Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

I didn’t even know this existed ’til today.

Huffington Post College recently ran an article by Taylor Cotter called “A Struggle of Not Struggling.” In it, Cotter defines herself as one of the few 22 year olds who already has a stable job, an apartment, car and 401K. That’s great news for English majors around the country—if you gain experience with internships, student leadership and part-time jobs during your college years like Cotter did, you’ll be successful after graduation. As a freelancer, I both envy and admire her success.

However, Cotter decides to twist quarter-life success into a quarter-life crisis:

But what about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren’t these the things that really make you 22?

I can understand her sentiments a little bit; success can be uncomfortable around the less-fortunate.

As a kid, my family was middle-class living in a poor city. I had it better than most friends and classmates growing up, especially in grammar school. I was also a good student—I could never relate to complaints about bad grades and hard tests when I took home A’s and B’s. I was never comfortable with this and wouldn’t raise my hand enough and tried to use more slang. When I went to a private high school I adopted baggy clothes in an awkward attempt to look more “street” and further separate myself from the rich kids (which was unnecessary for reasons both cultural and financial).

Eventually I realized I was an idiot and then appreciated my gifts. I advise Cotter to do the same.

This post would end there, but I have to address Cotter’s conflicting attitude. Three paragraphs before romanticizing 10-cents-a-word articles and ramen noodles, she writes:

When I started college, I figured out that the 10-cents-a-word life wasn’t really going to pay apartment rents and student loans that were plaguing my future. I saw job prospects decline drastically over my first year of college and professors discourage students from pursuing careers in journalism. After years and years of being told it was the ultimate way to achieve my dreams, I realized that pursuing a volatile degree from private university was possibly one of the worst decisions I could have made.

Many in the Twitterverse have lashed out at Cotter, saying she’s “lamenting success” or “wants to struggle.” Cotter defends herself, tweeting “I don’t think I said I wanted to suffer – I just wanted to pursue my dream.”

The thing is, Cotter never really defines this “dream” of the hard life in her article. Just a dream of adventure, which everyone has growing up. As soon as she realized adventure didn’t pay bills, she willingly abandoned it.

Maybe Cotter is saying she never wanted to be a “suit” or “boring adult”—she wanted to be a starving artist, at least for a little while. But  the fact she went to lengths to avoid this life—and lamenting over this supposed loss is rather condescending to those living in hard times, like a rich politician calling struggling factory workers “the real heroes.”

But I understand the apprehension to enter the freelance field. Writers aren’t paid well and you have to look out for those damn content farms. You find a steady, well-paying gig, you keep it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make it. I’m happy with the direction my freelance career seems to be headed, despite the slow start.

And a personal note to Ms. Cotter, from struggling-22-year-old writer to successful-22-year-old writer, I say this: go for it. Write as much as you can when you’re not working. Early success isn’t a dead end; it’s evidence you can find achieve more.

In Brave New World, soma is a pill that satiates the masses.

Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World is often best remembered for showing the dark side of genetic engineering. What seems to get less publicity is the novel’s study of rigid socialization and using pleasure to control the masses. The latter is what interests me as a gamer.

In the novel, the hallucinogenic drug soma is distrubeted to all citizens by the government. The drug takes users on a vacation without ever having to leave their rooms. If reality’s hard, they can take soma and enjoy a week at the nicest hotels in the sunniest locations, and still show up to work the next day. It’s more than a recreational drug; it’s a literal opiate of the masses.

Now, I’m not suggesting that video games will come to become a government tool to suppress dissidence and promote mindlessness. But I am suggesting that can become an eerily similar escape, one that people may turn to rather than take action or initiative. I’m also not the first to notice this connection. It’s one of the reasons video game company Soma chose it’s name.

Video games are constantly evolving. Graphics constantly improve and become more realistic. Story-telling is improving, unfortunately not as fast as the visuals, but enough to add another layer past the graphics to emerge you further. The scope of games is also much bigger; open-world games are more common than ever, and if the graphics and story are excellent you will find yourself emerged in a huge world full of possibilities, drama and rewards.

First, we need to establish that most video games are designed to be addictive (Yeah, it’s from Cracked. So?). They draw on the model of the Skinner box, making games that behaviorally condition gamers, getting them used tot he fact that certain conditions need to be met for their rewards. And people love these virtual rewards. It’s most readily seen in MMORPGs and psychologists have confirmed video game addiction is real.

Think about how addicting games are now, and how much escape they provide. Technology may soon evolve to the point where they provide virtual fantasies on the same level of Huxley’s soma. Again, I’m not suggesting games will be used for sinister, authoritarian purposes, but imagine video game addiction on a larger scale, as common as nicotine or alcohol addiction. More families torn apart and more dreams and lives ruined by video games. Fewer people taking the initiative to improve their lives and more people complacently going home and gaming. (more…)

Time to recall Mayor Lantigua.

Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua is employing an ugly tactic to fight the recall effort: he’s turning the Latino community against itself. The mayor’s already alienated non-Hispanic citizens, as all recent ads against the recall effort are in Spanish.

Not satisfied with making this a “Latinos versus others” issue, he (or at least his supporters) decided to turn Dominicans against Puerto Ricans, an old rivalry Lawrence really should’ve outgrown by now.

Details can be found in this Eagle Tribune article, which comments on the recall movement (It’s Your Right), Lantigua’s ads, and other related tension. The article explains that a Dominican website (translated in the article) blames Puerto Ricans who wanted Isabel Melendez as mayor are heading the movement. In all actuality, the core group is made up of three Dominicans, three Puerto Ricans and an Anglo.

The group needs to collect 5,232 signatures by August 8, and a fair number of those will come from Dominicans like Johnny Castillo.

“Lawrence is an immigrant city and we come to Lawrence to get a better future,” says Castillo. “As a Dominican, I’m proud of my heritage and because of that, it’s discouraging to see what (Lantigua) has done and how he has embarrassed us.”

It’s terrible that Lantigua would tear apart the united Latino base that helped elect him to remain in power. He’s disillusioned many, and betrayed all that Isabel Melendez has worked for, setting the Hispanic community back with his corruption and incompetence.

If you’ve seen my earlier posts, you may have guessed I’m not Lantigua’s biggest fan. I oppose him as a Lawrence citizen and a Latino. He’s shown no interest in the city, which has been struggling since the industrial decline of the 1950s. He’s turned his back on the Latino’s who have been through a lot since coming here, including riots and being unfairly blamed for the city’s urban crisis.

Lantigua has disgraced this city, my home, and should resign before things get worse.

... Really?

True Blood is a guilty pleasure for me. Not because it’s aimed a bit more at women than men (though it’s definitely not a “girly” show), but because I can’t honestly say it’s a good show. It’s not bad either.

It’s just… silly.

I first realized it during season two, when the wave of hedonism inspired by Maryann, a Maenad, led to a lot of forced comedy from the writers. The bug-eyed, horny redneck schtick got old fast, but it wasn’t until Lafayette yelled “Listen up, bitches!” to a crowd of blood-thirsty citizens that I realized how dumb this was.

While Lafayette is a funny character, his humor became drier and smarter by the second season. This ham-fisted attempt at comedy emphasized how over-the-top the Maenad saga was. I realize these scenes were justified by Maryann’s spell over the town, but the writers should’ve realized the humor wasn’t working.

I almost quit watching after that. But I came back for season three, with it’s nude werewolves, an infamous sex-scene between Eric and Talbot, the ultra-campy King Russell, and possibly Bill Compton’s worst line ever (“We fucked like only two vampires can”).

The epitome of True Blood silliness came early in the new season: Bill Compton’s British punk phase. Not only does it seem out of character for the aristocratic vampire, he looks and sounds completely ridiculous. Speaking of Bill, is Stephen Moyer even trying to do the accent anymore?

The effects add to the show’s silliness. I know you can’t be too hard on TV shows when it comes to special effects due to their budgets, but things like the big black eyes in Season 2  or Bill Compton and the Queen’s anti-gravity fight in Season 3’s cliffhanger really derail the tension and drama. And don’t get me started on the goblin-like fairies.

The same goes for the acting. Most of the actors are at least competent, but it doesn’t make the vampires’ hissing less corny or the weird “southern” accents less odd.

So why do I keep watching?

It’s still a solid story. I care what happens next, the vampire politics interest me, the action is exciting and the characters are (usually) likable. There’s also a lot of grey area that makes you question a character’s motives and actions. The show’s silly, but it has a good plot and is so damn enjoyable.

Dowser promotes journalism that doesn't just stop at exposing problems, but also tries to solve them.

In response to Danny Hakim’s article exposing abuse and negligence in New York’s institutions for the developmentally disabled, Blair Hickman took the opportunity to make a case for solution journalism.

While praising Hakim’s great reporting, she added that the article felt “incomplete,” and explained that Journalism needs to do more than just expose problems. She explains journalism needs to provide analysis and solutions:

At Dowser, we believe that journalists need to go a step further: if we are going to spend energy exposing serious problems – especially problems that raise questions about the integrity and competence of people in public systems – we should also present examples of how these problems can be solved – and how they are currently being solved in other situations. Why? The press should be a mechanism for the self-correction of society. This isn’t a particularly new or radical idea. It’s the whole rationale behind investigative journalism.

via Solutions to Disabled Abuse | Dowser.

Journalists shouldn’t just leave solutions up to society, but be more proactive and propose ways to fix problems.

For example, she cites a series of Boston Globe articles from fifteen years ago that exposed the abuse of two mildly retarded men and the state’s apathetic response. This resulted in the Building Partnerships Initiative, which, since 1993 has resulted “63% increase in the cases of reported abuse.” Hickman add that “though this program addresses the symptoms, rather than the disease, it’s a start, and it’s been around for nearly twelve years.”

Both Hickman’s and Hakim’s articles are worth a read. It definitely makes you consider the power journalists have in exposing problems and the power they can have in solving them.

Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) of Knocked Up epitomizes pre-adulthood.

Apparently I’m doomed to be an immature loser.

Where Have the Good Men Gone?” discusses how men after college are stuck in a state of “pre-adulthood,” a state defined by videogames, beer, and laziness.

Meanwhile, women perform better in college and make greater strides in the workplace. This maturity gap leads to the decreasing rate of marriage among Americans in their late 20s, with fewer men seeking marriage and even fewer worth marrying.

I feel Kay S. Hymowitz relies on negative stereotypes to give her statistics a face. She portrays every single man in his late 20s as a Seth Rogen character. I doubt that every man who earns less than his partner is a lazy slob or every unmarried man is too busy playing videogames to commit.

As a man on a mostly female campus, I’m surrounded by smart, ambitious women every day. Most of them will probably outearn me, and I’m fine with that. Does this mean I lack ambition? I don’t think so.

I think Hymowitz doesn’t understand the current generation of men, and deems them losers because she doesn’t like certain cultural changes.

But her article does make me reflect on what it means to be a man, and I know I don’t want to be a Seth Rogen character by the time I’m 30.