Chris Hedges is a Buzz Kill

But it’s a buzz that badly needs killing.

Hedges, in his weekly Truthdig column, consistently unpacks the blind optimism that our media imbues upon issues like global warming, labor exploitation, war, healthcare and our politician’s (lack of) ability to do anything about them.

Mr. Hedges tells me what the darker side of my conscious knows: we are screwed. The part I love and hate about his telling-it-like-it-is-ness is how he relunctantly reminds us there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re haplessly trolling around, buying this and buying that, and nobody cares. We can buy all the organic produce we want, but China’s still going to “double their carbon emissions by 2030, from a little over 5 billion metric tons to just under 12 billion.”

Part of me wishes we would be more serious; the other part wants to sit back and make the most of it. We humans can’t deal with too much bad news, but we’ve been conditioned into thinking there’s “something YOU can do” for so long that our sense of reality is dangerously out of whack. I think Chris Hedges’ columns are demoralizing, but if the shoes fit, lace ’em up.

{Inspired by this week’s column: Calling All Future Eaters}

Long/ Live/ the/ Bobblehead

Issue #20 of my electric zine, “Long/ Live/ the/ Bobblehead” is here, and it’s the first-ever issue to feature a guest writer, my buddy Craig Schlanser!

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It’s my first time doing a collaboration like this, with Craig doing the writing and I the drawing. It must be hard to do this sort of thing with a partner via the Interweb on a regular basis; Craig first wrote the story and sent it off to me, then I drew my part, sent it back, and published it – without much intervening communication. It’s a leap of faith on both ends, which makes it all-the-more exciting, eh?

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Since it’s been awhile, I made a mix! It’s called “Summer’s not over ’till I say it is” and features music by the No Kids, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Nurses, and eight other great summer bands. Peruse the tracklist, download the mix {60MB zip file}, and please support the bands if you like their stuff.

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How do we get kids to write?

How do those basic skills translate into better grades and better career prospects? How do we get them to want to read on their own?

 

These are some of the questions Mighty Writers, an organization I’ve been involved with for about a year now, hopes to answer. The organization has achieved an incredible amount of success since May, 2009, when they first opened their doors at Fifteenth and Christian Streets. (They occupy a prominent storefront on that corner, which is how I initially found out about them.)

 

Now, as an intern, I’m working on the Summer Movie edition of their student-produced newspaper, laying out the graphics and editing the reviews the kids wrote during a dedicated film workshop. I’m also organizing a street team, so Mighty Writers can have a presence at local events this summer, at events like Farmers’ Markets and music festivals.

 

I was recently contacted by a publicist for Rutgers, who interviewed me regarding my experience at Mighty Writers. Check it out here:
Rutgers–Camden Graduate Helps Students Master Writing Skills.

Restrepo

Just saw an early afternoon showing of Restrepo – the new documentary by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger. There’s not much actual violence (there are scenes of soldiers shooting guns out of their windows, but no actual “contact”), no soundtrack, and as close a view of actual war as I’ve ever seen. {via an interview with the director on npr}

Definitely recommended.

Book Club: "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr.

The Internet and our digital entertainment environment are changing the way we communicate, read, and think of each other and the world. Nicholas Carr’s new book, “The Shallows,” explores the un-deepening of our reading and thinking patterns. Too often we classify these kinds of debates as on or off issues; either we’re entering a new, dark era of shallow reading that any self-respecting neanderthal would’ve scoffed at, or we’re becoming jack-of-all-trade geniuses, able to parse information and string together complex arguments in a matter of seconds.

The issue on my mind tonight, as I self-consciously type and re-type this post, is the unnecessary cautiousness the Internet has instilled on me. I’m not “my self” on the Internet, as I juggle between the opposing ideals of wanting to appear professional – mindful of the likelihood of future Google queries that will be conducted by a potential employer – and authentic, writing about whatever I want to write about.

I think it all stems from the ridiculous concept of the “personal brand.” The notion that you need to have a consistent set of motives and beliefs, and to present yourself according to those principles at all times. Even if your online behavior seems innocuous to you now, you never know what the biases of a future employer may be.

Like that’s all that matters.

Sure, I could write anonymously, but nobody trusts unidentified sources. Anonymity lends itself to harsh bravado; I just want to be genuinely critical.

I think what it comes down to is that there’s way too much information out there about most of us, especially if you’re active in an online community. And if the Internet is the dominant mode of communication, are the majority of us keeping silent for fear of future retaliation of some sort?

Then my alter-ego offers: “Well if you’re talking about something that could get you in trouble later, maybe you shouldn’t be writing about about it in the first place.” But then I’m already censoring myself, I tell alter-me, always thinking about where to draw the line – a mindset that completely kills free expression. Perhaps I’m being just a tad insecure, but doesn’t the fear of being watched in the future have the same chilling effect as if you’re definitely being watched right now?