Saturday, July 23, 2005

If Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children

then Why have visions of sugarplums and flying brooms? Our children's' gods work full-time jobs to pay their mortgages. They come home tired, outspokenly upset that their children sit in front of the television or computer, secretly relieved; relieved because the evening's Amber Alert will always be someone else's child. The good news: a "real" person will win the title of being America's newest Idol.

They let their kids dream of winning such fame but, though the world is in dire-need of a superhero, they'd rather their children stay within arm's reach. Let someone else's kids fight evil; we already gave our dollar for the magnetic, yellow ribbon, we want our children to live long enough to achieve greatness. But, our children already hold tightly a banner of greatness within their 10-finger grasp. Luckily fear is something found only in the mind and the body just reacts.

During the 1920s, Walter Cannon theorized that people experience a Fight-or-Flight response when under extreme, conditional stress. In the two decades surrounding that theory, America proved the response correct. The United States entered World War I in 1917 after the British intercepted the Zimmerman telegram in which the Germans urged Mexico to take arms against America. The Americans chose to Fight. By the 1930s, Midwest Americans were Fleeing their homes and dust-ravaged farms west to seek employment and prosperity away from the Great Depression. While 21st Century Americans are still depressed, our cliched ADD-affliction is bordering bipolar. What took us decades to react to before, we are now doing in five.

Did we start this war on terror, or were we thrust into it? Doesn't matter; Americans wanted foreign blood within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, it seems, we've had our fill. First, we just wanted our troops in Iraq to come home. After the London bombings, we're questioning if it's been worth it at all? Too many American lives lost in New York, Washington D.C., Afghanistan, and Iraq, then in the shadow of 7/7, Americans are realizing that we've already lost more than American lives - if a country can suffer such losses - but, we're also losing this "war on terror." But that's just the reality of this new world we're living in. This Summer, under the shadow of this unspoken defeat, children returned to Hogwarts and the Chocolate Factory.

When parents come home from work to sit in front of the cable news, their children sit reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or make plans to see Tim Burton's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is not a retreat, it's an escape - a tunnel that definitely ends. The Harry Potter series concludes with book seven. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last an hour and 46 minutes. But after the final chapter and closing credit, a new adventure begins.

There are Harry Potter fan-fiction sites where readers and writers of all ages keep the series going where J.K. Rowling will leave off. Bookstore shelves contain numerous other Roald Dahl stories for kids to read. The values and truths that parents are too busy to teach, children still learn. They learn by reading books, watching movies, and surfing the internet. Kids have learned to entertain and educate themselves. What can be more promising?

While we concern ourselves with daily catastrophes and fear the return of another Cold War, our children learn the relationship between art and creativity. We have lost our innocence, but our children have not. They do not entertain themselves by watching CNN or FoxNews. The news - the fear - is our problem, not theirs. We're scared enough for them. Shelter them but let them explore and create their own front and back yards of entertainment.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

getting to know one's self - an experiment in the 1st- and 3rd-person

The desk, a left-over dinosaur from a small-town police station recently re-modeled, grazes in front of a window behind smoke-stained blinds that are never opened. Even if the blinds were to be opened, the sun would have hurdle a fishing-tackle box printer and and a desklight/bookshelf easily mistaken for a canoe. Even if it the sun could get through all this, it would never be able to distract Eyebrow Esquire's attention from the television and laptop flatscreen glued to his eyes like contacts.

"These are the only two worlds I need, really. I get my newspaper breakfast, lunch and dinner and shower in cable television without ever having to get up from my chair," Eyebrow says. "I've sent resumes, wrote drunken e-mails, watched new and classic movies, and all in my boxers. I can get everything done that I need to get done from this one spot."

It's true. He has recently sent his first professional resume and cover-letter to his first media organisation; a small newspaper in his home-town two-and-a-half hours away. He's chatted-up, reminisced with, and pined after numerous girls in the last month, alone. Yet, his promising future, thus far, has been unrequited.

"I'm okay with it. It's really gotten me an opportunity to focus on what I really want to do: write. I've been doing it all my life, but it's only here recently that I've finally found my "writer's voice." You know, I'm finally comfortable enough with the sound of the my mind's voice and have finally come to grips with the real and imagined skeletons in my closet to finally open everything up. The last couple of months have been really fun in a child-like exploration sort of way," he says.

Yesterday, he turned in his two weeks' notice. He will be leaving behind an education of sorts. Leaving the book industry, he says, will be like graduating all over again.

"I won't know just yet if it'll be more like my college or my high school graduation. I've been doing the book-thing longer than it took me finish college on the 7-year plan. After high school, I knew I'd be a little fish in a big pond, again. After college, it felt more like taking my first steps in the world: a little naive, but still innocent and inexperienced enough to still believe anything is possible with a little extra effort and a lot heart and determination," he says. "In a way, I feel as if this experience will be a mix of the two; I think it's already showing it, as a matter of fact.

"You know, I've picked up my writing to a point where it feels like I am finally a writer...and a formiddable writer at that. That's boosted my ego and confidence to levels I've never experienced before. It sort of feels like having your head in the clouds, but it's so high that I can't see my feet. I know their grounded down there somewhere, I just can't see them."

He stops and smiles. I can only guess he's thinking back to some of his recent posts (*biased author self-promotion: link, link, link, link, link) on his "professional blog" as he calls it. He said the difference as of late, is attributed to his MySpace blog where he finally felt a freedom to just write what he knew and what he felt.

"It's like writing a diary in MS Word. You sit isolated in front of your computer and whatever music playing on the media player, and you just start typing. After so long, you forget you're going to publish it. You forget that others will be reading it. You forget about all that, hit the publish post button with this sense of release and finality, and then it's there. That's when you remember it's a public diary.

"I don't know if it's necessarily the sense of detachment I feel towards my MySpace friends - I don't feel as if I'll never meet any of them, I mean, some I've known for years, and others I can see myself coming to rely on to take me out after a long day at work. So, it's not like I'm writing to just random faces, it's just that, in a sense, we're all just a little bit pathetic. I have friends listed that I wouldn't know the first thing to say to had I met them in public, but there's a connection that seems more personality-based than class or social-status, or even attractiveness. They're all cool, good people; I've had good conversations with most of them. We're all completely capable of being sociable and making friends in the 'real world', but somehow, MySpace brings together the genuine people from the old-school days of AOL before moderators and porn-bots."

He said, that's the audience that first received and complimented his style, voice, and earnest. That's what lead him to remember what's important to him: what he has to say can change the world. "It's not that I think my voice, alone, can do it, I think everyone's got something to say the rest of the world needs to hear; some do it through counseling, so do it through police work and teaching. The voice is the talent each person is given."

"Knowing there are people out there that read your stuff everyday, just as they read their e-mails and answer their phones, that's probably the best feeling a writer can have. I guess the audience I have on MySpace is the exact reason I have such conflicted feelings about where I am in my life. Yes, the number of readers I have now is small, but they come back. I'm reminded of a motto I've adopted only recently, 'if I can't change the world myself, then i should strive to influence the one person that can.'"

"How serious do I take this? How much am I willing to sacrifice? Everything but the dream itself. I've already made tough decisions, and have all-but officially excluded myself from 'real-life' friends and social activities I used to keep up with as hobbies. What was once a past-time for me, is now the only horizon I'm interested in. I'd love to get there would a beautiful princess sitting behind me, arms wrapped around my waist, and an army of civil soldiers shouting protests in defense of their own ambitions and waving spray-painted signs bearing their one dream, but it's getting to the end that matters.

"So long as I'm looking forward and have a shadow already touching the next day's sunrise, I'll be okay when my feet can keep up with my eyes no longer."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What happened to the good life?

At what point does complacency turn to paranoia? thinking on the events of 7/7; looking out from under the cloud of smoke hovering where two towers once stood, i see a concrete and gray world. everything seems hard and solid except what's no longer visible - hope.

Nine days after the London terror attacks, Harry Potter returns to top bestseller lists. Christmas in July for kids around the globe. But, what about 7/7? What about 9/11? What about everything that once would have meant nothing? Why do i fear the events in London were conconcted around a mahogony desk as a way to promote something else?

Is it so far-fetched? Conspiracy theorists immediately jumped to the same conclusion about the World Trade Center attacks. When no WMDs were found in Iraq, the entire world, it seemed, shouted foul-play. The scars of these mornings are still ripe, and no one utters or even looks at the wounds - could they be self-inflicted? Did we do these acts to remind ourselves that we still live because we can still bleed?

We drug our children because they'd rather be outside in the mud than sitting in a classroom. We drug ourselves because some days it's too hard to smile on our own. Have we become numb? Do we need to bleed to breathe?

After 9/11, America united in gold, flag pins. We wanted revenge on the people responsible. We wanted revenge on anyone that hadn't suffered like we had. We wanted blood then. And we've seen it spilt in Afghan mountains and Iraqi sand. But, we saw it on television. We watch human death tolls with the same surreal attention as watching Americans jump from burning buildings. Is that what it takes now...a surreal reality...watching heroes die, enemies demand ransom, and innocents in chaos?

Is this what 9/11 has left us with? a future of deaths both noble and suspect? will a book ever be just a book again?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Between the lines of my resume

it's been a struggle to maintain this/these blogs as i had hoped. no longer. today, i take the professional pressure and hang it on my wall beside the Hunter S. Thompson commemorative issue of Rolling Stone; the responsibility, i place in my wallet to walk with me as i leave my privacy in my bedroom.

in the era that will be known for its marketing to an alienated and divided public, i sat in journalism classes learning the disappearing act of objectivity. like accuracy, it must be actively sought, researched, and verified with each story. admirable. noble. unfortunately, America has long since given up on its heroes, and seeks, instead, the hero within us all.

those heroes are only as strong as our individual voices. those are the heroes i never learned about in my journalism classes, but i see their proud reflections, now, as i think back on what i learned in college: the value of objectivity and importance of independence.

the news is not biased. reporting is effect, speculation is cause, and news is everything in between. it is what is said and what is not said. it is black and it is white. readers and reporters are the thin gray line of silence between the two. as a journalist, the truth is what i seek. as an American, understanding is not so much about seeing as it is about believing.

but, the media is more than just the news. it's a message, not only to ourselves, but also to the future. books, movies, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the internet...each a member of the media; each a talking reflection of ourselves.

behind each newspaper story, NY Times bestseller, blockbuster movie, and web blog post, sits a single person creating a message for a single person on the other side. as a professional, i'm the creator. as a person, i'm the audience. what follows will be my sideline view of the back-and-forth action between the two. but, my view is biased. i root for the underdog, but this is a game where both sides have a single weakness: its dependence on the other.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Battle to Replace Sandra Day

In the 72 hours since Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, what hasn't been said, re-stated, and regurgitated? Editorialists, poli-pundits, and novelists have all printed their two-cent speculations about the future Congressional battle to name O'Connor's replacement.

The Chief Justice's noble, yet fragile appearance at President Bush's inauguration in January ignited a fire-storm of debate that centered around who will replace Rehnquist when/if he retires during this off-season. Those discussions are now sideshows to the current media circus.

Within hours of O'Connor's announcement, interest groups such as Progress for America and People for the American Way started multi-million-dollar campaigns to get the public involved. But why?

The people, the voters, the common men and women with 9-to-5 jobs, two kids and a mortgage will not be debating O'Connor's replacement on the floor of Congress - church fellowship halls, office breakrooms, or small-town taverns, maybe. But, these "public" debates mean very little and most will be paraphrased material from the editorial and op-ed pages of the local newspaper. Americans will consume these opinions like the roast beef at a Golden Corral.

It's been more than a decade since the last Supreme Court justice was nominated to the bench. The last time the process made such waves was during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy. Outside of that, Americans know very little about how a justice is nominated and approved to sit on the nation's highest bench.

Eventually, when all the angles have been drawn and re-drawn, newspapers and cable news talk shows will start to look and sound like Cliffs Notes for American Law. Candidate backgrounds will be feature stories and weighed against public opinion polls surrounding hot-button issues such as abortion, the death penalty, federalism, and gay marriage. The public will be watching and reading, but what about the President? What about Congress who will vote to accept or deny a nomination?

Outside of the few political science courses I've taken, I know very little about the Court except, maybe, broad generalizations. Even, this, I wasn't aware of until I read the comments posted by ami1 and kilgore trout on Jay Rosen's PressThink.org blog circling the "liberal" Court of the '60s and '70s.

That Court and the current Court (before O'Connor's retirement) have a lot in common. Both symbolize the culture of the times. Vietnam, Woodstock, gender and racial equality; they all highlighted the '60s and '70s. Those years were progressively liberal. The current Court is as divided as our country; split along party lines.

Which comes first, public opinion or the opinions of the Supreme Court? With the nation so passionately divided, the debates on the Congress floor will be as heated as any we've ever seen. A nation so entertained by reality programming will see a new reality, one that could change everything it knows to be history. Freedoms and rights could be re-defined. Changes in religion and technology are on the horizon. There will be a battle in Washington this Summer and the media will find itself educating the public as well as entertaining it. Who will be the next American Idol?