there is nothing so inherently charming as an awful baseball team.

Baseball is a game of ubiquity. Every summer, young men in dapper jerseys take the field to play America's game every day. And every summer, a city develops a unique relationship with these Boys of Summer. It is an easy game to understand and an easy game to critique. A fielder stands alone in the field, no one else to cover him and when he makes an error, it is obvious. Likewise, when a batter flails at a curveball for strike three, his failure is obvious. It is easy for baseball fans to see what is wrong when they look up at the scoreboard and see a collection of .212s, .243s, .198s and .222s. When a baseball team sucks, it is obvious that it does.

And that is what I love about the game. I love the idea about wage-labor drones sitting at the local sport's bar and bitching about how their teams' clean-up hitter only has 47 RBI, how the bullpen can't hold a lead to save its life and how the shortstop is 20 pounds overweight and can't get the ball to his right. That, my friends, is baseball: A community growing closer by bitching about the overpaid jerks losing games. There is nothing that brings a city closer together than a bad baseball team. City's with bad baseball teams even develop a short-hand way to communicate with each other.

In New York, citizens look at each other, shake their heads in disgust and say: "Fricking Mets."
In Chicago, citizens look at each other, shake their heads in disgust and say: "Fricking Cubs."
And here in Cleveland, there is an age-old saying that goes: "Fricking Tribe."

Even cities that are home to exemplary teams try to find something to complain about. In 2007, after the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, fans were far more likely to say "Fricking Gagne almost blew it", than "I am so happy the Red Sox pulled it off again!" This type of close relationship between fans and the players they love to hate so much is uniquely baseball. You can't find this type of self-flagellation in any other sport. 

So, that is why the Rays are dead to me. They went from being that cute little team that you could always watch flail around but always fall short, to the juggernaut that took no prisoners. And let me tell you, there is nothing cute about juggernauts flattening everyone in their path. But don't worry, Tampa and St. Pete, now that the Rays have finally earned your attention they will tear your heart out somewhere down the road. It is just the way baseball works and there is an entire legion of fans that loves the sport for it.

That actually reminds me of something I have been wanting to say since the Indians season ended in September.

"Fricking Tribe."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Morning Links pt. 9

You know those weeks that make you feel like your testicles are in a meat grinder?

This week will be one of those weeks. 

Finals first finals week of college. Honestly, I have no idea how it will go. Could be easy as hell. Could be...well, refer to the testicular meat grinder comment above. 

Point is: I don't know how regular my blog entries will be in the coming week. I have two tests on Monday, One test EARLY in the morning on Wednesday and a test on Friday afternoon. I already have a blog on deck for Monday, so that should be no problem. I have all of Wednesday after 9:00 to study and can probably find an hour in there for a Wednesday blog. Thursday is an important study day but I can hopefully churn one out anyway. That leaves Friday.

I have a Precision Language exam at 10, and my girlfriend's mother will be in Athens to pick us up and take us home at noon. I will be home around 4. Now all that begs the question: will there be a blog entry on Friday? Answer: I have no idea. I know the 3 or 4 regular readers of this blog probably don't care one way or the other...and in the big scheme of things, a missed blog entry by an 18-year old college student really does not matter. But the idea of missing a Friday blog entry gives me the willies. This has been a real endurance test to me to see if I can maintain consistency. Since I set down The Laws of the Blog about two months ago, I have done what I said I'd do: blog entries every day but Tuesday and Saturday. And I don't really like the idea of breaking that model just yet.

This also brings up the issue of my change in address. I will be going home next Friday and will be in my hometown through Christmas break. I do plan to work when I can but other than that, I don't have any grand plans that would preclude me from keeping my Monday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Sunday paradigm. That may change but for now expect the same format for the rest of my natural life.

Also, on the subject of overworking myself (I know, nobody asked)....I will be starting a new endeavor, coming to an internet near you in December. Read this Monday's blog for the announcement. 

Now, with all that nonsense out of the way, here are your (All Presidential) Sunday Morning Links!

- Think baseball stats are for punks? Baseball statician Nate Silver correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election using statistical knowledge gleaned from his baseball days......8 months ago.

- And the award for awkward meeting of the week goes to.....

- Here is the best article regarding Barack Obama's win that I have read.

- Entertainment Weekly asks the question that is on everyone's mind: is America ready to laugh at a black President?

- And finally, Bill Simmons explains what he would do as "Sports Czar" in an Obama cabinet.

Well there you have it. Enjoy your week...because somebody has to.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's All in the Game

I know I am very late on this but...

I have been watching (obsessing over) HBO's The Wire lately. Don't bother looking for it on your television, the show's fifth and final season wrapped up March of this year. The Wire was a show that I always wanted to watch  but never had the time or HBO access to. Finally, now that the show is over, I decided to start watching the show online thinking that "hey, if the show is over, I can't possibly fall any further behind."

Now, the show never won an Emmy but the critical consensus was something along the lines of "this show is so damn good that it puts every other TV show ever recorded to shame and makes you want to claw your eyes out in its brilliance." After finishing the first season I can safely say that yes, in fact, this show is so damn good that it puts every other TV show ever recorded to shame and makes you want to claw your eyes out in its brilliance. It is just the classic old story of "cops and robbers" only with a special unit of the Baltimore PD equipped with wire-tap technology trying to bring a drug dealer known as Avon Barksdale and the rest of his organization to justice. With such a simple concept, why is the show so superb?

Well, realism, for one. I have never lived in the projects of Baltimore, selling drugs to make a living, but if I had I imagine my experiences would pretty much mirror those of the show's characters. The Wire is dedicated to sober realism more than any other piece of art I have ever seen (including most documentaries). The actors don't look like actors at all: they look like working class soldiers and political bureaucrats who just happen to have their lives being filmed. It is the truth, nothing but the whole truth, so help them God. And it is in this super-realistic environment that The Wire tells what it wants us to know: we are slaves to institution.

This is a powerful, controversial notion and one that I have struggled with for a long time. Not only does power corrupt, but so do rules, and organization and bureaucracy. Many times in The Wire the police are just as evil and backwards as the drug lords they hunt. Office politics don't just hinder a drug investigation, they make the objective search for truth and justice an impossible achievement. Similarly, individuals in the drug trade are all slaves to their violent drug-running lifestyle that they perversely refer to as "the game." In "the game", you may not want to murder your best friend in cold blood, you may not want to spend 20 years in jail for a cause you don't believe in, and you may not want to turn your community into a degenerate population of hopeless addicts but the organization insists that you must. It is just all part of the game.

It is one thing to read philosophers's words: "imitation is suicide" or "man is born free but everywhere he is in chains", but it is another entirely to watch an entire society to eat itself alive from the inside out. And it is all in the name of the game; all in the name of following the rules of whatever institution you are bound to. That is the show's essential argument: the individual is free and decent and fair, but he is bound by the rules of his institution and the institution can do no good. One doesn't need to watch The Wire to see that. 

Group think exists. Human beings naturally want to be part of a collective; it is simple pack mentality. How ironic then is it that the very thing that humanity craves, company and conformity, is  the very thing that robs it of its humanity. Have you ever seen a Democrat abandon what he truly believes to fall in line with the Party? Have you ever seen a teacher go on strike with a teacher's union even though she believes that teaching the next generation of Americans is the worthiest cause there could ever be? Have you ever seen a corporate recruit engage in unsavory business tactics in the name of career advancement and profit? I am betting you have seen or heard of all of this. 

People may be good, but larger social structures quickly rob them of any decency that they may have possessed. The Wire acknowledges the competence and decency of individuals in its portrayal of a few characters. On the side of the law is the task force responsible for bringing Barksdale to justice. The Baltimore PD clearly does not have much confidence in the case or respect for its cause. The unit is given a small, dank room in the Police headquarter's basement. It is only here, far away from the bureaucracy, that they can finally engage in some good, honest police-work. It is in that basement that the unit tries to satisfy justice and not just the demands of the boss upstairs. Of course, one can only stay underground for so long and once the case begins to implicate politicians' money in the Barksdale organization, the Police shut it down. 

There is another character, however, that represents the potential for an individual completely free from any institution, legal or illegal. Omar is a street warrior who can be described as a Ghetto Robin Hood. He rejects all institution: the drug trade, the police, politics, wage labor and lives only for himself and his "code." He robs drug dealers and gives the money back to the community. And he seems to be having a great time doing it. He loves being a thorn in the side of organized crime and loves his independence. As if to hammer home the importance of his individual and free lifestyle, The Wire gives him the final line of Season 1.

"It's all in the game," he says, mocking the traditional phrase for life on the Baltimore streets,  pointing a pistol in a drug dealers face and laughing his ass off.

So watch The Wire. And good luck not getting goosebumps when you see a Police Chief tell his lieutenant that lying, cheating, ignoring the truth, letting the guilty walk and the innocent die is just "part of the game." And ask yourself if you really want to be part of that game. The game of silencing yourself in favor of majority and letting yourself be defined by the institution you "do work" for.

On second thought, maybe it just isn't that important.

Life is just a game, after all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blournalists Unite!

"There is a war going on for your mind."
These words are my favorite my third favorite college graffiti I have encountered in Athens. My first is a bright red spray painting of "Who watches the Watchmen?" by Bentley Hall and the 5,000 "Vs" that showed up on the 5th of November. Apparently, a lot of Ohio Bobcats are Alan Moore fans (and who isn't, really). But "there is a war going on for your mind" might represent the most intriguing wall-art. 

Is there really a war going on for my mind? Who is fighting for it? And why is it written outside a structure in which I defecate? 

Well, after giving it much thought I have concluded that there is no war going on for your mind, but there IS a war going on for your attention. There exists a war in which progress can only be measured in attention. It is a constant struggle to win the proletariat's attention.  It is a war being fought between "traditional journalists" and "bloggers".

In the beginning there was nothing. Then there were Journalists. Journalists walked the Earth and documented its many splendors and shortcomings. They conducted interviews, corroborated information and checked their facts. They provided a function crucial to a developing society: information, and accurate information at that.

It was during these early days of yore that Journalists only had one enemy to contend with: themselves. There was a faction that worked against the whole. Their information was inaccurate and their reporting, lazy. Journalists developed a bad reputation amongst the public and began to lose their attention, thus losing the war against themselves. Then, in their darkest hour, they thought would save them. William Randolph Hearst was a monstrous personality who created a monster. His brand of journalism known as "yellow journalism" was sensationalistic, lazy and irresponsible. So, needless to say, his papers sold millions. Journalists were spared defeat by this charismatic New Yorker but were set back by his controversial tactics. They had won the battle but were in danger of losing the war.

Two pen and paper toting heroes from Washington brought the Journalists back from the brink in the 1970s and they spent the next 30 years licking their wounds and re-building their fortresses in preparation for another, stronger foe.

The Bloggers emerged from out of nowhere in the 2000s like an unholy horde. They were the result of technology that democratized the business of attention seeking. They grew in number exponentially until there were more voices from the Bloggers than there were from the Journalists. Luckily for the Journalists, the  Bloggers may have been greater in number but they were smaller in stature. The majority of the Bloggers did not offer the same services the Journalists could. They didn't offer the most current information and news, instead they tended to comment on the existing news or offer a different perspective on stories than the old, "mainstream" media.

The Journalists and the Bloggers continued to fight this war for attention now fought on the bandwidth of the World Wide Web. The Journalists charged that the Bloggers were inferior because they did not follow the rules and regulations or hold themselves to the same standards that they, the Journalists, did. The Bloggers fired back that the crusty old Journalists were out of touch with the rest of the world and were just slaves to multi-billion dollar corporations. The situation looked hopeless and then one man stepped up to end the conflict once and for all.

Josh Wolf was the perfect definition of a Blogger. He used that Internet device that was so mystifying to the old media to upload videos of the daily operations of his San Francisco neighborhood. One day, however, he decided to film a protest in San Francisco of the G8 summit. Wolf's camera caught footage of a police officer getting excessively violent with a protestor. True to his Blogger-DNA, Wolf uploaded the video onto the Internet but also sent clips to a local television station. Then the enemy which the two sides could unite against came calling for Josh Wolf: the federal government.

Uncle Sam demanded that Wolf turn over the video footage to the federal government to see if arson charges could be brought against some overzealous protesters who fired a bottle-rocket at a police car. Wolf refused. He said (rightly) that giving into the federal government's demands would set a dangerous precedent for future Journalists trying to cover an event. The fed took Wolf to court and successfully argued that Wolf wasn't a real Journalist and thus had no rights of protection afforded to him that other Journalists receive.

Surely, the Journalists accepted this win against the Blogging enemy and let Wolf serve his time in jail for his treachery. Not quite the case. Hundreds of Journalists came to Wolf's defense and The Society of Professional Journalists even named Wolf their 2006 Journalist of the Year. The Journalists and Bloggers had finally come to realize that the line between Journalism and Blogging is so thin that it may not even exist. The only thing that matters in the practice of news reporting and information gathering is a passion for the material and a dedication to the truth. Josh Wolf's 226 day stay in jail (the longest U.S imprisonment for a reporter being held in contempt of court) proved that Bloggers can be Journalists and Journalists could be bloggers as long as they were dedicated to the principles of their craft and maintained a reverence for the Truth.

Josh Wolf proved that all of us can be a Blournalist (Joggers was already taken).

So go forth now, my fellow Blournalists and make the world a better, less confusing place. Josh Wolf has won you your freedom and earned you your respect.

Thanks be to the man who ended The Great War...for attention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Second Opinion

As a blogger I am all about the "little guy".

You know: the other option, the smaller source, the independent. I would even use the term "alternative" but it immediately drops the auditory image in my brain of Jane's Addiction and Pearl Jam warbling on about the establishment. But in all seriousness, the landscape of the world media is changing. Attention spans are moving away from the large bloated media, towards the slightly smaller media, reporting and commenting from the relative "outside". 

And that is something that I can certainly get behind. I would now like to entreat you to a look at where the rest of America turns for its news intake, and then kindly tell you where you should be receiving it. Sometimes it will be one of those "little guys" and other times it will be an outlet that receives it paychecks from corporate America but still does a good job and deserves your attention.

What the rest of America reads: USA Today

What you should be reading...I can never fully wrap my head around the ongoing success of USA Today. The reporting is okay, but the content is so diluted. It is so difficult to glean any important information from a periodical that covers the third biggest country on the globe and does so everyday. This will be the first of my many pleas for you to just simply "go local". If you live in Athens, read The Athens News. If you live in Cleveland, read Scene. It is far easier to compartmentalize the information you are receiving and certainly that information is far more pertinent to you as a citizen. Most urban "alternative" papers have a strong liberal bias, but I have found many of them do a good job of keeping the politics out of stories and putting them on the Op-Ed page. If you insist on receiving national news: go to the Internet. But if that isn't an option, subscribe to The Washington Post. They report national news from the one spot in the country where national news TRULY matters. Plus Woodward and Bernstein bought them years of good karma.

What the rest of America watches: FOX News

What you should be watching....NOTHING. If you want real news, turn the TV off. Please....please....PLEASE turn the TV off. There is nothing for you there. Seriously, I am giving you ten seconds to turn it off. Television is a glowing box of entertainment, not news. News anchors have the ability to improvise, to inject their own little inflections of words, to sway you with their pretty smiles and their freshly powdered places. Plus, there is a shockingly small amount of accountability on television. They can say something and then move onto the next topic, the next issue. If you insist on watching TV news, watch NBC's Brian Williams at 6:00; he is the only man I know who can be completely impartial yet retain an bright and trustworthy personality. And if you watch a second of cable news in any given day, you are required to watch The Daily Show that night at 11:00 to see if any information you received was inaccurate or contradictory.

What the rest of America reads: Reader's Digest

What you should be may read Reader's Digest if you'd like, no one will think less of you. Reader's Digest isn't necessarily news and doesn't strive to be. The magazine is an excellent medium. The entire goal of a magazine is to appeal to some type of niche audience that newspapers cannot reach. You can find a magazine as broad as Reader's Digest or as specific as Equus Magazine, for horse lovers. So by all means, find what you like but there are two magazines that you absolutely need to give your attention. Both Time and Newsweek are probably the most reliable sources of information in the country. The magazine is truly the best medium for news as far as I am concerned. The presentation is crisp and clean; more durable than news-stock. And since it is released weekly, the writers have time to compile a REAL story not just a poorly researched re-telling of a day's event written in a rushed 24-hour time frame. Magazines are for News like West Virginia is for lovers. And Time and Newsweek are the ones to read.

What the rest of America views: Google News

What you should be viewing....Google News concept is interesting enough: have a program compile all the latest news in one area. That is useful for breaking news and certainly worth some of your time but there are better sources out there. might be the most unbiased place on the planet to receive news. The front page is very aesthetically pleasing and very convenient. It has several sections including Sports and Finance and the visitor can choose how many stories from each he or she would like to be displayed. That would all be fine and well if that's all it were, but the type of stories displayed are unique as well. might be the only place where news of a Congressional bailout plan would be placed side by side a headline about a dog who can do backflips (or other fun nonsense like it). That, friend, is ALL the news that is fit to print. 

What the rest of America watches/reads/listens to: ESPN

What you should watch/read/listen to...ESPN is a good start. It is usually the first station I flip on when I wake up and is a good bet to be the last thing I watch before bed. is also a decent resource if you want to see who just won the Cy Young or if any College Football coaches got fired over the weekend. But the Sports News business is unique in that bloggers seem to be catching up to journalists at an alarming rate. This is because the results of sporting events are there for everyone to see: you don't need the New York Times anymore to tell you that the Giants lost, you cold just watch the game on CBS or check your cell phone. That type of immediacy has changed the nature of the sports journalism business into more speculation and analysis instead of reporting. Most of my favorite sportswriters are of the blogging variety. Bill Simmons is the man I turn to when I want to hear about issues on the national sports scene. And Paul Cousineau of The DiaTribe and all the good folks at are the writers I turn to when I want some local sporting perspective. And the best "mainstream" sports journalists are the ones who have embraced this new analytical and stream of conscious reporting/writing style (see Terry Pluto). 

And those are all the media outlets you need to be directing your eyes and ears to.

Mainstream is alright, but sometimes you just need a second opinion.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Going on "Holiday"

I don't have classes tomorrow.

I get to stay up as late as I want tonight: eat some food, watch some basketball if it is on the telly and find the last episode of Season 1 of The Wire online (you know a piece of entertainment is a masterpiece when it nearly stops your heart-it is just THAT good). Then I will wrap myself in my covers, fall asleep whenever I please and wake up Tuesday morning long after all the morning-birds have either lost their voices or just gotten plain tired from singing. And I imagine that many of my reader's schedules will be the same. For tomorrow is Veteran's Day, a national holiday. 

If there is one thing that we Americans are known for (aside from childhood obesity and a true disdain for taxable tea from The Empire) it is our love of holidays. Since this young nation abdicated ourselves from British Rule, we seemingly have added a new Holiday for every week on the calendar. Americans are a naturally festive bunch and are always looking to break the monotony of their hard-working capitalistic existence. Add to that the cultural "melting pot" nature of the country and you have many other ethnic and religious holidays to choose from, and you have a sort of holiday "perfect storm."

But with all those holidays out there, how can one know which are important? Well let me help you out on that one: tomorrow's holiday is pretty damned important.

Tomorrow we honor all the men and women who have took up arms in defense of their nation; gave their lives for it, left a small piece of themselves in a foreign land for it, had their psyche irrevocably changed for it, or even promised to give themselves for it but circumstances didn't require that they need to. Tomorrow is important because it reminds us that brave human beings have endured the unimaginable to ensure the safety and liberty of their families along with millions of other strangers that they don't even know. Tomorrow is important because it reminds us that those self-less human beings still do exist in an age of increasing cynicism and distrust. 

And in the great tradition of Democracy tomorrow is a day that you can honor or observe in any way you see fit, that is why you have the day to yourself. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I probably will not participate in any Veterans Day activities tomorrow. I probably won't march in a parade, or send a veteran flowers, or give a speech at the Athens town hall. Instead tomorrow will be a day of perspective; a day where I remind myself that there is a whole world out there and there are people in it who have done things so monstrous that a whole nation will come to a halt for 24 hours to honor them.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the significance behind the nature of a holiday. In a country where time is money, is there any better way to honor something or someone than just to stop working for a day? America is a competitive country and a country where you must work to survive. We have many holidays, but very few bring a whole nation to a stand-still for a whole day. 

Not having to go to class tomorrow reminds me of my frustration a few weeks ago. Before the weekend of the 10th started in mid-October, I started getting excited for my four day weekend (I have no classes on Friday). Monday was Columbus Day! Surely I wouldn't have classes on Columbus Day! But there I was on Columbus day: sitting in a Stats class bored out of my mind. The founder of the most powerful country on the planet can't keep me from going to classes on a week day. But a rag-tag group of soldiers from only around 300 years history of military combat can.

There is a fundamental aspect of human nature that tends to overly lionize one's "heroes." It is easy to fall in line behind an attractive, muscular man with a square jaw who does something historic. It is easy to elect a hero or a leader and to worship him: give him a holiday and take a day off of work in his name. Everyone is susceptible to hero worship and big ideas and Americans are no different. But tomorrow is the day that every year America breaks this human yet unfortunate overgeneralization. Tomorrow we recognize that it isn't one man or woman that makes a country safe, secure and prosperous, but nearly 300 years worths of brave, hard-working, honorable and sadly, anonymous soldiers.

How distinctly American.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Morning Links pt. 8

It is Sunday. This can only mean that Ohio University's "Parent's Weekend" has come to an end.

My mom and brother left late last night after a day full of revelry and way too much food. Now, my mother and brother came to my humble abode yesterday not knowing that they were actively "participating" in Parent's Weekend, but as they strolled around with the other familial hordes, it really made no difference. Ultimately, the troika of us enjoyed our Parent's Weekend experience but I was a little perturbed by one aspect of it.

There seemed to be a real concerted effort to "clean" the campus up for the arrival of the 'rents. Everyone was on their best behavior, all the penises were erased off dorm-room white boards and the two comedians I saw over the weekend both made cracks about cleaning up their material in the presence of parents. Now, I can understand altering one's behavior slightly around parents...but it is college. College. You are currently enrolled in one of the most sinful and depraved social institutions known to man. More cheap beer and condoms will be consumed within campus limits than any other geographic area in the history of mankind. And the majority those "parents" went through the same experience.

They experienced: late night benders, blackouts, diseases, heartbreaks, vomit, illegal sex acts, Hasidic Jew threesomes, beer-soups and mid-morning walks of shame just as you do.
And with that disturbing image lingering in your mind, here are your Sunday Morning Links!

- Here is story that earns the title of: "Pre-November 4th article that gave me the willies."

- This is my idea of good journalism: short, to the point, interesting and gives me a funny mental image of people about to break out into song at any moment. Also, it is technically a blog.

- But sometimes, the best story is just a good old fashioned "He said, She said."

- I don't know if you realized it, but one of the biggest and potentially most profitable superhero movie franchises in existence just mysteriously re-casted its second male lead. The great folks at Entertainment Weekly did some snooping and figured out why.

- And finally...I have recently been on a bizarre "everything is rational and explainable through statistical probabilities" kick. And to the rational man, there is no greater resource than the absolutely wonderful

Well that's all for this week! Thankfully, the Browns got their obligatory loss out of the way on Thursday, so we can all enjoy what looks to be a lovely day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Get In, Get Out

Three nights ago as I sat down on the couch (girlfriend's friend's roommate's bed, to be more accurate) to watch election coverage, I made sure the television was permanently placed on the only channel that offers completely objective, fair, entertaining and insightful election coverage: Comedy Central. 

I am not merely referring to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's election special, although their sideways glance at each other and the appearance of big toothy grins on their faces after they announced that Barack Obama was now projected to win the election is one thing that I will always remember about that night. That was enlightening but not what I found significant about Comedy Central's  Tuesday night election coverage. I am more interested in what came after Stewart and Colberts banter. Immediately following The Daily Show coverage, David Alan Grier's new show "Chocolate News" came on. Chocolate News is a satirical news program (much like the Daily Show) that views current events strictly from an African-American perspective. Tuesday night's program started with a cold open: Grier standing on-stage wearing a finely pressed suit and an irrepressible smile. The audience was deathly quiet; Grier shook his head a few times before saying: "Holy...SHIT!"

It was a huge moment in cable television history as far as I am concerned and it put a huge smile on my face. But there was something about it that was missing to me. David Alan Grier is a very funny comedian and I have enjoyed the bits and pieces of Chocolate News that I have seen, but there was someone else I would have liked to see on television that Tuesday night. I wish I could have seen one of the most brilliant artistic minds of our generation: Dave Chappelle.

We live in a fast moving cultural world of fleeting media. The tendency is always to honor what is NOW, NOW, NOW instead of what is gone. And if you'll allow me a second of your time, I would like to reflect on what is gone. I know Dave Chappelle is not dead, he is still out there living a quiet life on an Ohio farm. Maybe you'll see him a time or two on the stand-up circuit but that sighting would be as rare as seeing a unicorn in the woods. So as far as the mainstream is concerned: Dave Chappelle is dead. He won't be back on TV ever again, he won't produce a catchphrase as popular as "I'm Rick James, bitch" ever again and he certainly won't resume production of a sketch comedy show; for all intents and purposes he might as well be a ghost. And I, for one, think we have lost something that we cannot easily replace.

This very week, we could have been entreated to a heartfelt, intriguing and absolutely hilarious perspective on one of the most monumental Civil Rights achievements in our country's history. But Dave wasn't there. We missed a huge opportunity for the best art and material this brilliant man could ever produce. And make no mistake: Dave Chappelle is an artist. Dave Chappelle is an artist (and a damn good one) because of how much he has suffered over his creativity and the product he has produced. Men and women who don't care, don't suffer. Men and women who write for a television show, write a novel or shoot a scene with many camera angles just for the paycheck, don't suffer. But artists suffer. They suffer over the enormity of what they are trying to express, the delicate nature of interpreting the material and the reception that their art ultimately receives. And Dave Chappelle suffered terribly.

Anyone who has seen his mid-2000s show, Chappelle's Show, can attest to its quality. Dave and his creative team developed two seasons worth of some of the most hilariously depraved sketches ever conceived. In a time of political correctness, Chappelle did his best to tear down the walls among all the races of America, poking fun at their stereotypes and the way we all interact with each other. Highlights included: a white supremacist who was in actuality a blind black man unaware of his color, a season of The Real World in which the house-mates were all black except for a lone white kid from the 'burbs and of course, some of Charlie Murphy's infamous "true stories". The show became immensely popular and seemed to strike a chord with America regarding the melting-pot nature of their unique country. Comedy Central, sensing gold, even negotiated a $55 million deal with Chappelle for future seasons.

But production on Season 3 was halted midway through filming when Dave simply disappeared. He had simply decided that he could no longer go on with this show. He disliked the long hours, being away from his family and the overall mood on-set. He left the country to live in South Africa claiming that he needed perspective on his life and a break from fame. Whether or not, he ever achieved what he was looking for, we may never know. Chappelle never resumed production on the third season, effectively leaving dozens of employees jobless, and hasn't starred in any other mainstream entertainment since. In later interviews, Chappelle would claim that he believed his show was starting to perpetuate racial stereotypes instead of making fun of him. He no longer believed that it what responsible of him to produce the show. My question to you is: how can a man turn down the financial security of $55 million? The only answer that I can see is that he believes in the power of what he is doing, the art that he is producing and he does not like what that power is doing.

This illustrates the tricky and powerful nature of art. All of the media that support art are businesses and all those businesses must make money, which puts the artist in a precarious position and can often dilute the quality of his or her art. So, as sad as I may be that a huge moment in history without the perspective of one of our finest creative minds, I still must be grateful that Dave Chappelle pulled the plug when he did. Chappelle did something that seemingly only happens once a century. He let the art defeat the business. He chose to end something when he felt it was time to end it and when he felt the enormity of its influence was starting to escape his grasp. Maybe if Chappelle and his show were still around today, it would be a shell of what it once was: just a broken man doing the same jokes he always has, picking up a paycheck and no longer believing in what he is doing. Regardless of how controversial it may have been, Dave Chappelle did something that I believe all essential art should now do in this fast-moving age we all live in: Get in, change things forever, get out and give a generation the rest of their lives to figure out what in the hell they just witnessed in the blink of an eye.

 Art in a fast time must come fast and leave fast.

Even if I wish the good stuff could last forever.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Apparently, something rather large and rather significant happened a couple of days ago.

If you turned on the TV, flipped open a newspaper, or looked our your window to see what looked a little bit like an orgy (only with less sex and more yelling) in the streets, you may have heard that Barack Obama is now President of the United States. And you know is kind of a big deal. Regular readers of this blog, or anyone with peripheral vision that can see yesterday's blog on the right entitled "Good Morning", will know that I am quite happy and excited about the election results. 

What we witnessed yesterday was historic and people have every right to be satisfied with themselves, their country and their new leader. But the English language enthusiast in me would like to point something out. There is a stark difference between the words "satisfaction" and "complacency."

satisfaction (n)- the act of satisfying; fullfillment; gratification.
complacency (n)- a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some poential danger, defect, or the like.

America has every right to pat itself on the back. It elected a fresh young candidate, who ran a nearly flawless campaign by a huge margin. But America by no means should think its job is over. We tend to romanticize the job of presidency to an extreme degree. I suppose one could say that the President is the leader of the country but this is only through process of elimination. The legislative branch is presided over by 535 men and women and the judicial system has 9 supreme justices to go along with hundreds of smaller courts and a whole network of lawyers. The office of the Presidency is the only branch of government in which one man is "king".

I am not trying to trivialize the job of President (many previous Presidents have done that well enough already), I am merely urging people to curb their complacency. Barack Obama's messages of change and bipartisanship are strong ones and the general consensus seems to be that he will be a satisfactory President. But a President is all he is; the only people who can actually change America are the citizens themselves.

Voting is only part of one's civic duties. Every citizen in America of legal age is a decision-maker. Every American is a legislator, a judge, an activist and a leader. And for as long as I can remember (keep in mind I am only 18 and semiconscious of politics and American civics since around age 10-12), Americans have been failing miserably at their jobs. Presidents are by and large the ones who steal the glory or are given  blame, but American citizens are the ones who make the country go 'round. 

Can you imagine what the country would look like right now if Americans gave as much of a damn about their country as they did who is going to be the pretty face "running it"?

Maybe we would not be in Iraq. If Americans had taken the time to let their ire settle down a little bit, curbed their blind patriotism for a second and sat down to think: maybe they would have come up with a different solution. Don't get me wrong: I know very well that this was President Bush's war; he and his staff planned it, organized it and executed it....but they couldn't start it. At the time of invasion, 64% of Americans believed that military action against Iraq was the right thing to do. They didn't bother to take a second and wonder: "Hmm, if Osama bin Laden organized the 9/11 attacks and a couple-dozen Saudi Arabians carried it out and we have not a shred of evidence of an Al-Quaeda and Iraq connection nor a sniff of Weapons of Mass Destruction, then why are we invading Iraq?" But 64% of the population didn't really care, that is 64% who didn't put up a fight, didn't write to their Representative and didn't really care about anything one way or another; they just wanted blood. Americans happily gave a President a decision that should have been their own because "Hey, we just voted a year ago! We already made our decision, it is up to that 'W' guy now!"

Maybe New Orleans would have bounced back faster. If Americans had taken some time off from yelling at the federal government, tearing FEMA to shreds and asserting that George Bush doesn't care about black people, to maybe just head down to Dixie and help some folks out, or even sent a few bucks down there, maybe things would have gone smoother (calm down, Kanye, I know you did a lot to help). But nope, that is the President's job. We did our part, we elected the guy and if he can't stop a hurricane from hovering over American soil then we will just have to vote someone else in. Nevermind the fact, that the local New Orleans government repeatedly ignored the disintegrating levees.

Maybe the economy wouldn't be in awful shape. It just seems like common sense to me that you spend money when you do have it, and don't spend it when you don't have it. But that doesn't quite work for Americans. We are all about flash. Hell, if I want that 8 bedroom house, I am getting that 8 bedroom house...graveyard shift at Pizza Hut be damned! So when the housing market collapses and takes the whole economy along with it, Americans did what they are best at: blamed the President. It is Bush's and his stupid tax cuts' fault! It is Clinton and commie-sharing bonanza's fault! It is Reagan and his small government bullshit's fault! There was and is a lot of blame flying around and none of it was from any American citizen stepping to the plate and simply saying "my bad". No, because when you lose your money, it is the President's fault (a fact satirized brilliantly on last night's South Park). You elected him, and that is all you had to do, but he clearly failed his end of the bargain.

So that brings us to Barack Obama. Barack Obama is now our President and he did it by uniting and motivating the electorate better than any politician I have ever seen. In a couple of months, he will be sitting in that big cushy chair in the oval office, ready to lead and ready to make tough decisions. But he isn't the only one who is responsible for the direction of this country and don't you dare let him be, America. It is "tabula rasa" time, so take some responsibility for the direction of your nation and be proud of what you want it to be.

We did just elect one man to lead us. But that doesn't meant that all 305,587,000 of us can now just go to sleep for four years and expect that one man to make it all better with a magic wand. True change takes effort, cooperation, and more than one man to make it happen.

And last time I checked: 305,587,000 is a little more than 1.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Morning

Good morning, American.

You wake up into a world where the most powerful man in the world is an African American. You wake up into a world where the infinite promise of a fair nation has been realized. You wake up into a world of fresh beginnings and a new era. Good morning, indeed.

Landslide. It wasn't even close. Senator Barack Obama won the Presidency and he won it big. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Indiana- these were to be the most important states in the electorate...Barack Obama won them all. He needed 270 electoral votes; he received 338. He won states from Maine to California, from Washington to Florida, from New Jersey to Colorado.

Good morning, American. You wake up after a night of celebration. I don't know what you saw, but in my neck of the woods, people took to the streets. They milled around like lost sheep, trying to find one another, trying to find words to say. They yelled a bit and hollered a bit until they found each other. And when they did, they drew each other close and they celebrated. They jumped up and down and cheered with each other. It didn't matter that they were so few on a campus so large. When they screamed: "Yes. We. DID. Yes. We. DID. Yes. We. DID.", they made sure you heard it.

Yes he did. Barack Obama won the most powerful office in the land and he won it the right way. Barack Obama won the election like a great American. He did it the way great Americans do: with hard work, passion, earnestness, enthusiasm, ingenuity and above all, integrity. Four years ago, Barack Obama made an assertion that seemed outlandish in an age of partisanship, irrational fear and hate and disparity. He said that there is no such thing as "Red America" or "Blue America"; there is only the "United States of America." His words were powerful and his confidence unwavering, but who could believe this young Senator in the age of Cynicism? He became the President-elect through his own means and through his own competence. He did not do it by scapegoating anyone else or by tearing anyone down or by blaming anyone else for his shortcomings.

Good morning, American. You wake up today to the Death of a Cynic. As I watched grown men and women sob and weep in pure bliss on my television, I finally had to realize and accept the historical significance of what I was witnessing and what I was living through. Barack Obama isn't a perfect human being, but he is a good one and he is a decent one and he is the right one to lead this country. He did his job. He passed his exam and he did it with dignity. He spoke to us and told us that healing the ideological divide of this nation is not only essential, but possible. And I believed him. I believed this politician. I believed him because he made very clear throughout his campaign and through his victory speech that he wants to be far more than just a politician, just a Democrat and just an executive position holder; he wants to be a leader. And I believed him.

John McCain submitted his formal concession before the fifth of November broke (Remember, remember). He did not prolong the inevitable and he acted with the dignity and class that he displayed for most of his public life. It was the rarest of elections where both candidates were talented, intelligent and respectful individuals and I could not have been prouder to have voted in it. John McCain did not seem bitter or upset to lose to his worthy adversary. Instead, he stood in line behind the victor and let the President-elect fall under his mantle of history without controversy or debate.

Good morning, American. You wake up into a place of unity and fairness. You wake up into a world where a nation elects a candidate and not just a collection of strategically campaigned states. You wake up on an historic day and a special one. Regardless of your political views, appreciate this day and its significance. After this, you may and you should support President Obama when you see fit and verbally tear him to pieces when you feel he has done wrong. But for now, good morning, American.

And enjoy this day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mustache Aficionado Presents: A Mid-Autumn Night's Dream

I am a traveller of space and time.

Two nights ago, I was placed into an alternate dimension by the fates as I slept. My weary eyes opened onto a frightful sight; a small cramped room, bereft of light and crowded with posters and decaying wooden cabinets. They told me it was a "dorm room." Oh pardon me, I have not told you who "they" were yet. 

"They" were an eclectic and colorful bunch or merry men and women....two women and one man to be exact. The gentleman in question wore bright green carbs of a questionable cloth and referred to himself as a "Green Power Ranger". He would have seemed powerful and fearsome, if not for the clear paper mache quality of his visage. His companion was a cheerful blond lass fashioning a most peculiar hair style. She wore denim 'round her waist and a yellow blouse with bright red suspenders keeping the whole affair together. She was "Misty", apparently a character from "Pokemon". Pokemon, I asked? What endless wonder this dimension holds!

But the best wonder was yet to come. The final woman, a beauty if there ever were one, wore a magnificent white dress and quaffed herself in the finest blond curl. She seemed to be familiar with intimate even. She introduced herself as "Marilyn" and I must admit my heart betrayed a quiver as she spoke.

My new acquaintances seemed to be busying themselves in preparation for a grand Ball. They told me they were in fact preparing themselves for an event known as "Halloween in Athens". Intrigued, I voiced my wish to accompany them to this undoubtedly magnificent event. Receiving consent of invention, I then realized that I had nothing to wear to this fine occasion. Alas the fates had already prepared me for such a situation. Adorned on my face was a foreign, gaudy mustache and across my chest was parchment that read "Mustache Aficionado" It was the costume of an ass...or at least the desperate attempt of an unoriginal teenager to procure a costume idea the day of Halloween....but probably just an ass.

Despite my woeful state of dress, my companions led me several dozen meters to a new abode. It was here on the Third Floor of one "Washington Hall" that we rendezvoused with the rest of our company. One by one, they introduced me to: a short, bespectacled woman known as "Sarah Palin", a mysterious vixen with tall hair known as "A Random Go-Go Dancer from the 60s", a charming young chap known as "Flavor Flav" and a pregnant young miss wearing peculiar clothing known as "Juno". After a few more rounds of preparation (Miss Palin's hair was a rather complicated endeavor), my companions and I set out to experience this monumental event.

After picking up an additional gent to our ranks; lad in swimwear who identified himself as "Michael Phelps" A long, yet uneventful walk followed to the top of the hill. They told me we were on our way to a red brick wonder road they described as "Court Street". Yet at the top of the hill, we were met by a startling specter. Another Sarah Palin! I am ashamed to say that I cowered in fear at the sight of the doppelganger, but my companions seemed absolutely delighted to see the daemon. Marilyn squealed with girlish delight and Sarah (our real Sarah) even handed a complicated apparatus to take their "picture". They did not linger much longer and before I knew it we were back on our journey to Court Street.

It was not difficult to know when we were getting closer. The crowds got denser; the police, more abundant; and the quiet chill of the night, louder. By the time we had rounded the corner onto the mythical street itself my eyes were nearly blinded by the writhing mass of flesh on top of the red brick path. My constitution did not waver this time and I followed my fellowship deeper into the fray. And why what a fray it was! I cannot accurately describe to you, reader, all that I saw that Mid-Autumn Night, but I will try. There were people everywhere! They were wedged onto the streets in-between towering pubs and restaurants and offices. It was a crowd of depravity and wonder! I witnessed dozens of men and women dressed in black robes with a scarlet trim as though they were a warlock. I spied even more copies of our Michael Phelps and Sarah Palin. And most telling about this dimensions absurdity: I saw many women in the uniform of police officers and fireman and other respectable offices, only altered to reveal more flesh than many officers of the law would deem necessary or seemly. 

Juno then suggested that we abandon Court Street altogether briefly and pay a visit to her brother on the hill. The event they called "Halloween in Athens" was just getting started, apparently. The others voiced their agreement and we hiked up the hill known as "West State". When we arrived, her brother greeted us and would you believe that he was also a "Power Ranger"? Only this one was red in color. Our Green companion shared a tender moment with his Red counterpart and then we stoled away inside to participate in the revelry. It is at this point that I must practice some discretion for the activities of the Party were fairly strange and unseemly to me regardless of dimension. Suffice it to say, many people began to act stranger than I had already become accustomed to. But God bless my companions; Marilyn, Flavor and Juno all wished to know if I was "enjoying myself". I could only grin my mustachioed grin and continue to be a wallflower.

The Party, satiated, then retreated back to Court Street. We picked a spot on the street and watched as the parade of macabre silhouettes danced on. Green Ranger and Misty marveled at the items in shop windows, Sarah Palin, Flavor Flav and Michael Phelps watched as the crowd walked by, I stayed close to Marilyn to ensure that no fiend would break away from the pack and sweep her away and Go-Go Dancer furiously worked her phone like a stock-broker trying to find another side-party to attend. We finally received an obscure location on the other side of town, so we set off again in search of amusement.

It was at this point that I allowed some of my harsh exterior to fall away and simply enjoyed my crew's company. We ended up at a small house in a hidden section of Athens. Go-Go Dancer became increasingly distressed as her sources were no longer answering their phones. Unsure of whether to enter the home or not, restless-ness and full bladders overcame us and we entered the foreboding edifice. Flashing lights and ghastly music met us as we walked in. We scurried upstairs and braved the line for the bathroom before we hastily left one by one. We regrouped on the street and after some further communication procured an address for another party.

It seems we had finally found the place for us. Go-Go Dancer's friends, "Old Man" and "Condom" had come through. Us weary travelers rested our feet and intermingled with other groups of revelers. Marilyn and I sat on the host's couch and curiously watched others in varying stages of intoxication, Green Ranger and Flavor Flav proved their mettle in a game I am not particularly familiar with while Misty looked on and Sarah, Michael Phelps, Go-Go Dancer and Juno all talked with other guests. I finally felt comfortable in this new time and place stolen miles and miles away from my undoubtedly sleeping mind. But as is the case with all travelers on a cold Autumn night, they must keep traveling. 

We made our way back up to Court Street and found a place to eat and quench our thirst. Our group slowly started to break off. Flavor Flav had found a new Company of merry men and woman but he was pulled back to the whole by Go-Go Dancer. I began to stray into the foliage to meet people in strange costumes. Green Ranger and Misty elected to leave at this point, dropping our numbers to six. We finally decided to make one final push into revelry: we had to brave our way to "Mill Street". The human traffic had become so dense at the corner of Court and Mill that we had to form a human chain, bend down and act as a torpedo as we pushed through the barrier of flesh.

But after we had successfully pushed through it had become clear that our various nights were coming to very different ends. Marilyn's feet had been torn and beaten by the tight golden heels she was wearing. I elected to take her home for I could go nowhere without her. Michael and Go-Go Dancer decided to follow us to their respective places of residence. Sarah Palin, Juno and Flavor Flave decided to join a different band and keep the good times rolling, but I have heard that those efforts didn't last long.

As for my mustache and I, we found a place to lie and I slowly fell back into sleep and onto another journey. 

My Mid-Autumn Night's Dream had come to an end.