Monday, July 11, 2011

The Life Cycle of Male Nudity

By Kenneth Weigandt

At the ripe age of 18, I was a summer camp counselor at a local park district. My summer job consisted of providing safe, enjoyable activities for a hoard of 25 first graders. As you can imagine, my goal every day was to wear the little mutants out so they’d stop asking me questions. Luckily, nothing tires kids out more than a swim in a public pool. They could jump of the diving board and piss in the shallow end till their little arms couldn’t paddle anymore. Since we had direct access to the park’s pool, I took my kids swimming every day of the summer. It was at this job that I observed the most unusual trends in social interaction; men in the locker room.

Let me begin by stating that I’m not shy when it comes to nudity. When necessary, I’ll drop trough and get dressed in front of anyone. However, a quick shower or getting changed is one thing, but during that year, I saw a shocking difference in how men of different generations interact in the buff. Since first graders take an excruciatingly long time to get themselves showered and dressed, I spent more time hanging amongst naked men than anyone ever should. That being said, I was able to develop a series of observations that will forever be ingrained my understanding of human beings. What I found was one of the most unique examples of how life comes full circle.

It begins when you’re a kid. I call this the I’m a naked little gremlin stage. When you’re a little kid, being naked is sheer bliss. In a world where kids have very little freedom, there’s a certain liberty children feel when they can get completely naked in a room full of strangers. And, since they haven’t hit the age of “this is weird,” little guys have a blast running in nude packs. Let’s face it, when you’re 6 years old, seeing your buddies naked is hilarious (I’ll return to the hilarity of male nudity later). Since this naked excitement is shared with all little kids, when left to their own devices, they terrorize the social structure of the locker room. Similar to the movie Gremlins when the cuddly little fur-balls run wild and threaten man-kind, that’s what a hoard of 6 year olds is in a locker room is like.

As the authority figure for these kids, my role was to keep things productive in the locker room. Not an easy task. To be successful, I needed to get my kids showered and changed in about 15 minutes. The difficultly was cemented in the fact that the showers and locker room were separated by about 15 feet. So while some were changing, others were showering, and I couldn’t simultaneously keep an eye on both. Believe this, it’s unbelievable what those little turds could turn into games. At one point, I left the showerers to check on the changers. When I returned to the showers, my little pack of wild hogs had pulled the liquid soap dispensers off the wall, had dumped every ounce on the shower floor, and proceeded to have a naked slip and slide. Since the showers were full of other patrons. I had to lay down the law. However, inside I was applauding. Not only did it look fun, but incredibly innovative. Meanwhile, on the changing side, my kids liked to ask inappropriate questions to strangers about their bodies. Usually, they’d point directly south of the border and make keen comparisons about the differences between them and their dads. A mix of childish curiosity and no censor leads some shocking Q & A. Most of my time was spent apologizing to other pool patrons.

This unadulterated urge to play in the locker room doesn’t last long. Soon, kids hit the “If you look at my while I’m changing I’ll kill you!” stage. While most of us quickly graduate from the awkward body part of life, most men don’t return to being gremlins. Instead, most male habits can be described as “eyes to myself, get in, get out.” This approach is ideal for all parties involved. My good friend and writing colleague Evan Trapp perfectly described his stance on showering with other men in the military.

“While I was in boot camp I had to share 6 shower heads with around 45 guys. We typically had around 15 minutes or so to shower, shave, brush and dress out so waiting around for an empty shower-head was not an option. This was by far the most psychologically difficult aspect of the training. A naked man, sexuality aside, is just not meant to be comfortable around another naked man in a shower/locker room setting; it is unnatural for our generation.” -Evan Trapp

While Evan’s experience is far more extreme than any public locker room, he’s absolutely correct. Two young adult men can shower and change next to each other without issue, but given the choice to do so alone or in a crowd, he’s going to choose to fly solo. This mind set is what keeps the locker room system running like a Cadillac. That being said, there are some continual wrenches that ruin the social system.

This is where things get confusing. Children having a great time makes perfect sense. Kids are shameless, they haven’t learned about social norms, and hanging with naked pals is new territory for a good time. But the confusion lies with old men who not only spend extraordinarily long periods of time without clothes, but seek as much social interaction as possible in the locker room.

Back to my summer job. While I was waiting for hoard of wild children to get changed, I was blown away at the subculture of old men who treated the locker room as a social club. There were three instances during that fateful summer that left me utterly perplexed:

  1. The Naked Intro: There I stood fully clothed shouting, “Tommy, take your underwear off your head.” (standard request that year). Then, a very tall nude man came up to me and said, “Kenny! Rock Adams (the name has been changed to protect the naked man’s identity) I’m Amy’s dad.” As he stuck out his hand waiting for a handshake, his junk hung inches away. I immediately panicked. As previously stated, I’m not afraid of nudity. But if you think I’m going to rub palms with a guy I’ve never met while his nether region is staring me in the face, you’re out of your damn mind. I pretended that one of my kids was asking me to tie his shoe and fled the scene. The good news is that I have no idea how he knew me, or who Amy was. I never saw Rock Adams again.
  2. The you don’t need a shower crew: As I said earlier, I took those kids swimming every day. And every day, the same trio of old men would sit on the same benches in the locker room and bullshit for hours. Of course they were stark nude. What confused me most was that these guys would be there when we got changed to swim, and would still be there when we got changed to leave. My theory was that they told their wives they were going to work out, but instead just stripped down and hung out in the locker room. I never once saw these gentlemen in the pool, the hot tub, or the attached gym. A typical swim session was two hours long. Over a three month summer camp, I calculate that they spent approximately 180 naked hours together. To this day, I wonder if they ever worked out, and why that setting was their preferred choice for social interaction. Needless to say, it made me extremely uncomfortable.
  3. The empty locker room conundrum. I’ve picked on old men in this essay, so I’m going to hit all age groups with this one. In every public locker room I’ve been in, there always appears to be thousands of empty lockers. However, no matter which locker I choose, I always get some jack hole that decides he needs to choose the locker immediately next to mine after I’ve started changing. So instead of having plenty of space to change my clothes, I have to rub butts with a wrinkly old bastard! And, even if you choose the locker next to mine, that doesn’t mean you need to change inches away from me. Usually, this perpetrator likes to make some crack about the weather as dries his balls. I’m not a violent person (I’d probably be a 4 on Peter’s fighting scale), but I want to drop a roundhouse every time.

I have a theory that male nudity has a lifecycle. You start with bliss, then move to fear, to acceptance, then back to bliss. The one exception comes from the “Holy shit that’s a penis” joke young men play on each other. Dongs are always shocking, so when your buddy asks you “what’s on my shoe?” and you look down to see his exposed weiner, the joke is on you. I’ve never been a big fan of the “Holy shit that’s a penis” joke, but I get it. Keep in mind, this joke only works with the closest of friends, and it usually loses its luster after high school. Recently, a spree of films have used the shocking dong humor for some cheap laughs (Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a perfect example). But that conundrum can easily be solved by the move from fear to acceptance and shouldn’t destroy my life cycle theory.

If my theory holds true, I’ll begin to seek out nude social opportunities at the same time I find my medical mishaps fascinating conversation topics. The “you don’t need a shower crew” only talked about their hatred for modern medicine. I’ve since taken a career path that has led me away from locker rooms. But I’m still haunted by what I observed that summer. However, on my bucket list, #18 reads: Naked Slip and Slide. Those little gremlins were a pain in the ass, but I salute their ingenuity.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Debbie Downer’s Guide to Comedy, v. 1.0

By Brenda Purvis

There have only been a handful of times in my life in which I have been funny. My best friend Rachael can specifically identify three of those times. The third was about nine months ago when I somehow laughed her to tears in a taxicab on the way to a Portland nightclub. I was going on about Izzy’s Buffet Restaurant or something as equally unfunny; it’s slightly unfortunate to think that of the 4 ½ years I’ve known her I’m only up to three laugh out loud moments. My current average is Funny < once per year. A ratio like that might launch me into some kind of depressing Hall of Fame. (If you’re interested in knowing what the other two occasions were, she might dig out her secret public journal she keeps on me for them. A person’s got to have some unfunny proof to reach my level of achievement.)

So last night as I lay awake in bed pondering how many employees/patients would call out over the ¼” of snow that lay on the ground, I thought that I might share my gift with others who are less fortunate than I in the funny department. Though I can kill a mood in 2.3 seconds flat and my comedic timing is as accurate as the jury that didn’t convict O.J., I know funny when I see/hear it! So this is my “Debbie Downer’s Guide to Comedy, v. 1.0” to share with the world a few things that I undoubtedly know to be funny – no matter who you are. (Except Bristol Palin; she doesn’t know funny. I don’t know why I said that; I just really wanted to use a Bristol drop.)

Joke Formula #1: “Are you there blank? It’s me, blank.”

This has landed me a successful ratio of laughs, typically 3/5 people. 60% of the time it works every time, by which I mean that after the first thirty seconds it turns into 4 out of 5 people laughing, maybe from peer pressure and maybe because my humor is so complex it takes extra brain cells to compute.

Examples: Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. Are you there Heisman? It’s me, Reggie. Are you there God? It’s me, Derek Zoolander.

This joke is especially funny for women who were tricked into reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” because naturally when you bleed from your cooter for the first time God is the best place to seek advice. He definitely knows what you’re going through. To turn this into a usable equation this joke consists of a prayer into the universe to an inanimate object or unobtainable figure to whom a human figure or recognizable character seeks advice or guidance from. The essential reasons that this joke is funny is because it uses religion (always laughable) and it utilizes the listener’s background knowledge of the characters and their situations thus decreasing the joke’s telling time, thus decreasing my chance to ruin it.

4:00 A.M. delirium side note: I identify with what Jack Black said in “Orange County:” “I got so many ideas burnin’ through my skull.” I want to get that tattooed on my wrist like Lindsay Lohan has “Breathe” on her right wrist and “Ayo for Yayo” on her left. They’re our mantras and, like Lindsay, I want to be reminded of mine every day, though my good intentions may be inhibited when it takes a magnifying glass to read mine. (Sorry for this tangent; I wanted to do a Lindsay drop too.)

Joke Formula #2: Talking with your front-butt is the new talking with your butt. Saying front-butt is the new black.

I was just recently introduced to this concept, fell in love with it, and can’t wait to use it though I’m really having some trouble deciding when and where most appropriate to unveil it. I guess this is as good a platform as any. Remember when Jim Carrey turns around and bends over in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and spreads and compresses his nether-cheeks as he speaks? “I’d like to ass you a few questions” I believe is the quote. Recently my coworker Christie graciously shared with me a story her husband brought home from work. Luckily his work is the Eugene jail and luckily he witnessed a new female inmate respond to an officer by mimicking Carrey’s ‘90’s genius and putting her own 2010 female twist on it. Unluckily I can’t remember what she said as she attempted to spread and compress her beaver-lips through her acid wash jeans – though I doubt any of you are very disappointed. (It might be best that I don’t remember, mostly since this inmate was not clinically ill, which leads me to believe I may get to interact with said individual if my personal “issues” don’t go so well in the near future. ‘Nuff said.)

Examples: “Twat did you say? I cunt hear you.” “I’m such a loyal Duck fan I even have my beaver yelling ‘O’.”

This joke is especially funny for women because it reminds us of our women’s movement predecessors and what it took for them to open the doors we have now. One of those doors is grabbing your Mini Me and telling The Man your famous last words, hopefully in exchange for your Miranda Rights.

Joke Formula #3: Wardrobe Malfunctions

The first time I ever made my mother laugh due to one of my inappropriate underage drinking and getting naked in public stories was during the summer after my sophomore year of college. Anytime you falsely portray yourself as a 21 year old when you are not is an open invitation for Karma to deal you her best. I was at a local bar called The Downtown Lounge, a classy cover name, but better known by its real name: Diablo’s. Diablo and I, I mean my ex and I were off to another fun-filled night of “make each other jealous” when I decided it would be a fabulous idea to exercise my ID-free and open bar capabilities. Douche Bag was busy playing “Wingman” (a.k.a. steal your girlfriend) in front of me and I was tired of hearing his best friend Greg sing to cool jams on the Karaoke machine and pretending not to notice the massive swoops on his chick.

(This isn’t actually a joke rather you must be funny enough to have Wardrobe Malfunction happen to you. And by funny I mean unfortunate.)

Here’s the play-by-play breakdown: flash back to 2005 when gauchos were the shit. I thought I was a hotty totty with electric pink Bebe stilettos that I found at the Nordstrom Rack and was flirting just slightly enough with the elderly bartender that he wouldn’t ask for my driver’s license. When I felt secure enough that he would continue serving me Vodka Crans I attempted to saunter back over to Douche Bag and estimate the damage that had taken place while I was away. Apparently I am not an ambi-turner and my dismount to the left resulted in my heel hooking my parachute-width pant leg and proceeded to pull them to the floor. There was no chance that Douche Bag was paying any attention to me, and as I felt fresh cool air on my g-stringed ass, I immediately realized that 1. No one would be rushing to my aid, and 2. The 40-something bartender I just tried to hypnotize would need no more convincing. As several male patrons felt no shame in not adverting their eyes, I sheepishly (and I don’t believe I’ve ever been described as sheepish) reached down to the floor to pull up my elastic free excuse for pants.

Examples: losing a bikini pad in the “Jersey Shore” hot tub.

This “joke” is especially funny for women because Wardrobe Malfunction exists frequently in our nightmares and at least once in real life. The cruel truth is that I have never witnessed Wardrobe Malfunction happen to anyone else, though I may rot in an even deeper region of hell if I were to laugh out loud upon seeing this – Diablo himself would probably take away my oft-fantasized hand basket ride down.

We all can’t be funny. For every Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, there’s got to be the ugly comic relief sister Khloe. Fortunately for me I’m not specifically either, and fall into some sort of limbo category that requires Microsoft Word and an overuse of the backspace button to make my clever and witty self come to life. So for all you Debbie Downers like me out there, have no fear. You, too, could be the next Lucille Ball, Lisa Lampanelli, or Tina Fey. Remember, this is v. 1.0 which means that there is more comedic gold to come. I may be as funny as “Burlesque’s” chances at an Oscar but like Cher and Christina, you can’t blame me for trying. (I just HAD to end this with a drag queen drop!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jersey Shore & Postmodernism

By Evan Trapp

Jersey Shore is the story of us.

The fourth season of the MTV reality show begins airing next month, where we will be following our favorite group of Guidos and Guidettes and the inevitable creeping and house music that comes with them to Italy, in which hilarity will undoubtedly ensue. The hit show has created celebrities out of the cast members, specifically in the case of the pint-sized poof-sporting Snooki and the older-than-you-would-believe Mike “The Situation.” The negative response to the show, most notably within the Italian-American community, is not without merit. The characters on the show indulge themselves in drinking, fighting, promiscuous sex, and, perhaps most damaging to the human psyche, the art of fist pumping. Jersey Shore is not only an evolutionary step in the world of reality TV (where it has one-upped all other reality shows in both popularity and ridiculousness) but it is also an evolutionary step, negative or not, in how we define what America is.

A Newsweek article from last summer addressed the Shore’s (I can all it that, we’re friends) role in how America is viewed internationally. The article suggests that the show’s international success (and it is very successful internationally) can be explained as a result of Anti-Americanism. International viewers can watch the show and laugh at the ridiculous Americans on the screen. They can scoff and jeer our indulgences. The strange thing about this is that within America we essentially began watching the show for the same reason. I will readily admit that I initially watched the show to laugh at the Guido culture. I am by no means a fan of reality TV, but I was drawn to watch the show out of curiosity and the potential entertainment value of this ridiculous American sub-culture.

I visited New York a few years back and I went to a bar in Manhattan that was swarming with Guidos. Being a West Coast man, it was my first time encountering this bizarre group of hair gel and fake tans and shirts with a bunch of shiny dramatic designs on them[1]. While I didn’t stay long, I felt the need to relate this story to many of my friends, poking fun at the culture the entire time. Because of the fragmentation of America, we are often put in this position of encountering vastly different sub-cultures within our own borders. The initial draw to the show can be explained as us wanting to view this culture within a pseudo-real context, as one goes to the zoo to see a “real” lion.

But what is left to be explained is the (literally) hours upon (seriously) hours I’ve spent dissecting the show with friends of mine. On several occasions we have had to defend our infatuation with the show, failing miserably in the process. The show is carelessly labeled a guilty pleasure, except that I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. There is a guiltless reason to enjoy what you personally enjoy. Why was I, like so many others, drawn to this seemingly “trashy” reality TV show? Why did I find myself discussing which character my personality was most like within the show? (I ended up, reluctantly, being labeled “Ronnie,” mainly because of my notorious drunk goggles[2].)

The intrigue is that Jersey Shore is not only a postmodern television show; but rather that it is the postmodern television show. The transition and movement of the show through the seasons displays exactly how postmodernism works: how something that is (arguably) interesting, intriguing and somewhat new will inevitably, because of commercialism, fold back onto itself and become a bizarre imitation of, not exactly itself, but rather what it believes itself to be. We are watching our postmodern society within the routine of gym, tanning, and laundry. The success of the show is not accidental.

The initial intrigue of the show (viewing a foreign sub-culture) is on full display during the first season. At the time, the show seemed fresh and different, because it was a reality show that didn’t have to be referential to our own lives. Jean Baudrillard, in his piece “The Precession of Simulacra,” refers to the “hyperreal” as “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality.” We are watching this reality TV show about a reality none of us can know or relate to. Therefore, “It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. It is nothing more than operational.” We can view The Real World as if it is our own life, as if we are a member of this cast. But with Jersey Shore this is not possible for the vast majority of viewers. Italian-Americans were upset because they were falsely cast into this role when they are just as foreign to this world as us.

Jersey Shore is a reality show without a reality to base it on. It is The Hyperreal World.

The world is founded on a hyperreal platform, and, in a strange way, has become, as Baudrillard suggests, “operational” in that it not only maintained itself but also has flourished into an international hit. This foundation has created the Jersey Shore world, and with the second and third seasons we begin to really view how this world represents postmodern theory.

“Pastiche: in a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum.”

-Fredric Jamison, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

Whatever freshness we found in the hyperreal world of Jersey Shore’s first season was diminished by the second season. The characters undeniably became aware of what they were supposed to do, and were no longer acting as their own character. Obviously, the first season displayed the self-awareness of the created Guido and Guidettes, but the characters that the cast played were formed within their own, private lives prior to MTV. When MTV came along to exploit them, their characters no longer were their own but rather became the consumers, and it is obvious that cast members were aware of the characters that they were now supposed to be. The example that comes to mind is “The Situation’s” introduction during the second season of the term “land mine.” One of the more successful phrases during the first season was “Situation’s” term “grenade,” used to describe an unattractive female. In what Jamison describes as a “Nostalgia Mode,” “The Situation” introduces “land mine” to describe an overweight unattractive female. This is an obvious homage to himself during the first season, and the premeditated phrase is there to comfort the audience and to take them back to the original hyperreal world. Season 3 brings the cast back to the Shore, as the audience once again feels this “Nostalgia Mode,” even if it was just a year before that we were first introduced to these characters. The return to the Shore has a feeling of trying to capture a long lost summer. While nostalgia at one time was meant to convey decades, in our instant Internet generation, nostalgia can be used within as little as a year.

Jamison states, “In a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum.” Seasons 2 and 3 are essential this - characters speaking how they think they are supposed to speak, using the styles that MTV crafted and edited them to have. The show in the later season feels less fluid because of this and, no matter how well it is edited and dramatized, becomes, for lack of a better word, inane.

In a way, season 1 of Jersey Shore was modern in that it was the foundation for what was to follow. While during the first season the characters on the show seemed absurd and foreign, they began to feel normal during the postmodern seasons 2 & 3. Jamison talks about how Picasso and Joyce were, during their time, viewed as “weird and repulsive” but are now seen as normal and realistic. The show's progression has followed this basic artistic progression of modernism to postmodernism. What began as a trip to zoo ended up with us the ones caged.

In Baudrillard’s piece, he illustrates Disneyland as an imaginary world that we go visit seemingly as an escape for our own world. We feel the “warmth and affection” of the masses there, only to be left in the “absolute solitude” of the parking lot. What Disneyland actually offers us is both the “delights and drawbacks” of the real America.

“Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer the real.”


The television serves us in the same manner. We are able to escape into this other world, one that is not fictional, but described to us as “real,” and we are left after the program, with the television off, with what is also described to us as “real.” Jersey Shore has created a world, unfounded on reality, which is as American as the country in which I reside. What the show has done in a matter of three seasons is sum up the past century of artistic progression and in doing so has unintentionally taught us about the historical period we find ourselves stuck in. And next month, we shall see what season 4 has to educate us.

[1] While I’ve never been a footnote man (typically preferring parenthesis as a substitute), I’m going to use a few in this piece in homage to Peter Stephens, AIC’s resident Footnoter. In reference to the Guido shirt, I was actually going to spend a lot more time analyzing these so-called “Douche bag” shirts. While not everyone that wears an Affliction-type shirt is a douche bag, the douche bag-to-cool ratio is startling high compared to any other type of t-shirt.

[2] Notice the footnote within the parenthesis. I’m really fucking with you now, huh? There have been several times in my life where my group of friends have compared ourselves to a previously established group. This Ronnie comparison reminds me of my WWE comparison, Mark Henry. Kenny argued that I am like Henry because of my changing styles, but mainly I was like him because at one point Henry tried to get with Chyna. I can’t believe all my comparison spawn from drunk goggles. Damn you, drunk goggles!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


By Peter K. Stephens

Before the advent of the internet, it was extremely difficult to be published. In order to write a book, an aspiring writer would likely have to submit their book to a litany of publishers, and typically would be met with rejection. Writing in a newspaper was slightly easier, but not by much. A writer would either have to be hired onto the staff or as a freelance writer based on the strength of their portfolio. If they were lucky enough, they might have a letter or guest column published if they had some particularly relevant insight. Somebody could attempt to self publish, but this was usually (justifiably) associated with fringe writings about conspiracies or the virtues of the communist party. The advent of the internet, to use an overplayed phrase, "changed everything." The democratization of communication was universally hailed as the dawning of a new golden age. The gates of the literary Bastille were stormed, and the voices of the people would finally be heard!

As it turns out, they typically have nothing to say. With some exceptions, the outpouring of white noise and the advent of digital pseudo celebrity has revealed that we may have been better off before we were subjected to the thoughts and opinions of every single mouth breather with a Twitter account. I contend that the advent of social media in general and Twitter in particular has directly led to the dumbassification[1] of society at large. You can disagree if you want, but it's difficult to form a coherent argument in 140 characters.[2]

One of the hallmarks of Twitter is the 140 character limit. This is a stunningly perfect metaphor for how asinine Twitter is. If the internet made communication faster, briefer, and less substantive, then Twitter is like the super-internet. Every single line of thought is condensed into a virtually nonsensical jumble of text message speak, hashtags, and url's. No longer do writers need to worry about the content or quality of their writing[3], all that matters is that they can regurgitate their thoughts as quickly as possible. I'm reminded of Newspeak in the book "1984," wherein the totalitarian state has purposely eliminated extraneous words from the dictionary and forced people to speak in as base a manner as possible.[4] As it turns out, you don't need thought police to accomplish this task, all you have to do is limit the number of characters people have to work with, and they'll fill in the remainder with their own ignorance. Shakespeare said that brevity is the soul of wit, but I would think that Hamlet's soliloquy might have lost something if tweeted.[5]

At its root, Twitter distils and debases communication to the lowest common denominator. This reflects an overall trend in our society, wherein quality is sacrificed in the name of quantity and expediency. It simply doesn't matter whether anything is good anymore, only that it can be easily and quickly consumed in order to make room for the next empty meal.

95% of Twitterers can broadly be divided into three categories:

· Celebrities stroking their egos by accumulating followers and reminding themselves that people care about the minutia of their lives

· Ordinary people stroking their egos by accumulating followers and incorrectly believing that people care about the minutia of their lives

· Journalists using Twitter to break stories or rumours without having to deal with inconveniences like "sources" or "journalistic standards"

Ordinary people discussing what they had for breakfast[6] or keeping us posted on their location[7] is one of the more widely discussed and accepted (I hope) criticisms of Twitter, so I'll focus on the other two topics for critique.

Celebrities have embraced Twitter like few others, and it's easy to see why. Twitter allows celebrities to quantify their celebrity by the number of followers they have. Twitter followers and Facebook friends have become a convenient way for people to reaffirm their self worth. No celebrity will ever have to deal with painful thoughts of inferiority or self-doubt. They can just look at their Twitter account and remember how many people are interested in hearing anything they have to say, no matter what its value. They get this benefit, and they don't even have to actually deal with the people who admire them, which is surely the downside of celebrity. People who follow celebrities on twitter benefit from this relationship because they

a) Can pretend that following someone famous on Twitter creates a reciprocal relationship, thus making them famous, and

b) Are huge starfuckers.

This is, of course, just an extension of the general vapidity of celebrity culture in general, the value and meaning of which has been discussed and dissected ad nauseam. To the extent that it lets people interact more directly with the people whose lives they irrationally care about so very much, and puts as many TMZ employees and paparazzi out of work as possible, this is arguably slightly positive. What is less favourable is the effect that this phenomenon has had on traditional journalism.

One of the worst trends in Twitter is the tendency of journalists to use it as a half-assed substitute for their traditional medium. This is especially apparent in sports journalism, where writers will frequently float trade rumours and deals before they have any reputable sources or confirmation that anything is actually occurring. Any semi-competent editor would call them out on this, and wouldn't publish the story. However, through the magic of Twitter, these writers can say whatever they want, no matter how outlandish or disreputable. If anyone ever calls them out on this (and they won't, because nobody remembers anything written on Twitter more than an hour later), their defense is that it "was just a Tweet and wasn't a 'real' article." It's good to know that modern journalistic integrity doesn't extend past the boundary of the column inch.

Some people actually enjoy this, believing that Twitter allows them to get scoops earlier than anything else. While this is true to an extent, so many of these scoops end up being completely false that the true ones are impossible to verify until they're reported by traditional media. This is relatively harmless in sports journalism, which has a long standing history of unfounded rumours, but more damaging when important stories are broken by Twitter. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, false stories[8] appeared out of the ether of Twitter and were then retweeted until their original source was lost and they were then reported as actual news. It's hard to argue that the amount of gross misinformation circulating on Twitter outweighs the cost of waiting 15 minutes and having a story properly vetted.

The other aspect of the news media's infatuation with Twitter is their ham-fisted attempts to integrate it into their traditional broadcasts. This typically involves a news anchor reporting a story, and then inviting the audience to 'tell us what you think.' CNN has been the frontrunner in this regard, going as far as dedicating an entire show (Rick's List) to this call and response act. This attempted synergy reminds me of the horse and buggy manufacturer whose response to the invention of the automobile was to try to make the world's fastest horse and buggy. Instead of specializing and emphasizing what they can do better than the new medium of Twitter (such as actual journalism and news reporting), they've instead tried to graft it onto their forehead by dumbing down their reporting and broadcasting the opinions of @JoeSchmo like anybody cares what they think.

Luckily, I believe that this particular trend won't last. Oh, there will be a continuing trend towards cheap and quick communication (along with everything else), which seems like an inexorable part of modern American society at this point. However, Twitter itself has two major problems:

1. It is already becoming uncool, and

2. It makes no money

The financial side is boring, so I won't get into it too much. Let's just state the simple fact that a company that provides a free service without any real source of ad revenue probably isn't on the soundest ground.

Arguing that Twitter is becoming uncool will probably take a bit more convincing. After all, it's social media, and nothing's hotter than social media right now! Well, that's the story if you're the kind of person that regularly uses words like Generation X and synergy.[9] Twitter at this stage reminds me of Facebook when they dropped their .edu email address requirement and everybody's mom signed up. It's a little less fun to use when your great uncle is following you. With corporations and politicians stumbling over themselves to target 18-29 year olds, Twitter is being positively flooded by the unhip. So tell me, how cool is something that's filled with celebrity watchers, corporations, and politicians? Are these the kind of people that can sustain something's popularity in the technology world?

Based on this, I think Twitter itself is short lived. It will be replaced by something even faster and even dumber. And then some asshole will write a 140 character tweet about not liking the new technology.

[1] Thanks for the new word Chuck D!

[2] Some people would point out the irony that I'm writing this on Blogspot, which some people would argue is just a long-form, unpopular version of Twitter. To which I respond: Hey, shut up.

[3] Some of those critics from the last footnote might point out here that the quality of my writing isn't that great either. To which I respond: Hey, fuck you.

[4] For example, the word 'extraneous' would most likely be eliminated and replaced with a simple 'bad.' From Wikipedia's description of Newspeak (due to laziness): "In keeping with the principles of Newspeak, all of the words…. serve as both nouns and verbs; thus, crimethink is both the noun meaning "thoughtcrime" and the verb meaning "to commit thoughtcrime". To form an adjective, one adds the suffix "-ful" (e.g., crimethinkful) and to form an adverb, "-wise" (e.g., crimethinkwise). There are some irregular forms, such as the adjectival forms of "Miniplenty", Minitrue, Minipax, and Miniluv (Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace, "Ministry of Plenty", and Ministry of Love)." Reading this now, this actually sounds a lot like how the German language works.

[5] @BardoAVN: 2 b or not 2 b #iz?

[6] @Peter is eating breakfast! Nothing beats Apple Jacks!

[7] @Peter is driving! Commuting sux!

[8] Bin Laden being killed in Afghanistan, him being killed by a Predator drone etc.

[9] I realize I used the word synergy earlier in this essay. I was being ironic.