Monday, October 22, 2007


Like most people, I am surrounded by media on a daily basis. What do I mean, daily...I should say on a secondly basis. I mean, even my blog is media. I get specific, tailor-made advertisements inserted by Google into every e-mail and search I do. I drive down the highway and get bombarded by billboards. Even Bi-State buses have ads for "Scrubs" on channel 46 (which I don't even get, for some reason, even with our new gigantic television, which is another source of media). A lot of people complain about this, which I think is hilarious.

Look, I know you don't always have a choice, but if you don't want to watch "Desperate Housewives" then don't watch it. Billboards and Bus ads are a little different, I don't want anyone driving with their eyes closed, but the fact remains that as a consumer of media you can choose which television stations and/or programs you watch, you choose what to read and what not to read (although it seems a lot of people choose not to read anything these days...thankfully if you're reading this, you're not in that group...see Annie's blog on Illiteracy andAlliteracy ), you choose which websites to visit, which radio stations to listen to, and so forth. So what is the problem? Why do people get so up in arms about something they find offensive in the media? Granted, I don't think that there should be graphic murders, hardcore sex and f-bombs being dropped on NBC, because let's face it, some things appeal to only so many people (although, it should say something that the annual profits for the pornographic film industry often trump those of the family film industry, yet we all hate it and want it to go away...there's a large swath of hypocrisy to make up for in there, or maybe a "Silent Majority" who love porn?), but if a show like "CSI" is too bloody for you, then don't watch it. If a show like "Desperate Housewives" is too racy for you, then don't watch it. If a show like "Arrested Development" is too smart for should still watch it, so those of us that like it can continue to enjoy it.

But I'm done with Arrested Development lamentations. It is gone. I own it on DVD. I can enjoy it whenever I want (provided my sister returns it). You can see the point I'm getting at. There is such a thing in this country as a Free Press, which is a misnomer now; because when this country was founded nobody could foresee radio, television, or the Internet. Clearly. But that's part of what makes the Constitution so awesome; it's completely open-ended and flexible and living. "Freedom of the Press" refers now to all media in general.

The term "press" obviously comes from the printing press, which was used to (just as the name suggests) print things. Newspapers, leaflets,flyers , books, magazines, whatever. Even copies of The Constitution. The word "Press" became synonymous with those who work for news organizations and other print media, so, when a person gave a news conference, it was called a "Press Conference." We still call it that sometimes, because the word "Press" means Journalists in general, be they print, web or broadcast. And “journalist” is a term that has broadened through the ages. Somebody writing a monthly "Do-It-Yourself" garden feature in Martha Stewart's magazine is a journalist now. But it's all freedom of the press.

There isn't anything that sparked this post, just a feeling I've been having lately. And having surrounded myself with media I am comfortable with, I feel enlightened.

For the record, I get my news through several sources. NPR, which I think is the best source for news. NBC Television, which has a liberal slant that I will admit to enjoying, but which I feel emphasizes a lot of bad news, with a token "Feel Good" story to sign off with. Google News, because it actually culls many sources so I can get Fox's conservative slant that I also enjoy just for the sheer hilarity of it sometimes, for all the sports news I could ever find useful, and Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists index. I know, I know...that is not news. But it's a take on the news, and the cartoonists Cagle has on his website cover the spectrum from left to right, so I can see what kind of opinions are being read in different publications. This has actually been a daily addiction now, and I am going to go ahead and link it up on my Clicks menu. You should check it out. If you have the time, the "Year in Review" section is worth a look, it goes back to 2002, and it's funny to look back on the events and think about them in terms of what's happening today. For example, I found one in 2005 that was a drawing of a building with a bomb falling on it. The building was labeled "Hilary Clinton For President 2008," with a text bubble coming from it that said, "What could possibly stop us?" The bomb was labeled "Barrack O-BOMB-A 2008!" And recently, there was a drawing ofObama standing in the middle of a circus ring with his head inside the mouth of a vicious lion that was, by any measure of lion behavior, about to bite down with undeniable pleasure.Obama was saying, "Nothing's going to stop me!" The lion was, of course, labeled "Hilary '08." Interesting how the times change, huh? There's a lot in the 2006 Year in Review about the Iraq Study Group's report, some portraying it as advocating a policy of cowardly retreat and surrender, and others depicting it as going in one of Bush's big ears and out the other.

But my favorite one that I've found so far was a drawing of Bush sitting in the oval office, reading a newspaper with a headline "False Intelligence Led to Iraq Quagmire" or something like that, and Bush (who is always drawn by his detractors with these humongous ears) is leaning back, his Pinocchio nose having pushed through the newspaper and towards the edge of the frame, and he says, "I hate the way cartoonists keep drawing my ears."

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. Don't like it, don't watch it. I am all for the regulation of certain content, and I believe the rating systems for television and film are adequate responses from the industries to public concerns, but "The Sopranos" being on HBO is not going to make your six year old want to go whack one of his classmates, and "Desperate Housewives" is not going to make your fourteen year old daughter obtain a false sense of morality; not if the parents govern what their children watch.

This almost got me going on the topic of parent/child relationships. That should be saved for another day, I suppose. Sufficed to say, if you have a child and you don't want them to be raised purely by their educators and the media, then take an interest yourself. Because the best educators a child has are his or her parents. If you neglect them, they will neglect whatever you have to say. I see the way my sister and her husband pay attention to their daughter, and I hope they never stop paying that much attention to her. They're beyond decent people, and I'm not just saying that because I'm related to them. If they care for their daughter the next seventeen and a half years with the same amount of devotion and love and caution they've given her the last (almost) six months, they'll have a wonderful daughter who will only be slightly corrupted into liking Star Trek, NPR and bicycling by her slightly off-the-wall uncle Elliot.

Okay...really...I am done. Except to say that today on NPR, on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, she spoke with David Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and current front man and founder of The Foo Fighters. I grew up listening to Nirvana, and when Dave Grohl emerged from Kurt Cobain's suicide with The Foo Fighters, it opened up a whole new world of music for me. I learned how to play guitar by reading the tab from The Foo Fighters' first album. I researched the lives of Foo Fighter band members William Goldsmith and Nate Mendel and through them found their old band Sunny Day Real Estate. I'd say musically, in my life, the most important album I ever bought was probably "The Colour and the Shape" by The Foo Fighters, which (to my shock and surprise) was just reissued for its Tenth (!!) anniversary over the summer.Grohl himself is actually very articulate, intelligent, and speaks of his time with Nirvana in a wistful yet somber tone. It's clear from listening to him that he owes a great deal of The Foo Fighters' initial success to his celebrity as Nirvana's drummer (and also to former Foo Fighters guitarist PatSmear's short tenure as Nirvana's rhythm guitarist on their final tour), but when you listen to their albums (with the possible exception of "There Is Nothing Left To Lose" which is quite possibly the worst Third Album ever made, yielding three good songs, all of which saturated airwaves and infected television shows for years), there is no denying that this quartet has earned their fame. Don't believe me? Listen to "Times Like These" on their fourth album "One By One" and tell me it's not an amazing song. I dare you. And neglect the fact that 'Dubya used it at his 2004 campaign rallies...Grohl was so furious, he began actively campaigning for Kerry.

Anyway, this is why I listen to NPR, because you get the news, and you get interviews with artists, musicians, writers, and pretty much a broad spectrum from all walks of life. Have you heard of "This I Believe?" You should check it out. Normal people like you and I have a chance to let our voices be heard. I have been working on an essay for "This I Believe" for a couple of years...I just want it to be perfect, you know? Actually, I haven't started writing it...just thinking about it. I think that's a good writing project for winter break.

One last thing before I sign off for the day; I have been asked by the Three Day Novel board (via mass e-mail, not anything special) if I will be participating inNaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is a month-long version of the Three Day Novel contest. I will respectfully decline this year, especially due to the fact that November is pretty much the meatiest part of the semester for me, and already jam packed full of birthdays and Thanksgiving, I just can't devote an entire month to writing a novel this year. And next year is my senior year...but 2009, I think I'll give it a try. I mean, if I can do it in three days, I can probably do it in a month, right? Yeah, just so long as I can make that my focus...

Alright, I've gone on long enough. Hope you all had a good Monday, have a great week, and check back tomorrow for a Tuesday Excerpt. I'll give you a little teaser, okay?

The last playwriting class assignment (due tomorrow) was to write a short play titled "The Confessions of _________." I am supposed to fill in the blank, obviously. It's supposed to have a horror theme, and include the line "I am not an animal! I am a human being!" And I am not supposed to write my name on it. We are supposed to guess. If somebody in my class does guess correctly, tomorrow evening you will see the entire play up here. If'll get something else entirely.


Annie said...

My parents didn't allow me to watch the Simpsons, My So Called Life, Real World, anything like that, while I was growing up. I don't think MTV was allowed until I was 16. When I was younger, I didn't get it and snuck television all the time at friends' houses. (I should mention that my entire family will now occassionally watch an episode of South Park together.)
A little while back I was watching an episode of the Simpson's and Homer was doing something dumb and Lisa said, "Dad. Are you drunk?" And I gasped! Like, literally gasped. (This is why one of my friends has dubbed me the ultra liberative/conserberal.) And the light bulb went off for me as to why my parents didn't let me watch the Simpsons when I was in grade school. Television shows make jokes and talk about 'adult' things like they are nothing! And parents don't pay enough attention to know that! My children will not be watching the Simpsons when they are elementary school, that's for sure!
However, I completely, 100% agree with you. People should be their own monitors. If you don't like something or don't want your children to see it, then it's as easy as not turning the television on. Get over yourselves! You are not going to monitor this for the masses and you are not going to change anything by complaining that Gabby Solis' dress on Desperate Housewives was too revealing. Ugh.

Molly said...

I'd be interested in a post on your views of parenting....

of course. :)

After reading your latest, I'm feeling pretty smug about the whole parenting thing.