Thursday, September 29, 2005

How Famous Am I?

Not very...

Strange Sounds Heard While Spinning

"Uh, uh, uh."
"Oh yeah, oh yeah."
"Yes, yes go for it."
"Take me to the top."
"Oh my god."
"Get back into the saddle."
"That's some good shit, isn't it?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cruise Days

I'm sitting in the aft deck lounge, casually smoking a cigarette and watching the sun pull itself into the New Orleans sky. I couldn't go back to my deluxe suite because Jolene, the lovely FEMA associate director of highway obstructions, is sprawled out on my king-sized bed. I hate it when they stay over. Even the college girls from the French Quarter always managed to stumble their way back to their hotel rooms.

Last night's party was crazy. Those FEMA people sure do know how to run a ship. They say New Orleans was home of the best restaurants in the country. I can safely say once again New Orleans has great culinary fare. The ship's crew keep making these lavish dinners for 1200 people or so, but there are only 400 of us, so we get to eat wonderful shrimp, lobster and steak. I'm afraid my previously well sculpted body is becoming a bit flabby.

But I get some pretty good exercise around here. Last night we had a FEMA limbo contest and I felt great after that, though I lost miserably. Those FEMA people are incredibly pliable. The way they bend and twist their way out of things makes your heart stop.

There's also a deluxe 15,000 square foot gym which I occasionally use, but it becomes boring because no one is ever there. There's no sense of urgency when you dont have to claw your way onto a treadmill. Last night's spinning class was empty, so I decided it wasn't worth yelling at myself to move faster. I went back to my room and ordered Calamari with Oysters. It was quite a tasty snack.

It gets pretty lonely around here during the day. All the FEMA people are gone holding press conferences. They've been ordered to tell the world that Ray Nagin is one bad mother of a mayor. At night, briefly nestled in my bed, Jolene and I come up with pretty funny things to say about him. My favorite is "Incompetent Ray, what'll he cry over today." Unfortunately Brownie turned that one down. He was doing a hell of a job.

Life is great here on the Ecstasy though. The tiki bartender and I have gotten pretty close. He and I sit around drinking blueberry daquiris and taking turns hitting golf balls into New Orleans. I almost hit the Superdome yesterday, but no one was around to notice. I don't think they would have much cared.

I've been thinking about going into New Orleans to save a puppy or something, but I asked the captain and he told me that all of the cute ones were reserved for news anchors filming daring rescues. He showed me a tape of one adorable lab being saved. Now that was excellent news.

Recently I watched the news about Hurricane Rita and I felt bad for those people. I didn't see a single cruise ship come to help any of them. It must be hard to evacuate a city when you don't have shuffleboard to keep you occupied. I heard some of those people don't even have a beach volleyball court where they are going. How could they stand it?

I'd like to personally thank our President for footing the bill and allowing me to crash on this wonderful vessel. It really is a delight to be on this fabulously ornate cruise ship. But I must go now. The breakfast buffet is calling me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Money, Money Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

I just read this article regarding a speech that Jane Yolen, President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank gave about how the economy is doing "reasonably well" despite Katrina and Rita. In the article, Yolen says "the economy overall, in my estimation, is doing reasonably well and could settle into a highly desirable pattern of full employment." I know my blog is called nonsense, but what this women is saying is total nonsense.

I'd love to say that the economy is doing well and we are all going to be happy and have great jobs and loads of cash, but I can't believe this drivel. I spent a good amount of time working in retail and I know how badly things can turn for a retail store in a short amount of time.

Allow me to suggest a far more pessimistic scenario for the upcoming months. I pray that it doesn't come true. Oil prices will continue to rise, or stay at the same price, either way being bad for the people. With oil prices up, shipping costs more and thus, retail products will cost much more. People will stop buying unnecessary things because they don't have the money for them. Retail stores close, leaving many unemployed.

The rise of gas prices force people to cut down on luxury items and causes the United States to have one of the worst holiday seasons in recent years. Bigger retail stores post major losses and unemployment continues. Auto dealerships find SUVs collecting cobwebs, causing many to go out of business.

The economy is already weak because of the way President Bush has managed to manipulate it to give his friends tons of money. His notion that tax cuts will continue while we pour billions into the Gulf Coast is ridiculous and potentially harmful. I just pray that many don't freeze with the oncoming rise of oil prices over the winter.

Now here's a picture to ease the pain:

Monday, September 26, 2005

Eating The Big E

The drive to The Big E is an experience in itself. The fairgrounds, crammed into the rural section of West Springfield, is surrounded by one lane roads and car dealerships. The sights driving into the fair are magnificent, including the tenth Payless Shoes and McDonalds that we passed.

However, the intolerable drive becomes understandable when you actually get to the fair. For it is true that The Big E is one of the coolest spectacles in New England. Everything there is designed to please the senses and delight the inner child. People gripe about the "Better Living Center" and it's miles upon miles of infomercial products, but I actually think it's cool to see all these products up close. The desperate salespeople trying to make their quotas is also a nice treat.

Of course, my favorite part is eating my way through the fair. No Big E experience is complete without a trip through the state buildings and the food therein. Maine is perhaps the greatest with their delectable baked potato and salmon, but New Hampshire fudge is also amazing. Massachusetts does some fantastic seafood, while Rhode Island's Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl is one of a kind. There was also some fantastic puddings in the Vermont house and one can never forgot the famous Connecticut steak-umms.

That's right, steak-umms. For while other states were supplying fairgoers with delicious, homemade food, Connecticut felt what best represented it was microwaveable beef. There were even fun facts about steak-umms, such as who invented them and so on.

Yes, I checked and they definitely weren't "invented" in Connecticut.

I applaud you home state of mine and your delightful willingness to suggest to outsiders that we really just don't have time to cook. We need a dinner that's done in a minute, popping hot and gooey out of the microwave. Next year I hope you can snag the elusive Hot Pockets license for your display of food.

I feel kind of heavy now, so I'm off to pay respects to my lady love, the spinning instructor. Is it appropriate to wear cologne while riding a bike?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Megablogs! (For Colin)

I've been poking around the megablog sites, and I must say I am deeply disappointed with them. I look at these enormous blogs that get so much press and generate lots of buzz and I constantly wonder if I'm missing something. What makes these enormous blogs so popular, yet so unappealing to me?

First I checked out The Huffington Post, started by political insider/outsider Arianna Huffington. The major problem with the Huffington Post is that it's not a blog but an online liberal newspaper. Huffington is using the word blog liberally in order to make her newspaper seem more hip. The Huffington Post doesn't even seem to be on the pulse of news as many of their headlines come from old Reuters articles. They have a "this just in" which currently has an article from Yahoo News that was posted yesterday at 5:00pm. Fox 61 picks up news faster than this website. Yes, Huffington Post has interesting editorials from liberal folks around the country, but how does that make it different from a daily newspaper? Hartford Courant certainly could carry an editorial from Cindy Sheehan if they chose to.

Next I cruised over to Metafilter. Metafilter's slogan is "the it's okay to like" which is odd because I would have never compared the two. So unfortunately they made me compare the two sites and Plastic comes out way ahead on look, feel, ease of use, any any interesting content. Looking at Metafilter hurts my eyes; the color scheme they've selected is atrocious and the huge text is just obnoxious. Plus, I scrolled through their website and could find nothing interesting at all except an old Onion article. This website feels like it's from 1995. Colin, please allow us not to spend too much time on this one.

I've seen Slashdot many times in my travels and I think their content is fascinating sometimes. The word sometimes must be prevalent however because jammed in with the cool stuff is articles three people might be interested in. Their interface also bothers me because it seems so cold and technical, not fun at all like Fark or Boing Boing. We are Slashdot, resistance is futile.

My favorite of the megablogs is Plastic, which I discussed earlier as being much more interesting than Metafilter. Plastic is a lot like Daily Kos in that they assign ratings to comments. The difference between the two: I actually saw a dialogue in a comments section, which I failed to see on Daily Kos. The words "I beg to differ" were used multiple times and people were reading each others comments. The interface is also very pleasant. However, it doesn't get updated all that often and seems small on content.

Now perhaps allow me to suggest a website which I regard as a blog, but many people do not. Aint It Cool News has been around since 1995 and is a fantastic read. AICN is really the pioneer of the megablog format with their enormous amount of contributors and bawdy talkbacks. During the Presidential election they even got political, with the two moderators fighting over their political views. Check it out.

However, compared to all these megablogs I'll take Sally any day.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005

Brett's Blown Fifteen Seconds of Fame

"Um hello?"
"Hello. Who's this?"
"Hi Brett, you won!"
"Uh, okay neat. What did I win?"
"Tickets to Video Games Live!"
"Oh, uh, how about that?"
"So do you like sit around and play video games and eat cheetos?"
"I don't like cheetos."
"Yeah, it gets the controller sticky, huh?"
"Uh, ewwww."
"Pizza and beer type of guy?"
"Something like that."
"Do you have any affect to your voice?"
"So, Video Games Live huh?"
"Brett, what do you think of Brazillian Leg Waxing?"
"Why, did I win that too?"
"No, no I just want to know what you think of it?"
"Um, don't knock it till you try it?"

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Literary Circle Mark II

This week we are recommending Forever by Pete Hamill. A stirring book about Cormac O'Connor, a young immigrant who gets caught up in the fight against slavery in 18th century Manhattan. O'Connor is given a special gift after saving the life of an African holy man. Lets go right to our panel for their comments:

Professor Eugene Levin:
I liked how Hamill managed to balance the spiritual with reality. Hamill's former book Snow in August attempted to do the same thing with Judaism and ended up seeming silly. In this book, Hamill has managed to create a world where the spirituality seems plausible and blends right in. The dialogue is organic, the world rich and vibrant. Wonderful read.

Gemal Watkins:
I liked how Forever demonstated the intelligence that African slaves possessed when getting off the boat and the fierceness with which they fought. Hamill explores the deep world of African spirituality in a deep and understanding way. It also shows a white man fighting for the freedom of black slaves as early as 1730, which is nice to see. This is an excellent read for any culture.

Jerry O'Connell:
I didn't have time to read this because I'm getting married to Rebecca Romijin. Suck it John Stamos.

Steve Smith:
This book makes me embarassed to be English, which to be quite honest I'm already embarassed about for many other reasons. Hamill's retelling of English colonization and the brutal way the Irish were treated is realistic and honest. He is an excellent storyteller. The ending of this book is also worth every page. I've read it twice more since you gave it to me.

Eminent American Historian Howard Ambrose:
As a dead American historian, I know the truth to every event in American history, and I can tell you Hamill portrays some of the most famous American citizens in a compassionate and realistic manner. Now that I'm dead, I know George Washington quite well and he really is quite an asshole. Plus he loves all the attention he gets down on Earth. Historically, this book is very accurate and shows some of the most important events in American history. Well done!

Temperance Lewis:
I enjoy the amount of romance in this book. Cormac is such a sweet guy and very likeable. The ending of this book made me faint and when I woke up I discovered I was also crying.

Brett Evans:
Yeah, I liked it also.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Favorite Writing Trick

Jack Shafer has written an awesome article about how writers use vague words to make their articles seem more credible. It is a great example of how manipulative certain memes can be. Check it out.

So far, my favorite meme for this week has been "reopen" as in"mayor plans to reopen New Orleans." I love thinking about New Orleans as a retail store that gets opened and closed. Lets try to find a better word to sound more considerate. People are moving back to their homes for gosh sakes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

My new love... (not for the weak hearted)

My second attempt at proto blogging:

Dear New Spinning Instructor,
I love you. Now I know this may seem quick because we've only known each other for an hour and never really spoken, but I felt an immediate connection to you. It was like our bikes had merged into one single sexy machine that kept moving to the beat. Somehow everything in the room was perfect last night; the lights were dim, the music was emotional and we were sweating hard.

I love the way you take control and force me to move faster. Your sultry voice resonates across the room in a powerful sonic boom of pure energy. I can tell that our relationship will be much the same and you'll drive me to grow by yelling encouraging statements like "you're almost there" and "push yourself to be a better person." You know me so well.

I could tell you shared the same feelings for me because you kept looking at me with a confused expression. I know you were taking the time out of your busy spinning schedule to focus on my unique spinning style. At the end of class when you told me how "interesting" my spinning was, I knew you meant sexy and stylish. It's hard for people to hide their feelings from a man like me.

Now there's been spinning instructors in the past. That whole Lori thing was a major debacle. But I've moved on and I think I'm ready to consider you my number one spinning instructor and my new love. Next class, lets push our bikes closer together to show how much we care about each other. During a recovery, we can even hold hands.

To conclude, I've done something I hardly ever do when I love someone as much as you. I've written you a haiku. Please enjoy its restrictive stanzas and unique imagery:

Sweating down my back
Our hearts pumping in unison
I nearly fall off

That's it for now spinning instructor. I'll see you next week at exactly 7pm for our warm up together. Look for me, I'll be the one wearing the bright red towel, which I'll use to wipe my sweat off.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Daily Kos... (Read here Colin)

So I've been trying to figure out this Daily Kos thing and I'm still very afraid of it. Not afraid in the way Rush is, but it's so overwhelming. The page has so many layers that I'm not quite sure how to deal with it at this point. I have some thoughts on this monolithic blog.

My initial thought is that the Daily Kos is no fun. While it's fun to read some good olf fashioned liberal thoughts, it's also downright depressing. Daily Kos covers every sad, crazy and bad thing that's happened within the past month and it makes me want to run from their website as quickly as possible.

At school I veer away from the faculty lounge as much as possible. The reason is because the place is filled with such whiners. Spending an hour in the faculty lounge is enough to make someone believe that education is pretty much over in this country. While I have some views of that on my own, I'd prefer to stay on topic. Daily Kos is the faculty lounge of the internet, constantly complaining about every little thing that a conservative has done.

Which brought me to another, scarier revelation. Daily Kos makes me embarassed to be a liberal. At times the rhetoric is so hate-filled that I don't know what to believe. As a liberal, a term I'm proud to use, I try not to think that my message is filled with hate, but instead intelligence. As liberals we need to realize that we can't assimilate down to their level of oratory skills (calling people names) and expect the country to follow along. Intelligence needs to destroy ignorance, instead of ignorance fighting ignorance.

I suppose what frightens me the most is the notion that if you give people an open forum in which to post anything they want, they will inevitably whine and bitch. Daily Kos is a place where anyone can have their say and let it be openly evaluated. It is a place where people yell loudly about their issues while others agree or disagree. I like to laugh every so often, and Daily Kos has none of that for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Debauchery aka Brett Got Game

Since it's the weekend I'm trying to do as little work as possible. However, I want a shot at this whole protoblogger thing, so I'm going to try and describe my evening last night in short vignettes:

1. I managed to convince a bachelorette party that I was a regional consultant for Miller Lite looking for shot girls. While no other guys were able to come near their table, I sat at their table for most of the night being funny and scaring off other guys. My game was rolling last night.
The score so far: Brett 1 Random other guys 0

2. I convince the bachelorettes to let guys buy them shots in exchange for their glow bracelets. I broker many deals with eager men who quickly run and get the girls shots. In exchange I am provided with two Jager bomb shots and my own glow bracelet. The guys still strike out with the girls because of their general overenthusiasm. Brett 3 (1 for each shot) Random overenthusiastic skeevy guys -2

3. Some guy comes over and hits on my friend Amanda. This guy has approached Amanda 3 out of 3 times when we've gone into Hartford. Amanda's boyfriend (not me) suggests to the guy that he is a judo champ and could easily break bones. I score this in my point category because I totally would have taken him also. Brett 4 Random skeevy guys -2

4. After many hours of dancing and singing (and other things which a gentleman doesn't discuss) I leave confident of my skills. I have crossed no lines, made new friends and fulfilled many of my own needs. My friend Ashley, Tony's girlfriend, buys me a slice of pizza. The pizza is bad, but it's free and thus scores me another point. Brett 5 Some random made up person I'm playing a game with -3

5. I am alone at last. A strange sense of need for companionship strikes me, but it is quickly wiped out by remembering how wonderful it is to sleep in a bed by myself. I win, so there.

Thus, my fun-filled evening. I feel so self satisfied now.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Salon has posted a stirring timeline of the events leading up to the Katrina disaster. While it does tend to blame federal officials more than state officials, it's pretty well balanced. Check it out:

I love how quickly New Orleans is being reopened. The indominatable human spirit lives on, refusing to die in the face of disaster. It gives me hope to see how we always come together during tragic times to learn from our mistakes and start again. New Orleans will once again thrive and be an even better place to live.

Bush's speech last night was very controlled and generally on task. He realizes that all his political capital, plus a hell of a lot of credit, has been burned and he needs to clumsily attempt to get it back. Nearly one year after being elected, the man sits with the lowest poll numbers of his presidency. Will we ever trust the man again, especially considering the tenth level of hell that Iraq is becoming? There are times when I feel sorry for him, I really do think he's not even sure where he is or what he's doing. But then I remember the damage that his administration has caused and I step up and once again fight against the president.

Now I think I may need to go to the bathroom? Is this possible.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Blogs vs. Journals

The hubbub about the recent blogsearch addition to google has forced me to address the issue. I do not want to address it, I'm not even sure what I'm going to write at this point. I just know that I need to address the larger issue of what a blog really is.

I'm frightened by the way in which the word blog has exploded to mean nearly everything that is now posted on a website. People look at everything on the web and wonder if it's a blog or just a website. It's like someone looking at a garbage can with a banana peel sticking out and wondering if it's art.

No, it's a banana peel sticking out of a garbage can. B A N A N A S.

People try to define what a blog is every day. I respect people's ideas about blogs, and appreciate how nearly anybody can write a blog nowadays. I know I'm getting myself into trouble by writing this now, but I think there needs to be some concrete definition of a blog. We need to follow it and respect it so that people aren't using the term blog to mean anything on the web, which completely takes any meaning of the word away.

I'm not going to attempt a definition today, I just realized that I really don't have the gumption. I just wanted to show you what I believe might not be a blog, and tell you why.

1. The random livejournal a person writes about themselves.
While it may be voyeuristic and sort of fun to read about a stranger's life, I dont regard this as a blog in any regard. In my opinion, a livejournal where a person just writes about themselves serves very little purpose besides making the person feel special. The person is also able to sound off about things he or she is afraid to tell their friends in person (ie: I hate Mandy's new hair color, what does she think she is a troll?) Personally I think the livejournal phenomenon is creating a generation of kids who will be too uncomfortable and awkward around each other to socialize properly. Instead people will run to their computers to write down how they are really feeling. As an English teacher, the spelling and grammar also drive me crazy.

2. The random link journal.
A journal where a person just puts up links and comments next to the links. I've already spoken about and why I dont believe it should be listed as a blog. These websites are like picking up a yellow pages only to find the listings are posted randomly. The reason why is so popular is because it's something to do when you are bored. It's fun. Fun does not equal a blog.

3. The Celebrity Personal Experience Journal
I love the idea of celebrities sharing personal experiences to give other's hope about fighting cancer or some other tragedy. But this is not a blog, it is a common thread. The reason why it's called a blog is because the term is currently hip. These journals are akin to Chicken Soup for the Soun books. If you put one of those books on the web, it would not be a blog.

I know I'm not ready to nail down a definition just yet, but I think I can restrict what a blog is. A blog must be about something outside of yourself using an editorial voice, which means that merely writing about yourself and what happened during your day doesn't count. That is primarily about you. A blog must comment on an issue, or react to an article or another blog. Please people, lets try and work together to find a proper definition for blog before the term becomes meaningless.

Literary Circle

This week, I've decided to recommend a book I think will appeal to the less avid reader, althought as a pretty voracious reader, I enjoyed it as well. It's Chris Crutcher's The Sledding Hill and it is a quick and fantastic experience. The narrator is a recently deceased boy who meddles with his friend Eddie so that Eddie's life will be okay in the future. Crutcher, as always, mixes humor with drama in a comfortable and easy manner.

The central conflict of the book turns out to be censorship and how to deal with it in a small town. What is amazing about the book is the way in which Crutcher manages to create a large issues without creating any cliched bad guys. Crutcher goes out of his way to suggest that even censorship advocates believe their actions are good and just. Nobody is evil in the tradition manner. Crutcher deals with the controversial issues in an easy to understand and straightforward manner. The Sledding Hill is an inviting and exciting read.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Searching Blogs

Google has a new blog search, which is pretty interesting, although I bet most people will use it to look for references to themselves:

Which, of course, led me to looking for references to myself on Google search.
According to Google search, Brett Evans is:

A somewhat mysterious bad poet
A reporter for something called Lateline
A soccer star (look how handsome I am)
The city of Warner Robins police chief
A write for Lungfull magazine
An alumni for Taiwan Taichung Mission
The writer of The Life and Soul of the Party:A Portrait of Modern Labor
The Producer of No Mess, a television show with a strange premise
A pretty darn good marathon runner (go me!)
Quality Assurance Supervisor for the Natural Gas Exchange
and finally....
A guest star on Angel

Whew that took awhile, but I finally feel like I know myself.

Apologies to the poet Brett Evans, who was safely evacuated from New Orleans last week. Your poems may be bad, but you are probably a nice person.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Big Ups to Bush for Taking Responsibility

Now I don't want to take credit for causing this, but I'm pretty sure the president is a regular reader of my blog and was clearly influenced by my criticism of him being a poor influence for children. He may have even cried after reading what I wrote. I can't be sure. Or maybe his lowest approval ratings ever forced him to act. In a press conference earlier today, Bush said:

"And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

Amazing, and yet notice how clever he is with his responsbility. He only takes responsbility for the federal government actions, which I bet he will seriously downplay in the future.


I have two cats, both extremely needy. In actuality I began with one cat and noticed how needy he was, so I got another one hoping they might need each other. Now I have two cats that constantly demand my attention. The reason why I acquired a cat is because I was moving to my own apartment and society demanded I take care of an animal. Being able to make sure an animal doesn't die suggests that I can be a nurturing individual and mature enough to be an adult. Read Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep and you'll understand what I mean.

Not to say I dont enjoy having my cats around. Often times while I'm sleeping they box me in so I stay in one position throughout the night. I've heard that's good for my back. They walk over my keyboard while I'm typing to give me that extra boost of creativity I need. Sometimes they will stand in front of the television to suggest that what I'm watching is crap. Most times they are right, but if they do it during House tonight they'll be sprayed with freezing water quicker than a college girl on spring break. Don't mess with me during House. They often sit on my chest while I'm trying to read because they are also interested in that new Chris Crutcher or Michael Chabon book. I yell at them because they could clearly read the novels while I'm at work or away, though I appreciate that I'm raising intellectually curious cats.

I do love them. I care about them and worry about them and sometimes wonder if they are okay in the apartment. They get the good cat food because I shudder at what's really in the generic store brand. The cats actually have their own bunk bed despite the fact that they dont use it. The real question though is: Would I leave them behind to save myself in a crisis?

A hundred million times yes. I could have a cat that crapped gold and I would leave it behind.

Timothy Noah's fantastic article in Slate today is an excellent and coherent argument for leaving animals behind. Animals are dumb, and while dogs tend to be more adept at reacting to odd situations, they still act with instinct. The truth is, the evacuation of New Orleans was a mess without bringing animals. Imagine how horrible it would have been if some kid insisted on bringing his six foot ball python with him.

That would not have been the bus I would have taken.

Please dont misunderstand me. I love animals. I hate puppy mill pet stores and both of my cats are from shelters. But I understand that in a crisis, pets must be left behind. I can't imagine how my cats would even respond when faced with hordes of running people trying to get away from some disaster. When we talk about the humane thing to do, sometimes we need to consider humanity in the equation.

On a brighter note, I am heartened by the massive amounts of volunteers who are going to New Orleans simply to rescue pets. I respect what you are doing, and I hope only the best for.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hunter's Last Words

Sad, and yet so perfect:

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun—for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax—This won't hurt."
-Hunter S. Thompson's suicide note as published in Rolling Stone

A Muted 9/11

In the midst of all the chaos and craziness surrounding the Katrina cleanup (and the subsequent Bush crony cleanup and fingerpointing), 9/11 was remembered. Two great tragedies happening so close to one another and both under the vacationing eye of our president. It's great to see that New Orleans is finally beginning to rise, but sad to see that the Bush people are already working hard to expugate themselves from any blame for the terrible way in which the government responded. Fingers deserving to be pointing at the president, and while they certainly are (38% approval rating and dropping), it's sad to watch the new talking points Bush's people have come up with. The most criticized is Bush's statement "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." The prize for the best (and funniest) rebut to this statement goes to The Daily Show for showing a clip of a random woman wearing a yellow raincoat saying "someday the levees are going to break and New Orleans is going to be flooded with water" nearly two years ago. Of course other reputable news places also have reported the chances of the levees breaking. Once again, our president was ridiculously wrong.
What frustrates me is the obvious and cavalier way in which blame is now mysteriously falling on local officials rather than the federal government. Consider this quote from a September 5th article in the New York Times:

"In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats. (Nagourney, Kurnblut)"

Dude, what the heck? We now have political leaders who are absolutely unwilling to take any blame or responsibility for their actions. Bush sets a great example for young people by suggesting that it's easy to lie and get yourself out of trouble. If kids were to follow his example, they could skip classes claiming they were helping their friends work on student senate campaigns, start random wars with other kids on the playground based on some kid telling some other kid that quite possibly a third kid had information that your mom is ugly, and of course constantly lie and never see any sort of reprisal. Now that is good leadership.

Of course, there are some indications that the White House smoke screen is no longer as effective. Consider Newsweek's conventional wisdom for this week in which they scour Bush putting him down for his unwillingness to blame himself. Comparing Bush to Truman is really startling, one President willing to take accept all the blame for the countries' shortcomings while another president willing to accept none.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Post Hurricane Media

I've been reading a lot about how the news media has begun shifting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Recently, I saw a rather illuminating clip from Salon where very cool and calm anchors like Shephard Smith and Anderson Cooper become emotional and heavily critical while discussing the hurricane. My favorite is the first one where Senator Mary Landrieu is talking to Anderon Cooper and thanking herself and her colleagues for getting off their behinds and passing a bill to help New Orleans four days after the hurricane happened. Cooper goes crazy on Senator Landrieu, criticizing her self-congratulatory tone when dead bodies are lying in the streets. Now that is good journalism.

While I've thought a good deal about how the news reporters actions have been changed largely because of the blog community, I disagree with the notion that reporters are getting more edgy because of blogs. It seems to me that it has more to do with the reporters still having a bit of humanity left inside of them, which was brought out by seeing bodies eaten by rats. No one can dampen the anger and frustration an image like that must cause.

Jon Stewart surprised me by thanking the media for their honest and bipartisan approach to the Katrina tragedy. This was a rare moment for Stewart, who usually takes the time to eviscerate the cable news network's attitudes. Usually it's only his show that's willing to be truthful and honest about news.

Still, there were stories of media representatives pandering to the camera. Salon recently reported a story in which Geraldo Rivera saved an elderly woman and her dog in New Orleans. The Salon journalist saw Rivera walk out of a van and escort this woman to shelter and was truly amazed by it. Until, of course, a National Guardsmen told him that Rivera had already done a take of himself walking to the shelter with the woman. This was the second one because the first time just didn't look right.


I know Fox News will quickly fall into formation once the dust settles and reiterate whatever the White House wants to say. However, my greatest hope is that perhaps news reporters like Shephard Smith (whose recent fight on-air with Bill O'Reilly was classic) and Anderson Cooper will be forever changed by this tragedy and do some real journalism, where they tell the American people the truth they deserve to hear.

I wish I had a link for that Salon article, but unfortunately it seems to have disappeared into the abyss of their constant updating. You'll just have to trust me on it for now.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Celebrities as Orators and What the Fark?

I've been reading this aricle at Wonkette about last night's opening day football extravaganza (go Patriots) featuring artists such as Kanye West and I began to wonder about the immense role celebrities have commandeered in our society. The article makes clear that most celebrities now feel free to espouse their own viewpoints to their vast audiences. Networks have ceased using 10 second delays for profanity, instead censoring inappropriate and perhaps overtly political remarks.

I'm torn on this issue for many reasons. The main reason is that I dont believe celebrities have the ethos necessary to spew out their own political opinions, regardless of how right or wrong they are. I'm not sure if what Kanye says is correct, maybe he's right in some regards. But he's not exactly Jon Stewart, who in my mind has the most credibility of any faux-journalist/quasi-celebrity. Kanye's remarks were inappropriate because they were spoken at an event that was meant to be uplifting and affirming. However, I'm not sure I like the idea that networks are now terrified of political statements in broadcasts either. Regardless of how stupid or inappropriate or inconsiderate Kanye's remarks were, he still has the right to make them and suffer the consequences afterwards.

Which brings me back to the ethos of celebrities. We have preconceived notions regarding celebrities. We judge them based on what films they make, what songs they write, etc. They gain their ethos from us based on the personas they present in the media. It is immensely easy to destroy that persona by slipping and making a radical political statement, which in turn causes that celebrity to lose a certain amount of splendor. An excellent example of the shattering of a persona is Tom Cruise's recent scientology love-in. He believed he had the ethos to go out and blast prescription drugs and other celebrities. Has anyone considered not taking their amoxycillin or valium because of Tom? I actually probably need to go to the store now and get some more valium just to tolerate looking at him and Katie Holmes.

Okay, that was mean, but not necessarily off the mark. A question has been sticking in my mind ever since class last night (which is not long, but the way my mind works it feels like forever). I've been looking at and checking out their website and wondering if it's a blog or just a scattered set of links. There is no doubt that what Drew Curtis has created is truly ingenious, but I'm not sure if it qualifies as a blog. Drew has created something more like a card catalog of fun stuff. I've been reading the comments next to the links and while they seem authoritative in some regard, they mainly summarize what the website actually is. Occasionally you can feel an editorial voice lingering in some of his commentaries, but mostly he's just being funny or silly. I'm not yet ready to define what a blog is, but there's something inside of me telling me isn't it.

Shaken and a little Stirred

I'm tense, which is weird for me because I'm usually composed. I can feel my hand shaking and I place my other hand over it to make myself look more casual. I probably look less casual and kind of constipated, but that's alright, I'm still a handsome guy. New experiences hardly ever jostle me, I often revel in public speaking and meeting new people. Yet this is different, it's my fourth class at Trinity and I'm still not sure what to expect. I'm always the first one in class pursuant to some ingrained need to be on time to anything I've ever been to. I go crazy if I'm not on time. So I'm sitting along fifteen minutes early, which is fine because I enjoy listening to my inner monologue. Someone walks in and introduces himself, and I kind of awkwardly introduce myself, which is a little off because I'm excellent at introducing myself. I love giving people formal greetings with a firm handshake that suggests I'm interested in meeting them. It surprises and pleases most people when you show you care about meeting them. In this case though, I merely blurt out my name like it's a secret password I'm reluctant to give. More people file in, also introducing themselves. We begin discussing classes at Trinity we've taken. I'm more comfortable now, more in my element. Two people have taken a class I despised and express their own distaste for the class. I get excited, my voice decibel rising. I'm in the middle of nearly shouting about how I hated the book when our new professor walks in and repeats my one of my vitriolic lines.

I'm pretty sure I was hoping for a better introduction then that.

Other than that, I think my technical know-how combined with my voracious reading of web journals and need to write will propel me through the course. I'm glad people from the rhetoric course are also in the class (including Chris who keeps following me to new classes) so I'll feel more comfortable explaining my thoughts without feeling self-conscious.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why do I write?

It's a broad question and one I ask myself nearly every day. I'm not sure why I write or even half the time what the heck I am writing about. I just know on occasion I need to write because it quiets some sort of internal strife inside me.

When I was younger I used to play with elaborate fantasies with dwarfs and trolls and all sorts of magic that was clearly an offshoot of my loving novels by Roger Zelazny and Piers Anthony (Zelazny's work I'm still proud of loving, Anthony's not so much). I remember writing being a fun adventure for me. In many regards it still is an adventure, but I know that over time my rationale for writing has changed.

I can nearly chart my progression of writing based on my age and what I was feeling during that time. My adolescent angst writing is so bad that I'm now embarrassed that I proudly showed it to people at the time (my mom actually sent a really bad teen anixety poem into a magazine once. We got no reply). My teen angst writing can be filtered into one category: writing I did because I was depressed about some girl. Oddly enough I began a sort of pseudo-blog back then called an ejournal in which I expressed all my adolescent anxieties and gossiped about my friends. Cleverly I would change their names to their first initial so that no one could figure out who they were. I doubt anybody could crack that code. My primary reason for writing this journal was to get a girl named Robin to date me.

It didn't quite work out.

When I entered college, my writing became a strange mirror image of what I was currently studying. When we were reading Hemingway, I wrote lots of manly things about fishing and bonding and all sorts of groin scratching good times. Vonnegut became Vonnegut, and so on... While I wrote some good stuff, I generally acknowledge that my college years were a time of growing my writing style into a cohesive former. My experimental years in college were with poetry and literature rather than alcohol and drugs (okay maybe a little on the alcohol and drugs).

But I'm out of college now, I teach people how to write and I can't quite figure out my impetus for doing it. I started a livejournal once to impress another girl (which worked the second time) but that wasn't anything serious. Occasionally I'll start novels, but I often get wiped out at work with reading papers, so I hardly ever have the extra time to devote to a fruitful idea.
I guess the major problem is that I dont want to be one of those writers who uses writing as a means to complain. One of my ex-girlfriends, whose blog I voyueristically read, constantly writes about how bad her life is. She analyzes the hell out of every bad situation by writing about her feelings and some guys feelings and how her cat may have been feeling at the time. What's amusing is that at the end of many of her entries the question "Am I overanalyzing this?" usually pops up.

Lets have a brief message from our sponsor: Captain Obvious.

So I suppose the short answer is to keep writing and see what happens. Or take a zen approach and clear my mind before attempting to write down my thoughts. Or stop writing altogether and go to bed.