Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The First Press Trip


Today I was reading Laura Kammermeier's article on Matador about surviving your first press trip, and I couldn't help but think of my own first (and only, so far) press trip. It's a smart and interesting article that really examines the kind of emotions and challenges you have to face on a press trip. For me, my first press trip came in December for GoNOMAD.com. I was an intern for a semester, and at the end of the internship I was rewarded with a press trip to Grenada. To clarify, that's the island in the Caribbean, north of Venezuela, not the city in southern Spain. If you're interested in reading the story, you can find it here.

Upon arriving in Grenada, we were immediately treated like royalty, at least from my perspective as a poor college student. Waiting in line at customs? Forget that. We were taken to a "Diplomats" line and breezed right through. I'd never imagined something like this could happen to me. The last time I'd traveled, I was staying in sketchy hostels and surviving on sandwiches for weeks at a time. Now I was having free five course gourmet meals three times a day.

Long story short, after a couple of days I looked back on my notes and realized that everything I was writing wasn't real journalism, but simply a glowing review of everything I'd seen before. As a journalism student, we're always taught to exercise objectivity; in other words, to stay out of it and report only what you see. For me however, I was making conjecture and assumptions that I was in no position to make, as well as overlooking other things because the service was so good.

It's hard to really see things clearly on a press tour because PR firms and guides will make sure that everything is perfect. That's their goal. Journalists, whether they are business, sports, or travel journalists, are supposed to see through that and report on what the real story is. So I went back through my notes and took a personal day to think about things and walk around on my own. I wouldn't say thay I changed my look on the island or the people, but it was a breath of fresh air to not be hand-fed information.

As a journalist, especially a travel writer, it's important to never lose sight of the objectivity and the point of the story. You want to remember every little detail, every nuance of character and hospitality. Because even if they are trying to make you happy, it's still a part of their job. But you also need to see through the PR spin and make up your own analysis, because after all, that's why the reader is listening to you. They want to trust you.

In some instances, it is better to travel on your own and make your story out of your experience. But there is also some great value to getting outside help. You can find places you otherwise wouldn't have known about and get access to things that are closed off to the general public. With that being said, once someone knows you're with the press, they tend to be a bit nicer, unless they have some grudge for whatever reason.

In my case, I learned more in the five days on the press tour than in the four months of the internship. I made some great contacts (which helped lead me to Matador) and saw how professional travel writers act and work in the field. It was very humbling to be working with writers who'd been at it for many years. If anything, I felt very out of place and awkard, considering I was 21 and still in college. Why did I really deserve to be on a press tour? I tried to act like I belonged there as much as possible. One thing I had to realize quickly was that it's not a paid vacation--it's work. And you don't just sit by the pool and drink Rum Runners. You get out there and get a story. No matter what it is.

This has also made me think of Hunter S. Thompson and his contribution to journalism. I'm currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and though I'm not even half way through, it's already one of my favorite books. Say what you want about Thompson, but the man knew how to write and record an event. I like Gonzo journalism. Something about it just makes sense to me. It's simple and to the point, and without the unnecessary wordiness or educated dialect, it tells the story as simply as a person telling their tale might do so.

The fact that an entire generation of drug users and counter-culture enthusiasts have come to associate this book (and movie) with their own use of drugs is irrelevant and, in my opinion wrong. Sure, Thompson talks makes the point of using drugs as his focal issue in the book. But I think it goes deeper than that. I love this book because of it's journalistic appeal. Without any interference of hindsight or opinion, Thompson simply reports on everything he sees. Not afraid of judgement or consequence, he tells his story as if he were talking to a group of friends over some beers. There's something beautiful in that.

Now, Gonzo isn't quite as popular and is a hard sell. It's association with drugs has editors scratching their heads and questioning why a writer would want to follow that style. But you don't need to be loaded up just to write Gonzo. All you need to do is place yourself in the story and work from there. It could be about your grandma's birthday if you find the inspiration.

I think this all goes back to travel writing as a form of story telling. You don't find much Gonzo travel writing, and when you do, it's not syndicated journalism. However, you can take a lesson from Dr. Thompson as a writer and simply write everything you see, analyze everything as if you were a character in your story, and not just the writer. Those tools will ultimately help you see where the story really lies, even if you hadn't planned on that originally.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

English as a Second Language

As part of the requirements of WorldTeach, I need to sit in and observe 25 hours of English as a Second Language classes before I go to Ecuador in September. This is to help me see what types of classes I'll be giving and methods of teaching. Though I'll have to take more classes throughout the summer somewhere in or around Boston, I've started sitting in on some classes at UMass. The few classes I've sat in on have already taught me so much and opened my eyes in to things I never even considered.

Take a typical foreign language class: Spanish, French, Italian, Etc. You start off learning greetings, vocab, and verbs. As time goes on you learn irregular verbs and different grammar structures. For a native speaker of any language, however, everything is learned "trial by fire" method. That is, of course, unless you advance to the point of taking high level classes at a university. But for everyone else, you simply learn the language by hearing your parents, your friends, and any one else you encounter speaking. Reading helps and always improves your language skills. And even as you get older you occasionally need to look up a word.

So, during the class, when the professor was explaining irregular verbs in English and the difference in the nouns and adjectives that I always take for granted as simply understanding through 21 years of experience, it blew my mind. I had no idea that English even had irregular verbs. I should have, of course, but it just never occurred to me. I simply know how to speak English correctly, and incorrectly, when appropriate. The professor also said that most irregular verbs in English come from German, which I had no idea of.

Then I thought of the German word "prost," which translates to "toast," meaning both the salutation before a drink and the breakfast. I wondered if prost shares roots with the word "rose," an irregular English verb. After all, bread rises. It could be a long shot, but it's something so new and interesting to think about that it almost confuses me in my own language.

Some of the students have asked me for help in translating and pronouncing words like "bees" and "sew." These words, which most native English speakers take for granted, are actually very difficult for non-natives to understand at first.

Hearing the students try to speak English, I tried to translate my own experiences. I thought back to my own Spanish classes and when I tried to translate or dictate. Even in Spain when I talked to Spaniards. I tried to imagine if I sounded like them, and how I would have sounded to a local, and I thought about myself as the local in the class. It was a total mind-blow out; just imagining things in foreign languages and hypothetically thinking loses so much in the translation.

Either way, it's a really interesting thing to think about. I don't know if I'll ever be able to be at an advanced level of speaking Spanish to step back and clearly identify with a native speaker, or if I'll always just sound foreign. On the other hand, I know that it's possible to speak fluidly and always wonder if you're saying the right thing. With enough practice and time, however, I hope that by this time next year I can be saying that I clearly understand Spanish. And though you can never truly understand a language like a native unless you grew up with it, at least it's a small victory for the little guy, just trying to gain another skill.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ABC Launches New Network, TWO

ABC is known as one of the top networks on T.V. As if that isn’t enough, the network plans to launch their new network, TWO for Spring 2008, which will offer five new series: “Perfect Killer,” “What Exit,” “YouNews,” “Campus Life,” and “Survivor Island”.

TWO was created during the 100 day Writer’s Guild Association strike. Since ABC experienced a decline in ratings, executives decided to use TWO as a comeback. Stephen McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment, is anticipating TWO’s debut and success.

“ABC is the #1 network with women 18-49 and TWO is designed to attack the same demographic using ABCs recipe for success” said McPherson.

Four out of the five programs debuting on TWO are reality series. ABC producers decided on these types of shows due to the Writer’s Strike turmoil. Moreover, neither writers nor actors were available.

In order to promote the network, ABC and ABC Family will run frequent advertisements about the new network. Furthermore, different websites will be publicizing ABC’s newest project. Network producers feel that in order to receive as much viewership as possible, commercials will be aired during popular ABC programs.

Altogether, ABC representatives plan to spend $3,280,000 on advertisements and publicity.

Monica Gleberman, an ABC representative claims, “ TWO will be the next largest network”. For more information on TWO tune into ABC, ABC Family or ABC.com.

TWO Press Conference Audio

TWO Press Conference Video

Mock press conference reveals new ABC project, TWO.


video

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Lede: Spain Next to Deal With Somali Pirates

Mike Nizza wrote a new post on The Lede today about Spain sending a naval ship to battle Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia. Spain is just the latest country to get involved in the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia in the last few months. France, Denmark, and the United States are just some of the other countries that have been combating the pirates.

It seems pretty weird to still be battling pirates in the 21st century, but it appears to be a real problem in that part of the world. You have to keep in mind when traveling that there's always the possibility of danger and risk. Of course, there is usually added risk when you travel to a part of the world that has been in turmoil for years. Still, it's always important to remember that just because you're a traveler, it doesn't mean you're immune to problems and danger.

It's always important to watch your back when you travel, but you shouldn't just assume that a country is bad because you don't know much about it. Also, if you only read articles that mention the bad things that go on, you're only going to have a negative image of the place. Granted, I don't know a whole lot about Somalia, other than what I've read in the news and know from classes, but I'm sure there's a galaxy of things that I could learn from firsthand knowledge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bikes Come Out of Hibernation

The alarm clock strikes 8:00am and the last sound you want to hear permeates
throughout the room. You reach over, hit the snooze button and fall back
asleep. A few minutes later the scene plays itself out once again, then again
and then again. Finally it is 8:25 and you jump out of bed as you realize class
starts in ten minutes. There’s no way you can make it on time. Just have to go
back to sleep and take that point deduction off of your attendance grade, right?
Wrong. You have an option, a form of transportation that can save the day, the
closest form to the yet to be invented transportation pad. Yes, the bicycle.


“Having a bike lets me sleep later because I can get to class in five minutes,”
said Alex Levine, a UMass student. This is just one of the many benefits that
bicycles provide its users with.

As springtime arrives and the snow disappears, more and more bikes make their
way out onto the roads and pathways of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Bikes can be seen lined up by the dozens at bike racks scattered all over
campus and bike riders whiz past pedestrians on their way to their final
destinations. It is as if the bikes have come out of hibernation.

The bicycle seems to be a perfect option for getting around campus. Some
students, such as senior Andy Billups, live off campus, too far to walk yet too
close to drive. The bicycle solves that problem. While time plays a large role
in people’s choice to use a bicycle, the form of transportation serves many
other purposes.

Bike riding provides many health benefits. It is a very good form of exercise.
According to The Better Health Channel, bike riding can help protect you from
strokes, heart attacks, obesity and diabetes. Bike riding is low impact, a good
muscle workout, easy, as intense as you want, and most of all it is fun. “I
just feel better when I ride my bike,” Billups went on to say. “It wakes me up
and gives me an extra boost before I get to class.”

Bike riding is also friendly to the environment. According to ecobridge.org,
33% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from cars. Riding bikes causes no
carbon dioxide emissions. Riding bikes also aide in alleviating congestion on
streets caused by numerous cars on the road, and they also lessen noise
pollution.

College students also see the advantage of bike riding in terms of their wallet.
With ever increasing gas prices bicycles are a good means of saving some money.
They are also significantly cheaper than purchasing a car.

Yet another benefit of riding bicycles deals with safety. The campus can be a
dangerous place for an individual walking at night from the library. “Riding a
bike at night is definitely safer than walking because you can just speed away
from anyone that tries to confront you,” said Jen Daluz, a sophomore at UMass.
“I feel less vulnerable on a bike compared to walking. And I think this is
especially true for females.”

So whether you are looking to get in shape, get to class on time, stay safe or
save the world from global warming, the bicycle is a prime option and should be
considered.

Audio for Bike Project

Please work...

Video Project: Spring Biking at UMass

This is our video project on biking at UMass in the Spring

Monday, April 14, 2008

Crashing at James Joyce's House


We were sitting in some small, off-the-beaten path coffee shop in the back alleys of this city that didn't care much for the morning after. The place smelled like over-cooked sausages and greasy egg Mcmuffins, but who were we to complain? After all, we smelled like last night, the night before that, and the night before that. Together, we created a stench that would soberly awaken even the most stubborn deep sleeper. "My head feels like it's in a fishbowl of Guinness," said Dave. Our last day in Dublin and the hangovers were starting to take their toll.

But how had we come to this place?

We arrived in Dublin so eager, chipper, and ready to drink ourselves silly. We even came up with a little cutesy name for it: Operation Beergut. Our goal was to spend as much of our time in Ireland sipping on Guinness, Murphy's, or Bulmer's in Dorothy's case, as possible without losing our minds. Together with my friends Dave and Dorothy, we met up with our other friends Elyse, Ryan, and Mary Jane in the city that seems to encourage a healthy beer now and then.

A long weekend off from Spain--time enough to refresh on speaking English, assuming we could understand our Irish counterparts, that is. Naturally, we wasted no time. Pints of Guinness flowed through the mechanical tap, into our stomachs, and out the natural taps. It was beautiful. The Guinness in Ireland is distinct. Though you might find a good one from time to time somewhere else, it will never be like the kind you get there. So milky soft and sweet, like sipping on a cloud or a fresh pillow made of froth and candy.

At the Guinness Factory, you might just want to set up shop and never leave. It's like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Adults. The vibe coming in is electric. There's something about St. James's Gate, the beer coming straight from the source, the vats revealing their secret to the eager Willy Wonka guests, only for one time, and only until you finish your drink. Then it's back on the streets, with ya! A Guinness at the factory is what a perfect milk shake in heaven would taste like. Go back to any point in your life when you tasted something so delicious and refreshing that it makes your mouth water just thinking of it. That won't even come close to the factory's one complimentary drink, well worth the 11 euro entrance fee.

Well, you get the point now, don't you? We went to the pubs, the clubs, the late night kebab stands, and everything in between. Whiskey in the Jar-O, and all the other classic and trite Irish tunes were sung by everyone in the pubs. We danced with each other and laughed. We listened to the locals, laughing at their nonsensical dialect. Was it English or Gaelic? Who cared, it was funny.

At one point a man in a band was showing us how to get from the pub to a bar he liked. I told him I was from Boston and he said he used to date a girl from Dorchester. "Dorchester?" I said. "That's a rough town." "Yeah, well, she was a rough girl," he immediately responded. God, I love that Irish wit. On it went for three hard days, each morning dragging on longer and longer. Until we finally came to our little coffee shop which we stumbled upon out of dumb, lost luck.

Elyse pointed out that we really hadn't done anything particularly cultural yet, other than drinking and going to the Guinness Factory, of course. She looked in her Let's Go guide book and said we should go to the James Joyce Cultural House. Joyce was a popular Irish writer who became one of Ireland's most esteemed artists, partly for penning Ulysses. After discussing the degrees of our hangovers for the better part of an hour and a half, we thought there was a long enough lull in the rain to head out.

No sooner had we left the shop than it started to rain again, in typical Irish style. It was cold and bitter as we marched on to a house that promised warmth and activity--something to stir the remainder of the brain cells that weren't already lost in a sea of beer. We ambled in resembling something out of a Gaudi painting--sluggishly melting into the dry scenery with sunken, sullen faces and eye sockets. To an outsider we probably looked like trouble. But the woman at the desk was kind and patient, telling us it was 5 euro to enter. We considered our options. To the left: cold, bitter rain, overflowing drains, and no where to go. To the right: a roof and heat, and what appeared to be cushy chairs. We paid our entrance fee and went upstairs.

We realized we were the only patrons in what seemed to be a pretty crappy museum. A few large rooms comprising mostly of a large table with various Joyce novels for the guests to enjoy, an old piano in a room filled with 30 or so chairs waiting to disintegrate, and some contemporary paintings made up the former residence Mr. Joyce.

Dorothy and Elyse sat down to pop open a book while Dave and I looked around. With not much to look at, I too opened Ulysses to see what all the fuss was. After a page I gave up. My withered mind couldn't handle that kind of wordiness that early in the morning, and Dave had begun to play Joyce's piano, easily distracting me. I wandered over into the next room where Dave sat playing some medley, clearly not precise and well played, but rather drawn back from somewhere in his memory of a time when he took piano lessons as a child. I pulled together three shaky chairs and laid out across them, staring up at the ceiling.

At some point, decades ago, James Joyce might have been just waking up, looking up at that same ceiling. And as Dave played his piano and I sat on his old chairs, the rain pounded on the roof and the window, much as it had on days like this for the last few decades. Few things change in these old cities.

We were barging in on this dead writer's house, reading his books, playing his instruments, and making ourselves comfortable. We stayed in that house for a couple of hours, not really doing anything, but just sitting and thinking. Dave played while we looked around and imagined what Ireland was like at the turn of the century. Last century, that is.

Often times we rush immediately to do the most touristy things or drink as much as we can before we really get an honest look at a place. We slowed it down just enough to get a feel for the place. Much of the architecture in Dublin is stone and gray, an ironic impression of the climate itself. Outside in the street, people went about their daily business, totally unaware and uninterested in the fact that four Americans were doing as the Irish might do, however artificial it might have been. And so it came to be on our last day in Dublin that we did our "cultural activity" for the week. A little reading, piano, and thinking. Looking out at the window as the city life went by, the rain pattering by in gusts. A typical Irish afternoon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Lede: No Refuge in Mexico for Fugitive Marine

In a recent Lede post by Patrick J. Lyons, the manhunt of a fugitive Marine is brought to an end. Cpl. Cesar Laurean was wanted for the murder of another Marine that was 8 months pregnant and had accused him of raping her.

Lyons writes that Mexico seems like a safe haven to many fugitives, based mostly off of Westerns and the idea that once you cross the border you'll be OK. Since 1980, the U.S. and Mexico have had an extradition treaty, and since 1995 it has been increasingly harder to escape justice.

I think this is interesting to think about because it connects closely with globalization and the use of technology and the internet throughout the world. Mexican authorities were able to recognize Laurean because of distinctive tattoos they had seen pictures of and reports of his search. Without the help of modern technology, the authorities probably wouldn't have been able to find him so easily.

Another thing to think about is the connectivity throughout the world now. At any point in time someone can snap a photo of a random event and get that picture posted online. If someone looking at the photo happens to recognize someone in it, they can immediately look up the number for authorities in that part of the world and call in a report. It's just another way in which the internet has helped to make the world a smaller place.

UMass in the Spring

There's something so obviously romantic and refreshing about warmer weather in the Spring after a long Winter that just wakes people up around the valley. Though the last few days have been a bit spotty with random rain showers and dips in the temperature, the weather has definitely improved for the long haul. The students at UMass couldn't be happier.

Everywhere you look you see people riding bikes, people walking, rather than riding the bus to campus, and people outdoors doing anything. Whiffle ball, baseball and football catch, basketball, and a number of beer-related outdoor drinking events have been taking up the students time in the last week. My street has become a strip of outdoor parties, games, and celebrations as the students are ready to stretch their legs again. It's a great time to be here at UMass.

It's something I missed last year. And I truly did miss it. Though I had an earlier spring in Spain, I knew well enough that having to deal with the harsh New England Winter just makes you appreciate the Spring that much more. People really come to life at UMass when the weather gets warmer.

At any time of day you can look out at the Student Union or the front of the library and see dozens of people hanging out on the grass, climbing trees, or sitting near the pond. Even teachers get into it, allowing classes to take place in the sun. Walking by Bartlett Hall you might find 30 people sitting in an awkward circle. They could be discussing Neruda, or maybe just the merits of a cool breeze in the shade.

Regardless, it's something that I'll miss greatly when I leave the valley for good. I can't say when or in what capacity I'll be back in Amherst after I graduate, but I know that it won't be the same as being a student. That sense of reckless youth, in which you can blow off your classes and just sit outside until the sun goes down, then go out all night, can only be done correctly at one point in a lifetime. And if you do it well, you won't need to do it again.

More than just the flowers bud in the Spring, here at UMass. The creativity that makes this campus great also begins to flourish again. The energy comes back and positive attitudes return. In a town like Amherst, where so many of the residents are between the ages of 18-35, it's something that can rarely be reproduced anywhere else. Maybe we graduate in the Spring because, like nature intends, it's time for us to get out of the house and get a move on. Life is outside the door.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Where Are We Really From?

Last semester I tutored/peer assisted with a new grad student to UMass. The student, Yiming Li, had just arrived from China and didn't have very strong conversational English skills. Since I was already thinking about teaching English abroad, I thought this would be a great experience. The experience itself was interesting, if not informative. I don't know if I really helped Yiming improve his English skills, but I did try to at least help him understand American culture.

Sometimes I would try to teach him about baseball or football. One time we went for a hike on Mt. Tom (even though we got lost and it took us a few hours to get out), and talked about life in China, both currently and during the Cultural Revolution. It was very interesting to hear all of the stories from someone who is actually from China, rather than just reading about it in an article or history book. We even had dinners where I taught him how to make pasta and he made me traditional Chinese food. It was delicious, by the way.

And it was during these talks that we got to the topic of nationality and heritage. At one point or another I mentioned that I had a few Chinese friends with familial roots to Shanghai or Beijing. And when I told him this he seemed confused.

"Well, they're not Chinese. They're American," he told me.

At first I thought it was something lost in translation, but after a few minutes I started to understand what Yiming was saying. To Americans, everything depends on where you can trace your lineage to. For centuries, immigrants have been moving towards neighborhoods with other people of their own descent. Irish, Italian, Chinese, Jewish, German, and any other group has formed their own community in almost every city.

We've been raised and taught in our educational system that American is a "melting pot" of cultures, languages, and ideas. But really, it's more of a "tossed salad." There's lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, and other things in the mix. They don't necessarily become one solid thing, but together, they create a nice blend and delicious meal. By the way, don't give me credit on that metaphor. I'm blanking on who said it a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it was really nice and they gave permission to spread it.

Anyway, for Americans, we rarely see ourselves as true Americans, though we often try to think that way. In reality, we see an Irish guy, a Chinese girl, or a Polish Jew. Maybe it's just inherent in humans to try to bond with the common traits and associations they already understand, so that when a person with the last name O'Leary meets another person named Flannigan, they feel some connection. Keep in mind that those two people might have never set an eye on the Emerald Isle.

So where are we really from? Are you ever really from anywhere? If you can just pick up and leave so easily today, what truly ties you to the land? The culture, the food, or the heritage itself? Maybe it's just the idea of a place you once belonged to. But that would mean that we're all just guests here in America, waiting to go home once we've made enough money to support the entire family. Horatio Alger style.

Back to Yiming. I was telling him about my Chinese friends, and he was quite confused. To him, once you left China, you were no longer Chinese. Those people were now American, and though their families were from China, they spoke Chinese, ate Chinese food, and enjoyed the Chinese new year, they were still Americans. He even told me about a friend of his who had moved to America from China. The man moved in his early 20s. He'd been living in America for only a few years, but Yiming said he was no longer Chinese, that he was American.

Maybe it's just the way the Chinese culture looks at immigration. I can't say from experience, and I'd be interested to find out more about it. In any case, I think of this now, as I prepare to move to Ecuador next year. I'm still an American, sure, according to my passport, anyway. But I'm still going to tell people that my mom is from Argentina, that I'm Jewish, and that I love traveling abroad and living internationally. How can I truly be an American if I love leaving the country that I love?

I always look at it as a necessary tool to better appreciate where I'm from and what I have. Every time I come back I am more grateful for the things I have and can take for granted. But that aside, I wonder if those of us who travel, work, and live abroad truly have a home. Maybe the road is home. Maybe the idea of home is just that--an idea. Something intangible that we place material things to so that we may see the transparent object. Maybe, just maybe, home is whatever you make of it. Forget the house with the white picket fence. Forget the cottage by the sea. Forget the bed you grew up in. It could just be inside of you. And that can be taken anywhere you go, for as long as you choose to go.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Lede: Should Have Thought of That in 1967

In a Lede post from April 4, Patrick J. Lyons writes about a lawsuit over copyright control in the United Kingdom. The former organist for the British band Procol Harum, Matthew Fisher, is suing the lead singer, Gary Brooker, for royalties.

Over the last three decades, Brooker has been making millions in royalties from their hit song "A Whiter Shade of Pale," but Fisher has never received anything because his name was not listed on the credits. Fisher argues, however, that his organ in the song is crucial to the success of the hit.

Initially, Fisher won his case, but with a stipulation. Because he waited 38 years to make an issue out of it, he can't get any money for past royalites, but he could get future royalties. However, in a recent appeal, a judge overturned that decision, saying though he did have a part in the song, he waited too long to get his royalties. Now, he officially will get no money for the song, and though he could appeal to the House of Lords, it is unlikely he would win there either.

This is a pretty interesting case because you have to wonder about what you create and whether or not it really belongs to you. Even though Fisher had a big part in the song, why did he wait so long before making a case out of it? If he noticed over the years that his former band mates were making millions off of the royalties, he should have said something sooner, rather than later.

Still, once you create something, it can't be denied that it is yours. The fact that the judge has turned down any compensation seems a bit harsh. He should at least be able to get a cut on the future royalties, seeing as how the judge even said Fisher had a big part in the success of the song.

Short Guy at a Concert

Short people out there--you can feel my pain on this one. And tall people--listen closely. Last night I went to a concert in Northampton to see one of my favorite bands, Minus the Bear. The show was great, but as usual I had to deal with being a short guy getting thrown around and blocked by tall people who just don't care.

I'm only 5'5, maybe 5'6 on a good day. So when I go to concerts I have to deal with people always being in my way and obscuring the stage. I also have to deal with people just pushing me around and blocking me out. My friend who works at the Mullins Center said the number one complaint of patrons during concerts is that people are blocking their vision or pushing them around. It's a pretty common experience for most people.

Normally I can find at least some other short people around me, but for some reason last night it seemed like my friend and I were two of the shortest people there. We got to the venue pretty early and got a good position on the left side, just a few feet back from the stage. After being deafened by the first two opening acts and standing in the same spot for an hour and a half, we were ready for Minus the Bear to come out.

But while we were standing there waiting, somehow a crowd of tall guys starting pushing themselves into us, nudging us out of our spots. This sort of thing probably happens all the time, but it's damn rude. Some of these tall people were jumping around literally right on top of me, others forcing me to move back and over.

Now, if you want to jump around and get crazy at a concert, that's fine. I totally understand that. But try to keep in mind that you're pissing off everyone else around you who also paid to not only hear but see that band. Part of the experience of going to a concert is getting to see the musicians. Otherwise you could just buy a live CD, blast your headphones and close your eyes.

I can't get mad at someone for being tall, no more than I would expect someone to be mad at me for being short. But keep in mind that when you're 6'5 and you're standing in the front, directly in front of a short person, jumping around and pushing everyone, you're being a jerk. It'd be nice if there was priority spotting for short people in the front, and taller people further back, according to height, but that would never happen.

In the meantime, there's no way I'm going to be growing exponentially anytime soon, and I doubt tall people everywhere will read this and think about it at the next concert they go to. But try to keep in mind that everyone there is trying to have a good time. So think about what you're doing.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

How To Screw With Your Friend's Verizon Phone

An interesting thing happened this morning. When I tried to call my voicemail, it called my friend Paul. My roommate Smitty had tried calling me earlier and instead of getting me he was forwarded to Paul. Thus, we discovered a loophole in Verizon's network that can totally screw with someone's phone if they're unaware of it. This makes a great prank, but don't use it as a weapon.

Apparently when you dial *68 + any number, the two phones will become linked. When you dial your voicemail you go straight to their line, and when someone calls you it will go to the other phone. Last night Paul took my phone when I wasn't paying attention and put on this "glitch" as a joke but forgot to take it off before I went home.

How the "Glitch" Was Discovered

One day our friend Curtis was trying to play a prank on Paul while he was in class by calling him anonymously. Normally, hitting *67 before calling a number will make it restricted, but Curtis is kind of an idiot and hit *68. What resulted for the next two hours was total confusion between Curtis, Paul, and anyone else calling. Only after playing around with every button and combination on the phones for two hours were the idiots able to fix their phones back.

To fix the "glitch" you just need to dial *73. Call you voicemail to make sure it works. I'm not sure why this is possible, but it's probably been a problem to people before. Who knows, maybe Verizon has some reason for allowing this to happen. In any case, seeing as how it's April 5, you might want to do this prank sooner, rather than waiting another 361 days for April Fool's Day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another Shameless Plug

The article I wrote for GoNOMAD about my experience in Uruguay has been posted, and you can check it out here. It differs from the blog post I did earlier about Uruguay, and goes more in depth about the Techo program.

Let me know what you think of the article.

Jon