Category: The Media

Oct
3
2010

We Didn’t Start The Fire

“We didn’t start the fire.
It was always burning,
since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire.
No we didn’t light it,
but we tried to fight it.”
- B. Joel

I want to invent the Chill Pill. It’s a product many need, though not many would want. That means this product would be an utter failure. But still, I want to invent it.

Every time I watch the U.S. news, it seems like the world is falling apart. Reporters don’t say this outright, but they bombard viewers with murder after murder, travesty after travesty, horror after horror. It feels like we live in a dangerous society where death and tragedy is imminent.

I once read a story about a European tourist traveling through the U.S. While at this hotel, he turned on the TV to watch the local news. From the reports, he concluded that the city he was in was full of violence. However, the city he was in was one of the safest in the nation. The media was just doing what it always does – report on sensational deaths and traumatic crimes.

In such an environment, all the extreme emotions don’t surprise me at all. It’s a Chicken Little paradise here. Hypochondriacs are running the asylum.

It’s a fact that we are living in a safer time than ever before. Can you imagine your parents taking you as a kid to a public hanging? Or to participate in a public stoning? Or to watch someone being hung, drawn, and quartered?

There was a time where the men in a family had to carry a sword because raids and rape were common. Pestilence and starvation ravaged entire villages too. Before 1847, doctors didn’t know they should wash their hands after working with dead bodies. Can you imagine delivering a perfectly healthy baby, then to die from puerperal fever yourself? That was a regular occurrence in some hospitals.

Playing violent video games is one thing. Experiencing violence at your doorstep is another. Just ask any child living in a war-torn country or gang-ruled neighborhood.

Despite those current-day examples of violence, the majority of the U.S. populace does not live with such violence or crime every day. Yet, the news media portrays a very different picture. Even in an age of ambivalence towards advertising, people still tend to believe the media.

The Chill PillTM would combat the negative effects of media sensationalism. It would suppress the urge to stay at home for the rest of your life after watching how another family of three died in a car accident on your regular work commute route. Or the urge to avoid life-saving vaccinations after a celebrity claims it caused autism in her son.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, the Chill Pill is not marijuana, medicinal or otherwise. The core effects might be similar, though it would not carry the side effects of potential mental health issues and the munchies. My version of the Chill Pill wouldn’t, at least. Competitors would no doubt sprout.

It would be even better if such a product was not necessary and the news media shifted their reporting structure to a more balanced view. Alternative news sources such as Twitter and positive news sources such as the Good News Network, Happy News, and AOL’s Good News Now are all examples of the positive reporting that the traditional U.S. news media could adopt.

Then there’s Michael Moore’s assertion that the news media in Canada is much more tempered. In his documentary Bowling for Columbine, he features several Canadian news clips. Then he contrasts what he calls a climate of fear in the U.S. media to a more – for lack of a better word – chill climate in Canada.

I haven’t seen enough Canadian TV to verify this personally, though he makes an interesting assertion. If it’s true, the U.S. media has a working model they could easily emulate – our neighbors up north.

Unfortunately, I have a negative outlook on such a future. Perhaps I’m colored by all the negative news too, but I just don’t think these corporations would be able to change their structures. There’s too much company inertia, shareholder concern, operational overhead, and, of course, profits from the current status quo.

I don’t think any investor would read the Chill Pill’s business plan and see a bright future either. “The U.S. news media has created a climate of fear and fostered a sense of pessimism in the U.S. society. The Chill Pill would restore a sense of calmness and positivity and lead to a happier society.”

Yea, not a killer product. I think there’s a need, but not a want. That’s not a recipe for success. But still, sometimes after watching the news, I totally want to invent this.


Mar
28
2010

The Danger of Extremists

“People who speak in absolutes absolutely bug me.”
- Me

I don’t take kindly to extremists. Especially those with a public platform. Such public speakers strive to polarize their listeners with provoking rhetoric. This can be dangerous in the minds of those who are easily influenced and in a position to inflict harm on others.

An extremist is a person who holds an extreme opinion to the point of disregarding facts that may refute the opinion or support a counter argument. The extremist will never admit this, of course. In that person’s mind, counter-arguments carry no weight and should be dismissed, no matter the strengths of the facts. Extremists may further harbor the paranoia that an opposing group released such facts as part of a conspiracy against the extremist’s point of view.

A person with a strong opinion differs from an extremist in the severity of the belief and the actions the extreme opinion propels. Strong opinions can ultimately be changed if there is enough supporting evidence to the contrary. Extreme opinions, by this definition, cannot, and may even be strengthened with fanatical zeal.

Many will argue with me about the danger of extremists. “What’s wrong with passionate devotion to a particular opinion,” they ask. “Without such passion, some of the world’s greatest art would not exist.” Neither would war, for that matter.

A stronger counter-argument is: “Humans are hard-wired for extreme opinions. It is in our nature.” That I cannot deny. It doesn’t change my opinion of extremists, but I realize it is futile to do much more than rant on my lowly website about them. And to avoid them, as I tend to do.

Another good counter-argument: “Isn’t this an extreme opinion against extremists?” Heh, funny. This opinion is not an extreme one. I don’t take kindly to extremists, but I do realize their contributions to society. Art is definitely one. Books, music, movies; some of the most moving creative works are born of intense passion.

The extremists I don’t like are those with a public platform and the desire to use their influence to inflict harm on others. History is littered with such examples. Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden are two infamous examples in the Western world. And unfortunately, I’m sure there will be many more in the future.

There are also many less heinous examples. Broadcast and cable television have given many the ability to reach millions in their own homes. The Internet has exponentially expanded that reach, though extremists on television still seem to have more influence than those on the Internet, for whatever reason. That will most certainly change in the future.

Bill O’Reilly is an easy example, though he would argue that he is not an extremist (or extreme conservative) and prefers to be labeled a “traditionalist.” He does have a public platform however: the O’Reilly Factor.

For better or worse, he is media savvy enough to know how to exploit this medium. The economics of television programs means those with the highest ratings stay on the air. In order to continue the survival of his show, he has to maintain high ratings. One of the most effective ways to do this is through sensationalism. And what is more sensational than a pundit shouting his polarizing views with fanatical zeal?

A show that carefully weighed both sides of an issue would not score high ratings, sadly. Most political issues are so complex that it would take hours to explain them all. No major media conglomerate would risk the loss of advertising revenue from such programming. (Thank goodness for NPR and PBS. Too bad more people don’t listen & watch them.)

Therefore, short sound bites about a particular political topic coupled with polarizing rhetoric is the best way to incite an audience and encourage them to tune in again and again. The end goal isn’t to disseminate the facts effectively; it is to cultivate a viewing audience.

Therein lies the danger of extremists. An extremist in isolation is not going to cause any harm, but an extremist with the ability to spread that opinion to millions could.

Let’s return to Bill O’Reilly again. In 2005, O’Reilly publicly denounced Dr. George Tiller on his television show. Dr. Tiller is a physician known for performing second and third trimester abortions. O’Reilly referenced the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” multiple times across multiple shows. There is anecdotal evidence that this rhetoric may have influenced Dr. Tiller’s murder at the hands of Scott Roeder.

It isn’t fair to say O’Reilly directly led to Dr. Tiller’s death. The correlation is weak at best. But just as conservatives argue that heavy metal music and video game violence leads to violent behavior amongst teens, many have drawn a connection between O’Reilly’s words and Roeder’s actions.

Roeder has a history of mental illness. At 20, he was diagnosed with possible schizophrenia. His ex-wife believed he was suffering from bipolar disorder. He has also been involved with extremist organizations such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement (an anti-government organization) and the Army of God (an anti-abortion organization that believes murdering doctors that perform abortions is justifiable homicide).

It is fair to say that Roeder has a predisposition for violence in line with his extreme views. It is also fair to say that David Leach, another Army of God member and publisher of the anti-abortion newsletter Prayer & Action News (another example of an extremist with a public platform) had more influence on Roeder’s state of mind than O’Reilly did. But unfortunately for O’Reilly, he is more famous than Leach and therefore more influential on the nation as a whole. This is why he caught a lot of criticism for his statements, especially calling the doctor “Tiller the baby killer.”

In my opinion, no, O’Reilly did not directly contribute to Roeder’s murderous actions. But his influential voice did amplify Tiller’s demonization. Even journalist Gabriel Winant asserted that O’Reilly’s anti-Tiller tirades contributed to an atmosphere of violence around the doctor.

The influence of public extremists is strong, much stronger than many realize. With more and more Americans turning to commercials (yes, it’s true) and television shows for their political education, programs like The O’Reilly Factor and The Daily Show (I’m not biased here, even Jon Stewart holds tremendous and potentially dangerous sway) are becoming mouthpieces for political parties, whether they like it or not.

Since both sides resort to short, catchy sound bites instead of verbose, drawn-out arguments, the viewing public is in danger of falling sway to extremists with public platforms — especially those who are easily influenced and in a position to inflict harm on others.


Jan
31
2010

Daytime Television Sucks

Being a work-from-home entrepreneur sometimes means, well, working from home. Most of the time, I prefer to go out and work in a café, bookstore, or even library. Having people around me, even if I’m not interacting with them, feeds me. It energizes me and keeps me motivated.

However, I’m not always able to go out. Especially when it’s raining out or I’m trying to save cash. In those cases, I work from home, which sounds great, doesn’t it? If you’re sitting in an office after a sixty-minute commute through back-to-back traffic, I’m sure it does.

There is a dark downside though. Daytime television.

Just to set the record straight, I don’t regularly watch TV. When I was single, I didn’t even own a television set. Everything I watched was on-demand from DVDs, Hulu or elsewhere.

And admittedly, I’ve gotten addicted to a handful of shows, like Lost and Family Guy. But I skip the majority of shows on TV. Yup, I get all of my modern culture awareness from Lost and Family Guy. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

So it is with great trepidation that I turn on the TV every day. No, I’m not turning it on for myself. I’m turning it on for my dog.

That’s right, my dog.

I have a fearful little pup that is prone to barking at outside noise. Or at least, the noise he can hear.

When the television is on, Jerry Springer blocks out the scary neighbors outside with scary neighbors inside. The screeching of cats outside is replaced by the screeching of The View inside. The rumbling trucks in the street are covered by the rumbling shmucks in The Bold and the Beautiful.

My dog doesn’t watch the TV himself. Even when there are dogs on TV, he’ll just do his own thing, like play with the Kong or lie at my feet.

Without the TV, however, he’ll stand by the window on alert. With ears perked, he’ll sniff the air and bark at impending intruders. “Danger close, danger close!” he shouts.

What does this mean for me? It means my eye will wander to the television from time to time. I’ll catch a glimpse of a pregnant woman DNA testing ten guys to find out who is her baby daddy. Or a stately old man discovering that his wife’s young lover is really his cousin’s twin brother who’s been lost at sea for years.

Then I’ll shake my head, sigh, and long for a cafe. Daytime television really sucks.

P.S. Fortunately, there is a feasible alternative. Music also shutters outside noise. Though perhaps my band choices – like Slipknot, Slayer, and Five Finger Death Punch – aren’t the best choices to calm a nervous dog.


Jul
20
2008

The Wear Sunscreen Speech

You know the Wear Sunscreen Speech, right? If not, where have you been? Under a rock buried in the sand behind an outhouse on an island with dark sunglasses at night? Tsk tsk.

The Wear Sunscreen Speech—sometimes simply known as the “Sunscreen Speech”, but originally called “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”—was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich way back on June 1, 1997 as a fictional commencement speech that she’d like to give if she were ever asked to.

For some reason, a mischievous student decided to send the speech around as a MIT commencement speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. Weird, huh? If you’ve seen that email, now you know who really wrote that speech—Mary Schmich and not Kurt Vonnegut (though Vonnegut could have certainly written something just as witty & profound).

You may have also heard the speech in song form by Australian film director Baz Luhrmann as “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen): The Sunscreen Song”. This song gave the speech new life and a wider reach. Luhrmann had also seen the Vonnegut email and tried to contact him. But when one of his colleagues jumped on the web to track down Vonnegut, they found out about the hoax and how Mary Schmich was the original author. So he contacted Schmich, and the rest is history.

This speech is one of my favorite pieces. Chock full of advice like a rich & yummy granola bar, I’ve followed many of its nuggets before. They’ve directed my life like delicious road signs on my yellow brick road. Some of my favorite nuggets are:

  • Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Floss.
  • Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
  • Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.
  • Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.
  • Respect your elders.

Great nuggets, huh? That’s what I got out of it. Here’s the full speech, so you can find your own nuggets. Bon appetit.

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97.

Wear Sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idel Tuesday. Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year- olds I know still don’t. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. Mayber you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody’s else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Dont’ be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will Look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.


Sep
18
2005

The Memory Loss of Young Professionals in Urban America

“Damn, I can’t remember what he said, but I remember it was something important.”

Laura gave me the Raised Eyebrow. “You can’t remember? That was like, only ten minutes ago!”

I sighed. “I know, I know…”

“It’s old age, isn’t it? Your memory is going.” She shook her head sadly with a look of utter resignation. “It’s all over for you, Mike. It’s all over.”

“Thanks for your vote of confidence. Really.”

“I’m merely saying what has to be said. It’s time to face the truth, Mike.”

Now I gave her the Raised Eyebrow. “You’re funny. And so is your face! Ha!”

“Distasteful jokes won’t bring your memory back, grandpa. And you look like The Rock when you try doing the Raised Eyebrow thing.”

“What?” I raised my eyebrow again. “Do I, really?”

“Yup. Just like the Rock, only a memory-lapsing version of him.”

I rubbed my eyes. “You know why my memory isn’t as good as it used to be? It’s because of the complex society in which we live.”

“Oh? Do tell, Mr. Sociologist.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you. Here are Mike’s reasons for the increasing memory loss of young professionals in an urban American life.”

“Great thesis. You should write a paper on this.”

“Or maybe a ramble. Hmm.” I scratched my chin. “Well, okay, so here are my reasons. Reason One: Information Overload.”

“Information Overload? Don’t you mean old age?”

“If you’re going to keep interrupting me,” I cast the Evil Eye, “then I’m not going to tell you.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll keep quiet. Please continue.” She sat back in her seat and regarded me like a sad little puppy. I huffed, then continued.

“Information Overload.” I cleared my throat. “We are being bombarded by more media, messages, and information than previous generations. We have access to way more stored knowledge and information than generations before. Television, the Internet, books, billboards, and even ads in public restrooms, for goodness’ sake. There is more informational stimuli coming into our brains than we can reasonably handle. Therefore, most of that information is going to slip out of our minds. We simply can’t retain it all.”

“Okay, I can buy that.”

“Good, I’m glad I have your approval. Now, Reason Two: Responsibility Overload.”

She chuckled. “Oooo, you have good titles for these.”

“Why thank you. I’m making these all up as I go.”

“Really?” Another Raised Eyebrow. “Impressive, Mike, impressive. Go on.”

“Responsibility Overload. Not only is more information coming at us, but so is more responsibility. Now we have to worry about school loans, car loans, mortgages, life insurance, house insurance, other kinds of insurance, 401ks, IRAs, savings accounts, checking accounts, investment accounts,”—breath—”child care, new age parenting techniques, quality school systems, quality colleges, good careers, new technologies, new wars, dictatorships, terrorists, bombings, weapons of mass destruction, AIDS, new diseases, biological warfare, drugs, teenage pregnancies, violence in video games, violence on television, Social Security, Medicare, pensions, retirement… shall I go on?”

“Gosh Mike, now I’m really depressed.”

“Good. There are a lot of responsibilities and concerns for us nowadays. Our parents didn’t have as many things to worry about. And the kicker is, most of these things aren’t even things we should be worried about! But our society and the media has created a Culture of Worry and all of these things are things we must be worried about now, otherwise we’d be considered uneducated and ignorant citizens.”

“Can you shoot me now? Please? Put me out of my misery.”

“And that’s only Reason Two. Reason Three is Sleep Deprivation.”

Laura rubbed her eyes. “I sure feel tired, although I’m too freaked out and depressed to fall asleep now.”

“That’s exactly it!” I pounded the table. “We’re all too busy or freaked out or worried to sleep. Who ever gets a full eight hours of sleep nowadays? Who?”

“Not me. I got four hours last night.”

“Exactly! I got about six I think. We had less than that during college. Doctors get even less sleep. You know how pre-med students have to do those crazy rotations? Well, I’ve heard that some have to stay awake for a full 36 hours!”

“That’s crazy! I couldn’t stay awake for 36 hours.”

“Do you really want a doctor who’s been awake for 36 hours to treat you? Hells no! But we still force those students to do that. And in the dot-com industry, it was pretty standard to pull all-nighters and code code code all night long. Sleep is seen as an unnecessary task that we need to minimize, so that we can be as productive as possible. This has led to a Culture of Sleep Walkers, or zombies that go through life everyday in a daze. We all need more sleep. Our brains can’t function well without enough sleep.”

Laura bit her lip. “You’ve convinced me. I’m going to sleep for like a week now.”

“And you should! Because that would help with Reason Four too. Increased Stress. All of that extra information and responsibility, combined with a lack of sleep, is adding a foundation of extra stress in all of our lives. Stress is the leading cause of heart attacks and poor health, both physical and mental. We’re all killing ourselves slowly, and we don’t even realize it.”

“You’re totally stressing me out, Mike.”

“Finally, there’s Reason Five: Multitasking.”

“Multitasking?” Laura raised her eyebrow again. “Are we talking about computers now?”

“You really like the Raised Eyebrow thing, don’t you?”

“Maybe I have a chance to become the next Rock.”

I smirked. “You mean like a Rockette?”

“Ha! Funny, Mike. So funny I forgot to laugh.”

“You forgot, huh? See, you’ve got memory loss too!”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine, you’ve caught me. That’s because I’m suffering from information overload, responsibility overload, sleep deprivation, increased stress, and multitasking.”

I nodded solemnly. “You’ve learned well, my young apprentice.”

“So go on. Tell me about Multitasking.”

“Okay, Multitasking. So we’re being forced to diverge our brains onto more and more tasks nowadays. Being able to focus on several different things at once can be a helpful trait. But generally, too many different tasks can begin to wear down one’s productivity. Also, the very nature of multitasking means each task is getting only a part of your attention at any given time. No one task is being done as well as it could be. You’re splitting up your ability to do a great job on one task, into several tasks all done with mediocrity. Computers can multitask well, but human beings aren’t meant to.”

“So I really shouldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time?”

“Hells no! Otherwise, you might die!”

“Aaaahhh!” she screamed and spit out her gum.

“Whoa, I had no idea you were chewing gum this whole time. You hid it well.”

“I’ve learned to hide gum chewing well, so that I can chew gum at work.”

“You chew gum during work?” I scratched my head. “Isn’t that unprofessional?”

“Yea, that’s why I have to hide it.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Do you have any more reasons to your thesis?”

“Nope, that’s all I can think of for now. Five reasons. I think that’s plenty enough.”

“Definitely! Now you’ve gotten me all scared and stressed out and feeling like I just need to lie in bed for the next month or so.”

“And you know what will happen if you do?”

“What?”

“You’ll probably find your memory improving again. You see, without all this extra stimuli, you’ll be able to focus on a smaller set of important things at once. And you’ll be able to perform them much better.”

“I’d also lose my job too.”

“Ah, yes,” I sighed. “That’s the price you’d have to pay for an improved memory.”

“Can’t I just prioritize all of the stimuli and information and responsibilities that I have, so I can focus on the most important ones instead?”

I paused. “Um…” I scratched my head again. “Yea, I guess you can.”

“Aw Mike, did I just blow that entire theory of yours?”

I sat back in my chair in resignation. “Wow, yea, I guess you did. And I thought I had such a well thought-out theory too.”

“Well, maybe you’re still right. And prioritization is simply the answer to the problem your theory poses.”

“Hey, you’re right! You’re a genius!”

“I know,” Laura beamed. “That’s because I’m smart and don’t have memory problems like you do, grandpa.”

. . .

How is your memory?


Dec
8
2002

Peeing With a Star

“Who do you think they are?” I asked.

We studied the two guys who spilled out of the limo. They had long hair, hard rock T-shirts (one of them said “Motley Crue”), and the whole hard rock ensemble (black outfits, metal chains, boots, etc).

“I don’t know,” said Geraldine. “You’re the heavy metal guy, you should know.”

I eyed them intently from my peripheral vision as we walked into the House of Prime Rib, trying my best not to walk into a wall. “They look familiar, but I can’t quite place them.”

We took seats near the bar as we waited for our table. The two guys came into the restaurant, along with an entourage of photographers and other media people.

Then a tall man with a blonde woman around his arm strutted into the restaurant and disappeared in a back room.

“Hey, I recognize that girl!” shouted Noreen. “That’s that girl from Baywatch!”

“Baywatch?” I stood from my chair to get a better view. “Pamela Anderson?”

“No, no, her name is… um, Diana something, I think.”

“That’s not Kid Rock, so it’s definitely not Pamela Anderson. I wonder if that’s Motley Crue. But no, she wouldn’t be with them either.”

“No, no,” Noreen repeated. “That’s Diana D’Errico.”

“Who?” asked Jorge.

“She’s on Baywatch. C’mon, you boys watch Baywatch, don’t you?”

“Actually no,” Jorge replied with a dignified stare.

“I don’t either,” I chimed in.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Noreen said.

“Heh, of course! If I did, I’d admit it proudly, dammit. But I don’t. So what’s her name again?”

“Diana D’Errico, I think. Diana… or Donna or something.”

“It looks like she was with that tall guy. He looks so freaking familiar. I wonder who he his.” I mused. “I wonder if they’re Motley Crue. Maybe he’s Tommy Lee. I thought I saw a guy who looked like Nikki Sixx in that limo.”

The hostess approached. “You’re table’s ready,” she said, and led us to a different room that unfortunately didn’t offer us a view of the mystery celebrities.

When the waiter came by, I couldn’t help but ask, “Hey, do you know who those rocker guys are?”

“Um, no, I’m not handling that room. But I can find out for you.” And he was off.

Moments later, he returned. “I don’t recognize them or their name. It’s a long name though. Sorry.”

We thanked him and proceeded to place our orders.

After a fine meal of prime rib (and a very fine meal it was!), I excused myself to go to the restroom.

“Try and find out who they are!” Geraldine urged.

“Oh yea, I totally am going to.” I winked and headed to the other room.

But nature’s call was a bit stronger, so I ducked into the restroom instead. And lo and behold, the third tall guy was at the urinal, splashing out a pretty damn steady stream. I considered asking him who he was, but figured that would be too gay. And he’d probably kick my ass for being so gay.

So when the stall was free, I went in to do my business (just a number one, mind you). As I was going, I heard the tall guy let out a vociferous belch. Then he went out the door.

I flushed, washed my hands, and ran to the nearest waiter I could find.

“Excuse me, but do you know who those rocker guys are?”

The waiter leaned over and whispered to me, “That’s Motley Crue right there.”

“No shit!” My eyes lit. “I knew it! And the tall guy? Nikki Sixx?”

“Yep.”

“No shit! And the girl? Donna D’Errico?”

“Yep.”

“No fucking shit! You know I was just in the restroom with Nikki, and he didn’t wash his hands?”

“No shit!”

“Yep!”

Then, with a broad smile on my face, I ran back to my friends to relay the news.

. . .

Have you ever seen a famous rock star?


Sep
15
2002

WTC 2.0

“Today, our nation saw evil,
the very worst of human nature.
And we responded with the best of America—
with the daring of our rescue workers,
with the caring for strangers and neighbors
who came to give blood
and help in any way they could.”
- G. W. Bush
“The purpose of architecture is to create
an atmosphere in which man can live, work, and enjoy.”
- M. Yamasaki

“Don’t Rebuild. Reimagine,” says the New York Times Magazine of the site of the World Trade Center. And so a group of leading architects met to discuss what could be done.

This came after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the organization formed by New York Governor George Pataki and then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to oversee the rebuilding of the WTC site, came up with six proposals.

The six proposals were rejected, and now the LMDC has initiated a month-long design study for up to five teams of architects, developers, and artists.

Rebuilding the site of WTC isn’t going to be an easy task. Much of the city divided between whether to create two tall buildings (to replace the WTC) or avoiding tall buildings. Then there are other issues (the site has a combination of owners with differing interests, from New York City and State to New Jersey to private enterprises Westfield America and Larry Silverstein).

Replacing the WTC wouldn’t be easy either. World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were both 1350 ft high (110 stories tall). This made them the fifth and sixth tallest buildings in the world. Architects Minoru Yamasaki and Emery Roth designed the seven buildings of the WTC, though their names seem to be absent from the list of architects vying to rebuild the site.

The architects in the NY Times Magazine article envisioned more than just rebuilding or replacing WTC. They looked at the rest of Lower Manhattan as well.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, Greenwich Street ran south from Greenwich Village down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Then businessmen David and Nelson Rockerfeller approached the Port Authority, a NY-NJ-owned transit organization, to build a towering financial center in Lower Manhattan and stem the tide of business leaving downtown to for the livelier midtown.

Now that the WTC no longer stands, it is possible to look down Greenwich Street again and see the shore. All of the architecture plans for this project intend to keep this street open.

The visions for Lower Manhattan extend even further than that. The Civic Alliance, a group formed by the Regional Plan Association, is tackling this issue through a coalition of private and public organizations, including New York University (my alma mater and one of the largest landowners in NYC)

In the past, it was the wealthy that dictated what would be built in the city. Now organizations like LMDC and the Civic Alliance are turning to the community for their opinions. And the result is a lively yet widely varying set of voices, leading to the formation of other groups, like New York New Visions, Rebuild Downtown Our Town, and Community Board 1.

The NY Times Magazine architects interjected artistic values into the construction as well. Even Maya Lin was consulted on the memorial design. Their designs range from contemporary to Art Deco.

But whatever the aesthetic, there’s been a consensus to keep the major streets open, like Greenwich, to have a cultural institution (whether it be an opera house, museum, or something else), and to have a memorial designed by some kind of public process. Other top plans include expanding residential housing and providing better commercial venues.

Lower Manhattan in the 20th Century has typically been about the hustle and bustle of Wall Street in the daytime and quiet, empty streets at night and on weekends. Through developments like Battery City Park and South Street Seaport, both built on landfills, some weekend commerce and residential living has come about.

This disaster has brought about a renewed interest in NYC and it’s history. The site of the WTC will undoubtedly be a tourist attraction for years to come, but it will also serve as a symbol of the resilience of the city as well as become a cultural center for our grandchildren.

All of these ideas give me a lot of hope. September 11th, 2001 came during the tail end of the Dot-com bubble, just as many businesses were leaving Lower Manhattan and NYC. Even more have left since 9/11, but out of this disaster is coming hope.

Hope that a more united community will have a voice in rebuilding and improving a treasured and historical part of the New York City.

. . .

What do you think of the new WTC development?


Jul
21
2002

The Slumber Party

It’s time for the Victoria’s Secret Spring Slumber Party again. Oh yea. I love this party. The ladies get together for a whole day and show each other their new clothes. Then they take lots of photos and mail them out to friends.

If you look through these photos, you’ll see their story unfold. It’s like a picture book, only better.

It’s important to understand that their parties don’t start off crazy though. They’re human like everyone else; a bit shy, they need to warm up and get comfortable before getting really crazy.

That’s why they start with some stretching exercises. So over some mineral water and Sounds of The Rainforest, they show each other their gym clothes.

“Look at these new athletic yoga pants in a substantial stretch knit that I got!”

“Oh, that’s great! And that French terry hooded jacket with stretch is so cute!”

“Ohmigosh, like, look at these adorable cotton jersey bottoms with athletic stripe detail! Aren’t they like, the greatest?”

Now that they’re all warmed up, the ladies move on to their casual wear. In all new Spring colors, their cotton knits and bra tops are great for the warm afternoon sun.

“I just love that tunic and legging in tonally dyed colors!”

“What do you think of this fit-and-flare t-shirt dress with ribbed cotton knit?”

“Oh, that’s just the cutest! And so is that squareneck tank with double crossback straps!”

They’re getting into it now. Someone breaks out the mimosas and they’re getting a little tipsy. After a break of watermelons and peaches, they’re showing off denims and chinos now.

“I just love how this sandblasted button-front demin skirt feels!”

“This London Jean overall with classic workwear details is, like, just the cutest, don’t you think?”

“That Chino miniskirt with front zip, ohmigosh, is sooo sexy on you!”

The vibe is growing. They’re all loose and playful now. Giggles fill the air as they grab at each other’s clothes and admire the curves these new outfits let them show off. The clothes are getting sexy now.

“Ooo, I can see the side of your boob from that crewneck lace-up top with faux suede side laces!”

“Hey, check out my cleavage from this sheer silk chiffon blouse in a delicate floral print! Isn’t it great?”

“This sheer mesh cami with delicate ruffles and spaghetti straps feels sooo sexy!”

It’s past high noon now, and the sun has been blazing down on them long enough. The sexy clothes have made them hot and sweaty. Time to jump into the pool to cool off.

“I just love these Miracle Bra triangle top and string bottom, don’t you?”

“I think the Swim Systems French high-waist bottom and tankini top with shelf bra is, like, just the cutest thing in the whole wide world!”

Ohmiosh, just look at this Body by Victoria pull-on swim skirt! Doesn’t it just make you want to tear it right off?”

They all jump into the pool and frolic for hours. The rest of the day passes by quickly. It’s evening by the time they get out. And now it’s time to get ready to sleep. But not just yet. They’ve had a fun day and don’t want it to end just yet. So they linger and finish showing off the rest of their clothes.

“Look, look! This classic satin slip and wrap with v-neck and slim adjustable straps is sooo cute and sexy, isn’t it?”

“Ohmigosh, I love your Body by Victoria seamless shaping demi bra! It looks so great on you!”

“Oh, I’m getting so excited just looking at you in that Second Skin satin lightly lined demi bra!”

“That Very Sexy seamless plunge bra with twinned adjustable straps is, ohmigosh, so cute! I just want to rip it off you!”

“These Cotton Lingerie v-string panties for most minimal coverage with no panty lines are great, aren’t they? Just feel how soft they are!”

“Oh, I don’t want to sleep yet. Can’t we just stay up a little longer? I want to show you my Miracle Bra Lace bar and garter belt! Look!”

But alas, nightfall has come and the ladies have had a hard, long day. It’s time to get into bed now. Tired, they snuggle together and dream of soft cuddly things as they begin to think about what outfits they’re going to buy next season to show off to their friends.

And we’ll be there again, next season, eagerly awaiting the next chapter of their playful yet engaging story.

. . .

Do you like the Victoria’s Secret catalog?


Oct
21
2001

Is That Anthrax On Your Shoulder?

Categories: 9/11, NYC, Terror, The Media
“It’s difficult for me to get a grip on what you mean
When you stick your fingers in your ear and create another scene
You always step into the traps set perfect in your path
Busy going crazy over whose knife’s in your back”
- J. Bush

“What if you walked down the street and someone pricked you with an infected needle? You might get anthrax!”

About a dozen friends asked me something like that when I told them I wanted to take a trip back to Manhattan.

Everywhere around me, I hear people talking about the anthrax epidemic.

In the supermarket, a lady was telling another lady how licking an envelope could give you anthrax.

A guy on the street coughed, and his friend backed away from him and told him to run to the hospital, “…in case you have anthrax.”

I think the terrorists are winning.

With a few letters and a handful of people in prominent sites infected, the rest of America seems to have gone bonkers. People are taking the news and blurring the facts into fantastically horrible rumors.

To get to the real facts, I checked out a few web sites. And came across some opinion pieces from the NY Post and Time Magazine.

The facts state that anthrax, also known as bacillus anthracis by its scientific name, is not highly contagious. You cannot get it from someone coughing on you, and certainly not from licking an envelope.

It really isn’t as bad as the news makes it out to be.

The Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison had some pretty good advice on how to protect yourself from bioterrorism:

  • Stop Worrying
  • Stop Smoking
  • Don’t Drink Too Much
  • Eat Right
  • Exercise
  • Stop Worrying

In other words, don’t give in to panic. Otherwise, the terrorists win.

Ironically, do you know who is helping the terrorists win? The American media. Either it’s ignorant or misinformed news reporters giving the public the wrong information (no, anthrax is NOT a virus), or unscrupulous reporters trying to sensationalize the incident to make money.

Sound crazy, huh? Why would anyone sensationalize such a horrible event? Think about it. Every news source is reporting on the same event. How can you get readers to buy your media over a competitor’s? Make it sound more horrible, more terrifying, more sensational.

And in doing so, scare your public into reading more news media. To make more sales. To make more money.

The public: 0. The terrorists (with the aide of sensationalists): 1.

Of course, not all news sources do this. And not all of the public is taken in by sensationalized news. But enough of it is happening to cause a general panic.

And that’s when the terrorists win.

. . .

Do you think the terrorists are winning?


Sep
12
2001

Numb

Categories: 9/11, NYC, The Media, Violence

Like you, I’m numb. My mind is a frozen wasteland. An impenetrable glacier through which all thought is impossible.

This couldn’t have just happened. Things like this don’t happen. They don’t, they just don’t.

Last week seems like a year ago. I was in a different world back then. America was calm and peaceful. The biggest problem was the ebbing economy. And I was about to move to Los Angeles.

Then suddenly, this. All this. All at once.

My television set is on, like it’s been all day and night. I slept with its warm glow to comfort me. I dreamt of being there with my family and friends, watching it all happen.

I woke up with crust in my eyes, thinking, “Hey, it was all just a dream.”

Then I rubbed my eyes and heard the television set. And realized that it wasn’t.

One of the worst sounds I’ve been hearing is that electronic voice on the phone saying, “I’m sorry, all circuits are busy. Please try your call again later.”

I must have suffered through that damn voice a hundred times today as I went through my entire phone book, trying frantically to call all of my family and friends in New York. Even friends in New Jersey were unreachable.

I’ve been sitting here, numb, watching the repeated footage of the second plane crash into the World Trade Center like a zombie. I might have even drooled. I can’t remember. My brain is numb.

One of my first thoughts is, “I wish I was back in New York right now, with my family and friends.”

Then I thought, “Who the fuck are these terrorists? If there’s a war, I’d be glad to help hunt them down.”

But as my mind recoils from the shock, I began to wonder, “What’s going to happen to Middle Eastern Americans living here? Are they going to be sent to internment camps like the Japanese during World War II?”

My heart had sunk with that last realization. The Japanese internment was an awful, dark period in Asian American history.

I hope we’ve become more of an enlightened society since then and will look beyond such measures.

Just as mad as I was about what the callous terrorists had just done to the innocent lives in New York and D.C, I was also mad at them for the unfortunate but sadly inevitable racial attacks that Middle Eastern Americans will soon be facing.

Then I put my head back into my pillow, hoping to fall back asleep and somehow return to the world I was in last week.

. . .

How have you been feeling?


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