10.31.2006

The WikiPolice


by Zach Hescox

So, I was messing around on the internet the other day and decided to visit Wikipedia, my favorite peer-edited online encyclopedia. I figured it was time to add my name to the vast ranks of contributors to the site. I thought of a good topic, gathered some old archived photos, and sat down to create my first Wikipedia entry.

I know this guy, who shall remain nameless, who has a long history of very interesting injuries. He has done everything from cracking his head open on a curb to severely burning his chest with an iron while trying to get the wrinkles out of a shirt he was wearing at the time. I felt that this particular individual deserved recognition. So I wrote up an entry, posted a photo of staples in his arm (which came from falling off a fence), and saved it to the Wikipedia database.

Needless to say, when I looked for the page a mere thirty seconds later, I was shocked to find that it had been deleted from the site. All that was left was a message stating that Administrative User AcademicChallenger had deleted the page under the content category of “junk.”

While I totally disagree with the ruling on that one, I respect the speed and efficiency of the Wikipedia administrators in deleting my post. In the Wikipedia world, they are known as sysops (short for System Operators). In my work, they are known as the WikiPolice, policing the content of the encyclopedia for the common good of all internet citizens.

But who are the WikiPolice? They are common Wikipedia users, like you and me, whose only superpower is the advantage of administrative access to the Wikipedia site. These folks are supposed to be very familiar with the Wikipedia policies on article deletion, editing, and the boundaries of the site.

Wikipedia has taken a lot of flack from the academic world over its life span. Those high and mighty people in their ivory towers tend to write of Wikipedia as an unfit, inaccurate source for word-of-mouth information. The WikiPolice are supposed to be a check on this information, and help make sure there is no “junk” on the site.

There is one little discrepancy, though. The WikiPolice are regular users, aren’t they? So how can anyone be sure that they have any idea what they are talking about? There is an application process to become a sysop, but I don’t think it includes educational background or field of study and editing contributions.

So, on Wikipedia, you cannot find out the background of a person who posts an article, and you can’t be sure who is policing it. So I guess there is some validity in the argument against Wikipedia as a valid academic resource. But I don’t care if the Wikipolice are Rhodes Scholars or ten-year-olds with nothing to do, I still love my Wikipedia.

(Editor's Note: There are a variety of opinions on the veracity of Wikipedia's material and not all of the authors of this blog have the same view of this peer-edited material. For more background on this controversy, please see this article from CNET.)

(The photo is from fffleisch at morgueFile.)




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Films: They Don't Make 'em Like These Anymore


by Caitlin Servilio

Whenever I take my nine-year-old brother, Rob, to the movies in our hometown, I come home from the theatre feeling slightly disappointed. From the recent onslaught of films about livestock (Barnyard, Chicken Little) to the stampede of movies about exotic creatures (Madagascar, The Wild) to the usual heap of remakes, sequels, and general Harry-Potter-ness, I haven’t seen very many children’s movies in recent years that I really enjoyed.

I don’t belong to that group of people who has to talk constantly about their own childhoods, I swear! The nineties were a fun time, but that doesn’t mean I harass little children with stories about how I had to walk uphill both ways to school carrying a huge bag full of Pogs.

But....

I honestly do believe that the movies of my childhood, which were made in the late eighties and early nineties, have an innocent spirit of fun and humor and are far more original than those being made now. Frankly, if you were giving out a prize for originality, who would you give it to—a talking chicken, or a talking toaster? I know what I would pick. To prove my point, here are in no particular order my top four picks for the best movies of my childhood.

CAITLIN’S TOP FOUR PICKS FOR CINEMATIC GENIUS:

1. The Brave Little Toaster, 1987.
This animated adventure follows the quest of several household appliances trying to find their old master (owner), who has grown up and left the house. A toaster, a vacuum cleaner, a desk lamp, and an adorable electric blanket are among this loveable band of contraptions braving the elements and each other. Their journey culminates in an intense junkyard scene when the master and the appliances must save each other from a malevolent trash-munching machine. An incredibly enjoyable movie, all around. (To see one of the musical numbers, go here.)

2. An American Tail, 1986. The story of Fievel and his family, mice immigrants from Russia, never fails to pull the old heartstrings. Fievel gets separated from his sister and parents on the journey to America, and arrives in the U.S. only to discover that the streets are not made of cheese, as promised. Can Fievel reunite with his family and help defeat the evil Cat Gangs of New York. The movie has great messages about tolerance and a soundtrack that includes James Horner’s “Somewhere Out There.”

3. Ferngully—The Last Rainforest, 1992. This environmentally conscious film follows the plight of Crysta and her compadres, fairies who live in the rain forest. The scary pollution monster, Hexxus, is trapped in a tree, so everything seems great until deforestation arrives in Ferngully. When tree chopping releases Hexxus, he runs amok, and Crysta must use her magical powers to stick him back in the tree. Great animation and songs, especially “Toxic Love.”

4. The Land Before Time, 1988. Littlefoot is a happy young brachiosaurus. Then his world is ripped to shreds as Tyrannosaurus rex brutally slays his mother. (I always cry at this part.) He and his friends must find the mythical land where his grandparents are waiting for him, and along the way they have to defeat the T. Rex. Featuring another of James Horner’s compositions, “If We Go On Together,” this movie has some strong messages about teamwork and the power of love.

That’s all I have room for, but if you’re interested in more movies from my childhood, check out Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Fievel Goes West, and especially The Great Mouse Detective!

(Promotional photo of The Brave Little Toaster courtesy of Hyperion Pictures.)

(A trailer for
Ferngully—The Last Rainforest can be seen below.)






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10.30.2006

Check that Pandora Lid!


Alyssa Geisler looks to be admiring Caitlin Servilio's new Pandora hat. In case you missed it, Caitlin scored an interview with Tim Westergren, the founder of the Pandora internet music service. (See: "Video Killed the Radiostar, Pandora Brought it Back." And did anyone notice that Caitlin's interview beat the Washington Post's radio and music columnists to the story by almost three weeks?) The folks at Pandora liked the interview so much, they sent Caitlin one of their hats, and hats for all of her friends who work on the blog. Don't worry, Alyssa, Caitlin's got a hat for you too. This is our official tip of the hat back to Pandora for recognizing Caitlin's extra efforts.





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10.28.2006

“Is this really Jon Stewart?!? What is this anyway?!?”


by Molly Kenney

On October 15, 2004, Jon Stewart appeared on CNN's Crossfire and knocked the wind out of a flabbergasted Tucker Carlson and much of the media. Stewart had the upper hand in the exchange. He traded his traditional funnyman role for a biting critique of the media and their failure in their responsibility to the public. He coupled that criticism with reminders of his comedic status with comments like, “You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.” So why do American viewers, coincidentally voters too, take Stewart’s “fake news” more seriously than real news?

During this semester’s midterm rush of class presentation assignments, I’ve found myself turning to YouTube for clips from The Daily Show before video excerpts from real news sources, and Stewart’s commentary has proven far more effective in illustrating my points. I don’t think it’s because Jon Stewart and The Daily Show make politics fun or democracy hip. I believe it’s because the show leaves the average American laughing and better understanding the insitutions that elicit that laughter

This fake news pretends to make light of politicians’ follies, presidential misunderestimations, and campaign mudslinging. It mocks the pretension and hypocrisy of politics with bathroom humor and satirical wit simultaneously. Politicians, like Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John McCain, and countless others, will gladly appear on The Daily Show to show off their light-hearted sides and earn a few brownie points with the electorate. Those who attempt to engage Stewart in his efforts to banter and self-deprecate may gain the respect of the viewing voters or expose themselves as traditionally staid politicians.

In TIME magazine’s "100 Artists and Entertainers," from 2005, Tom Brokaw wrote, “Jon Stewart was our Athenian, a voice for democratic ideals and the noble place of citizenship, helped along by the sound of laughter.” By providing a forum for hilarity and inadvertent political education, Stewart fulfills the duty to which he holds the rest of the media accountable while his audience holds their sides in laughter. Stewart met Tucker Carlson’s condescending questions by saying, “You have a responsibility to the public discourse,” but he answered Carlson’s childish jabs with, “You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.”

Therein lays Jon Stewart’s genius.

(Stewart's appearance on Crossfire can be seen below.)








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10.27.2006

Hollywood Jack


Great news for budding filmmaker Jack Douglass: he’s headed to Hollywood.

Readers of this space know (See: "Help Send Jack to Hollywood") that Jack, one of the co-authors of this blog, was named one of the finalists in the Kohl’s “Generation Transformation” video contest.

This week, Jack got the news that he’s the winner. Congratulations, Jack!

His prize: $1,500 and a three-day internship on the set of the TV series, One Tree Hill (on The CW).

You can check out Jack’s prize-winning video Celebration here. Jack is very thankful to all who voted for him in the contest.



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10.26.2006

Rush's Folly


by McKayle Davison

When Rush Limbaugh opens his mouth, often, I do my best to ignore him. I usually feel that his rants don’t merit a response, but his most recent comments are too petty and ridiculous to overlook. The ultra-conservative talk radio personality accused actor Michael J. Fox of exaggerating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in a campaign ad for Democrat Claire McCaskill, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri. Fox appeared in the ad because of McCaskill’s support for stem cell research, which could lead to a cure for Parkinson’s. As he spoke, Fox swayed back and forth violently, resulting in Limbaugh saying that “And it's purely an act.… This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." (For more background on this check coverage in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times." You can also hear selections from The Rush Limbaugh Show, posted at Media Matters for America.)

In the years since Fox announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s, he has made several public appearances, tremors and all, to show his support for research efforts. He has been very outspoken and frank about what Parkinson’s means to his life, even if it means appearing vulnerable. Anyone who has seen Fox in the past ten years or so is aware of the tremors and spasms that now rule his life. It makes sense that these tremors would worsen as the disease progresses.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Limbaugh would stoop this low, considering his past record of offensive and off-base remarks. I should be grateful that I only have to hear about him when he says something absurd. Of course, Limbaugh was also in the news when he, somewhat admirably, owned up to a pain-killer addiction. I just never thought he would resort to picking on people with grave illnesses to promote his own agenda. While he is certainly entitled to his opinion, I can’t help but think that if Fox had appeared in an ad for a Republican candidate, Limbaugh would be singing his praises.

I think the issue is not that Limbaugh had a problem with the ad. He is obviously not a proponent of stem cell research, and that is certainly his right. He could have talked a little about why he disagreed with the ad’s message, or why McCaskill’s opponent may do a better job. But Limbaugh didn’t take a stand. He tried to take the easy way out by undercutting the credibility of a man who had the courage to fight for his beliefs. I just look forward to the time when this all goes away and I can spend a few blissful months forgetting about Rush Limbaugh.

(The photo of Rush Limbaugh is his mug shot from an arrest in Florida obtained via the website The Smoking Gun.)

(To see the original ad, please see below. For a response ad with other celebrities, click here.)








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Rocky's Football Corner #8


by Rick Rockwell

Sports hyperbole, especially in football, must be increasing at some fantastic rate.

Take for instance, the case of the Chicago Bears.

Haven’t you heard? The Bears are headed to the Super Bowl.

Never mind that teams play a 16-game regular season and the Bears have won only six games. Sure, the Bears are perfect in those games but that doesn’t guarantee a championship berth.

Compare the reaction, as The Washington Post did recently, between the 2006 Bears and the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Bears. (That article appeared as a sidebar in the Post’s print edition but was not published in the online edition, which merely listed Mark Maske’s main story on the Bears. Much of the information in the sidebar came from Pro Football Reference.) Those 1985 Bears lost only one regular season game and blew out the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But by this point in the season, the media in Chicago had not made one mention of the Super Bowl as a certainty. Sure, the 1985 Bears cut that “Super Bowl Shuffle” video but that was much later in the season. In 1985, by game seven, not one Chicago newspaper had published a story linking the Bears to the Super Bowl. Compare that to this year when already Chicago’s two major dailies have published at least nine articles. And that count is likely to tick upward after the Bears play San Francisco this weekend and will probably win.

Perhaps the media forget that the Carolina Panthers beat the Bears in the playoffs last year and Carolina still has a team that could handle these Bears. Despite the hype, there are at least two other teams in the National Football Conference (NFC) that could give these Bears fits: the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons. Lucky for the Bears, only one of those three teams shows up on their regular season schedule: the Giants in mid-November.

Until then, you’ll have to learn to endure the media hype about the Bears going undefeated this season. The Bears are good, but probably not that good. (This is what Coach Dennis Green of the Cardinals was trying to say last week until he blew his stack in a fit of apoplectic rage.) Of the six teams Chicago has beaten this season, only the Vikings and the Seahawks have winning records, and neither one of those teams is among the best in the league. Given their weak schedule, the Bears could easily go 14-2 without too much effort.

With middle linebacker Brian Urlacher leading a staunch defensive unit and quarterback Rex Grossman healthy and throwing fine, the Bears are the annointed ones -- the so-called top NFC team. Their meltdown in Arizona ten days ago and then miraculous fourth quarter comeback shows the Football Godz are smiling on the Bears. Or maybe, that’s just the media.




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The Office Pool: Week Eight



by Rick Rockwell

Whenever the prognostication average looks like a baseball batting average, you know something is amiss. Someone polluted the office pool's picks last week: for the worst week ever. Now, for an attempt at a comeback.

Last Week: .385
This Season: .620

Game of the Week: Falcons at Bengals

Last week, in a surprise, the Falcons found their passing game and won a shootout with the World Champs. Can they do it again? The Bengals haven't looked like the offensive titans that they were last year. Not yet. This may be a track meet but quarterback Carson Palmer and his mates finally regain their rhythm to eke out a victory.

Cardinals at Packers

This week's Loser Bowl puts the struggling Cardinals on the road to Legendary Lambeau Field where Legendary Brett Favre awaits them. This will actually be a close, but sloppy game. The Cheeseheads have the advantage at home.

Colts at Broncos


Likely everyone else will have this game designated as their best match-up of the week: the undefeated Colts with their dazzling offense against the stingy Bronco's defense playing at mile high altitudes. I'm thinking this is where the Colts finally collapse.

Jaguars at Eagles

Will the Eagles let another game slip away in the final seconds? Have the Jaguars really tumbled out of the pantheon of the league's best teams this year? This game should answer those questions and more. This week, quarterback Byron Leftwich has more of the answers and the Jaguars win, but it will again be one of those last-minute field goal affairs.

Cowboys at Panthers


The Cowboys are imploding. What is Coach Bill Parcells' thinking? Benching quarterback Drew Bledsoe for inexperienced Tony Romo is not the answer. A better offensive line is the answer. The Panthers defense should feast and Carolina should resume its winning ways.

Texans at Titans

Both of these young teams look to have some mid-season spark. This game might be a marker for which team is headed upward. The Texans have the edge, but by less than a touchdown.

Ravens at Saints

Everyone loves the Saints this year, including the odds makers. But coming off a bye week, the Ravens are poised to claim an upset. If not, Coach Brian Billick may be packing soon.

Jets at Browns

Las Vegas and others think the Browns are due. But Coach Eric Mangini is quietly leading a rebuilding rejuvenation for Gang Green. Green over Brown, any day.

Buccaneers at Giants

The Buccaneers may not go quietly into the dustbin after two major upsets. The Giants should quiet them, as Big Blue look to be the best team in the National Football Conference (NFC).

Monday Night: Patriots at Vikings


The Vikings proved last week that they truly are the Upset Kings, just as I lost faith in them. Can they do it again? No. The Patriots are one of the most complete teams in the league and are in the winning groove. Don't mess with quarterback Tom Brady when he is on a roll.

Seahawks at Chiefs


The Seahawk's roster has turned into a hospital listing. And the Chiefs may have turned the corner on the season by beating the Chargers last week. If the Vikings can run on Seattle, the Chiefs will flatten them. Look for a big day from Chiefs' running back Larry Johnson.

Rams at Chargers

Some folks think the Rams are among the best in the league. Wrong. They are pretenders. An angry Chargers team should expose that as they attempt to keep pace in the very competitive American Football Conference (AFC) West.

49ers at Bears

Can a weak team upset the Bears? Well, the Cardinals almost proved that's possible but the 49ers won't catch the Bears dozing after a bye week. The Bears should roar loudly.

Steelers at Raiders

The main reason to watch this game will be to see if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can recover from his latest calamity, another concussion. The World Champs should crush the lowly Raiders.

As the season approaches the midway point, this column is limping as much as some of the players. Enjoy the viewing this weekend!




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10.24.2006

Digital Natives

by Rick Rockwell

The current generation of online users will undoubtedly take the medium places we can only now imagine, and likely open areas of communication we cannot currently conceive.

For the Online News Association's conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month (see: "Seeking the Magic Youth Formula") students, alumni, faculty and staff at American University's School of Communication produced a video looking at how Generation HP uses digital media. To see the finished product, click below.




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10.20.2006

Me, Myself and iPod


by Allison Doolittle

Levi’s recently introduced Redwire DLX Jeans that allow you to control the music playing on your iPod using a tiny joystick on the watch pocket. These high-tech jeans, at the price of two hundred fifty dollars, reflect the value and success of the growing iPod accessories industry. Since Apple has sold more than 39 million iPods, it is no wonder that myriad companies are jumping on the iPod bandwagon. Many have begun creating cases, backpacks, clothing, sneakers and more to reach iPod users around the world.

The technology has revolutionized the way people think about and listen to music. Powerful, compact and portable, these tiny music players allow us to listen to our favorite songs everywhere from the subway to the grocery store to the bedroom. Amidst the unprecedented ubiquity of iPods, it’s important for us to question how beneficial iPods are for our society. It is now easier than ever to tune out the conversations of others or any bothersome sounds. By ignoring the world around us, we tend to isolate ourselves and may be missing out on interesting conversations with fellow commuters. I enjoy meeting new people and chatting with them, but I find myself barely paying attention to those around me when I’m listening to my iPod. I actually smile less when I’m listening to my iPod because the earbuds hurt my ears when I smile.

Beyond isolation, iPods also seem to cater to our self-centeredness. Even the “i” in “iPod” reveals the individualistic characteristics of these music players. i use my iPod to play iTunes that i enjoy or look at iCal to see what i am doing. Who enjoys it? i do.

Often, I try to distinguish myself from what some call a “selfish American” but, honestly, even the way I listen to music reflects my preoccupation with myself. Will I buy those snazzy Levi’s? Probably not, but due to the self-centered nature of the iPod industry, many will.

(The photo is courtesy of missyredboots at morgueFile.)






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10.19.2006

Rocky's Football Corner #7


by Rick Rockwell

Watch your step out there football fans, lest you step in the fresh blood from the coaching guillotine.

No, no head coaches have lost their jobs. Yet. It’s too early for that.

Oh, the fans are calling for such crazy action. Certainly, folks are not happy in Oakland, Arizona, and elsewhere. They want action. They want change. Talk radio is filled with such foolish talk. Sometimes, I wonder if sports talk producers just throw that topic out there to fill the phone lines with vitriol. This is like throwing out chum to attract sharks.

Or another cliché comes to mind: rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

So in Arizona, Coach Dennis Green sacked his offensive coordinator this week, after one of the worst collapses by an NFL team ever. In case you missed it, the Cardinals were up on the Bears 23-3 heading into the fourth quarter on Monday night, and the Bears managed to score three touchdowns to win. The Bears did this mind you, without scoring an offensive touchdown. Now, that is some comeback trick. Green threw a fit before the television cameras after the game, and then fired his assistant.

Green obviously wanted to blame someone now after two consecutive fourth quarter chokes by his team. What better way to deflect that fan and sports radio anger?

But who will Green have to blame at the end of the season? And this one looks like another long, losing season for the Cardinals (1-5). But the solution shouldn’t be to sack Green.

Look at many of the poorly performing teams and the problems don’t start at the coaching level. They start with owners. But who can fire them? No one. The fans in Oakland are stuck with Al “The Imperial Emperor” Davis (think of the emperor in the Star Wars series in a track suit and you have Al Davis) and so is the NFL. The days of “just win, baby” and Coach Madden are too far in the rearview. Poor Art Shell was the only coach willing to take on the Raiders this year. Davis now admits he wrongly fired him in the 1990s. Eventually, in two or three years, the Raiders will be better off with Shell at the helm. But the sports pundits and fans who are calling for Shell’s head now are just wrong. What the Raiders need is stability. Arguably, they could have kept Norv Turner as coach for another year or two and they would have been no worse off than they are now. But that was another misstep by Emperor Davis.

Likewise, the fans in Arizona are stuck with Cardinals’ owner Bill Bidwell, who wore out his welcome in St. Louis and took his team to Arizona. The fans in St. Louis still say: good riddance.

Even winning teams are firing coaches. This week, the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) fired Jim Fassell, their offensive coordinator. This came as a great surprise because Fassell is a close friend to Ravens Coach Brian Billick, and some may remember he is only five years removed from taking the Giants to the Super Bowl as their head coach (where he lost to Billick and the Ravens). But again, this was a case of a head coach deflecting criticism. Billick was facing a mutiny by some of his offensive stars and it is clear if Billick doesn’t get the Ravens back into the playoffs this may be his last year in Baltimore. (That too would be a foolish decision.)

Fans, talk radio, and the sports pundits have no patience. They should remember that firing coaches means they usually must wait at least two or three more years to get a winning team. Sometimes sticking with what you have is best.






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The Office Pool: Week Seven


by Rick Rockwell

Last week proved to be one of the best outings this season for this prediction column, despite the wild rash of upsets throughout the league.


Last Week: .769

This Season: .655

Game of the Week: Panthers at Bengals

The Bengals are on the ropes. After a bye week, they still let the Buccaneers find a way off the mat to notch their first win of the season. The Bengals look shell-shocked. Receiver Steve Smith and a stout defense are the key weapons that make up the Panthers' attack. The Panthers should win this one at the buzzer.

Chargers at Chiefs

San Diego has the top offense and top defense in the American Football Conference (AFC) but the Chiefs are always tough at home, especially in divisional match-ups. The Chargers have too much talent to lose this one though.

Vikings at Seahawks

The Seahawks demonstrated last week they can win the big game, just barely. The Vikings have had some improbable finishes this year. Don't look for that to happen this time though. These teams are closely matched, but the Seahawks should win mainly due to home field advantage.

Monday Night: Giants at Cowboys


The Giants have the best talent in their division, but they have been inconsistent all year. This week it's their time to blow cold again, just as Cowboys' quarterback Drew Bledsoe looks to finally be in synch with all his bigtime receivers. Strangely, Vegas favors the Cowboys, and I agree.

Cardinals at Raiders

This is a game the Raiders could actually win. Given the choke artistry of the Cardinals, it may come down to the final minutes in this one too. But quarterback Matt Leinart has something to prove, as does the resurgent Cardinal defense. It took weeks of convincing, but I now must admit the Raiders are the worst team in football. As Bill Parcells says: records don't lie. Give this one to the Arizona crew.

Eagles at Buccaneers

Tampa Bay may be on its way back after surprising the Bengals, and the Eagles have also been inconsistent, despite quarterback Donovan McNabb's best efforts. So this one will be a tight game, but the Eagles find a way to win on the road, but likely by less than a touchdown.

Lions at Jets

With a win under their collective belts, the Lions are no longer the worst team in football (see the notes on the Raiders above). The Jets may be mediocre, but they are still on another level when compared to the Detroit kitties. Give this one to New York.

Steelers at Falcons

The Falcons love to run, but they are one-dimensional. The Steelers' defense should come up with an answer, while the Steelers' offense finally sputters to life. Quarterback Michael Vick usually makes it interesting, but this time he goes down to defeat.

Packers at Dolphins


The Packers are a poor excuse for a team but the Dolphins are in freefall. The Packers are rested after a bye week, and the Dolphins looked confused for three quarters against the Jets last week. Likely they are still scratching their heads. The Cheeseheads will triumph.

Washington at Colts


Washington may have to go to the over-rated washout list. Even if the Colts can't stop the run, when you have Peyton Manning pitching, who cares? The Colts will cruise.

Jaguars at Texans

The Jaguars are one of the top teams in the league, and would get more respect if they didn't have to play second fiddle to the Colts in AFC South. Oh, right, the Texans are in that division too: a fact the Jaguars and Colts feast upon twice a year. Jacksonville should win going away.

Patriots at Bills

The last time these teams played, the Bills almost pulled off an upset. The difference this time is the Patriots are back in the groove offensively and they are rested. The Bills just look weary. The Patriots roll onward.

Broncos at Browns

This game will be the laugher of the week. Although the Broncos are not as good on the road as at home, they are miles ahead of the rebuilding Browns.

Can you believe some teams are already talking playoffs?! It is too early for that, but the winners and losers do seem to be more apparent now. Enjoy!




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10.17.2006

Tweedy's Sunken Treasure


by Stephen Tringali

Where could you hear Jeff Tweedy, lead singer/songwriter of the alternative rock band Wilco, talk about religious experiences within the context of music, the bloodbath that would surely occur if he were elected president, and how certain substances caused him to crap his pants the last time he played this particular venue?

At a Christian college campus, of course.

Messiah College, located in Grantham Pennsylvania, hosted Tweedy on his solo tour of the east coast last November. The Wilco frontman, whose usual concert demeanor could be classified as taciturn, appeared to find the intimate circumstances more conducive for candor.

He joked with the audience, acknowledged a few requests, and played a variety of songs, including some from his previous band, alternative-country legend Uncle Tupelo, and from his side projects, the experimental trio Loose Fur and the alternative-country super group Golden Smog.

Why does this year-old concert matter now? Because in exactly one week, the concert film Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest will be released. And if the concert I went to last year is any indicator of this film’s quality, it should cause considerable excitement among Wilco fans.

According to Wilco’s website, director Christoph Green wanted the viewer to feel as though he or she were experiencing “...a chaptered flow down the west coast, showing the isolated bleakness you encounter when you travel quickly from one place to another, and then contrasting that with the experience at the shows—the gathering of people and the sense of community that is created night after night.”

Also directing was Fugazi’s Brendan Canty. These two filmmakers are, perhaps, best know for their Burn to Shine series, which documents the music scene of a particular city by filming local bands in a condemned house. Each feature concludes with footage of the burning house. The newest entry showcases Portland, Oregon with performances from The Shins, Sleater-Kinney, and The Decemberists.

The release of this DVD appears to be the frontman’s way of redeeming himself for an earlier blunder. Last year, Wilco promised to release a concert film to coincide with their first live album, the double-disc entitled Kicking Television: Live in Chicago. The concert album was received enthusiastically, but the corresponding film never came. Tweedy later said that he was disappointed with the footage and that it didn’t contain enough crowd shots. The footage was shelved for later consideration.

I supposed we can forgive Tweedy, especially since he’s making each song on the film available for download when fans place the DVD in their computers.

(Photo by Stephen Tringali.)

(To see Tweedy sing "Sunken Treasure" please check below.)








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Searching the Heavy Metal Highway


by Rick Rockwell

As you travel down the heavy metal highway, perhaps you’ve had a thought or two about where it all started. What’s at the source?

Of course, as you thrash to Korn or Godsmack or Metallica, there may be no reason to wonder about the origins of their metal sounds. The chords are there to clear away any other thoughts.

But those metal bands are part of the present, and they draw upon the legacy of the past. Headbang down the heavy metal highway enroute to the source and you’ll likely find your way to Detroit.

That’s where you’ll find the MC5, short for Motor City Five.

Of course, the MC5, a possible source of the term “heavy metal” wouldn’t be classified as a metal band at all today. And indeed, their contributions to the beginnings of the term “heavy metal” are still in dispute.

For years, some believed Norman Mailer had invented the term “heavy metal” when he penned an essay about the MC5's appearance in Chicago during the Democratic Convention protests. But that proved to be wrong. In his essay Mailer describes the band’s music as an “electric crescendo screaming as if at the electro-mechanical climax of the age....” He also makes comparisons between the music and the sound of the motorcycles driven to the concert by a group of bikers. But the term “heavy metal” does not appear.

John Kay of Steppenwolf also claims to have invented the term in 1968 in the lyrics to “Magic Carpet Ride:”

I like smoke and lightning/
Heavy metal thunder/
Racin' with the wind/
And the feelin' that I'm under.

That is regarded as the first song reference to heavy metal, however, the song is clearly an analogy about riding motorcycles and the term “heavy metal thunder” refers to the sound of the bikes, in the same way Mailer makes the comparison between the bikes and the MC5. Steppenwolf was not a heavy metal band and although they were considered hard rock at the time, their sound is rather standard fare these days. This all gets us closer to the source of heavy metal but these are clearly not the absolute origins.

Some credit the term to avant-garde novelist William Burroughs from his novels The Soft Machine (1962) and Nova Express (1964). Although Burroughs definitely had an impact on rock, including being the source of a number of band names, the metal music Burroughs referenced is regarded as fantasy, clearly not linked to anything that existed in 1962. However, it is possible that others applied Burroughs’ term to music emerging just six years later.

Chas Chandler, the manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience claimed in a BBC documentary in the mid-1990s that the first time the term was used, it was applied by The New York Times, in reference to Hendrix and his sound in 1969. This claim proved to be false. Likewise, Sandy Pearlman, who produced and managed Blue Oyster Cult, claims he invented the term as a reference to a musical style in 1970. This is also likely an unsubstantiated boast.

Most sources agree that by 1971, the term "heavy metal" was in regular use in Creem, the national rock magazine based in Detroit. Which brings us back to the MC5. Some rock historians say the late, great Lester Bangs, the rock critic who ran Creem for a time, used the term as a musical reference in 1969 in his review of the MC5’s live debut, Kick Out the Jams. However, just like the Mailer reference, Bangs does not use the term, although he does say the band plays “ugly noise.” Although Bangs slammed the band’s sound, later he apparently regretted what he wrote and embraced the MC5’s musical sincerity.

So where does that leave us? Not really any closer to the true origins of the term “heavy metal” other than many clues pointed toward the MC5, one of the loudest bands of the late 1960s.

As for the MC5, although the band may wrongly be credited with spawning the term “heavy metal,” today the group is classified as proto-punk, having influenced many of the late 1970s punk acts, and even some of the grunge movement (Nirvana is just one example) of the early 1990s. Indeed, the MC5 was a band far ahead of its time.

(MC5 photo courtesy of the MC5 Gateway.)

(To sample a bit of the MC5 live, below is a video of the band’s underground classic “Kick Out the Jams,” although this version is tamer than the original.)



(Check this link for a fully uncensored version of the original “Kick Out the Jams.”)


The Old Man’s Suggested Listening
  1. Pearl Jam (self-titled 2006 release)
  2. Godsmack, IV
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium
  4. Buckcherry, 15
  5. Audioslave, Revelations





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10.13.2006

Stunted TV


by Tate Strickland

Thanks to television, this December we will finally find out which of the world’s ethnicities is the best. Aren't you excited?

But then again, maybe not. After much buzz regarding racially segregated teams on the 13th season of Survivor (on CBS), there was hardly any fanfare when the castaways were abruptly reorganized into mixed-race teams on the third episode of the season.

Who, exactly, thought that it was a good idea to dredge up and reaffirm racial divisions on primetime television? Was it the executive who wanted more racial diversity in the show? It seems impossible that anyone could be fooled by such an obviously contrived explanation. No. What could it be other than a shameless publicity stunt designed to revive a flagging series?

Now that the ridiculous segregation tactic is over, I would say “good riddance.” But it’s obvious that this was all according to plan. CBS knew that it couldn't carry the ploy through to the end of the season and declare a winning race. That wasn’t the point. The point was to attract the media spotlight at the beginning. Once the trick expired, they threw it away. Back to your regularly scheduled Survivor.

But who cares, right? Publicity stunts happen all the time. Britney Spears kissed Madonna at the MTV movie awards, and her album premiered at number one. Ann Coulter is a master of publicity stunts, using outrageously controversial rhetoric to release books that consistently top the New York Times best sellers list. We've become so accustomed to publicity stunts that it’s astonishing we still fall for them—and yet we do.

And it’s not just harmless fun. With more and more outrageous content making its way onto the airwaves, quality plays second fiddle to loudness. The bigger the splash, the higher the ratings, it seems; just look at the current parade of quality-free reality television shows that make a big buck with little or no real merit attached.

Despite the shameless gimmick, Survivor: Cook Islands premiered with the lowest ratings yet for any season of Survivor. I know it’s foolish to think so, but maybe we’re getting smarter as an audience. Maybe if we’re lucky, we won’t have to put up with this kind of insulting nonsense in the future.

Good riddance.

(So far this season, Survivor is rated as the 16th most popular program in the U.S. Nielsen Media Research said the last episode had a 5.6 rating and reached more than 15.8 million viewers.)

(The Survivor publicity photo is courtesy of CBS.)






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10.12.2006

Nancy Dis-Grace


by Laura Snedeker

Stories of missing, dead, and abducted people dominate the TV news. Not the five-hundred people indefinitely detained at Guantanamo Bay or the several dozen Iraqis murdered in Baghdad every day. University of Vermont student Michelle Gardener-Quinn has disappeared. Call the Army, call the Navy.

In a brief moment of insanity, I turned on the TV and watched Nancy Grace, “television’s only justice themed/interview/debate show, designed for those interested in the justice stories of the day” according to CNN.

Instead of focusing on nationally important justice stories such as the recently passed detainee bill or one of a number of outrages, Nancy Grace, the shrieking lawyer who lends her name to the title, prefers to focus on missing college students, missing children, murdered children, and online predators. In a month where there was much talk about whether the government would follow the Geneva Conventions, Nancy Grace was more concerned with one person who may have been abducted on the way to her dorm.

In fairness to Grace, there are always a number of local crime stories that make their way to national TV. CNN is only consolidating these news items (and the fake outrage that goes along with them) into one program. The program’s focus on titillating (if nationally unimportant) stories is part of a larger TV news problem. One death (or abduction or molestation), especially of a child, is a far larger tragedy in the eyes of TV news than the deaths of sixty or one hundred thousand people. While people died by the thousands in Iraq or were tortured in secret prisons, how many stories focused on Terry Schiavo or Jennifer Wilbanks (the so-called “Runaway Bride”)?

Perhaps my lack of patience with TV news for obsessing over a few missing people seems callous. But frankly, I’m sick of watching stories styled as “won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children” which feature pundits who harp on about the dangers of internet predators or Strange Men Who Lurk in Shadows and Are Out to Steal Your Baby.

People watch programs like Nancy Grace because it’s easy for them to connect to family-centered stories – the missing student or child – and not so easy to identify with a story that consists mainly of a body count. One story is personal and close-to-home; the other is factual and impersonal. Excuse me, but I have to go buy some pepper spray. Nancy Grace says that Someone Is Out To Get Me.

(Photo of Nancy Grace courtesy of CNN.)






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Rocky's Football Corner #6


by Rick Rockwell

How is it with eleven games to play in the National Football League (NFL) season that some teams already seem to be playing out the string? Mathematically, even the winless teams could go on a winning streak and become playoff bound.

Not likely.

And those teams know that too, despite whatever rhetoric the coaches may be feeding them right now. The four winless teams in the league are all good examples.

First, there’s the Detroit Lions, the worst team in the league. This team has been self-destructing for years. Bringing in new coaches hasn’t worked. Bringing in new quarterbacks hasn’t worked. The Lions may actually win this week, but they’ll be hard pressed to win three games this season. The solution: stop grasping for straws and let one system set in long enough to work. But that won’t be this year.

Then there’s the underachieving Oakland Raiders. Watching them last week, it was obvious players were quitting mid-play. This team is filled with stars, but they have no chemistry. They don’t like management. Poor Art Shell came back to coaching to deal with this band of losers. They may not win more than two games this year. Solution: give Shell more power and let him clean house. But forget this season.

Another team that will be lucky to win three games is the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs actually have great potential, but the front office and coach Jon Gruden are likely regretting the move to let backup quarterback Brian Griese shuffle off to Chicago. When quarterback Chris Simms was lost for the year due to the hits that ultimately caused him to lose his spleen, the Bucs’ season was over. Most experts knew Simms was not ready to fly without a strong backup. In relief last week, rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski looked sharp. But he isn’t sharp enough yet to lift the Bucs who have a rough schedule. Rebuild and wait until next year.

The Tennesee Titans are also winless and likely to stay that way for at least a few more weeks. Like some of the teams on this list, the Titans have trouble in the management ranks. They had salary cap problems and have been rebuilding for far too long after letting the core of their team go through free agency. Through various management problems, they lost two good quarterbacks this year. They are left with a great rookie hope in quarterback Vince Young, but he is raw. They almost shocked the Colts last week, but this team likely has no more than three or four wins in it for the year. Let Young learn the offense and look toward next year for a marked improvement.

Finally, there’s the Miami Dolphins. No, the Dolphins are not winless. But they are a major disappointment. For a team expected to challenge for the division lead, they have collapsed. Could it be due to rushing quarterback Daunte Culpepper back too early from a knee injury? Culpepper is out, with various injuries now, and inconsistent Joey Harrington has the quarterback reins. The way they look now, the Dolphins will be lucky to win three more games all season. I must admit, I’m as guilty as any for predicting the Dolphins would do well this year. They truly are hexed, not just by me, but by all the armchair quarterbacks who thought they would cruise to a playoff berth. Shows what we know.

(If you are interested in this column, why not check out last week's too?)




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The Office Pool: Week Six


by Rick Rockwell

Here's a big clenched fist jutting skyward. Last week, this column had one of its best outings of the season. Like some teams, maybe your semi-friendly prognosticator has the season turned around.

Last Week: .786
This Season: .635

Game of the Week: Chiefs at Steelers

One of these teams will sink into mediocrity after this game. The other will challenge for its division lead. And this will be the weekend both look back upon as the turning point. But which one triumphs? Both of these teams are more equally matched than it may appear and the Chiefs have found a bit more defense than usual. But the World Champs have the edge. Go with the Steelers.

Dolphins at Jets

The loser of this one cycles into oblivion for the season. The Dolphins are rudderless and the Jets have shown improvement and promise. Go with Gang Green. The Dolphins end up as the most over-hyped team of the year.

Panthers at Ravens


Usually, the American Football Conference (AFC) is the dominant conference. Not this time. The Ravens continue to struggle to get their offense in gear. The Panthers are past that point of the season and should win by at least a field goal.

Seahawks at Rams

This game will be tighter than Seattle fans would like. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has thrown more interceptions than usual and last year’s top running back Shaun Alexander is out, injured. The Rams have prospered on a diet of weak teams. The Seahawks have enough to take the win. Barely.

Giants at Falcons


Is this a tune-up game for a possible post-season match-up? Both teams have that potential. But both remain inconsistent. In a close contest, the New Yorkers win on the road.

Monday Night: Bears at Cardinals

Well, perhaps we underestimated those Bears. They should stay undefeated while crushing the Cardinals, who still don’t have an offensive line to protect rookie quarterback Matt Leinart.

Eagles at Saints

The Saints certainly have a certain kind of voodoo at home in the Super Dome. However, the Eagles showed their real punch last week. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is on a tear. Pick the Eagles.

Texans at Cowboys

Well, here we have the Battle for Tejas, but the Cowboys are still on a different level than the struggling Texans. Stuff all the talk about benching quarterback Drew Bledsoe. He'll have a big day in a win over the Texans.

Bills at Lions

The Lions are likely the worst team in the league. However, it is very difficult for even the worst team to go winless. Normally, I'd say the Bills have this one, but something in the wind says this is the Upset Special of the week. The Lions finally get their W.

Titans at Washington


The Titans are another of those winless teams, and they go up against one of those inconsistent teams in the unpredictable National Football Conference (NFC) East. But you can't surprise Washington at home. Running back Clinton Portis is due to romp.

Chargers at 49ers


The Chargers defense, one of the best in the league, will be too much for the rebuilding 49ers. This won't be close, with San Diego rolling easily to a win.

Bengals at Buccaneers

The Bengals have had two weeks to prepare for the struggling Bucs, with the taste of a big defeat against the Patriots still lingering. If the Bengals want to play with the big boys this year, they will flatten the Bucs without mercy. Count on it.

Sunday Night: Raiders at Broncos

The Broncos keep demonstrating they are among the top five teams in the league, but they get no respect. The winless Raiders seem to have no self-respect this year. This game will be over by the half, with the Broncos cruising.

With a third of the season gone, it seems teams are beginning to sort themselves out. Enjoy the viewing this weekend!




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10.10.2006

Video Killed the Radiostar, Pandora Brought it Back


by Caitlin Servilio

Let’s say it’s been a long, hard day of school. You’re lying exhausted on your bed, emotionally drained, and you think to yourself, “Know what would make me feel better at this moment? Some sweet jams, that’s what.” So you turn on the radio, and prepare yourself for some hardcore tunes. But there’s a problem, isn’t there?

Of course there is, and it’s this: you can’t find any songs you like on the radio.

In contemporary society there are so many genres and sub-genres of music that regular radio can’t possibly encompass it all. It’s all too easy for us to retreat into our own little individual worlds of CDs and downloaded music. However, when we do this, it’s almost impossible for us to learn about new bands or artists we might like. We’re afraid to try new things, because we only want to listen to music that sounds like music we already know. Basically, we’re already turning into our parents, who are too frightened of change to listen to anything more recent than pre-breakup Simon and Garfunkel.

But don’t panic. Pandora is here.

Do you want to listen to a radio station that only plays songs that sound like “With or Without You” by U2? You can! Do you want to find out what other bands sound like Gnarls Barkley? You can! Do you ever feel like getting down to songs stylistically similar to “If You Want It To Be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy)” by the Backstreet Boys? You do, admit it! And you can! If you sign onto Pandora! Huzzah!

Pandora is a free Internet radio service, but unlike any other—this one will actually play music you like. It’s only been out about nine months now, but it has already made a huge splash in the online community. To get the full amazing story of Pandora, I talked to Tim Westergren, its founder.

Caitlin Servilio: So Pandora was born out of the Music Genome Project. Can you explain what that is?
Tim Westergren: The MGP is a musical taxonomy. We identify about 400 attributes that describe the way a song sounds. These attributes are similar to primary colors—they’re things like melody, harmony, rhythm, vocal style, all the little details of a song. We have about 40 musicians working on the project, and we’ve been working on it over seven years now. Pandora uses our findings from the MGP.

CS: What makes Pandora so unique?
TW: The listener can make his or her own stations by typing in the name of an artist or band that they like, and Pandora matches it to other similar sounding songs. You get to hear a lot of music you never heard before that you find out you like. The discovery part is what’s most important about Pandora.

CS: How did you decide to start up something like Pandora?
TW: I’m a musician and I spent ten or eleven years being in rock bands, living in vans and traveling around the country. I know what it’s like, so I wanted to help bands find audiences more easily than traveling 100,000 miles to clubs. The purpose is to allow bands to get some exposure.

CS: Do you ever hear back from bands thanking you for the opportunity?
TW: Yeah, we get that a lot, more and more. It’s incredibly gratifying having an impact. Bands tell us that their iTunes sales have grown since being featured on Pandora.

(Please go here for the second part of the Westergren interview.)

(The image is a painting from J.W. Waterhouse and is not affiliated with the Pandora service.)





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Pandora Brings Back the Radiostar, Part II


(This is the second part of an interview by Caitlin Servilio with the founder of the Pandora internet radio service, Tim Westergren. For part one, go here.)

CS: Pandora’s been mentioned in Rolling Stone and named one of the 50 Coolest Websites by Time magazine. Does it make you happy to see your baby get so much praise?
TW: It’s wonderful. I guess the baby’s more like a teenager by now! The greatest thing about being one of the 50 Coolest Websites is that the list wasn’t compiled by a group of editors. They came up with the list by talking to the people.

CS: How did you get the copyrights to play all this music?
TW: We have the right to play it under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. We signed one piece of paper and we can play any music we want. The artists do get paid, but we don’t need their permission. The act does limit what we can do—the listener can’t skip more than four songs in a row, and can’t hear any song immediately upon request.

CS: Will Pandora ever be anything other than free?
TW: It will always be free. There is a paid version you can subscribe to to get rid of the ads, but the ads are just visual anyway. That’s just to help us stay afloat. We’re not profitable right now, but we’ve been investing in a lot of different things, and we have some big plans for the future.

CS: Big plans? Like what?
TW: Right now we’re working on three general areas. First, we’re making Pandora mobile. Second, we’re working on making it international, with international music. I feel one of our most important contributions is to connect to other cultures—there’s a lot more great music outside the US than inside, but no one knows.

CS: So in the new Pandora, I could type in an American song and get to listen to a song in Japanese or German?
TW: Exactly. And the third thing we’re working on is, our users want to do more communicating with each other, listener to listener. So we’re working on ways to do that.

CS: What would you tell students who might want to follow in your innovative footsteps?
TW: College students should take summer internships. Make sure you spend summers working with interesting people, and if you can afford to work without pay, it’s perfect. It’s a great way to connect with people. Pandora took three interns last summer.

CS: Can I ask why you named the service Pandora?
TW: In Greek mythology, Pandora was a musician. And she opened the box of all the world’s troubles and let them escape, but at the bottom of the box there was hope. That sense of discovery and hope is what characterizes Pandora.

(The image is a painting by J.W. Waterhouse and is not affiliated with the Pandora service.)





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A View from the Tower


by Rick Rockwell

As this blog passes its first major milestone of 1,000 visitors, perhaps it is time to reflect on where we have traveled in just over a month.

So far, we have yet to hear from all the voices assembled to produce this group blog, but themes are emerging nevertheless. Independent of the blog’s editor, the writers have delved into the ever-changing nature of the internet and the video explosion on the ‘net via Youtube. This blog has also gone from fairly static to linking to various websites and adding video to entries. Essays that delve into advertising and marketing have also cropped up without any urging.

One of those entries (“Fourbucks” by Allison Doolittle) has proved to be the most provocative piece in the blog, or at least it has sparked the most outside commentary. Actually, few pieces inspire any commentary. Of the 32 other blog entries, only nine (or 28 percent) have spurred any type of reaction comment, which seems a bit below average for most blogs.

Blog writers Martha Hanna (“Generation HP”) and Molly Kenney (“American Idle”) have proved to be the most prolific commentators and the editor appreciates their attempts at enlivening the discussion in the blog. Others have also worked behind-the-scenes to help expose the blog to new readers and their efforts are also appreciated.

The software that tracks unique viewers to the blog tells us that the most popular entries are the weekly “Office Pool” football columns. But some readers come for the football and stick around to read other posts.

For those seeking more background about the blog, one of our archival entries “Raison d’etre” seems most appropriate. Most of the blog’s readers (about 86 percent) are from the U.S., however, from the start the blog attracted readers from international locations. Readers in Taiwan were the first international readers to find the blog. Since the blog’s inception, Canadians account for the biggest international group of readers with three percent. So far the blog has also found readers in: The U.K.; Australia; New Zealand; South Africa; Belgium; the Netherlands; Sweden; The People’s Republic of China; Indonesia; Malaysia; South Korea; Japan; Thailand; Singapore; India; Israel; Turkey; Egypt; Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Spain, and Mexico.

Honors students at American University are the primary authors of this blog, and so it attracts many readers from that community. However, readers who find the blog through Facebook (see Adrienne Lee’s piece “Face to Face” for an essay on that topic) are the second largest group of readers and so the blog also has attracted readers from: Georgetown University; Catholic University; the University of Maryland; St. Mary's College (Maryland); the University of Texas; the University of London; Kettering University; Colgate; Rice; Illinois State University; the University of Central Florida; Idaho State University; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Michigan; Northeastern University; Cornell University; various schools in the SUNY system; Lake Forest College (in Illinois); the University of Miami; Western Kentucky University; Kent State University; Marist College (in New York); Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and the University of Southern California.

This blog has also attracted a budding readership in such places as the Brookings Institution, the Environmental Protection Agency; and in the offices of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. What attracted those readers is anyone’s guess, but we are glad to have them.

We are actually glad to have anyone who ventures this way and wants a little insight on culture, entertainment, and the media. Thanks for stopping and keep reading!

(Photo courtesy of jjm of morgueFile.)







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10.09.2006

Television's Warming Glow


by Nick Pitas

Even though I’m sure it ranks fairly low on the scale of hardships suffered by humanity in general, I did not have television for the first month of the semester. After I moved into my dorm at American University (AU), I spent more than three weeks without the warming glow of Monday Night Football and the FOX primetime lineup.

Although I didn’t suffer from the shakes while it was going on, it was interesting (and alarming) to see how much of an impact television has on my daily life. I would overhear friends talking about popular movies or television shows and wonder silently to myself, “what the heck are they talking about?”

I’m not the “hippest” person as it is. Without television to inform me of what I was supposed to like and dislike, and how I’m supposed to act, I was adrift in a sea of meaningless day-to-day existence. Left to dress myself without the aid of MTV and VH1, I resorted to wearing a burlap sack and pieces of leather tied to my feet to class every day. At my worst, I would sneak into the library and watch the screen detailing the library calendar for hours on end.

Although my case may be a microcosm -- and an exaggeration -- it underscores how important television is in the life of the average teenager. According to an article by Robert Hampel in the academic journal Daedalus, “By the time a child is six, he has spent more time watching television than he will spend in his entire life talking with his father.” This simple fact is mind shattering for a number of reasons: first of all it only takes into account television and doesn’t include other entertainment media; secondly it only considers the first six years, imagine the amount of time spent over the course of a lifetime.

I’m not going to pass judgment however. I enjoy watching my precious Redskins every week as much as the next person. It is something to think about however.

As for me, the light at the end of the tunnel came when I left my dorm in mid-September (in more ways than one, trust me). When I moved back to Virginia for the duration of the semester, I once again had access to basic cable and a 23-inch screen. Much to my relief, “Flava Flav” was still mumbling incoherently about something and I could still catch 500 laps around an oval with NASCAR. Pass the pork rinds and hand me that remote.




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