Monday, June 25, 2007


1) Could someone please circulate a memo throughout the major media outlets to convince everyone to simultaneously stop covering anything related to Paris Hilton? If they all do it at the same time, no one needs to be concerned about losing out in the ratings. Would an outlet that continues to provide coverage of that vapid whore actually gain ground in the ratings? Unfortunately, it wouldn't surprise me if they did. That said, the news is not entertainment. That is, it is not the news' duty to provide us with what we want to watch, but with what we need in order to be informed citizens in a participatory democracy. The dissolution of the wall between the public service and the business of news, however, has led to the stag hunt (in a Rousseauian sense) that is the modern media environment, producing this constant evolution toward the lowest common denominator, nevertheless to the demise of informed citizenry.

2) Who are the stubborn idiots responsible for the Travelocity marketing campaign with the "travel gnome"? Someone got paid for that, which is almost as much of a travesty as 50 Cent and Sum 41 getting paid for what they do. The gnome is not now, nor has it ever been funny, yet it has been around for years, or so it seems. Not only is it unfunny and uninformative, but it's flat out annoying due to just how terribly it misses in its attempts at humor, to the point where I (and surely others) actively avoid the company's services as retaliation against their marketing ineptitude. Could someone please present the company with a better idea? It wouldn't be that hard. Please. I would be more than happy to grovel on my hands and knees if it were guaranteed to produce change and prevent me from having to sit through another 30 second gnome-filled spot.

3) The whole paradigm of speed enforcement is due for a shift. Granted, I may be saying this in part because I've received two speeding tickets in the last month, which is not at all a good thing, but that doesn't detract from the fact that there really is a major logical problem with the way speed is enforced: the slippery slope. Is 66mph really that much of a risk in a 60mph zone that it merits punishment, whereas 65mph is to be considered safe and not suitable for punishment? Does a police officer cruising at 75mph in a 70mph zone really have the right to punish someone else driving at 78mph in the same area, even though they are both in clear violation of the written law? I would argue that the officer does not possess the right to pass that judgment; 71mph is as guilty as 72 mph is as guilty as 73mph, etc etc. The law does not recognize gradations of guilt when it comes to speed enforcement, only gradations of punishment, and the guilty have no right to judge the guilty. It would be much more satisfactory for the state to simply acknowledge whatever speed they are willing to tolerate as a maximum, and to clearly state it in what would be a true speed limit: anyone exceeding this limit, which would be higher than current limits (since it is clear that the state is willing to tolerate a speed higher than any posted speed limit, since no one gets pulled over for exceeding present speed limits by 5mph), would be pulled over and ticketed, with exceptions only in emergencies. The clarity of the law would evoke a greater respect for law and its agents of enforcement, as guilt is no longer subjective. Removing subjectivity from guilt goes further to eliminate room for discrimination, which lessens possible tension between officer and citizen, not to mention it lends a sense of predictability to enforcement. The speeds mentioned in this email, by the way, are not at all the speeds involved in my recent violations.

4) Come see me in Chicago in the coming years. The University of Chicago is officially my final destination for medical school, after they lured me in with a very generous financial aid package and a few smiles. Of course, I'm not complaining; I like smiles.

Currently listening to: "Cemetery Gates" by Pantera
Previous activity: Filling out an application for an apartment in Hyde Park
Next thing on the agenda: Perhaps some din-din and reading

Sunday, June 03, 2007

May we all be so lucky

(Ger)Trude trimmed her hedges herself on Wednesday evening, with Memorial Day a recent memory and her 90th birthday approaching. It was as if she was putting things in order, preparing for her departure. That night she went to bed for one deep and final rest. May we all be so lucky.

Trude was my Great Aunt, and, while seeing her was not an uncommon thing as a resident of the same tiny town, I can't say I knew her by anything more than her name, our relation, and the distant but unwaveringly kind and caring demeanor characterizing her and most elderly women I've known. The details of her life story remain unpopulated in the version I hold, and, as such, the funeral was not an exceptionally emotional event. Naturally, I intend that to be understood with no disrespect and with full understanding that she, for all I have known, truly was a great woman. That said, funerals are a funny thing for those of us with an outlook hosting a belief in some wonderful afterlife rewarding a good and loving life on earth, perhaps known as Heaven. If someone with such a worldview--or, otherworldlyview--cries at a funeral, or is struck with pangs of sadness, from where can those tears be said to be falling? If it is believed that the deceased did indeed live a good and loving life, then it follows that it is believed that the deceased will enjoy their just reward after death. If this is believed, then certainly those tears cannot be shed for the deceased, even if one feels that the deceased was unable to accomplish on earth all that they intended.

What, then, is left? Tears falling in response to a reflection of one's own mortality; for the reminder of the interminably ticking clock that may prevent us from achieving all that we, ourselves, are setting out to do; selfish tears shed for the hardships that may befall us due to the death of a loved one; selfless tears of concern shed for the fear of another's emotional or physical capacity to sustain themselves through the death and mourning of their loved one; or, perhaps the most compelling: tears of frustration and shame at all that we, in our pride or fear or embarrassment, allowed to go unsaid before another's ticking clock reached its final second. Looking around at a funeral, it's pointless to speculate as to what may be the genesis of anyone's tears. We would, of course, never know.

As for the final possibility enumerated, it is interesting that the feelings that merit the greatest eloquence are the same feelings that are commonly expressed in the least eloquent way imaginable. Everyone has trouble conveying how they feel to someone they truly care about. So often when we must express ourselves as powerfully, as eloquently, and as urgently as we can, we turn to writing; we write down our feelings rather than speaking them directly to whomever we must express ourselves. We don't feel the requisite level of comfort with our emotions to verbalize them to a person's face; rather, we so often seek the shield of time by expressing ourselves in a way in which we can edit our emotions: the letter. No one except the writer knows of the mistakes and moments of imperfection in its production, and only a final product that has met the satisfaction of the writer is delivered, unlike in speech where every mistake and imperfection is immediately known to the person to whom we are speaking. Everyone should train themselves to speak with greater precision and confidence--confidence, rather than false pride, fear, or embarrassment. Yet, simultaneously, perhaps in matters of the heart, the mistakes and imperfections of the spoken thought are exceedingly valuable and telling, and, therefore, worth speaking. It could go either way.

Currently listening to: "House Gone Up in Flames" by The Nightwatchman
Previous activity: Watching some C-SPAN
Next thing on the agenda: Reading the ol' book, The Man Without Qualities