Saturday, February 28, 2009

Contributor Bio: je

Hailing from Binghamton New York, je attended Cornell University and graduated in 2005, finally majoring in Philosophy. A technologist by profession, je fell into it by accident after college, but is pretty much useless if you ask him to fix your computer. He spends his workday solving business problems with technology. In his free time, he is a glutton for information, haphazardly amassing a substantial knowledge about pretty trivial topics. He regularly takes a half dozen movies to the face over the course of a weekend, and enjoys cooking when his stomach can be patient.

He lives in Manhattan with his imaginary pet cockatiel, Lola. Follow him on twitter

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Friends of the Couch

Other sites to check out by friends or our contributors:

If you want your site added to this list, contact ned.

A Nerd Manifesto

By Fidel Martinez * Other Fidel Martinez Posts

Television is evil. Not in the 'it turns your brain to mush' way as explained by Alec Baldwin in that Hulu commercial. The negative sociocultural effects it has had on the disintegration of family dynamics since the mass proliferation of the television set as talked about in Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community is also not what makes it sinister. These are valid condemnations of television, but I'm not interested in how they affect society at large. I'm interested in the way it relates to me. This evil revealed itself to me over the weekend, and particularly last night during a bout of insomnia. Like any person who can't fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning, I decided I would watch TV online, particularly the entire first season of 'The Big Bang Theory'.

'The Big Bang Theory' centers around astrophysicist Leonard Hofstadter and his friends. A young blond woman named Penny moves in next door to Leonard and his roommate Sheldon. Immediately, Leonard is smitten. That's it. That's the whole show. Throughout the first season he strives to find a way to get Penny to notice him despite his nerdy and geeky ways. It contrasts Leonard & Co.'s intelligence but geeky and socially awkward demeanor with Penny's common sense and socially acceptable behavior. Hilarity ensues. Needless to say, as is the case with most geeksploitation shows , Leonard finally manages to get a date with Penny. That's the end of the first season.

It's a funny and clever show, and from my understanding it has quite a following. I don't blame them. I myself really like it and will now become a regular viewer. 'The Big Bang Theory' is one of a handful of shows that have seen an emergence in popularity and cultural relevance due to its portrayal of male geeks and nerds who eventually get the girl. All they have to do is be passive and wait for their respective apple of their eyes to learn from the errors of their ways. Eventually, once enough time has passed, through some slight moment of assertiveness on the nerd's behalf,they finally get what they want. This happened in 'The Big Bang Theory', in NBC's 'Chuck', in Judd Apatow's seriously underrated 'Undeclared', and in 'Family Matters’. We all remember how Urkel finally gets Laura Winslow. Great, right?

Far from it. This is wrong. The potential psychological damage that these shows could have on a generation of geeky, Weezer aficionados is kind of scary to think about. Yes, it is true that these characters are finally getting with the girl. The good guy finally wins, but at what cost? A quick comparison of all these characters would reveal that they are all chivalrous to the point where they become door mats. They'd do anything for them, and these girls realize it and in turn emasculate them. Sure, once in a while they'll stand up for themselves, as was the case with the character of Landry from Friday Night Lights (another great show) who was fed up with Tyra taking him for granted. He showed some cojones and stood up for himself, but in the end the testicular fortitude disappeared when Tyra threw him a bone and got his band a gig at a local bar. This kind of behavior, however, is more of an exception than a rule. Ultimately, these guys will do anything for these girls and everyone knows it.

What makes 'The Big Bang Theory' the worst offender is the lack of strong male characters in the show. Leonard, as described, will do anything for Penny. His two friends, Howard Wolowitz and Rajesh Koothrappali are no different. Howard is the geeky pervert kid who tries to seduce women but in the end still lives with his mother despite being in his mid 20s and an accomplished aerospace mechanical engineer. Rajesh is even worse. His pathos is so damaged that he is literally rendered speechless around the presence of any girl who's halfway decent. The only respectable character is Sheldon but even he has his flaws. He's such a genius that he only functions in logic and has no real sense or need for social norms, rendering him asexual. Spock-like, if you will.

So what can we deduce from all of this? Well, the first thing is that I watch too much television and have too much free time to think about these things. The second is that we need to fight back. To borrow somewhat from Morrissey and the Smiths, nerds of the world unite and take over. Otherwise, you, my esteemed reader, will just be another casualty who'll end up holding the girl's hair as she pukes into the toilet bowl thinking to yourself that one day this will all be worth it. I got news for you sunshine, it won't.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009 New York Comic Con

By LeKeith * Other LeKeith Posts

For the weekend of February 6th – February 8th 2009, the Jacob K. Javitts Center hosted the 5th annual New York Comic Con. A ‘Comic Con’ is – loosely - an event that celebrates geek / nerd life and its impact in popular culture.

I would organize my Con experiences into 6 Areas, or the Comic Con Categories, if you will: Comics, Collectibles, Costumes, Film, Television and Videogames. I will focus on the Costumes category as a grave injustice befell it at the NYCC.

There were two major fiscal hurdles the 2009 NYCC had to overcome: the US economic decline and the post Christmas Holidays spending drought. When compared to the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, which was my first Comic Con, the 2009 NYCC did not reach the same level in illustrious costuming. To be honest, this is not a fair comparison. For the record, the SDCC and the NYCC are run by separate organizations. They are similar in that they appeal to the same crowds and they lean more towards Television, Film and Videogames coverage than other Cons do. But for comparison’s sake, last year, San Diego had approximately 125,000 attendees to New York’s 84,000. The numbers alone indicate that there would be more costumes in San Diego. Also, 2009 is San Diego’s 40th Comic Con while this was New York’s 5th; Advantage: San Diego.

Personally, I was more acclimated to the culture. Years of traveling on MTA subway system have conditioned me to be unstirred by the unusual. My ‘freak flag’ reflexes were dulled to the point that commuting on Comic Con weekend is no different that commuting on Halloween, New Years Eve, or Arbor Day. Oftentimes, it didn’t occur to me that taking photos is not only Comic Con tradition but also part of my assignment.

Meteorologically speaking, it was damn cold. I don't blame anyone who looked at their laid out Green Lantern costume, read the weather report, and opted against donning the tights once they calculated the wind chill factor. In 2010, the NYCC will be held on October 8 – October 10, which should more costume friendly: It will occur between the SDCC and Halloween, taking place in the midst of costume season. Also, the shift to Fall will give men and women time to develop their Captain America or Wonder Woman physiques, so they won’t have to rely on the padded body suits. Nothing says “hit the gym” like tight spandex hanging in the closet. It’s the two-piece polka dot bikini of the comic world.

Much Kudos to anyone who was in costume and Double Kudos to every Ghostbuster I encountered. I have wanted a Proton Pack for years.

Still, my heart stopped at a few sightings (Don't worry; it was started again by any Princess Leia in a gold bikini.). I met the Unemployed Skeletor, apparently the former sworn enemy of He-Man, carrying a ripped cardboard sign with his contact info. What made this even sadder was the prominence of Faker, who was chosen as Mattel’s NYCC Exclusive Collectible (Action Figure). So while Skeletor was combing the floor for employment and presumably combing the carpet for change, his big blue lackey was showcased. There was even a giant Faker Statue at the entrance of the exhibit floor, just to rub it in.

I need to send Unemployed Skeletor this job opportunity my EiC found on Craigslist. Can there be anyone else more qualified for the position? To the other applicants, however: Step up Your Game!

Villains are not the only ones affected by the Economy. On the 3rd Day of Comic Con, I stumbled across Iron Man on 5th Avenue – far from the site of the NYCC – asking for change. His sign – Secret War Veteran – doesn’t tell the whole story. A series of battles – the Secret War, Civil War, World War Hulk and, most recently, the Secret Invasion – have rattled the entire Marvel Universe but few have been as affected as Iron Man. Particularly, the fallout from the Secret Invasion left our Tony Stark fallen out of favor with the Government, bereft of his supercrew the Avengers, fiscally impoverished, and targeted as an Enemy of the State. Poor Guy; he probably had to hock his repulsor ray just to get some cardboard and marker for the sign.

In these economic times, don’t be too surprised to find your heroes and villains tightening their belts a little more, possibly even ordering off the Dollar Menu. Let’s hope that the economy has taken an upswing by the time our Heroes enter the SDCC in July.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The intersection of sport and war

By Mike Corey * Other Mike Corey Posts

Since the Cold War ended, many Americans have displaced their sense of nationalism with team affiliation. This phenomenon is explained by this country's unchallenged status as a military superpower and the similarities between national identity and sports fandom.

In the meantime, other nations have rushed to replace the Soviet Union as a threat to U.S. hegemony. Ironically, it was not until the Beijing Olympics that such a successor, China, was able to convince Americans of its strength. Indeed, the presence of a rival-on the battlefield or the playing field-helps explain why so many have so seamlessly shifted their allegiances from nationalism to fandom.

Whereas athletics were once representative of our conflict with the Soviets-every four years at the Olympics, in particular-a transference of sorts has occurred. The fear and loathing of enemies of the state having been projected upon the enemies of the teams we support. Though national pride has not diminished as a result, we have divided ourselves by supporting one team or another.

And why? Because as Duke political scientist Donald Horowitz once wrote of national identification, "Allegiances are usually revived by the wartime experience." In the absence of any belligerent threat to our national power, the games we watch are the next best thing. So until our nationalist allegiances are revived-as they were briefly after 9/11-the tables will remain turned: We now tend to think of war as representative of sport.

The language of war has long been representative of the games we play. Woody Hayes, the legendary football coach at Ohio State University, had been a Navy captain before winning five national championships with the Buckeyes. He not only drew parallels to football and war on a daily basis, he became the general in the "10 Year War," the name given to a decade-long stretch of games against the Buckeyes' rival, Michigan.

But as the memory of Coach Hayes faded, and as the Cold War came to an end, America saw the rise of other militaristic coaches, none more prestigious than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. A former Cadet at Army, Coach K has been known for winning, and for infusing war and sport.

"You fight battles, but you try to win wars, and the war ends in March," Coach K said in 1999.

That cyclical nature of sport distinguishes it from war, the unpredictability of which induces tremendous fear: the Red Scare, the Cuban Missile Crisis the unsettling dread of M.A.D. And most Americans could do nothing to prevent such a calamitous end. So these Americans turned to sport to cope with that fear.

My late father had been one such American. The son of a corner grocery store owner in Charleston, W. Va., he matriculated at Duke in 1965 as the Cold War engulfed Southeastern Asia. Fearful for his friends already dispatched to the conflict, and fearful that he too might be called to serve, he buried himself in his studies-and in college basketball.

"We got it all out of our system here," my father told me when he returned to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the Fall of 2001, toward the end of a game during Parents' Weekend. "We were accountable to nothing except the team and getting in the heads of whoever we were playing. And then we went back to reality."

Thinking about sports was far easier than thinking about that reality.

And reality has been quite different for that generation ever since. The psychological enormity of the war simply shifted to sport when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Reality for my generation has been quite different, too. We were raised during the dénouement of the Cold War, and were shaken by 9/11. The nationalism that sprung out of 9/11's aftermath has since diminished, save for those families generous enough to share their sons and daughters with the cause of freedom and security abroad and at home. And although we remember the tragedy, the ire we initially felt for our nomadic enemies in the War on Terror has weakened, our belligerent instincts concentrated upon the harmlessness of games rather than the harmfulness of war.

Pride in our country, however, remains strong. Over the years we have displayed it through our economy, our military, and recently, through our athleticism. Dominating the Summer Olympics since the Soviet sport machine crumbled, we've reveled in our superiority every four years, only to return to the athletic conflicts that enthrall us at home. In the process, we've identified ourselves more precisely, relating more closely to our neighborhood teams-high school, college, professional or otherwise-and not with the national team of diplomats and generals and soldiers leading us into battle against foreign foes.

And so it was fitting that when the United States' hegemony was challenged once again on the international stage we sent a coach to lead us in battle. Mike Krzyzewski rose to the challenge in China and helped reclaim the (basketball) glory that had long been ours. He facilitated a collaboration between NBA and college coaches, and between players of diverse talents rather than the 12 flashiest professionals he could find. The plan worked. And during the triumphant march to victory, sports pages and news pages alike were filled with reports on the "Redeem Team," while fandom and nationalism collided until the gold medal--and our good name--returned home.

Although Coach K won a battle for America, our competition with the world rages on. As we struggle through an economic downturn, and as the powers around us continue to catch up, one wonders what it will take to replicate the kind of collaboration that vaulted American basketball back to the forefront, while recapturing the sense of nationalism that has helped make this country so great.

Or perhaps we will have learned a new lesson from the games we play: The wars of sport are a much better reality than the wars we've come to know too well. The best wars are the ones that never begin.

The Ambiguous Knight

By ned * Other ned Posts

Recently nerds, geeks and elaborate costumes converged on an annual event known as Comic Con. This, the major trade show for the comic industry, brings out the type of crowd one would expect for collectables, video game premieres, and panels of graphic artists. Interestingly enough, I find a lot of similarities between this dorkdom hajj and another annual event of the late winter season – the Academy Awards. Differences in the body odor of the respective patrons aside, both involve hoopla, fanfare, and people wearing a lot of plastic. These similarities highlight for me a glaring comic-based omission from the Oscar nods this year.

The Dark Knight was a film that pulled off the rare feat of mass appeal while maintaining an ability to make an artistic statement. Evidence of that is that all three Young men – Baby Boomer father, Gen-Y young professional, and angsty teenager – enjoyed the flick.
Thematically, the film grappled with the complicated relationship of anarchy and fate as well as what “good” might mean. However, what may have made the movie all the more interesting to me was what it said about the current zeitgeist when you reflect on the evolution of the depiction of Batman.

I was so fortunate to have several college professors who changed the way that I view the world. One such man was the venerable Yale legend, Vincent Scully. A passionate force for what may be called an epoch in the art history world, Scully often argued that a given society’s art would reflect its thinking and outlook. One of his famous supporting arguments for this is the evolution of the style of the Ancient Greek Temple. In the Acropolis, you do not find a building that is trying to conform to its surroundings and nature. Like the martyr twin towers, the Acropolis acts in defiance of its surroundings. Its bright white marble boldly stands out on the landscape. Scully – in ways more articulate and touching than I will ever be – argues that these buildings reflect how Greek society understood itself in relationship with nature. High Greek society touted its reason and ability to control and understand its surroundings. Similarly, the Acropolis and other Greek Temples represent how the Greeks saw themselves: in dominance of their habitat.

It is with this lens that I look at what the Batman saga has to say about us. If we take the evolution of the depiction of Batman from Adam West to Christian Bale, it correlates well with the trajectory of where Americans see themselves in the world. In particular, it shows us a gradual change in attitudes towards the ritchousness in the American Way.

When comparing live action Batmans, you see a shift from the campy to the morally introspective and realistic Dark Knight of today. The flashy Pow!’s, Wham’s!, and Ka-Booms! of the sixties would appear out of place in any show today – let alone the Dark Knight. The action of the Dark Knight contrasts this with the “gritty realism” as inspired by the Jason Bourne trilogy. This shift from Batman being an escape to authentic is even witnessed when you compare the 90’s batman’s to that of the post 9/11 era. The Bat Mobile in the current movies is a hulking, utilitarian vehicle while the sleek lines of the Kilmer model make you feel like you are still an outsider looking at a stylized comic world.

Along with this shift to realism, our Batman is more morally ambiguous than that of Cold War. From the Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah in the opening credits to the final commercial break, the live action television show left little to question about who was good and who was evil. The Bat was clearly on the side of right unlike his comical Joker and Penguin nemeses. Similarly, the outlandish Mr. Freeze and demented Riddler of the 90’s movie series were clearly up to no good with their nefarious schemes. Although in the Dark Knight the Joker is certainly sinister, Jumping-Gee-Wilikers, reader! do you think Adam West would coldly accept being vilified as Christian Bale does at the end of the Dark Knight?

This shift in our Batman tastes mimics changes in our cultural outlook. During the Cold War, good and evil were more straightforward geopolitically. Us and them were clearly identified and there was little question about whether ultimately the nation built as the “City on the Hill” was in the right. Clarity of belief in the 60’s can be seen in a variety of ways. Even the counter culture of the day had greater confidence in its footing. I would find it difficult for someone of my generation to sincerely say “don’t trust anyone over 35.”

Without the clear opposing force today our understanding of ourselves has become more complicated. Americans have been regarded as arrogant conquistadors instead of compassionate liberators. Correlating to this ambiguity, a campy and almost naïve approach to story telling does not appear to connect to today’s audiences. The gradual rise of a darker, nuanced, and more realistic aesthetic implies that contemporary audiences as less drawn to a monolithic, romantic conception of its hero. We are placing greater scrutiny and unconscious interest in trying to figure out who we are. At this stage, just as Christian Bale’s Wayne ultimately sees himself on the side of good, I believe the most Americans believe themselves to be the same side of righteousness. Perhaps even more so than ever though, we are trying to understand why.

Why I No Longer Giggle Girlishly When People Say “Titicaca”

By Josh Cain * Other Josh Cain Posts

“The winding road through the Andes from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca is treacherous even in broad daylight. Drivers of night buses frequently fall asleep at the wheel, causing fatal accidents. Be forewarned that taking this route at night is taking your life in your hands,” read Eric, closing his guidebook.

“Mike’s on top of it,” I said, climbing into the tour bus.

Behind us Mike was trying out a hurriedly memorized phrase on a small, confused-looking man.

“A gift for you, Mr. Bus Driver” he said in halting Spanish, handing the man a case of Red Bull.

Eric and Mike had been lured to Peru by my promises of local culture and breathtaking natural beauty. Instead, I had quickly transformed their “action-packed vacation” into a “death march through the Andes.” Tonight was no different.

The night spent on the bus instead of in a hotel wasn’t going to be fun, but the tour I planned would make up for any discomfort – a day on Lake Titicaca, complete with meeting local villagers, hiking to a scenic overlook with the musical accompaniment of a pan flute band, and topped off with a traditional dinner and dancing. Tomorrow was going to be the physical embodiment of all that makes Peru great.

We boarded the bus and I gave Eric his own seat to make him happy. Happy, that is, until the fattest Peruvian I’ve ever seen lumbered down the aisle. Smelling like a particularly pungent block of melted cheese and possessing a similar gelatinous quality, the man oozed himself into the seat next to Eric and almost immediately fell asleep on top of him.
As the bus rolled out of the station, Eric quickly squeezed his way out of his chair to spread out on an empty seat. Again Eric’s happiness was short lived. 15 minutes out of Cuzco we stopped at a village and were flooded with more locals than the bus could handle. They filled the seats, crammed into the aisles, and kicked Eric out of his temporary home. Seeking to regain the company of the limburger-scented companion he had so recently spurned, Eric discovered to his dismay that an old lady now occupied his seat. The matron,- bound in rags - had already fallen asleep and been partially enveloped by the fleshy folds of her massive companion.

For some reason Eric couldn’t see the sensibility of forcing an old woman out of her seat to huddle at his feet for eight hours, so he declared that he would stand for the entirety of the trip. Vaguely impressed by his chivalry, I continued to attempt to render myself unconscious. I had begun to doze when Mike shook me awake.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?” I grumbled at him.

“I’ve been looking out the windows. Every five minutes or so we pass a group of crosses on the road where a bus went over the edge.”

I was about to suggest that the best way to face a sudden and horrific death would be to sleep through as much of it as possible when Mike jerked his thumb towards Eric.

“Also, I don’t think he’s doing so well.”

Wearing a grimace of pain, Eric was doubled-over, clutching his stomach. My guess was one of the sources of contaminants we had encountered (i.e. everything in Peru that could be ingested) had gotten the better of him.

“I need to sit down,” he groaned, looking at us imploringly. I angrily told him that he had a perfectly comfortable seat waiting for him beneath the shriveled body of a geriatric Aymara tribeswoman, but for some reason he was still resistant to this course of action. Mike’s charity toward street urchins earlier in the trip had already revealed that he was, as Lady MacBeth says, “too fill o’ the milk of human kindness.” Cursed with that most pitiful of human emotions, compassion, he offered to take Eric’s place. With Mike on the floor, wedged firmly between a pair of ragged tribesman, dreams of our majestic hike the next day were finally within my reach.

“Oh sweet Jesus!” yelled Mike, shooting to his feet. I resisted complaining about my yet again interrupted slumber when I saw him gaping at his leg. In addition to having no problem with buses crammed far beyond capacity careening down twisting mountain roads helmed by narcoleptic drivers, the Peruvian government hadn’t thought it worthwhile to regulate that public vehicles making lengthy, non-stop journeys should be required to have bathrooms. As a result, one of Mike’s floor mates had let fly a golden stream which had managed to trickle its way through the sea of humanity before eventually coming to rest on Mike’s jeans.

With Mike unwilling to return to the floor and Eric still writhing in pain, we were left with a dilemma. After several attempted configurations we ultimately decided that our best option was to drape Eric over Mike and my legs. As Eric’s head nestled gently in my lap, I prepared to finally get the rest I was going to need to truly appreciate a rapidly approaching day of adventure and cultural splendor. Only one thing nagged at me, one tiny thing that kept me from enjoying the bliss of sleep that would take me away from this increasingly hellish bus.

“I need to pee,” I whispered to Eric, who was still moaning quietly. I got some dirty looks, but managed to empty one of our water bottles out the window for use as a makeshift toilet.

In case you’re wondering, peeing into a small-necked bottle as a bus swerves around a nearly unpaved mountain road is roughly as difficult as it sounds. An admission of defeat and 45 minutes of hacking at the bottle with a luggage key later, I was in possession of a shoddily constructed porta-potty. While I initially suffered from what could best be termed “performance anxiety,” 10 minutes of concentration and a steady stream of whispered death threats from my two companions finally gave me the encouragement I needed.

Having relieved myself, I pulled the window to dispose of the entire bottle. For some reason, however, it didn’t open. After a minute of increasingly panicked tugging, I realized that the water I had emptied earlier, combined with the icy winds, had effectively frozen the window shut. To make matters worse, Eric began attempting to sweet talk the girls behind us. As I attempted to conceal the fact that I was cradling my own excretions, I was subjected to a wholly uninteresting conversation. The tepid banter came to a sudden conclusion when Mike discovered that the girls were his neighbors in New York and it was his tendency to look out the window into their apartment that had prompted them to board up their windows. In the awkward silence following this revelation, Eric offered one of the girls Mike’s sweater to keep them warm, which he was forced to provide. Minutes later the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

With no other options, we resumed our positions in uncomfortable silence. Eric was in even more pain than before, Mike - now wearing only a t-shirt, - was shivering violently, and I was holding an unsealed jug of my own urine. . Our collective misery, each magnified by our individual sufferings, induced a vigilant silence, interrupted only by the occasional ominous slosh of fluid against plastic. We took solace in the knowledge that things could only improve from here.

Then the bus broke down. The bus had needed resuscitation several times before. This time, though, the patient was truly sick and everyone was asked to get off. We had rolled to a stop in what looked like an abandoned ruin of a mountain town. There were a few broken down, seemingly deserted buildings, and a crumbling wall next to which all the locals who had been sitting in the aisles immediately began to crouch.

My relief at being able to finally ditch my bottle was offset by concern that our eight-hour ride, which had already taken fourteen hours, would not get us to our destination on time. This feeling was magnified when I noticed that the driver was attempting to fix the engine by removing one of the pieces and repeatedly banging it on the ground.

As the three of us climbed back into the bus, hoping we’d make it to the lake on time, I realized that, in a way, we had already found the true Peru that we had been seeking. The roads, though perilous, had been undeniably beautiful and we were getting a truer glimpse at Peruvian culture than we could ever hope to see on a packaged tour. After all, wasn’t this a much more unique and exciting experience than something that large groups of people do every day? As I sat gazing at the people through the window, appreciating their simple beauty, the doors slammed shut and the bus sped off, abandoning half the passengers on the side of the road. Shocked, I started to wonder what was going to happen to the people on that lonely hillside when I had an important realization. After over half a day’s nightmarish journey, I was finally going to get some sleep.

An hour later we arrived at Lake Titicaca. Miraculously, a representative from the tour company was waiting to usher us into a waiting car. He started to tell us about how exciting and action-packed our day was going to be and, as he started the car, casually inquired how our trip had been. None of us said a word. We had all fallen asleep.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Contributor Bio: Observation Deck

The man known to the world simply as Observation Deck died today at the age of 26. His life is most notable for its complete lack of distinction. Friends and acquaintances remember Deck as an eccentric hermit whose ramblings lacked all semblance of coherence or purpose. Deck’s penchant for drollery finally found its calling in an online weblog enigmatically titled "Around the Couch."

Deck started his life in the Orient where he grew to love his eventual adopted country through the prism that was Growing Pains and Full House, two of the only forms of pop culture that were deemed acceptable by the censors in the motherland.

Arriving in the United States in the ninth year of his life, Deck was shocked and awed by the fact that San Francisco wasn’t always sunny and Long Island wasn’t always cloudy.

After diligent study and what could only be described as complete “bullsh-tery,” Deck enrolled in a prep school in New York City on a scholarship and proceeded to matriculate at college in Connecticut.

Following college, Deck was inspired to pursue public service and embarked on a journey to the nation’s capitol where he quickly realized why the early residents of Maryland and Virginia were so quick to cede this particular wedge of land.

Deck’s long and rather circuitous path finally brought him to his beloved blog in the latter part of his 26th year on earth. He could be found writing tracks on the desirability of puffins and treatises on the much maligned infield fly rule. But just when he had given what he thought was his last full measure of devotion to his blog, Deck’s life was cut short in a freak gasoline fight accident.

Deck is survived by his blogmates: Fidel, Boomer Jr., Mike Corey, CL, Standard, Josh Cain, je, ned, and LeKeith.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Contributor Bio: LeKeith

Between the ages of 0 and 4, my two favorite shows were, inexplicably, I Love Lucy and the Honeymooners. No one in my family knows why I was drawn to these pioneering sitcoms over programming more suited to my demographic. Or why I preferred these particular black-and-white shows over honorable others like Dick Van Dyke. Or if I even understood what I was watching.

What they did know is that I was comfortable watching Lucy get in and out of every scenario imaginable but needed to hold someone's hand for the first 30 seconds of each
Honeymooners episode. Here's why: In the opening credits, there is a depiction of Ralph Kramden's face - bearing an ear-to-ear grin - projected onto the moon. For whatever reason, that image was "hide under the covers" scary to me.

In New York, WPIX Channel 11- currently the CW, formerly the WB - shows a Honeymooners marathon on New Year's Day and has been doing so for as long as I remember. Every 30 minutes is a chance to face my fear, which is both thrilling and terrifying. I can't remember the
exact moment I got over Gleason's face - if I ever truly did - but I remember to respect it. And to respect the moon. And Alice.

Contributor Bio: Josh Cain

Josh Cain is a globe trotting adventurer masquerading as a respectable corporate citizen. By day a slightly out of place office worker, by night a jujitsu fighting, pun-making, obscure-country visiting explorer of the absurd. Josh's primary goal in life is to get himself into as many awkward, dangerous, or otherwise interesting situations as it takes to generate a seemingly endless supply of anecdotes which he will endlessly repeat until his friends pre-empt him with the oft-heard "yeah, you've told us that one before."

Since his days as a humor writer in high school and college and a staff writer for the now defunct video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, Josh's audience for his stories has primarily been confined to bar patrons and females on increasingly uncomfortable first/only dates. While his friends and fellow bloggers discuss music, politics, and ways to make the world a better place, Josh lies in wait until the perfect opportunity to bring up the time he was almost murdered in a Turkish brothel or make artful use of the phrase "that's what she said." With this blog, his inane bar room ramblings are now yours to enjoy and relate to others as though they were your own. You are truly blessed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Contributor Bio: Fidel Martinez

Fidel Martinez is a freewheelin' ramblin' and gamblin' man. He hails from the great state of Texas, with a couple of stints in Chicago and Oshkosh, Wisconsin (yes, the town of Oshkosh B'gosh'). He's got everything he needs, he's an artist, he don't look back. Interests include writing fictions and elaborate stories that make you forget they're not real.

Contributor Bio: Ned

Please post your answers in the comments to this post. Then read below the line.

1 – Adj.:
2 – Noun:
3 – Place:
4 – Present Verb:
5 – Noun:
6 – Activity:
7 – Gerund:
8 – Plural Noun:


Ned Young was raised by a (1 – Adj.) ___________ (2 – Noun) ___________ in the heart of (3 – Place) ___________ . Currently, he (4 – Present Verb) ___________s in New York City, the big (5 – Noun)___________ . His interests include (6 – Activity)___________, (7 – Gerund)___________, and (8 – Plural Noun): ___________, which he plans to write about frequently. He is the Editor-in-Couch of

Contributor Bio: Mike Corey

They shot the white girl first.

So it was for the first ever Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, perhaps the most iconic annual in the brief history of print journalism. But it is equally instructive in demonstrating journalism's 150-year rise and fall, blossoming before it was a sense of entertainment, and then taking a turn for the worse as muckraking and skin slowly surrounded the industry and forced the quality stuff into a virtual Thermopylae. It remains there still, fighting a massive army of cloned magazines and newspapers, indistinct and undistinguished all. But even the booby-tassled-horde that has made its living at grocery store checkout lines has begun to sag, as the internet gives readers access to more. And for free.

That plague long ago overtook television news, particularly after Rupert Murdoch decided that he didn't need broadcasters, but articulate models and actresses in order to draw a crowd, sprinkling in a few shock jocks to bring'em back for more. The Howard Stern School of Journalism.

This was once the industry I hoped to join while an undergraduate at Duke University. But during the 2004 presidential race, the indirectness of journalism dissuaded me from seeking it out as a career, and pushed me toward something that struck me as more urgent and satisfying: education. I still love to write—and am eager to do so with such a talented group of individuals on this blog—but have gone down a different path since my days as a sports and news magazine editor at Duke.

I moved back to Columbus, Ohio upon graduating, and began work at the Ohio Board of Regents as an educational consultant. This ambiguous term essentially meant that I was, euphemistically, a utility player willing to do whatever project was sent my way. I enjoyed it enough to pursue a master's in education administration, which I obtained from Ohio State in 2007. I then worked on a local political campaign for a few months, then at a non-profit called the Children's Hunger Alliance, and have since returned to the Board of Regents, where I will remain until fall when I will matriculate in law school.

Although my career has gone down a different path, I continue my writing hobby through, a sports column for GoDuke and by being a member of the USBWA.

The rest you'll learn in time. In the meantime, enjoy the latest Swimsuit Issue. It hit newsstands Wednesday.

Contributor Bio: Standard

Eric Vivier, who would like to be (but is not currently and will never be) known as "Standard," is from Buffalo, NY. He now lives in Madison, where he is a graduate student in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Contributor Bio: CL

Between this bio and my pseudonym (which is my initials...OR IS IT?), no one who knows me will have much trouble figuring out who I am. But at least pseudonymity makes it hard to google me.

Let's see...I was born in Ireland, as was my entire (immediate and extended) family. We subsequently moved to Belgium, Connecticut, Indonesia, and Nebraska, in that order. I went to college with a few other ATC contributors and majored in economics, and as of the founding of the blog I'm in my third year of law school.

The third year of law school is essentially a reward for the first two years of law school, and one last chance to enjoy yourself before life as a lawyer (it is the Mardi Gras to a legal career's Lent, for all of you Catholics out there). As a result, I've had a great deal of free time this year, which I've spent attending concerts, watching comedy series that are no longer on the air, arguing about inconsequential things, and downloading music.

With my posts on Around the Couch, I'm hoping to avoid writing excessively about the things I think about most - the fortunes of my sports teams (all of which seem to have declined severely in the last five years) and whatever blog-discovered band I'm currently obsessed with - so that people who aren't me may be interested in reading my posts. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PSA: It's Y'all, not Ya'll

By CL * Other CL Posts

When I moved to the Midwest, there was a bit of a culture shock. My family had never really experienced the strip mall/main street side of America, and I remember staring slack-jawed at the sights as we rolled down Lincoln's O Street the night we arrived. "Look, there's a Long John Silver's! And a Target!" Very exotic.

The differences between Nebraska and the places we lived previously were extensive. One local custom which I slowly adopted was the natives' habit of adding "all" as a modifier after...well, everything. "What are you all doing?" "Who all is going to be there?" And so on.

You know what else they have in Nebraska? Good grammar. One rather basic grammatical construction is the contraction. As a refresher, contractions involve the use of an apostrophe to represent omitted letters when two words are combined. For instance:

Can + not = can't

I + will = I'll

There + is = there's

I could go on. This brings me to the main point of this post: "you all" is a valid grammatical construction, but if contracted it must be written as "y'all," not "ya'll." The letters you're taking out are the O and U from "you," so the apostrophe must go between the Y and the A. It's not that hard.

Yes, I bothered to write an entire blog post about this. Why am I so worked up about it?

A Googlefight shows that "ya'll" returns almost FOUR TIMES AS MANY results as "y'all." (For the uninitiated: the Googlefight website allows you to compare the number of results returned by Google for two different search terms. It should be a good proxy for the popularity of each term in general internet usage.)

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all these people are contracting "yak shall" or "yams stall," "Yard mall" or "Yankees pull" - somehow I don't think that's the case.

Please, help me combat this scourge. The internet is filled with grammatical mistakes, but if we start small we can both reduce them and be condescending about it. And that, in the end, is every grammar-corrector's two-headed goal.

Thank you.