Archive for the 'Memoranda' Category

14
Apr
10

The Not-est Things Smokin’ on Four Wheels

So, uh…

These American cars are garbage, according to Forbes.com’s “worst cars on the road” list for the year 2010. All seven of the vehicles which comprised the list are made in the U.S.. Four are built by General Motors, two by Chrysler, and one by Ford, and each company has offered a public response to their respective brand slam.

The blacklist was determined by a number of factors:

“To determine our list of the worst-made cars on the road, we started with the lowest-rated vehicles from four reliability and performance studies conducted this year. Those studies are all fromConsumer Reports: The Most Reliable Cars Report; Best and Worst Values Report; Best and Worst Safety Performance Survey; and the CR overall scores for 2010 vehicles.

We then added to the list any vehicles that received fewer than three out of five power circles in this year’s Vehicle Dependability Study from J.D. Power and Associates. Any car, truck or SUV named among the worst in at least three of those five total studies made the final cut to be on the “Worst-Made” list.”

Fair enough. The criteria seem reasonable and universally important. Now to see the cars, eh?

7 . Cadillac Escalade – $62,495

6. Chevrolet Aveo – $11,965

5. Chevrolet Colorado – $29,695

4. Dodge Nitro – $22,335

3. Ford F-250 – $28,020

2. GMC Canyon – $16,985

1. Jeep Wrangler – $21,915

.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .

Buyers beware! If you’re like me and are starting to scope the car market, make sure you pay attention to articles like these– especially the reputable ones. Don’t be the fool whose pride and joy winds up on Forbes 2011 worst-cars-ever-made list. Apparently, the makers featured here are revamping their lineup for next year. We’ll see if they can avoid the critical scythe of Forbes magazine on the next go-round.

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14
Apr
10

Keep Your Child, Not Your Receipt pt.2

I’m no parent, so I couldn’t begin to comment on, or even hypothesize the difficulties of raising a child. I imagine that caring for an adopted child presents twice as many difficulties– and raising one that has been institutionalized for almost any amount of time will only add to the challenge. I’m also the product of an organic, two-parent household which never encountered such issues as psychological dysfunction or social deviance. All that aside, I still feel like good parenting(i.e. the occasional butt-whippin, grounding, yelling — with positive reinforcement following) will shake even the worst out of some kids.
I won’t deny that complications stemming from things that may have effected a child during the formative stages –especially inside the womb– are much more deeply rooted than bad behavior. I wont. But I think that the best place to start “therapy” is, in many cases, over the knee of an adult with a leather belt. Professional analysis comes second to solid parenting. Parents who adopt and feel out of place acting as the enforcer of rules or punishment like this, I feel, need to seriously reexamine the responsibilities that raising a child calls for.

I understand that in the case of a post-institutionalized child, it may take more than common sense to provide a suitable environment that takes into account the experience that the child has already had. Because the institutions offered in other countries like Russia are unlike the foster homes or boarding houses scattered here across the U.S., the experience that children have in them is very different than the typical American orphan.

Enter, the Ranch for Kids, a registered non-profit corporation in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Maryland.  The ranch, which features rideable horses and other farm life is designed to provide a unique form of therapy for troubled adoptees. It is one that relies heavily on equine interaction, wide open spaces, and a laid-back atmosphere. Christian values underly every day living. Alternative schooling is also offered to keep the children on track with their counterparts.

What do you think? Would you feel guilty sending your troubled adopted child anywhere else for professional help, or even back to the agency from which he/she came?

14
Apr
10

Keep Your Child, Not Your Receipt. pt. 1

Russia Today’s gotta have plenty to say about this one…

The video’s a little lengthy, but if you watch just the first few minutes, you’ll get the idea of this headline shocker pretty quickly. I’ll sum it up for you below.

To make a long story short; Torry Hansen of Shelbyville, Tennessee adopted Artyem Saviliev from Russia approximately six months ago. Artyem had been institutionalized in Russia for some years before Hansen showed interest in bringing him into their home, but claimed she was never made aware of any psychological or emotional instability the boy may have had. (Many Russian orphans, as a matter of fact, are institutionalized indefinitely while adoption agencies and representatives attempt to match them with interested families.) So then, Artyem arrives in America under the care of his new mother, Hansen, who renames him Justin. Artyem/Justin then proceeds to raise apparent hell for the next six months straight. In January, Hansen determines that 7-year-old Artyem is violent, troubled, and a general threat to herself and her household. Hansen claims that Justin drew pictures of her house burning, and promised to set fire to it with Hansen and her mother(Justin’s foster grandmother) inside of it. Ultimately, Hansen and Grandma Hansen get fed up this weekend and put Justin on a plane back to Russia alone and holding a note that reads:

“I no longer wish to parent this child… This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviours. I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues.”

Artyem Savilev (Justin Hansen)

Now, the entire planet is mad at the Hansen’s. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Justin’s unsupervised return a “monstrous deed,” and Russian officials are urging him to place an indefinite freeze on orphans out of the country to America. Recently, a handful of publicized cases involving “troubled” Russian youth whom American parents have found “too difficult” to raise have shed a bad light on the country’s orphanage system. Couple that with the fact that, according to ABCnews.com, there have been 15 reported cases of  murders of adopted Russian youth by American parents since the early nineties. Other stateside advocates are drafting petitions which ask President Obama to fight to keep adoption lines with Russia open.  It’s all pretty tricky diplomacy, I’d say– especially with innocent kids at stake.

13
Apr
10

He Just Did…Sort of.

This weekend, Tiger Woods made a hesitant return to the green under the competing spotlights of the media and the baking Augusta sun at the 74th Masters Tournament in Georgia. After a stellar start on Thursday, Woods’ five months of down-time may have caught up to his keenness on the course.  Placing fourth on Sunday– five strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson– Woods claimed that he “made too many mistakes,” and that his efforts to regain a foothold were ultimately “unsuccessful.” In reference to a few poor shots, Woods added that “these are not things I normally do. So I’m not going to be smiling and not going to be happy.” Woods has won four Masters Tournaments in the past.

It has always been impossible to tell by focusing on Tiger’s “game face” whether he is sad, happy, or in the least bit emotional about his game. It is only after sinking tough shots that spectators are able to witness Wood’s overwhelming display of accomplishment. Alternately, when he falls short, Wood’s frustration leaks from his pores like the sweat on his face.  As of late, especially, the media circus surrounding Wood’s marital infidelity have landed him in front of even more camera lenses than before, and it seems as though everybody has a different take on how Tiger “should” be handling his personal issues, or how his expression “should” appear on the cover of so many tabloids. Either way, since Woods recognized the relentlessness of the press months ago, he has opted to attempt speaking for himself on a number of occasions in an attempt to suffocate a few of the flames.

Tiger’s latest move? An endorsement with Nike in the form of a television advertisement that has everybody feeling some way or another about it. Just in case you haven’t seen the commercial, here it is:

The voice you hear is an audio excerpt from an interview with Tiger’s late father, who passed away four years ago. Earl Woods coached Tiger exclusively during his beginning years in the sport, and grew to be his lifetime mentor and inspiration. In this commercial, a deceased Woods appears to provide posthumous questioning concerning the unnamed issues in his son’s personal life.

I won’t say whether or not I “approve” of the advertisement, simply because it is effective beyond its actual content in a way that Nike has seemingly perfected. Regardless of whether Woods is taking a selfish approach by misappropriating the words of his deceased father while simultaneous making money off of a supposedly serious issue, or simply displaying vulnerability with the help of a Nike marketing scheme, this commercial is powerful. Unsettling, even.

For as long as I can remember, Nike has been uncannily good at making television spots that we watch from beginning to end. For the 30 to 60 second window of a commercial, Nike transforms the whole world of sports into a thing of epic proportion, and athletes into modern-day deities of Grecian caliber. And the thing is, Nike rarely uses these commercials to push any specific product.  They’re all about branding– in hopes of finding a permanent spot in the universe’s collective conscience. I compiled a few of my favorite Nike adds here. What do you think?

LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu’s fates collide. Great concept and feel. This might as well be a movie preview.

Incredible editing. Synchronized to “Ali in the Jungle” by the Hours. Powerfully motivating stuff.

Any commercial featuring the GOAT doing what he did beat is classic. This is just one of many Nike ads featuring Jordan, but I chose it because of its speechlessness. Nike loves to let the subject of their commercials tell a story with little to no narration.

More MJ. Years after Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” campaign, the world still wants to live the dream.

I think this one aired during a Superbowl in the last three or four years. Clever and lighthearted, Nike shows us its humorous side with this one.

Last but not least, a classic featuring MJ and Spike Lee from 1991. This one’s got plenty of dialogue, but it’s all for a good cause. I mean, it’s the shoes.

Did I leave any off this list that I should have mentioned? Do you have a personal favorite?

12
Apr
10

Prepped for Success

As I sat watching television this weekend, most news coverage was devoted–and rightly so– to the recent deaths of the the Polish President, his wife, and among over 90 other politicians and military leaders in a horrific plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. It was early Saturday morning when the news broke, sending alerts to the Iphones of friends who were present with me at the time. Immediately, we felt a sense of grief. The mere thought of the loss of human life is saddening, but an accident such as this that claimed the lives of so many that an entire country look to for leadership–and above all, their most iconic figure? I couldn’t imagine the sense of loss.

In looking for some brighter news, however, I came across this story watching CNN last night, which apparently ran in the Chicago Tribune last month.

At Englewood’s Urban Prep Academy for Young Men in Chicago, 100% of 2010’s graduating seniors have all been accepted into a four-year college. The school, which was opened in 2006  is the first of its kind. It is public, non-selective, and targets only African-American males based on a random lottery of applicants. This year’s graduating class contained only 107 seniors, but the school has grown in size since this year’s graduating class began matriculating through the first four years of its existence. The school is currently negotiating charters for other academies in locations that Tim King and its other community founders deem in need.

A location like Englewood is an unlikely for the success that the prep school has seen. The community, which suffers from high crime rates, gangs, poverty, drugs, teen pregnancy, and low high school graduation rates provided the Urban Prep Academy with a freshman class in 2006 in which only 4 percent of students read at their grade level.

This year, each and every senior will stand against statistics which claim only 1 in 40 young black men complete college. According the Academy’s home page, however, all 107 college-bound graduates will earn degrees at the the completion of their prospective university’s requirements. By assisting in ways that very few other high schools do, such as assigning every freshman a college advisor, providing a mandatory advanced-placement course-load, and providing tutoring around the clock, this school has clearly developed a model that gets results. A strict dress code provides a final coat of polish for the young professionals.

The reward for their news-breaking accomplishment? A future that many may not have seen or even imagined possible otherwise. Oh! And this year’s senior prom will be free for all graduates.

09
Apr
10

Confederate History Month

As instituted by my great state’s very own governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, the month of April has officially been named “Confederate History Month” in Virginia. If you reside in the state, I’m guessing that this is practically old news to you by now, seeing as the combination of local coverage and online social network chatter over the past three days has generated a national buzz that went so far as to land the story in top slots on national news broadcasts. In my classes on campus, discussion has ranged from general reactions to generous ranting about whether or not this declaration will drive a wedge between black and whites in the state. Some have even said that this development has gone so far as to set the nation back 200 years.

What they may not know, however, is that the idea of claiming a Confederate History Month was not pioneered by a Virginian law-maker. Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and even Virginia (before the year 1994) have recognized the occasion for years.

There is no question of Virginia’s cemented history within the Confederacy– as Richmond, the current state capital, was also the capital of the Confederate States from 1861-1865. In my opinion, Virginia is still a southern state, though I can think of some friends who would disagree, refusing to accept it as the “real” South. But who knows what that means. Either way, Virginia’s previous two governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, chose, during their administrations, not to recognize Confederate History Month when April rolled around. And now it’s back– and as I said, not without its dissenters. Beyond the expected backlash from a state containing a population who’s 20% of African Americans would more than likely have been enslaved under the Confederate ideology of the time, Governor McDonnell initially neglected to mention this glaring truth in his official Confederate History Month decree.

A day after the first proclamation, so many civil rights watchdogs and individuals decried McDonnell’s statement that he publicly apologized and added the following paragraph to the original document (which you can read here):

“WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history; and…”

So. What’s my take on it all? Simply (or not so simply) this:

The Confederate States of America and its historical culture are inextricably bound to the nationally-recognized evil that was slavery. These same states advocated a rebellion against the unified establishment of America and its federal government. The ideology which drove certain Southern States to secede, however, was just as deeply rooted as the other facets of “Dixie” culture which were inarguably less destructive. In the context of America’s history, southern culture is celebrated and commemorate even beyond the borders of such southern states. And as it should be, the sacrifice of blood that so many Confederates put forth towards little more than an idea– but as largely important as livelihood or lifestyle– should be recognized by the America that exists today as a result. However, it should not be overlooked that in retrospect, the then-ideology of the Confederate States currently stands in blatant defiance of the moral standards we have since developed as as country, or even the fundamental cornerstone of freedom upon which the country was originally founded.

That being said, if one state wishes to recognize Confederate History Month, then the entire nation must commit to its commemoration. And the month should not be called Confederate History Month– but Civil War History Month– or something along those lines which implies that the Confederacy was not established as an entity excused of the bitter and bloody consequence of its treason. However, its existence was not a part our history that should be ignored or overlooked, as the citizens of the Confederacy played just as important a role in the rich history of the U.S. as the North.

As much as a I hate to say it, the other condition which must exist before the U.S. can begin to extract anything from the Civil War Era for commemoration is one of political correctness. It cannot be ignored that the reasonable black or white feels either one way or another about the country’s past in slavery. And these feelings currently range from indifference to bitterness and anger. The Civil War and its surrounding climate left a bloody stain on the American timeline. Such a stain may never truly lift from this fabric, but neither dressing it up as a decorative mark nor cutting it from the surrounding cloth will make for a very appealing outfit.

07
Apr
10

Fast and Fattening Faster

Amidst the frenzy of America’s more health-conscious and green-going self-conscious state, it makes perfect sense that consumers would demand healthier options from restaurants and fast food establishments across the country. This movement towards healthier product development has been in effect for some time. Low carb and/or fat alternatives to traditional fast food meals have held their place on overhanging menus at McDonalds and Burger Kings ever since the Atkins diet gained popularity in the early 2000’s. Even after the Atkins Nutritional company folded, many fast food chains have catered to the dieting needs of consumers who followed other tweaked versions of the famous weight-loss system.

However, in watching recent television advertisements, I’ve noticed a reemergence of shameless, more-is-better menu items at popular fast food joints. Ever since the public pushed for these restaurants to publish nutritional facts in more conspicuous locations, it’s been no secret that few–if any–of the items on their lists are actually “healthy” choices. My concern comes from the fact that many of the same chains that had once made attempts to present a health-conscious front have reverted to the Hardee’s Thickburger product model. That’s the, “beefy middle finger to your heart and liver” stance–without the decency of, at a minimum, misleading appearances or a clever marketing strategy.

Let me show you.

KFC's new Double Down "sandwich."

Yup, that’s a chicken filet+KFC sauce+bacon+cheese+cheese+chicken filet combination coming straight to your right ventricle April 12th. It is advertised as the world’s first “bunless” sandwich, but in reality, its 540 calories of unattractive meat, zesty mayo, and meat will most likely hit those buns first. I guess KFC had to find a way to get rid of their new over-sized chicken nugget boneless filets quickly–by the two’s. Next:

Burger King's new Steakhouse XT

I can’t help but think of the Mondo burger from Keenan and Kel’s breakout performance in Goodburger. And to think; those burgers were infused with shark poison to make them as tasty as they were. Good thing this colossus is only packed with 950 calories instead. The XT is only outdone by:

Hardee's Monster Thickburger

1,320 calories of pure regret. Enough said.

These three choices are only a few of the more absurd sandwiches flavoring fast food menus across the country. One need only to visit a few websites and skim nutrition facts to find the more subtle–but equally unhealthy–food choices. If the stuff-your-face-and-deal-with-the-consequences-later trend of food consumption is truly back on the rise, so be it.  I hope that the average American is sensible, and these types of products will only raise awareness concerning the importance of a healthy diet once again.

Meanwhile, somebody needs to opt for McDonald’s “healthy” alternative and tell me if this thing tastes as disgusting as it looks…. because it doesn’t seem to be going away.

Mac Snack Wrap




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