A Real Cool Hand

I'm Craig Sturgis and this is a web site.


I’m writing this post from the Charlotte airport, yes on my computer.  I have decided during my barely week-long sojourn to my parents’ house in Hilton Head Island, SC to take a shot at doing something in the way of “disconnecting” completely from the very internet focused and ultra connected lifestyle I lead.

This has been a popular concept recently but I’m not sure how many people actually try it or even succeed, but I like to think I’m adventurous on occasion. I’ve also felt more easily stressed or exasperated or quick to be cynical lately, so I figure a break can’t hurt.

Now, writing about a disconnect from a near brand new tiny laptop may have a tinge of hypocrisy to it, but one big reason I still brought my computer is I want to take a chance to jumpstart my writing again.

I joke often that the internet and the way I consume media and electronic interaction most of the time has ruined my attention span, but I worry about that statement being truer than I’d like to admit.  Whenever I have ideas that would make for a good subject to write about, I often get distracted and that idea or perspective either gets lost completely or simplified enough to fit into 140 characters, which often times can’t do it justice.

So here goes, I’m not sure I will live up to the goal of this week, but I’m hoping to get through at least a book or three and through multiple written posts, and never intentionally open either my work or personal email or any social media apps on my phone. I’m also idealistic enough to hope that this will kickstart my long form reading and writing habits again despite past evidence to the contrary.  But, as I like to end blog posts with: while I breathe, I hope.


Recently at my company we’ve gone through a process of having the fine people at Miles Design create branding for us and redesign our website among other things.  They’ve done an outstanding job, but as part of that all of the employees got professional photos taken for the website, promo materials, etc.

I’ve very rarely had to wear makeup in my life, but they brought in a makeup artist to make us all as pretty as possible.  We were all a little out of our element.

I didn’t make the final cut on the website but they did give me my picture to use as a LinkedIn photo. As my friend Jim noticed, it’s a dead ringer for an eHarmony ad:

I tend to agree with him, heh. Just need to be hugging a laughing lady, or something along those lines.  But, if I ever need to audition for something, I’ve got one thing covered.


Your friendly neighborhood non-threatening guy

Regarding #18 and T.J.

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

Today sucks. I’m not going to rhapsodize about Peyton Manning’s time in Indianapolis, or angrily vent or try to be the voice of reason, or wonder why we care so much about a silly thing like sports here, although I have been doing all of those things since the writing on the wall became a reality last night.  I’ll leave that for other people.

I want to talk my about old family dog.

T.J. was a black lab.  We got him from a pet store (we didn’t know better at the time) when I was very young, before my younger brother was born. I remember he was tiny when we got him, but that didn’t last long.  He was an outstanding dog- super energetic, gentle with little kids, and was PUT ON THIS EARTH to go get a ball or a stick that anyone threw for him.  He chewed up a bunch of basement furniture, but those are the breaks with a lab puppy.

As the years passed and T.J. got older, my family went through a bit of a rough patch.  I don’t remember the exact circumstances but my Dad’s business had fallen on hard times or was already gone, and he wasn’t able to be home much. My sister and I had lots of extracurricular activities, my brother was still a very young kid, and my Mom had to make sure everybody was taken care of plus do her job. We weren’t able to take the dog down to the park and let him off the leash or walk him as much, and he wasn’t getting enough exercise- he was still a great dog and we loved him, but we weren’t able to give him everything he needed.

Eventually, we had to make a hard decision.  My Mom’s coworker and friend lived out on a huge piece of property and had a big pack of dogs that got to roam around it freely, and she offered to take care of him.  When we first took him out there, he sprinted in big wide circles for a full 20 minutes, and he was ecstatic to be around other dogs.  After lots of deliberation, we took him back and this time left without him.

T.J. lived several more years on that farm, happy. We visited many times, and being there was the best thing for him, even though it hurt to leave him there. A year or two after he died we were able to get another dog (I named him Reggie after some other athlete) from the humane society and give him all the attention he deserved. Letting my dog go live on that farm was the right move thanks to a series of bad external circumstances, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t cry over it. I missed my dog, damn it. Still do.

It may seem ridiculous, but I’m feeling a very similar string of emotions today1. Godspeed 18.

  1. The whole event really was the impetus for reexamining why I care so much about sports, and then realizing I don’t really. I love going to games and watching sports, but I really have let go of a lot of the obsession. It also hasn’t hurt that ESPN has attempting to Skip Bayless their way to ruining everyone’s enjoyment of sports. Thankfully they also let Grantland and now 538 do their own thing. (08/2013)

Human Body as Machine

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

I miss it.

It’s been over ten years since I’ve felt it really, but it’s one of those things that’s impossible to forget.  If you listen to Radiolab (and you should, it’s an incredibly interesting show) it talks about how your mind can play tricks on you to completely jumble your memories, but this isn’t a memory of a feeling so much as it was a personal event.

Other people besides distance runners or endurance athletes probably experience this, maybe not for the same length of time, but the feeling I’m talking about is a sense of complete focus- where you are completely in tune with your entire body and yet oblivious to all individual stimuli from your body and even externally for the most part.  Every muscle, every tendon, every synapse firing in your brain is part of one single completely efficient machine at maximum output.  Countless years of evolution resulted in a system that you are for a brief moment using to its full potential.  You should feel pain, you should feel exhaustion, but it all melts away thanks to the sheer exhilaration of reaching your absolute apex.  I used to call it “the zone” but that seems to cheapen it into some SportsCenter cliché.

This happened to me only a handful of times, not even always in competitive events.  I was never the fastest man on our team, but after those particular experiences it didn’t matter.  I was able to somehow find the key- by accident or otherwise- to being my absolute best.  To stop overthinking what I was doing specifically and just go.

Since that time I’ve taken up running again in fits and starts.  I even blogged about it at least once back in my myspace days.  I’ve completed road races here and there, even two half marathons.  I’m training for my third right now.  I am still much, much slower than I used to be. I’ve never reached what I would consider “in shape.”  I’ve certainly not approached anything even close to ‘the body as machine’ experience I remember.  I may never get there again.

I did, however, take aim at a bucket list entry in signing up for the Chicago marathon.  The big one.  26.21.  I’ve always said I’ve wanted to do it once, now it’s time to put up or shut up. People who know tell me it’s a whole different animal from 13.1 and I believe them. I’m probably in for a whole lot of pain and suffering.  But, if training for it and completing it puts me anywhere closer experiencing what I remember, it’ll be worth it twice over.

2011 is going to be a year of big challenges and changes for me. But, the time for coasting is over, time to dime the amp.  Bring it on.

  1. I never did run the Chicago marathon that year, I tore a muscle in my leg a few weeks before the race. I did however go on to just barely complete a full marathon in November 2012. (08/2013)

Resolutions Are for Jerks

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

Mr James Brown Jr got me thinking earlier today with his “post super bowl resolutions” he posted.  Normally I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I like more random resolutions- I feel like they stick better, so here are a few:

1) Try to be a nicer dude. It seems to me I lose my patience a lot more easily than I used to these days. We all have our bad moments and February weather certainly doesn’t help even if you’re not the type to get seasonal affective disorder, but if I’ve been a jerk to or around you in the past- I’m sorry and I’m going to try and do better.

2) Dial back some cynicism.  Conan’s final words on his Tonight show got me thinking about this, and while I consider myself a realist I’m going to try and see things as they are but try and lose some of the edge I tend to have.  Something that really bothers me about the social networking sharing craze is it does highlight just how negative a lot of people let themselves be, and I’d rather try to be positive.

3) Get better at staying focused.  It seems like I used to be able to keep focused on even the silliest tasks.  I used to get a kick out of being really fast at restocking the shelves when I worked at hollywood video, and I don’t seem to have the ability to hunker down quite like I once did.  I let myself get distracted too easily, and I need to improve on that whether it’s at work or in my mini training or in practicing music or knocking the rust off of my blog or whatever.

Anyhow, this is not fishing for compliments or anything I’m looking for a big response on, just something I wanted to share that called for something longer than a twitter post or facebook status.  If I’m doing something against the spirit or the letter of the above feel free to call me on it, I’m just some jerk trying to make it in this world.

(P.S. watch Chuck1, it’s an entertaining throw away show and however cheesy it may seem watching it makes me want to be a nicer person almost every episode, it contributed to #1, ha.)

  1. Chuck really was a great show, even if they had a hard time ending it well. I would still recommend catching the series. (08/2013)

Classic Hits – I’m Your Huckleberry

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

“Classic hits” is an attempt to consolidate all my internet written content, and also to revisit it from the present.

One of my original stream of consciousness updates, this one from December of 2003.  My musings on longing a bit for the real world are funny now given I would kill for 3 weeks off for Christmas even if I had to work 100 hours next week, but hey the grass is always greener.  Sometimes I think I’d like to go back to school full time, but those thoughts are fleeting.

The mention of my astronomy class is a funny memory, because somehow my lab group ended up being me and three girls, and I ended up just doing all the lab work and then explaining it to them.1  All three were nice- one of them was attractive, another was extremely attractive, and was the subject of another throwaway comment, but she gave me the laugh and the arm touch I ended up commenting on in another entry.  If only I could have developed some more self confidence earlier in my life, ha.  C’est la vie.  I probably wouldn’t even recognize her face if I saw her today anyhow.  The mention of the discrete math is a less funny memory, as that class mostly sucked.

Snoop style izzle speak has mostly disappeared in the intervening 5 years, aside from the occasional extremely lame dad or over-ironic hipster.  The original image that was there was the photoshopped weather map with every word ending in izzle.  It’s decidedly less funny now, heh.

I’m your huckleberry

Yes, folks it’s that time of the year again- finals week in lovely West Lafayette, Indiana. I’m not really all that well prepared, but then again I never am really. Only a couple of my 5 tests are going to be really difficult anyway, and the rest should be more common sense than anything. It’s always weeks like this when I wish I was out of school and in the “real world.” Only I think I would probably be too hip, fresh, and in-your-face for most of the rest of the housemates on the show, and would never show up to the ludicrous novelty job on time. In all seriousness, it’s going to be nice to (probably)2 make more money than I am now and truly live on my own without having to take out loans to do so, but now that I think about it I’m perfectly happy going to school and learning stuff. It’s just when you have to prove that you learned something that it gets annoying.

Speaking of school, that reminds me- one of the girls from my astronomy class (hi Natulya) called me out during lab regarding my little rant piece that you can still read below a while back. She asked if I considered myself a “Nice Guy” and if I was bitter about girls. While my tone may have come off as bitter, that’s not the effect I was going for entirely. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve got a pretty good handle on some of them I think. That doesn’t mean it’s actually helped me any, ha. Anywho, any other questions on philosophy of relationships, discrete math, or Seinfeld references can be posted in the comments3.

After watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on tv this weekend, it makes me wish there were more “children’s” stories that have kind of a strange imaginative angle to them. It makes me want to go back and read some Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll.

And finally, I would like to try and convince people to stop spouting Snoopspeak (AOL commercial? Come on, Calvin) before I go insane. Flippity Floppity Floo. If we don’t stop now, this could be the future……

(Note: A photoshopped weather map originally appeared here)

Thank you to the SA forums, one of my primary sources of entertainment4

  1. Way to be arrogant and condescending, 2008 me. I did do a lot of the work in that class but mostly because it made sense to me right away. I’m sure they would have been fine without me. (08/2013)

  2. Definitely. I was paid decently well for a college student, but not like an adult, haha. (08/2013)

  3. Asking for comments is luckily an internet trend that has mostly died out, mostly because comments sections are with few exceptions the most awful medium there is. (08/2013)

  4. Very much not the case anymore, but I am glad they’re still around for occasional bits of reference. (08/2013)

Best Face Forward

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

I’m not a narcissist, at least as far as I can self diagnose. But, I think the way people use the internet and especially social networking is introducing a bit of narcissism that is very difficult to escape as a member of the connected population at large.

Like many people I know, I spend a lot of time on Facebook1 and to a much lesser extent now, Myspace2. A couple of nights back I decided that my main profile picture was starting to feel a bit stale so I went through the handily linked list of pictures I am tagged in (758 and growing) to find a new virtual head shot. As I mostly failed at this task- skipping over many ridiculous and unflattering pictures before finally settling on a mildly ridiculous picture where at least I’m dressed in snazzy wear- old thoughts from the back of my mind returned about the nature of an individual’s constructed online persona and how it correlates and conflicts with the real person’s persona.

As I’ve said before, it’s astounding how much things have changed in just the past decade with the advent of the internet and the ubiquity of the cell phone. It’s just bizarre to look back at the evolution of how people have used these tools and how they’re now converging. I remember early on even way back when my friends and I used ICQ then jumped mostly to AOL Instant Messenger, people’s “profiles” would start to include more and more information, going way beyond a simple about me.  When I hit college in 2001, AIM was somewhat of a de facto social network of its own, to the point where people were checking away messages and profiles much more often than they were actually chatting with each other. In hindsight, it’s hard to imagine why social networking sites didn’t explode sooner.

When Facebook expanded to Purdue’s campus somewhere around 2004/5, I joined as a curiosity. It was mostly worthless then, just a picture and about me sort of thing, with ways to find common classmates.  I already had AIM, why would I want to browse the all aim profile website? But over time something started to happen- as the network grew so did the value of the site. Imagine that. Then Myspace came on the scene and though I was resistant to it as the home of idiot pre teens and idiots in general, the network of friends there and the new ways they were interacting with each other became increasingly interesting. And as the interactions increased, so did the intricacy in crafting the information that was the public face of the user to the network.

Cut forward to now- with the various networks copying and expanding features, even adding chat as a secondary feature (welcome back to AIM) they have become more than a way of looking people up, they’re becoming integral in how people interact and communicate. I know many people who would first send a message or post on a wall before sending an email, even if they have the address handy. Event organizing and photo sharing have all been co-opted, because when you combine information with easy access to your network of friends and family it becomes even more valuable.

But, do we act the same as our online counterpart as we do in the flesh? How much is filtered out? The unflattering pictures, the bad moments, etc. How many of us are consciously or unconsciously limiting information in order to be seen differently than as we are? To be fair, this happens “in real life” all the time. It takes time to get to know the real person rather than their representative, as Chris Rock will tell you. However, the amount of tools currently at our disposal to put our best face forward is greater than ever. In fact, not using them can have a serious detrimental effect.

With companies and colleges and potential dates searching social networks and the internet in general for information on people, allowing the real person to have too much visibility can be hazardous. Personally I tend to let the ‘real me’ out on purpose more than most, at least in my opinion. But you can bet I use those privacy controls to their fullest extent and with all their granularity. I am happy I’m not searching for a new job or school just because of the amount of effort required to make sure I look as good as possible is beyond exasperating. As for dates, the sooner they find out about the real me, the better.

Since I enjoy pouring my thoughts and misadventures out onto the internet at large, I’ve even created this whole so and so pseudonym as a mild bit of security through obscurity.3  But as any security student knows, this is woefully inadequate. A google search for my name has my twitter profile on the first page of results. But not before a couple of results for someone who shares my name, the openly gay musical composer. Compose on, brother.

Either way, I hope as connectivity continues to expand and more of our communication is done electronically instead of face to face, we collectively find a way to maintain our sense of who we are really amidst the snapshots we leave facing the window. The more we have to dig to find the person the more time we waste.

Can you see the real me doctor?

  1. I spend much less time on social media in general than I used to, but what time is left is basically all twitter now. (08/2013)

  2. lol

  3. I have given up on this method. (08/2013)

Tick, Tock.

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

Four years later and I can’t sleep after this result either.

I am an unabashed politics junkie- I don’t really go out of my way to discuss politics, but over the past 10 years or so I’ve turned into somebody that follows every excruciating bit of minutiae of our great experiment1. But, I’m no sycophant. I tend to agree with Democrats more overall, but the Democratic party is not my party.

I remember that night in 2004 after an election I cynically participated in, voting for a candidate I had talked myself into but didn’t really believe in. Four years after an election I participated in but was still learning what it meant to be the news hound I have become, and four years after an election that took place in what seems like a different world and in many respects did. That night in November 2004 I felt sick. Rove’s lasting Republican majority was a reality, and another slim majority passed another mandate for an administration I disagreed with on every major policy point. I couldn’t sleep.

Tick, tock.

The political pendulum swings in this country, and will continue to do so. However, this is not a pendulum that swings in two dimensions. I can see vividly in my mind the Foucault’s pendulum at the Indiana state museum that stuck in my mind more than anything else on the many trips I took there on a child. It swings in three dimensions to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation- and this time it may not be swinging right at my individual peg, but it is swinging my way.

Barack Obama, a man I had never heard of until the keynote speech of the DNC four years ago, has been elected president of the United States, and it is still sinking in. I remember watching him that night and thinking ‘that guy has a bright future’ and wondering how he would prove disappointing over the years until maybe he ran for president in 2012 or 2016.2

When he announced his candidacy this time, I supported him skeptically, but with a sliver of optimism. I never truly believed he’d have a shot. But something about his message and campaign hooked me still. I’ve never been happier to have been wrong.

This election has been a perfect storm, but one that has resulted in a clear message being sent- not a drawn out dogfight marred by recounts and allegations of fraud and caging. It is a mandate, and one I believe President Obama will not overreach and squander, but use wisely.3

There’s a reason I believe in the man, and it’s not his campaign policy platform. It’s because he’s always been pragmatic and realistic in almost every chance I’ve had to see past the campaign to the man. Even when he’s taken stances I disagree with even strongly, I can see his reasoning and respect it.4

He will anger some of his base with some decisions he makes. He will not treat White House appointments solely as rewards to dole out to the true believers. He will make many decisions I like, and if he strays from that I will criticize him. But, I do not fear for understanding during an Obama administration.5

I take no joy in being correct about my gloomy temperament in forecasting the future four years ago. I think George W Bush has mishandled quite a few things in his second term, but some things were forces of nature. He has achieved some positive things as well, especially since ’06, even if some steps were taken much later than necessary.

But, the president is like the quarterback- they get all the credit, and they get all the blame. The economy was headed for the reckoning at some point as a result of the American lifestyle and our collective economical irrational exuberance from the poorest citizen up the wealthiest.  It might have been slowed or accelerated but it was coming eventually. The water has withdrawn, and we now face a tsunami of unknown size approaching that will test the mettle of this nation. I have faith in our collective ability to fight on and endure, and return stronger even. The president does not fight on, the nation fights on led by the president.

The deep wound caused by our nation’s original sin got its largest bandage yet tonight, but it the wound itself will linger on for at least another generation. There is a rift politically between a lot of people tonight, but a bridge can be built even as our ideological differences remain. One man can not do it himself, but he can do his best to point us in the right direction.

Above all other things we now have our great chorus of voices led by one that remembers that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We will stand up and fight the very real dangers of this world head on.  We will assess frankly the depth of the great challenges we face on energy, the economy, and the environment.  We may stumble, and we may be wounded, but at last we have someone to remind us that we are a great nation of great people, and that we are not afraid.6

I have always had faith in this country and its ideals. That faith has been tested in the past, and going forward it will almost certainly be tested again- maybe even very soon. The pendulum will eventually swing in another direction. But, just like in one of Einstein’s dreams about time- this moment has a decent chance to last longer than others.

While I breathe, I hope.

  1. I’ve let that part of my life go, and I’m much happier not following the day to day of politics. (08/2013)

  2. I can’t really decide how different the last 5 years would have been had Hillary won the primary. It’s fun to play the “what if” game, I think a lot of things would have gone the exact same way, but others could have been wildly different in positive and negative directions. (08/2013)

  3. It will really be interesting to get enough distance from the implementation of the affordable care act to be able to evaluate its impact honestly, since that mandate ended up being used on that and the stimulus.

  4. Not always the case these days. I do not regret voting for the man twice, but man do I disagree with some of the stances his administration has taken. (08/2013)

  5. Hey, there was a lot of optimism in the air right after this election, despite the fact that the economy was in shambles. (08/2013)

  6. A little lofty here to too. I swear I’m not a cynic, but realism often intersects with what seems like cynicism. (08/2013)

iDespise iTunes*

(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

*(The application, on windows)

The Mad Note

I listen to a well above average amount of music while sitting at a computer, both at home and at the office. I have a very large collection of music, but I don’t think my musical needs and computer music quirks are all that outrageous. It very well may be a symptom of my inaction or seeming inability to migrate away from Windows as a primary operating system1, but iTunes causes me an inordinate amount of aggravation.

Why do I use it you say? Well, until recently I lived a blissful musical existence without it even installed- until I bought an iPod.  Since it was a new fangled revision, all the third party iPod syncing software was useless.  So, I installed iTunes for the first time on my new desktop, and I was pleased that it didn’t seem as molasses slow on Windows as it was the last time I tried to use it.  However, I continued to use my personal favorite music player, the open source musikcube2.

Then the last.fm plugin for musikcube stopped working reliably.

This presented a problem, because I happen to like last.fm quite a bit, it’s a great tool for finding new artists and music to listen to, as well as a provider of cool analytics based on what you’re actually listening to.  Without a steady stream of data, it’s not nearly as effective, so even though I soldiered on for a while, I became annoyed enough to seek out an alternate music player solution.  Preferably one that integrated with last.fm’s official application so I could easily integrate the radio.

While I was initially impressed with the iTunes speed improvement at a glance, heavy usage made it feel like a molasses bath coming from the snappy musikcube with its native ui and blazing fast sqlite database for music metadata.  Then there’s the library management.  One thing I am pretty finicky about is my music collection’s organization, and there’s no way I was going to give up my intimate knowledge of my sizable music collection to a different format.  But, I still hated having to manually add every new album I ripped or got online.  Musikcube does this out of the box, and iTunes and I entered into a shaky truce when I discovered the iTunes Library Updater, which was somewhat of a MacGuyver solution to do this that I could set up a scheduled task for.  But, recent iTunes updates seem to have turned my MacGuyver utility into a MacGruber, detonating my e-truce.

So here I am, installing the most extensible and powerful music player out there, (for Windows anyway, I’ve really liked amarok when I’ve used it in the past) foobar3.  Of course, it’s also the player that requires by far the most tinkering and configuration out of the box, which is what I’ve been trying to avoid.  However it is supported by the official last.fm application, is lightning fast, and it is possible to do some pretty incredible stuff with its interface.  It just requires putting a lot of time and effort in getting it just right and making sure all the plugins I want are installed- time that I could be spending on other projects, but since my hand is now forced it’s time to queue up a bunch of music (on iTunes) and commence to configuring.

For all the flak I give iTunes though, I will say I prefer it to Windows Media Player since I really never did like the way they organize their library, and when I think of Winamp, I think back to the days of a big long list of 1500 songs I downloaded off of napster and audiogalaxy.  So I guess I will award a little something extra to the apple developers besides the parks & rec standard ‘participant’ trophy.

As for the iTunes music store, I have no problems with it.  When I’ve bought an album from there aside from the annoyance of getting aac files to play outside of iTunes and iPods it has been a pleasant experience, but if given the choice I’ll never again buy an album from there, given that #1) I like to own the cd and rip it myself in variable bitrate mp3, and #2) Amazon’s music store provides all their music without drm and in high bitrate mp3, I really have no reason to ever look at the iTunes store again except for media that it sells exclusively.

For many nerds I know, how they choose to listen to their music is a deeply personal choice.  Am I missing some grand solution4?

  1. I now do spend most of my time in OS X, but I do still run windows 8 on my desktop computer. (08/2013)

  2. I had actually forgotten about musikcube completely until I reread this. (08/2013)

  3. My foobar phase did not last long. (08/2013)

  4. Now I’m actually behind the curve since I’m not a big streaming service listener outside of when I have the itch to discover something new. Plus, I actually like the newer iTunes interface better than the old one which seems to be a minority opinion as well. I honestly spend most of my listening time with podcasts these days, must be a bit that flips around the time you hit 30. (08/2013)

Classic Hits – Media Bias

(Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog here. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)

Classic hits is an attempt to consolidate all my internet written content, and also to revisit it from the present.

This post was borderline cheating when I originally put it up since it was mostly just something I wrote for a class, but it still seems pretty relevant today, even though there aren’t a lot of people braying about bias in the media these days. By far the most interesting dialog going on about the media right now is happening right now in the final season of David Simon and HBO’s The Wire. The show’s depiction of the newsroom and the conversation going on in the journalistic community about its portrayal is pretty fascinating. I want to watch the rest of the episodes so badly, but I do not want the show to end.

Other funny notes from this post include me mentioning my homepage as fark.com, a site I don’t believe I’ve visited in a couple years, and poking fun at dateline well before the “To Catch a Predator” thing became wildly popular.

I have included the stupid ‘mood’ and ‘song’ fields because I have to give myself some credit for starting my internet tradition of saying I felt dirty every time the internet asked me what mood I was in over 4 years ago. That and the song I was listening to is really awesome, and Y O U is a great band1 that’s giving their cd flashlights away on pleaserock.com.

Makin’ love on the radio

I’ve just finished what appears to be a successful all nighter writing a sociology term paper on bias in the media2. I achieved new heights of procrastination on this one- I did no research at all until the night before it was due, and didn’t start writing until around 1. But, due to my silly perfectionist complex that decides to rear its head every once in a while, I couldn’t bear to halfass it. One thing that was fun about this paper is I got to write a 2 page section on what theory I thought best addressed the problem, so I’ve decided to post it here for your viewing pleasure. -disclaimer- I’m a bit delirious at this point and it was the last thing I wrote so it may not be completely coherent. Enjoy:

Dr. Media-slant or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pundits

If one were to listen to the pundits, be it on television, the radio, or the internet, one would think that media bias was everywhere. Of course, if one were to keep listening to them, one would be inclined to suffer a brain aneurism due to all the issues to be upset about.I think media bias is an important thing to keep an eye out for. After all, if we can’t get reliable news, or at the very least get the same news from a variety of sources and then settle on a reasonable conclusion, how can we reach any logical conclusion on world affairs, or even social and political issues? However, none of the theories or opinions I researched seemed to resonate completely with me. I think the answer lies somewhere in-between the lines.

However unrelated they may seem on the surface, the many different topics that were discussed in my research, whether it was the liberal media junta, the menace of mega-media corporations, or Rush pontificating into his microphone over the issue of the day, all are part of an ever-increasing problem in media presentation.

Perhaps it’s not media bias that is the problem per se, but the bias that seems to be as much a by-product of showmanship in news reporting as hard-line political views. News today, regardless of medium, doesn’t seem to be about the five Ws anymore, but about answering the question at hand in the most entertaining fashion possible. It almost seems like a new, twisted form of yellow journalism.

Evidence of this emergence of entertainment as king of news can be seen as the 24 hour cable news networks become overpopulated with pundit fueled debate shows that seem to be less about debate and more about yelling opposing viewpoints that are far from those of the real mainstream citizen. It may not represent all the viewpoints very well, but it sure is fun to watch. Even headline news, the network that just gives you the main news details, inundates its viewers with a screen full of information, much of which is entertainment related.

Hardly any of us are innocent of contributing to this trend. As a confessed internet junkie, my internet homepage is www.fark.com, the very definition of entertaining tidbits mixed in with the news. My mother, despite vehemently disagreeing with his political views, listens to Rush Limbaugh whenever she can because she thinks it’s funny. She’s one of the 40 million reasons he has a 250 million dollar contract.

Even investigative reporting has let some of these aspects slip through. The Datelines, 60 minutes, and Primetime Lives of the world keep us inundated with new, upsetting, and titillating hour-long segments to shock and horrify middle-aged women every day of the week it seems. What fun is the latest investigative report without the deadpan wit of John Stossel?

This is not to say that bias in the traditional sense does not exist or is not a problem. Bias is most likely present in virtually every story whether the author is aware of it or not. It’s very possible that just in what small details are revealed or remain unrevealed, or even the wording of a sentence, can be interpreted as bias by someone with a personal connection to the issue at hand. I’ve witnessed firsthand the “hostile media effect” examined in the UPS teamster strike study. I’ve almost certainly fell victim to it as well.

What is worrisome is the increasing inability of reporters, columnists, and editors to write on any subject without stepping on the toes of the people who give them a paycheck. Even if a member of the media has an outright liberal bias as some claim, it is most likely not in their best interests to show it. More likely it is in their best interest to reverse that bias. Unfortunately, these economic influences put even the most impartial writers in a position where they cannot upset the stockholders else they end up out on the street dancing for nickels.

I think that bias in the sense that most people are worried about is not going to develop into a huge issue. Despite what insidious motives the conspiracy theorists may ascribe to the media, for right now most of the established media is concerned with maintaining their integrity. I think the bigger problem lies in the replacement of that integrity with the profit-driven bottom line and what we may lose in the end. But, even I can say I would tune in to watch CNN’s Crossfire: the Cage Match.

Current Mood: dirty dirty

Current Music: You – Radio

(This post includes an affiliate link.)

  1. Sadly Y O U broke up a long time ago but their site and subsequent bands live on.

  2. My current strongest view on the media is simply that cable news is poison.