Tuesday, October 30, 2007

could it be seasonal affective disorder?

Snuggling fireside. Holiday beer, candy, feasts and cookies. One more hour of sleep.

The wonderful things winter will bring.

We're nearing the end of autumn in Syracuse, trading in our hoodies for Northface jackets and shoes for waterproof boots (preferably not Uggs), and looking forward to the not-far-off season of sweets and coziness.

But with the season change, warmer clothes are not the only things we dust off from storage. The bad eating habits and laziness from winters past manage to creep back into routine.

For the past few weeks I've grown quite fond of my evening runs right before sunset. The air is chilly and refreshing, the landscape colorful and pleasing. The onset of winter promises a much less enjoyable exercise experience: bare trees, brutally cold temperatures, less daylight.

Not exactly an environment that encourages aerobic activity. Layering and sweatshirts let you indulge a little more, without the pressure to look good in a bikini.

My ability to leave my warm apartment, let alone bed, for a run in the bitter cold will prove to be a daily struggle. To allow myself to be thrown outside to run the cold, dark streets of Syracuse will take a lot of convincing; I don't know if I'll be able to come up with a reason other than I should. But I should do a lot of things; it doesn't mean I'm motivated enough to endure discomfort for them.

So why must the holiday centered on candy (Halloween), the holiday encouraging stuffing your face until you feel sick (Thanksgiving), and the holiday centered around chocolate Advent calendars, hot chocolate and festive cookies (Christmas) all fall during the season where it's so hard to work out?

Humans are animals too, right? It's only part of nature that we'd pack on a few pounds to stay a little warmer during the colder months.

I really want to make it a point to try and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle through out the winter. Fruit will be harder to come by and the gym may be the only option, but I should be able to adapt.

So, it's back to the treadmill I go. If you don't see me at Archbold, do me a favor and call me.

Hopefully I'll be able to answer my cell once I awake from my deep slumber or put down the German Gingerbread cookies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Roman Candle

"It's not bad outside," Katie greeted me this morning as I laced up my running shoes. "It's breezy, you'll like it."

I grabbed my iPod and headphones, leaving my sweatshirt to lay balled up on my bedroom floor, and headed down the stairs and out the door.

At 8:20 a.m. on a Friday in late October it was already 71 degrees outside. The balmy climate, my sleepy head and the carefree mindset all reminded me of summer morning runs at Bethany Beach.

I ran to the bank, withdrew money and then ran to Blake's house to give him it for Chelsea's party. I talked with Blake and Julio for a little and had a cup of water.

With a water sloshing around in my stomach, I decided to walk the half a mile back to my apartment.

And it was delightful.

Children walking with their mothers. People enjoying their first cup of coffee of the day on their porches. Dogs being walked by their owners. The landscape was speckled with warm autumn hues of orange, red and yellow, but the weather insisted it was more like springtime.

As I was walking I knew I wanted to remember this. This perfect synergy of the things that I love about all the seasons. I put on some new Elliott Smith I got from Yoda.

I had really realized this before but music is almost like a blank canvas -- a slate where I can make a memory imprint. I know if I put on this song later that I'll be flooded with the feelings of this exact moment. I already had an idea that Elliott Smith wouldn't be too loud, too fast, too electronic. But a calm, beautiful melody to soundtrack this experience.

And it works the opposite way too. Music sets moods; moods set by past events, or moods anticipated to be felt. Songs can invoke certain feelings in you. Bring out the passion in that special moment. Raise your head on that day when you're down. Plaster a big smile on your face. Involuntarily dance to the beat.

Music can say a lot on its own, but it says so much more when you play it to life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I didn't know Daria's Sick Sad World was real

We live in a sick, sad world. The news is quick to not let us forget it.

I usually don't even really fully recognize the amount of depressing news I ingest ever day. Of course I comprehend the subject matter of the articles I read, and I do realize that I am in fact reading non-fiction. But to a certain degree, it seems so surreal.

It's because I'm a college student. I know all these things are important and have large effects on life, but it doesn't quite hit home completely.

I'm not amongst the chaos and danger in Iraq, I'm not looking to sell or buy real estate and I certainly do not have children that would be affected by SCHIP. I know all of these things are reality, but because I'm not directly linked to them in some way, they call come across almost fiction-like.

Only in college are you still on your parents' dime (for the most part) and still able to live an independent, adult life. Your life consists of keggers, a work-study job where you get paid to do your homework, approximately 15 hours of lecture a week, a community consisting of young, ambitious 20-somethings from all over the country (and world) and good, clean fun (sometimes).

The world is a full of responsibility, bills, stress and working until you're retired. I know there's a less depressing view of the real world out there, but just don't look to the front page of the New York Times to find it.

Today's NYT Front Page, which I found particularly depressing:
ps -- hi chels. i can't wait to seee you!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The first of many

Just anticipate a whole lot of "spooky", halloween-related content for the month of October. You've been warned.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Now that was an experience, no diggity

5:36 a.m. -- Katie wakes me up after she finished in the shower. My head hurts most likely because I went to bed less than 4 hours ago. I lie in bed for a few minutes, drag myself to the shower, and turn on the water. Meanwhile, Katie is freaked out, claiming she didn't know it was me. She has proceeded to crouch low in the corner of her room behind a chair to protect herself against the "stranger or ghost that had turned on the water."

6:50 a.m. -- On route to the Tyra Banks show in NYC with my ladies Katie, Ashley and Catherine. I was quick to figure out that melancoly playlists accompanied by pouring rain and no sleep isn't the best idea. Switch to Weezer. Catherine is flooded by high school memories which results in a 2-hour reflection of our lives thus far. Note to self: never use Nair, do not sacrifice all self-worth in the name of competition, home schooled kids are "FREAKSHOWS" (thanks ashley for really telling us how you feel), and it is never okay to play Fergie just because my dad likes it.

10:00 a.m. -- Thanks to hauling ass, we make it to the Beacon train station 50 minutes ahead of time. We find a charming coffeehouse called the Muddy Cup. Pumpkin spice tea and a haunted house across the street? I might be moving here very soon.

12:20 p.m. -- Grand Central Station. The New Yorkers are delightfully helpful. Katie, uptown is in fact up town. It's warm in the underground. I'm scared to go outside and find a cold and rainy nightmare.

1:15 p.m. -- Chelsea Studios, where Tyra is taped, is located. It's actually not raining. We go get some food. New York Style pizza and turkey subs.

2:00 p.m. -- Get back to the studio to wait in line to be let in. It is raining now, but luckilly we get to stand inside a loading dock of some sort. I teach the ladies Bodachelli. Doesn't last for long. Once you've got boy bands on your mind, you're done for.

Now at this point we lose all sense of time, because our cellphones are checked. We are let into a sort of holding room, with a constant video loop of past Tyra guests on two mounted TVs. The room is full of red chairs and has a water cooler and bathroom.

Here are a few interesting things we heard:
"Is that Britney Spears?" (clearly Hulk Holgan's daughter, Hulk introduced her for god sake's on the TV)
"Are they worried I'm going to look better than Tyra??" the girl bitching that she wasn't going to be put in the front (it was because she was wearing all white, and on the site it says not to)
"Ugly, Ugly, Ugly," obnoxious Jersey girl who Tyra even called out on camera that she was talking too much
"Okay ladies, the theme of this show is When are you going to die?" no words; priceless.

We get seated. Tyra is gorgeous. They had to finished another segment so we saw the stars of Gossip Girl? Chelsea is probably reading this and going to die. So, if you see any episode with Keisha Cole, Rihanna and Gossip Girl cast members, watch at the very end for us.

Show was amazing. They basically talked about ways to extend your life expectancy -- like exercising, being less stressed but more responsibile, etc. A handful of normal girls were used as examples. For example, three girls would be set up, each with a TV outlining their habits (how often they exercise, smoker, etc.). We then had to scream out who we thought was going to die first.

So funny. Ashley even got up to explain why she picked a certain girl!!

6:50 p.m. -- Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

8:00 p.m. -- On the track back. Joked about the compartment's broken door with a nice man who was bringing flowers home to his wife. In the 4-seater next to us, 2 poor girls got stuck with 2 lovebirds that couldn't stop swapping spit. It was ridicilous! The couple moved after about 15 disgusting minutes to a more private area. We apologized that the girls had to be subjected to that. The girls were high school seniors, one of which was looking to maybe study photo journalism at SU. She doesn't like the cold though, so we warned her that Syracuse is far from balmy.

9:00 p.m. -- Back in the car, warm and hungry. Exhausted too. Get me home, in some sweats, warm, in my bed with my fluffy down comforter.

12:30 a.m. -- Back in the cuse. Wonderful trip. I've been up for nearly 24 hours and I've got no complaints.

All in all I had an absolutely marvelous day. Yes, marvelous, Katie. That's the correct way to use it.
I hope we all learned how to live until we're 110 (90 more years Ashley), how to start blogs (Katie, this is a blog) and really appreciate autumn (red hair, pumpkin beverages, scary movies, Sylvia Plath, anything spooky, Catherine).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Paler Shade of White

I noticed Calvin’s AP Stylebook as I approached his table, which sat amongst a sea of student workspaces on the first floor of Byrd Library. Tomorrow marked the class where our group had to present a summary of Frank and Cook’s The Winner-Take-All Society, accompanied by a liberal and conservative critique. Nyrie completed our presentation trio as the liberal counterpart to my conservative spin and Calvin’s objective center.

But Nyrie wasn’t there yet, so there was some time to break the ice. Who knew that the “journalist’s bible” could spark conversation?

I soon found out that Calvin was a magazine journalism major, minoring in political science. He was in the middle of editing stories for Jerk magazine when I came and sat down.

I’ve always wanted to write for Jerk but I never got around to it. The Daily Orange had become my main journalistic outlet that I just never really strayed from.

“So, how diverse is the staff?” he asked, being Jerk’s copy editor himself.

My mind reflected on the D.O. office on a typical Monday night. I go into a side room on the first floor to write my Student Association story and pass through majority of the house on my way to the News room for editing. I was disappointed to realize that after mentally skimming all the faces I do encounter during my visit to 744 Ostrom, every single one is white. Granted, I don’t see everyone that passes through the front door. But from entering, walking up the stairs, around the corner, down the hall and past perhaps five rooms, I can’t seem to recall seeing any differences.

Just a few weeks ago in editing class we were talking about how it’s important to have a diverse staff. Staffing a workforce outfitted with a variety of people, coming from different backgrounds and different experiences, helps against producing a biased paper. Coverage is expanded by the input of broad range of interests, some that might otherwise be ignored or unknown without familiarity of certain communities.

I was embarrassed. I hadn’t realized how uniform the D.O. was.

“It probably wouldn’t hurt to have more diversity..” I didn’t know how to say, “Yeah, it’s all white.” I didn’t want to admit it.

Calvin brought up how he was surprised that the Jena 6 demonstrations hadn’t been reported on. I know The Black Voice had an A1 dedicated to it, and rightfully so. But where was the D.O.’s coverage?

I shamefully had no explanation for the D.O.’s ignorance. As much as it’s my news editor’s job to find newsworthy topics for articles and to assign stories to writers, I too have a responsibility to pitch stories that I think are important.

Nyrie did show up to our meeting soon after that, and we did get our presentation together. We laughed about our class and similar experiences with past political science courses.

Our presentation went well today; we each executed our parts without hesitation and with confidence. I’m happy to say I think we all came away with A on the project, but I think I came away with a much more valuable evaluation overall.

Sleepless in Syracuse

My friend Mikey was scheduled to have this published in The Daily Orange, but for whatever reason the Opinions editor decided against it.

A damn shame, because it's a great piece. Therefore, I've taken upon myself to let the man talk. Well, write.

Sleepless in Syracuse

I’m surrounded by darkness. All I can see are the dark silhouettes of a heavyset man and his thin companion. I do not recognize them but the vibrations they emit trouble me. Suddenly I hear a voice. “Hi folks, Tom Park here and I’m with Billy Fuccillo.”

I wake up in a cold sweat screaming. “Thank God,” I think to myself, “it was only a dream.” But then a menacing thought crosses my mind, much more troubling than the nightmare itself, “Billy Fuccillo was in my dreams.”

Fuccillo, a 1978 SU graduate and former football star is the undisputed king of local advertising. He also sells cars; about 40,000 in 2004 according to an interview he gave the Central New York Business Journal.

I am deeply disturbed, no… haunted, by the frequency of Fuccillo’s ads; but, his strategy Amy Falkner, associate dean for academic affairs and an advertising professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, described as “beating you over the head with an ad every 10 seconds,” works.

“Everybody knows who he [Fuccillo] is,” explained Professor Falkner. Fuccillo’s fixation on reach — exposing as many people to his message as possible — and frequency — exposing people to his message as many times as possible — has made escaping his media dragnet a futile endeavor. The CNY Business Journal dubbed this phenomenon the “Fuccillo Effect.”

“He’s doing it [advertising] over and over and over so when you are in the market to buy a car the first name that comes forward is Billy Fuccillo,” Professor Falkner reasoned.

But I fear the “Fuccillo Effect” is doing much more. On August 3, 2007, the Albany Times Union posted “What landmark(s) would you consider for a contest selecting seven wonders of the Capital Region?” on its website.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable handicap that he is not a landmark, Billy Fuccillo received 8% of the vote, easily surpassing South Glen Falls’ Cooper’s Cave, and nearly defeating the State Museum.

The first page of a Google search [conducted on 9/20/07] of Billy Fuccillo yields: one link to the Fuccillo.com, three CNY Business Journal articles, Fuccillo’s MySpace Page [not real], an old Fuccillo commercial in which he shouts about Hyundais from the heavens, one blog entitled “Billy Fuccillo: Still a Huge Tool,” a DO article, and a blog in the “Commercials I Hate Forum”. Of these, the only link of use to someone in the market to buy a car is Fuccillo.com.

His strategy of hegemonic media saturation is too powerful; Billy’s name is apt to appear in people’s minds at anytime, not just when they are in the market for a car.

While it has helped Billy sell thousands of cars, the “Fuccillo Effect” has also led hundreds of Central New Yorkers believe Billy Fuccillo is a landmark and given me nightmares. The “Fuccillo Effect” must be kept in check.

In 2004, former DO contributor Jake Goldman challenged Fuccillo to a high stakes race around the world [winner takes the Fuccillo Automotive Group]. The race never took place but I applaud Goldman’s moxie and fortitude. At least he can say he tried to end this madness!

- Mike Zahler

Sunday, October 7, 2007

American Monarchy?

Like many students studying political science, I recognize that not just anyone becomes president.

Strong advocates of the American Dream might argue that if someone works hard enough and has even god-given talent, he or she can head the Executive. It's true: someone might have amazing speaking skills, a natural knack for diplomacy and an innovative plan for the United States, and you would think there is nothing that should hold back that person. Too bad that's not the case.

I don't mean to sound bitter, but there is a harsh reality is can't really be ignored. Money, education and family background heavily contribute to a politician's success(or anyone else's success in life for that matter).

In the U.K., its Oxford and Cambridge that condition England's finest for Parliament. In the U.S., its a degree, or 2, from the Ivy League variety.

Family-- family with money ideally-- also matters a lot.

Many recognize that these factors can improve one's chances of success, but that individual talent and dedication is the end-all, be-all.

Slap-in-the-face #1: George W. Bush.

Born to the 41st President of the United States, W earned a bachelor's degree from Yale and a Master's from Harvard. Seriously?

I almost feel like people see his diplomas and assume he's intelligent. If his intelligence was judged solely on action and grammar, you'd think he hadn't even graduated high school. It's a perfect example of how the "track" helps you become president, even if you're not the most qualified in reality.

Family in politics is an interesting element too.

Time recently had an article about Argentina's First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her prospective plans to run for president next term. Her husband Nestor Kirchner currently sit as President, but maybe not run for re-election next term so his Senator wife can have a stab at the spot.

Apparently the couple plans to continue the he-run-then-she-runs alternation, avoiding the constitutional ban of holding office for more than 2 consecutive terms and still holding power within the party.

Fernandez de Kirchner noted in the interview with the author Tim Padgett that, "If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency next year, the [US] will be ruled by two families for a quarter-century."

I had never thought of that before. And for the first time I started to really look at U.S. Politics in terms of families, almost like monarchies.

Good luck aspiring presidents. I hope you can break the cycle before another Bush gets into office..

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Got to love the back page of the front page

I try and regularly read the newspaper, as I should. I've taken a liking to Roger Cohen's column but it was Gail Collins commentary on the '08 presidential hopefuls that really struck me.

It was so well-written and entertaining. I usually don't just write a short blog post to highlight something in my day, but I'm going to do it anyways.

And the question develops, why shouldn't I write just short posts to expose extraordinary things of my daily life?

I'll get back to you on that. Perhaps in a 100-word post tomorrow.

Don't do this at home

I might be the first person in history to have "Mormon" programmed into my cell phone contact list.

A few weeks ago my friend Josh was sitting at his apartment, lounging, watching TV. The commercials that interrupted his TV program probably contained the typical spread of advertising: the toothpaste, the new blockbuster out on DVD, the new form of men's birth control? He was just as intrigued as you and I, according to my friend Sam, but decided to use for evil.

And this is why I receive daily phone calls from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Josh knew that submitting my contact information to the men's birth control site, as a request to get more information, would not really make sense. But Josh, being the darling person he is (and clearly with way too much time on his hands), thought Mormonism would be a safer and more effective prank.

Soon later, when a personalized e-mail was delivered to my inbox thanking me for my interest in the Church, I knew something was up. I told Sam about it and he just started laugh.

"I know who did it," he said. "I swear I told him not to do it."

Shawn, who also lives with Sam and Josh, said I should be lucky.

"He was going to give them your address, so you should just be happy he didn't do that."

I should be happy? My contact information was released without my consent and now I have the LDS trying to convert me daily.

I finally confronted Josh yesterday.

"Hey, ps, I hate you."
"Oh, you know exactly why."
"I really don't know why you would hate me."
"Does daily calls from the Church of Latter Day Saints ring a bell?"
"LOL. I'm sorry. I thought you would pick up and just tell them not to call again."

That sounds like a reasonable solution, if not the only one unless I do want to convert. But I feel bad being rude. After all, "I" did request the information.

As of now I'll continue to let the Mormons call me.
Maybe one of these days I'll pick up and have a nice little chat.
Maybe I'll even convert.
Maybe I'll even go further and vote for Mitt Romney.
A lot of maybes, and not a lot of promise.