June 29, 2005

Academician Jared, BA, BS, MA, MS, MBA, PhD


I got this in my e-mail inbox today. So . . . It looks like I'll be dropping out of LeTourneau, then. Job prospects are looking up now, too. I dare any fast food restaurant or retail store outlet in Longview to turn me down now! Haha! I bet I could even make manager at, like, Burger King or somewhere.

Ambitious? Me?

Posted by Jared at 10:06 PM | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

I Got Books!

Well, I knew there was a reason why I had brought an extra bag with me to West Texas, but I had forgotten precisely what that reason was until my Grandma asked me yesterday afternoon if I wanted to go look at the books she's been saving for me. My Grandma (if I haven't already mentioned this 513 times) is the librarian at Southland Public High School. She is constantly in the process of keeping the library's collection up-to-date and recently she has pulled a large number of old books that no one checks out off the shelves.

So we drove up to the school and I looked through the piles of books that lay before me and selected the following titles:

Charley's Aunt: A Play in Three Acts by Brandon Thomas

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

The Wild Duck and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen

1984 by George Orwell

The Sketch Book by Washington Irving

The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

The Iliad of Homer

Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Furthermore, I spent a bit of time both yesterday and today poking my nose into various bookstores around here looking for a particular item. I didn't find it, but I did purchase copies of the following:

Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (Complete, Unabridged, New Illustrated Edition)

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart et al With a Foreword by Thomas Jefferson

I spent several hours poring over this last yesterday, laughing until I thought my spleen would explode. The humorous effect was exacerbated by the fact that no one else was particularly amused. My attempts to share the joy and humor were met with everything from frowns of derision to open stares of confusion. *sigh* Nobody appreciates good satire anymore.

For the uninitiated, let me attempt to describe what, exactly, this book is. Imagine "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspre, Abridged" if you will. Got it? Good. Now imagine that, instead of the works of Shakespeare, you have a similar concept masquerading as an American Government textbook, complete with amusing footnotes. Are you beginning to get the idea? Yeah. It's flipping hilarious. (Skip below the fold for a brief excerpt.)

So, anyway, that pretty much sums up West Texas at the moment. My parents and the various aunt and uncle types are frantically preparing for the big celebration tomorrow, and I'm the only college-age cousin who has actually arrived in town, as yet. So, hopelessly and irrevocably stuck in-between two age groups, I spend my time sitting and reading, or sleeping.

Well, I could do a lot worse.

I wrestled with the idea of choosing just one funny to share from America (The Book) . . . It's all so great, and no one around here appreciates it, so you understand my dilemma. Finally, and for no particular reason, I settled on the following:

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

The debate over The Constitution prompted the two most influential series of essays in American history, The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers, two exhaustive and thoughtful meditations on the merits and failings of the nation's new blueprint.

You can read these hundreds of pages of dense, turgid prose, or you could skim these blurbs taken from reviews of The Constitution.

"The Constitution grabs you right from the Preamble and doesn't let go until the last Article . . . the must-ratify document of the summer!"
-Alexander Hamilton, New York Post

"A pathetic excuse of a social contract that makes John Locke's Two Treatises of Government look like Baron Montesquieu's The Spirit of Laws."
-Richard Henry Lee, Richmond Chronicle-Courant

"If you base your new nation on only one fundamental set of governmental principles this year, make it this one!"
-James Madison, Hartford Gazette-Chronicle

"The 'Foundering' Fathers are at it again . . . who told these guys they could Found?!?"
-Samuel Bryan, Boston Courant-Gazette

". . . this follow-up to 'The Articles of Confederation' is the rare sequel that's more bicameral than the original! Gallop, don't trot, to your town square to pick up a copy!"
-John Jay, Wilmington Gazette-Courant-Chronicle

"Belongs to the so-bad-it's-good genre of political charters . . . destined to become the kind of camp classic revered by some of our more, shall we say, 'unmarried' friends."
-Melancton Smith, "Melancton's Musings" (syndicated column)

"Checkf, balancef, executive, legiflative, judiciary - thif baby'f got it all!"
-George Wafhington, Mount Vernon Bee-Difpatch

I also feel the need to share the reviews on the back of the book:

"So informative, I even found out who I was." -Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, May 14, 1801-Feb. 8, 1814

"Cruelly wrested from the hands of my ancestors or not, AMERICA makes a great read!"
-Chief Standing Ox, Navajo Nation

"Thank you for your manuscript. We regret it does not suit our needs at the current time."
-Jason Hay, editor, Little, Brown and Company

"A Bridget Jones's Diary for the comedic nonfiction government textbook set."
-Melissa Bank, author of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

"This is an epic tale of rock 'n' roll Babylon; a story of the evil men do told by the men themselves. Armed with eyeliners, guitars, and hypodermic needles, the men of Motley Crue got everything they ever wanted and then threw it all away."
-Rolling Stone

"This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be an asshole for at least a month afterward."
-Ayn Rand

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua!"

"I would certainly read this book if I were alive today, which, for all you geniuses out there, I am not."
-Abraham Lincoln

Posted by Jared at 07:03 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2005


I have arrived in West Texas, safe and sound, and I'll be here until next Monday. The reason for this trip is the 50th wedding anniversary of my dad's parents . . . EVERYbody's coming in, and it should be fun. Meanwhile, I just thought I'd share with you a few jokes told to me by my brother Ian:

A group of globetrotters were travelling aboard the same airplane, swapping exaggerated claims and tall tales. After a few real whoppers, one of the more silent ones pipes up with one of his own. "I can stick my hand outside the plane," he says, "and tell exactly what country we're flying over."

This statement is, of course, met with scoffs and demands of proof, so he sticks his hand outside the plane and, after a moment's thought, says, "We're flying over Egypt." "How do you know?" his fellow passengers inquire. "Well, I just felt the tip of one of the pyramids."

Awhile later, he sticks his hand outside the plane again, and this time he says, "Ah, we're flying over the United States now." "How can you tell?" "I just brushed the crown of the Statue of Liberty."

Finally, sometime afterwards, he sticks his hand outside the plane a third time and immediately calls out, "Aha! We're definitely flying over Guatemala!" "Now how could you possibly tell that?" "My watch just got stolen."


You know, they recently invented a device that totally eliminates stealing, robbery, and theft of all kinds nationwide when simply placed inside a country and switched on. It was tested with great success in Mexico last month; all of the thieves were just gone. So, last week they thought they'd give it a try in Guatemala. Three hours later, it had disappeared.


A number of people of various nationalities were sitting around chewing the fat one day, and the topic of conversation turned to the question of what makes each country truly great and unique. Going around the circle, a Swiss man proudly said, "Well, Switzerland is home to the most beautiful mountains in the entire world." "Oh?" rejoined an American, "Well, the United States was the first country to put a man on the moon."

"That's nothing," piped up a Guatemalan, "Guatemalan scientists are hard at work right now preparing the first manned expedition to the sun. Soon, all of the glory will be ours."

"A trip to the sun?" asked the American, confused. "How do you plan to deal with the problem of the sun's intense heat?"

"That's not an issue," replied the Guatemalan. "We're planning to go at night."


Two Guatemalan prisoners were planning a jailbreak. "Alright," said one, "here's what we'll do. If the perimeter fence is short, we'll go over it. If it's tall, we'll tunnel underneath. I think that covers all contingencies . . . let's go take a look."

Stepping outside, they stared around them in open despair. "Well, now what are we going to do?" moaned the second. "They don't even have a fence."


Well, there you have it . . . the latest word in humor from Guatemala, brought to you today by my little chapin . . . err, brother. I'll catch you all later, I'm gonna go see if he's got any more . . .

Posted by Jared at 09:20 PM | TrackBack

June 21, 2005

Gazing Into the Abyss: Is Our Media Too Liberal?

Well, first of all, many kudos to the esteemed Dr. Johnson for his compelling extra-credit assignment in Fed, State, and Local Government. The reading was so compelling, in fact, that though I had no intention of doing the assignment to begin with, I'll be danged if I didn't just go and do it anyway. Secondly, wave goodbye to my two-week sabbatical from blogging. More on that in an upcoming post.

I highly recommend reading at least the first two of the following selections . . . Hey, I had to read all three! I also recommend reading them in the following order:

Bias, Slander, and BS by Eric Altman

High Bias: ’Mainstream’ reporters aren't just liberal--they're fanatical by Orson Scott Card (yes, the sci-fi author)

A Measure of Media Bias by Tim Groseclose & Jeff Milyo

There's nothing brand-new here, all three pieces are fairly old. And, incidentally, I believe that I actually have them arranged in chronological order above. They represent, respectively, the mainstream liberal, conservative, and statistical views on the existence of that decades-old cliché, the liberal bias in American media. So . . . what do they have to say?

The Altman piece is actually the introduction to his book What Liberal Media?, and it has some very interesting things to say about the "liberal media" which, if it doesn't flip-flop your perspective entirely, will at least give you something to chew on. The chief weakness of this piece, I believe, is the amount of attention it devotes to slamming Ann Coulter. This is certainly a praiseworthy and laudable cause if ever there was one, but c'mon . . . All sane people know that Coulter is a loudmouthed idiot who defines the very essence of knee-jerk conservatism. She is an embarrassment and a liability to whichever group she is currently supporting, whether that group be Republicans, Christians, or the entire United States.

So, while I was entertained by his firm refutation of her fictional rants, I didn't need that section to go on quite as long as it did. Ditto the segment on Bernard Goldberg (although he is certainly no Ann Coulter). Nevertheless, his various points in this section struck home quite effectively. He quotes Republicans who publicly decry the liberal bias in the media and later admit the mere rhetorical usefulness of the phrase in private. He notes the immense popularity of both Coulter and Goldberg among the so-called liberal media organizations (citing their frequent TV appearances and positive national exposure). He reveals what he perceives to be the real liberal media, and compares them to a far more powerful conservative media . . . with the bulk of media sources still falling somewhere in the middle.

And he indirectly raises a question in my mind: If the media is that biased towards the left, and that anxious to cover it up, why in God's name do they constantly say so? I guarantee I'd never have heard the term "liberal media" were it not for the media themselves, and from them I seem to hear it almost constantly in some form or another. If, as conservative pundits would have it, the media is overwhelmingly dominated by a bias which they go to great lengths to deny and keep quiet, how did I ever hear about it in the first place?

The most important and valid point raised by Altman is near the end of his introduction, and is summed up nicely in the following quote: "The media make up a vast and unruly herd of independent beasts. Given their number and variety, it can be difficult for anyone to speak accurately about all of them simultaneously . . . The medium is only the message if you're not paying close attention." If you agree with no other point made in his introduction (and I happen to agree with a number of them, myself) I think we can all agree on that, at least. "The Media" is not a hive mind, it is a title applied to an enormous collection of smaller organizations, all violently competing with each other for our attention. I'll come back to that in a moment.

It is difficult to know where to begin with Card's assessment of the "liberal media" phenomenon. I suppose we could start with the title . . . 'Cuz gee, that's not biased. I was intensely frustrated with Card as I read his article. It was the sort of frustration I usually feel when I watch someone presenting an argument that I might generally agree with on principle, then attempt to prove it by demolishing a series of irrelevant straw men from the opponent's side. In short, it was like reading a transcript of a Rush Limbaugh rant.

For instance, he points out a prominent mention of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal (an event that dominated the news at the time he was writing) in an article about a speech given by Donald Rumsfeld at the West Point graduation. (Exact quote: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, making no mention of the prisoner abuse scandal that has led to calls for his ouster . . .") He then goes on to call this evidence of a liberal bias, since you would never hear a reference to the decades-old cattle futures scandal in an article about a speech by Hillary Clinton (i.e. "Senator Hillary Clinton, making no mention of the $100,000 she once made by trading cattle futures with astonishing perfection . . ."). The comparison is asinine and obtuse. I contend that you would hear the connection, and in fact did at the time when the various Clinton scandals first began to receive national attention over a decade ago. I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time and even I remember that.

The point here is that the media is all about selling news, and the public has a notoriously short attention span, but they love a sensation. When a scandal as big as Abu Ghraib hits the fan and becomes attached to someone we all recognize, like the secretary of defense (for example) it is only natural to see the connection beaten to death over the course of a few months every time a story surfaces that includes his name. That's just how this works.

A quick scan of major internet news sources reveals that the public has moved on, and the media with them. Donald Rumsfeld and Abu Ghraib are no longer peanut butter and jelly . . . duh. Au contraire, an extremely brief perusal of cnn.com reveals this gem leading off a top story: "President Bush, who is pushing for democratic reform around the globe . . ." Not even the article on foxnews.com was that nice. This is a liberal slant? Gevalt!

Furthermore, Card short-circuits his own examples by contradicting himself. In one example he points to a creeping liberal "politically correct message" bias in an article that presents three different perspectives on an issue. The problem here is that the one supporting the liberal agenda of the author is placed at the end of the story where it will leave a lasting impression before the reader moves on to the funny pages. Makes sense, right?

Sure, until you read his next example . . . In this one, he accuses the liberally-biased media of "burying" the truth deep towards the end of the story, and placing the material they want to get across prominently at the beginning of the article where it will leave a lasting impression on the reader before they quit reading and move on to the funny pages. Jiminy Christmas! What will those sneaky liberals think of next?

One wonders how he would judge my own ordering of the of articles I read, but I digress . . .

He ends the article on what I consider to be the most insidious and offensive note . . . a perspective on objectivity which I have long abhorred: It's okay to be as biased as you want to be, so long as you're "honest" about it (Fox News, anyone?) and you're biased for the right side (in this case, the United States). Objectivity is impossible, so we shouldn't even try. This quote in particular left a foul taste in my mouth: "Fox News Channel, on the other hand, claims to have only one bias--it is definitely pro-American--and it presents all the facts and every viewpoint and leaves the decision up to the viewer."

This comic, I think, presents a far more accurate view of that particular news source.

Finally, let's spend a little time on the folks who, presumably, can bring some balance to this debate with cold, hard statistical data. Don't hold your breath . . . Statistics are iffy at the best of times, and this particular batch of crunched numbers purports to numerically map the answers to such questions as “Is the average article in the New York Times more liberal than the average speech by Tom Daschle?” and “Is the average story on Fox News more conservative than the average speech by Bill Frist?” Helpful, no?

Nope, not really.

The report is long and fairly technical and, in my opinion, ultimately of little practical use. They make some good observations near the beginning, correctly stating that much of the driving evidence behind the "liberal media" perspective is anecdotal in nature. They go on to discuss the various ways these things have been measured in the past, explain the unique way in which they propose to slap an empirical value on the bias of a particular news agency, then wriggle quickly out of any chance of making the report relevant by redefining "bias" in such a way as to avoid resolving the debate no matter what the findings may be. Mathematical formulae follow, for those who are interested . . . I wasn't, particularly.

At this point, just when you think you're going to get some actual data, our happy statisticians start tossing in digressions and data adjustments. Ultimately, the entire report seems to collapse under the weight of technobabble (or worse, leaderspeak) and watered-down findings. It's true, statistics really can show whatever you want them to . . . In this case, the authors made the surprising and unusual choice of having the statistics show nothing at all. If you want a neater answer than that, what the report seems to indicate is that all media really falls a lot closer to the center than anyone might expect.

And this brings me to my final point before I rush off to another exciting Johnson class . . . The media can and do take on a plethora of shifting forms and "biases" at any given point in time, partially because it really is an incredibly diverse body, but more importantly because it exists to make money, and you can't make money unless you're selling something that people want to buy.

I do not believe that an overwhelming liberal bias exists in the media at this time . . . if anything I'd call it the other way around. But any bias that does exist is not a reflection of the biases of an unethical, elitist, and slanted group of individuals, it is ultimately a reflection of the biases endorsed by all of us . . . the American people . . . the consumers.

Posted by Jared at 06:28 AM | TrackBack

June 07, 2005

A (Student) Night at the Opera

Opera Longview puts on one production every year here in town, and I was given to understand that it was not to be missed if I could possibly attend. Well, a bit of research revealed that ticket prices ranged from $25 to $50 and, while I was still trying to reconcile my conscience and my pocketbook with this figure, a bit of further research revealed the availability of free tickets to a performance on "student night," two days before opening. Essentially, what we attended was the full dress rehearsal of Pirates of Penzance . . . and we even still, we were all quite impressed.

I don't know where or how Longview managed to dig up these people, but a number of the cast and crew members had rather impressive resumes. The soprano who played Mabel, for instance, performed the role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. The sets and lighting were fun, in keeping with the general atmosphere of the thing. The music was great, the lyrics were hilarious . . . there was a bit of trouble with the supertitles during the first half of the first act, but we could mostly understand what was being said anyway. It's not as though it were in Italian or German.

I had never seen Pirates of Penzance before, nor heard any of the music except (of course) "Modern Major General." I've read through it a bit in Wilson's Complete Gilbert & Sullivan, but I wasn't particularly with familiar with the plot or anything. In short . . . I was delighted by the entirety, save one slight caveat.

During the final notes of the final song, a British flag was unfurled in the midst of the assembled cast . . . and then it was rotated to reveal the Texas flag on the other side! Agh! They desecrated the Union Jack! How could they?! Oh, well. I guess (as Anna said) it was kinda cute. Whatever. Anyway, Scholl and I both agreed that it was by far the highest quality production we have ever attended in East Texas, and we went away happy.

Additionally, I would like to point the reader's attention to a relatively new link on the sidebar, "Mi Sociedad." It is the blog of Alpha Eta Mu, our LeTourneau chapter of the English Honor Society, set up to include contributions from the four officers (who are, at present, also the only members . . . we're working on that) and Dr. Solganick, our slightly off-center faculty sponsor (I employ these adjectives of vague warning in case you should happen to wander by his blogger profile and begin to wonder. He's harmless, really). Anyway, I am in the midst of posting a series of literary journals, some of which are recycled but modified from my blog, and some of which are entirely new. Wilson, too, has already contributed some very excellent material, and hopefully Martinez and Charissa will not be far behind. I encourage you all to troop over, take a look, add it to your links, and read and comment regularly . . . This is how desperate I am to generate interest.

Anyway, commercial over . . . and blogpost over as well.

Posted by Jared at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2005


So . . . geez. Where did I go?! I got on to check the blog a few days back and did a double-take when I noticed the current date and the date of my last post . . . what happened? I didn't even know how to answer that question until I stopped and thought back for a bit. Government with Dr. J started last Wednesday (it's a lot of fun . . . my first 8 am class in a year and a half, but it's summer, it's Johnson, and there are four students in the class). On Monday evening The Cold War class with Dr. K officially started. And, of course, my Philosophy class won't end until next Wednesday. Blech.

Tomorrow I have a test in Government (simple stuff . . . it's over the three federal branches) and an opportunity to express myself in Philosophy (fyi, that's just the Philosophy prof trying to pretend like he's doing us a favor and letting us think when really we are just being submitted to an hour+ of gruelling copy-and-paste work from the three and a half dozen worksheets he's given us in the last week onto a bigger, meaner worksheet with "Test #3" written at the top with our short-term memories serving as the Clipboard . . . but I'm not bitter).

So . . . that keeps me busy, and in general all of my classes just have me temporarily swamped. I have been very frustrated and depressed every day during this week, dragging myself awake, spending four hours in class daydreaming (and sometimes actually dreaming) about all the sleep I'm going to get later and the fun I'll be able to have, spending four hours at work counting the minutes until I can just do something fun, then getting off and realizing that I have enough homework to keep me busy from suppertime until long after I wanted to get to bed . . . Then the cycle just begins all over again the next day.

Anyway, Rachel flew off to California last Friday, and Anna and Scholl were very nice and drove to Dallas with me to see her off. That made the trip back much more palatable, especially since I wound up having a splitting headache, slept most of the way back, and offered up the contents of my stomach before the porcelain god within 30 minutes of our return to campus. Not fun . . . but I got plenty of sleep that night followed by a totally relaxing weekend wherein I slept, ate, and leveled my Tauren Druid up to 21 in World of WarCraft (questing with my good buddy Andy in Colorado Springs, and even dragging Scholl into the mix). Good times.

And, with that update, I suppose I shall go ahead and get this posted. I have a number of thoughts that have been milling around restlessly in my head for a few days, and another major frustration has been the inability to find time to post them. I'm holding out for the weekend, hoping that I can hang onto my ideas for that long and have the time and the will to sit down and spew them forth before they are forever lost.

Life will be better in six days. God created the universe in six days. Coincidence? I think not! . . . Sorry, that was just totally random. I sense that it is time to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep again.

Posted by Jared at 06:19 PM | TrackBack

June 01, 2005

Sith Happens

Real post coming very soon, I promise. Meanwhile, this just in, via Randy. Episode III: The Unofficial Script by "Maya." It's really, really funny, and not as long as it seems (lots of comments down below).

Key quote-

YODA: Fight, shall we?
MAYA: I want the Emperor to win. I know he's pure evil, but at least he doesn't abuse the English language.

Warning: I take no responsibility for what you might find in the comments section or in the following of any link on the page. Or for anything else, really.

Posted by Jared at 10:18 PM | TrackBack