Sunday, November 20, 2011


Yeah, I watch the "X Factor." I know a lot of people diss it because it's too much like "American Idol" but I don't have a problem with that. They've taken a lot of a good things about "AI" (auditions, Simon) and added some stuff to make it interesting (older and younger singers, who really have been the story. Honestly, if they got rid of the "AI" types, I'd like the show even more.) I have a couple of issues with the show. One of them is that they rush the results shows which have been the most interesting thing thus far. This week was no exception.

For those who don't watch, one of the acts on the show is a 15-year-old kid who raps. Rap isn't my thing, but I do admire the now-renamed Astro. He has attitude which can put people off, but I think that a certain percentage of it is an act. He uses "sir" and "thank you" too often for it to not be part of what he truly is.

The thing I admire about him is that he's clearly one hard-working kid. I'd guess that he's not the most popular kid in school, mostly because he doesn't have time for teenage nonsense. He writes his own lyrics, and you can tell that he's constantly working. Now that he's living with other contestants, I would bet that he gets along with the acts that are up to his standard and he avoids the ones he thinks are lazy or just lucky.

But he is young. And because he is young, he doesn't always handle things like an adult. We've all been there: we work so hard on something, then someone else comes into the situation for about two minutes and gets us much credit as you. Or worse, even more. Somehow you have worked your tail off and this other person who did almost nothing is the star and you're forgotten. How did that even happen? This happened to Astro on Thursday. After being told how amazing he was and that he was a fan favorite, he somehow ended up in the bottom two, in a situation that he had to beg for his spot. Let me point out again that he is young. He's 15. No, he didn't handle it well, but most of us get told of our disappointments in relative privacy: your boss calls you in and explains that promotion is going to the guy you trained or that project you've been working long hours on is cancelled. Astro was told on a stage in front of a crowd. No doubt he was embarrassed, shocked, all those things. When we find these things out, we can run to our office, the bathroom, etc, and just kind of get over it privately. Astro didn't get that choice.

Yes, it's part of the show he signed up for. But at 15, you think you'll handle ups and downs much better than you really will. In fact, many of them have never really been given any negative criticism in their lives. They're too young to have been rejected for jobs or talent shows. Maybe these kids are too young for the show. But they have made the show more interesting. I wouldn't never want to see a real breakdown on television, but I know that Astro is a strong kid. I hope he realizes that he needs to show some remorse for his behavior. I think that his behavior was justified in the sense that he was hurt, but it did come off "bratty" and he needs to get his audience back.

It will be interesting to see how he handles these next weeks. It'll also be interesting to see how the other contestants more forward. I hope they start giving more time for the judges to discuss the results and reactions to the final results. I'd rather hear the judges debate which acts are worthy are moving forward than another performance by an already-established pop star.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

We Are...Penn State

I will admit to having Penn State issues. I lived in the Philadelphia area for over 20 years and Penn State was everywhere. There's some nutty statistic like 1 out of every 4 adults in Pennsylvania who went to college, went to Penn State for at least part of that time. (I have no idea if it's true but, honestly, it felt like it.) It didn't help that my university was constantly confused with Penn State (the bookstore even sold "Penn, not Penn State" t-shirts), so I would have to gently correct relatives who asked me where I was going to school.

When it came to college football, it was the only game in town. Who else is there? Temple? They don't even have their own stadium! So, every Saturday, it was "JoePa!" and "We are! Penn State!" and big navy blue flags. It didn't matter what their record was, they were Number One. They acted like they invented football and JoePa was perfecting it. Having grown up in the Midwest, I yawned.

As much as I enjoy the fall of Penn State football, I can't say that I'd ever want it to happen this horribly. There's a lot that's very upsetting about what's going on (and what went on) at Penn State. I'm not going to pretend I know everything but I have read the 23-page report from the grand jury. If you haven't read it, you can get to it here, but, be prepared: it's tough to read.
PSU Grand Jury Report

Obviously, a horrible thing went on and there was some degree of cover-up. How much did certain people know or how much should they have done will be debated for quite a while. The thing that upsets me the most is the power of football at Penn State. How did it get to this? How does an "academic" institution allow this to even become the story it has blown up to be?

Let's think about it: thousands of "students" rallied in the streets to support a guy (JoePa) who involved in a situation (and, yes, he was involved) that allowed numerous children to be sexually abused for years. This guy is in charge of an extra-curricular activity -- that's it! But students felt the need to take to the streets in protest! I have to wonder what would happen if the situation was slightly different, say, the head of the physics department covered up a drug-smuggling ring and got fired. Would the student newspaper even write an outraged editorial? I don't see tipped news vans or upset students being interviewed on tv. How did we let football become so important that this has become something that changes all of Penn State? How did a coaching staff get so much power and influence at a supposed academic institution?

(I would like to say that I am very pleased that other students organized a candlelight vigil for victims of abuse.)

I need to understand how JoePa is above responsibility but not above punishment. There were terrible things happening in his "house." He made a choice when he did the minimum. By doing the very minimum, he sent a message. He knows this. He picked a member of his staff over the welfare of children.

I am sure we will be hearing about this (and other terrible things in other college programs) for years to come. But maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is why are we putting so much importance on a bunch of college kids banging their heads together on a Saturday afternoon? Maybe if it wasn't worth millions to so many universities, there wouldn't be a need for presidents to cover-up for coaches. Maybe we need to rethink about what should be important on a college campus.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You didn't stop to make me feel better

I send letters in the mail. Actual letters. My grandfather was a mailman. I get excited when I see pretty new stamps. ("Ooh, Kate Smith!") But I know I am not typical, and the US Postal Service is in trouble. They are out of money and need to make some drastic changes. And as much as I love getting a letter in the mail, I would not be upset if there were was a little less USPS.

Let's think about the Post Office a bit. On one hand, they do weird consumer-friendly stuff: they work on Saturdays, they not only bring things right to your door, they'll pick stuff up as well. That's pretty cool, right? But on the other hand, actual service at a post office is usually less than stellar. It's usually slow and the hours are limited. Mailing packages at the holidays is always a chore. When you send something, unless you pay a premium for an upgrade, you're not exactly sure when it will arrive. Maybe three days? Maybe a week? And if you try their tracking system, it's vague at best. (I generally get the "no information" message until about a day or so after the package arrives.)

Most of the fuss that the USPS will have to cut is Saturday delivery and, honestly, is that really a big deal? Now before you go all Netflix and "what about my meds?" on me, don't we already plan around having no delivery on Sundays? If this cutting of one day a week of delivery would save the USPS, shouldn't we all figure out a way to get by? (Although I might argue that perhaps we should cut a mid-week day to not have a gap of two days.)

Personally, I think we all could get used to every-other-day delivery. Keep the six days of service but do half a route one day, half the next. Let's force companies to cut the junk mail. (I am getting junk mail for people who moved from this house over five years ago!) If you pay bills on-line, don't send a statement. Catalogs must be limited to four times a year (I still think that's way more than anyone needs, but I'm allowing for seasonal changes), and if they person hasn't ordered for the company for over a year, the company needs to stop sending them. (I am sure there's a family in Hatboro who can't figure out why they keep getting cross-stitch catalogs.) I throw away a substantial stack of paper every week, most of which I don't bother to even open. If my mailperson is carrying this to everyone, we're paying someone a lot of money to deliver trash to our doorsteps.

I hate to say this, but the USPS is out of date. It's a service that we don't need as much in this modern age. We pay our bills on-line, email our friends, order from a website. That's not a bad thing. The world changes. We don't send telegrams anymore and it's alright. But I do want a postal service, so let's figure out a way that let's us still get a letter now and again. Without all the junk mail.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I'm not sure why exactly I haven't been posting to this space. I have been writing, just not here, and (in my mind) and just not enough. I haven't been taking as many pictures, either, and I'm trying to decide if these two things are related.

I want to do everything. I want to write for hours and just type long, detailed stories or blog post that (at this point, in my head) would dazzle you with their brilliance. I want to take a long walk without direction and shoot amazing photographs. Of course, this mood usually hits in the middle of the workday or in the middle of the night as a vague dream I barely remember the next day.

I have excuses: this summer was incredibly stressful (seriously, just too much), work is at the crazy point of the year, the house needs cleaning. All true. But when I do have time for writing, I find that I am not able to actually put the words down. The ideas are there, but they just seem to be hanging out with me, like someone you meet at a bar who acts like they want to talk to you, but just answers in monosyllables, expecting you to guess their story.

It's been especially bothersome the past couple of days. NaNoWriMo started and although I have no intention on participating (it's always November which is always a crazy month for me anyway), I am reading about it, hearing people get excited, and I'm sitting here with a word count of zero. Tomorrow is another day, so I'll try to be ready for that.

I know that it'll all kick in soon, and you'll be back to getting a few posts a week, and I'll be uploading pictures again. I know that the crazy of the summer is still affecting me, but that is getting better. Until then, please be patient. I will be back.