Thursday, July 14, 2011

Politicans are A-Holes

A visual representation of what politics have become.

As I've said many times in this blog and in my everyday life, I don't like to talk about politics. I loved politics and debating growing up, but in the Age of Ignorance (or the Age of Immediate Consumption and Regurgitation, whatever you prefer), political debates have become nothing but pissing contests where the two opposing parties are more than willing to drown in each others yellow seas.

These attitudes, perpetrated over hundreds of years of bureaucratic bullshit,has led to a major divide between hundreds of millions of people. And now, we're in the world's biggest Mexican stand-off, where every politician has the gun to someone's head, and they're all sitting in a room waiting for the someone to take the first shot. If that tension isn't enough, add corruption and uncertainty to every social, fiscal, and legal issue available, and we've got a country full of people screaming their heads off, all at the same time.

I've never sat inside a federal budget meeting, so I can't say I'm 100% right... but if yesterday's news about Obama storming out of a debt management meeting tells you anything, it tells you things are not getting better. It's turned into an ugly political war, where the issues are thrown under the rug, and everybody is spewing off about shit that just doesn't matter, like credit ratings, debt ceilings, and whose dick was found on Facebook today.

I mean, really, do we even DISCUSS the ACTUAL issues anymore, or are they merely buzzwords in self-indulgent expositions of grandeur? All we hear are ridiculous numbers and statements, with the only apparent goal of striking enough fear into us Americans that we shut the fuck up and line up quietly. I don't give a shit what Moody says about America's credit rating. Just open the goddamn mailbox and you'll see we all buy too much shit we haven't paid for yet, I don't need some snooty number-cruncher to tell me I need to put my nuts in a vice because the country is going to hell.

You see, at this point, it's not about what side of the issue our politicians are on: those issues affect all of us, BUT trust me when I say, IT DOESN'T MATTER what comes out of a politicians mouth. How many statements have you seen a politician of any type ACTUALLY abide to and follow through? Not many, because they've fooled us all into thinking they are working for us. Which they aren't- unless it was Obama's honor in serving and helping his country that allowed him to walk out of the room yesterday.

And don't let the CNN analysts fool you... who gives a shit who started arguments, made accusations, and tossed insults? A LEADER is supposed to LEAD, no matter the circumstances. Now, Obama isn't happy about the way things are going, and there's only one reason someone storms out of a room when that feeling arises. And when is that?

When they don't get what they want. And that's the reason, whether it's Obama, your little sister, or a frustrated hooker... when we don't get what we want, we leave.

While my criticism isn't strictly on Obama, at the end of the day, he is supposed to be the leader, not the leader of a shouting match. It doesn't matter if we voted for him or not (partly because our votes REALLY don't count for anything, if you know the election process beyond what our misguiding textbooks want you to believe), he is supposed to be the man with the necessary vision to take the right steps for our country,  unclouded by the media, strong-footed on the slippery political slope.

But he really isn't, is he... he's just the faceplate of a pull for power between two sides, putting shitty situations into eloquently delivered declarations of progression. Obama is the ultimate media president, and the media's had a ball putting the man on a political pedestal. But no matter how many calories his wife eats during her lunch (seriously Associated Press, who the fuck cares?) we have two political parties whose differences are destined to end very, very badly, and his ignorance is simply feeding the growing fire.

We can keep ignoring the divide, and storm out of the room every time it bears its nasty face, but even Obama knows it... this ship isn't righting itself. And the worst part about it is we've spent decades and decades electing politicians who care less and less about the problems of everyday Americans (or even know how the life of an average American is LIVED), and more and more about their personal gain, so it's not going to be fixed anytime soon.

So no, I don't like to talk about politics. "Politics" is just two people arguing opposite viewpoints in order to distract our attention from what the realities of a problem are.I'm more interested in "discussions" and "solutions", then berating a co-worker in front of all our colleagues (or at least, it was ALLEGED this happened). That's not 'progress' or 'change', that's just the same old tired act we've been watching for the last 20 years.

(Note to Obama-hating Republicans: don't get excited because I bashed Obama. You're just as wrong and full of shit as the Democrats are... plus you still support Sarah Palin, who just might be the craziest sociopath in the world.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Investigative Journalism and Media Corruption: A Rant


This week it was announced a US jury FINALLY came to their senses, and found Rod Blagojevich guilty on 17 different counts of political corruption (which left me thinking holy shit, how many people did he try and sell Obama's seat to?). It makes me laugh when I think about this arrogant dumbass talking about how he's got this gold mine, and won't let it go for nothing. It's nice to see justice get its due occasionally (in other words, John Edwards might want to learn how to hold his soap).

But all prison and political jokes aside... when the dust finally settles in the the Blago case, there is still one question poking at me: this is it? We've got 50 governors, 100 senators, and 430+ US representatives... and this is the only example we've got of political corruption? Somehow, our country continues to spiral into further and further debt, CEO's are continuing to stuff their pockets, we've STILL got no health care answer... and I'm supposed to believe we're fixing the problems of corruption in our government? Most people will write this off as some anti-government pro-conspiracy standpoint, but how far off am I? The screams of government foul-play still echo from the Bush administration, but there is no modern chorus to accompany those voices.

So who is to blame for this silence? The voting population? Well, you can't really do that, because all 280 million of us are faced every November with the same election choices: dirty or dirtier (no, I'm not going to make a Weiner joke, although it screams for one). We can't really blame Obama, either, because he's one man taking on a congregation of 500 (or 250 if you take out the Republicans), but you can't say he's established a progressive attitude towards this subject.

Obviously, the most obvious answer is the media. Remember the days of muck-raking and yellow journalism attacking the establishment, keeping our interests at hand? Those journalists who existed as the mediator between an old-time public vs. government system of checks and balances? Well, those journalists are long gone, and have been replaced by way too many Scott Templeton's (seriously, if you don't know who I'm talking about, stop reading and go watch The Wire already). Investigative journalism has turned into mistress hearsay and unconfirmed sources, chasing down stories which are really ignoring the heart of the issue.

That is, unless you've seen ANY journalist write an in-depth article articulating the cycle of corruption we've been watching for decades.

A component of this loss of investigative journalism is the combined decline of newspapers and explosion of Twitter. With Twitter, the question is no longer 'what is your story', it's become 'who told the story first,' which has turned fact-checking into a public (although widely ignored) art. This leads to the abandonment of long stories, which involve a lot of time, research, interviewing, and money... time nobody in the world of watchdog journalism wants to partake in.So what are we left with?

We're left with an hour of evening news consisting of reading tweets, 'panels of experts' arguing the same issue over and over again, and gossip-based speculation into other stories around the world. It's underlined by a supreme selfishness, something which has no place in the world of journalism. I don't want journalists telling me their Twitter handles, talking about their new book and doing nothing but distracting us from the issues at hand. I want to know what our politicians are saying and thinking behind closed doors... I want the reality of government, not more ads for reality TV!

In other words, all perception is lost. And while I blame it on the media, we're in part to blame for allowing this to continue. We let Robin Meade advertise her fucking album a dozen times a day while she reads the news. We allow ourselves to get distracted by how many fingers Lady Gaga keeps up her ass daily, and what is going to happen next week on Jersey Shore. We don't have time for the writers of the world willing to make enemies, and that's at the heart of investigative journalism.

And without investigative journalism, politicians like Blagojevich and Edwards WILL continue to do the dirty work, line their pockets, and laugh as the US debt continues to rise and rise. They're running our country into the ground, and we're standing by, watching the political divide grow, talking about Obama's 15th edition of his Great Economic Fix. Meanwhile, the backdoor deals and subjective decisions continue like business as usual.

After all, Blagojevich got his idea to sell that Senate seat from somewhere... you really think this was the first time this happened?

R.D.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

RTB is Expanding!

I know you've all been wondering where Reading Through the Blindfold has been the past couple weeks. I've been around, cringing at lots of happenings in the media, building a brand new site for you all to enjoy!

It's called Processed Media, and will be the new home for all RTB reviews! Of course, Reading Through the Blindfold will still be your home for all the latest takes on the news of the world.

Keep your eyes peeled for great new stuff here, and I hope you'll enjoy Processed Media! In the meantime, check out the new Processed Media Facebook page and sign up for new updates (and the RTB Facebook if you haven't yet!)

Talk to you soon!

R.D.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Big Gay Elephant in the Room



Ask the average sports fan what the biggest problem in professional sports today is, and what will the answer be? Steroids? Continuously ballooning paychecks? Right now, a lot of people would probably say the egos of owners vs. players, considering the current and upcoming lockouts in the NFL and NBA, respectively. Then, step into the DeLorean, and ask someone the same question 20 years ago. The answer would probably be gambling, drug use, or free agency.

Now, these are all valid issues, but one of the most disturbing (albeit predictable) problem with sports is hardly ever discussed, and when it is, usually isn't talked about in an objective manner. It's the skeleton in every closet in every professional league, and it's the one question David Stern, Bud Selig, and even Roger Goddell wouldn't have an answer for... which is probably the recent it doesn't get asked. It's a simple question, really...

What's up with the rampant homophobia?

There was a story that like most stories, appeared quickly on ESPN's home page, only to be removed mere hours after the story broke (probably due to the scathing debate talking place on the comment board.) The article is about hockey sports agent Todd Reynolds' comments about New York Rangers star Sean Avery's endorsement of the same-sex bill making it's way through NY legislation. I won't give Reynolds the light of day by quoting him, but you can read the article here. He basically pulls every Catholic cliche out of his ass regarding marriage and its definition (although he finished it by saying he didn't hate anyone, nor did he think gays were unequal).

We all know sports agents are vile: they've ruined college sports, raised salaries exponentially, and have done nothing but ignore the integrity of sport. But the comments he made reflect the silent values of professional sports. Name one openly gay professional athlete in the NBA, NHL, MLB, or NFL. Fuck, you can even throw in the PGA and NASCAR.

Finished counting? You should be, because the answer is ZERO. And does that seem like a realistic answer? Because anybody thinking it's real is beyond foolish. There are many gay people playing professional sports today, and it's sad none of them feel they can stand up in the sports world of 2011. But can you blame them? Every NBA and NFL ad features the biggest, manliest men in primal screams of male power and domination. Half the experience of going to a professional sports game is to see the dozens of half-naked girls each team has to dance and cheer and hold up round cards.

I thought we might shed some light on the issue when Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was seen yelling 'faggot' on the sidelines. Instead, all we got was the obligatory cliched comments from GLAAD, a fine from the NBA, and Kobe 'going' to some counseling. Half the reaction to Sean Avery (who is straight) being in the commercial from the media seemed to be one of subtle scorn, with many reporters writing as if surprised someone would stand up and do this. The other half misguided the argument completely by bashing Avery's on-ice character and not what he was doing by appearing in the ad.

Personally, I think the reaction to a heterosexual man appearing in an ad supporting homosexuality displays more about the moral character of these professional institutions than any steroid scandal. Creepily, it parallels the professional religious structure, where homosexuality is ignored or swept under the rug (or in the case of some white-collared molesters, simply moved around the country to different churches). If these people can't even admit the fact their company is making money of gay athletes, how could they handle a professional athlete coming out?

Sadly, this issue doesn't end with male sports; the list of openly gay female athletes is a short one as well. In summary, I think it's deplorable we live in a society where the people children admire and adults cheer for, can't even be cheered or admired for who they really are. And if organizations like GLAAD would do more to these powerful leagues than point fingers and say "you're not being very nice" when people are ignorant, maybe things would change. Maybe if gay athletes didn't have heterosexuality shoved down their throats in high school by coaches and Gatorade commercials, they would be able to speak out, and not fear being ostracized in the locker room.

But, I have to remember I'm in America, where oxymorons define our values. Sports are the most homoerotic activities in the world. We play with wood sticks, leather sacs on our hands, chasing around balls and hugging each other. Yet somehow, you can't be gay and play sports... that's just not OK. It's kind of like saying we're 'one nation, under God.' How the fuck can you say we're united when we can't agree on anything at all?

If you haven't seen the ad with Sean Avery, here it is. If you live in NY (which I no longer do), make the right decision and vote.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Television Review: Archer

How do you define Archer? It doesn't fit easily into the action or comedy genres, and the fact it's animated really separates it from every other show in its realm. It's like taking Mad MenArrested Development, the good parts of The Office, and throwing them in a blender with the best of the 4,867 James Bonds movies. Set to puree, blend for 30 seconds, and you have Archer.

The story revolves around ISIS secret agent, Sterling Archer, and the exploits of Malory, ISIS chief, and Sterling's mother. Archer possesses all the best and worst qualities of spies: an abundance of awesomeness, a penchant for strong drinks and soft bodies, and a self-obsession Charlie Sheen would be envious of. Of course, like any son, he's a reflection of his mothers values and lessons (which explains Archer's fetish for ping pong paddles during sex, and his constant need for acceptance, among other things), and that dynamic is one of the shows core concepts. Each episode contains a clue into why Archer is who he is (and why he's so obsessed with his mother), and how his mother's cavalier approach to parenting played into it.

Like any good spy show, Archer's list of international enemies with ridiculous surnames is long. Also (like any good spy show or movie), enemies seem to escape most climatic situations, usually due to Archer's ignorance and complete disregard for standard procedures (plus he's usually comparing himself to Burt Reynolds in various movies). However, the best aspects of Archer's action scenes aren't the crazy stunts he pulls off with fellow agents (including the sexiest animated woman ever, Archer's ex, Lana Kane); it's the conversations taking place during those scenes. Every time gunshots and explosions ring out on the screen, it seems to be the time characters have profound moments of honesty, shouting and arguing with enemies and each other while pulling off ridiculous stunts.

It's thse little touches which make Archer the best show around. It takes superfluous drama like hostage situations and turns them into hilarious moments of exposition (or, in Archer's case, moments for him to forget his witty line and say "Shit, I had something good for this!", without becoming lost in the minor details of trying to explain itself, and tie up loose ends (aka the last season of LOST).

Most of the time, the episodes end with major dramatic elements of the story unresolved, very reminiscent of Seinfeld (as is the element of running background jokes throughout the season, which there are plenty). Some people call it lazy storytelling, but Archer's true focus isn't on who wins the Spy Wars, but the life of the primary and ancillary characters living in the spy world, a breath of fresh-air from the fecal spray known as 2011 network television.

Archer is the type of show which people will either love or hate: it's rude, violent, extremely sexual, and very blunt. The deadpan delivery of the show's jokes shows the sophisticated (though low-brow)nature of the show's comedy, and the voice talent (including the always-brilliant F. Jon Benjamin in the titular role)is remarkably sharp. It makes political statements without soap boxing (or most of the time, without making a direct reference), its constantly hilarious, and it wasn't built for the masses (which ruins anything). From the sharply-written dialogue, to the concise and always-focused plot lines and season arcs, Archer delivers excitement and laughs unmatched by ANY show on television, be it animated or not, comedy or drama.

Personally, I can't recommend Archer enough. It's hilarious, vulgar, obscure, intriguing, and while it operates way outside of reality, its grounded morally in a way most shows wouldn't bother to attempt.... and that's because most viewers don't really care about morals (or else why would in every action movie, the guy who kills everyone gets the girl in the end?). But Archer does- as he says at one point in an early episode: "Big picture, I'm probably not a very happy person." And it's that perspective (plus the fact Malory, Archer's mother, seems to have more influence around the world than the President) which separates Archer not only from the Get Smarts and Mission: Impossibles of it's genre (been a long time since there was a good spy show, huh), but from every other show, comedy or otherwise, found on television today.

If you haven't seen it.... go do it. Now.

Acting (Voice): A+
Production Values: A
Characters and Plot: A+

Overall: A+


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Perception vs. Reality: The Lady Gaga Debate

Last week, Lady Gaga's new single 'Born This Way' set records when it topped the Billboard charts a mere 3 hours after it's release. She's always trending on Twitter, gracing magazine covers and being the most popular 'rebel' in the world. At this point in time, the only entertainer (I save the word musician for talented people) more popular then her right now is Justin Bieber (a frighteningly revealing truth of the music industry).

Now, people know I like to bag on Lady Gaga, especially after the last Grammy Awards show, when she showed up in an egg, paraded around by her 'slaves.' However, my criticisms aren't directed at her talents- because, at the end of the day, there is a talented songwriter and musician with a decent voice within Lady Gaga. I just can't stand to watch as the facade she's created with her Gaga persona and lifestyle consume the world (and cheap, retarded knock-offs like Ke$ha are cashing in on the lifestyle she advertises).

This all came to a head this morning, when I read quotes from a Lady Gaga interview in this month's Bazaar magazine. The article involves a number of different topics, including her career, life, mentality, etc (you can read the full article here). Honestly, her answers frightened me. Seriously frightened me.

Now, to understand my fear, you've got to understand the roots of Lady Gaga. 5 years ago, she was merely a girl named Stephani, whose meek presence at her musical shows (she usually sat and played piano while she sang) was obviously preventing her from becoming popular. It wasn't until she made a number of artificial changes to her life did she become famous. Changed her name, stopped being a Alicia Keys-knock off and jumped on the techno bandwagon, and started dressing like a complete asshole. She presented herself to us as the weird, new generation's version of Madonna (needing to top the last singer to adorn that title, Britney Spears).

I'll give her credit, she did it. But now she's become more than that. She's a superstar, a spokesperson, and fuck me if she isn't becoming a role model for everyone from little girls to adult gays everywhere. Which is all well and good, except everybody is idolizing a liar who acknowledges she lives separated from reality (in the interview, the writer says she talks about living in a world 'between fantasy and reality'). This really bothers me, on a number of levels. First of all, she's basically perpetuated a lie to the point she has to live it 24 hours a day, although she deflects this issue by saying (and I'm paraphrasing) 'I didn't like Hollywood, it just wasn't me.'

Well, I must ask, who is she? Her new trend is putting prosthetic bones on her body everyday and trying to tell everyone she's had them forever, and they come out when she's inspired, and now she's showing us 'her true self', a phrase I've heard EVERY TIME she releases a new album. She lives a life knowingly separated from reality, but still consider herself an expert on the world's situations (her political comments and advocations are well-known). To me, it seems like she jumps on the controversial topics because it brings in fans and sells concert tickets. She even goes onto say in the Bazaar interview that money and fame are the least important things about music to her.

So why write multiple songs glamorizing the fact paparazzi follow you around? It's one thing to stand up for what you believe in, but when you stand up for anything and everything with cameras around it, you can't say you're not doing it for the attention or the money. If that was the case, you'd still be playing New York clubs under your birth name, enjoying the life of a starving artist. But you're not. You're talking to idiot columnists about how Alexander McQueen (the designer who committed suicide months back) is living through you. Worst part is, this new collective of shithead magazine writers all eat it up, and this one goes as far to describe listening to the new Gaga album with her as 'epic.' So much for objective journalism, right?

Gaga wants you to think she can do no wrong, and that she's a misunderstood genius in the crazy corporate world. I'm standing up and calling bullshit on this one. She's fake, has a completely fabricated personality and philosophy, and is yet another superstar being crazy for the sake of being crazy. When asked if her horns would make people question her, here was her response:

"Trust me, I know that. I think a lot of people love to convolute what everyone else does in order to disempower women. But my fans know me. They would never hurt themselves. And if they have hurt themselves, they come to me and say, 'Gaga, I want to stop, and your music helps me want to stop. Your music makes me want to love myself.' I am in no way promoting sadomasochism or masochism."

Classic example of diverting from the topic at hand. The issue isn't about stealing power from women. At least for me, it isn't. It's about teaching a generation of kids (ESPECIALLY young girls who are constantly being pressurized by the media culture around them) that being yourself is secondary to the glitz and the glamor, and how one can justify anything if you rationalize it enough (kind of like a Catholic confessional, and we've seen what joys that mentality brings upon the world).

People aren't going to like what I say about Gaga. But for all the people in the world who idolize her because she "shows people it's ok to be yourself", don't be fooled. Nobody wants to give it intelligent perspective, because she's the perfect marketing ploy: the corporate 'rebel'. She isn't being herself, and all she's teaching us to do is give up who we are to be famous. And that's not "making a difference," that's just ruining the world.

Here's the infamous video of Lady Gaga before she lost touch with the real world, in an NYU talent show. Isn't this a million times better than those three crap albums she's released?



R.D.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The NBA's Age Rule: A Simple Answer


With a work stoppage looming next summer in the NBA, a lot of sports personalities are taking it upon themselves to 'fix' the NBA. These solutions range from making sense (contraction, salary restructuring) to being ideologically ludicrous (too many to name here).

The biggest and most disagreed upon problem involves the NBA's 'one and done' rule (a basketball player can leave for the NBA after one season of college), which is always being debated. Some say NCAA players should be paid like professionals, others say there should be more restrictions on when players can leave (the NFL requires a player to be 21 or have 3 years of college experience), and others think the players should be able to leave out of high school.

No matter what side of the fence someone sits on, the debate always boils down to a common point: (and what's quickly becoming an over-used phrase): "the current rules hurt the NBA and NCAA product." This presents a number of problems, most of which dive deeper into the philosophical structure of these two entities (things no media conglomerate appealing to the masses wants to touch).

First of all, let's look at the NBA and ask a simple question: why are you involved? This decision doesn't really concern the league, if you think about it. The NBA is a product, always shifting its vision to fit the rising and falling stars of the league. It's marketed and driven by individuals, and the benefits it can provide to a young adult simply doesn't compare to anything a college could offer, EVEN if they were allowed to pay their players (and let's be serious, the NCAA is nothing but a minor league confused with its identity).

With that being said, how is it fair the NBA gets to decide what the rules are?It's not the NCAA's fault you have too many teams with sub-par talent, affecting your "product". They market individuals like they're the most important part of the game (which they aren't). Money is the most important part of any sports event. Nobody cares about the players. The NCAA doesn't care they didn't finish their education, and neither does the NBA. Why do you think more than half of athletes are broke 5 years after they retire? The money runs out, and you're left with a 35-year old with a broken body, and no secondary education, or money to pay for it.

The other question I have to ask: where are the parents and the family in the decision-making process of someone like Kyrie Irving? We're talking about a large group of impressionable young men, many of whom were taught to listen to coach, not think for yourself. And when your parents have lost their values, tainted by the sparkling allure of money, all logic and sensibility goes out the window. Morals are lost in the limelight, and the kids are the ones who suffer (plus it's 2011, and knowing you'll be drafted in the 1st round gives more employment security than most of us recent post-grads). BE A PARENT, for fuck's sake. Teach your stud athlete the values of an education, and make sure he's in touch with reality (unlike the aforementioned Kyrie Irving, who believes 9 college games is enough practice).

And that's why I say: LET THE PLAYER CHOOSE. If they don't want to go to college, why should they have to? These are young men, who are only going to get used by their friends, families, coaches, agents, etc. for the next 15 years of their life, no matter what decision they make. If they want to place no value on a $200,000 scholarship, so be it. There's nothing the NCAA can do to put more value on their product than the NBA, so don't try. It's his life path.... let him decide it.

We forget when we talk logistics about NBA and NCAA rules, just how dirty and broken the two systems are. We love the entertainment, but choose to ignore the blatant exploitation of human talent which comes along with it. And when that happens, we lose our values, and rationalize and justify egregious acts we normally wouldn't.

It's a simple question, really. WE weren't forced to go to college to have our images used to make exorbitant amounts of money. Why should they?
Here's a fun graph showing the revenue the NCAA generates annually, JUST from the CBS deals.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Education in America: All Children Left Behind


     It's state budget time in America, otherwise known as "Time of the Year where Politicans Break Promises and Cut Funding for Everything Possible." It's gotten worse in the 21st century, where our reckless spending habits have finally caught up with us. And I know I usually don't weigh in on anything political, but there's a really disturbing common thread in all these state budgets being passed around the country: massive education cuts.

     Look at Florida... Nevada... Arizona... New York (where recent news speaks of a sit-in to protest the cuts, which I couldn't support more).... the more states I look, the bigger the numbers get. $450 million. $1 billion. Every state in the Union is scrambling to get in under budget, and curtail the massive American debt (at least on a state level). And while education may be the easiest way to do that, the after effects clearly aren't being examined enough.

     Let's start at the most basic level: firing teachers and removing extracurricular programs. First off, for every single teacher you lose, the value of EVERY student's education declines. Less teachers leads to busier teachers, more worried about keeping their test percentages up, and not caring about each individual student. The trust of the teacher-student connection is lost, and once that happens, a teacher is speaking upon 30 pairs of deaf ears in their classroom.

     Any teacher will tell you the less students they have, the more effective they can be. It's simple common sense. Removing things like music programs (a growing epidemic in America's public schools), academic clubs and the like, you prevent teachers and other figures from reaching students in a meaningful way, further diminishing their education.

     So then what? Less programs, less staff, less money.... all while political leaders demand higher test scores from everybody. Anyone who's seen the fourth season of The Wire can visualize what happens. Focus is removed from students learning, to students test-taking, and everybody suffers. More pressure on the teachers, more pressure on the students.... and in the end, what are they really learning anyway? We've all been students in our lives, what do you remember from the state-mandated 10th grade test you took?

     Probably not much. But if I asked you what you learned from your teachers in high shcool, it would be a much different answer. Personally, I wouldn't have made it through high school OR college without the teachers I had, and there's a specific reason for that. Whether we want to believe it or not, the two most influential groups of adults in our lives as children are our parents, and our teachers.

     Why should these people, who sacrifice their lives to be teachers (as doctors do to be healers) suffer the brunt of society's financial shortfalls? Not to mention the teachers getting fired are going to be the young and unestablished, further deepening the void of post-grad employment opportunities as we move forward.

     So what can we do? I can think of some novel ideas... how about we force the rich Congressmen and women of the world to work as civil servants on $10,000 a year salary? That would probably cut our national debt by 10% by doing that for a year, and they certainly don't need the money, they are all rich!

     There are many different ways to approach a fix to this problem, but it must be one that shakes the foundation of the educational system. In 2011, students exist as nothing but numbers and percentages for job performance to be measured against. In turn, those numbers become political folly, to be tossed around and paraded as improvement or need for change.

     The United States government needs to SHOW it cares about its children and students.... not just that it APPEARS to be. Our poor public education system is collapsing right under our eyes, and it scares the living shit out of me the only solution we have is to cut funding even more.

What happened to 'change', Obama?

R.D.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Children's TV: Practices in Conformity

     A few weeks ago, Nickelodeon announced they will be bringing back some of their greatest shows from the early-to-mid 1990s, and playing them during certain evenings of the week (you can read the details here). This news was hitting the media about a week after MTV announced that Jersey Shore would be taking their "talents" to Italy for the next season.

    So how are these stories related? First of all, MTV and Nickelodeon are owned by the same company, Viacom (and have for a long time). But what's more important is the juxtaposition of teenager cultures being displayed by the shows you see on MTV today and the return of the Nick classics (save for the addition of the shitty Amanda Bynes show). When you sit down to look at it, it's quite disturbing.

     Look at the shows on Nickelodeon and the values they taught us (for those in my 23-28 age group who enjoyed the hey-day of Nick). Doug taught us it was ok to not be the coolest kid in school (The Secret World of Alex Mack and Clarissa Explains it All also did a great job of this). Angry Beavers and  Rugrats showed us to question authority, and the most important thing in the world is family. There was even Rocko's Modern Life and The Adventures of Pete and Pete for the kids who always felt a little weirder than everyone else (yes, I'm referring to myself).

      It was a fantastic lineup of shows, but more importantly, those shows taught us as young, impressionable people how to be individuals, and have confidence in ourselves. Be different, be celebrated, and climb as quick as you can to the top of the Crag-Rock in Global Guts. Even MTV played interesting and original music videos, supporting musicians, their weird visions, and the whole idea of originality and rebellion against the machine.

      Now it's 2011, and MTV and Nick ARE the machine. We now have shows like iCarly and Jackson VP, (by-products of the Disney child star era of the early 2000s) where the only thing making these people 'different' are the idiotic, unrealistic ways they try to achieve fame (like the two shows mentioned, which are about a girl and her web show, and a teenage fashion executive). The ideas and problems of real-life teenagers are now reality show-esque pipe dreams of kids who succeed because they are popular. It's not as bad as Hannah Montana, which essentially taught kids to hide who you really are in order to become famous, the 'sellout' mentality Disney has relished for decades (but as I frequently say, that's a conversation for another day).

(Note: I also won't speak on Sponge Bob and its extremely homophobic and racist comments, because it's a monster worthy of an entire book, much less a short rant on this blog.)

    Taking the mentality of most kids who transition from Nick to MTV around 13 or 14, MTV is really becoming a scary animal. Here are some of the lessons these shows preach: 1) if you don't want to finish high school or be a responsible teenager, get pregnant and you'll end up on the cover of all the magazines and be famous (Teen Mom), 2) all the morally-bankrupt cool kids are experimenting with heavy drugs and a frightening level of promiscuity (and if you aren't, you're lame) (Skins), and 3) emotion and originality in music is no longer important, all that matters is getting fucked up, dancing, and feeling hung over (every techno song and Katy Perry video they show) . But that's not even the best...

      What is MTV's biggest contribution to society today? The belief that being a completely self-centered, arrogant, unethical, morally-bankrupt scumbag will fill all your dreams and have everybody chasing you around. That my friends, is everyone's favorite TV show, Jersey Shore.

      It scares me to think the youth in our country are watching the behavior of those shells of people, their priorities and behavior (ESPECIALLY the potrayal and treatment of women, both on the cast and who appear on the show), and ACTUALLY look up to these people. Why should Snooki be on the cover of Rolling Stone? What is her contribution to the world of entertainment? In reality, she's done nothing but show the degradation of character in our society today, and a chilling example of the shallow-minded mentality we idolize today.

     We're living in the age of reality television, where disturbing displays of selfishness reign, usually at the expense of the fairer sex (The Millionaire Matchmaker is a reality show where a woman judges women for money, and then parades the best selection of them in front of rich men for their pleasure). But the bigger problem is the mentality its creating, the black hole of originality and creativity left in the minds of our youth.

      When we were young, alternative music and individuality reigned. Today, we're dominated with images and signs of conformity, all with a certain separation from reality. We've been reduced to definition of character by tweets and status changes, and dreams of being creative and different have been replaced with Hollywood lights and drug-riddled evenings.

     And to be honest with you, it scares me. The MTV's and Nickelodeon's of the world are contributing to the erosion of American culture, based on the concept of being different, and separating from the norm (the Pilgrims just wanted to worship their own way, without persecution). And once we've lost our identity and sense of individuality, what do we have left before we are living in the world of Murderball?

 Have a good one,

R.D.

And for all my early-90s Nick fans, the ORIGINAL theme song from All That (apologize for the shit quality):

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The NCAA Hypocrisy

Yahoo! Sports has found themselves a pot of gold. Anytime there is a breaking story involving dirty college coaches, Yahoo! seems to be right there in the thick of it. Their latest "victim" (in very loose terms) is Jim Tressel, head coach of arguably the biggest football program of the last 15 years, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Long story short, he found out his players had traded memorabilia for tattoos and other "improper benefits" (again, loose terms). He neglected to tell anybody about it until December, and even when he did, lied about what and when he found out.

The students in question were suspended in January for the first 5 games of the next season - however, they were allowed to participate in their team's BCS bowl game for that season. I found it very odd at the time- much like I do any NCAA decision- but I didn't feel the story had played itself out yet (remembering the Reggie Bush storyline of about 3 years). Now, their coach has been nailed, and suspended for 2 games and fined $250,000 (2 for the coach, and 5 for the players? Hmm... )

Some may find the punishment fitting (for both the coaches and the players), but I disagree. In my opinion, if the "rules" (remember, LOOSE) were broken and Tressel didn't tell anyone, he should be fired on the spot. It's clear he kept the truth quiet to keep his players for the 2010 season, although he says he didn't tell anyone because he didn't know who to tell, which might be the biggest load of shit I've heard since OJ tried to say "I only went inside the hotel room to talk to the man."

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Moment of Passion


As a sports fan, there's nothing like the dramatic aura of live sports events- and the bigger, the better. I mean, people pay thousands of dollars to attend the Super Bowl for a reason, and it certainly isn't because of the recent string of halftime show duds (Black-Eyed Peas, and The Geriatric Who?.... c'mon). It's because of the excitement, the drama, the entertainment.... and for most of us (and I'm speaking to the hardcore fans out there), it's waiting and hoping for moments of greatness. Unexplainable victories, photo finishes... its' the high we all crave as sports fans. We'll throw away hundreds of dollars just to have an opportunity for the feeling.

Growing up, I wanted to be a sports writer, because of that feeling. To be able to witness those moments of greatness first-hand, and capture them in paragraphs for the rest of the world... it's an art form, really. I wanted to write about Jordan dropping 63 on the Celtics, or Nolan Ryan throwing his 7th, and final, no-hitter. But I didn't, for a lot of reasons.

Tom Bowles grew up the same as me... he just wanted to write about NASCAR. And unlike me, he got to the big show, signed a contract with SI.com, and was there at the Daytona 500 this year when unknown 20-year old Trevor Bayne won in dramatic fashion. I'm sure Bowles was having one of those moments of sports ecstasy, with all the tension in the air and whatnot.

Amazed by what he saw, Bowles stood and applauded the young man, who was so excited, he couldn't even find victory lane. Bowles smiled and clapped along with his colleagues, not in a moment of subjective journalism, but in a moment of pure passion and love for what he'd just witnessed.

A week later, Bowles was fired. How did that happen, you might ask...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

F*** the Grammys


That's right, I said it... fuck the Grammys. In my opinion, I watched the Grammys die while I grew up in the 1990s, and seen it's corpse shrivel into a self-serving event by a collection of people SO out of touch with modern music, it's embarrassing to watch. From this day forward, the Grammys are dead to me.

So, what killed the Grammys? First of all, the fact it's now become a yearly Lady Gaga spectacle. Anybody who saw Lady Gaga and her self-serving, ridiculously obnoxious 'egg' concept saw the proof. The selfish nature of the egg concept was borderline offensive... People dressed and acting like slaves, carrying around an overrated singer whose sold out everything except her skin color to become famous. What about that celebrates the art of music, and the celebration of it's most talented artists (not that the Grammys do that, but you get the point)?

Nothing at all. It was a major distraction for what the event was supposed to be about: celebrating OTHER artists besides herself. The whole point of the costume was to bring attention to her five minutes of the show (very disrespectful).

But her behavior also points out another reason why the Grammys suck: it's no longer an awards show. It's a television concert, where the performers go home with shiny gold-covered boxes with tubes as keepsakes from the show.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something for the Ladies


A recent commentary by CNN producer Mary Rogers caught my attention today. Not because I recognized her name, but the interesting title of her opinion piece.

"Egypt's harassed women need their own revolution."

So I read the article. The majority of it details various incidents she's experienced, and names she was called, all with an air of near surprise any of it occurred. The heading says she's been living in various Middle Eastern countries since 1994... so maybe she's just forgotten about the women living in her own country.

Now, this is not to bash Rogers, or diminish her experience or the lives of the women in those regions of the world (because the problems of women in Muslim culture is a legitimate concern). I'm not a woman, and I've never been to the Middle East... But there's one question I have to ask, and it's one I'd imagine would go through the mind of ANY woman who'd read this article.

What the hell is the difference in the U.S.? Rogers speaks as if she's from the privileged land of America, where the majority of men respect women. While it may not be as bad here, I'd be hard-pressed to find any female who hasn't had the exact same experiences with name-calling and groping that she has. From the world of sports to the media, to television and the images we present in films (both adult and otherwise), it's clear that women in AMERICA are still looking for a revolution.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The ESPN Gossip Machine

SportsCenter. The show holds a dear place in my heart. I grew up during the hey-day of SportsCenter, with broadcasters like Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, an unpolitical Keith Oblermann, Stuart Scott, Kenny Mayne... the list of quality hosts for the best source of sports news in the world during the 1990's carries on and on. It was the perfect package: all the best moments of the night's sports games, without having to watch 15 hours of game footage. Always concise and delivered with a humorous, but professional and educated touch.

Well, I think it's safe to say that the golden age of SportsCenter is long over.

But it's a religious activity for 80 percent of the male population between the ages of 14-50! How could I say such a thing? Clearly I must be raging against the machine, with no point or moral compass for this opinion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Job Economy: Exercises in Bulls*&#ing America


This is the headline of a CNN article I read today, the entirety of which is found here.

"Winter weather kept job seekers home and offices closed in January, getting the year off to a disappointing start, while the unemployment rate took a surprising tumble.
The economy added just 36,000 jobs in January, falling far short of expectations. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate unexpectedly sunk to 9%, down from 9.4% the month before.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney were expecting the economy to add 149,000 jobs during the month, and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.5%." (CNN.com)

What's so interesting about these paragraphs, one might ask? With a quick glance-over (authentic to the way 95% of news is read today, in the modern non-newspaper world), there doesn't seem to be much there, except that the job economy sucks, as usual.

However, a simple analysis of the first two sentences shows what a farce this attempt at 'news-reporting' is.

It starts with the first two words: "Winter weather." Starting the article off with a quick deflection of responsibility to an uncontrollable entity is an easy way for an organization like the government to hide facts, and shirk accountability easily. And it's followed by a contradiction: nobody could hire because of the weather, but somehow the unemployment rate dropped.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Roger Goodell: Another Scumbag in an Empty Suit

*WARNING: This post contains a higher level of profanity than usual, even for myself.*

We all know the commissioners of our great sport leagues are full of shit. All of them. Bud Selig never cared about steriods until he was forced to, Gary Bettman could care less about maintaining the traditional culture of hockey, and we all know the evil workings of David Stern. However, arguably the most respected commissioner in American sports, Roger Goodell, might take the cake when it comes to lying through his teeth.

On a basic level, Goodell is no different from the self-serving assholes that fill the halls of D.C. buildings today. He's driven by nothing but his own interests and beliefs, and doesn't act upon anything unless it's affecting his revenue stream. For example, bad press about athletes like Pacman Jones led to the racist and completely subjective 'Conduct Policy', which is nothing more than a slavemaster's whip to Goodell. The bad boys misbehave, and he slaps them with whatever fine he feels necessary. No rules to adhere to, and Goodell can punish who and how he sees fit. I must ask if the NFL likes to play under a dictatorship, because there doesn't seem to be much of a movement against him and the rules he makes.

What I find amusing is how all of that power, all of the elitist bullshit behavior Goodell displays on a daily basis, couldn't measure up to a washed-up quarterback with a dirty past. Brett Favre didn't do much on the field in 2010, but he sure as hell walked up and down Goodell, both in private, and in public. Did anybody even hear what the final decision was on Favre? How about two months ago, when Goodell promised a swift decision to the accusations of Favre's Woodsian behavior. Although, if you know anything about Favre's history, you know the story is true.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wait is Finally Over

Hello all,

First, I'd like to wish everyone a happy new year. Tumultuous as 2010 was, we learned a lot of things: Brett Favre hasn't learned anything in the last 15 years about womanizing, Obama isn't America's savior, and most importantly, we will all be owned by Google or Apple in the next 20 years. Lots of things changed, but as usual, it all stayed relatively the same.

As readers of this page, you know I've been on quite a long hiatus. I've been working on various projects - including an awesome documentary about mental health funding, among other things. But it's 2011, and it's time to return focus to RTB.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why the NFL's New Rules Don't Matter


We've all been a part of the debate about the NFL's new stance on helmet-to-helmet collisions. We've heard the reaction from football analysts, current and former players, and coachers around the league. Some have responded in odd manners, others with a typical knuckle-headed rhetoric, but most surrounding the game think it's a good thing the NFL is taking this stance on violent on-field actions.

However, I see this move as more of a distraction from the bigger issue at hand: keeping football players out of the hospital with major brain injuries. This rule is like throwing a scrap of meat at a starving dog. The NFL gives us this rule, a complete 180-degree turn from their normal stance on violent injuries (ever heard the phrase, "It's a part of the game"?), and it's a small morsel of what the sport really needs - a full psychological reconstruction of how the game is played from the ground up (which yes, I know will never happen).

Everybody loves watching the highlight of the wide receiver getting smashed so hard by the linebacker that the ball pops out of his hands and his helmet falls off. That's why 90,000 people go to a football game, and that's what keeps the NFL profitable. However, there's been a growing resentment over the league and the images it presents, and all that bad press damages the NFL's product. How to solve that problem? Distract the public away from the real issues, and instead make a split-second decision to change the culture of your game? It doesn't sound like a well-thought out solution, Mr. Goodell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boy Scouts of America: Teaching Intolerance since 1910


Created in 1910 by William Boyce (with the help of others), the Boy Scouts of America was one of many outdoor-oriented youth groups in its time. However, it became the most successful due to the organizational skills of its creators, who quickly wrote up handbooks and absorbed other youth groups until they were the predominant power. You can read a detailed account of the BSA's history here.

Now, everyone's always thought of the BSA as a great way to introduce children to nature and outdoor activities, but they've discreetly enforced some disturbing polices over the years. I found this article on CNN today about a gay father of a Cub Scout in Texas who was forced to give up his leadership position because of his sexuality.

First, I gotta ask; has the BSA learned ANYTHING since the Matthew Shepard tragedy? It's bad enough they didn't stand up for him when he was murdered (or disparaged the murderers, one of who was an Eagle Scout himself), but they're continuing the path of intolerance and ignorance they've been paving since 1978, when they wrote this official memo outing homosexuals (and atheists, as well.) In regards to the recent firing of the gay Texas father, this is what BSA PR director Deron Smith had to say (and as always, I quote);

"We focus on our mission, and our mission is to take young people and prepare them for an exceptional adulthood.That's it. That's why our policy is the way it is. Our volunteer leadership has elected to keep that policy in place."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Down with Agent Zero


I've never been a big Gilbert Arenas fan. Even after three straight All-Star appearances, (culminating in an All-NBA 2nd-team selection in 2007) and thousands of adoring fans yelling "Hibachi!" after every 3-pointer. His attitude was always arrogant, and I thought he was overrated. What I saw on the court was an extremely selfish player who didn't trust his teammates or coach, with occasional flashes of brilliance.

And then the injuries hit. In 2007-08 and 2008-09, Arenas played in a total of 15 games due to a serious knee injury. Before the 2008-09 season, he somehow managed to procure a 6 year, $111 million dollar contract, further compounding the problems of the post-Jordan Washington Wizards, who could never find consistency even with a "star" like Arenas. Without him, they were a cash-strapped franchise fighting for survival in a weak Eastern Conference.

When last season began, Arenas called the Wizards the team to beat in the East, and there was hype surrounding his return to a talented Washington team. However, a bad start to the season led to a quick downward spiral. Then, in December, Arenas admitted to storing weapons in his locker, destroying his team's season and throwing the franchise into disarray.