Drankin’ Pardnas: Are 1/2 of UMass Students Boozehounds and Drug-Whores?

April 5, 2007 at 10:15 pm (Uncategorized)

According to this story in today’s Daily Collegian “about half of full-time college students abuse drugs and alcohol.” One look at the campus on a weekend, and you can tell that UMass is not a dry campus, but how bad could it be? If the website ZooMassDrunks is any indication, then our alchoholic peers have the dicipline of a kleptomaniac in a blind womans house. Take a gander at a couple pictures from the aforementioned site, selected by UMass’ own Courtney Souza:

Souza went on to searching for UMass’ alcohol-centered groups, and Lord, does the infamous college networking site Facebook, have a ton of groups devoted to drinking. And if being a card-carrying member of “AA=Alcohol Appreciation” isnt you bag, there are likewise, a bevy of anti-drinking groups as well. Notable examples include “i can only have fun when i’m sober” and, you guessed it, the “Straight Edge” group.

Drinking is an appropriate topic for publication today, what with April being Alchohol Awareness Month, and it’s lead students to question their peers as to what their drinking/drugging habits are like.

Additionally, organizations are popping up left and right into order to retard this rise in drug use. UMass has people like “The Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High Risk Drinking” who are attempting to curb this trend, but all the while, UMass Police are increasing their presence in dorms. (Thanks to Scott Brodeur for the links)

Statistically, drinking has been on the rise for a while. According to these statistics, collected by Tara Quist: “From 1993 to 2005, there has been no significant reduction in the levels of drinking and binge drinking among college students. In 2005, 67.9 percent of
students (approximately 5.3 million students) reported drinking in the past
month and 40.1 percent (approximately 3.1 million students) reported binge
drinking.
” This same study also purported that abuse of prescription drugs is also on the rise with a “342.9 percent increase” between 1993 and 2005″. Also, UMass did a survey in 2003 that stated much the same findings.

Many UMass students have a lot to say about drinking:

Devon Courtney went to UMass’ Campus Center, and questioned students on the above topic. Click here to see his report.

To see what UMass students drink preferences are, see this story by Daryl.

You can also, check out the raw audio of Mike and Devon’s interviews here: WS_30011.WMA

While here, take into consideration the testimony of one Ryan Gibbons, an avid drinker, who said much of his first hand experiences. Why is Ryan different from any other drinker?

Need i say more?

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(pod)Cast Away!

April 5, 2007 at 3:57 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been enjoying podcasts for a few years now, so an assignment where i review 2 original podcasts makes all those hours of listening seem purposeful. The idea of a portable “radio” broadcast came in handy when my iPod still worked, and was even more appealing during adderall fueled all-nighters. When you’re up all night, a good way to both relax and remember what the time is involves kicking back and listening to a timestamped news brief. So here’s a review of my 2 favorite podcasts:

Brainwashed Radio‘s weekly podcast was the first podcast I fell in love with, and i continue to listen to it to this day. Stemming from parent site, Brainwashed.com, a Boston based online publication devoted to “eclectic music” this podcast consists of a single, hour long audio recording made for the express purpose of spreading good music showcased on Brainwashed. Brainwashed started as a means of hosting permanent web pages for many independent bands, and soon branched out to contain things like a video section, titled The Eye, as well as CD reviews. They then started a streaming radio station
and from there began the podcast. Many of my favorite bands are featured on Brainwashed’s podcast: including Low, The Legendary Pink Dots, Arab Strap, Coil, Antony and the Johnsons and Do Make Say Think, among others. If you’re sick of pop music and radio in general, but don’t mind listening to post-folk, psy-trance and a little Japanese noise, then this podcast is right for you.

My second podcast is the legendarily convenient NPR hourly news summary, a brilliant example of how timely a pre-recorded podcast can be. Updated on the hour, every hour, this podcast is great because it supplies the listening with news as it’s happening at any given hour of the day. If you’ve got a spare minute before class, you can know the news. Better yet, NPR is amazing because they see beyond the specialized news-feeds like CNN, which report American news first, and instead give priority to reporting world news first. While NPR certainly has a liberal spin to what news they report. This can be demonstrated by the reporting of negative news from Iraq and Iran alongside growing reports of global warming concerns. At the same time, unlike Lindsay Lohan’s drug addiction, these issues matter, so they merit more attention.

It’s amazing how quickly podcasts took off. I’d first heard of them from Warren Ellis, actually. He took a few stabs at podcasts, via songs he’d gotten from MySpace, ironically. Since then, way too many podcasts have jumped up, but as long as you’re willing to shuffle through a lot of mess, you can find some seriously worthwhile content.

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The 7th Book

March 29, 2007 at 9:29 pm (Uncategorized)

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Celebrity Blogs: Are they just jerking off or what?

March 29, 2007 at 8:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Today, anyone can have a blog. Even celebrities. As far as that goes, people have always used their fame in ways they deam selfless and useful. Bono is a good example, what with him thinking he’s Jesus and all, of such celebs making the most of the attention they draw. But now they’re blogging, and it’s giving me a few mixed feelings on the matter…

In some ways, it’s an interesting pheonomenon. Lots of the time with celeb talent, we the people have questions we want answered by them, and have no real means to get such answers. It creates this air of enimga around a celebrity, full of stuff we wanna know and they arent going to tell us.

Curt Schilling, pitcher for the Red Sox (which i recently realized is a terribly strange name for a team) has a blog out now that has come under fire from the Boston Globe. Well, Schilling uses his blog to address issues formally to the press in what are basically releases. It’s an interesting way to get your opinion out there and cut out the middle man (yet another reporter loses work out there).

Now take a look his freaking site. Notice the Q&A’s? All 600 of them? It’s one thing if you’re a celebrity and you are answering questions reporters have. You owe us that. But when you answer questions on your own site, guess what? YOU ARE BEING A PRETENTIOUS A$$HOLE! Doesnt shock me that a Republican putz like Schilling would do that, but it is rather bothersome to read him always talking about himself. And people wonder why i fucking hate sports…

In my honest opinion, there are only a handful of “celebrities” i’d be interested enougb to read a blog about, and most of them are comic writers, so that’s that. Hell, they all have the right to go on about whatever they want, i just think it’s a bunch of bollicks for them to further get off on their fame by swimming in the comments they get.

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Barak Obama: What do you really know about him?

March 28, 2007 at 7:08 am (Uncategorized)

My boy Chaim threw this together. Enjoy.

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Can i just say i love the Perry Bible Fellowship?

March 23, 2007 at 3:29 am (Uncategorized)

This is such an awesome web comic:

I kinda need to share it with everyone. Click the pic for a link to the site.

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The US doesnt take care of it’s veterans?! Get out of town…

March 8, 2007 at 10:37 pm (Uncategorized)

So Scott had the class read this phenomenal story about soldiers who come back to the use after being seriously wounded in the Middle East, and how horribly treated and forgotten they are within these broken down excuses of military hospitals, and the story is very powerful.

It’s part one of a series about the fallout of the Iraqi war, and it’s deeply deeply depressing. The conditions these disfigured and broken men live in are inhumane, and has lead to many of them developing mental problems as a result of their lack of medical and mental attention. Furthermore, such mentally unstable soldiers are often put into positions of authority within these hospitals; the metaphoric “blind leading the blind,” as it were.

The piece is a seriously excellent piece of journalism, and you’d have to be a heartless bastard to not feel terrible for the state of things for these fallen soldiers. The article certainly instills a sense of anger in the empathetic reader, because of the massive amount of injustice involved in the way these human beings are treated by out government. It’s certainly a piece of liberal propaganda, in the sense that it briefly outlines Bush visiting the only clean ward in the hospital for a photo op every now and then, then saying he’ll improve conditions, but never follows through.

If you haven’t already, give it a look see.

In addition to the 5 page article, the Washington Post site for the story also has a brief 3 minutes or so long clip about these outpatient soldiers are made to feel less than human by their superiors, and now live a hellish life of going to therapy and coming home day after day. It’s a great addition to the story, since it gives these soldiers a face and visually illustrates what such terrible condition look like in a way pictures and words can’t do alone.

Here’s the video portion.

Finally, the story has a super-long comments section, filled with a whole lot of angry reactions and a few jackasses making jokes. Looking at the outrage felt by these people and knowing that i feel much the same way makes me realize just how out of the people’s control the government truly is under the current administration. It builds on my own frustration toward the current state of affairs, and reminds me why i, like so many other Americans, try not to think about politics on a daily basis because of how depressing and infuriating it is.

Comments portion is here.

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Journalism Embedded in Amazon.com?

March 8, 2007 at 9:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Amazon.com is obviously an extremely popular and overall reliable website. Everyone ends up using it at some point or another, just make sure you avoid anything that isn’t a book, because it’s usually a cheap rip-off. What i’ve always loved about the site is the user reviews of graphic novels that the product pages host, because they give you some idea of whether the book you might buy is absolute rubbish or not. It has, in the past, given me just enough extra incentive to go ahead and try something new like Grant Morrison’s Filth, of which i am like one of around six fans.

Scott presented us with the question of if such reviews qualify as journalism, and i’m stuck on the fence about it. I hate the idea of slapping the label of journalism on something that was written by some @$$hole with a GED, a notebook and too much time on his hands. It cheapens what a ton of people spend massive amounts of time, money and energy to attain in a true, professional sense.

I guess i’s rather liken such reviews to citizen journalism, but in a grassroots kind of way, because it certainly isn’t real journalism just because it’s a structured review. I mean, i posted a review for the latest issue of 100 Bullets on The Engine, and while i do try to take myself seriously as a writer, i’m not about to print it out and show it to Wizard magazine as an example of entertainment journalism.

A review like this one is somewhat helpful because it’s positive, but take a look at the quality of the post. Should i trust someone who doesnt spellcheck his posts? Could he have brain damage? Hell, i do love Joe Kelly overall, but this is not enough to make me want the second volume of what was a poorly drawn piece o’ clap.

This on the other hand is a great review for a distinctly Christian author that lots of readers avoid altogether. He addresses his overtly Christian messages, and instead of seeing them as gospel, he mentions them as a quirk of his writing and nothing more. I hate christianity to my core, but i do enjoy a Doug TenNaple book from time to time. This guy did a great review and i may just pick the book up after all.

But keep in mind: those Amazon reviews are unedited, full of errors regarding the books they write about and are often on the writer’s dick so hard that they’d give a good review to a coffee table book full of pictures of various head wounds the writer acquired while drinking. Actually…..that might be rather good…

My point is, it’s not so simple to classify something as journalism. It needs to have a sense of officiality, of tact and of professionalism. So maybe there are a few reviews on Amazon that match up to what could be called “journalism quality,” but the vast majority of such articles are bush-league geek rants. With that said, if people want to really reach for journalism, get your own blog and start building some credentials. Otherwise, you’re just another hack.

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The Engine: Egotistical Center for Discussion, or More?

March 8, 2007 at 4:10 pm (Ellis Watch)

So this blog is starting to look like a Warren Ellis Fan Site, but i assure you it just looks that way. One thing that Ellis loves to do is set up a ton of internet sites pertaining to himself. One such item is The Engine, a discussion board designed to facilitate talk about Ellis’ work, AND the work of his friends and hopeful upstarts. Now i’ve always steered clear of web forums, because it’s hard being a comic book fan in American and not being labeled a huge dork, so i fill my time with other things when i can. But i figured, what the hey, lets see what the fuss is about and give it a go if for no other reason than that it’s a class assignment done.

So I created an account for myself, and started to look at the message board for points of interest. Ellis has turned me on to a lot of good creators and sites in the past, so for the most part, i trust his judgement. There’s a lot of interesting threads up, with a lot of discussion about the 2008 election, which is titled “FUCKUP 2008” appropriately, a large amount of news on why the world is coming to an end (Like the no NASA funding for stopping asteroid collisions) and whatever else someone else wants to talk about.

But not surprisingly, the most interesting thing on the message boards involves the new releases every week. The thread begins with a listing of the comics coming out this week and then is followed by comments from some of the creative work behind said titles. This is cool, because it makes these talents real people who have a passion and want to share it with the public. Peachy keen.

Once it gets to actually posting, the process can be a bit daunting when you haven’t established yourself yet. I found myself looking at a thread, saying “Okay, i’ll post here.” then staring at the screen jaw-open while trying to think of something clever to say. Sorta like the feeling you get when you’re the new kid in school and you don’t know what to say when you meet people.

In general, posts don’t necessarily get comments on The Engine. The site functions largely as a place for people to vent ideas, fears, news, opinions and the like. You could go on there and write a post about a lot of things, and never get a single comment like i did. At the same time, you could create a thread on there that gets so many comments you’re no longer in control of the discussion. It’s kind of hit or miss like that.

Now i’ve wanted to be a comic book reviewer all my life, so when i saw on The Engine that they had a comic review thread, i said “That’s for me!” and got right to it. There’s a lot of good material out there today, and if i can help further the production of thought-provoking and intelligent material, then i’m down. So i wrote a review for last week’s issue of 100 Bullet and waited for the comments to flow. At this time, i still haven’t gotten a single comment about my review. It kinda bites, but like i said, it’s hit or miss.

So i tried another thread, this time about something Ellis wrote, in hope of kicking up some interest across the board. The book is titled Newuniversal, and is a reenvisioning of this tired old non-marvel universe superhero book called New Universe. Ellis makes it much more interesting, and it’s very well penciled by a guy named Salvador Larroca, who’s done a lot of stuff for Marvel over the years. The subject of my thread was that every main character in the book is blatantly photo referenced from a Hollywood actor. James Cromwell, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis and the guy who plays “Sawyer” in lost are notable examples of this. Here’s a preview of issue two, and you can see for yourself.

So I waited to see if anyone responded and sure enough, at about 5 AM a guy named Keiron Gillen responded and told me that Ellis stated the referencing was all Larroca’s input. Gillen also happens to be a comic book writer, who’s latest project Phonogram is an indie success that i’ve had my eye on buying for some time now. That was kinda cool for what it was. Then i got the mother-load: Ellis himself posted a response to my thread. Here’s the gist of the entries:

Me:”I’ve been a fan of Internet Jesus’ work since i first picked up Authority over half a decade ago, and i still give every single project he creates a good hunk of my weekly paycheck. That said, i am rather confused about the photo referencing in his new book Newuniversal. I love the script, but why exactly does every character in the book look exactly like a specific famous movie star?

Before i go any further, i love the book and think it’s an extreamly well presented take on what could be a superhero book, but clearly is not. The writing is sharp as hell and the pencils are the best i’ve seen from Larroca ever. But i know a few people have been turned off of future issues because they don’t want to see James Cromwell, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis and Sawyer from “Lost” in a comic every month.

My question is: Whose decision was it to make every character obvously based on a movie star? Was it Mr. Ellis or Sal Larroca? Maybe editor Axel Alonso?

Anybody know why?

Caleb Lyons”

Keiron Gillen: “Mr Ellis has said that it was Mr Larroca’s interpretation. KG”

Me: “Thanks, it was bothering the crap out of me.”

Warren Ellis: “Yeah, it was all Salva’s decision. Changes are coming.




…seldom have opportunites arisen where i can bring forth the full bearing of my man-chi”

 

End of post. Pretty fuckin’ cool when you can ask an author a question and get a response in under 5 hours. Plus, i got that foreboding hint from Ellis about “Changes are coming,” and how awesome is that? Sorry, had a fan-boy moment, but the bottom line is i finally got a post with a response from exactly who i wanted it from. That makes The Engine cool.

A creepy thing about The Engine is that its viewed as much more professional than your average comic book forum, because it’s fairly well designed and conceived/moderated by one of the industry’s top talents. I’ve been following Ellis since i happened upon The Authority and Transmetropolitian, which all journalists should read, and from reading his newsletters, you can tell that he has personal relationships with lots of the industry’s top talents. With all that said, it’s a safe bet that if you say something about a particular writer or his works on The Engine, they’ll catch wind of it and maybe even get back to you. You’re not just talking to fan-boys, you’re talking to the people who spent their month making the material, which is cool on a lot of levels to me.

Overall, I’d say the site is really worthwhile for those who enjoy non-superhero comics, want to create their own comic, or just want to find someplace to chat about craziness happening in the world. I’ll definitely be frequenting it from now on, so maybe i’ll see somebody i know on there sometime.

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The Comment Project: Review

March 8, 2007 at 7:25 am (Uncategorized)

For everyone who isn’t Scott, the last 6 entries were part of an assignment to try and get more comments on my blog through any means i wanted. In actuality, it was significantly more difficult than I’d expected, and only got me a small handful of comments after all that effort. I’ll now break down what i did.

My first entry was a pretty foolish an idea upon reflection: pull people into my blog by posting horrible lies about celebs. My theory was, if someone Googled one of the mentioned celebrities and saw what i wrote, they’d drop in and maybe say something about it. It didn’t work. Probably because I say they’re lies within the post, but for all i know, a ton of people DID come to my site after Googling Britney Spears, saw that it was a blatant lie and left immediately. The most activity I got on the site was around 9 people, and that probably includes me a lot as well.

I figured the most obvious way to get comments was to ask a questions at the end of each post, thereby beckoning the reader to give their 2 cents and drop some feedback. Each of my posts for the assignment has a question at the end, and i tried to make the question as thought-provoking and accessible as possible. That way, people would be more inclined to speak their mind.

The topics I covered for this assignment were items I knew a lot about ahead of time, had a firm opinion about and eluded some sense of controversy. Watching copy written material on computers is extremely prevalent today, as is video game violence, so both of these topics should have theoretically gotten a rise out of the reader, or so was my hope. Everyone has some kind of a stance on the copy right violation war that’s happening today.

Embedding video on my blog was also a great way to spice up the content, and make the entries look more professional as well. Since I was already exited about the Sunshine movie, I figured that posting a few of the film’s trailers and asking people what they thought them was an easy way to pull in readers. WordPress makes embedding video pretty easy (though Dailymotion is not as easy as Youtube) so i continued to run with that idea for the post about downloading, and will continue to use video wherever it seems fit.

I decided to write about comic book author Chris Claremont for a handful of reasons. First, it let me get a lot of anger off my chest, but also because i know comic book fans are notorious for bitching and arguing about opinions. With that said, i hoped someone would happen upon my page and “have at” my bashing aggressively. No such luck as of yet on that front either.

Finally, I kinda lucked out when Captain America was killed this morning. Everyone was looking for information on the topic, so my blog stood to get a lot of attention from a lot of different people if i could get it out there. I wrote a nice backup for people who don’t know thing one about comic books, wrote about why it was a funny mistake for CNN to immediately post about it, and that was that. What’s funny is that i haven’t even read the damn issue.

Another way i tried to acquire more comments was putting a link to my blog in my AIM , Facebook and Myspace profiles(even though i never update them) in order to pull people in who might be looking at my info at a given time. I also let my relative know about the blog AND put a link to the Captain America story in my away message right after publishing it.

I used to do that same away message trick with my old blog, and it got a lot more readers than i expected it to at the time, so it’s a tried and true method to me. Initally, a lot of people would just click it thinking it was a linked to a video or news story, but after a while, my friends knew it was my blog and would read it often. I hope to gain that same level of grassroots readership with this blog, especially since WordPress is a much more professional alternative to Blogspot.

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