Friday, October 31, 2008

America's student poll the best election bellwether?

Sooo... I may not have even used the term "bellwether" in its proper context. The only time I ever hear that word is around election time and don't think about it enough to remember how exactly to get it right in a sentence.

It does have interesting associations, though. During the election "bellwethers" are the political equivalent to palm readings and tea leaf divination... In the past two or three weeks I have heard Ohio be called the nation's most reliable indicator for the entire nation's voting patterns on NPR during my drive to work. Once I get to work and take my news break, Slate has determined that not all of Ohio, but one solitary bakery in Cincinnati can determine the winner based on whose likeness sells more cookies.

But this has to be the most interesting article I've come across so far - Weekly Reader asserts that it's neither one state nor one bakery that will determine this term's winner, but rather America's schoolchildren.

And the children have spoken.

According to the 2008 Weekly Reader Presidential Election Poll, Obama is the man by 57.4 percent of students' (aged kindergarten through 12th grade) votes. More than 125,000 kids voted, and according to Weekly Reader:

For the past 52 years, the results of the Weekly Reader poll have been consistently on target, with the student vote correctly predicting the next president in 12 out of 13 elections. (The only time the kids were wrong was 1992, when they chose George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton.) This year, as in 2000 and 2004, the student election was conducted in conjunction with noted polling organization Zogby International.
I remember Weekly Reader... Those were the days. And possibly part of what has exacerbated my current news fixation.

Cute election site (possibly for adults too, if *some* need to start slowly to catch up on their politics) - nice chance for kids to participate in what will someday be their civic duty. A little early awareness never hurt anybody.

Parting observations from the schoolkids polled -

  • "This is history being made!"
  • "I will always remember this. It's nice to have my vote counted!"
  • "Even though I am not 18, my voice is being heard."
  • "I like McCain because he loves pets like I do."
  • "I want to be president. I am going to be president. If Obama can run for president, so can I." (Comment from a Hispanic second-grade boy.)
Read the rest of the release (including some of the more thought provoking trends) here.

Building credibility for a brand new research institute

So, I joined the group called Ask Phil on PROpenMic - Robert's latest brainchild and was exceedingly pleased to receive this insightful response from Phil Gomes, Senior Vice President at Edelman Digital (!).

I credit Robert indirectly (and sometimes directly) with much of my post-college success - particularly with respect to web technologies: social media, web design and its components. His crash course in these disciplines alone wasn't enough to make me an expert at all things web. What it did do was give me the confidence to dabble in web design (using OSWD and InDesign) enough to create some pretty impressive results.

I'm not sure it was his intended goal, but the most important thing I learned in Robert's class was not one specific skill (though the crash course in a broad variety of things did really help me later on), but instead was to be confident enough to try these technologies on for size and see what they could do for me.

Anyway - here's the PROpenMic video:

How exciting to have a communication with a seasoned pro like Gomes so casually! That's another thing I love about Robert's philosophy - another confidence thing, I think - he's always putting the big dogs of PR in contact with the students and fledgling professionals. Amazing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'Musical' switched for 'Sex' in Megaplex mix-up

Well that's just awkward:

From the Deseret News (in Utah of all places...):

SOUTH JORDAN — Some Utahns attending the weekend opening of Disney's biggest movie of the year were exposed to a little more than they were expecting.

Friday night, managers at the Megaplex Theatre at the District, 11400 South Bangerter Highway, switched one of the showings of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" to a larger auditorium to accommodate more people. They forgot, however, to switch the movie that had previously been scheduled for the room.

So rather than the family-friendly, G-rated "High School Musical 3," the beginning of the very nonfamily-friendly R-rated "Sex Drive" came on the screen. The opening minutes of the movie include nudity.

"I could not carry my little children out before they were exposed to extremely vulgar and sexually explicit material," one parent complained in an e-mail to the Deseret News.

The film was stopped as soon as the mistake was realized. It was not known Tuesday how long the movie ran until it was turned off.

Megaplex spokesman Jeff Whipple said "Sex Drive" was only on the screen briefly.

Theater managers apologized to the audience and gave everyone free movie passes and concession vouchers. For future movies. Whipple said a policy of secondary confirmation and personal supervision by a theater manager will be required before a movie is shown.

Sooo, not only was this gaffe made in a local newspaper which lists the LDS News and Mormon Times as handy left hand navigation links, but here's the kicker:
The District Theatre was the 10th busiest in the nation for "High School Musical 3" ticket sales, Whipple said.

I bet Katie over at Southern Soap Opera will get a kick out of this one...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things I miss about urban living, part one.

The High Heel Drag Race. Now there's something you don't see everywhere.

Dupont was one of my favorite neighborhoods in DC for a number of reasons: tons of galleries, gorgeous tree lined streets with the majority of the palatial embassy residences, people watching in the circle, Kramerbooks (and Zorba's) and other amazing food...

but what
made Dupont was the once yearly, Tuesday-before-Halloween, High Heel Drag Race. In what I can only compare to a Rocky Horror-style cult following, thousands of DC residents flock to the restaurants on 17th Street in Dupont to watch the festivities.
When I attended last year, newly elected Mayor Adrian Fenty kicked off the proceedings and even walked in the pre-race parade.

I love how festive the costumes are (Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Girls? Condi Rice? Princess Di?!), I love how athletic these ladies (?) are - sprinting... seriously. sprinting... in six- to eight-inch lucite platform stilettos and I love the mood of the crowd.

But most of all, I love that the city - all the way up to the mayor - supports diversity and eccentricity. Like I said, that's not something you see everywhere.

Monday, October 27, 2008

'Eternal Sunshine' - but really. In mice.

I have been all over the Southeast this weekend touring with family, so I haven't yet had a chance to post this. I've been thinking about it ever since I heard the report on NPR last Wednesday.

From the BBC: (which, while this study took place in the US, is who NPR cited in their story...)

Scientists in the US say they have developed the ability to selectively wipe out uncomfortable memories.

In experiments with mice, researchers from the Medical College of Georgia were able to eliminate memories without any damage to the rodents' brains.

They suggested that the technique which works on a particular protein in the brain could, one day, be used to help humans overcome traumatic events.

However, the chief scientist said this was "years or even decades away".

Memories, even painful ones, are an important part of the learning process but for some people recalling traumatic events can be extremely damaging to their lives.

Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia say they have found a molecular mechanism that can rapidly remove specific memories.

The rest of the article goes into the scientific process of erasing the memories, at which point I switched off and started thinking about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and how erasing memories couldn't possibly be as neat and tidy as swallowing a little pill and forgetting everything.

With the POSSIBLE extreme exception of, oh, I don't know, witnessing a violent crime or being at war - I can't imagine what good could come out of erasing painful memories.

Isn't that how we learn?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Join the Huntsville Haitian Relief Project

Last week, three Huntsville biotechnology businessmen visited Haiti on a relief trip. Their trip was life changing as they experienced an island that lives on the edge of social collapse. Additionally, in this season alone four hurricanes have caused widespread flooding resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives, destruction of the minimal transportation infrastructure and severely limited access to food supplies.

We have launched a Haiti food drive project here in Huntsville inspired by a similar effort in Birmingham that collected more than 50,000 pounds of food for these refugees. From now until Monday, October 27, donations of white rice, dry beans and powdered milk will be accepted in the HudsonAlpha atrium.

Visit the blog - for background information, status reports and photos. Feel free to call us at 256.327.4000 for more information.

Please bring food donations to HudsonAlpha by October 27 and forward this information to your friends and colleagues so we too can provide much needed food to these Haitian refugees! We are accepting donations from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily - weekends too!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back to Athens...

This year, Halloween weekend is also the 2nd annual Athens Storytelling Festival! While I will definitely be otherwise engaged partying it up somewhere on Friday evening, I am looking forward this on that Saturday.

I love fall events and I LOVE Kathryn Tucker Windham. Does anyone else remember her from the "13 Ghosts and Jeffrey" book series? I devoured those stories when I was a kid. They featured most Southern states and discussed the hauntings of historical homes all over. I actually need to pull them back out for a look sometime soon... They weren't too kiddish and historical aspect was really interesting.

Athens is pretty cool... I just went there for the Fiddlers' Convention a couple of weeks ago and thought it was a really charming little place.

Hear stories that tell of a time that used to be. Glimpse into the past and live the imaginary. Learn more about your parents, your children, yourself. Discover all this and more at the second annual Athens Storytelling Festival.

Stories will be told on the courthouse square in Athens, Alabama within close proximity of an eclectic mix of shops offering a wide variety of antiques, gifts, gourmet foods, clothing and hardware. The courthouse square boasts several warm and inviting restaurants, and food vendors will be present for good old-fashioned festival fare.

I took a Stories and Storytelling course at Auburn that also inspired my appreciation for the art that Mary Helen Brown taught... What a great class. Wonder if she's coming?

So, Saturday, November 1, you will find me in downtown Athens, listening to Kathryn and soaking up the fall atmosphere. Sounds good, no? Come join me!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Once: the musical?! My life is complete

Happy Friday to me! Just saw this LAT Culture Monster blog post announcing that Once is going to be made into a Broadway musical.

In case you didn't know Once is the 2007 Oscar winner for best original song, "Falling Slowly" (listen here). Jon Stewart brought Marketa Irglova back on stage so she could give her acceptance speech because she was music-ed off? One of my favorite Oscar moments for one of my favorite movies...

Anyway - the play is announced for the 2010-11 Broadway season and I am THERE. Some of the musicals adapted from films have seemed pret-ty cheesy, in my opinion. Not to be a party pooper... and I'm sure it was adorable, since most Broadway plays are highly entertaining, no matter what the subject matter... but the idea of Legally Blonde on stage makes me gag a little.

But this! This is the perfect, romantic, originally musical movie to make into a Broadway musical. Dublin streets, vacuum repairman/street performer meets Czech immigrant cleaning lady with small child - how much more classic does it get? Ha.

But seriously, the beauty of the movie to me was that somehow, even with the quirky premise, this movie - these characters - have a universal appeal.

I just hope that they don't lose that appeal in musical translation. Fingers crossed. But as soon as a date is announced I will be marking my Google calendar and saving money for a special NYC trip. And now I even have a Calvin Klein-designing friend to crash with in Manhattan!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The fate of the nation vs. pop culture

I find it really unnecessary to air the final Presidential debate and the Project Runway finale at the same time...

Talk about drawing a line in the sand. You are either an upright citizen who cares about the outcome of the most historically compelling Presidential race EVER or you are an un-American, ignorant pop culture junkie who cares more about voting via txt for the ProjRun fan favorite than casting your ballot for the nation. Or you have TiVo or DVR.

I don't have TiVo or DVR. (hey - I'm only Jane six pack here, I don't have extra cash floating around for fancy cable).

So... I ended up satisfying both aspects of my personality by sprinting between two rooms at J's parents house last night.

Summary judgements:

The debates... gah, I really did sit down for the end of this - the Roe v. Wade/supreme court appointee question and education stuff. Way to get me all bent out of shape right before bedtime. Some of these topics are sooo sticky - and even though I feel (strongly) a certain way, I can clearly see how someone could feel equally as strong about the flip side of the coin. Yeesh. Democracy is great, but it certainly should make a person think about how he or she feel about some very sensitive subjects.

Both candidates held their own and, suspending preexisting prejudices, I really did hear what the man who is not my candidate had to say, and appreciated it more than some of my guy's views at certain points. I do think that Obama was the clear winner as far as proving himself as calm, rational and cool under pressure, however. That split screen sure did show a whole lot of *blink, blink, blinking* on the right side of the screen. While McCain smiled and shook his head at Obama's answers, maniacally scribbling down responses, Obama sat listening to McCain.

I do not care to announce a winner for content because of the subjectivity of that - people hear what they want. But delivery wise, Obama for the win. Now, for the fun part.

Project Runway...
Actually, the debate was more fun than projrun for me this time. Typically I get super excited about the finales and I feel that there are one or two very strong finalists. Maybe it was just the mood I was in last night, but all three collections were kind of underwhelming. Some of the dresses were gorgeous, the collections were a tad bizarre. And I did love Leanne's shapes, but SERIOUSLY, does one collection need that many pleats/petals whatever those things were?! Ahh well. Still good t.v.

So. In case of "the fate of the nation vs. pop culture" I deem the debate, and more specifically, Barack Obama, the winner of the evening. But I am glad I had some gorgeous dresses to distract myself from time to time and to keep me from talking politics with any of the debate watchers. Yin and yang.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Satan's Village

Oops. Santa. Santa's Village. Sorry. Must have been channeling the church lady (how annoying that I couldn't find the link - NBC, if you are going to hoard all of your videos, could you please at least make sure that they are LINKING?!).

I was volunteered by my loving, living-history-museum-employee mother to do the PR for Santa's Village - the 2006 “Event of the Year” by the State of Alabama Bureau of Tourism, that is going to wow visitors yet again in 2008 with a new twist on the attraction. Santa’s Magic Glasses will showcase the hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights in bursts of rainbow colors. Santa’s Village 2008 will also feature an enchanted ice maze for children to explore.

Can you tell I've been working on the release already?

While I'm sure I will post again about this soon enough, this particular post is not about the PR.

I was scouring Google images for happy holiday images for my nauseatingly perky flier when I came across another Santa's Village from my very distant past. Check out that photo - yesssss. Anyway, some guy was posting on this Americana site about his remembrances of the place in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., right near San Bernardino, where we used to live when I was a little kid.

"I had the privilege of visiting the park only twice, once as a child and once just before it went out of business in 1998. What impressed me the most as a kid, besides the shocking pink shake roof and bumble bee monorail, were the giant cement mushrooms. As an adult, it was how many employees had missing teeth."

HILARIOUS! We, too, visited this park and you can ask my brother - we, too, were awed by the Santa awesomeness. I'm happy to report that we never returned back there as adults to be thoroughly disappointed by the place.

It's funny how differently you remember things as a child than the way they actually are. Wish I still perceived things the way I did back then, actually.

Santa's Village 2.0, Huntsville version, is much cleaner and classier. It's actually Alabama Constitution Village - where Alabama's founding father introduced us into statehood in 1819 - all dressed up in lights and fake snow for Christmas. No giant cement mushrooms. And all of our happy, shiny volunteers and staff have their teeth... at least the front ones.

Holy flashback, Batman. Anyone else have a place like my Santa's Village?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is it 1929 again?

If Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson tells me right now that we're going to come out of the current financial crisis O.K. I am going to go ahead and believe him. Because that's what I need to hear

Samuelson wrote an encouraging opinion piece in the in the Post yesterday morning and I was more than happy to hear some positive (at least, in the current context) news.

Even though six in 10 Americans believe that another depression is likely, Both CNN money and Samuelson disagree - with proof:

In 1929 -
  • the federal government was not a huge part of our economy like it is today. (Gov't. accounts for 20 percent of spending today, compared to three percent in 1929)
  • we have had 10 recessions since the 1940s, but no depressions
  • the two worst recessions in 1973-75 and 1981-82 had peak unemployment rates of nine and 10.1 percent respectively. Unemployment was 25 percent during the great depression and 6.1 percent this September.
  • we have the FDIC insuring our bank accounts up to $250,000
The economy will get worse. The housing glut endures. Cautious consumers have curbed spending. Banks and other financial institutions will suffer more losses. But these are all normal symptoms of recession. Our real vulnerability is a highly complex and global financial system that might resist rescue and revival. The Great Depression resulted from the mix of a weak economy and perverse government policies. If we can avoid a comparable blunder, the great drama of these recent weeks may prove blessedly misleading.
Read the CNN poll and Samuelson's op-ed to feel better about your life. And your 401(k).

You're welcome. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nick and Norah...

...aka - most favorite movie of the fall so far. One of a few movies lately that are slowly restoring my faith in teenagers.

I've never been a huge Michael Cera fan, but his standard character - shy, conflicted, earnest - is perfect for this role. His co-star Kat Dennings nails it as well.

This movie is the perfect combination of (sometimes painfully) relatable characters with a fantasy, escapist setting. Made me want to run around NYC all night looking for an amazing band, that's for sure.

Sweet, but not too saccharine. A cross between When Harry Met Sally, Almost Famous and Mean Girls.

With an amazing soundtrack.

I really need to get that soundtrack... It's on the list.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pickin' and grinnin'. And freeing the hops. And planting.

If I was worried that I hadn't done enough to enjoy the fall weather so far this season, I made up for any lost time this weekend. J and I hit the Tennessee Valley Old Time Filddlers' Convention on Saturday in Athens. Athens State is a gorgeous campus (no Auburn, but nice) and the weather was amazing. As were the fiddlers.

The convention was broken down into competitions for lots of different categories of musicians - fiddlers of all ages, mandolin and banjo players, old time singers, and... buck dancers. Yeah, not sure either. Didn't see them

We didn't hang out all day, but we did see a big part of the group competition - with competitors from all over the southeast. Very cool - some of it verged on hokey, but lots of it was very reminiscent of Nickel Creek (a favorite of mine) and the more melancholy stuff reminded me of Jack White's Cold Mountain music.

Saturday night was the Free the Hops event at the Lowe Mill (my friend Alice designed this site, btw, if you're looking for a graphic artist/web designer...) back in Huntsville.

Today I just got back from more old time country music - accidentally. Went to Bennett Nursery to pick up some plants for my deck and to ogle their mums-on-steroids. They always have complimentary sodas in those fun old glass bottles and water and stuff, but they also randomly have chicken, as it turns out. So we ate chicken and listened to an old couple play more music.

So, Huntsville might not be a bustling metropolis, but I do seem to be finding enough to keep myself entertained. It's been almost a year here, and it truly has flown by.

I like it when time flies... that means I'm having fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Because there aren't enough of these already

So, I read and inordinate amount of web content every day. It must be directly related to the amount of time that I spend in front of a computer and the inability to focus on one thing without a mental break for more than an hour at a time.

Some people complain that the web - social media, unending news, celebrity gossip and the like - is the cause the collective public's
short attention span and that this information overload will be our downfall.

Whether I was born to crave an excess of information to sift through, analyze and comment on, or whether this need I have is a result of the era in which I was born, my condition remains the same.

I'm looking forward to having a place to sort and display the best of what goes on in my head. A trophy case for my most coherent or entertaining thoughts - or a junk heap. We'll see. Bring on the information overload, baby.