29 June 2008

My own summer - I love it!

(apologies to fans of Deftones, a band that I also like, regarding their song "My Own Summer (Shove It)", one of my favorite metal songs ever)

Summer so far has been greatly lawless for me. The third week of summer is beginning, with just a few days to go before we Americans celebrate our 232nd year free from tyrannical British rule and as an independent nation. Yippee! Also on the 11th I'm leaving for a week up in the Yellowstone National Park and some other places in the Rockies.

The first two weeks, I admit, have been a bit unproductive. My average daily wake-up is usually at 9:30-10:30am, and sleep usually 11-11:45PM, the same late-night timeslots when I've had to sleep during the Junior Year of Abominations (especially AP English Literature). During the day, my usual activities: TV, workouts, reading. Nope, I've never done anything majorly "social" this summer yet; hopefully I can do so on Independence from Britain day - hell, school has been over for about 18 days, and I still express pedantic obsessions (yes, "pedantic" is an SAT word, look it up in a dictionary if you've been playing too much Super Smash Bros. Brawl).

Starting on Monday the 23rd I joined cross country training. I think I will be improving my running over the course of the training, but I'm doubtful about going to the team. But at least going to the team = enhancer for college apps.

On Thursday the 26th, I got my SAT Subject Test scores back. Spanish = 520; US History = 690 (I thought I'd get a 750 on that one!!). So now is crunch time for me: October 4 =retaking SAT I (first attempt on May 3 was a 1990); November 1 = retaking US History and possibly the English Literature test if I get a 3 or below on that test.

Saturday the 28th, spent the day at the library, home, watched some TV, edited Wikipedia, slept too late again.

Sunday the 29th, went to lunch at Chinese restaurant with family, went to Barnes & Noble trying to find a copy of Chris Matthews' book Hardball in the political books section (actually its called "current affairs"). No luck, but I did reserve it at the library. However I did find some interesting political books there:
- The Real America by Glenn Beck, host of his self-titled program on talk radio stations nationwide and on the CNN Headline News channel. I borrowed his other more recent book An Inconvenient Book, which has some pretty funny and intelligent commentaries to issues in America such as political correctness, global warming, and poverty. One part of Real America I did read was Beck's take on abortion, which he supports only for women in the most dire conditions (such as rape or any other disgusting extramarital B.S.). Now I have to tell you, although I'm a liberal, I have to say that Beck is arguably one of the "smarter" conservatives (unlike [coughcough] Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh/Bill O'Reilly) who actually tries to use his brain. The part about the "women in dire needs" in the abortion debate is rarely uttered by any right-wing commentator I've heard. Thumbs up Beck! The other chapter I looked through was one on "Celebrities", with the typical conservative belief that Hollywood has...well...a liberal bias! Basically, the simplest explanation for that would be it's a more comfortable opinion against Big Entertainment...unlike some of the more extreme rhetoric pushed by groups like Parents Television Council.
- The Death of Right and Wrong by Tammy Bruce, who considers herself on her own website one of the most bizarre political positions I've ever seen: "openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush authentic feminist" and "lifelong Democrat". Yes, you've seen all those normally conservative/Republican positions back there...and the vote for Bush...and the dreaded long "F-word" (generally conservatives opposed feminism)...and then the word "Democrat". However, I have read another similar book by a "conservative democrat", A Deficit of Decency by former Georgia Sen. Zell Miller. In the book, Bruce condemns what she considers sex education and its "robbing innocence from kids", vulgar rap music in the popular culture, and other travesties such as moral relativism. But Bruce's book also discussed two other issues that I became so interested in that I looked them up online once I got home:
-- In 2002, a student of Lakeland Community College near Cleveland, Ohio nearly failed a criminal justice class for not wearing a pink ribbon for "Gay Pride Day". Although Bruce has confirmed she is, err, of the "other" sexual orientation, she opposes "LGBT pride" type of stuff as she believes that sexuality is a private matter. This sort of opened my mind a bit: ALL "oppressed" minorities have been known to hold "____ Pride" events for their respective groups over the years, including black pride dating back in the Civil Rights Movement era. Then I was thinking to myself: "It's really the anti-gay conservative's fault that the LGBT community needs to hold 'pride events' yearly: Because they need to push for tolerance!" If conservatives had grasped a hold of reality and accepted that sexual orientation is indeed genetic then there wouldn't have been as much "LGBT Pride" to begin with. I do accept that sexual orientation and genetics have a close relation, but I personally prefer heterosexuality. Speaking of which, Bruce also speculates what would've happened if the college ever held a "Heterosexual Pride Day": All hell would've broken loose! Similarly, I've always wondered why "minorities" (such as gays/blacks/Asians/other non-white/straight people) are allowed to express "pride" but for majorities (white in America) there's a taboo?
--Also Bruce brought up a 2002 controversy regarding the 9/11 (Patriot Day) commemorations in the University of California-Berkeley. She complained about how two students requested white ribbons instead of the usual red/white/blue to express dissatisfaction of President George W. Bush's handling of post-9/11 domestic policy. What i didn't find in her book (maybe because she ommitted it for a stronger argument?) was that UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Berdahl quickly countered that the "unpatriotic" celebration was NOT a campus-wide thing!! If it was indeed ommitted, then obviously it shows her bias - which the liberal group Media Matters for America has documented.
- And Jack Huberman, the liberal author of the hilarious 2006 101 People Who Are Really Screwing America (a response to conservative Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America) has a new book for 2007: The GOP-Hater's Handbook - let the title explain itself, Huberman finds every reason to trash disgraceful, lying Republicans!

After B&N, went home to study SAT vocabulary, chill, watch Gossip Girl and One tree hill.


12 June 2008

Tiananmen: The U.S. Media Coverage

Figures courtesy LexisNexis News search or if available the sites of the respective networks.

Television: CNN was the only network that managed to cover it; two separate mentions of the massacre occured on American Morning and CNN Newsroom later that day. LexisNexis searches produced absolutely no results for "Tiananmen" covered in the reports within June 4 or 5, 2008 from the following networks (be prepared to cover your eyes): ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, or NBC.

On PBS, though, things were a bit odd. Back on May 16, there was a brief mention of the 6/4/1989 incident in a story about china preparing for the olympics. On May 30 there was an interview with Hung Huang, the CEO of a Chinese Internet company called iLook, in which Chinese internet censorship of Tiananmen was discussed. But on the June 4, 2008 summary there was no room to mention Tiananmen, same happened back in 2007. But in 1999 the program did cover some sort of "10 years later" special report from Ian Williams of the British network ITN. Another full-story coverage could be found from 1997.

Print media:
- New York Times: There was an op-ed on June 4 and full story the following day.
- The Associated Press also filed a report regarding heavy security in Tiananmen; that was wired to numerous outlets including: San Francisco Chronicle; USA Today; Los Angeles Daily News; Salon.com; New York Times; and Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Washington Post; among countless others.

Foreign media:
- UK: BBC News filed a report by its reporter Vaudine England from its Hong Kong unit; that story covered the Hong Kong protests.
- Australia: The Herald Sun (from Melbourne, Victoria province) published a story on June 1 regarding an earlier Hong Kong protest. AFP reports came on Junes 3 and 4 on The Australian The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) network did file a report about China's denial
- Mainland China: No way possible due to Communist Censorship!!! BOOOOO!!!!!!!
- Hong Kong: Possibly, due to less censorship in HK, but I can't search the HK news sites since I can't search the Web in Chinese that well ><

Well what can I conclude out of all this? Apparantly, Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic Primaries was enough to shun anything else outta the way...in fact coverage of the upcoming 2008 olympics in the U.S. television media has gone down in recent weeks as priorities were given to domestic policies. Oh well...at least the media in other Anglospheric countries were still aware of the Tiananmen massacre from 6/4/1989! But within the U.S., it is just hypocritical that the same TV networks that devoted so much time to the torch relay & the "Free Tibet" confrontations suddenly pulled themselves out when the Tiananmen Day came along. Hopefully, when June 4, 2009 comes, being the 20th anniversary of the massacre, I wonder how the media will react? Stay tuned...

04 June 2008

On this day in 1989...

June 4, 1989.

Oppressed Beijing University students demanding democracy in their tightly-governed, communist nation supposedly known as the "People's Republic of China". They were able to protest all the way until that very tragic day.

The Chinese Communist Government sent troops and tanks, killing thousands of innocent Chinese in the process.

Any sane person would think that this is an act of evil for which China owes an apology. But the result? Communist censorship press denial - you are able only to know about this incident if you have access to non-mainland China media. Try searching about Tiananmen square incident or June 4 or wherever on Google China, you get nothing.

Fast forward 19 years, June 4, 2008.

The Summer Olympics are coming to Beijing - the same city in which the bloody Tiananmen massacre took place.

Many people have shown concern over the Olympics taking place in a Communist country recently hurt by big snowstorms and an earthquake.

But the big story today is Barack Obama becoming the Democratic candidate for this year's U.S. presidential election. On today's ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson, the "Top Stories" lead segment has NO mention at all about Tiananmen...on the June 4 of the year of the Beijing Olympics!!

After watching the Obama story, I took out my parents' old videotape of the Koppel Report from ABC back in '89 and watched Ted Koppel's cutting-edge coverage of the weeks before and the day of the massacre, with all the shouting, night lights, tank fires, and bloody bodies and all that. I did the same back on the June 4 of 2004 and 2007. It is especially important to me since I'm mainland Chinese, and my parents (and the vast, vast majority of other Chinese Americans) came to America to seek freedoms that Communist China would never, ever, ever provide.

As the Olympics come in August, remember Tiananmen. Demand that China apologize for denying democracy.

03 June 2008

The PTC vs. Reality

As I mentioned back on March 27 and May 5, I would start writing more about the Parents Television Council, an organization that has been frequently lobbying to push for "decent" entertainment. I was inspired to do so by Brent McKee, author of a column "Who Does the PTC Hate This Week?" on his blog I Am a Child of Television. I can relate to McKee's skeptical views over the PTC in the organization's mission to make pretty much "a homogenization of television so that everything is suitable for...children" in his words. Well, for starters, here's a list of campaigns, scare tactics, smear campaigns, free speech, and whatnot in which the PTC has had a large stake and received much controversy and criticism:

- If you're a fan of WWE Wrestling, at least since the dawn of the third millennium, then you probably remember the PTC's smear campaign against the WWE (back then known as World Wrestling Federation, WWF for short before a similarly-acronymed group World Wildlife Fund sued). PTC blamed WWF/E's flagship show SmackDown on the deaths of four children. Consequently, WWE sued PTC over claims that: (1) PTC's use of Smackdown clips on its website constituted copyright infringement and PTC's anti-Smackdown campaign constituted utter misinformation and defamation. Thus, in July 2002, PTC and then-president L. Brent Bozell III agreed to pay $3.5 million to WWE in an out-of-court settlement. Since 1995, PTC's mission had always been to "promote and restore responsibility and decency to the entertainment industry", but to be honest I don't see what's so decent about lying and guilt-by-association.

- In
December 2004, Mediaweek magazine reported that the overwhelming majority of FCC complaints filed in 2003 were from the PTC. Ditto from January to October 2004 (excluding the controversial Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show with Janet Jackson's chest spot, for which PTC has claimed responsibility for only around 65,000 complaints; there were nearly 540,000 complaints from the general American TV-viewing public - coincidentially resulting in a $550,000 fine for CBS-TV) And now let's take into consideration that PTC has been the primarily complaint-filer to the FCC, and let's see the subsequent home fronts that PTC has conquered in Television War I:

--March 2006: A record $3.63 million fine for CBS over a December 31, 2004 rerun of the crime/mystery drama Without a Trace episode "Our Sons and Daughters" due to a scene depicting teenagers engaged in a sexual orgy. CBS network execs defended the scene as within the context of "an important and socially relevant storyline warning parents to exercise greater supervision of their teenage children." But the BIGGEST catch here was: The episode originally aired November 2003; PTC complained about it but CBS paid the FCC about $3 million to dismiss the complaints. That broadcast was shown at 10:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific) but 9PM in the Central/Mountain zones. Ditto for the December 2004 rerun that got CBS busted. For more about this absurdity I shall refer you to the aforementioned Child of Television blog.

--Just three months later, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which would kick up FCC fines for allegedly indecent programming from just $27,500 to $325,000 for any smutty shows aired starting summer 2006.

--January 2008: ABC-TV is fined $1.43 million over a February 2003 episode of its former crime drama NYPD Blue, a show not unfamiliar with controversy. The episode in question, "Nude Awakening", featured a scene with the exposed buttocks of character Connie McDowell (played by actress Charlotte Ross). As I write this blog, the network is appealing its fine. I've never actually taken the time to sit down and watch a whole episode of Blue, and I am afraid that I have to sort of justify the FCC's fine in this case unless a fan of the series can have a good cup of coffee with me and justify why a shot of a woman's butt uncensored. However, I do take CBS' word about the "social responsibility" over its teen orgy scene - daytime talk shows like the ones hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Maury Povich have tackled similar "edgy" topics, and the FCC has ruled that the Oprah episode exploring the topic isn't indecent. And as I speak, ABC-TV is appealing the fine. Because I don't know much about NYPD Blue, I'll just stop right here and wait for someone to convince me more about how Blue's use of naked butt cracks and the "B.S." expletive are supposed to reflect the life of an ordinary NYPD officer. But similar to the Without a Trace case, this episode was shown at the dreaded "10/9 central" timeslot in which a network's "Middle American" stations would be more guilty of carrying "indecent, 10PM-style" material. Why can't americans just watch shows that aren't sports at the same local time every time zone so that silly junk like this doesn't have to happen???

--Recent, still-pending FCC complaints: Las Vegas (NBC, 11/30/2007 over dicussions about women's nipples; 2/15/2008 over partial female nudity - coincidentially in the series finale); Good Morning America (ABC, 1/15/2008, live uncensored "f_cking" by guest interviewee Diane Keaton, in Central/Eastern TZ) Today (NBC, , live uncensored use of "c_nt" by guest interviewee Jane Fonda, ditto C/E TZ)

- It can also be predicted that PTC will hop on the tanks and fire its complaint ammo over the upcoming CBS drama Swingtown, a series about 1970s Middle America surrounded by free love and drug use. Melissa Henson,
PTC Communications/Public Education Director, appeared on Christian Broadcasting Network today to discuss the show and how it's going to corrupt the oh-so-precious morality of our nation. Now, I do understand how Henson and the CBN hosts are concerned about the tawdry content of the show, which I will be recording Thursday night and watching the weekend afterwards (due to my SAT Subject Tests on Saturday the 7th). But nowhere in Henson's interview was the show's Thursday "Third Hour" (technically 10PM Eastern/Pacific; 9PM Central/Mountain/wherever) timeslot. Nor was it affirmed that the creators intended to show how society was really like in the 1970s...because the real world has a "liberal bias" right? Henson also persuaded CBN viewers to boycott the show and request their local affiliates to pre-empt the premiere broadcast. A similar dispute occured over CBS airing the Showtime premium cable show Dexter earlier this year due to the show allegedly glorifying central serial killer character Dexter Morgan. As this is dealing with a show that's seen nowhere beyond illegal bootlegging as of the day I'm writing this, I have little to say except for the "truthiness" factor, and this is yet another time where PTC is demanding a more "Little House on the Prarie"-type idiot box.

-And after all this, what does PTC really call itself? I'm serious...Nonpartisan

Now my loyally TV-viewing friends, this all also comes upon what could be perhaps the final nail in the coffin over Television War I: The future Supreme Court case FCC v. Fox regarding the use of "f_ck" by Cher in the 2002 Billboard Music Awards and "cowsh_t" and "f_cking" by Nicole Richie in the 2003 BMA's - both broadcast live in the Eastern Half of the Nation during primetime on Fox. Although the FCC has affirmed that both programs were indecent, it has yet to pursue a fine for the network. It's rather sad how all this hullaballoo is going on with just one minority activist group pretending to serve the "general American TV-viewing public", whose TV tastes are far more diverse than the tastes of whoever's heading the PTC...determined to protect children in any way, shape, or form (even if it'd sound silly). My question is: Why would young children be allowed to watch the Billboard Music Awards in the first place? I, having been into popular music at least since the first year of this millennium, know how many sexual and vulgar themes are often present in most Billboard-charting music - especially with most rap, dance-pop, and some hard rock music. I mean, have you noticed how so many chart-topping albums have a "Parental Advisory Explicit Content" label these days? Thus, I personally wouldn't find it unusual for bad words to pop up (as happened back in 02/03). But just face it. Profane words that would break your precious heart...ahh you know what I'm talkin about...are part of the English language. If PTC is so concerned about covering kids' ears from profanity, where were they when ABC showed Saving Private Ryan in primetime back in November 2004? Why don't I know about PTC/any similar group protesting high schools that assign The Catcher in the Rye as required reading in English classes? I read that book back in 10th grade, and I'd say that'd be a PTC member's worst nightmare - the end of childhood innocence, and those evil, forever-cursing-you-to-the-underworld English words known as Profanity!

Still, just because smutty TV exists doesn't mean the end of the world yet. If you can't stand the gory, violent CSI, sexually-charged Two and a Half Men, or any of the other "primetime junk", you can change the channel to PBS. Or year-round, the networks have a UPS truck full of family-friendly reality/game shows like Extreme Makeover Home Edition. All these shows are regularly on the Nielsen Top 20, as are the aforementioned types of crime dramas/silly sitcoms. Then, you have PBS, "independent" TV stations, cable TV (I mean the clean channels like Food Network or Nickelodeon I guess), or just turn it off altogether! The only reason why controversy even exists in the first place over TV (that many of us enjoy watching) is because of hard-right special-interest groups wishing to push their opinions on all of us. But no, that does not mean that NBC should start showing hardcore porn at 8 in the evening. All we TV viewers are asking for is just for the FCC to allow the networks to program shows that will attract enough of an audience to sustain, not to program shows appealing to the "special interest". The end.