Hannah Montana Did What?!?

The hubbub on the internet this past week about the performance on the VMA’s (Video Music Awards) by Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus has got me thinking about how we treat our celebrities and the standard to which we do and do not hold them to.

Back in the 1950s, people complained about the way Elvis shook his booty on stage and on national television. In the 1960s, people were all up in arms about the Beatles and their long hair. In the 1970s, folks were upset over “satanic messages” in songs by The Rolling Stones and other rock bands of the day. In the 1980s, Madonna sexy’d herself up and people were offended once again. In the 1990s, rap groups like NWA stepped it up a notch with songs that described sex acts, killing people and all sorts of other things. In the 2000s, more of the same… The music industry has a long and storied history of pushing the envelope of what society found acceptable.

Now we’re upset about Miley Cyrus “twerking” on national television (gone, apparently, are the days when cable networks were held to different standards than broadcast television networks), dancing like a “prostitute” with another singer, Robin Thicke (son of 80s sitcom star, Alan Thicke (Growing Pains)). Some people are upset at the way she is objectifying women. Some are upset that she is overtly sexualizing herself. Others are upset at the objectification of the black women on stage with her, calling the entire persona that Miley has adopted racist.

How many other singers, groups, actors and other entertainers have gotten up on stage and done things similar to what Miley and Robin did? How many of those have been on national television or other major venues? Why aren’t they vilified the way Miley has been? And why isn’t Robin Thicke catching any flack from the people?

Could it be that Thicke and Cyrus are held to a different standard?

For one thing, it seems that men have always been held to a different standard than women when they are performing on the national stage. From a cultural perspective, it is apparently perfectly acceptable for men to get up on stage and objectify women, sexualize them, slap their butts and have backup dancers in scanty outfits. But when a women does it? They catch some flack for it. When a former child star does it? All hell breaks loose.

Face it, we (as a society) are only upset about the performance because “Hannah Montana” would never do that! Think about your reaction to Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) posing nude. Oh my God, he can’t do that, he’s Harry Potter!! No, he’s Daniel Radcliffe and his rights as an adult include posing nude for the enjoyment of his female fans whether you like it or not.

Think about Lindsay Lohan, Mark Kate and Ashley Olsen; and a whole host of other former child stars. They are ALL held to a different standard than everyone else. Why? Because when we see them acting out, or acting badly, we picture them as the cute little kids they once were. Our cultural reaction to the Olsen Twins gone bad is as if Bob Sagat himself was giving the Olsen Twins meth on their pacifiers on the set of Full House!

Just for a moment, imagine if it had been P!nk or Lady Gaga or any other female singer up there singing and dancing with Robin Thicke. Wouldn’t we care?

Also, ponder this… Alan Thicke’s television son has turned into a rightwing conservative preaching on television (Kirk Cameron) while his real son has turned into a faux R&B singer dancing with Miley Cyrus’ bad girl persona. Talk about growing pains!

You don’t have to watch if you’re gonna get offended by it!

You may now go back to listening to Redneck Crazy by Tyler Farr.

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Swimming The Golden Gate

There are many challenges in sports that occupy the thoughts of people who dream of doing audacious things. There are also things that can be seen as stepping stones to those bigger dreams. Today, I had a little bit of both on my plate.

I’ve done a few swims in the San Francisco Bay, the first of which was an Alcatraz swim back in 2004 that opened my eyes to new challenges. That’s what got me into triathlons (realizing that I could still swim after nine years away from the sport that I had loved in high school and college), and also made me begin to look for new challenges. That started the process of expanding my horizons. I went on to do the Alcatraz swim three more times, and also to swim the west span of the Bay Bridge (Treasure Island to San Francisco). I eventually did two Ironmans and one Ultraman, but there were still local swims that I wanted to do.

The foremost in my mind was swimming across the Golden Gate. The iconic nature of the strait and the bridge make for a worthy challenge. The currents can be tough to swim in, and the water can be incredibly choppy. But to me, the Golden Gate is a grander thing to swim across than the fabled Alcatraz swim that is done by so many people every year.

My original plan was to do a 600km bike ride this weekend, but when Joan found a Schwaggle deal from active.com for the Bob Roper Invitation taking $80 off the entry fee, I knew I had to go for it. It’s been a dream of mine at least since 2004, though I admit to thinking often of open water swimming back when I was swimming competitively.

Despite a lack of cold water training (the only cold swim I’ve done this year was the Big Kahuna Triathlon in early September in Santa Cruz), I opted for the “skins” division (that’s non-wetsuit). I’ve done most of my other open water swims without a wetsuit, so I figured that I’d be fine.

On Sunday October 14, I was up at 6:50AM and made a pot of coffee and went about my normal pre-workout/race routine. Joan and I headed up to San Francisco, arriving at checkin around 9:00. The ferry to the start was to leave at 9:45, so we had plenty of time to chat with friends (my friend Chuck and a couple of his friends were also swimming) and mentally prepare for the swim.

Once on the boat, we headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge and went around in circles waiting for the tide to be just right, and for the support kayakers to get in the water from their boat. At about 11:00, the first pack (the “elite” wave) began to jump off the boat. Soon enough, it was the “normal” wave’s turn to jump. That’s always the hardest part of Bay swims, jumping out a perfectly good boat into the 59-61 degree water!

When I hit the water, I began to swim for all I was worth, aiming for the point of land just west of the north end of the bridge. As I breathed, I could see the bridge towering over me. I sighted off of the bridge and off the buildings in Horseshoe Cove (the finish location). For most of the swim, there were a decent number of other swimmers around me. The water seemed incredibly cold: quite the shock for someone who has been swimming in 65-74 degree water most of the summer at Redwood Shores!

The first half of the swim went very well. I was able to stay warm enough to keep my stroke going well. My course wasn’t as good as it should have been – I ended up under the bridge too early, and had to fight a bit of the current to get into Horseshoe Cove. The wave action out there was rather scattered, so it wasn’t really possible to time breaths and sighting at the tops of the swells. I keep drinking mouthfuls of seawater, which greatly slowed me down.

Once I got north of Lime Point, the water began to calm down a bit, though I also began to get really, really cold. Losing 25 pounds over the winter of 2011-12 was good for other things, but not for open water swimming without a wetsuit! I tried talking to one of the kayakers at one point, but couldn’t get the words to come out right, so I just said “I’m fine” and kept swimming. Eventually, I got to where I could see the finish and swam for it. I came close to running into a rock outcropping in the harbor, but saw it about twenty seconds before I would have hit it, so I went around it. At the finish, a volunteer helped me up and out of the water. I’d made it! I swam across the Golden Gate! Now all I had to do was get my shoes on and run back across.

After drying off and warming up a little, I got my running shoes on and joined the two friends of Chuck who were going to be running back as well. Once we got to the top of the hill and onto the bridge, I was warm enough to actually run. We enjoyed the views from the bridge, stopping to take it in a few times.

Swimming the Golden Gate (at least in the conditions as they were at 11:00AM on October 14, 2012) was certainly the most difficult of the open water swims I’ve done in the Bay Area. The cold water and choppy conditions make it a serious challenge. But looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge as I swam across the strait has to be a highlight of my swimming career. It’s something rather insane on the surface, to swim 1.5 miles in 59-61 degree water; but there’s a satisfaction in knowing that the human body is capable of so much more than most people dare to push it to do and actually getting out there and going for it.

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2012 In Music

2012 In Music

Album Of The Year

2012 had quite a few good songs. However, for me, there was a clear group of standouts at the top. These are my nominees for Song Of The Year

  • Skyfall – Adele (Skyfall Soundtrack)
  • I Won’t Give Up On You – Jason Mraz (Love Is A Four Letter Word)
  • Country Girl – Carolina Chocolate Drops (Leaving Eden)
  • Like Comedy – The Proclaimers (Like Comedy)
  • Bright Moon Pearls – Bonny Getz (Bright Moon Pearls)

There were some outstanding albums this year as well. Here are my nominees for Album Of The Year.

  • ¡Uno! – Green Day
  • Love Is A Four Letter Word – Jason Mraz
  • Leaving Eden – Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • California 37 – Train
  • Like Comedy – The Proclaimers

And on to my favorite category… The nominees for Worst Song Of The Year.

  • Gangnam – PSY
  • We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
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RAAM Observations (Part 1)

This series is going to take a while to go through… There has been so much to process in the time following Race Across America. The enormity of what Joan did, and the part I and the rest of the crew played in it, has not sunk in. And I suspect that it will take many months, or even years before we can truly appreciate the greatness and madness that is RAAM.

Joan finishing

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” -Mark Twain (from Innocents Abroad)

When Joan asked me whether I would support her in her quest to finish Race Across America (RAAM) solo, I of course said yes. Her dreams are my dreams, and not just because I am married to her and want few things more than to see her happy.

When I first watched the ABC coverage of RAAM in the mid 1980s, I was inspired such that my sporting goals have always gotten me closer to the ultra-endurance end of sports. I always thought that it would be among the worthiest things to be involved in the race, whether racing or crewing.

What I was getting into was, of course, so much more than what I had anticipated going in. Of course it was lots of work, and there was certainly an emotional roller coaster to far surpass anything that Six Flags could envision putting into one of their parks! There were negative encounters with locals, and encounters which made me wonder if I hadn’t just dreamt what I had seen! There were majestic mountain vistas of such grandeur as to leave you gasping for breath. And there were towns placed seemingly in the middle of a feedlot that left you gasping for breath!

—-

Taking twelve people, most of whom did not know each other before the race, and stuffing them into two minivans and a Sprinter van by all means seems like it should be a recipe for disaster. There were moments where I wondered if someone was going to end up being left on the side of the road.

From the beginning of the race in Oceanside, CA; I knew that everyone on the crew was there to support Joan 100%. We may not have always truly understood what Joan was going through, but everyone was doing their level best to get Joan to the goal of finishing in under 12 days and 21 hours.

Some of the worst moments for the crew turned on a dime to become some of the most cherished memories of the race. RAAM is like an entire lifetime condensed into 12 days: the emotional highs are memories that will be with me for life.

The most stressful part of the race was driving follow behind Joan from just outside of Jefferson City, Missouri to the Mississippi River. It wasn’t that the road was necessarily dangerous; but I got the distinct impression that the people of Missouri were in a greater hurry on that Wednesday afternoon than to get wherever they were going than they rightfully should have been. Somehow, the narrow twisting highways of rural Missouri were more chaotic than the Monday morning commute between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD the following week.

Driving behind your wife who is riding your bike is stressful enough without drivers trying to dodge in and out of your lane. It’s stressful enough without a meaty middle finger from some corn-fed farm boy being angrily thrust out the window of a car passing on a double yellow line on a blind corner — as if his right to be free of impediment on the road extends to endangering the lives of all other users of the road!

RAAM is so much more than the negatives of course! At the first place where we could legally support Joan, we got to socialize with some of the other crews. It wasn’t just about people we knew. Of course it was good to see Bill and Kathryn (part of Janet Christiansen’s crew); but the part that sticks out most for me from that stop was stopping a guy from a Russian rider’s crew who was about to wander into a rather large patch of poison oak to “water the bushes”. I showed him what poison oak looks like and told him what it does to most people. Despite his broken English, he got the message and thanked me profusely. Hopefully he told the rest of the crew!

Everyone out there on RAAM is out there to get their rider (and all the others) safely across the country. It’s more than a race, it’s almost like a large family traveling across the country – with the craziest ones riding the bike and getting as little sleep as possible while staying awake.

Watching the sun rise on day two of the race was an eye opener of sorts. Knowing how many more of those we were going to see before Annapolis was a bit sobering. The beauty of that sunrise than Joan was riding into on the way towards Parker, Arizona was rather breathtaking.

Into the heat of the day she rode… It was into the mid 90s by the time she pulled in Parker at 8:06 AM local time! After Parker it got hotter and hotter and Joan began to have problems with the heat. Fortunately, Tracey and the other members of the “Crotch Brigade” were able to mitigate those problems enough to keep her in the race. The roads on this part of the course were among the least favorites last year during RAW… There were a lot of truckers in a hurry to get where they were going and not at all expecting to come across cyclists in the middle of the desert. It was again all we could do to keep Joan safe, following her where we could and keeping trucks from bearing down on her like last year when one had to slam on its brakes at the last moment just to avoid hitting her. There was pretty much a rules-be-damned mentality in place if we saw something unsafe coming down the road. How bad were things going to get if it was like this even while the rider was still fully alert?

Being in the “errand van” became a quest for KFC “original” chicken, Arbys curly fries and strawberry shakes from Dairy Queen. It became a running joke to see how long after she saw a sign for one of those three that she would request something from them. Of course, it also became a quest to find decent “real food” for the crew! And coffee, of course! The biggest coffee fail of the trip turned out to be when Dawn and I went into Sedona, Arizona looking for decent coffee. Being a good coffee snob, I check the yelp.com listings for coffee shops and chose the one with the highest ratings. Since it was around 9:00AM on a Thursday, I was very surprised to find the place closed! So we went off to Starbucks and got our ho-hum coffee…

From northern Arizona, I ended up in the Sprinter van heading off into a hotel room in Bluff, Utah. After hours of hearing nothing, I began to try calling the follow and errand vans. Our primary phones weren’t working (apparently, something needed to be updated on the service from Verizon). I was finally able to get ahold of them by calling Isabelle on my own cellphone. Apparently, the follow van had been rear-ended on the Indian reservation a bit past Kayenta, Arizona. I tried to calm Isabelle down as best I could over the phone, and Willy assured me that everyone was okay and that there didn’t appear to be any real damage to anything (as it turned out, one of the wheels on one of the bikes on the rack was damaged beyond repair). But Joan had continued on with errand following her, and Willy and Isabelle stayed behind to deal with the police and getting the other driver’s information. Apparently, on Indian Reservations; the police will often take hours to show up for accidents when there are no injuries involved. As the story goes, this is to allow the driver(s) to “sober up”. It is what it is… I’m just glad that no one was injured and that Joan wasn’t off the bike for long at all (no more than ten minutes or so).

Somewhere along the way in northern Arizona, the assistant crew chief decided that she could not handle the pressure of being the assistant crew chief. The decision was made to make Tracey the assistant since she was proving to be the crewmember that Joan was getting along with the best during the race. Tracey had been brought in as the massage therapist (she also does accupuncture and bike fittings, and all of those skills turned out to be critical in getting Joan across the country!). As the massage therapist, her awake shifts were night and morning: this was to allow her to work on Joan while she was sleeping. When she was switched to assistant crew chief, her sleep schedule was changed to what D’s had been. This meant that she was to be sleeping at night… This of course conflicted with the necessity of having her working on Joan at night. This ended up coming back to bite us when Tracey had gone without sleep for nearly 48 hours.

Going for two days without sleep is never a good thing, especially when you are trying to support someone who is going for 12 days on minimal sleep. The cost of having crew members in a sleep deprived state far outweighs the cost of the rider herself being sleep deprived. It is absolutely critical for the crew members to be as rested as possible during the race. When the inevitable emotional breakdown came, I still had to practically force Tracey into the Sprinter for a good night’s sleep. We all needed to keep rested, but since Joan was demanding so much from Tracey, it became critical for the rest of us to help support her as well. At one point, I made the suggestion that Tracey should be treated as an “extra crew-person”, separate from the schedule that the rest of us were on.

I feel that at times, the attitude of the crew chief was that whatever would keep Joan going was what we were going to do. But I feel that that attitude was a bit shortsighted. If the crew could not get adequate rest, the whole journey would be needlessly put in jeopardy. No one on a crew in RAAM should be pushed to the edge of their sanity. No one should be yelling at other crew members or causing needless emotional stress. I often felt during RAAM that I was the sane one keeping the crew together. But how could I be the sane one? My wife was the one on the bike pushing herself to emotional, physical and spiritual places that the rest of us can never imagine. I watched her lose her mind slowly before it eventually got to be too much for me to witness from the follow van. But somehow I held it together almost to West Virginia.

So many moments stand out… One of the coolest moments came in Camdenton, MO, when we met a young RAAM fan named Lauryn. She lives close to the time station and came out to watch the racers come by. She seemed genuinely enthusiastic about supporting the racers, and Joan was able to encourage her to follow her dreams.

Joan meets Lauryn

Of course, the interactions with other racers were often pretty special as well. The one that stands out the most is when Joan was staging a sit-down protest on the side of the road. Janet Christiansen happened to come by. Where other racers might have passed by and laughed at the good fortune of passing the competition, Janet stopped and chatted with Joan for a while. She got Joan back on the bike at a crucial juncture. And Joan did end up returning the favor the following day.

Joan and Janet chat

La Veta Pass stands out as a magical place from the journey across the country. It was the middle of the three major passes of the Colorado Rockies. The skies were threatening for much of the climb to the summit, but it wasn’t until a few miles before the top that the rain actually did fall. But it was never bad, just enough to wet the road and provide us with one of those moments where the world feels right and it feels like your guardian angels are watching over you.

rainbow on La Veta Pass

That’s all for now. There’s so much more to think about before I start writing Part Deux!

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Why I Don’t Like The Like Button

As far as I can tell, the “Like” button was added to Facebook as a simple way for people to let their friends to know that the posting by said friend was appreciate (or “liked”). That’s fine and dandy, but what does it really say about a person?

If you truly “like” something, what’s wrong with a comment? The like button cheapens the interaction between friends and does nothing to reinforce that friendship. It’s sort of the equivalent of texting versus calling someone.

I have no problem with the “socialization” of the internet. Clicking the like button on a story so that it shows up on your wall on Facebook is fine. It should help to contribute to the discussion of things that matter. I do appreciate seeing news stories pop up on my friends’ walls. It let’s me know that I’ve surrounded myself with people who actually care what is going on in the world. And hopefully people don’t mind if I comment on their posts and have a different view of the story than they do. Open discussion of things that matter is the only way that we can make this country and this world a better place.

I’m not asking people to entirely avoid using the “like” button. But use it judiciously. I pretty much ignore “likes” on my own wall posts. But comments will tend to get commented back on. I value interaction more than reinforcement.

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iPad 3

So, Apple Computers has released a new device. What does this mean for web designers? It’s a super-high resolution display in a small form factor. Making websites that will go from one device to another just got a little bit more complicated.

They’ve crammed more pixels into the 7.3×9.5″ display on the new iPad3 than there are in the display for the 21.5″ iMac. It’s sort of mind boggling in a good sort of way. Hopefully the 4g network can keep up with the increased file sizes we web designers are going to throw at users of the new device…

Check out the video at http://www.apple.com/ipad/#video.

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Marketing With Social Media

I found this article to be an interesting take on using social media – specifically Pinterest- for marketing online. I have not actually used Pinterest, but I can see the benefit of it especially for smaller companies who normally rely on word of mouth to find new clientele.

http://lisasuttora.com/how-to-use-pinterest-for-ecommerce-marketing

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Web Design Inspiration

I found this blog article talking about various art movements that have inspired web design. Folks have always looked at other art for inspiration. I needed a little bit of a light for a project for one of my classes, and this article helped…

Perhaps a surrealist-inspired portfolio site is in order?

http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/art-inspiration-for-designers/

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Creative Offices

Since we’re all graduating soon, we will be out of the classroom and into design firms, corporations or freelance design. The environment in which designers has a huge effect on the work that they produce.

My hope, at least, is not to end up in cubicle hell. I’d like to work in a place that inspires me to do my very best. Perhaps getting into one of the 20+ offices shown in the following story might be a bit much to ask; but I would hope to at least be in a company that values the work environment.

http://designmodo.com/office-designs/

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Taste The Rainbow

At first glance, I did not think that the Skittles website was an official site for the brand. But then I realized that Wrigley has come up with a genius way to market Skittles. The random quotes, stories and seemingly unrelated things should appeal to the sort of people who eat Skittles; at least the younger “hip” ones.

The navigation itself is rather simple. I’m not a huge fan of sites with a lot of downward scrolling required, but it actually works in this case. I can see people going to the Skittles site and just randomly reading the posts: perhaps with a bag of Skittles and a pearl tea sitting on the side table next to a comfy chair. Perhaps some Adele on the headphone? Or maybe that’s because that’s what I’m listening to right now…

See it for yourself at Skittles.com.

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