9.29.2006

Generation HP

by Martha Hanna

As fans lined up in bookstores on July 16, 2005, they were unmindful of the developing circumstances surrounding the London bombing which had occurred just a week earlier. They were oblivious to the suicide attack in Iraq, the worst the war had seen, as they cursed an evil professor under their breath. Just a few days later, they were completely unaware of the nomination of the current Chief Justice John Roberts; numbingly mourning the death of the world’s greatest wizard.

The only thing on these readers’ minds was J.K. Rowling’s next great adventure: Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. Would Harry and Cho finally tie the knot? Was the Wizard Community wholly convinced of Lord Voldemort’s resurrection? Prominently, who would the much-hypothesized victim of this long-awaited novel be?

Harry Potter is an obsession, mania and fascination. And trust me; I am in no way criticizing. Having read the third book 42 times, attended seven midnight premieres, finished each novel within 12 hours of its release, and sobbed like a baby when Dumbledore died, how could I?
The Harry Potter series has many valid themes, encouraging both reform and reflection in readers. These include Harry’s comprehensive acceptance of “Mudbloods” (half wizards), despite prejudice from many others; the deep, unconditional love shown to Harry by his parents, friends, and mentors; and the success Harry achieves despite atrocious conditions. Through common acceptance of these subjects, J.K. Rowling has spanned age, country, and status gaps. Each novel is released with two cover designs, one for youth and one for adults and more than 300 million books have sold worldwide.

Amazingly, 51% of young people began reading for fun because of Harry Potter, and 65% of students say they do better in school since reading the series. (Source: Scholastic Inc., the publishers of the Harry Potter series.) Clearly, Harry Potter has revitalized our anticipation for reading.

On the other hand, critics claim that Harry Potter is overly childish and encourages ignorance in youth. Are we so obsessed with a world of fighting Death Eaters, playing Quidditch, and memorizing spells that we ignore the real problems of society? It’s essential that children get experience not only from fantasy, but also in real world events. While Harry Potter endings are often comforting and fluffy, the problems we encounter often don’t have such cheerful finales.

With both its denigrations and praises in mind, I like to consider Harry Potter a test of integrity. As Dumbledore once said, “Now is the time that we must choose between what is right, and what is easy.” While the opportunity to lose ourselves in its fantasy world is tempting, it is essential to be proactive in seeking truth and expanding our minds.

However, the future of our generation appears rather grim. Upon asking 50 college students if they knew the name of the Secretary of Defense and of Harry Potter’s best friends, while 45 knew the former, only 14 could conjure up Donald Rumsfeld’s name. Surveying her boyfriend, my roommate snickered, “Haha, you’re probably the only person in the world who knows the Secretary of Defense quicker than Harry Potter’s best friends.” Jeez, what a loser.

(Harry Potter book poster courtesy of Scholastic, Inc., the publishers of the series.)

(To see the trailer for the last Harry Potter film and to hear Dumbledore's words of wisdom, check out the video below, courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.)






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9.28.2006

Nude No More!


by Allie Feras

The media love buzzwords, and one that’s been tossed around a lot lately is “Web 2.0.” The term, which was originally coined by the O’Reilly Media Group, refers to the latest step in the internet’s evolution. Today’s most popular websites – such as MySpace, YouTube, Skype, and Craigslist – are driven by user created content. These new applications don’t just allow users to interact with the site, but also with each other. In fact, the survival of these websites depends on user interactivity.

I got to thinking about Web 2.0 today while I was loading my dirty laundry into the washing machine. While the two may appear at first glance to have very little in common, they are actually connected by my favorite Web 2.0 site, Threadless.com.

Threadless is a t-shirt company that allows everyone from graphic designers to bored kids to submit their shirt designs. After the designs are screened by the Threadless staff, they are left to the discretion of the site’s members, who can vote for their favorites and leave scathing comments on their not-so-favorites. Every Monday, at least six designs are printed in a variety of sizes (including, thank god, “girly sizes”), and users can buy the shirts for around $15. Users can also interact on the site by posting pictures of themselve in the shirts for $1.50 off their next purchase or just by posting on the forum.

The shirts range from dark and emo to bright and cartoony. Some are funny, some political, and some don’t make any sense at all. The designs are as strange and as varied as their user base. Right now, I’m checking my order status on a shirt that proclaims “Vegetarians are destroying the rain forest,” while wearing my “Pandamonium” shirt (it depicts in a giant panda confronting an army attack. Get it? Ha Ha. Punny). Call me a little obsessed, but democratized fashion that fits great? What more could you ask for?

The thing about Threadless that makes it even more interesting to me than other Web 2.0 sites is that it is its own advertising. While sites like MySpace must rely on word-of-mouth, Threadless puts something tangible out into the world. When people ask where I got my shirt, I can direct them to the site. (And, of course, tell them to buy through this link http://www.threadless.com/?streetteam=AlienLifeForm so I can get points towards discounts on t-shirts. A shameless plug? Of course not!)

Web 2.0 has the potential to greatly increase the free flow of information by connecting users to each other at an unprecedented level. It also, in the case of Threadless, has the potential to run up my credit card bill, but at least I am “Nude No More.”







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"Real Beauty"


by Allison Dunatchik

As I flopped down on my bed last Friday afternoon, I thought to myself, I could get a jump on those papers I have to write and that presentation I have to prepare for next week. However, then I came to my senses, recognizing that homework is a rather depressing start to the weekend, and began searching the room for means of mindless procrastination. I stumbled across my roommate’s stack of fashion magazines and began thumbing lazily through the pages, expecting to be mildly entertained by various articles highlighting the sordid lives of celebrities and the precise style of pants I should be wearing this season.

While articles such as these were certainly present, what grabbed my attention more were the pages upon pages of advertisements that occupied a good half of the magazine. All of these advertisements featured impossibly thin, stunningly beautiful women – the kind of women I have never actually seen in real life but am accustomed to seeing in movies, on TV and in magazines such as these. Halfway through the first magazine I was already starting to feel pretty bad about myself and the standards of fabulousness I would never quite reach. Lucky for me, however, these ads that left me feeling so insecure also kindly pointed me to products that would assuredly make me as gorgeous and happy as the breath-taking models on the page. Needless to say, I suddenly found myself in dire need of various lotions, perfumes, shampoos, and mascaras.

Then I came across an ad for Dove body wash. The ad featured a curvy woman of rather large stature compared to the model on the opposing page (but relatively average by normal standards). She was in her plain cotton underwear, standing defiantly, hands on hips, and her head tossed back in laughter. Below the photo the caption simply read “Real Beauty” and I couldn’t help but feel relieved by the ad. It felt refreshing to see this happy, confident, and beautifully ordinary woman amidst all those other goddess-like untouchable creatures. Instead of telling me “you’re not as beautiful as this woman, but you can be if you buy this product” this ad seemed to say “look at how happy this woman is with herself, use this product and be happy with yourself too.” A marketing tactic to be sure, but a much softer, and arguably a much healthier one.

In a society where eating disorders and plastic surgery are on the rise, Dove may just have struck gold with its new marketing ploy entitled “Campaign for Real Beauty.” After all, who wouldn’t rather be sold a product by a company that tells you “it’s okay to be just you.” After visiting Dove’s website, just once, I already possess a higher opinion of Dove products – an opinion I’m sure to remember the next time I’m in need of some body wash.

(Photo of the runway models provided by jesus of morgueFile. Photo of the unidentified woman provided by Somadjinn of morgueFile. The photos were merged using Photoshop. No other changes were made in the photographic representation.)






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Rocky's Football Corner #4


by Rick Rockwell

Have you overdosed yet?

I mean, have you overdosed on Terrell Owens?

I overdosed on his media antics a long time ago, but I suppose you can’t ignore him: just like a car wreck on the highway.

Now, the question might be: are we in the media just feeding his attention habit? But how could we not report on the latest controversy regarding how Owens – media star supreme and talented wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys – took a bit too much hydrocodone? (By the way, hydrocodone is sometimes marketed as Vicodin.)

Owens says it was an accident. Some extra pain-killers ended up with the vitamin supplements he takes regularly. The police report says something else: attempted suicide.

For those who don’t know, Owens fractured a bone in his right hand while playing Washington in Dallas’ last game. Doctors screwed a metal plate into his hand to give him more flexibility. They also prescribed the pain medication.

For any ordinary player, this story would do a quick fade. But this is just the latest chapter in the Owens media saga. This star receiver has already torn apart two football teams with his antics and Dallas’ coach, Bill “The Tuna” Parcells wants to make sure Owens doesn’t make it three for three. That could be why he rarely calls Owens by name, preferring the generic tag “the player.” (And no, he doesn’t mean “play-ah” when he says it that way.)

For the few who don’t know, here’s the Owens scorecard. (And yes, we are leaving out some of the juiciest bits.) In San Francisco, his criticisms contributed to the firing of a successful coach and hastened the exit of a talented quarterback. The 49ers eventually dumped Owens too, for all the penalties he incurred for his on-field grandstanding and because he was a divisive force. The 49ers still haven’t recovered from the housecleaning Owens started. Although San Francisco traded him to the Baltimore Ravens, an arbitrator sided with Owens and let him skip out of that deal and head down the road to the Philadelphia Eagles. Although there was much gnashing of teeth in Baltimore after that affair, the Ravens are probably happy today they were not the next stop for Terrell’s circus. Sure, he helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl. But after they lost, his criticisms of the team’s coaches and quarterback were too much for management to take and they suspended him for half of last year. By then the damage was done. His Eagles teammates took sides with Owens or against him. Although there were several other factors, the controversy surrounding Owens was a major factor in last year’s disappointing season for the Eagles.

But this year, Dallas gave him $25 million dollars and a three-year contract. Dallas’ owner, Jerry Jones, likes high-profile receivers, whether they are prima donnas or not. And apparently Coach Parcells was none too happy with a move that put the very talented but troubled Owens in Dallas’ tightly controlled locker room. So far though, Owens has contributed on the field, although he missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, which again proved controversial, as some speculated about Owens’ work ethic and whether the injury was a convenient way to dodge Parcells.

So what are we to make of this latest chapter in “How Terrell Turns?” Perhaps all we can hope for is that Owens gets all the help he can for whatever ails him and then just plays football. Period. The less anyone writes about all the other baggage would be appreciated by those inside and out of the football world.




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The Office Pool: Week Four


by Rick Rockwell

Last week proved to be a major collapse, dropping the season average 70 percentage points off the regular prediction average. So this blog tiptoes warily into the fourth week of this National Football League (NFL) season.

Last Week: .500
This Season: .609

Game of the Week: Patriots at Bengals

Can Cory Dillon run at full speed for the Patriots? That's the biggest question in this match-up of elite teams in the American Football Conference (AFC). The Bengals will likely edge the Patriots in this one.

Sunday Night: Seattle at Chicago

This battle of division leaders in the National Football Conference (NFC) also revolves around the health of a running back, Shaun Alexander, last year's league most-valuable player. Alexander has been running on an injured foot for most of the season. Chicago's defense is likely too strong, no matter if Alexander plays or not.

Browns at Raiders

Both of these teams are better than either of last week's Loser Bowl contestants, yet they are still the worst in their divisions. So this will likely be a fierce, yet sloppy battle. The Browns have the edge.

Jaguars at Washington

The Jaguars have proven they are one of the strongest teams in the league despite losing to the Colts last week. They should run wild over Washington.

Vikings at Bills

What to make of the inconsistent Bills? They have the league's top running back in Willis McGahee, yet it doesn't seem to matter. Las Vegas likes the Bills. But the Vikings, despite losing to Chicago, are still the best upset team of the season. Go with Minnesota.

Lions at Rams

Ousted coach Mike Martz returns to St. Louis, this time in his new capacity as the offensive guru guiding the Lions. The Lions proved last week they are the worst team in the league. The Rams have the edge.

Dolphins at Texans

The Dolphins looked woeful while winning in Tennessee last week. This might be a repeat, as they edge past the very weak Texans.

Cardinals at Falcons

Which Falcons team shows up this week? The one that ran over opponents like a Panzer tank during the first two weeks? Or the confused bunch who failed to show up at the Super Dome last week. This week, quarterback Michael Vick and his teammates rediscover their mojo.

Saints at Panthers

Everyone in the country wants the Saints to stay undefeated. Nice thought. The Panthers should end those dreams on Sunday.

Chargers at Ravens

The Chargers have the highest rated offense and highest rated defense in the AFC. The Ravens are undefeated yet inconsistent. Take the Chargers.

Monday Night: Packers at Eagles

Quarterback Brett Favre looked like the top gunslinger again last week. Are the Pack back? No. The Eagles should stop those thoughts quickly.

49ers at Chiefs

The Chiefs are in disarray and the 49ers have plenty of young talent, just itching to make a statement. San Francisco goes home with the upset.

Cowboys at Titans

With or without receiver Terrell Owens, the Cowboys should roll easily in Tennessee.

Colts at Jets

Quarterback Chad Pennington looks to be back in form, something Jets fans haven't seen in two years. However, the powerful Colts should end any illusions those Jets fans may hold about where their team really stands in the league. Pick the Colts.

Now, if this column can get back to at least being better than a coin flip! Enjoy!



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9.26.2006

Fourbucks


by Allison Doolittle

Happily enjoying my venti coffee frappucino, I ponder the strange phenomenon where I find myself. Here I am, a poor college freshman: eating Ramen noodles, rationing EagleBucks and yet somehow willing to slap down four dollars to satisfy my craving for sugar and caffeine. But, is that all I crave? Are sugar and caffeine really the primary reasons why junkies like myself spend so much time and money at their local Starbucks? Why not chug a Mountain Dew? No. That just wouldn’t satisfy most of us. I’m convinced that Starbucks offers a whole lot more than a dizzying array of delicious coffees and drinks (although even the caliber of their coffee is contested by some).

Starbucks serves as a key locale for media convergence. Customers are encouraged to sift through a newspaper, hum along to the XM satellite radio station, and buy a feel-good family DVD, Akeelah and the Bee. One might buy the new CD from their favorite artist or purchase a CD with a collection of a certain musician’s favorite songs. Starbucks stores recently employed innovative technology in their “HearMusic” machines so that customers could select songs to make a personal mix of music that would come out as a finished CD- complete with an artsy case -- several minutes later. However, this venture proved to be unsuccessful as machines were pricy, unreliable, and less popular than expected. Still, Starbucks continues to creatively expand the media opportunities at its local stores.

Clearly, these types of “buy me” media cost customers money and generate profits. Less obviously, Starbucks’ B.Y.O.M. policy (Bring Your Own Media) has also hugely added to its commercial success. Customers are welcome to bring books to read but also iPods, blackberries, laptops, cell phones, etc. These allow Starbucks customers to bring their work and communication to Starbucks. This means more customers and that these customers will stay for longer (which may cause them to bring a friend, grab another latte, or a Times). It also lends to the community-feel of each Starbucks.

Right now, I’m actually sitting in the Tenleytown Starbucks (in Washington, D.C.), people-watching, coffee-frapuccino-sipping and typing this blog entry. For the media, the atmosphere, or the delicious drink I crave, I’ll be back again to spend another four bucks at Starbucks.

(Photo courtesy of blitzkrieg from morgueFile.)






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9.21.2006

What Are You Doing, NBC?



by McKayle Davison


It’s fall again. It’s the time when television networks begin their incessant promotion of the new primetime lineups. One of my favorite pastimes is watching all of the obnoxious variations on the same basic commercial, trying to guess which shows will be hits, and which shows won’t see a second episode. This year, I was struck by a particularly bold (or stupid) move by NBC. The network is running two shows based on a “behind-the-scenes” look at live comedy sketch programs, both obviously based on NBC’s long-running gem, Saturday Night Live.

The first is an hour-long drama, running on Monday nights, called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, created by the genius behind The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin. Studio 60 features a parade of viewer favorites, including Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Judd Hirsch, and more. I caught this week’s premiere, and I fully expected not to enjoy it. I was pleasantly surprised, but I honestly couldn’t tell you many major plot points. I was primarily watching to
get a dose of the oh-so-snappy dialogue I’ve been craving since West Wing went off the air, and Studio 60 was just the cureI needed.

The other show is a thirty minute sitcom called 30 Rock (taken from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, SNL’s studio) featuring SNL’s former head writer, Tina Fey, former cast member Tracy Morgan, and everyone’s favorite Baldwin, Alec. It won’t premiere until Wednesday, October 11th, but I must say it looks promising.

I’m sure both shows are very entertaining. NBC has had to refine its programming skills since rival ABC came out of nowhere with the smash hits Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, and Desperate Housewives. I’m a faithful NBC viewer; I think My Name is Earl and The Office are brilliant. But I can’t help wondering where the originality has gone with this new move. My first thought when I heard about these shows was, “Seriously, NBC? Two shows based on SNL?” It’s not as if SNL is still as innovative as it was in the golden years of John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, or even in the days of
Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. Sure, it still gets viewers,
but I have to think this is partially due to lack of competition.
What else is on at 11:30 on a Saturday night? No self-respecting 18 to 36-year-old watches Fox’s Mad TV anymore. SNL has moments of hilarity, but let’s face it: SNL is no longer a conversation starter.

I wonder about NBC executives. Do they really think we are all desperate to know what is happening behind the scenes of the nation’s premiere sketch comedy show? Or desperate enough to watch two shows about it? Having two shows about SNL (three if you count the actual show) doesn’t even seem like the best way to gain ratings, but I can only assume that that is NBC’s motive. It seems like a copout. The lack of originality is almost enough to make me nostalgic for Friends.

(Because NBC likes variations on a theme, we have also included the network's variations on its logo from the present back to 1943.)



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Where has the Passionate Music Gone?


by Hilary Crowe


There comes a point, every so often in music, where, in an attempt to sow a fresh, new crop of young, talented artists, record companies and music executives lay the manure on so thick that instead of fertilizing a creative movement, they smother it.

If you haven’t taken a sledgehammer to your radio yet or replaced it with iTunes and a music library that stretches to infinity and beyond (probably filled with stolen music in a last ditch effort to “stick it to the man”) because it is rewriting the creativity and experimentation out of music today (you know, picture the big guy at Atlantic with the corner office), then turn on your radio. I challenge you to listen enthusiastically to two songs consecutively without changing the frequency. It’s impossible.

And, if you’ve ever been played cuts from old Hendrix, Dylan, Zappa, Clash, or Fugazi albums, you won’t fare much better in a CD store like Tower Records.

Something appears to be missing in music today. Something that is difficult to pinpoint, but makes music potent when present and abysmal when absent. What is it? Passion.

Passion is severely lacking in the music industry today. The very word “industry” connotes a cold, hard, and unfeeling environment in which nothing vulnerable and subsequently ephemeral can hope to survive. Unwavering passion, conviction on the path toward reaching a certain creative nirvana, is the only weapon burgeoning artists have in the face of mass-produced apathy. Were Hendrix’s guitar and Jim Morrison’s voice always in tune? Did Minor Threat and the Ramones know any more than three power chords? No. And who cares? Everyone.

Today’ artists continue to pay respects and dues to these bands and others like them. Bands that weren’t always or perhaps ever popular, yet managed to inspire countless followers with their power and determination. But followers aren’t revolutionaries, and what music is in need of now is a revolution, for its evolution is becoming increasingly lugubrious and laced with purported “bands that define this generation,” as championed by the half-century-old columnists and editors of Rolling Stone.

It appears that the only thing that can save music now, as in the past, is to let the ground lie fallow. Build up underground talent, then, when frustrated woe-weary youths need it most, a movement will blossom on its own. But what will be the impetus of this new growth in music? And when can we expect it to occur?

In my mind, general dissatisfaction with the way the media portray and attempt to shape our generation (those made in the 1980s) accordingly will give rise to protest songs of a new kind. However, it is difficult to gauge when that dissatisfaction will turn into rage and finally into action. What I do know, however, is that the time is ripe. In the ‘60s and ‘80s, war overseas and terrorist paranoia abounded, and another 20 years later, American youths find themselves in the same environment. It’ll be interesting to see what we make of it this time.






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Rocky's Football Corner #3

by Rick Rockwell

This week we return to Panic City.

Last week, one of the football entries in this blog noted fans in Dallas, Denver and elsewhere were already questioning whether their team was doomed for the season. Consider, this was after just one loss.

Now, that Dallas and Denver have notched a win, the hyperkinetic fans and the media that beat them into a frenzy seem calmer. For the moment. But they nervously await the total breakdown of their favorite team any second. Such tension must be the fuel that keeps fans addicted throughout the season.

Of course, they are also spurred on by the ranting of sports talk radio where it is often difficult to figure out who is the rabid fan and who is the half-crazed host. Most of these talkshow hosts seem to know very little about football, although they profess to know everything about all sports. They are just part of the gaggle of shouters and spouters who seem to entertain some folks these days. Whether it’s sports, politics, or some other topic, these instant pundits overpopulate the media landscape. If they can articulate at high decibels and come up with a great put-down then they are cool. For all of 15 seconds. But given the attention spans that the media foster today, that’s all the time they seemingly need.

Panic keeps the fans tuning into these shows, so each week these programs are the Return to Panic City. Don’t believe them.

Even teams that are winless this season still have a shot at a very good year. The Carolina Panthers, a playoff team last year, are just one example. Of course, they were jinxed when Sports Illustrated picked them to win the Super Bowl. My Hero Team, the Miami Dolphins are in the same boat: hexed by the preseason picks. But they should improve quickly. Washington, another winless team, is better than the new season’s record too, especially in the NFC East, another division that is a true dogfight.

The flipside: some of the undefeated surprises of the new season are just hype. First, there’s the New Orleans Saints. Sure, no one wants to criticize the Saints: many members of the team faced the same calamity that befell the rest of the residents of New Orleans. And they have picked themselves up out of the devastation. They have a new coach, new talent and a new attitude. So the fact the team is 2-0 for the first time in history is worthy of a smile. But look at the teams the Saints beat. Truthfully, this team is still a rebuilding project.

Also consider the undefeated Bears. Last year, that team was exposed as one-dimensional when it got to the playoffs, a caricature of a playoff team that snuck in based on a weak schedule. Sure the Bears have a strong defense, but the offensive statistics are suspect. Likewise, the Baltimore Ravens, a team I want to embrace. Despite that team’s undefeated record, the offense is not in gear and the defense will need to continue to carry the load.

So don’t believe the talk radio and sports pundits. Two games are not enough to see where this season is going.

But three just might be. In the past 15 years, only three teams have gone winless in the first three games and still made the playoffs. So the reality for some teams, next stop: Panic City.



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The Office Pool: Week Three

by Rick Rockwell

This season's predictions are now up to the same rate of success as last year, if you only use last week as a guide. Sure, your semi-friendly prognosticator judged incorrectly when it came to the champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but how could we have predicted Ben "Big Ben" Roethlisberger's stomach flu? Let's hope his black cloud does not affect our numbers this week.

Last Week: .688
This Season: .656

Game of the Week: Bengals at Steelers

Some folks forget the Bengals won their division last year. Despite the way the Steelers were shut down on Monday night, they always come alive home at Heinz Field. Take the World Champs.

Packers at Lions

This is a real Loser's Bowl, but because both teams will play sloppy unwieldy games it will be close and fun to watch. Who knows, with these teams, this could decide who gets the NFL's first draft choice. The Lions win at home.

Jaguars at Colts

Like the game in Pittsburgh, this will be playoff caliber football, but the Colts have the edge at home.

Rams at Cardinals

Both of these teams are inconsistent and underachieving. But someone has to win, right? Take the Rams in a close one.

Broncos at Patriots, Sunday Night

Both of these teams have not come up to full steam this year yet, but this game should do the trick. The Patriots have some avenging to do, considering how the refs helped Denver beat them in the playoffs last year. Take the Patriots at home.

Panthers at Buccaneers

The loser of this one will be winless and likely out of the running in the very competitive NFC South. Look for the Panthers to start their rebound here and bury the Bucs.

Jets at Bills

So the underappreciated Bills (yes, this column had written them off until they bit the Dolphins hard) are better than they looked at first glance, due to a hard-hitting defense. The Jets will keep it close but the Bills will win by at least a field goal.

Bears at Vikings

The Vikings have proven to be the Upset Kings of 2006. Can they do it again this week? I am no longer a doubter. That purple team that can't seem to get any respect knocks off the swaggering Bears.

Ravens at Browns

The Ravens' defense is as bone-crushing as they come. The Browns will not survive.

Eagles at 49ers

The Eagles will want to vent some anger over their choke of last week. The 49ers will be the victims.

Giants at Seahawks

This matchup produced one of the best games last season. Too many folks doubt the Giants this year though. If Tiki Barber is healthy, New York will show that Seattle is still a bit listless from its Super Bowl Hangover. Pick Big Blue.

Titans at Dolphins

The Dolphins are due to wake up from their trance right about now. The Titans are a great cure for a winless record.

Falcons at Saints, Monday Night

This game is a must-see just to witness New Orleans' spirit revived with the reopening of the Super Dome. However, the Saints will only be able to ride that emotion for about a half. The Falcons should explode to a big win in the latter half of the game.

Washington at the Texans

This week the outcome should be different when Washington travels to Texas. Washington needs this win badly. The Texans just know how to lose badly. Pick Joe Gibbs and his crew.

After this week, the season should settle into a nice groove. Enjoy!



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9.19.2006

YouTube's Lonelygirl: Art or Hoax?


by Alexa Antonuk


Her name was Bree, a shy home-schooled teenager with a web camera. This past summer, she started posting video web logs (v-blogs), under the user name lonelygirl15, on the popular video sharing website, Youtube.com.

Bree’s videos were a hit. She was both good-looking and intelligent, and her confessional blogs, broadcast straight from her bedroom, brought thousands of browsing Youtubers to her homepage. The fact that her highly religious parents did not even know she had a webcam, along with the development of a chaste budding romance between her and her best friend, Daniel, kept viewers coming back. It was even rumored that lonelygir15 was an occultist, due to the eerie picture of Aleister Crowley over her bed.
But in early September, the all-too scripted story fell apart when it was revealed that lonelygirl15 was in fact a fake. Her name was Jessica Rose, and she was, in truth, a 19-year-old actress hired to play the part of a 16-year-old.

On the website set up by the show’s creators (which was originally purported to be a fan’s website), the authors of “Bree’s” saga posted a message revealing the truth. The posted message from the creators said: “…we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form. Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story -- A story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the internet.”

Youtube users were furious, while the creators believed they were pushing the limits of art.
What does this mean for the rest of us? “Bree’s” (or Jessica’s) videos were indeed a new form of media, but were they ethical? Is it fair to fabricate reality on a website so touted for its ability to bring real people and their homemade videos to the masses?

But the even bigger question: is this the future of media? “Bree” developed a cult status on Youtube, which sees millions of users each month. It is quite possible that the next O.C.-style hit will have its beginnings on a video sharing website such as Youtube.

I must admit that the lonelygirl15 narrative has pulled me in. It is a clear-cut example of media convergence — in this case, the birth of a TV series on the internet. It blurs fiction and reality and makes them into one.

However, although lonelygirl15’s creators are pioneers in creating a storyline with Youtube posts, it is really just the same old story, told in a different format. Like any story (whether in a book, film, magazine, or otherwise), especially one told in segments, it pulls you in post after post. The endearing romance, the creepy religion, or maybe the simple fact that “Bree” is just so darn adorable — all of these factors keep us engaged, like we are turning the pages in a book. The “power of the internet” is just another tool lonelygirl15’s creators used to keep us interested. This may be the “future of media,” but if so, the postmodern future contains an age-old story arc.

Lonelygirl15’s creators plan to continue the saga by including more videos and even an interactive website where fans can post their own parodies, satires, or responses to the new blogs. But why did lonelygirl15 become so popular in the first place? Maybe her popularity stems from her creator’s belief that “Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone.” Or maybe lonelygirl15 is just a familiar story.





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Welcome to the Airwaves, CW

by Alyssa Geisler

This week television networks UPN and the WB are merging to become the new CW. Around the country, fans mourn their passing and welcome with whatever emotions the new network. Last night was the last broadcasting of the WB and UPN, and now CW has taken over the airwaves.

Besides some snarky comments about the rationale behind combining the WB’s Gilmore Girls with UPN’s WWE Friday Night SmackDown, the news about the merger has been limited to their plans to combine and decisions about what shows would be aired from each network. Now the fall season is about to begin. The most public aspect of the new network is its marketing campaign targeted at a young female audience of eighteen to thirty-four year olds. In short, my peers and I. So, here I am to explain what CW’s marketing techniques really communicate to me.

Let’s start with the name: CW was born out of the coupling of CBS and Time-Warner, the parent companies behind UPN and the WB respectively. The name doesn’t really leave much of a taste in my mouth, except the flavor of vanity. No bonus points for creativity here.

The network has also chosen to go with a completely green theme. The colors scream “Hey, look at me! I’m new, young, hip, and exciting!” And it’s true, I do like the color scheme. But it’s almost to the point of blindingly over the top, and they could work on the subtlety.

The CW’s slogan, “Free to be [insert adjective here],” again both attracts and repulses me. At first glance, the ads I see at the bus stop or around town look nice – a big picture focused on one show, lots of green, and an attempt at a playful phrase. But the idea is a little too insubstantial for me. What do they mean? What do I need to be freed from? When the sign tells me I’m “Free To Be Bald,” next to a picture of Smallville’s villain Lex Luther, I have trouble not laughing at how lame it is.

If the CW is trying to grab my attention and hold it, the network is going to have to take a different route. The name has no real meaning. No color is going to keep me tuned in every night, and the slogan is just an empty idea that sounds good but doesn’t convey anything substantial. My suggestion? Catch my interest with substance. Run more than two new shows, and maybe dump a couple of the duds that are still going to air.

(The graphic that accompanies this story is just one example of the network's promotional campaign.)



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9.15.2006

The Future of Hollywood

by Jack Douglass

"Enough is enough! I have HAD it with these [expletive] snakes on this [expletive] plane!"

When I heard this milestone line in the film "Snakes on a Plane", I cheered and yelled along with the rest of the freshmen (it's no stereotype- freshmen DO move in herds, and we're darn proud of it). It was the highlight of the movie, and everyone knew it.

The funny thing is, everyone saw it coming, too.

That line was born months ago on a blog, not unlike this one, as a suggested line for Mr. Samuel Jackson. Tons of teenagers and college students, loving the genius of the title, made their own short films that paid tribute to a movie that hadn't even been released yet (and whose main line had already been revealed). The hype began to build at an incredible pace as parodies and music videos flooded the internet. Soon the movie's rating received an "R" upgrade from its previous "PG-13" rating -- the company listened to the hype and even incorporated said line into the altered screenplay.

The result?

"Snakes on a Plane" didn't do nearly as well as predicted, actually. But for a movie with the main advertising mainly a plethora of online films done by college guys and their friends, it didn't do so terribly. Honestly, I don't remember seeing many trailers at all for this film, and yet all I ever talked about before leaving for college was how incredible "Snakes" would be.

What made all this possible? How did a Hollywood movie become a cult favorite months before it ever came out?

My answer is Youtube.

Youtube’s much more than an online film directory with tons of copyrighted material -- its very tagline is "Broadcast Yourself." Young aspiring filmmakers use it to show off their five-minute shorts (coughmecough) while singers and musicians showcase their own talents. All it takes is a quick search for talent agents and major corporations to find and categorize potential clients. Imagine the possibilities! A website, with daily hits in the millions, puts a video you made on the front page of the "comedy" section. Can you say "instant celebrity?"

Is this the future of filmmaking? Will the next Tarantino be scouted out through Youtube? If the guys at New Line Cinema took the advice of some anonymous blogger and goofy college kids with a camera, I'd say it's very possible. In fact, "Snakes on a Plane" isn't the first film whose script was altered due to "fan-fiction." Before "X-Men 3" reached theaters, another internet phenomenon became popular -- the infamous "Juggernaut" cartoon (Juggernaut is one of the "X-men" characters), which basically was a dubbed "X-men" cartoon with explicit material. The movie paid tribute in one of the scenes by having the Juggernaut recite verbatim one of the cartoon's lines: "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, [expletive]!"

Oddly enough, I never saw "X-men 3," but I have seen this exact scene only. Where?

Why, Youtube, of course.

(Promotional photo of "Snakes on a Plane" provided by New Line Cinema.)



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Face to Face


by Adrienne Lee

I walk in after a difficult eight hours away from my computer and check out the latest. I click to find out that an acquaintance from high school has just become “friends” with someone I vaguely know at school, that Emily is doing laundry and that seven of my friends have joined DC CLUB LIFE. I recognize that it is slightly bizarre that I know that one friend, whom I have not seen nor spoken with in ages, had typed of his intention of making some soup exactly fifteen minutes ago and is likely enjoying a bowl at this very moment.

We have talked about how, in some ways, our culture, and mankind in general, has evident voyeuristic tendencies. It is not just those who follow every gruesome detail in the JonBenet Ramsey case or keep tabs on where Justin and Cameron vacation. It’s every day, when we come into our rooms, after checking our e-mails and before we find the energy to start our homework. And it’s getting easier. A couple of years ago, through profiles and away messages on AIM (AOL's Instant Messenger), we got the necessary information about those we don’t have enough time or familiarity with to actually have a conversation with using vocal chords. We saved the screen names of “buddies” we occasionally IMed or simply checked in on sometimes. That was all good and creepy, but then came Facebook. I couldn’t write on modern media and not talk about Facebook. As frivolous as it seems, it is undeniable the astounding command it holds over college students, and the effect it has had on our communication.

Facebook.com is an online directory that connects people through social networks, according to the site’s homepage. Whether one finds the website absolutely contemptible or completely addicting (or very likely a combination of the two), there are indisputable truths about the digital phenomenon. Truth number one: it is nearly impossible to find something so universal among college students. We list different interest and opposing political viewponts, but, let’s face it, nearly everyone uses it. And, how could I write about Facebook without mentioning the News Feed fiasco? When have so many different people been so unified on one topic except, amusingly, to rebel against the site’s “privacy-invading” feature (I admit that I, myself joined the group ‘Facebook’s new mini-feed makes me so angry I want to punt raccoons’).

Truth number two: It’s strange and awkward that potentially daily, strangers are judging you based on your number of so-called “friends” and the ditty you pasted into your “About Me” section. Through this ‘networking,’ are we increasing our communication or merely cheapening it?

I think that the answer varies by individual.

Truth number three: If we recognize its lack of substance in defining and communicating with our fellow students, it is a fun addition to college culture. In reality, we are (or should be) identified by what we do after we turn our computers off. (Or, more likely, put up an away message!) :)




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How Teenagers Ruined the Internet


by Zach Hescox

When Al Gore invented the internet, it was seen as the perfect tool for global communication and networking. For the first time in history, people across the world could send information back and forth in the blink of an eye; more like 56 thousand kilobytes per second, but close enough.

When the internet invaded the public life, it changed everything. Anyone with something to say and half an hour in front of a computer screen could log their minds into the unending depths of cyber space. And so blogging was born….

The first bloggers were individuals on the edge of technology. They found that if they posted personal information about their lives, or about hot topics of public interest, they could spur vast dialogues over the internet. But as time went on, younger crowds joined up. Middle school and high school children began finding a variety of uses for the internet, including the blog bandwagon. And what groups of teenagers were using the internet? The only kind that knew how -- gamers and emo-punks.

Right now, I will break for a quick explanatory aside. The term blog is short for web-log, the internet being often referred to as the web. Emo-punk is a social label, standing for emotional punk (hereafter simply referred to as Emo), primarily centered about a certain brand of music that involves heartbreaking lyrics, whining effeminate vocals, and power chords.

Remember that most early blogging involves a personalized web diary of an individual. But what do the vast majority of suburban Emo kids have to say about their lives that could be that interesting? Absolutely nothing of importance -- and this is how the internet was ruined. Millions upon millions of bytes of information cramming the internet with “my girlfriend just dumped me this” or “I hate my parents that....” And to aid these jaded youngsters in their disconnected emotional outpouring, some greedy ad-space filling genius invented MySpace, and Zanga, and LiveJournal, and any other random site.

There is a bright side (not Bright Eyes), however. Truly intelligent people figured out that blogging can be used for the common good. Many citizens who would rather not read the crying mindlessness of high school drama created blogs, which talk about politics, or sports, or education -- such as this one. Political campaign workers are now using blogs to reach voters, and technology companies are turning blogs into new age focus groups.

So, I’m going to go stab myself with a lit cigarette, listen to some Panic! At The Disco and call my mother, because she’s the only one left in this world who loves me. And the best part is, for this and any other blog, if you don’t like it, you don’t even have to read it.




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9.14.2006

Rocky's Football Corner #2

by Rick Rockwell

There’s nothing like a little synergy.

That’s what you get when you combine the National Football League (NFL) and the National Broadcasting Company, otherwise known as GE’s NBC.

As a football fan, I’m not complaining about this partnership. The league and the network delivered some great football last week.

But surely the league’s other television partners must be feeling like jilted prom dates, especially ABC. Why couldn’t the league deliver such a wonderful schedule to ABC in the past few years when its Monday night football franchise’s popularity slowly eroded?

NBC’s new football program feels just like that old Monday night show on ABC. The announcers are the best covering football, John Madden and Al Michaels. Yes, they are the same ones who ABC had last year. There’s a glitzy music open, wonderful set pieces, and highly-produced graphics. Plus, smartly, NBC has Bob Costas and his crew showing highlights at halftime, which was the best ABC Monday night formula for years during the halftime break.

There’s still Monday night football, but it is masquerading with music and graphics from the old program. The reworked Monday night cable program is just a hollow echo of the program that once dominated Monday primetime. The Monday night football on ESPN (owned by Disney, just like ABC) feels third-rate by comparison to what you can see on NBC. Even Tom Cruise who made a guest starring appearance at the ESPN Monday night game between Washington and Minnesota couldn’t boost the quality of the coverage with his Hollywood star power.

Viewers seemed to agree with this assessment. Last week, the league gave NBC two primetime games. The audience turned out in droves. The Sunday night Colts-Giants game was the highest rated program of the week, with 22.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Thursday’s Steelers-Dolphins game was the third highest rated program of the week, with 17 million viewers.

Compare those numbers to ESPN’s 12.6 million viewers for the Washington-Minnesota game or the 10.5 million who stuck around for the Chargers-Raiders game, the second contest in the cable doubleheader on Monday. To ESPN’s credit, the doubleheader drew the second highest cable audience ever with an 8.4 national rating. That compares favorably to the average rating last year of the cable network’s Sunday night football coverage, which drew a 7.1 rating for the season.

Comparing ratings between network television and cable is always tricky, but ABC’s version of Monday night football drew a 10.8 rating last year, the lowest rating in the program’s 25-year history. This just shows what seems tired on network television may still be considered tremendous in the world of cable.

The real trend is that football viewing seems as powerful as ever. And the NFL must be smiling about that, not to mention the league’s broadcast partners.


(The photo of Heinz Field is from NBC Sports.)



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The Office Pool: Week Two

by Rick Rockwell

One week into the season and already fans in Washington, Dallas, Denver and other cities are in panic mode. Lose your opener and your team has less of a chance to make the playoffs, but one game does not a season make. Last week, your semi-friendly prognosticator was a bit off from last season but still did better than a coin flip.

Last Week: .625
Last Season: .689

Game of the Week: Chiefs at Broncos

The toughest division in the National Football League (NFL) is still the American Football Conference (AFC) West. The loser of this one could be in a deep hole at least for the first half of the season. So much for my prediction that the Chiefs would win this division. Not with quarterback Trent Green on his back recovering from a wicked hit last Sunday. The Broncos take this at home.

Cardinals at Seahawks

With all the talent the Cardinals have, they will make this game close. But not close enough. The Seahawks will show Kurt Warner and his bunch they are still one level better.

Washington at Cowboys, Sunday Night

The loser here could be in deep trouble in the league’s second toughest division, the National Football Conference (NFC) East. Like last year, legendary coach Joe Gibbs sneaks off with the win in Dallas.

Raiders at Ravens

These are two hard hitting teams that are both bursting with talent. But the Raiders are still under-achievers. The Ravens soar in a close one.

Steelers at Jaguars, Monday Night

The Jaguars always seem to surprise the rest of the league. Not this year after dismantling Dallas on opening day. So now they are the favorites against the World Champs? I learned the hard way last week: don’t pick against the Champs, even if they don’t know who will be at quarterback. The Steelers will win this defensive struggle.

Saints at Packers

After catching the scoreless Packers’ fiasco against the Bears last weekend, it is obvious the Lions are NOT the weakest team in the league. It hurts to say this, but quarterback Brett Favre’s Packers are the worst. They will play the Saints close at home, but New Orleans comes out with the win.

Giants at Eagles

Even while losing, the Giants looked impressive last week, playing the Colts at a playoff level in the first game of the season. The Eagles are recharged but the Giants will remind them who won the division last time around. This will be a black and blue affair with the Giants on top (barely) at the end.

Buccaneers at Falcons

In this important early season tussle in the exciting NFC South, the Falcons will show their resurgence and leave the Bucs grasping for answers.

Panthers at Vikings

Like last season, the Vikings are proving you must not underestimate them. But the Panthers should get into gear this week. Last week, they must have mistaken Atlanta for a preseason game. Take the Panthers.

Detroit at Chicago

After last week, the Lions showed they have a lot more spark in their tank than expected. But Chicago is the more complete team. The Bears should cruise.

Bills at Dolphins

Did Sports Illustrated put a voodoo hex on my Hero Team, the Dolphins? Why did they pick them to go to the Super Bowl? Why?! Well, despite all that, the Dolphins should tally their first win, against the Bills. When will that team learn J.P. Losman is always a safety waiting to happen?

Rams at 49ers

The Rams have a defense? The Broncos discovered indeed they do. The 49ers will discover this too. They won’t be able to cruise up and down the field like last week when quarterback Alex Smith gets no protection. The Rams should make this look easy.

Browns at Bengals

The Bengals want to show off for their home opener. The Browns are the victim. This will not be pretty.

Texans at Colts

The Colts don’t have a running game? So what? They looked like they were in playoff form last week. Too bad for Houston. The real question: will the Colts score 50 points?

Patriots at Jets

These teams really hate each other. The difference: the Patriots are still good enough to beat anyone in the league, and the Jets are still reorganizing. Quarterback Tom Brady will look much improved this week with another win under his belt.

Titans at Chargers

Do they have to play this game? The Titans still look like the junior varsity. If you thought the Chargers chewed up the Raiders on Monday night, well then this will be a major shredding.

The crystal ball will definitely be clearer after Week Two. Enjoy!


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9.12.2006

American Idle

by Molly Kenney

“‘This is an album of love songs," he [Clay Aiken] explains, "but they are about all different kinds of love. Romantic love, Friendship, Unconditional love. There are a thousand different kinds of love; a thousand different ways to tell someone you love them.’” (www.americanidol.com) Thank God Clay Aiken is here to teach us about true love.

I find the whole American Idol concept so twisted and stupid. The FOX network handpicks the next potential “stars” of the pop music scene, accompanied by a few completely talent-less fools to make us further appreciate the vocal abilities of FOX’s wonder children. Add a screaming audience and interactive voting and blogging, and FOX is able to convince millions of viewers that they are choosing their musical taste.

It makes me angry that American Idol artists have so many Top 40 hits and that Kelly Clarkson is now frequently referred to as America’s “Pop Princess,” a modern Madonna and Britney’s replacement. I suppose my wrath is rooted in my desire to be anti-establishment. I resent the establishment’s influence reaching television, radio, and internet content, as well as cell phone use, simultaneously, and with such a poor quality product.

Why are the program and its fashionably dressed, wailing artists so popular? There is nothing particularly inventive about American Idol artists or their lyrics and music. Most of the songs are catchy, giving a danceable beat to the squeaky-clean expression of teen angst over love, family, and independence from both. Both the artists and the music are clearly mass produced.

And maybe that’s the point. I think most teenage Americans (and, I sheepishly admit, even myself sometimes) don’t want their music to be ground-breaking and unique. It’s too much work to seek out new, creative alternative music with stronger counter-cultural messages. It’s much easier to kick back, wearing the Sketchers you bought online at Carrie Underwood’s behest, drinking the Vanilla Coke Simon Cowell told you to drink, and flip on the episode of American Idol you Tivo’ed.

Even you haven’t bought into pop culture quite that much, sometimes crappy music is what you want. I don’t think I know one person, myself included, who won’t sing along to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” if it comes on the radio. Occasionally, it’s more fun to belt out a break-up song than to sit around pondering the philosophical meaning or socio-political message in the lyrics of a little-known rock song.

Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe American Idol and its artists are talented and important to America’s musical culture. Idol star Fantasia is starting a chain of beauty salons. Carrie Underwood just received four Country Music Award nominations. And according to American Idol’s website, “the White House last week announced that Clay Aiken will be one of 12 people that the President intends to appoint to the Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.” I guess we’d all be stupid not to watch the show.

(The photo is Kelly Clarkson performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002. This photo is in the public domain.)




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9.11.2006

Sept. 11: What did the Media Learn?

by Rick Rockwell

Five years gone from the defining American event of the new millennium and it seems we haven’t learned as much as you might think from that terrible day, Sept. 11, 2001.

Here’s one lesson: even cataclysms of the scale of the 9/11 attacks do not make inordinate across-the-board changes in institutions and people. Certainly, the country has changed since that time and our freedoms are even more fragile and circumscribed than when the planes crashed.

But just look at the media and you’ll see that institution has changed very little with the exception that a new generation of television anchors is now onboard for American viewers to watch.

Ask yourself, why is the Afghan War referred to as “the forgotten war” when it has the most direct links to the 9/11 attacks? Why did the U.S. media for the most part (The New York Times is one of the exceptions) withdraw from Afghanistan, only to return during the past few weeks as the 9/11 anniversary approached? Could it be most of the media unquestionably followed the lead of the Bush Administration to focus on Iraq instead of the incomplete conflict in Afghanistan? Members of the leading media institutions are defensive about how they let the Bush Administration set their agenda right up until the Hurricane Katrina disaster last year when the president and his team starting losing credibility. But face it, if you wanted coverage of Afghanistan in the past few years, you’d do better to turn on the top Arab-language satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera than to depend on the media in the U.S.

Some of this is related to safety. Afghanistan is not a safe place for journalists to work. One Afghan journalist has been killed there this year in a suicide bombing attack. Of course, Iraq is much worse: the Committee to Protect Journalists notes 17 journalists have been killed there since the beginning of the year, not to mention the journalists kidnapped or injured. (See the full report here.) This of course has made many members of the U.S. news media retreat to the safety of the Green Zone in Baghdad. They are targets too, just like the U.S. military.

But in both places, Afghanistan and Iraq, the American public is not getting the full story from the U.S. news media. Besides safety, the main reason is money. The U.S. networks and many newspapers don’t want to pay for the continued presence and personnel it would take to adequately staff the story. If these wars are the defining moments of this generation, we certainly aren’t covering them like the U.S. media covered World War II, Vietnam or other major conflicts of the past.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press studied the attitudes of Americans after 9/11 and found we did not change our media consumption patterns after that event. (See that report here.) Television and telephones were the main media tools people used to get information during 9/11/2001, and they remain the key media devices in people’s lives. Americans did not begin demanding more international news coverage after 9/11. (The Pew report showed only 14 percent of Americans had an interest in international news before 9/11, and by 2002 that had only increased to 21 percent. Hardly a massive change.) Certainly, U.S. media responded by giving a bit more coverage, but we are back in the usual patterns where gossip, entertainment, and fluff predominate.

Could it be Americans don’t have the stomach for the tough news we must face in the post-9/11 world, and so the media respond by giving us more of the same? The answers are there in the television ratings, the circulation numbers and the polls, for all to see.





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9.08.2006

Katie & the Critics


by Rick Rockwell

America loves Katie Couric but the critics aren’t all that impressed.

Surprised? Don’t be.

The critics are journalists. The general audience has different standards. One of the critics defending Couric and her performance, David Zurawik wrote in The Baltimore Sun this week that he agreed with CBS President Leslie Moonves that it was time the CBS News not be for purists any longer. “The network with the oldest audience for TV news needs to find a way to attract younger viewers,” Zurawik wrote. (You can find his article here.)

Here’s some news for both Zurawik and Moonves: the CBS News hasn’t been for purists for a long time. Dan Rather went a long way to destroying that and various network bureaucrats helped him along the way.

Some critics noted the House of Murrow did not fall when Couric took over and they cheered that she could be more serious than when she anchored Today on NBC. Others, like Tom Shales, more astutely noted, that Murrow’s legacy was destroyed long ago by the notion there was a need for more entertainment in the news. Couric is certainly not to blame for that. (However, Shales mostly trashed Couric’s reworking of the CBS anchor role as a continuation of that sorry trend. See his article here.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those sexists who can’t stand seeing a woman anchor the news. When they were evening news co-anchors, Barbara Walters and Connie Chung weathered far too much criticism merely because of their gender.

Couric has also complained of the “residual sexism” behind the criticism of her ascendance as the first woman to regularly solo anchor the evening news for any major network. (Although many women have filled in as solo anchors over the years and Elizabeth Vargas for all intents and purposes became a solo anchor on ABC not so long ago when her co-anchor Bob Woodruff was injured in Iraq. But why look at the fine points when we can go along with the Katie Hype Machine?)

Open sexism was apparent in many of the reviews of Couric’s performance. Almost every review mentioned her clothes or fashion sense. Some focused on her legs. Zurawik wrote that Couric was “showing lots of leg during a taped, sit-down interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.”

In The Boston Herald, Mark Perigard also mentioned Couric’s clothes and legs. “Too bad somebody made the decision it was necessary to play up Couric's assets over her intellect,” he wrote, “You never saw Dan Rather's biceps.” (Check out the full article here.)

I do recall however a dust-up over Rather wearing sweater vests on the news early in his tenure. But mostly anchors like Walter Cronkite and others did not have to endure critics commenting on their physical attributes and fashion sense. Couric shouldn’t have to endure such comments.

But this is what happens when you hire a celebrity journalist to anchor the news instead of a purist who is interested in strong news content like Ted Koppel (now with The Discovery Channel after parting ways with ABC News).

Nevertheless, CBS must be very happy with its $15 million investment in Couric. The ratings for her program are the best for The CBS Evening News since 1998. In a week she has jumped the newscast from third place to first, although her real impact won’t be known until the novelty factor wears off. Of course, with a celebrity anchor that may never happen. And that’s just what’s wrong with most television news today.

(The author contributed news stories to CBS News during the Rather era. He has served as a producer for ABC News and as a producer and reporter for the PBS NewsHour.)

(The photo attached is courtesy of CBS.)


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9.07.2006

The Office Pool: Week One

by Rick Rockwell

For those seeking guidance in navigating the office pool during the National Football League season, look no further. Here are the picks of your semi-friendly editor. Remember, NFL culture is all about debating with friends about which team has the upper hand, not to mention how your fantasy players did this week.

Last Season’s Record: .689


Game of the Week: Colts at Giants, Sunday night

The brothers Manning clash, along with two playoff teams from last season. Both teams are among the top ten best in the league. NBC has a great game for its first Sunday night telecast. Take the Colts in a tight one.

Cowboys at Jaguars, Sunday

The Cowboys are poised to improve upon their mediocre showing of last year, but not against the Jaguars who were a playoff team. The Cowboys will keep it close, but the Jaguars are too solid and should win at home.

Falcons at Panthers, Sunday

This is an early test of dominance in the National Football Conference (NFC) South. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the conference. They should continue their winning ways.

Dolphins at Steelers, Thursday night

The feisty Dolphins (see “Rocky’s Football Corner”) will spoil the home opener of the World Champs. That’s what happens when your starting quarterback has an emergency appendectomy.

Ravens at Buccaneers, Sunday

Las Vegas likes the Bucs, who made the playoffs last year. The Ravens will show their retooled team is a contender again in a mild upset of the Bucs on the road.

Bengals at Chiefs, Sunday

The Chiefs are tough to beat at home in Kansas City. Even if the Bengals are a playoff team from last year, the Chiefs will demonstrate why they are one of the best teams in the conference this year.

Saints at Browns, Sunday

Both of these teams are still projects needing further assembly. The Browns, however, are very comfortable winning at home.

Jets at Titans, Sunday

Neither one of these rebuilding teams looks to do much this season. However, the Jets have more in their tank, even on the road.

49ers at Cardinals, Sunday

Two of the lesser teams in the weakest division in the NFL clash in this game, which actually might make it interesting. The Cardinals have too much talent to lose.

Bills at Patriots, Sunday

This early divisional game should show the Patriots are one of the dominant teams in the league. Will they put in the second team in the last quarter?

Broncos at Rams, Sunday

The Broncos remain one of the elite teams in the league and the Rams are just slightly above mediocre. Even playing at home is no advantage for the Rams. The Broncos should win easily.

Chargers at Raiders, Monday night

The Chargers are one of the best in the league this year behind stellar running back Ladainian Tomlinson. But they play in the league’s toughest division. The Raiders are much improved but the Chargers should spoil their home opener.

Vikings at Washington, Monday night

The Vikings are still rebuilding and Washington may be one of the very best teams in the NFC. Legendary coach Joe Gibbs should be smiling after this one.

Eagles at Texans, Sunday

The Eagles won’t be broken patsies like last year. Although the Texans are much improved from their cellar-dwelling performance of last season, the Eagles will show they will be competitive this season by crushing Houston.

Bears at Packers, Sunday

This is the oldest rivalry in the NFL. The Bears were division champs last year but played a very weak schedule. However, the Packers have not gelled. Not yet. Take the Bears.

Seahawks at Lions

The Seahawks went to the Super Bowl last year and Detroit is possibly the worst team in the NFL. This should be a walk-over with the Seahawks posting their first win of the season.

Enjoy opening week!

(This post was originally filed on Sept. 6, but due to a technical problem it was refiled on Sept. 7. None of the picks were changed.)


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