Thursday, January 29, 2009

View from the Second City (First column)

(I wrote this after Christmas, and it was published in this weeks Journal Republican, the newspaper from my hometown. It's the beginning of my monthly column comparing Chicago and Monticello/White Heath. I hope to show everyone that it's not so different.)

Most people think Chicago greets commuters with heavy traffic and billboards but I prefer to wait until I see the el for the first time to welcome myself to the Second City. The train system is the cities bloodline and when you drive North on Interstate 57 it pops out of the ground like an animal. The roar silenced by the passing cars.

The el splits into several lines named for colors. Each line cuts through the different neighborhoods linking the diverse people and places.

Mine is the Red Line. It runs from the North Side down to the South Side and soaks up the intricacies of each neighborhood in between. It goes from tunnels to street level between the interstate; then back underground and final becomes elevated again after downtown.

The Brown Line circles downtown, creating “the loop,” and then runs northwest. The Blue Line links the west side with downtown and then goes back west. Each line has its own feel, its own personality.

I grew up outside of White Heath, but I now live in Chicago on the North Side. It is hard, sometimes, to know which is my home. I am comfortable in Chicago, but my roots are in the country.

After an emotional Christmas break my mother drove me back to Chicago--back home. I love the drive North on 57. The monotonous interstate drive is broken up by a few surreal oddities: the 20 foot tall Abraham Lincoln, the Kankakee hand clutching the world. It reminds me of our Midwest humor, dry and spars and often very strange.
Unfortunately, on this drive I missed the Lincoln because of a semi we passed at the exact wrong time.

Clouds covered the skyline until after we first saw the Red Line. I prefer the skyline coming from the South. Maybe because my first glimpse of Chicago was from this angle or maybe because the buildings look more compacted than the usual picture from the East.

The lake greets me after we pass the Bears’ playground. My first lake sighting tells me that I am finally home. We just have a little more to drive on Lake Shore before I am technically there, but I already feel good. It has been a while since I had a visit that lasted longer than a weekend. It was nice to be in Piatt County for so long, but I am glad to be back to my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Second Practice Onion Article

(I think this one is a little better. It's longer at least.)

Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan Includes Obama Memorabilia

President Obama announced Friday that Obama memorabilia will account for nearly 20% of his $900 billion stimulus plan.

"We are struggling as a country. Parents can not provide for there children because they have lost their jobs. It is the Government's responsiblity to provide for its citizens and that is why I am signing this stimulus package with 200 thousand 'January 20th, 2009 commemorative plates,'" Obama said in his speach on Friday.

The package also includes 2 million silver dollars with "Obama's likeness embossed on the front," 100 thousand Obama bobble heads and 30 thousand January 20th Inauguration plaque with Obama's speech "etched into 24 karate gold."

The plan is meant to help out the nations failing QVC economy. "QVC is the cornerstone of the American economy. If we don't help now, Americans all over the country will no longer be able to buy worthless junk over the phone," Obama said on Friday.

Sandy Wallis, a retired teacher from Greenwich NY, says she supports the plan. "I would hate to see QVC disappear. I bought this Hello Kitty diamonique sterling pendant for only $79, with five easy payments. And that's something you can wear anywhere."

While the QVC plan is becoming very popular with the public, Economists and Republican Senators both say they see flaws.

"We all want to support the bobble head initiative," said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). "But I think we need to do more. We need to also help the falling Sky Mall stocks and keep Sharper Image from bankruptcy. Our nation's crap economy is suffering a crises and QVC alone can not be its sole supporter."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ill-Fated Attempt to Write Like The Onion

(This is practice for my dream job at the Onion. I think I might have to work at it more. Is it funny at all? Some constructive criticisms would be much appreciated. It's a lot harder to make up the news then I thought.)

Sign Language Interpreter Mocks Representative During Speech

Stephen Dorr, congressional sign language interpreter, stopped interpreting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and started making fun of him at Thursday's Congressional meeting.

"Look at this Douche. Does he even know what he is talking about?" signed Dorr.

McCarthy was speaking on the "importance of the detection of early childhood disabilities." To which Dorr signed, "I'm sure he knows all about early childhood disabilities." And then he added, "Oh right, that's what he is talking about . . . early childhood disabilities. What a Douche."

In an interview during the congressional break, Dorr said he was tired of listing to "blow-hards" and wanted to make his friends laugh.

"Really, I don't even think anyone was paying attention," Dorr said.

Samantha Renaldo, a deaf woman sitting in on the meeting with a tour, said she didn't even notice.

"I think I might have fallen asleep when he was talking," Renaldo said.

When asked his thoughts, McCarthy said, "He did what now?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Love TED Talks

TED Talks is basically a podcast of smart people talking about smart things. It's on the specific side of the spectrum. Where as when I am watching it I am on the general side. Speakers at TED know everything about one subject while I am gaining a tiny bit of information on a huge amount of subjects.

I drew up an interesting kind of document depicting this.

Here are a few of my favorite TED Talks:
A surprising parable of foie gras
The stories and song of Appalachia
Where have the bees gone?
How things in nature tend to sync up
Who is General Tso? and other mysteries of American Chinese food
Understanding comics
The art of baking bread

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


(I got this picture from acmaurer on twitter. I don't know where she got it.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

One of those Heavy Issues I Teased Earlier or 100 Post!!

I've been thinking about where the media is heading. That Publish2 contest was part of it. (I think I lost that by the way. Oh Well.) But even before that I've been a little concerned about the future.

I'm definitely not part of the old media who is scared of change, but I'm also not part of the opposite side of the spectrum. I don't worship at the alter of the Internet. I see it's problems and I see how to fix it. Not to stroke my own ego, but I think that might have lost me the contest. Publish2 is 100% into the internet, and I wrote about how that's not necessarily the best thing to do. (Please don't take this as me bashing on the website or upset about loosing.)

But, like everything else good in the world, the internet is far more complicated than most people like to think.

A lot of people often argue about the use of advertising in the media. The argument is that advertising will effect the news. Meaning: If a company advertises in a newspaper, the newspaper is less likely to report on bad news about that company.

This is a flawed argument by people who don't know the inter-workings of a newspaper office. Advertising and Reporting are two separate sections of the office. Reporters don't know what ads will be used and advertisers have no idea what the news will be. And no one knows what the finished product looks like until they read there newspaper. There are moments in history where this balance was corrupted, but too few to be anything but exceptions.

The interesting part of new media is also what I have the biggest problem with. A lot of these podcasts and what-not are produced by one person or at most a small group. This destroys the balance perfected by years and years of the old media. Now the reporter, director, writer, and advertiser are all the same person.

A few podcasts I listen to do advertising like early television. When they would stop in between stories to talk about cigarettes, "Ohhh-that smooth flavor." And then go back to the show.

The biggest problem I see with new media is that the internet wants to forget the lessens old media learned long ago. Maybe like a teenager, the internet needs to learn the lessons for its self. And old media needs to let go and hope the growing-pains doesn't kill it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

View from the Second City: Beginnings

I've got a column in a paper.

It's a monthly column in the Journal Republican, my hometown weekly newspaper. I'm calling it "View from the Second City." Most people live in a small town because they don't like big cities and I'm trying to literarlaraly (*made up word) show the similarities between Chicago and Piatt county.

I'm pretty excited about it. I'll post them after they are printed so everyone can see.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

3-2-1--Blast Off

My little brother just started to get into rockets, like I did when I was his age. This morning we took his bright orange two stage rocket out to shoot off. At first it didn't go off, but then after a new set of engines it shot off with a "PPPPHHHUUUSSSHHHH."

Yesterday, I noticed he left his rocket out with engines intact. And next to the fire place. That's my brother the safety expert. I told him I didn't want to see him grow up to be the NASA launch person. His response, "That red flashing light . . . it's fine."

The first stage went off and feel away. And then we lost the rocket in the sky. It literally disappeared. We looked all over and we couldn't find it. We found the first stage, but the main rocket is lost . . . perhaps it made it to orbit.