November 16, 2006

"Very Low Food Security"

The USDA has a new classification for Americans who have limited access to food. They aren't "hungry." They have "very low food security." Of course, some anti-hunger advocates claim the new wording "sugarcoat[s] a national shame."

Instead of focusing on the semantics, I'd like to look at the statistics cited. According to the USDA, 35 million Americans households--12% of the population--are classified as having either "low food security" or "very low food security." Over one-tenth of the American population does not eat well. Our nation is one of the fattest in the world, but one-tenth of Americans worry about getting enough food. And that percentage has been increasing for the past five years.

I'm having a very difficult time comprehending that statistic. How is it possible that this country has such a large number of "hungry" people? I don't understand how the percentage is that high and growing. What is wrong with this country that so many people are afraid of "going hungry"?

One out of every ten households. Unbelievable.

Posted by Randy at 09:10 PM | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

The Bus Plunge

At some point during this past summer, I began to read (or at least look at) Slate every day. The online magazine has a variety of features I find fascinating, including political, judicial, and pop culture commentary.

One of my favorite features, however, is the Press Box column written by Jack Shafer. It seems he's covered almost everything related to the news industry at one point or another. Recently, he has written about national news "sweetening" Nancy Pelosi in hopes of gaining greater access to her and the Los Angeles Times potential purchase.

Occasionally, he produces a true gem of a column. Recently, he wrote about the decline of the "bus plunge story." To summarize the column, a "bus plunge story" is a paragraph long story with a short headline that informs the reader of a bus plunging off of a cliff or mountain and killing passengers. These stories were frequently used by The New York Times in order to fill space on some pages.

Journalists, being the cynical and jaded lot that they are, began to find the frequency of bus plunge stories most amusing. In fact, at the Times, "Bus plunges had become an inside joke, with editors scouting the wires for new ones."

My favorite part of the column, though, is the following two sentences: "Of course, it's callous to make light of anybody's tragic death. But by the gallows-humor standards of journalism, competing to publish bus-plunge shorts was fairly benign."

It's funny because it's true.

Posted by Randy at 06:00 PM | TrackBack

November 14, 2006

Photo Feature II

I always encounter a problem when I stumble across an artist like Gilad Benari of Israel. His work is so consistently and utterly breathtaking that I am forced to spend far too much time enjoying his gallery. I can easily lose an hour studying photo after photo after photo. Benari is easily one of my favorite photographers on Deviant Art. I've got several of his photos stored away among my favorites.

Though I'll probably share another of his photos at a later date, it was "A Touch of Crayon" that introduced me to his work:


(Follow the photo link and click the photo for an enlarged version.)

I don't remember how I first saw this photo. I was probably browsing through popular "conceptual" photos, but it doesn't matter. I do, however, remember seeing it for the first time. My first thought was that it didn't look real. I didn't think it was a photograph.

Once I accepted it as real, I began to delve into the beauty of the piece. The blinds and the window look ancient. They are cracked and rusted. The wooden pieces show their age, and you get the feeling that if you blew quite a bit of dust would fly off the edge. The colors are drab. The eye finds hints of color toward the back edge, but even it appears faded.

In the midst of this barren wasteland, a vivid splash of color commands the attention of the eye. It takes effort to look away from that red crayon. The strength of the color almost seems to mock the bland redness of the rust. In contrast to the aged window, the crayon appears brand new and unspoiled. The "point" of the crayon rests on a crack of the sill, subtly emphasizing the contrast of age.

The strangeness of finding a new crayon on the leaning against an old window sparks numerous questions. The most obvious, of course, would be "How did it get there?" However, I'm more interested in why it was left. Was it a child's crayon? Did he or she plan to add some color to the window or the drab wall? Where are the rest of the crayons, and does the owner even realize the red one is missing? One could easily create a story to answer these questions, and that is probably the main reason I enjoy this photo so much.

Posted by Randy at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

November 09, 2006

Mid-Term Results

I've been hesitant to write anything regarding the elections. I was afraid I might jinx the races if I actually posted anything before they were final. Now that Allen has conceded his loss in Virginia and given control of both the Senate and the House to the Democrats, I feel as though I can celebrate in writing.

*happy dance*

I am so happy the Republicans no longer have complete control. Seriously, just ask my current roommates. I've been walking on air for the past couple of days. I am not so naive to believe the Democrats will enact great sweeping political and social reform, but I feel they are a step in the right direction for our country.

Posted by Randy at 04:21 PM | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

Sports > Education

That is the message declared by the majority of voters from my hometown of Mt. Enterprise. Allow me to elaborate a bit.

When I was in high school, I am fairly certain MEISD had less than 200 students in both high school and junior high. That number may be a bit off, but I'm fairly certain it was somewhere around 200. In the more than four years since I graduated, I doubt the school population has grown by much. With liberal speculation, I'm going to estimate that there may be close to 300 students now.

According to certain family members of mine, the City of Mt. Enterprise (pop. 525) approved a bond election on Tuesday. This bond will allow for the construction of a $3,000,000 stadium for the school.

$3,000,000. Three. Million. Dollars.

From what I've been told, this money will be raised by increasing land taxes by more than 15%. From my observations, most of the land owners are elderly. Not only do they no longer have children in school but most of them don't even have grandchildren still in school. These are the people who will pay for this.

Despite what those in favor of this monstrosity say, a sports stadium will not help "our children's future." Very few students from MEISD receive sports scholarships which are worth anything more than a community college education. Better equipment and facilities won't change that.

Can anyone explain to me the reasoning behind building a sports stadium that is probably worth more than all the other school facilities combined?

Posted by Randy at 05:38 PM | TrackBack

November 07, 2006

Photo Feature I

As I am significantly lacking in the posting department, I've decided to implement a new feature. Whenever I feel inspired, I will select one of my favorite photographs (most likely from DeviantArt) and elaborate on why I feel so strongly about it. If you have ever gone to my DA photo gallery and looked through my selected favorites, you know they range from the ridiculously simple to the incredibly complex and from the pure and innocent to the (arguably) risque.

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say I agonized over which photo I wanted to discuss first. After much inner debate, I decided on the rather haunting "Effect of the London blast."

Effect of the London Blast
(Follow the photo link and click the photo for an enlarged version)

Immediately after any kind of major news concerning violence, the focus is sternly fixed upon the aftermath. If you can ignore the argument over whether or not this focus is right or wrong, you have to admit most people want the gory details. The terrorist bombings in London was no different. The news media was practically flooded with photos of bloody and injured commuters and general transportation wreckage.

Sue Anna Joe, a 24 year old photographer, was in London the day of the bombing. Instead of shooting more of the carnage, she turned her camera to the window of a "shop" to capture a notice someone had taped to the glass.

Reflected in the glass are buildings of London that are unknown to me and probably to most people. One can make out the cross at the top of a steeple. Perhaps the photographer was hinting both that the destruction was caused by an extremist interpretation of religion and that some turn to religion during times of crisis.

Taped onto the glass is a simple note announcing the closure of "Albannach," which is presumably the name of the shop. The note also adds an apology for inconvenience. However, the apology is both in parentheses and a much smaller font. Is the author of the note truly sorry, or did he or she feel obligated to offer a token bit of kindness following the national tragedy?

I am not sure what to call the object along the bottom of the photo, but the circulating spikes make it appear menacing in this bluish tone. Similarly, the lamp seen just past the window's glass has spikes, adding to a generally unwelcoming and cold tone of the photo. Did the bombing create this sense of coldness, or did it just give it the opportunity to show itself?

All in all, it's a very interesting piece of photojournalism that would never be published in an actual newspaper. It provides some insight into the reactions of London residents, but it also generates a number of questions.

Most importantly of all, I like the photo. It's always possible I'm reading too much into certain aspects of it, but I still find it enchanting.

Posted by Randy at 12:50 AM | TrackBack