Monday, July 30, 2007

Ramifications of Delegalizing Abortion

This is an article EVERYONE should read. I have to thank a good online friend of mine for sharing this bit of info with me, but seeing as she takes her privacy very seriously, I won’t go so far as to identify her, but she knows who she is (thanks again for making all of us use that space between our ears).

Abortion is one of those hotly debated, emotional issues without a real right or wrong, black & white kind of answer. I also think the issue is exploited to distract and polarize anyone and everyone within hearing distance. That being said and knowing I’m probably stirring up a huge pot of controversy by even mentioning abortion the question remains pertinent... what kind of punitive action should be taken against women who have abortions should it finally become illegal?

Some pretty sticky questions need to be answered if this issue is to be fairly considered. Does it constitute premeditated (planned) murder if a woman decides to have an abortion? If that answer is yes, and it almost certainly will be, do we then pursue a death sentence? It seems counterintuitive, but what do I know?

**EDIT** Below is the YouTube video mentioned in the Newsweek/MSNBC article

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Presidential Debates = Waste of Time

I know the recent CNN Democratic debate in Charleston (powered by YouTube) is all the buzz lately and I’ll openly admit I’m “politically challenged”, but what are we gaining from all this? Can we really gauge an individual’s mettle based on what is portrayed in a televised debate? And I’m sure you’ve already guessed it, they’re starting to come out swinging. Hillary says Obama is a political lightweight, Barrack says Clinton stupidly supported a war we should have never started.

What have we learned? Nothing, save that people (by in large) are human. And humans tend to screw up… often. I’m guessing that from here on out we’ll be hearing a lot more about how the other guy (or gal) sucks than how wonderful the speaker is (or should be). As usual none of the candidates have any critical depth in their platform, because honestly if they did, the other buzzards would pick away at it until there was nothing left.

And we buy into all this, because somehow we’re supposed to believe that these potential presidents will magically change our lives for the better and the other candidates will only lead us to ruin. The media only helps oil the political machine because… hey they need a story. The ironic thing is that by the time all is said and done, the two finalists, be it Hillary, Barrack, Rudy or even Cap’n Crunch will more likely than not, be nearly identical to the person they’re running against, because nobody wants to alienate any potential votes.

But they’ll all jump on the chance to expose the competition’s mistakes. Some are warranted, some are just plain stupid, but who has time to sort it all out? Maybe we should vote based on who openly admits to screwing up the most, or maybe we should pick our leaders by drawing straws or maybe rolling dice. Until we start training republican and democratic candidates in some kind of Shoalin Kung Fu Temple beginning at birth (even then you just never know), we’re just guessing and hoping we’re putting the right person in charge at best.

It appears that as of today, just like in the past, we have no (good) choice yet again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Killing in the Name

A man gets off work around 5pm. He walks outside and is picked up by his wife and daughter. Everyone scoots over one seat and they set off towards home. On their way home they chit chat about their respective day, what happened at work, what happened at home, what’s for dinner… all very mundane, vanilla stuff. The driver peeks into the rearview just in time to see a hulking SUV rocketing toward them. The driver (while simultaneously shouting expletives and throwing in a few “our fathers”) swerves off the road to avoid being run over and the speeding SUV misses the family by the width of no more than 2 or 3 layers of paint. Patrol cars whiz by in hot pursuit, and just a few miles further down the road the SUV is flipped over in the median and its driver is in handcuffs.

That man getting off work was me, and the situation I described actually happened on I-85 in South Carolina about 9 years ago. It turned out the speeding SUV’s occupant had just robbed a bank and stolen the car. It could have easily been one of those pivotal moments that changes your life forever. Had we been hit, I have no doubt at least some of us would have died that day. Luckily for us, it wasn’t our time to go.

Which brings me (in a round-about way) to my topic. Virginia now issues speeding tickets that can wind up costing thousands of dollars. Are these steep fines meant to protect the citizenry or are they merely a government revenue machine? I’ve only visited the state of Virginia, but I must admit the cold, black signs every 100 feet or so, constantly reminding me that big brother is watching, make me uncomfortable. In fact there are so many black signs warning me of what not to do I find myself wondering how the citizens of VA don’t feel like they are under the thumb of malevolent oppressor. Have most of the people just gotten so used to this type government that they don’t even notice or care about its encroachment or do they actually invite this into their lives thinking they will be protected?

Threatening thousands of dollars in fines, constant radar equipped helicopter flyovers, the ever-present and overly abundant black warning signs… every time we travel through Virginia (which has some beautiful countryside BTW) I jokingly tell my wife, “We have crossed into the territory held by the dark side of the force.” Star Wars cameo jokes aside, there’s a sad truth hidden in the gag. To this outsider it appears as though any “safety” they might have gained through tighter restrictions and stronger enforcement completely evaporates under an overbearing government. That, or I’ve been listening to too much Rage Against the Machine again.

That incident I described with the bank robber on the interstate could have happened anywhere, even Virginia. And I’m not convinced VA’s roads are any safer. I know that statistically the rate of death per capita in VA ranks better than average, but even if it is safer, I’m compelled to ponder the age-old debate of safety vs. freedom. I like feeling safe, but I don’t like feeling like a caged animal for safety’s sake. I’d rather take my chances with freedom. And by the way, I’ll be traveling through Virginia this week… All hail the dark lord of foreboding road signs, flying reconnaissance, and anti-radar detector legislation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Expect Delays

Initially I was hoping to make daily posts here. This is a fairly lofty goal considering I have a job, wife, and children that all require (and deserve) my attention (not to mention cooking dinner, yard maintenance, and the occasional DVD rental/zombie TV vegetative-viewing sessions). So something new everyday isn’t very likely at this point, but I do have some interesting things cooking on the back burner. Besides, I'm all about quality over quantity, especially when it comes to information.

At first I was going to focus on one particular entity, but I’ve decided that something much greater can be presented if I broaden the spotlight to all instead of just one. That is to say, I have the cannon locked and loaded for my favorite local paper, but my “juvenile” “attention seeking” wanderlust aside, I thought it would be better still to put all local papers under the same microscope and see where the chips fall.

The problem is this takes time and I want to do it right. I’m guessing that all local media outlets are failing us. My hope is that by educating the public about responsible journalism (a subject I myself am learning more about through this process) that they will come to expect and demand better.

It’s important to understand that each critique will be compared to the same standards that have been established by journalists and academia (schools of journalism) and not by some “lame”, “pool-pooping”, “circle jerking” miscreant that only craves attention (that would be me). If anyone out there is interested in learning more or would actually like to help, drop me a line or comment below.

More details soon...

Friday, July 20, 2007

It Happened One Night… A Movie Review

I can’t be all doom and gloom, all the time. In fact, sometimes I like to slow down and take a different perspective. The other night my wife and I enjoyed (thanks to the technological wonder that is NetFlix) “It Happened One Night” a 1934 classic starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. I have a soft spot in my heart for classics, nothing at all against new movies, because I enjoy all the latest digital surround sound, high definition techno-wizardry I can get my hands on. But a good story can overcome almost anything while even the greatest special effects and CGI guarantee nothing more than brief eye candy and lets face it good movies (no matter how old) are hard to come by.

The synopsis is a spoiled rich girl, Ellie Andrews (Colbert), hell-bent on exuding her independence from daddy gets paired with a down and out newspaper reporter, Peter Warne (Gable), as they travel from Miami to New York in a reluctant partnership of necessity. Ellie needs Peter’s street smarts to help her evade her overbearing father so that she can get to the man she eloped with (though doesn’t love), meanwhile daddy will go to any means necessary to stop her and annul the marriage. Peter needs Ellie’s celebrity story to get his job back and turn his life around. They wind up in all kinds of compromising and humorous situations as they make their way north with daddy’s henchmen on their tail. The one-liners and the mystique of a time before cell phones or even interstate highways make this movie all the better.

So if after you see all of the latest summer blockbusters and still find yourself wanting to sit down and enjoy a good movie or your NetFlix cue is getting sparse and you’ve run out of options, this is a great movie to get your feet wet in the classic genre… which will more than likely open your horizons to even more classic films of the past.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dark Days for the Newspaper Business?

According to this AP story, Morris Communications’ Savannah Morning News will cut out deliveries to 17 counties in GA and SC. It also goes on to say that both Jasper and Beaufort counties will be partially affected by this cut.

I wonder how, in the scheme of things, this will affect our local paper (also owned by Morris). Nobody over at the local paper will come out and admit it, but that outfit has got to be financially hemorrhaging at this point. It’s gotten to the point that accessing their website (without ad blocking software) reminds one of visiting a porn site. That’s not to say their site is trashy (or that I visit porn sites... really, my friends tell me about them, scout's honor), but it’s a bit too ad heavy for my taste.

Then again I could be wrong, free dailies are quite trendy these days, but they all suffer from the same problem. Lack of depth. If you’re going to give it away, you have to make money off of advertising alone and that means running lean. That’s the biggest problem I’ve had so far. They have this incredible resource in their website at their disposal but they don’t have enough actual reporters to take advantage of what they created. That’s some heavy irony there.

Believe it or not however it could actually be worse. This piece from 2005 leads one to believe having a free daily that’s content is driven solely by advertisers is worse than having nothing at all. Worse than that (in my opinion) is knowing what could have been, only to be resigned to the fact that it will never come. Say one thing, do another, just keep the money rolling in.

More and more I find the old cliché, “ignorance is bliss” holds true. Anybody know of a good hypnotist or have one of those Hollywood, sci-fi, mind-wipe machines? I’m ready to be happy again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ethics of Photo Illustrations

This is an old subject (about 6 weeks old now), but it is important enough to me to revisit, because, well it’s my blog dammit, and I’ll do what I want (plus I'm woefully lacking on content at present)… that and I think public trust is an imperative part of journalism. Besides if I keep rubbing people the wrong way I might get completely deleted and I’d like to have this down somewhere.

Is it ok to lie if/when it’s for someone’s own good? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question by the way, but in my opinion in this particular instance:

From There goes the neighborhood

My answer is no.

Does this photo look familiar?

You’ve probably seen this picture or rather this original version in your inbox.
What we have here is a fake of a fake… I’m not exactly sure the double negative rule applies. Urban legends and the proliferation of bad information via e-mail are a personal pet peeve of mine, imagine my distain for the editors that allowed this into the paper (on the front page no less). Not only did they pass off an already well-known fake hurricane Katrina picture, they doctored it up with people (pointing at the coming onslaught, which was a nice touch) and a beach to reflect this type of event occurring locally. Clearly this melodramatic picture was designed to incite emotionalism at the cost of the truth. Where's the public good in that? Beats me.
So what’s the big deal? It was captioned as a photo illustration.
I’m not looking to pick fights but the University of Wisconsin–Madison reveals why people like me get upset when journalists take liberties such as the above. Below is an excerpt of the link given.
Photo illustrations
Photo illustrations differ from news photos in content, creation, and purpose. They are staged or produced, and are manufactured situations. They often are set up in a studio and are used for fashion, food, and product promotion. When an existing photograph is altered for artistic purposes, such as by adding or deleting content, it also is considered a photo illustration. Environmental portraits shot on location are not considered photo illustrations.
Use caution when creating a digital illustration on a computer that uses a photo as its base material. The final image should not be so photorealistic that a reader could perceive it as being real.
When publishing a photo illustration, it should be made clear to readers that the image does not represent a real situation. In all cases, photo illustrations should be labeled as such. Any permitted alteration changing the original content of an image must be labeled as a “photo illustration.” The credit line should read: “Photo illustration; original photo by XXX.” Artistic use of images, as in a collage, is permitted.
Remember, however, that no amount of captioning can balance a visual lie. Carefully consider any consequences, including jeopardizing credibility with readers, before creating a photo illustration.
The underlying gist of a situation like this is that journalistic credibility can be damaged. If you have to ask, then it probably isn’t safe to go there. Meanwhile, take everything you read (and see) in the local papers with a grain of salt, which isn’t at all the way it should be.

The Vaunted Inaugural Post

It just so happened that I noticed the local newspaper (a term I use fairly loosely) where I typically write was editing (i.e. removing) tags I put into my posts. I tried to call them out on it but was told “we are allowed to remove anything we want at any time for any reason.” So there you have it, a local newspaper basically says, like it or lump it, we do what we want to do. I wonder how they’d feel if someone bigger than them put the clamps on their freedom of expression.

Now that’s not me saying that any private business owes me the same rights as the government. But in keeping within the context of a local paper which happens to be seeking user input, well how fair is it to ask somebody to participate in an open discussion and then promptly tell them to shut up when they don’t like where the conversation is going?

While I can’t single handedly defeat the local newspaper goons. I can write whatever I like here. And there’s really not a damn thing they can do about it. I plan on cross-posting subjects until I build up enough steam and either leave as the Interactive Content Editor invited me to do today or simply use this place as an unedited safe haven. Anyway there’s more to come, and there won’t be a need to hold back for fear of getting edited/banned/reprimanded either.

Everybody into the pool, the water’s just fine. ;o)