Archive for September, 2008

Could Virginia be getting smarter?
September 2, 2008

I had a discussion with 3 strangers in a bar about how America was smart inside the beltway but the reason that candidates could get elected with catchphrases and by spending a lot of money on advertising was because a lot of Middle America is stupid.

One woman said, “no, Middle America isn’t dumb, that’s just what they want you to believe” and another patron who grew up in Missourri, said that, no, the people there are considerably less informed.

This got me to thinking as to which states were less informed than other states. Some people often say that Virginia is somewhat of a different animal out of the beltway. The common perception is that the two of us are crammed together in less than desirable circumstances and it results in the rest of Virginia having their say in political matters. The result is uninformed decisions such as voting not to raise the gas tax or supporting tobacco companies, or voting overwhelmingly conservative on presidential candidates (I’m not saying that a conservative candidate can’t be a good idea, but we’ve done it going back to the ’80s, even when bad candidates come along). People from towns in southern Virginia like Lynchburg and even Charlottesville have told me that racism that still exists in a subdued manner in the deep south today still exists in some parts of Virginia, as well. 

I wonder if this will be changing in the near future. Consider that the vast majority of people in my generation from Virginia high schools went to college. I’ve now attended three in-state schools in Virginia and people come from all over the state. Also consider that schools like Mary Washington and James Madison have very active diversity outreach programs, AND that George Mason is itself very diverse. I don’t know about UVA, however. I had a roommate at JMU who got into UVA but turned it down because she has heard reports of racism there (although, to be fair, it was mostly from her mom). What’s more, Virginia has some of the best public colleges in the country.

So I think the future is going to look up for the next generation of Virginians.

Why I love the Print Media
September 2, 2008

I have a confession to make: Even though I find it rewarding that these words are transmitted to the internet to a mass audience, my dream would be if these words could be written and transmitted to you via the print media. The print media is losing out to the world of blogs and other forms of internet writing. I would gladly stop writing anything on the internet, if it could help save print media. I think people in my generation probably grew up with print media and hoped of one day joining it are slightly scared to death about its lack of potential to remain viable as the internet takes over.

So here’s why I still love newspapers:

1. Selectivity-I like to know that the people who are writing what I’m reading are all specifically trained to write and have acheived the highest echelon of the world of journalism (i.e. The Washington Post) through experience. I kind of see the upside of everyone being a journalist through web 2.0, but then again that sort of makes no one a journalist (like that guy in the film “The Incredibles” who threatens to end the superhero profession by making everyone a superhero). Well, I still like the idea of journalists out there, and I think that there should be devices out there that seperate the men from the boys. I think there should be a gate keeper of some sort, and I don’t believe there was ever much of an unjust barrier of entry to the print media industry to begin with. If you are a good enough writer and have had enough experience, you will make it. I believe all Web 2.0’s blogging revolution does is empower the inexperienced and less able.

2. Not a second wasted searching-I don’t have to wait a second weeding results through a google search to find pertinent or relevant information. The newspaper divides it up quite nicely into sports, style, metro, international, and national news. And you always know where to find everything. 

3. Not too much information, not too little information-I don’t want a humongous expose on the state of basketball, nor do i want short sentences littered with pictures, i know what to expect and the newspaper’s articles are geared towards stories that you can read within the time your attention span maintains its interest.

4. Knowing what to expect every week-I know that Friday will be movie reviews, Wednesday will be TV ratings right-ups, Sunday will be a style contests, Saturday will be political cartoons. You can also attach yourself to writers like Dana Milbank, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon and see what new they have to say. Now blogs and website have options where you can subscribe to new posts so I would call this an improvement

5. Mobility-I imagine that with power outages, the monthly costs of cable, connection problems that frequently plague computers, that noone can be completely dependent on the internet today and get that information wherever they go. The newspaper is great to read on the bus, while you’re at a restaraunt, in the park, etc.  It sort of ruins the mood if you’re in the middle of a park and logging onto your laptop.

6. Not looking at a screen-Going along with the mobility reasoning, as the internet becomes more and more prevalent in our lives, we are looking at a screen more often while sitting still. For the sake of the health of your eyes and legs, it is useful not to spend too much time in front of a screen. Now more than ever, as much as I like what the computer and internet can do for me, I see anytime I can spend away from a screen as a good thing for balance’s seek

7. I’m promoting a good cause-If I believe that the existence of professional journalists is a good thing (although some of you might disagree), then it’s good to support the newspaper with a mere 50 cents a day, which is one of the best bargains around in terms of entertainment value.

The Maryland state fair vs. a Midwestern state fair
September 2, 2008

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve attempted to visit three state fairs (Indiana, Minnesota, and Maryland) and successfully made it to two of them (didn’t catch the Indiana State Fair, they closed an hour early the day I arrived). To put this in context, I was recently on a road trip where I passed through Indiana and Minnesota. I was motivated to see the Minnesota state fair because I missed the Indiana State Fair and I saw the Maryland State Fair because I read about it in the events section of the in-flight magazine en route to D.C. The state fairs of Midwestern states tend to be legendary for their scale, pride, and granduer and while the Minnesota state fair was considerably larger and had more of everything, I found the Maryland and Minnesota state fairs to be surprisingly similar.

                The two main centerpieces are the same: The amusement park rides and the livestock competitions. In a more compact space than its Midwestern counterpart, the Maryland State Fair has a variety of fun houses, scramblers, ferris wheels. Most of the rides are aimed at children but there are a decent number, including the Starship 4000, the Ex-Treme pendulum scrambler and the Supershot free-fall tower, that are pretty thrilling for adults and for $20 (or $15 with a coupon from Food Lion) one can have a pass to ride them all day.

                The latter part, livestock competitions, is something city folk like me don’t see every day, is an interesting look at a different subculture. This might not sound as interesting as it looks, but state fair spokeswoman Edie Bernier says that the livestock competiions are usually packed houses, and part of the crowds are people who had no idea what they were getting into.

                “Many of us are four or five generations away from our ancestors who farmed so we’re not very familiar with animal productivity, so it’s very interesting and educational subject,” said Bernier. “When you first walk in there and youv’e never seen it and you say ‘what it this’ and then once they see it, they find it’s very interesting.”

                At both fairs, there ware exhibitors, public information booths giving away freebies, evening entertainment, a natural resources exhibit, games, newscasts (as in a chance to interact with local news personalities, watch the news be broadcast, potentially be on the news, etc.), and the chance to eat American-strangely-exotic foods in on-a-stick form. U

                Some of this stuff might sound like a wierd way to spend a weekend, but there’s a certain magic to the State Fair that tends to bring out the inner child in you. When we were in the Minnesota state fair, for example, my brother-in-law came up to me when I met him for lunch and enthusiastically told me that he was going to take advantage of the $.99 “all-you-can-drink-in-a-minute” milk booth. Of course, being a steadily employed 28-year old, he could just go to the store, buy a gallon of milk, and drink as much of it as he wanted, but it’s within the confines of the state fair’s walls, that the everyday and weird tends to become that much more fun.

                The Maryland State Fair will still be open until Labor Day and is very accessible to Washingtonians. Without a car, one can take the Marc or Amtrak trains to Baltimore (leaving several times a day) followed by a short trip on the lightrail to the fair grounds in Timonium. The fair is open from 10 am to 10 pm and is only $8 for admission for adults.