January 23, 2009

Coaxial Cables and Bolshevik Washrooms

After having a TV in my dorm for two months, I now have it hooked up to the cable in the dorms. We get about 30 channels, about five of which are not in English. It will be nice to be able to watch “So You Think You Can Dance,” “American Idol” and the news. After searching the BYU bookstore which was sold out of the cable I needed (I guess there was a sudden need for them by more than five people), my friend and I trekked to Provo Towne Centre where we were able to pick one up at FYE…and get some Panda Express.

Before heading out to the mall, Matt and I headed to the poster sale to see if there was anything good. There were definitely some major wins. I now have a poster demonstrating the threat of not having soft paper towels in your public restroom. It’s hanging next to a mirror I decorated at an Enrichment activity, some spoofed Mormonads and a few president’s day cards.



On top of all of that fun, I made flashcards with all of my vocabulary from the first chapter on my Hebrew book…it’s quite a stack. I can’t wait to get started on chapter two tomorrow!

January 21, 2009

A Close Shave

Ballet classes are a wonderful thing and I think that it would not hurt anyone to at least take one dance class at BYU, even if it is just for the experience. Have said that, don’t let the following story deter you.

There are three guys in my ballet class. This is pretty new to me. Last semester we had one boy for a week before he dropped the class and before that the only boy I had ever had in my class was in middle school. They work hard at it and take other dance classes too and all of them are nice and amusing. The issue is that two of them (the two that I’ve always considered more questionable anyway) have decided that tights just aren’t working out so they have both switched to unitards with shorts and tank tops. One of the outfits looks very much like this:



And to imagine the other, just picture the shorts being only a little bit longer than women’s booty shorts…

Are you alright?

The other guy wears a more conservative outfit of black tights and a white t-shirt, which worked well for all of them. I don’t know what this mini “revolution” is for anyway.

Yesterday was the first day that I noticed something though. Both of these guys shave their legs. Not only do they shave their legs, but they are tan, and look more like girl legs than mine or any other ladies’ legs in the classroom. The thing is that one of these guys still doesn’t shave his underarms. Legs is beyond the mark, underarms is expected. Guys who are dancers, swimmers, gymnasts, muscle shirt wearing types or men who have any reason to have to show their underarms to the world, should really consider shaving. It still looks normal (way more normal than when they shave their legs) and is generally considerate…because nobody wants to see that.

Anyway, that is really all I had to say. It was just really getting to me, and the other guy in class…I could tell.

January 17, 2009

That Tractor's Not So Sexy Anymore, Is It!

The eternity that is Martin Luther King Day super weekend is only half way through. Oddly enough, I like my classes so much this semester that I cannot stand these long empty days. Today, it feels as though a majority of my time was spent ridding my laptop of some awful country music somehow being played via my AIM account. As a result, I no more have an AIM account. That’s okay though, there were only a few people I would talk to on there and they all have FaceBooks. I’m just glad the ordeal is over. No starting up shows just to be lambasted with Kenny Chesney or anyone else who feels compelled to whine about life at inopportune times.

Yesterday, my roommate told me that a few of the girls in the dorm next to us were talking to her about a larger amount of noise coming from our room. (Was it country music?!?) I guess they are upset because we’ve decided that in our own place we don’t need to feel like we have to use ear buds just to listen to music and watch shows and that we want to have people over…people who like to play acoustic guitars. If it were anyone else in the building complaining, perhaps neither my roommate or I would have been so frustrated by the “intervention” but these girls cannot come to us halfway through the year to give us a discourse on noise. Every day they sing, play music and scream at the top of their lungs. They have piercing voices and frequently entertain guests in their doorway (which is right next to ours). They are in no place to tell us to be quiet when our offences are far less…offensive. While they can go in their rooms and shut their doors, the only room in our door with a door is the bathroom, so we’re sorry that our slight noise penetrates your hallway…deal with it. What they don’t seem to realize is that when they are talking outside our door…about us…we can hear every word. Living in a room with only two people isn’t awkward. In fact, it seems like it would be way more awkward to have to shower at the same time as your roommate in the same bathroom…yeah, that’s way more awkward by far! Plus, they don’t have to listen to the lobby door slam all day long, listen to the oddest poundings on the mailbox and they can more easily escape the constant plunking of the piano. True, this means that many girls in the hall are to blame. The quiet hours were a joke last month, producing more screams and trumping up and down the stairs than had been produced all semester.

That was definitely a rant. I guess what I’m really trying to say is, “No, we will not be more quiet.” They got away with their antics for a whole semester, and we’re not going to let them get to us. They are acoustic guitars for heaven sakes! If you need silence, the government section in the library is usually dead…go there.

Well, glad as ever that I bought my peanut butter four months ago, I’m out.

January 15, 2009

Spin, Spin, Spin!

For anyone who doesn’t believe that there are people just like “Penelope” from Saturday Night Live, I am here to tell you that you’re wrong. In Book of Mormon class everything was going well when a girl who added the class on Tuesday walked in late. Not too much of a problem. She sits down, we all take the quiz, and everything is okay. Then our teacher starts the lesson which uses a power point. The people sitting on the very edge of the room would have had a little trouble seeing the screen (which really isn’t that bad) so the girl moves somewhere else in the room. Throughout the class period, she moved three times. Each time I only noticed when she would make some crazy comment that had nothing to do with anything. It was driving me crazy and judging by the faces of others in the room, they weren’t thrilled about the whole thing either. The weirdest part was that the girl had red hair and the same voice as Penelope…at first I even thought she was just joking. Sadly, she was not. It’s going to be a long semester.



Hebrew class is going really well. It’s likely the only class that I can have for three hours today (Hebrew Table, Class and a late Hanukkah party) and not be going insane. Keep in mind that Hebrew table was at 8 in the morning. The teacher is really nice and fun as well as all of the other people in the class. I also won quite a bit of gelt this evening after an amusing dradle game with a few of the people I sit near in class.

Now with a stomach full of tamales and Jones soda, I’m off to read my American Heritage textbook.

January 10, 2009

Everybody's Doing It!

Today, in between homework assignments I’ve been looking at some blogs belonging to boys and girls in my ward. They made them for their English class and beyond that have not maintained them, but I have still made a few interesting finds, the best of which comes from a young lady living in my building, who will remain unnamed. She writes:

“Ok, so ever since I found out (and even before) that I was coming to BYU the most overwhelmingly abundant comment I have gotten has been "so will I get a wedding announcement in 6 months?" or "you are so going to get married..." both and all of which are very annoying. It is very frustrating to hear this from friends, neighbors and even family especially since it is so not true. I'm absolutely terrified of getting married. It's not that I don't want to get married and have a family someday but that day is very far in the future. I'm way to young to be taking care of a house and a husband and I have a lot of growing up to do... The thing I find most ironic about the supposedly high marriage rates at BYU is that the rates of marriage at USU and the U of U are higher...”


I agree with her on this. It doesn’t matter if the people are joking, it’s obnoxious. It’s a “when is your baby due,” “when are you getting your braces off” type of comment. Something you may think is a great conversation starter, but really nobody wants to talk to you in the first place.

But moving on. This girl then goes on to say this in her next entry:

“There is one and only one reason to come to BYU and that is to get married. That's why I'm here and you all know that's why you're here. Brigham Young
said "Any young man who is unmarried at the age of twenty one is a menace to the community." This is why missionaries come here, they have less [than] a year to get married before they become menaces to society and where else to do that then at the marriage capital of the world. Girls on the other hand are here to get married and further their progress to Eternal Life in the Celestial Kingdom. We also have this problem of a biological clock that just keeps ticking. We only have so much time to give birth to as many children in Zion as we can and the sooner you start the more children you can have. I know that marriage is a vital part in our quest for Eternal Life and that is why I am here, to find a great returned missionary to marry and start my family as soon as possible.”


Firstly, I don’t actually know where this girl is from, but I think my odds of getting married were way higher where I was before I came to BYU. BYU has only made me think that almost all boys are lame and that boys not from the west coast (or more especially from the middle part of the US) are mentally deficient in some way. In college, or at least in that span of years, is when a person should look for someone to marry but girls should go to college more because the odds of them getting married and being able to rely on a husband are significantly lower now than ever. Not everyone will get married, not everyone will stay married and not every guy is going to be able to have enough money to own a house. That is why I came to BYU. Maybe I’ll find someone to marry. But I could do that anywhere. BYU offers enough programs that will give me the connections, knowledge and experience I need to survive in the future. Of course I want to get married and of course I want to have kids. But no, I’m not going to complain like all of the other girls in the building that I haven’t gone on a date in however long, and no I will not even consider going on a date with someone I haven’t known for a while. I know that that makes people think I’m a “mean person” but so be it. I have better things to do then sit around pretending to be nice to pretentious RMs living in the freshmen dorms.

In somewhat other news, these are awesome:
http://www.despair.com/bittersweets.html

January 9, 2009

Stairway to Heaven

I’m getting a little tired of the snow here. At first it was just because it’s so cold and makes it so I can’t effectively walk to either of the malls anymore (a fall weekend pastime). Now, it’s just because of how difficult it makes basic things, like walking up and down the stairs or to any of my classes. Because some sort of poor planning, all of the walkways are incredibly slick when they get any sort of water on them. The HUGE stairs leading to the Richardson Building and field house are not so bad because they took at least some precautions to keep the people who use them from slipping. Every set of indoor stairs, however, did not get the same treatment.

The other day when I was headed to a class on the bottom level of the Tanner Building I noticed that the stairs were slick from all of the water that people had tracked in. Soon after I began my decent, I also noticed that they were the smoothes set of stairs I had ever seen. Yet, no matter how careful I was, right when I got to the last flight I lost my footing. Lucky for my I was using the handrail so I only ended up with minor injuries including a disgusting bruise on my arm where it hit the handrail (I was holding on very very tight).



No more than a day later, I was in pointe class when one of our exercises was to walk up and down the stairs on pointe only. After going forward, we had to do the whole thing backwards with only a step between each person. I would normally be really worried about that anyway, but being so close to everyone else and JUST HAVING FALLEN DOWN THE STAIRS made it a bit more nerve-wracking. The best comfort I had was to think about how I would probably be able to get a pretty nice settlement if an accident had occurred.

Perhaps BYU should consider putting in a few more elevators. I wouldn’t mind riding up and down in there with pointe shoes on.

January 3, 2009

Public Broadcasting and the Government: Why the Government Should Stop Funding Televised Media at the Taxpayers Expense

Note: This was for class. Obviously there is much more that could have been talked about, but there is only so many pages allowed.

In 1967, a bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The “Public Broadcasting Act” called for the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and called for an allocation of funds to said corporation. The purpose of the CPB was not to become a programming station itself, rather to aid in the production of educational media and provide funding to stations airing non-commercial, educational programming. In his own explanation of the law, President Johnson said, “The Corporation will assist stations and producers who aim for the best in broadcasting good music, in broadcasting exciting plays, and in broadcasting reports on the whole fascinating range of human activity. It will try to prove that what educates can also be exciting.” Soon after, the law was put into action with the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and decades of government funded television began.
The “Public Broadcasting Act” has long been contested, primarily by conservative, republican and libertarian pundits and politicians, while it has maintained strong support from democratic and progressive groups. This is essentially due to the source of revenue for the CPB. Each year, the federal government gives nearly 500 million dollars to the CPB for it to disperse to its numerous benefactors, including PBS (Corporation for Public Broadcasting 41). This money comes from both the budget for the CPB and the Department of Education. The past few years have seen both cuts and restorations to this funding, but appears the issue of where public television should go from here is at a stand-still.
Why should taxpayers continue to support the CPB? There have been many compelling arguments presented suggesting that it is the only source for unbiased media, that it provides the most up to date information on a variety of topics and that if taxpayer funding ceased many popular television shows would fade from society. All of these points, however, are simply untrue. Bias in programming does occur, the dull and outdated format of many shows is difficult for the new generation to swallow and many of PBS’s most popular series could easily compete with their commercial contemporaries. For these reasons, the government should discontinue the public sponsorship of the CPB, using the money for something more current and beneficial instead.
One of the primary reasons that PBS continues to exist is due to the overwhelming belief that it is free from the biases commonly found on networks like CNN and Fox News. However, David Boaz, vice president of the Cato Institute and well known libertarian pundit brings up an overlooked point. In a debate featured on the television and radio program, “Democracy Now,” Boaz debates this subject with Bill Reed, president of a PBS branch in Missouri. Effectively he states that the best bias “is subtle enough that most of your viewers don’t recognize it” (par. 13). While many major network news stations are obvious in their bias, PBS news shows use both subtleties in word choice and phrasing to cloak their own.
One example of bias as it is found on PBS can be seen in an article by Louis Barbash for “Current.” He found in viewing 19 segments about the Iraq war from Bill Moyer’s “Now” that only four segments featured guests that supported the war. In individual segments more air time was given to those against the war, pointing out injuries, deaths and difficulties for the families of the soldiers. Despite reports of good news coming from Iraq, it was broadcast far less frequently (Thomas).
While the idea of an unbiased news network would be a dream for any avid news watcher, it is simply impossible. The bias does not begin with the broadcaster and end with the viewer. News is what we make of it. The journalists who compile information are judging each source based on their own life experiences and knowledge to determine whether it is correct or worthy of sharing. Producers have opinions and influence shows and staff aiming to progress in their careers. Reporters broadcast the stories that have been developed for them using their own style and personality to read the stories. As we watch the news, we use our own beliefs to determine the reliance of various stories.
This use of bias and speech is not a bad thing; in fact, it is protected by the first amendment of our United States Constitution. Each person in this chain is welcome to harbor and project their own opinion. It is important to remember though, that nowhere in the first amendment is the government required to subsidize speech of any sort. In the case of PBS, every citizen in the United States is paying to subsidize an opinion that they may or may not agree with. This is unfair and does not support the spirit of the Bill of Rights.
Another issue involved in the funding of PBS is the fact that its programs are frequently out of date. While the information is current the methods for conveying the information are the same as they have been for many years. Even though some shows have come and gone, the network has remained largely the same since its creation.
When PBS was created, the world of television bared little, if any, resemblance to what Americans now recognize. Dish and digital cable provide many with access to hundreds of channels, while even those with basic cable receive nearly one hundred channels. In 1967, when the CPB was organized, everyone had access to the same three channels. These channels are the major networks that nearly every American who owns a TV set will recognize, today. They were the CBS, NBC and ABC. These channels hosted news, movies (this is still before tapes and VCRs were invented), cartoons and sitcoms. Now, the competition in broadcasting is so hot that networks feature around the clock programming. Back in the 1960s this was not so. Joe DeShon describes nighttime television for these networks:
They were done for the day. Some sleepy engineer hung around to make sure the transmitter was still humming. But the news crew had all gone home by then and all the front office guys had left a long time ago.
So when the last minute of programming was done, it was somebody's job at the TV station to play the Star-Spangled Banner. It was usually a tape of a choir singing - Mormon Tabernacle-style. Or it may have actually been the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I dunno [sic]. Or it may have been a military band. Whatever. And it was usually accompanied by a film of a waving American flag.
And then there was an awkward silence. A test pattern may have come on for a few minutes. And then a pop. And then snow (DeShone).
Television followed the same schedule as humans. With only three networks there was no need for a 24 hour race to see which network would survive.
This brings the reader to another reason why the CPB was created; to promote media diversity. The CPB would directly create the PBS which would not be subject to commercial entertainment. It would feature the first educational programs to be aired on television that were not related to news programs along with a myriad of programs for children and youth. At the time, PBS was able to complete its task of presenting TV viewers with another option. The documentaries were well compiled and interesting because they were the only ones. Aside from Saturday morning cartoons, PBS lacked any real competition simply because there were no other channels like it. It certainly paved the way for our 300 channel world.
However, being the first in educational programming is not enough. In the 1980s, new channels that would feature educational programming began broadcasting documentaries, and PBS remained largely the same. As our society has changed, the new channels, Discovery, Arts & Entertainment (A&E) and the History Channel, changed with it. Because they were commercial stations they must, or else they would disappear. Knowing this, it is little surprise to understand why PBS has not changed. It relies primarily on government support. The channel will continue to receive the same amount of money no matter how many viewers it has or what type of programming it runs.
One could say that PBS remains special because it sticks to the basics with no extra glam to get in the way of the facts it is presenting. If this is the case, let us look at the difference between and episode of NOVA and any documentary on the Discovery Channel. Consider what makes them the same. They both may give similar information but one is certainly more entertaining. Discovery Channel programs are more appealing because on an individual basis, more skilled work is put into them to make each a success. It is necessary to the survival of the network, but also for the viewer. While both channels will essentially provide the viewer with the same information, NOVA frequently goes for an approach that is too complicated for many viewers to grasp and retain the information, thus failing in providing free information to the masses. Because channels like Discovery, History and A&E need viewers, they package information in a way that is easy to swallow. Thus, the viewer will retain more information. Computer effects are used effectively and not cheaply, dramatizations are edited in true film fashion to create a documentary that even a casual TV viewer can appreciate and learn from.
Because PBS’s programming has stayed the same it has lost the competition with other channels, but children’s programming remains a strong competing force. Despite a surge in children’s educational programming, PBS has continued to claim the hearts of generations of children with its lovable characters. This is because PBS has adapted these shows based on our culture and developments describing how children learn best. This adaptation has made it a worthy opponent of channels like Nickelodeon, the home of Nick Junior, and Disney Channel, with Playhouse Disney as its educational companion. PBS’s shows are on par, and frequently surpass, the shows of these other channels in quality, making it difficult to understand why the network has not strived for the same in adult educational programming.
This issue leads directly into a final question, if these shows are so popular, why must they be supported by taxes? While many would consider PBS shows to be commercial free, before and after shows there are brief commercials for various foods or products. The children who watch these shows are still being told that Juicy Juice is the best juice, or that Alpha-Bits cereal will be better for them. Profits from the sale of products from the shows go to PBS (Donor Frequently Asked Questions, par. 6). Why is it not enough to cover the funding?
Because PBS is using its products to support shows that are not as popular as their shows for children, the revenue generated is not enough to cover the cost of the network. While on a real network, shows will low numbers of viewers would be considered a failure and canceled, PBS continues to run them at the taxpayer’s expense. While some shows, like “Masterpiece” (Formerly “Masterpiece Theater”) generate some wealth from DVD and video sales, most of the programming for adults generates nothing. If these shows were replaced, or even updated, they too could earn revenue and PBS would become a successful competing channel.
What is important to remember, is that if the government were to cut off funding from the CPB, then PBS respectively, shows like “Sesame Street” and “Arthur” would not disappear. These shows are valuable and timeless and the other networks know this. They would most likely find a new home on one of these channels’ children’s programming or PBS itself would be purchased and remodeled to compete effectively with other television channels. Some of these shows are already aired in places other than PBS. Noggin, a channel home to a mishmash of programming for children and youth, features retro episodes of “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company.” Many of these children’s shows are beloved by more than one generation of fans and are not at all likely to disappear if the government cuts its funding. By allowing these shows to compete in the open market, they will get the recognition they deserve.
When public television broadcasting first began in the late 1960s, it served the purpose of varying the television landscape. Now, investors, network owners and the citizens that watch TV understand the importance of educational broadcasting and the power it has. Educational channels are as popular as ever and increase in number every year. It is no longer necessary for the government to give money to television stations, stunting their growth in the world of competition. 500 million dollars is a lot of money being invested in a cause that has already been won. Americans have nearly endless possibilities in current, up to date television viewing at whatever bias they choose. The American people should not be compelled to support public television any longer, especially with more expensive challenges at hand. It is almost silly for the government to feel the need to provide us with educational experiences when the test of time and a test of one of the largest industries on earth, the television industry, has proven that we instinctively hold this value within us and seek frequently seek education at our leisure. Hence, the government should find a cause more just to give this money too, or better yet consider it a cut in government spending and return the money to the people in the form of a well deserved tax cut.

Sources:
"Cato vs. PBS: A Debate on Federal Funding of Public Broadcasting." Democracy Now! 12 July 2005. 6 Nov. 2008 http://www.democracynow.org/2005/7/12/cato_vs_pbs_a_debate_on.

"Donor Frequently Asked Questions." Sesame Workshop. 20 Nov. 2008

http://supportus.sesameworkshop.org/site/c.nli3iknxjse/b.2748675/k.50b5/donor_frequently_asked_questions.htm>.

Johnson, Lyndon B. "Remarks of President Lyndon B. Johnson Upon Signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967." Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 23 Nov. 2008
http://www.cpb.org/aboutpb/act/remarks.html>.

Thomas, Cal. "Evidence of PBS Bias is Clear." Lawrence Journal-World & News. 23 June 2005. 23 Nov. 2008 http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/jun/23/oped3/>.

"2007 Annual Report." Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 2007. 24 Nov. 2008 .

"United States Constitution." Cornell University Law School. Legal Information Institute. 23 Nov. 2008 .