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October 28, 2008

Business as usual

Oh crap, business articles!

I'm guessing The Economist probably has some of those. Probably. The article I found, and proof of my procrastination, is about the collapse of the Japanese stock market. It immediately started talking about cross-shareholding as unique to the Japanese financial culture, and I was immediately confused. AS USUAL. I know I hammer on about my financial ignorance a lot, but really, I can't help it. Not only is this about the stock market, but it is about a stock market not exactly like the one I'm used to hearing about. The problem is when I hear words like "capital," they act more as abstract concepts instead of anything I could grasp. What I did notice in the article is that there are obvious parallels between this crisis and our own, as the government is getting involved by pumping money into some of the shares, which was interesting to me. In regards to business writing, I didn't notice anything too unusual from "regular" writing except that it maybe expects more from it's audience as it can't be concerned with explaining concepts every article to people like me. And thus the cycle continues.

Looking for a business article that I could possibly wrap my little brain around, I headed on over to the New York Times. I found a pretty interesting and equally terrifying one on declining newspaper circulation numbers. It was another five percent this spring from the one before it. Even more depressing, USA Today was one of two to actually going up, suggesting that in troubled times, Americans like colored pie charts. The article at first just addresses some of the facts, and then goes later into an analysis of why circulation is down and how news organizations are trying to combat it. One point I thought was interesting was that by reducing the amount of coverage in newspapers (mainly due to financial problems) and focusing on online news, they are inviting people to quit reading papers. I feel like it could be a valid point, but I don't really see how it could be put into practice without the money or without the understanding that modern audiences like interactive multi-media news sources. I guess what that theory implies is that there should be more content in the papers to make people want to read, but considering they have to be published everyday, I don't see how one could expect the Pioneer Press to turn into The Atlantic.

Finally, I went to the Hollywood Reporter to calm my frazzled nerves. The article I read was about the possibility that the bad economy is leading television networks to be more forgiving with the proverbial cancellation ax. They cite the full season pick-ups of new-ish programs as golden as "Knight Rider" and "Private Practice" which have rating low enough that they would have been canceled any other year. The article suggests that the networks are being a bit more cautious and thrifty and investing more time in things that they have already paid for. Yanking a show that has produced 13 episodes already while only airing 4 is wasteful. Instead, they are going allow some shows more time than usual in the hopes they can find audiences and that they as networks can save money on shows who have already been invested in. If this saves my beloved, yet crucially low rated "Pushing Daisies," I will actually take delight in the economy dying. Because I'm selfish. Every week the show makes me so happy with its sweetness and clever humor that I want to hug everyone I see for about an hour after. With a reaction that strong, I'm afraid of what I will do when it gets taken from me. Regardless, I thought this was a neat article because it showed how the large economy fiasco can cause less important things to suffer and adapt as well.

This really isn't my forte.

October 20, 2008

Everyone's a critic

First can I say how much I am loving this Michelle Bachmann controversy? Yes? Thank you. It's wonderful! Hysterical! I couldn't ask for better. Minnesota is just getting weirder and equally diverse when it comes to politics. We were the lone vote for Mondale back in the day, we elected a former wrestler and Z-list actor for governer, are potentially going to elect a well-known comedian and author to senate, and nearby districts have elected candidates as progressive as Keith Ellison while also electing polar opposite Michelle Bachman who probably questions if Ellison should even be allowed to be a part of government let alone the United States. It's bananas and I don't know if I should be ashamed or amused.

So obviously I went looking for opinion pieces on all the crazy shenanigans. I went to the Star Tribune's Nick Coleman for my first source to keep the topic local despite it's national status (Powell's involved!) I guess my first thought about Coleman's writing is that I think it is a welcome change to read something that essentially acts as news, but also has personality. I'm not saying I think this should replace "actual" news as it isn't objective, but there is still a lot of information in the article while also having enough flavor to pack an extra punch. On a personal note, I've had some hesitations in the class so far, as I get a little nervous about being held prisoner by the rules of journalism. That isn't to say I don't respect of understand them, but I can't help but want to inject myself in everything I write. Obviously my writing needs more discipline and work, but I tend to only enjoy my writing when there gets to be some panache or humor in it. Editorial writing appeals to me because it does allow writers to be personal while also delivering information of valuable use. Maybe I'm meant for the blogging age. Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit. Maybe I'm annoying you right now. Who knows.

Besides my identity crisis, I enjoyed the article. It didn't say anything I didn't expect (Bachmann should just keep her mouth shut? Really!?) but it read well and kept my attention and Coleman didn't become too much of an attack dog in a way that tends to make me disagree with statements I agree with just because I'm annoyed at the over the top lashing of the writer. I would have liked a little more emphasis on the national aspect of Bachmann's remarks and what they say about the way McCain is running his campaign in it's last moments. Or maybe I would have liked a word about the tendency that many Minnesota Republicans like Bachmann, Pawlenty and Norm Coleman have to become eager mouthpieces for all the Republican big-boys. Whatever, it was fine.

To prove I like being in a rut, I went to the Washington Post for a national editorial piece. What I found was a wonderful piece by Richard Cohen about how the tonal shift of the Republican party has changed from this election from the last. The article made me realize, as much as I had been opposed to almost everything Bush stood for in 2004, I didn't quite remember the mood being so nasty as it is now. Of course there were still attacks on candidates and those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were pretty vile, but as the piece says, Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, which is much different than McCain. However dubious Bush's platform may have been, it does illuminate a stark difference in campaigns. Bush, bless his heart (?), probably did think he had the best interest of little Iraqi children at heart when he pushed forward with the war. McCain, in a move of desperation, is making his campaign almost-retro in it's fear of the unknown or fear of the outsider. That more people aren't calling it racist is beyond me. Perhaps I like throwing that card around too much. The whole tone is anti-immigrant, and shockingly eager to paint Obama as a threat to America for reasons that go beyond economic plans. The McCain-Palin campaign has stood by and allowed rallies to get out of control as crowds basically incite wannabe lynch mobs. Every time someone calls Obama a terrorist, McCain turns a blind eye, not directly taking a part in what's being said, but certainly not doing anything to stop it. Cohen knows most Americans are smart enough to see through it, and he understands the crucial mistake McCain is making as he continues to antagonize a lot of the minorities that Bush admittedly won over. The days of a naively optimistic president are over. If McCain takes office, we'll have one with absolutely no regard to uniting a country in any way shape or form. With Bush it may have been imaginary, but at least it was intended. McCain is all about inciting fear of the unknown back into America. Our buddy Strom Thurmond is looking up and smiling.

I wanted something lighter for the last article, and I found it at the Chicago Tribune's website. Columnist Steve Dahl's piece is on how he doesn't like Halloween. I was drawn to this because the old grumpus ranting about something insignificant has always been a favorite genre of mine. This was a feeling that peaked when I saw a 60 Minutes Andy Rooney segment where he honestly complained about fans sending him presents that they thought would help him. It was 5 minutes of Rooney telling his fans how he hates them essentially. I swear I'd never been happier, and it was one of the first times where I was able to pay attention to one of his segments rather than being distracted by his eyebrows which might as well just be wings for all I know.

Costumes are too expensive! Candy is too expensive! I don't like getting out of my chair to answer the door! Remember pagans? And what's this about dressing up dogs?
Annoyed yet? I wasn't. And that's why I was mad that Dahl actually tried to get a message going on at the end. The moral of our little story was that Halloween isn't that scary compared to what's going on in the world right now. Yeah, I know, I didn't see it coming either. We have Dahl realizing that after years of terror watches and airport security, there is nothing too terrifying about a few rotten eggs and that maybe, just maybe, he'll dress up his black lab as a skeleton. Well I sure learned a lot. So why do I love it so much? The point is=upset people of a certain age are hilarious when I am not dealing with them on the phone at work. I've seen better, usually dealing with technology problems of some sort, but I can't make like my heroes and complain just yet.

October 6, 2008

Biden VS Palin

I work as a telemarketer for the University of Minnesota Foundation. I didn't work Thursday, but I got a text message from a co-worker that said they were let out early because of the debates. It's not that our boss just wanted us to watch them, it was just that the majority of people answering the phone were saying they weren't interested in talking because they were too busy watching the debates. I'm mentioning this because I worked during the first Obama-McCain debate, and I only had a few people on the phone who mentioned they were busy watching. We did not get to go home early that night, nor or we expected to get to go home early tomorrow night. Obviously, people were excited for this one more than they were the others, and while that might seems a tad upsetting, it's not everyday politics gets a character (and I use that word purposely) like Sarah Palin.

The New York Times had a wrap up of the debates immediately after, choosing to highlight the different mannerisms that each used to convey their messages. Palins "aw shucks" demeanor seemed to get the most attention over her content (as I said, she's a character, not a politician) and as disappointing as it is to say, it worked pretty well. I've never hid my discomfort with Palin, but I could not help but chuckling at some of the goofy stunts she pulled. The "Say it ain't so Joe" forced a quick grin out of me, and even the winking didn't upset me as much as it should have. Is it possible to dislike a woman who stands against most things I believe in while also secretly finding her earnestly amusing? I become afraid to think that if these quirks are even seeping into my perception of her, what are they doing to the undecided voters that the media insists are everywhere? That's kind of what this article from the NY Times addresses...Biden schooled Palin where it counted. No one on the message board is saying the debates made them decided on McCain, but more than a few said they knew 100 percent they were voting Obama. She survived, better than expected, but she didn't really excel either. And maybe any secret joy I get from Palin just has to do with Tina Fey. I'm beginning to scare myself.

I, like so many mid-westerners, like to complain about L.A. being shallow and vapid, so I checked out the LA Times to see if their coverage skewed at all towards celebrity journalism. Instead I found a pretty interesting article that attacked the news networks for the coverage of the debates. It mentions how most pundits set the bar so low for Sarah Palin, that it was insulting to the public watching. What I mean by this is how when the smoke cleared, the media acted as if Palin had won merely because she survived. Biden was still the one who actually stayed on the subjects that were asked of them. Palin strayed and avoided topics. It was clear to see. But because she was the star attraction and because we had all expected so little, it was almost like she had pulled off a win simply because she didn't pull anything near Katie Couric levels of catastrophe. Personally, I kept flipping around to channels hoping to find someone who wasn't pissing me off, but all anyone could talk about was how well Palin did "all things considered." As the article says, "In the end, perhaps the most memorable aspect of the debate was the look of confusion on the face of the network commentators after the debate they had spent days rattling on about failed to materialize." They were clearly disappointed she didn't embarrass herself, but at the same time, they still gave her to much credit. Maybe I'm naive thinking Palin wouldn't want to be handled with kid gloves because she's a woman, but geez, I wish it was that easy for me to appease my professors and parents.

Finally, I went for an international perspective at BBC. I don't exactly view the UK as impartial when it comes to reporting any type of world news like some claim they are, but I have to admit it was nice to read an article that recapped the debates in a way that was nearly free of editorializing or one that didn't spend 90 percent of the words focused on how all eyes were all Palin. This is what I would have liked to read had I not actually seen the debate myself. Quotes are clear, facts are checked, and issues are mentioned in depth. It may not be that much fun, but it's calm and collected, which no one seems to be able to be anymore now that the election resembles a three ring circus more than it does "politics as usual." I'm kind of sad there isn't another VP debate, one that could be more focused on what actually happened rather than on how everyone was holding their breath. Still I liked it better than in 2004 when I was shocked to see that Edward's charm could somehow be defeated by evil incarnate.