Wabash Blogs Daniel King '10
 

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March 25, 2008

More Thoughts About the Media

Last time, I discussed how the 24-hour news network is destroying the fabric of our society... just kidding! The 24-hour news network isn't that harmful.

However, whoever is in charge of the major news network believes that the news happens by the hour. Thus, our lives are bombarded with minutia that is not relevant to anyone.

A few days later, I thought to myself. I can't leave the critique right there. So what, the news media isn't doing its job. Now what?

Well, I think my critique begs the question: What does it mean to be well-informed?

I can't answer that question directly. However, implied in my question is a sense of what it means to be ill-informed. We discussed that the news networks are not really informing people about anything. It seems that news networks are ill-informing with supremely irrelevant information.

Because we have a sense of what it means to be ill-informed, I think we are on the way to answering what does it mean to well-informed.

I tell you more when I learn what it really is.

 

March 23, 2008

Weekend in Atlanta

This weekend, I went to Atlanta to present the research I did last summer under Professor Lake. We flew down Friday, stayed all day Saturday, and left today. We actually didn't present until Saturday, but I had plenty of business to conduct before then... none of the business actually related to the presentation mind you.

I hooked up with a couple of friends of mine at Morehouse and Spelman College. They showed me a good time in Atlanta. We ate at the Chessecake Factory and then went to see Meet the Browns. It wasn't the most exciting weekend, but it still felt good to hang out with old friends... it felt just like high school again. 

When we finally presented our research on Saturday, we got a lot of positive feedback from the other scholars. They were really impressed that a undergraduate sophomore was conducting that level of research. They said our project was really significant and it was definitely Ph.D level work.

Obviously, that made me feel good. I had no idea that the work we did last summer was so important nor did I realize that it was PhD level work. I was thinking about pursuing other research projects this summer, but the positive feedback has encouraged me to stay on for another summer.

To cap off the weekend, I met Danny Glover. He was also speaking at the conference. I shook his hand and he was kind enough to take a picture with me. I was really impressed after hearing him speak. He's really intelligent. 

Overall, it was a pretty interesting Easter Weekend.

March 21, 2008

The Paintball Park

This past Sunday, Beta had a brotherhood event. We decided to go play paintball for the afternoon. Now this was my first time playing the game. I had no idea what to expect waking up that morning, nor was I sure how much the paint would hurt when you were shot. By the end of the day, I had so much fun playing. And I barely felt the paint when I was shot. The impact of being shot wasn't so bad... it was the shock that got me. Whenever I thought I was going to send a kill shot my opponent's way, I always seemed to get shot right in the chest. 

I played well until the final game of the day. It was upperclassmen vs. underclassmen. The upperclassmen annihilated us. It seemed like they took each of the freshmen and sophomore's out one by one until I was left all alone of the battlefield. I must have been shot like 30 times before I was able to surrender. They murdered me. It was that bad. There was no way I could even defend myself.

So I didn't end the day on a high note, but that shouldn't suggest I didn't have fun.

March 17, 2008

A Critique of the News Media

One of the more depressing things I've come to realize this year is that Americans are under the impression that important, or significant, news happens by the hour, day, or even week. If you really think about it, really important events only happen maybe once a month, or even once every few months.

If you watch CNN at all you, you will notice that "breaking news" is anything from JP Morgan's acquisition of Bear Stearns to Brittney Spears alleged reports of being molested as a child. I ask you, why are these two stories being juxtaposed with one another? Who decides that these stories are "breaking news?" For that matter, who has the authority to tell the American public what "breaking news" is, and why does that person have this authority? 

It seems that because somebody decides that "breaking news" happens by the hour, news reports are filled with minutia that ultimately do not benefit the American public. Are you honestly more informed that Elliot Spitzer patronized a prostitution service? How does this scrap of trivia benefit your life exactly? Or how do any of the hourly stories benefit you? 

For example, does the fact the news media reports that Obama may have had sexual relations with a man in 1999 affect the way you vote in November? For that matter, what about the stories run about Hillary, McCain, or Huckabee? Do most of these stories influence the way you vote and think about the presidential nominees?

It seems that all news programs, everything from CNN to the local news, is filled with supremely unimportant material that does not truly benefit anyone.

However, one may argue that local news reports important events to people in the city. For example, a local Wal-Mart may get robbed in the course of the night.

Although alarmingly, the robbery of a Wal-Mart is not important in the grand scheme of things. But the 5 o'clock news is full of stories just like these. Stories of rape, murder, abductions, bankruptcy, budget deficits, etc. Even to the uneducated masses, the news is depressing to watch.

And while the news is constantly reporting unimportant events, there is the issue of the local news' uncanny ability to pick truly ignorant people to interview. At least in the case of African Americans, the media always seems to have a knack a choosing the eye-witness who fails to use subject-verb agreement. I understand if the media wants to speak to the eye-witness to help flesh out their story, but the media DOES NOT have to put that person on the 5 o'clock news. Its representations of the public such as these that sustain stereotypes, especially of minorities such African Americans.

It seems the news media machine, local to national, is self-empowering. The "breaking news" that it reports is not always, or ever, advantageous to the American public; I suggest that the "breaking news" is almost always working toward the advantage of the news media. It seems that the "breaking news" functions to keep a perpetual sense of fear among Americans. Americans who live in fear of murders, rapes and abductions watch to news to learn more about the crimes as so they can remain safe.  The news functions not neccessarily to inform the public, but it functions to keep people watching.

Any solutions? 

Not many from me... I don't pretend to have the answers. It seems ludicrous to advice people to just stop watching the news altogether. Maybe, it would be better if the people got a great news magazine once a month. It would keep them informed on important events. But its only an idea.

March 12, 2008

All That Jazz

I'm back from spring break and in the final leg of the school year. Honors Scholar is this weekend and it is eating up a lot of my time. As a rush chair, I am one of the guys responsible for making sure the recruits are comfortable once they get to our house. This weekend is a big deal. We want to put our best foot forward for our guests.

On a different note, I have been trying to decide about what I want my next step to be in my career as a musician. Of late, I've been listening to a lot of jazz. I rented 2 documentaries about the history of jazz, and I watched them to learn more about the jazz greats. Jazz has always been an interest of mine, but I never had the time to give it much attention. In a year or so, I think I may begin saxophone lessons. I've done piano. I've done voice. I think it may be time to pick up a new instrument. 

But that's a whole year away before anything is to be decided. My tastes may change by then. What I really would like to do is to learn more about vocal jazz. I think that's where my passion really is. But the college's jazz band doesn't really focus too much on the vocals. The jazz band is really good for sax players, bass players, and pianists... I love to listen to them.

I guess I could try to join as a pianist, but I feel I have already done that. I want to experience something new.... So my compromise is to pick up the saxophone. 

March 07, 2008

After the Water Washed Away All Their Homes

If my life were a novel, I would say the next chapter was written this week. My trip to New Orleans has made me appreciate all that I have in my life. It has made me realize all that I hold dear. What’s most precious to me is not all my stuff… because apparently all that can wash away. I know its trite, but it really is the family and friendships that matter.

 

I was just walking around the Lower 9th Ward today, and I spoke with a woman at lengnth about how the Hurricane affected her. She said she lost everything. I mean everything from her clothes to her birth certificates. If hadn’t been for her daughter, she would have been homeless and starved to death. Can you imagine being in any situation like that?

 

I always knew New Orleans was hurting, but I had no idea about how broken it was. I mean, if you look at the whole city, there are whole neighborhoods that are abandoned. Hundreds and hundreds of houses that are empty or filled with abandoned clothes and furniture. I walked in the middle of the roads in the Lower 9th Ward and there was no traffic. There was no life. It was just empty.

 

However, I have a lady friend who attends school in New Orleans. She says that the Lower 9th Ward is not a true representation of the city. She argues that New Orleans is doing quite well. She said it’s just those one or two neighborhoods that are still in bad shape. She says, “It’s not as big of a deal as they want you to think.”

 

But I must disagree with her. There are too many empty neighborhoods for this “not to be a big deal.” Whole homes washed away! And its worse for those who couldn’t leave New Orleans. They had to stay in the FEMA trailers. I’m not saying the FEMA trailers are bad, but I couldn’t imagine while driving to my trailer, I had to pass a vacant lot where my house used to sit. It has to be unbearable!

 

As I talked with an elderly woman who lived in the Lower 9th Ward, she said the city of New Orleans doesn’t help out at all. She said a company called Roads Home gave the Katrina victims money to pay off their homes, but most had to use that check to start over. They needed money for clothes and food before they could worry about paying off their home. And once their home was paid off, their home was still destroyed! Roads Home only helped this woman pay off her destroyed house. No money to start rebuilding. She said that she had been living in an apartment in the city, and FEMA sometimes sent her a check… and sometimes they didn’t. She said that’s a scary feeling when FEMA “forgets” to send a check. This is an elderly woman who is dependent on her social security and FEMA check to survive.

 

Finally, I walked inside an abandoned elementary school. It was a powerful moment. Some of the kids’ artwork survive the Hurricane and was still hanging on the walls. What happen to these kids? What happen to these teachers? It was so eerie walking around this vacant school knowing that these kids should have been in class today.

 

They say New Orleans needs our help, but I think New Orleans needed to help me. It helped me see life can be bittersweet at times, but with family and friends, life can still taste as sweet as honey.

 

Check photo album of the school

 

Check just some more photos of us

March 02, 2008

A Special Treat...

So today we hit the road for New Orleans. We left campus at 6... so of course that meant I got out of bed at 5:37 am. You know, I'm just really not a morning person. But within those 23 minutes, I was able to brush my teeth, throw on some clothes, and make it to the van.

When we were on the road for a couple of hours, I looked at our driving instructions and saw we were going to drive right through Memphis. I got really excited, and I was actually able to talk Dr. Baer into stopping for lunch in my hometown.

This was a big deal. I had to call my mom and the rest of the family to let them know I was going to be in town for one hour for lunch. I knew it wasn't going to be a lot of time, but I was sure they could make it out to see me. And, of course they did!

I decided to take the guys to a really famous fried chicken restaurant called Gus's. One the sign they say they are "world famous," but I think that may be questionable. You know how people try to jazz up their business to try and draw in more customers. But that's really not that important. The important part was that all the guys said it was some of the best chicken they had ever eaten in their lives. I'm really glad the Gus's lived up to its "world famous" reputation.

The best part of my day was actually seeing my family. I'm only in Memphis two or three times a year, and it was definitely unexpected for me to be there today. Please check out some pictures I took while in Memphis.

Because we had such a good time at Gus's, I'm hoping Dr. Baer will let me take the group to a good BBQ restaurant on the way back to campus.

March 01, 2008

Spring Break... finally

Just want to say that I am officially on Spring Break. I'll be heading down to New Orleans early Sunday morning. Now, I'm just packing and doing some homework. I think its best if I work ahead. It'll make everything all the easier when I get back on campus next week.

I must apologize for the photo issue in my blog. I'm working to correct it now so all you guys can see my pictures. I working especially hard to fix the problem because I want to document this next week. I expect it will be a life changing experience.

I'll update really soon.