Entries Posted in "March 2006"

Self-Indoocement
March 27, 2006

Yesterday I sealed my fate as a certified looney toon. Just a few months shy of my one year anniversary, I officially resigned from my perfectly fine job at Google in order to make time for writing and upcoming projects. Even now as I type this, I feel nauseous at the thought. What in the world am I thinking? The answer to that I do not know, but I am excited about the prospects of what lies ahead. I'm even more excited that I can finally use Google Adsense without conflict of interest. I hope this life adjustment will affect this site for the better.

And you guys thought I was kidding when I said I was making major adjustments...

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 14 }
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America's Security Blanket: indulging in the suffering of others

Seattle's been making national headlines lately and I am reminded why I really really hate the news. In fact, if it's possible, I probably hate the news even more than I hate eggplant. Which is to say, I'd rather subject my digestive system to a slimy, tasteless vegetable than indulge in the doom and gloom reports that mark our daily news.

On a daily basis, tragedies, every day situations, and the decay of humanity are sensationalized and emotionalized in order to produce ratings. Whereas at one point the daily news was intended to inform us of the world's happenings, nowadays it seems to be nothing more than tabloid-style prophecies of death, fires, missing children, rape, car accidents, war, and everything wrong with the world. Is it true that these things are occurring on a regular basis? Yes. But as I've often lamented here before, if the news reports were centered on the great and exciting things taking place throughout the world, far fewer people would watch.

Can you imagine a news broadcast dedicated entirely to celebrating the fabulous things taking place throughout the earth? We could call it "Extreme Makeover: World Edition!" Three times a day the show would report on families that made their final mortgage payments, people who were on their deathbeds and then completely healed of cancer, lost children found, unemployed finding jobs, miracle car crashes where the passenger walks away unharmed, the victories in war, stolen money returned 100-fold, and interview every day people getting out of debt.

Too bad it'd never take.

There is something really sick and twisted about human nature that is actually pacified, if not downright happy to watch other people in their sufferings. We've all done it before. We've secretly sat back as we watched the latest horrific news report thinking to ourselves, "Man, I'm sure glad that wasn't me." The stress of our days and cares of our lives are at least made somewhat better by the knowledge that it wasn't our house that got robbed last night or our child shot to death on the street.

If our selfish news-watching highs weren't enough cause for concern, we always have our desensitization to fall back on. I recall during Hurricane Katrina, I eventually just turned the television off. It wasn't that I didn't care. It was that I knew my own limitations. The degree to which I personally could take action to help that situation was not aided by my television. You can only watch people in desperation for so long before the repetitive images of the same interviews and footage begin to numb you to the reality that people don't have to live that way.

I think we actually believe that we have the best of intentions. We want to be informed, we want to be sympathetic and we want to be spurred on to some sort of emotion, be it rage, sadness, or even consciousness. These motives notwithstanding, I believe our mass media does nothing more than reinforce lies in our minds that "what we see is what we get." Things are just going to get worse so we might as well protect our own and throw up a prayer for the rest of our world.

The problem with this effect is that it calls few people to accountability for their ability to change their world. Rarely do I see media honestly reporting on the cause/effect nature of many of country's most tragic events. We hear the media asking questions like "How could this happen?" or "Who's to blame for this?" In fact, we ask those questions ourselves. Yet little energy is spent answering the questions "Does my city really have to function like this, and what needs to be done to change it?"

To some extent, there is no incentive to change the way our society functions. We accept that violence and murder rates will increase and there are entities in this world that actually thrive off high crime rates. Where there's crime, surely there is a compelling news story, right?

The answer to the real questions could put our local news affiliates out of business. Even worse, it could put our low self-esteem "At least I'm doing better than 'them'" attitude in jeopardy of losing its Linus blanket.

(Image Copyright: Peanuts)

Posted by Ambra in Current Events | Link to This Entry | Comments { 3 }
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There is Balm in Gilead
March 22, 2006

I'd just like to clear the record on one thing: I ain't dead yet. Got folks leaving blogituaries (I must credit Michele Catalano for coining that phrase, however I just redefined it) in the comments section. I need to clarify that every year I do a state of the blog address wherein I take my gubernatorial authority and speak forth where this blog is headed. It's not a goodbye. It's a pep talk.

Today I received a reader email that apparently sums up the heart of my "State of the Blog Address" better than I could. The reader's identity has been concealed for his privacy. He writes:

Ambra:

A couple of the comments on your "State of the Blog..." post touched on points that hit me hard a full day after reading it myself. The first was the realization, like Dave, that I enjoyed your blog because it validated my worldview. But, as MJ said, what made me come back (or rather, add you to my Newsgater feeds) was you, or the 'you' that you project through your writing. So, please don't sell that part of yourself short.

However, your laments got me thinking, too. Why is reinforcing my worldview so important? What spiritual goal does it help me achieve? Is it solely an ego stroke for that part of me that wants to be right? The answers were pretty obvious, and as a result, I've removed all commentators from my feeds who mostly regurgitate the news along with their right leaning spin. Not because they don't represent, necessarily, how I think. Rather, because I realize that I need to discover what/how I think on my own.

So, your introspection inspired me and re-connected me with some nagging questions in my own life that can no longer go unanswered. For this I thank you. I do hope you continue to blog, and that a connection can be formed via your gifted analysis and writing. Choose only those topics that truly inspire you. I'm sure that I, for one, will certainly enjoy contemplating your ideas, probably more so than looking for validation of my own.

God bless,

A Reader

Now this particular reader was extremely nice in that he paid me a few compliments in his email so that could be why it resonated with me. But beyond the compliments (or even minus them), I appreciated that he understood just exactly why I was so frustrated with this medium.

I want to clarify that I wasn't inferring that personality isn't an important aspect of media. It is. What I was inferring is that all media has some sort of worldview it is pushing either subliminally or blatantly. That remains the most important thing because ideas have eternal value; personalities doesn't. If everything is merely personality-driven, then why the heck are we alive? If that's the case, I quit nykola.com today because this is a complete waste of my time and yours.

People who disagree with everything Rush Limbaugh has to say aren't generally going to tune in daily to his show. His ideas and philosophy are a big part of his draw. And yet although I agree with many of his points, somehow even I can't stomach 5 minutes of him.

I am definitely of the belief that personality is what flavors the world. Personalities help feed us ideas and messages we might not otherwise accept--for better or worse. What I'm ultimately against is people denying creativity and adopting other personalities for the sake of the perceived benefits. I mean, why does so much talk radio sound exactly the same? Surely everyone doesn't talk just like that.

Maybe I'm an anomaly, but I think it's dangerous to build monuments around personalities. What happens when that person is gone? Does their mission still go on, or does it die with the personality?

Posted by Ambra in Mail Bag | Link to This Entry | Comments { 6 }
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The Cult of the Offended

I'm not sure when, but at some time during the last 50 or so years, Americans decided (either by the collective, or by acquiescence) that one of their rights under God was the right to live life without the presence of offense. Not a day passes by without some adult requesting special treatment as a result of their "offense." The accompanying ritual to this sad, pathetic waste of everyone's good time is a society that is usually willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the offended and will often do everything in its power to ensure that offense never takes place.

What's most interesting to me is how the complaints about "offense" are usually coming from the same types of people. These are the people that crave ambiguity and find fault in simple things like textbook definitions of male and female. Heaven forbid if anything is that simple. But no, the inference that a man who dresses up as a woman is confused is somehow viewed as offensive or my personal favorite cop-out, "hate speech." These are often the same people who don't like words like, "God" (with a big G), "Jesus," "Christ," or "obey the law."

A hilarious display of blatant one-sided offense took place earlier this week, when Amazon.com quickly rushed to correct an error that could have led customers to believe they were *gasp* a company that's doesn't support abortion. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Amazon.com Inc. said Monday it had modified the way its search engine handles queries for the term "abortion" after receiving an e-mail complaint that the results appeared biased.

Until the recent change, a user who visited the Seattle Internet retailer and typed in the word "abortion" received a prompt asking, "Did you mean adoption?" followed by search results for "abortion."

Spokeswoman Patty Smith said the automated prompt was purely based on technology, and that no human had made the decision to show the question.

"Adoption and abortion are the same except for two keystrokes," Smith said. "They also, in this case, happen to be somewhat related terms."

Still, Smith said she and other company officials decided to remove the question after receiving an e-mail complaint and deciding that it raised a valid concern.

The concern being what? That people might get the silly little idea that adoption is an alternative to abortion? Or that Amazon.com might lose credibility were customers to think they were anything but abortion supporting progressives?

Either way, the woman's complaint is a waste of time that could be better spent working on tools that can help them get my books to me more quickly, thank you very much.

Earlier this year, my high school alma mater, Lakeside School--a school that just so happens to be heavily funded by alumnae Bill Gates and Paul Allen (a fact that will become more pertinent in the coming sentences)--made headlines when they rescinded their offer to have controversial author Dinesh D'Souza speak during the school's yearly distinguished lecture series. The decision came as a result of pressure from some students, parents and faculty who felt offended by D'Souza's potential presence on campus. Although he was originally slated to discuss the Iraq War, it was D'Souza's opinions on race that put him in the "unacceptable" category.

[If you've seen it, insert funny reference to Tom Hanks' character in the film, "The Terminal." Otherwise, just keep reading.]

I agree with columnist Robert Jameison, who in his analysis of Lakeside's decision writes:

The problem was not so much that D'Souza is conservative. It was that he's the wrong kind of conservative -- a race-baiting conservative.
I'm not a fan of D'Souza by any stretch of my fecund imagination. I am however, a fan of calling to the carpet liberal schools masquerading as open-minded institutions of higher learning. It is hogwash. Unfortunately, I am not yet one of the multi-millionaire boosters who rule private schools so my dear alma mater doesn't really care what I think of their lack of bravery.

Don't worry. One day they will. Until then, I will battle with my blog, dangit.

Do a quick Google News search with the word "offended" and you will find articles across the nation of every day Americans who raised a ruckus, simply because they were offended. Offense is a form of currency in America. It can be used to manipulate people in all sorts of ways. It can also be used to control the way people think.

In his column this week, Doug Patton writes that Christians actually need to be more offended. To some extent, I agree. I'm no fan of whiny "make accommodations for me" behavior. I am in favor of open-marketplace freedom which is usually lopsided when it comes to what's an acceptable offense. To use an example, take Halloween. I personally don't celebrate it because what it represents counters my own personal belief system. In essence, the holiday is offensive to me. However, you will rarely hear employees complaining that the witch hanging from the ceiling is offensive. You will however, be subject to a plethora of ambiguous religiously neutral terms and holidays around Christmas time. Open marketplace would be, "You celebrate your solstice and pagan worship; I'll put up my Christmas tree."

All that said, I still live by my crazy Uncle Phil's motto, "Every day somebody cries. Don't let it be you."

Posted by Ambra in Abortion, Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 8 }
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By reader request, my partner in crime
March 21, 2006

on 09.01.06, he becomes mine

Photo Credit: Hun Kim, GH Kim Photography

Posted by Ambra in Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 20 }
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The State of the Blog Address: wherein the author subtly thanks you for your patience thus far

It's a funny title really, considering that in the last 6+ months I've probably posted 75% less than I have in my entire 2+ years of blogging. I've been grappling with the question of why blogging isn't fun anymore. One of the problems I've never had is a lack of things to say. In fact, throughout my time of blogging, I've kept a long list of topics to be discussed. It will take an entire lifetime to accomplish such a feat here in this forum and to be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure that I'm up to the task. Don't get me wrong. Despite the evidence, I have a very clear sense of direction when it comes to this blog. What I don't seem to have as of late is a lot of time.

I find writing to be very cathartic and to not have the time to do it is mentally exhausting. Is cathart a word? Probably not, but it needs to be. In my yet to be completed (or even fully fleshed out) Nyktionary, I would have listed the word "cathart" as a verb: "I very badly need to cathart. " I think I just created a new bodily function.

All joking aside, the harsh reality for me is that if I don't make drastic changes in my life to accommodate my writing and all things attached, I am going to be an unhappy and regretful individual. Sort of like the disgruntled public transportation workers who pass by women and children. Interestingly enough, this concept is at the core of the human experience. One of the basic questions of every person's life is "why am I here?" I am so incredibly blessed to have been raised by parents who forced me to answer that question at very early age. And so my struggle in adulthood has never been a question of knowing my purpose but more the nagging accountability of a conscience that knows the truth about Ambra's passion and is counting the months that she goes by ignoring such truth.

So I guess it really comes down to passion--knowing what yours is, and strategically making arrangements so that the rest of your life can be spent pursuing that end.

In my time away from this site, I haven't really been reading much online either. As a result, I've spent the last few weeks catching up on the blogs I used to read and love every day and for the most part, I've found that many have fallen victim to what I like to call, "The Soap Opera Effect." Back in my unredeemed days of junior high school mindless activity, I justified the show's title by watching "Days of Our Lives" every day for an entire summer. I immersed myself in the ridiculous story lines and unrealistic scenarios and found myself hooked on fake characters and their propensity for amnesia. As an adult, every now and then for kicks I'll watch 3-5 minutes of "Days of Our Lives." What I find is the same characters, dealing with the same issues, same ridiculous scenarios, and same bouts of amnesia. It's as though nothing has changed.

I'm not satisfied with that. For me, it is the lack of innovation and forward movement that marks my lack of pleasure with blogging.

For many, blogging is a hobby, an outlet, a place to vent, learn new things, and be a part of a trend, a community, or a fad. For a different segment of the population however, it seems that blogging as it stands simply isn't enough. I am of that variety. I want to impact the way people think about the issues I write about. It is my belief that a personality shouldn't drive a weblog any more than it should drive a church, a Fortune 500 company or a football team. I believe that the driving pulse of anything should be the ideas and worldview it represents. Personality is far out second. The more I see the blogosphere turning into a polarized conglomerate of politically charged rationale and personality-driven marketing, the less I want to be a part of it.

In my near 2.5 years of blogging there are a few things I somewhat regret (None of the below meant with any disrespect to the other parties involved. It's me--not you):

  1. Going on Republican Radio. I know my lane; I know my sphere. That ain't it. I felt grimey for that decision.
  2. Affiliating my blog with The Conservative Brotherhood. I don't like being a part of undefined entities. Sometimes you just need to fly solo and trust that your vision will make room for you. (But I still love you Cobb)
  3. Falling in lock-step and writing about what everyone else is writing about just because it seemed the thing to do. Enough said.
  4. Giving too much credence and time to the haters. Whether you are a nobody wearing one shoe on the subway or speaking to a crowd of millions, there will always be haters.
  5. Opening up comments on posts regarding Hurricane Katrina. I often fail to exercise the basic right I have as owner of this site.
  6. Not fully taking advantage of the opportunities afforded me by maintaining this blog.
Well that's all about to change. Not being satisfied translates differently for everyone. For some of us it will mean taking a leap of faith and quitting our full-time jobs to pursue the media market with full steam. For others it will mean getting together that book proposal that publishers have been waiting to see. For some it will simply mean bringing more honesty (first) and personality (second) to our writing or establishing a greater purpose for our piece of Internet real estate. Either way, I'm sick enough of being sick and tired that I won't even make any more promises about the future of this here little blog; I'll just "let it do."

Thanks for your support and lack thereof folks. Thanks for your mean comments and nice ones. Regardless of what you think of Nykola.com, I shall go forth and make you proud.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 15 }
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Comments Fixed
March 9, 2006

I got a little overzealous in fighting comment spam this morning and accidentally banned everyone. Apologies if you've attempted to comment and weren't allowed.

{BTW, Comments are closed on this post, not broken}

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry
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Pimpin' Ain't Easy?
March 7, 2006

Did Three 6 Mafia really run around the stage of the Academy Awards ceremony yelling about how hard it is to be a pimp? Artistic enterprise my pinky toe (which is broken, by the way). On behalf of Hattie McDaniel and Sidney Poitier, I am embarrassed--for the award, for the display, and ultimately the representation. I don't know what to say. Although it certainly does my heart well to know that despite the glorification of pimping, at the very least, Jesus was thanked. And I'm sure somewhere in celebritydom, Kanye Mess heard that acceptance speech and was under the impression that Three 6 Mafia was actually thanking him. For the Mafia's sake, I certainly hope that was the case. Because nothing in my mind can comprehend what hand Jesus Christ had in that mess.

For the record, I'm over the Oscars. (Can't you tell?) Is it possible for an awards ceremony to jump the shark? Honestly, I would rather have the hairs individually plucked from my legs than spend four hours listening to Jon Stewart host anything, let alone an already notoriously monotonous awards show. At least plucking my legs would supply me with some sort of productive end-result. And yes I realize that illustration is a bit disgusting, but that's just my point. I would rather be disgusted than be super duperly disgusted. Yet despite my disgust, I consider it a small victory that the "Academy" had enough sense not to give the makers of Brokeback Mountain another chip of evidence in their mounting convictions that they actually produced a worthwhile film.

Is there coming a day when we finally unburden ourselves with the delusion that being intentionally random, abstract, irrelevant and morally "cutting-edge" are the key ingredients for greatness?

The inadequacies of the modern film aside, the Oscars never fail to leave me disturbed on some gigantic level. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations. However, given the emphasis on the Oscars and the fact that the future of film is directly influenced by this event, I tend to take it more seriously.

I love Terrence Howard, but the fact that his first Oscar nomination is for a role as a pimp really bothers me. Not to knock Howard's performance; he's a fine actor in his own right. Yet unlike Halle Berry, he didn't win the Oscar. For that I am abundantly thankful. I am thankful that we didn't have to listen to Howard sob through an acceptance speech, dedicating it to honorable historical black figures and rambling on about how his Oscar is for every nameless and faceless man of color that now has an opportunity because he epitomized a pimp.

Now before I am accused of partaking of the cup of hateration, understand that I believe Howard will eventually win an Oscar and I'd rather his accolade not immortalize him for characterizing the most egregious of behaviors. Quite frankly, the black community can't afford that.

Why much of the black community continues to remain passive towards the glorification of pimpdom is an entirely different and more complicated topic. But what I found to be terribly ironic Sunday night was what one cultural definition of the verb "to pimp" reveals:

Pimp (verb)
1. To make something appear better than it really is by adorning it with various emblems and pricey status symbols of the culture (see "ghettofabulous")
2. To advertise (generally, in an enthusiastic sense) or to call attention in order to bring acclaim to something; to promote.
So it seems that in a shocking turn of events, "Pimping" is actually being pimped.

It all seems easy enough to me.

Posted by Ambra in Pop Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 18 }
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Rights & Responsibilities
March 6, 2006

Amid a stack of popular mis-conceptions espoused by our Western society is this rampant idea that freedom equals a person's ability to do whatever it is that pleases them at any given moment. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" seem to be muddled figments of five men's imagination. While unalienable the rights may be, clear and concise, they are not. What's most interesting to me however, it that the discussion of "rights" is almost never coupled with an equal analysis of "responsibilities." No "right," whether perceived or reality, exists without a corresponding responsibility.

The phrase "personal responsibility" has become politically charged over the last decade or so, being inappropriately branded as "right-leaning" propaganda. Regardless of political affiliation, background, or religious denomination, at the very least and in the very end, we are all accountable for our lives. Yet instead of trumpeting this doctrine that might actually set people free, we continue to fan the flame of a culture that encourages extended periods of youthfulness, reckless abandonment, and fabricated euphoria. A culture of temporary consciousness is like a dog that returns to its vomit. Just six months post-Katrina and Bourbon Street was already back to bumpin' Mardi gras style. America's entitlement and double-mindedness is thick in the air and it's starting to become pungent.

We're going to entitle ourselves all the way to destruction.

It's not enough that up until recently nearly every other state in America allowed most forms abortion to be performed. Since the South Dakota state legislature passed a bill outlawing abortion in all circumstances, every money-hungry pro-choice group from the four corners of the universe has come out of the woodworks to fight it because heaven forbid that in just one state, no unborn children will feel the wrath of the purpose-destroying vacuum.

Even more telling of stronghold-brand bias were the news headlines which at a glance read,

"Abortion as a crime: a nightmare reborn"
"Is Roe vs. Wade Doomed?"
"Is South Dakota Abortion Bill the New Gay Marriage Amendment?"
"An Act of Social Cruelty: South Dakota bars abortions"
The blood of the unborn cries out from the ground and I promise, their story of victimhood is far more convincing than NARAL's.

Most pro-choice groups have attempted to shade their ill motives by focusing their arguments on exceptions and not rules. The average abortions performed in America aren't a fix for rape or incest. Instead, the majority of abortions have become the solution to the chain of compromising and reckless decisions of both men and women that ultimately reaped an undesired and unloved consequence.

Collectively, Americans have gotten their respective undergarments in a bunch about this issue of "rights" minus responsibilities. For the most part, I gather much of America has been bullied into forming an opinion about things by opportunists with their own hidden agendas

"So how do you feel about same-sex marriage and the rights of American citizens being threatened simply because of sexual orientation?"
They ask.
"Quick. Make a decision. Don't think--just feel. Remember what you see on television. The homosexual lifestyle represents a big percentage of Americans. Your rights could be next."
Says the lie. More and more evidence is mounting that this manipulative whining isn't really about rights in the least. Pull the sheets off this game and you find nothing more than human beings resisting the notion of boundaries and the presence of anyone who wishes to establish them. The more mature I get, the more I find this passage to be so true.

In stealth, Mel Gibson-like authority, Domino's Pizza founder, Tom Monaghan is under fire for his plans to build a "religiously" based community in Florida. Monaghan, a devout Catholic, is putting up $400 million of his own capital to develop what will be called "Ave Maria," a small town built around the Roman Catholic Ave Maria University. Monaghan owns all the land and has determined the community of 11,000 homes will embody conservative family values. Abortions and pornography will be banned in the new town and cable access will be limited. Maybe just once those wishing to have a basic paid-movie channel won't have to flip to the station only to see 11:30pm showings of Emmanuelle whose very presence is defended as "soft porn." Um, what's the difference? Newsweek reports on the new city:

Ave Maria is the culmination of a lifetime devoted to spreading his own strict interpretation of Catholicism. Though he says nonbelievers are welcome, Monaghan clearly wants the community to embody his conservative values. He controls all the commercial real estate in town (along with his developing partner, Barron Collier Cos.) and is asking pharmacies not to carry contraceptives.
Imagine the nerve! Owning property and being particular about what takes place on that property? How dare he! Clearly Monaghan's concept has the "Rights without responsibilities" chorale (also known as civil rights activist perpetrators) seeing red.

Even more hilarious are the claims that Monaghan is trying to "franchise" his religious views. While I hardly think that is what Monaghan is doing, what if he were? And? So? Are we going to hold CEOs, politicians and city planners--whose salary WE PAY--to the same standard? A person could write an 800 page dissertation on the MTV franchise which daily spreads its poison to the masses, global villages, shantytowns, and even as we speak.

The list, it goes on. This story isn't new.

So much attention has been paid to our right to do everything, that the responsibility to steward that gift has been pushed under a rug. I think our interpretation of the Declaration of Independence needs some serious re-visiting.

Posted by Ambra in Abortion, Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 9 }
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Today's the Day, Folks

Just give me a couple of hours to wake up and I'm back. (Pacific Standard Time)

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 29 }
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show