Monday, June 24, 2013

News Memory: Let's Keep Journalism Relevant and Accountable

"Where do I buy a newspaper?"  Seriously, I had this debate with myself a few months ago when I was interviewed for an article, and found the article the next morning on the Web.  My Dad recommended I go and buy the corresponding newspaper so that I could keep it, and I considered his suggestion on a couple different levels.  First of all, what would I do with such a newspaper?  It wasn't so significant that I would hang it up in a frame and display it forever, so it would most likely go in a box of mementos from my college days.  Second, was the link enough?  I had shared the article on my facebook and LinkedIn pages that morning, and many of my friends had seen it, read it, and commented it.  I had a hard time deciding what I would even do with a newspaper if I bought it.  Third, where do I even buy a newspaper?  I guessed it would be at a gas station, or maybe a grocery store, but I honestly don't think I've ever bought a newspaper on my own, and couldn't remember the last time I had been with someone else to buy one.  It's just paper, and at the end of the day, it gets recycled because it's obsolete. 

There's no doubt that journalism is changing, and journalists must adapt or be left behind.  News reporting isn't the only industry that has lost jobs to technology, by the way.  Is it possible that technology has allowed a fewer number of journalists to collect and report on the same number of stories?  But we can't look solely at lost jobs to determine what is good and evil.  We must look at the net result, and that is better and more information, which I would argue is invariably a good thing.  While some criticize Wikipedia because "anyone can change it," I have heard it is more accurate than any printed encyclopedia collection, with tons more information, and I believe it.  Have you ever actually tried to change Wikipedia?  It isn't so easy, because they want you to cite sources, and people are reviewing it. 

Nor can we base our judgments solely on the average quality of the product.  I would agree that with more and better information, there is also more junk out there than ever before.  My favorite quote from "The Long Tail" is when Chris Anderson says, “it is when the tools of production are transparent, that we are inspired to create.”  With the ability to publish with greater ease, people do so.  But readers are also becoming more discerning.  As the Internet has become more commonplace, people have developed an ability to filter out, or at least double check, potential garbage.  I believe this is a skill that was lacking in most newspaper readers of 30 years ago.  It was possible to blindly lead people astray because of one news story (reference the radio broadcast "War of the Worlds" in which listeners thought they were tuning in to a real story about aliens).  Now even reputable news sources are questioned, and rightfully so.  Journalists are held to a higher standard, because the audience can now correct, criticize or congratulate them. 

Even more so, I think bloggers and websites have tapped into a need that traditional journalists could not: almost everyone wants to feel like they have a voice, so asking your readers what they think gives them a platform to contribute in ways they couldn't before, while allowing you to moderate as needed.  This makes them feel involved, and keeps them coming back to check other peoples' replies, and see what else they can comment on.  Newspapers are a one-way communication and cannot fulfill this need for interaction. 

So I think it's clear that traditional journalists have to adapt, and that they are now held to higher standards because their readers can correct them.  Those two points being stated, I'd like to mention one of the biggest downfalls, as I see it, of journalists today.  I haven't found a term to describe this phenomenon, so I'll call it news memory.  Muscle memory is used by dancers, martial artists, and the like, to train the body to move in certain, repeatable, predictable ways.  This is generally considered a good thing, but sometimes you have to learn to trick your muscle memory to allow you to move in a different way.  News memory, I think, is always a negative thing.  It is when one big story is followed by dozens of non-stories of a similar theme.  The earthquake in Japan, for example, had devastating ramifications, including the tsunami and the nuclear emergency.  But then every subsequent earthquake in Japan was reported, even though Japan sees hundreds of earthquakes every year.  The same thing happened after Hurricane Katrina, every hurricane was suddenly "breaking news" when it was really just normal weather patterns.  I think every major natural disaster has been followed by copy cat stories that beg the question, "So what?"  It's as if journalists develop news memory by watching for repeats, rather than looking for new, truly newsworthy stories. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ladies' Night with Laura

I was having drinks with friends the other night after dance practice, and was reminded of another fantastic story from my single life that I had yet to blog about.  So in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, here's an adventure I got into with my girlfriend, also named Laura.  We always referred to us as a pair as "Double Trouble".  This is perhaps the best example of why.

Nowadays I dance vernacular jazz and Lindy Hop, but back then, I loved club dancing.  Two Red Bull vodkas was all I needed to single-handedly, if need be, get the party started at a club on Mill Ave.  Thursday nights were the best.  Laura and I would meet there, dance with each other, then find some good looking guys to dance on.  I would inevitably be approached by the most foreign person in the room, wanting to make me his wife / queen of his home country.  We'd kiss on boys, shake our booties and break their hearts.  We'd ditch them if they were ugly or unpleasant.  We'd let multiple boys dance on us at the same time.  She had the rockin' body and the careless spirit, I had the exuding confidence and sexy dance moves, and together, we were irresistible to the crowd of people that gathered at those clubs.  

So this one night, we decided to meet there.  I'd rather start around 10:45 or 11 pm, but Laura didn't want to meet until midnight.  So at a quarter til, I headed out.  I got there a few minutes early, parked and headed into the bar.  I waited for a few minutes, groovin' by myself.  Ten minutes passed, then twenty.  Around 12:30, I was approached by a short buy very attractive guy, and he asked if he could buy me a drink.  I agreed, and walked up to the bar with him.  We talked for a little bit; he was an engineering major like me - nice!  I told him that I was waiting for my girlfriend to show up, but she was late.  He told me his guy friend ditched him at some point.  We finished our drinks and I asked him to dance with me.  He agreed, and I guided him by the hand to the dance floor in my most seductive walk, before kicking it into high gear with my moves.  He was clearly enjoying himself, and he held his own; I was impressed.  Around 1:30, Laura finally walked through the door.  Normally, I like to leave before the cops start poking around, so 1:30 is a perfect exit time, but since Laura had just arrived, I figured I'd give her a little bit of my time, even though she was late.  I continued dancing with my short engineer guy, and she found her own admirer, and we danced side by side until the club closed.  

I asked the guy if he wanted my number so he could call me.  He insisted that I come home with him.  I told him I wasn't like that, that I liked him and I'd like to get to know him better before I go home with him.  He gave me some presumptuous speech about how he'd wasted his time with me and how he couldn't believe I wouldn't go home with him.  So I walked away, and went to find Laura.  She was smooching with her new guy friend, leaning up against a twig of a tree.  I waited for a moment to give them their space, and she bid him good night and started heading in my direction.  Just then, another guy approached her, stopped her, and said something that clearly intrigued her.  She talked to him for another minute or two, then signaled to him that she'd be right back.  She jogged up to me and told me she wanted to go with these guys to their apartment for an after party, and she wanted me to go with.  I told her I thought it was a bad idea, but she insisted that she wanted to go, and that she'd prefer that I go with her so we can watch out for each other.  The good friend in me knew I shouldn't let her go home with MULTIPLE guys by herself.  It was too dangerous.  So we walked over to her newest guy friend and his buddies.  They told us that one of the guys was pulling up the car now, and that they'd take us to their place and we'd have a great time.  We stood in a small circle chatting and eyeing each other, while the cops surveyed the area and drunkards stumbled passed us.

Then, I felt a tug on my hand.  I turned, and it was Presumptuous Guy, back for more negotiating in regards to my evening (or rather, early morning) plans.  I asked him if he would please take my number so that we can hang out; I really did think he was interesting, if not too short for my taste.  Who knows where it could have gone, but at least we could have had some fun.  "You're going home with those guys that you just met a minute ago, but you won't come home with me even though we've been dancing and talking all night?"  

"No," I replied, "my girlfriend wants to go with them and I can't let her go alone.  I'm a good friend first and foremost.  You should really take my number, though."  

"I don't want your number, I want you to come home with me," he protested.  He was starting to sound like a little child.  

"Well that's not going to happen, so take my number, or go away."  

He stormed off again.  Fine.  A guy pulled up with the car, and our new friends signaled to us to get in the back seat with them.  It was tight, six of us in a small car, and one of the guys was rather large.  I'll call him Player.  Player was a hefty, tall black man with a deep voice and frightening strength.  He wasn't terrible looking, but he kept models practically for friends.  There was this one, I'll call him Baby Face, who looked like perfection in the form of a man (an oxymoron, I realize, but he looked the part).  He was a white guy, muscular and cut, and he had a smooth, innocent, and irresistible face.  He was the perfect height for me, not impractically tall (although I tend to be drawn to those types) and definitely not short like Presumptuous Guy.  Baby Face let me sit in his lap on the car ride, and we kissed a little, while Laura sat on another guy's lap and kissed him.  What did we get ourselves into?  We drove first to my car, and a couple of the guys got out with Laura and I, and we took my car to their apartment.  

As if that was the craziest part.  Ha!  You'll never believe what happened when we got to the apartment.  But believe it.  There were more guys there, and no other girls in sight.  I started to wonder what was up with these guys, when Baby Face asked me what I'd like to do.  I told him to put on some music.  He signaled to another guy, one who hadn't been in the car with us, and had long black dreads.  I'll call him Jamboree, because I'm pretty sure from his accent and his behavior that he was, in fact, from Jamaica.  Jamboree turned on some music and started singing off-key, "It's ladies night!  Oh yeah it's ladies night!  Oh what a night!"  I was sitting in the middle of a couch by now, and Baby Face was sitting on the table in front of me.  Laura had come to sit on my side, and her boy toy had gone to the kitchen to make drinks.  I told her we shouldn't drink anything they give us in open containers.  Sure enough, two red Dixie cups came out, and we declined.  Laura asked me if I was sure, and I whispered to her that with this many guys around, we do not want to get ourselves drugged.  We'd be better off playing it cool and staying alert.  Baby Face was looking at me restlessly.  Meanwhile Jamboree had come and planted himself on the other seat next to me, and thrown his arm around my shoulders like we were well acquainted.  

I proposed to the guys that they put on a strip show for us.  I expected all sorts of protests or teases, but instead, all I got was compliance.  Baby Face went first, removing his shirt while dancing in front of me.  Then Laura's boy toy took his shirt off in front of her.  Player danced in the background, but didn't do much stripping, which was okay by me.  When there was a pause in the action, I reached over to Laura's boy toy and tugged on his zipper, and he finished removing his shorts.  Laura reached over to Baby Face and returned the favor.  Baby Face and Laura's boy toy were now in nothing but briefs, and man, could they pull them off!  Some of the other guys in the apartment joined in, sitting on the couch next to us, taking their shirts off and stripping into boxers or briefs.  Jamboree, too.  All the while, the guys sang, "It's ladies night!"  Laura and I could not believe our eyes.  

Next came the massages.  I don't recall who proposed it, maybe it was me, maybe it was Laura, maybe it was one of the guys.  Or maybe it just happened.  Details like that got lost in the memory, because the scene was so absolutely mind-blowing.  At least 8 guys, and probably 5 of them smokin' hot, willingly stripping for two girls they had just met, for free, dancing around, and sharing us with one another like this was a perfectly natural thing to do.  I mean, it was hotty hot hot!  And before I knew it, my feet were being sensually massaged by Jamboree, while Baby Face rubbed my neck and Player rubbed my shoulders.  Laura had three of her own simultaneous masseuses.  The other two or three guys put on a show for us, dancing, strip teasing, and, well, stripping.  It was warm in the apartment, warm with body heat.  I could just imagine waking up to the smell of sex in that sticky, warm place.  

Player took center stage with some dancing of his own again, while Baby Face went to get something and another guy sat where Jamboree had been sitting.  He too put his arm around me, and pulled my chin towards him for a kiss.  I complied for a few moments before pulling away to watch Player some more.  Laura joined her boy toy on the other couch, sitting on his lap and watching the show, kissing him intermittently.  Jamboree was now rubbing my legs, and would come close for a kiss from time to time.  Baby Face returned and took Laura's seat next to me, sliding his arm behind my lower back, and kissed me.  He was delicious, and I could have kissed him all night.  I might have.  Watching Player, I sized him up, and he was definitely strong.  I could picture him holding us down, forcing himself on us.  He would be hard to fight.  I've gotten myself into scary situations before, and I always have a plan to get out, but I wasn't sure if I could fight him off if he had decided to pull something.  

It was 5:30 am when Laura gave me the look that it was time to go.  Nothing had gone wrong; in fact, we were still waiting for something bad to happen, and it never did.  But I think her and I were thinking the same thing: this is too good to be true, better leave before it goes bad.  We grabbed each others hands affectionately, throwing a little girl-on-girl tease to the guys, and congregated in the kitchen for a girl meeting.  We decided it was definitely time to go, although we were having a complete blast.  Laura asked if we should leave our numbers, and I thought that was a good idea.  Who wouldn't want to come back to this Siren Island?  Then I suggested that we only leave one of our numbers, and just write "Laura" on it.  She giggled and said it should be me.  So I wrote my number on a piece of paper with our name on it, and used a magnet to stick it to the refrigerator.  The guys had left us alone up until that point, but then Baby Face came to see what we were up to.  I told him we were leaving, not mentioning the number I had sneakily placed on the fridge.  We made out, hands groping for a few moments, meanwhile Laura had gone to kiss her boy toy good night.  We kissed a few of the others good night, too.  None of them really protested except Baby Face and Player.  Laura and I grabbed each other's hands again and walked through the door.  As soon as we cleared it, we looked at each other with the wildest grins and started cracking up.  "Can you believe that just happened?"  

Then we heard a voice from behind us calling after us.  It was Baby Face, still in nothing but his briefs, walking slowly towards us, signaling for us to come back.  I was embarassed for him.  Maybe embarassed is not the right word, he had a perfect body, so there was nothing to be embarassed of, per se.  But he was now walking about in a public place where anyone could see him, and he was very exposed.  I ran to him to cover him up with my own body, and told him he'd get in trouble.  He said he didn't care, and pulled down his underwear to his ankels, exposing himself completely now.  He kissed me and asked for us to come back, saying that we were all having so much fun and he didn't want us to leave.  I told him it was time to go, and kissed him one more time, then spanked his bare behind and bid him good night.  He turned away and went back inside, underwear in hand.  I wasn't sure if I'd regret leaving him, but I figured, they had a way to find us, if and when they found the number, and if it was meant to be, we'd be together again.  

I jogged back up to Laura, and we linked arms and ran for it before another one came to get us, laughing harder now at the fact that Baby Face had stripped completely, out in public.  "It's ladies night!" we repeated in our best manly voices.  We got to my car and I drove us to Laura's car, all the while laughing and talking about what just happened.  When I stopped, we hugged, and Laura made me promise to let her know if I got a call or text from the guys.  

It didn't take long.  Laura and I were both sitting at a red light in our own cars, when I got a text.  It was Jamboree, asking which Laura was I.  I rolled down my window and told Laura.  We laughed, the light turned green and we parted ways shortly after.  I texted with Jamboree when I got home, and I got another text, this time from Player.  But Player didn't say who he was outright; I wanted for him to be Baby Face so bad, but I eventually sorted it out.  

Jamboree and I texted multiple times, as did Player and I.  I even let Player come over one time, under the pretense of helping me with the plumbing problem I was working on.  Player and I had had some fights via text already; he was very pushy and entitled, not terribly unlike Presumptuous Guy.  But Player was so vulgar, I had to tell him off multiple times, and he would eventually apologize.  Things made a little more sense when he told me he was a college football player.  He hadn't played for ASU, but he had played for a school in California; I was able to look him up and verify.  His football picture had an ugly scowl, and my girlfriend Rachel cautioned me about that look.  When he came over and it turned out he knew nothing about plumbing, I was frustrated with him to say the least, but I decided to make the best of it.  My sister had loaned me a movie, Nights in Rodanthe, and I was not looking forward to watching it.  So I thought I'd torment Player by making him watch it with me.  We ended up really bonding during that movie, because we were both in tears from laughing so hard and mocking the movie.  It wasn't a bad time.  I could have grown close to him, if he'd keep his mouth clean and stop being an ass.  I snuggled with him and let him kiss me just a little.  Then I kicked him out because I really had to work on my plumbing.  A few weeks later I got a text from him saying in no uncertain terms that his agent just delivered the fantastic news that he would likely be in the second round draft for the NFL.  His texts exclaimed that he was so happy, all he wanted to do was see me, drink and have sex.  He said he wanted me there with him to enjoy it, and wanted me to go with him wherever the NFL took him.  I seriously had my doubts that any of this was true, but a very small part of me took pleasure in imagining myself as an NFL wifey; even tied to him, I could make myself very happy.  But I'm not dumb, and I was not about to give it up based on his texts.  I told him how thrilled I was for him, but that I couldn't possibly go out with him tonight, and that I would love to see him that weekend.  I had class during the day of the draft, but I watched the news and checked online when I could for glimpses of the draft, looking for Player's name.  It never came up.  And I think he knew his gig with me was up, then, because I never heard from him again.  

Jamboree, Baby Face, Player, Laura's boy toy, even Presumptuous Guy, and all the others whom I didn't even get to know, made that night one of the most remarkable, you-can't-make-this-stuff-up kind of unbelievable, and hilarious nights of my life.  It's impossible to know how else that night could have gone, what would have happened if we had stayed, and it's a little sad that it had to come to an end, but I will never forget Ladies' Night with Laura.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Midget Saga - Part 2

It was St. Patrick's Day, and I showed up to kenpo.  The Midget informed me that he was Irish, like a leprechaun.  
Eager Beaver had played a cruel trick on me, known as the Naked Man.  I didn't know what it was called until years later when I met a sexy ballet dancer at a club, and he told me about it.  He laughed when I told him I had fallen for it with a previous guy.  The Naked Man essentially works like this: the guy appears to you suddenly, completely naked, and it makes you feel so bad for him that you give in.  Regardless, the Naked Man worked on me, and I was now involved with Eager Beaver.  I wasn't his girlfriend, I made that clear.  I was using him, and he didn't seem to mind.  It was an awkward routine, because The Midget was Eager Beaver's ride, so The Midget came on every date, every double date, and every time I just wanted to hang out.  One time, I asked if The Midget could not come, and Eager Beaver informed me that I made him cry.  
I made The Midget cry.  
Ah well.  

Having the Midget around was a very odd thing. He was socially a bit awkward, although surprisingly not as bad as Eager Beaver. It was awful, though, when the Midget tried to force himself upon me. Literally, he'd get up on the couch and leap at me, trying to plant his face into motorboating position on my chest, even if temporarily. Words cannot describe the images that haunt me to this day, the Midget flying at me like a crazed bat, or a flying squirrel perhaps.

On St. Patrick's Day, we had kenpo, and the Midget saw it necessary to inform me that he was Irish. Like a leprechaun. I'm telling you, I can't make this stuff up!

Eager Beaver started getting on my nerves. He was useless and idiotic enough, and his attachment to the Midget made it all the worse. I told Eager Beaver that the Midget was not invited to a double date with Karen and The Beast. Eager Beaver informed me that I had made the Midget cry again. Wah, wah, wah.

The only reason I allowed this charade to go on for so long was because of how good Eager Beaver was in bed. Ever since he played the Naked Man on me, I was hooked.

I started to sever the link between getting laid and dealing with the flying Midget. It was a triumphant victory when I figured out how to navigate around the short stop to get to home base. So naturally, it was time to find a new game. One of Karen's fantasies was to be tied up with a kenpo black belt's black belt. Little did I know at the time, she was banging her boss, the black belt, and who knows what else was transpiring within that activity? Anyways, since I was a bit more public with my black belt, I went ahead and pursued her fantasy.

I'm not sure if Eager Beaver was really just forgetful, or if his mom had such a tight grip on his life that he feared getting caught, or if there was something else preventing him from wanting to bring it, like respect for the martial arts. Regardless, weeks went by during which I nagged him to bring his black belt, and he didn't. Then I had to go away on a trip, and Eager Beaver was sad about it. I told him, when I come back, he needs to make it up to me. I was going to be tied up with that black belt.

When my plane landed back in Phoenix, I texted him to get ready for me. That was when the unimaginable happened: He. Got. Grounded. Grounded? 23 years old. Really, grounded? You've got to be kidding me, you're kidding right? No, apparently he had lied to his mom and was thus grounded. Grounded.

That was definitely the beginning of the end. I was not going to stay fuck buddies with a guy whose mom treats him like a 14 year old. He acts like it, don't get me wrong, but that's just not a situation I can handle. I did get tied up with the black belt a week later, and that was about it.

Meanwhile, the Midget was moving on from me, which was a giant-sized relief. We still saw each other at kenpo, and that's where I learned about what follows.

Eager Beaver set up his ex-girlfriend with the Midget. The Midget was so excited to be texting with her. He showed me a picture of her, she was a cow. Regardless, I was happy for him, he was crushing hard and had the potential to get laid.  

About a week went by, and I hadn't heard anything about it, so I went the less direct route and asked Eager Beaver.  The story he gave me is another one of those I-can't-make-this-stuff-up scenarios.  You have been warned.  

I asked Eager Beaver if the Midget had, indeed, had sex with Eager Beaver's ex.  Eager Beaver's response was, "Kinda."  Now, there are times that are appropriate to say kinda, but I feel that in talking about sex, it's very much black and white.  Obviously, I needed more information, so I pressed on, carefully.  He proceeded to make reference to a vacuum with no suction power, which I didn't understand one bit.  And then he ended with, perhaps, the cherry on the top: "And the condom kept falling off, because it was too big..."  

And there you have it.  Around this time, I decided to call the whole thing off and cut Eager Beaver and the Midget out of my life forever.