As political talking points near to its grimmest stage in this election, and as breaking news of oil corruption surface along with internet and media rumors about Both Obama and Sarah Palin’s faith and position, one might assume from 4 years ago that the citizens of the US are defensive. Far from it.

Record numbers have tuned into media outlets, millions more have voted for the first time in the primaries than ever before, and everyone fifteen year old to eighty is online to tell us about it. And in this time of political backlash and attack ads, the US is alive with opinions and commentary from everyone including the average citizen to Matt Yglesias

There are comments everywhere on blogs providing opinions on the biggest rumors the web can offer, and writers are accepting and answering them. For once people now have a credible voice, whether its Russell Brand or me, Politico or CNN. It’s true that political swiftboats, sexism, racism, and blatant lies still exist, but there are people talking about them.

So what would we call this? It’s change. Republican or Democrat, left or right wing, Green or Libertarian, this is change, and there is no denying it. 

I think Barack Obama should be elected president, and there are people who think John McCain should be elected as well. And with fifty-five days to choose that, America’s got a heck of a lot more negotiating and arguing to do. But at least we are. At least someone pointed out the youtube videos of Sarah Palin speaking at her church and Jerimiah Wright blasting the US in his, and at least Bob Salsbury made his joke. 

So if there’s one thing we can all agree on, its that disagreeing with each other is what will get a better president in the oval office, it is what will fix our economy and debt — it is change, no matter how you look at it.

Today on Friday, August 29, 2008, the world knows the true meaning of political chaos.

Just the previous night, Barack Obama completed a historic speech for the record books to close a remarkable in itself Democratic National Convention, only to be greeted early this morning to a previous rumor made reality, the choosing of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin for John McCain’s Vice President. Throw that in with a newly-named Katrina #2 headed for American land — in the wake of the newly-hyped Republican National Convention — and you have a story: not to mention some busy bloggers. 

So how does all this fit into place in the world of politics? Its really a two way outcome that comes down to what it has always — a floor brawl between the two political powerhouses — Obama and McCain. Obama — fresh off his brilliant speech in Denver, is short pressed to respond to Sarah Palin’s nomination – preferably for him in the form of a official press statement. McCain, on the other hand, is in a bittersweet position that in my opinion could be politically suicidal if mishandled. 

Currently sitting on the momentum throne, Senator McCain has many options, but none as daunting as his long term decision with Sarah Palin. He knows that from a political standpoint that the next week is not just vital to his campaign, but it could make or break it. By choosing Palin as his running mate, he has made Obama look (in contrast) as familiar to America as Britney Spears, and that is something he needs to change very soon. 

So what better time to do so than the convention? And now that the previous focus for the conservatives (trying to top the party-like atmosphere the democrats featured) is out of the question, McCain must use his media attention wisely in introducing Sarah Palin to the world — and more importantly — his future voters. 

And then there’s Obama. 

A recent powerhouse in the media, Obama’s “Messiah” stature in media reportings and stories has just been snatched away from him, replaced with news that he knows he can use for his advantage. CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien put up a good question by asking if the McCain camp has put “firepower in the democrat’s hands” with their veep pick, but that question actually divides into a strategic answer that is more complicated that one might think.

The line between weakness and political retaliation has been very slim this election, but it is one that Obama has mastered, as I wrote in another post about political ads. And now that Obama has been given the ball next to the hoop practically unguarded, he must choose to simply lay it in or attempt a demoralizing dunk. What I mean by this is that Obama has been given a situation that he can take advantage with, but if he goes to far with it — he could come out as weak rather than powerful. What he must do, what he will do, and what he can do are totally different approaches that will lead him in totally different directions.

What he should do (in my opinion) is take advantage of the fact that McCain, a hard hitter on the “ready to lead” diss for Obama, has chosen a less experienced, younger running mate. Questioning her political stance (i.e. her foreign policy weakness) is very risky and would be something he probably would like to use as ammunition for one of the many debates he will have with McCain and Palin. 

Enter the storm.

Politics will soon take a turn to the scientific as tropical storm Gustav takes a turn for the bad, projected to make landfall near major city New Orleans, which we can’t forget was the victim of deadly hurricane Katrina. Gustav will probably win the conservative “best timing awards,” as it is expected to hit the city right when the Republican Convention opens up, concerning many convention executives, as it will drive the the president himself away from the convention, where he may make a political difference. 

This news, if timed right, can take away from the election, and not only for the Republicans. The delay of the convention will give the Democrats time to get to their senses and stitch together an effective ad towards McCain regarding anything from his convention to his running mate. 

And as politics continues, one might wonder how and why anyone could keep up with the recent chaos, rumors, press stunts, announcements, ads, and conventions. The truth is — you can’t.

pacer521, author of Culture Decoded this post is also featured here

Mixed feelings surround tomorrow’s (August 28, 2008) change in the MLB’s rule policy toward instant replay, which is noticeably only geared towards disputes on home runs. Most proclaim that its too little of a change, that baseball should suck it up and admit to the new age of technology, and forget all the old stuff. And very few, including me, argue the other way, claiming that baseball should stick to the original rules. 

Why? Baseball is all about the old stuff — the crack of the bat, the outdoors, the spitting on the ground like no one is looking, the game of gentlemen, the slow pace, the rain delays, and yes — the pile of chewed gum at the side of the dugout. But most of all, my favorite part about Baseball is letting the umpires call the shots. This game isn’t just like any other sport; its America’s pastime, and it deserves to be recreated every time the ball-players step onto the field. 

Personally, I am a huge fan of the JumboTron and its counterparts including Cricket and Tennis’s Hawkeye. Trust me as a die-hard Lakers fan, I’d die without correct calls, instant replay or not. But although Baseball isn’t exactly my forte, I can go this far — as a sports fan, and an American — the one sport that is ours entirely should stay entirely as it was meant to be, and if that answer is “old” — then so be it.

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China’s In Trouble

August 6, 2008

I bet a few critics of the IOC are giving their “I told you so” remarks right about now. Why? China’s in big trouble. After insurgent attacks in Western China, China’s is up to their necks in problems – as well as doubters. These attacks (which killed 20 border patrolmen) claimed to be in favor of independence in some of China’s Western providences. But everyone knows that they came at the perfect time – just days before the Beijing Olympics. And why are we so ticked off with this? In 2001, when China was given their Olympic stature, they vowed to do many things for the game, including limiting the violence and taking care of their human rights issues. If you ask a foreign policy hunk, they’ll most likely tell you that after seven years, they haven’t exactly fulfilled their promises. Their popular-with-the-press pollution problem doesn’t help either, as many athletes who arrived to the games wore masks off the plane. 

But aside from that, one must wonder if another attack is in the making for Beijing. The Chinese government boasts they have foiled past plans, but many of us know that with China’s decreasing credibility, they are looking for anything to gain the press’s trust – and with China that sometimes leads to a habit of exaggerations. Aside from that, it looks like China isn’t very keen on getting very much outside press into their business – they weren’t so accommodating to Japanese reporters covering the insurgency attacks. They also don’t like the rest of the world reporting on the games, as they issued a countrywide internet blackout for websites that planned to cover the Olympics. They also sent out a list of websites that they did not want to publish a word about their games, most international. China has also cut off internet access entirely in parts of their country, and one can only wonder why…

So here we have a country in which many people are speculating. It has in a sense failed its own promises. They have issued a media and internet blackout throughout their entire country and have set limits on all the worldwide media they can get their hands on. They aren’t exactly best of friends with America, and our athletes have showed their concern by wearing masks inside the air-conditioned Beijing airport. So with all this, one might conclude the US president should not be one of the spectators at the Olympics. This was something I was for until my brother brought me to my senses and gave me a great, but simple reason why this would be a horrible idea. He correctly stated that Bush would stir an already sticky situation by boycotting the Olympics.

Now this is a correct answer, but there is something he may not have thought of, and rightfully so. In this whirlwind of politics, one might forget what the Olympics really boil down to – sports. A gathering of world-class athletes couldn’t come in a more grand stage, and sometimes big time newspapers and writers can forget that. We’ve all had those moments sitting in front of the TV with a Coke in one hand and chips in the other with your buddies, and whether you are watching tennis or basketball, ski racing or baseball — pegging your friends with chips or chucking them at the players on TV – we’ve all felt at home. I remember watching the finals with a bunch of guys I spent a week with in some remote tennis camp (that’s another story), and they were all Boston Celtics fans. Crammed in a smelly breakfast room with a bunch of sweaty top US junior tennis players in a room with only two small rotating air-fans, I felt like some monk dude who found the connection with god. I had found the real essence of sports – rooting on a team with a bunch of other people who you knew nothing about other than the point that they liked another team. You hated them, but that just makes your connection with them more powerful. So this is why we should forget that maybe we made a bad decision by picking China to host the Olympics, but besides that, in the end it’s the game that matters. I’m sure if Bin Laden was a Red Sox fan and Bush was a Yankees fan they would get in a brawl, but in the end they are just sports fans. My point here? Sports isn’t just a game, it’s an escape from politics and the outside world. That’s why every country should be part of this celebration, and that’s why we should all forget the politics, cram ourselves in small bar with our buddies and stare at the TV screen, and be sports fans. Not politicians, presidents, citizens and terrorists, but just sports fans. And that’s all that we have in common these days.

A brilliant speech by Alisa Miller from the Ted conference this year covered something that I noticed I didn’t cover in my one of my favorite posts “Good Press, Bad Press.” This is a post commenting on her interesting speech, and what I think about this problem our press has obtained.

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The first picture above is something I have been yearning to obtain for a long time — proof that America’s press is greatly biased towards ourselves and the one topic that every American paper is aware of and keeps covering valiantly — Iraq. I am not on a mission to prove America has a great amount of vanity for itself, that is for the world to decide. Staying strictly non-partisan on this post, I am more or less pointing out American media needs to keep an open mind on what is going on in the world. Sure, the American people love to sit and watch the carnage in the middle east, but if you feed a dog its favorite treat forever, its going to forget there are other good foods out there to sniff at. And in a sense, the American press has been serving that dog two types of food for years and only giving it periodic sniffs outside its realm to the surrounding world, so it barely has a chance to be curious. 

Miller’s speech was in a sense an outlet that helps people like me make a point about our media, and one of the many facts that made her speech so great was about a popular entertainment story that no one really thought was as big and as covered on the news as it was. In fact, the death of Anna Nicole Smith “eclipsed” news coverage of every country and got ten times more coverage than the IPCC report. So this single story of the death of a US entertainment star was obviously more important for an entire month. And this wasn’t just any month in news — this was a month when North Korea dismantled their nuclear weapons, global warming was confirmed in Paris, and there was massive flooding in Indonesia. Instead of a fluffy, long article in the New York Times’s obituary, this story deserved to outdo all other events that happened in the world that month, grazing the cover of virtually every major American newspaper out there. And to put this into more of a perspective, in that month — Russia, India, and China — only amounted to about 1% of news. No one cry goose on me, but I think we have a problem.

And in, fact, a problem well on its way to being solved. I love to praise blogging for really showing the meaning of free press, where anyone who wants to can call the shots on their own newspaper. Blogging to me is like the cast on top of the broken arm of the media, but it still is yet to get its recognition. It lets everyone from a Saudi Arabian blogger to someone like me, an American driving through the Uruguayan countryside to connect and share our experiences and ideas. But sadly, still considerably more people read the newspaper and magazines then people who read blogs, and I think it will take many years for this statistic to even itself out. And it seems like until then, it will require more people to be woken up from the news that to many is deceiving and be given more or less speech like Miller gave to point them in the right direction. 

So if we all had our way, what would be the perfect media? Even if our craze for celebrity and entertainment news is extinguished, we wouldn’t still have the perfect news. What about the war in the middle east? What is the right amount of coverage there?

I think the perfect media should have news outlets in every country in the world, and spend more money getting quality news instead of covering the cheap stuff inside America. The USA is in a rare time where most countries are opening up to each other — not too ago Eastern Europe was locked up. Now we have to chance to explore there. They say 90% of Americans have trouble locating basic countries on a map. Why not use this opportunity to provide news about countries that either seem far away to the average American or don’t even exist to them? Did Anna Nicole Smith pass away? Oh, too bad. Lets write something nice in the back of the paper for her. But look, people are starving over in India and a new tribe was found in the Amazon. Maybe we should even provide some insight on other parts of the world that people have no information about, even if something tragic isn’t happening there. Maybe we should write something about the Inuit tribes in Northern Canada and Qaanaaq, Greenland? Or maybe a piece about like in Turkmenistan? My point here? There’s a lot to know about this Earth, and its not all happening here in the US. 

So the problem here is merely our media not opening their eyes to the world and for once laying off the entertainment and leaving it for the teen gossip magazines. Our press isn’t so simple, and the internet and blogging is only getting stronger, so the light at the end of the tunnel may take long crawl to get to, but at least its there. 

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Good Press, Bad Press

August 2, 2008

One of the reasons Blogging was thought up was to allow people without credentials or three-foot thick portfolios to report to the world on anything they want. The world – in return, can read it as they please, put their opinions to the side, and look at someone else’s view. They can respond, either by contacting the original writer or writing a piece of their own that is either disagreeing or agreeing with the person. For example, instead of watching a Fox News reporter give a generic report on the Internet, all one must do is power up their computer, and through the internet, read the real story firsthand from a Darfur local. This is why I believe Blogging is the future, and unless the AP can follow the leader, media is the past.

So, with that said, I am greatly puzzled why people, although most feel the press isn’t giving the whole truth at times, still read and (some) daily worship media outlets that have been proven to bend or hide reality. And this isn’t just the obvious, big time newspapers, but magazines, too. How do we truly know what’s real and what’s a publicity stunt? Its definitely hard, with the entire entertainment business always on their toes for a new story, equipped with the best journalists out there. It is no doubt a complex mission. In truth, we don’t know who or what to trust. Everything from Newsweek to OK! has had its ups and downs, rights and wrongs.

And who knows, maybe a source like Hello magazine — who nine times out of ten will have their five page spread on something the celebrities want them to write – gets their hands on the juiciest story in entertainment history, and publish it. How would people react? Would they doubt its truth, and question the magazine’s credibility? Or would they praise them for coming out of their cocoon and reporting on something out of their realm? And what if the National Enquirer, a digest magazine with so many bogus claims in the past — landed themselves that same story — and published it? Certainly a story of that magnitude in an entertainment source that has a history of publishing such stories of false outcome would go unnoticed. It would be like Peter and the Wolf, with the Enquirer being Peter, crying out the same stories over and over again, at first to peril of the rest of the world, and then to their annoyance. And once Peter called it out one last time, this time for real, would the world take any notice?

And what if the hailed New York Times got that exclusive story and published it? In truth, everyone would believe it. Few would question its credibility, for this is the New York times, arguably the greatest assortment of press that has ever joined forces to make a newspaper! Even though many times before it has been wrong, made mistakes, and even tied the wrong ends, a story of this size and alleged importance must be true – especially from a source as large as this.

And what if that story was wrong?

What if Hello magazine, the National Enquirer, and the hailed New York Times just made it up? How would we know? The answer: it would be impossible. We, the general public, have no power compared to them – their higher class, credentials, reporters, leaders and owners no doubt know so much more about everything that all we are left to do is guess, pick and choose. And that is why blogging is the future. We can change this. No one would stand in our way. And now, with computers on our side, it’s the public against the press. And unless the press has enough sense to change their ways, we will occupy the throne of truth, and they will be merely a thing of the past.

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I’m sure this will cause a few mixed feelings, so feel free to put your opinions into comments, and I’ll try to respond to everybody. Thanks for reading. 

Celebrities are now facing the truth, and it isn’t pretty. Gossip has turned it up a notch, and now there is nowhere to hide. Big paparazzi agencies have patched up their main weakness — failing to be anywhere, anytime. Before, agencies would hire a small group of professional photographers and brief them of where the stars would be, but it was a double-edged sword. The pictures they got we’re high quality and high definition, and worthy of the front page of any magazine to hit the shelves. But their main weakness was their inability to be everywhere, and it cost them. For example, when they were taking pictures of one celebrity coming out of church, they were risking missing another, for example, getting arrested or something more newsworthy or, as the kids would say in more of an “OMG” demand. But this hole was covered recently, as some person in high places somewhere in a gossip agency had a genius idea: give disposable cameras to thousands of people in a big city, say, New York or Los Angeles, and have them scour the streets for celebrities, take a picture, and then hustle back to the office where they started and get a reward, ranging in cash by how good the picture was, and who it was taken of. One paparazzi boss is even giving rewards to the general public for snap happy cell phone pictures. Darryn Lyons, founder of Big Pictures, set up a mobile phone website that lets you upload cell phone pictures to his agency directly from your phone. That’s why you are now accustomed to seeing cover shots on gossip magazines that are obviously not professional, some even blurred or distorted. This new style has taken the stars by surprise, people who claim to be “devoted fans” now can whip out their Blackberry and get a picture of them which the next day may be on the cover of OK or US. But its not like the celebrities aren’t going down without a fight. Angelina Jolie made a valiant effort to escape the never ending US paparazzi attack force by making an escape to (where else) but Namibia (for those who aren’t geography buffs, its in Africa) to have her baby. She and husband Brad Pitt went to this remote country for the birth for a number of reasons, but a big one being they wanted to get rid of all paparazzi. During the period of the birth, all traces of gossip in Namibia were banished and the country made sure no Americans could enter the country that could be a paparazzi. And with the help of closing off an entire country, no press could cover the story. All the poor paparazzi agencies could find was one small leak from a Namibian nurse who gave the plain remarks “She is a healthy baby.” Her remarks were anonymous because she was not authorized to release any information. And in truth, no one was, not even Namibian officials said a word about the birth. Jolie’s counter-punch to the growing paparazzi in the US was a ray of hope to all celebrities, but as the War on Paparazzi continues, all a curious spectator can do is watch, and laugh. 

 

Articles used: http://people.howstuffworks.com/paparazzi.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/03/darryn.lyons

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13006217/

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