April 29, 2007 · from the ground up

trillium1.jpg

Wandering around the park last week, it occurred to me that spring really arrives from the ground up. Other seasons, fall, winter… they arrive on the wind, are bourne of denim-bottomed clouds. Not spring. Spring begins as a green, underground tickle, yawning and poking up though the detris of all the seasons before, crinkled with sleep, but fresh and rested all the same. The forest bottoms are awash in curls of green, ground cover spreading up and over and completely, nibbling away the brown, seeping through the rough bark of the trees and being slowly piped upward to emerge as tiny trembling buds of chartreuse on the ends of tired branches.

the trilliums are popping up everywhere, but so far I’ve found only one in bloom… this one. By the end of the week though, the woodsy parts of the park will be carpeted completely in three lobed blooms. The trout lilies are already shyly nodding and I have become newly besotted and fixated on may apples. But more on that later. Now i must go snuggle with my doggity on my bed, all arrayed in new linen, and watch the sun sink to pink over the houses across the street.

Spring!



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April 19, 2007 · Villiany, Vitriol and Virginia Tech

Mark your calendars, people. Yesterday was the day when responsible journalism became a complete oxymoron. Oh, it’s been moving in that direction for years, but yesterday, NBC broke the camel’s back.

I wasn’t going to write about it, the massacre at Virginia Tech, though of course I’ve been completely immersed in the horror of it. Much to my own detriment, I’m a news addict. I like to think I can’t help it (although I most certainly can), I like to blame my addiction on my background as a journalist, I like to tell myself that I just want to be informed about the world around me.

It makes my addiction sound sort of noble, errudite, forgiveable. To be fair, all of that is true. I have always been attracted to journalism (particularly print journalism), I do like to be in the know, in the loop, to educate myself. But there is this seedy undercurrent to it all too, this insistent desire to know it all, the good, the bad, the ugly. Especially the ugly.

But there is ugly and there is ugly. And yesterday, I think NBC News made the world a whole lot uglier.

Though I made the active decision to turn off CNN for most of the afternoon (it was the bombing in Baghdad which killed 171 people yesterday morning that actually did it for me. I just couldn’t handle hearing about any more mass death), I did catch the surprising fact that NBC News had received a package from the Virginia Tech killer which had apparently been mailed in the two hour period between the initial shootings in the dormitory and the blood bath in Norris Hall. It was my understanding that NBC had turned over the package (said to contain photos, rambling writings and video) to the FBI to aid their investigation.

Good for them, I thought. That’s the right thing to do. Cho Seung-Hui, sick, sick twisted little man, does not deserve the opportunity to spew hatred from the morgue. I believe he is deserving of compassion due to his extreme mental illness, maybe even forgiveness though i hardly think that’s up to me and wish for forgiveness not for Cho’s sake but for the sake of his victims, but in no way does he deserve the opportunity to further spread his particular brand of poison. He does not deserve the opportunity to further fertilize the blighted brains and imaginations of other similarly sick, suicidal individuals out there, teetering on the edge and all too vulnerable to this kind of hateful propoganda.

Bad enough that Cho had already managed the unimagineable… bumping Britney Spears out of the news cycle. Bad enough that he snatched the lives of 32 innoccents as they sat in French class or studied engineering slides, trying to better their brains.

It never occurred to me that NBC was simply waiting for prime time to get old Brian Williams up there, properly blow-dried and empathetic, to unleash their treasure trove of horror, this “multi-media manifesto”.

I happened to spin across CNN around 9:00 p.m. and there he was, in all his Columbine-esque glory, Cho Seung-Hui, the sick, sick mass murderer ranting and raving and waggling his firearms, all over every single channel. And there’s the NBC news logo emblazoned across this sizzling piece of killer porn, stamping their paternity all over the revolting footage. I guess the wunderkinds at NBC thought that if they promptly distributed it to everyone, they wouldn’t look so personally culpable, so greedy, so irresponsible.

The victims haven’t even been completely identified, haven’t been buried or properly memorialized and the media is out there trumpeting this sick sack’s “manifesto”, turning him into the greatest anti-hero that ever took the lives of 32 innocent people and trying to convince the public that this is all in the interest of understanding what makes these mass murderers tick in hope of preventing this in the future. They try to convince us that it’s all about understanding the unimagineable, deseminating the information accurately.

Bullshit. It’s about ratings. It’s about advertising dollars and I am totally, totally nauseated. This footage contributes nothing useful to the public debate. It only serves to escalate the horror, the fear-mongering, this wanton climate in which psychopathy is the new celebrity.

I used to view journalism with such reverence, used to view it as the noble search for truth and knowledge and communication. But no more. NBC finally killed it for me.

The other media outlets, media platforms are no better. Everyone has these stinking videos and you can’t escape it anywhere. Oh, yeah, sure, they’ve got their trauma specialists and FBI profilers and their assembled panels of experts couching these heinous clips with heartfelt reminders that this is a very tentative time where we must be hypervigilant to copycat killings. They preach about how we must tone down the culture we’ve created around these campus killers where we make them media darlings, talk incessantly about how this one defeated that one’s record and turn it all into a giddy challenge to amass the largest body count. And all the while the anchors nod in solemn agreement as if they aren’t actually doing just that right at that very moment… glorifying this horror… as if they don’t all have custom graphics which read “Biggest Mass Shooting in American History” and all of Cho’s vital statistics scrolling into infinity right under their bobbing, beautifully coiffed masks of sympathy. Oh, sure, they all talk about the “insight” and “gun control” and recognizing the warning signs, but let’s get real. It’s money, pure and simple and Cho Seung-Hui is NBC’s latest little cash cow and they are going to milk it for all it’s worth, consequences and victims be damned. And so we have this depraved mass murderer snuggled in between Al Roker’s BBQ tips and Pampers commercials, ranting incoherently.

It’s absolutely vile.

I’ve seen this coming for ages and ages but still, somehow, I just CAN’T BELIEVE IT. I can’t believe what a cesspool modern media has become. I’m completely outraged, and disgusted with myself for any role I play in it (which as a complete news addict, has been no small part. It’s my viewership they’re after, after all. And my coin.)

Don’t think that I don’t understand the temptation NBC faced in making their editorial decision. How do you not play your trump card? Even if it was dealt to you by a psychopath, it’s the winning card and the jackpot… by God, it’s huge!

But they could have played this game responsibly. Releasing the still photos, describing the video, paraphrasing his manifesto… these things would have been less damaging, but still given them one helluva scoop. They could have… should have… held on to the video information long enough for this horror to be digested, properly investigated, for the victims to be honored and then had one bang up Dateline special. They could have displayed some ounce of restraint. But no. Turns out they are pretty much as reckless and trigger happy as Cho Seung-Hui himself.

The only way this is going to change is if people, viewers like myself, object and turn off the insanity.

Well, here’s me. Objecting. LOUDLY.



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April 6, 2007 · If I ruled the world….

O, Hiya! Yes, it’s me. Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I’ve been neglecting you. Yes, i’m sorry. And yes, I meant to write a real post here today and will make one of my loosey-goosey extremely unreliable promises that I will post something reasonably resembling an honest blog session (as opposed to this here post which is really a recycled e-mail I sent to a very dear friend in response to her charming, but ill-conceived suggestion that I should be President of the USA) before next friday rolls around.

Conceivably, I could be President of the United States because I was born in the US and I’m over 35 (I think that’s all the criteria? I have all my own teeth and hair too, just in case that’s on the list. Johnny ManyCharms and I had a discussion about just how important that is earlier this week, so if it’s not part of the criteria, mayhaps it should be.) But I’m fairly certain making me President is not a good idea. Pretty sure. But I’ll let you be the judge: here’s a list of things I would institute if I were President that would immediately lead to the collapse of the American Society as we know it (which may or may not be a good thing) :

• National Bake Cookies ALL DAY Day every other Thursday. Homemade and NO CHEATING by buying bakery ones. Unless it’s a really, really GOOD bakery in which case… maybe. If you don’t like cookies, you may make soup. Or cupcakes.
• Dogs rule the world and are allowed everywhere. Leash free. Unless they bite or stuff. In which case, please tell them not to do that. That’s not nice.
• Anyone who does not love dogs unreservedly will be vanquished to some far away city where they can only communicate with their doggie-hating brethren.
• No guns ever. Period. For anyone. If you really have to get violent, you will have to do it by pelting your target with flowers. They can have thorns, but they must also have petals. You may also use small round vegetables such as peas (cooked, shelled) or corn niblets.
• No one can have rusting vehicles on their lawns and no can use power mowers. It’s all push, baby. If you own a house, you must plant at least three trees/flowering shrubs on your property.
• No one is allowed to have those bent over bums in their yard (you know the one? Like a lady is bent over planting and her bloomers are showing?) You can do gnomes or flamingos or whatever, but only if you go way over the top so that it looks all fun and mini-putt like.
• The use of the color purple will be severely limited and regulated. You must be granted very special papers in order to use purple anywhere anytime. Except for President Me and F.O.M (Friends of Me).
• Everyone will be forced to watch Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show every single night whether they lean that way or not. Ditto The Colbert Report (although if you fall asleep during the Colbert Report as the President often does, you’ll be forgiven. On second thought, scratch that. President Me will move to have The Colbert Report switched to a more reasonable hour to eliminate the falling asleep issue, because President Me is all clever like that with the television schedules.)
• Gay people can marry and have kids and do everything the President can do pretty much except for regulate the color purple.
• No fanny packs. No exceptions. No tube tops either. For anyone.
• The height at which pictures are hung will be governmentally regulated too. No more too-high art.
• Car alarms must be nice and melodic to the ear. Ditto car horns.
• No thunderstorms that make Finny sad. No more movies featuring thunderstorms (which is 90 per cent of all movies ever made).
• No more “Wind Beneath My Wings” at anytime, any where under any circumstances.
• The President and the President alone will chose the Nation’s Top 40 every week. This will be one of the President’s major duties, right up there with National Cookie Day sampling and purple regulating.
• Everyone has to keep their underwear ON in public (especially Paris Hilton and friends.) Permission may be granted to some kilt wear-ers under certain circumstances.
• No plastic flowers except in very cute application (to be determined by President Me)
• Every house will receive fresh flowers once per week. Flowers are one of the only things in the nation which may be purple without presidential permission. And, you know, eggplant and stuff.
• All animals will be treated humanely at all times under punishment of death. There will be none of this hunting on game farms crap that Dick Cheney does now. Ever. In fact, there will be no hunting except as is needed to humanely control animal populations.
• Three day weekends every week, with a four day weekend every other week.
• Anyone caught saying the phrase “I could care less” when what they really mean is “I couldn’t care less” will be forced to spend five weeks picking up roadside and park debris.
• Every citizen will spend one day a month picking up litter. In the likely event that all litter will be eliminated by the people who say “I could care less”, citizens will instead spend the day planting and tending to green things (and people. Green people need love too, you know). Every citizen will contribute to the charity of their choice in some way, whether it be financially or via participation. Every citizen will half their energy usage, reduce, re-use and recycle and be kind to the planet.
• Children will receive one new book a month until they reach the age of 18. Education will be free for all. Ditto health care.
• For every city block, there must be at least one park or green space of similar size.
• Everyone must learn how to play a musical instrument and learn one song on it (with the exception of President Me who once tried to learn guitar but failed miserably)
• Excessive and colorful adjective usage will not only be encouraged, but mandated.
• Everyone gets nap time every single day and everyone gets one letter a day which is nice and thoughtful and has pretty stamps on it but is not a bill, a promotional offer, tax-related or anything but fluffy and fun and good. Letters will sometimes be lemon verbana scented and come with coupons for free ice cream, movies, shoes and yoga classes.

There’s more ways in which I would immediately contribute to the ruin (or revival!) of the American nation, but I have to pee really bad.



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