Chris Fedora: Guest Blogger

Chris FedoraThe first guest blogger for is a fellow cookie lover. I met Chris Fedora at a four-week French immersion program in 1998. This Nova Scotian (now living in Nevada) is sharing the following inaugural post on his new blog, A Tip of the Hat to You. Without further ado, I’m proud to present “Love of Hate”.

Well, here it is, my first submission to the blog universe. Look out folks! Check your sensitivities at the door, because this promises to be a bumpy ride. Actually, to be fair though, I have attempted blogs in the past, back when it was first becoming cool to say “Hey, you should check out my blog.” Back then, I was in university, so all I really had to talk about was where I was going to drink that night (I ran a pub, so there wasn’t much question about that). I also attempted one while I was teaching English in Korea a few years ago. It was going well…for a while.

It was a great outlet into which I could vent my many frustrations during the cultural adjustment period that most foreigners go through whilst adapting to a new country. I was able to use humor to keep my friends up to date on all of the day to day happenings that drove me slightly bonkers, which they were unfortunately missing out on. It was short lived however, once I eventually adjusted and settled in and found I was having less and less to vent about. I didn’t seem to want to update them on the plethora of amazing food, sites, and activities in the country, just the annoying kids who ran onto an elevator because they thought it would make it go faster, or the general fear of the Korean population that fans would kill them in their sleep if left on overnight.

That’s one interesting oddity about the human race: people are more inclined to write about things when they have something to complain about rather than when everything is peachy. Or maybe it’s that people are more inclined to pay attention to things that are sensationalized or expressed in a rant. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all we see is an inundation of hateful musings from thoroughly unhappy individuals on a constant basis. In fact, there are plenty of heart smothering pieces of literature jammed down our throats and dangled in front of our faces every day. Everything from those love poems of the Romantic Authors, to the news story about the little pet lobster who can snap his claws to the tune of My Fair Lady, to every episode of Sesame Street, all the way to the Facebook comments congratulating you after seeing that your status says “Made Tang.”

It’s just that writing tends to be a very emotional pastime. That is to say that emotion spurs creativity. And, while happiness is a more powerful emotion than pain, anger, or frustration, it is not something we necessarily wish to be rid of, as we wish to be with the latter three. Writing, for most writers throughout history, has been an emotional outlet through which they could express that which was consuming their heart and soul. Those romantic poets, they were just trying to ease the pain in their hearts caused by the immeasurable love that they felt for some milk maid. Since they needed to get rid of this pain somehow, they chose writing as the means to do it. With every quill stroke, the pain in their hearts subsided a little.

In school, we were introduced to some of the most beautiful pieces of literature the world has ever known, written by men and women hundreds and thousands of years ago. This is a great example of people writing about feeling happy, right? No, I discount this group from participation in my exercise because the love expressed in most of those writings is wayyy over the top, and thus must be overly exaggerated. I mean c’mon, some of those people still used leaves to wipe their butts…if a moderately attractive girl gave them a nipple twister they’d do cartwheels. Life was hard then, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. With plagues and wars decimating the population, good women were at a premium. A lot of these things were the modern day equivalent to a well executed pick up line. Good on them for having such spirit, but times have changed and these days, it is highly suspect if you claim to have found such happiness (if no one else can be happy, neither can you). While Hollywood still pumps out those romantic comedies like the Octomom pumps out babies (I had to get at least one reference in before it got old), it is generally accepted now that that premise is nothing more than an unattainable dream.

I don’t know how we became so cynical and jaded (I mean, we even have toilet paper now), but something has seemed to rip that desire for happy literature right out of us. These days, we don’t trust anything that is presented without some sort of dark side. If there is a happy story on the evening news, it’s usually just viewed as filler, or some attempt to not look like the earth is going to hell in a hand basket. Instead, we thrive on tabloid news about this celebrity or that one getting their new adopted pygmy brother-in-law drunk while dangling them out a window and punching their boyfriend, and we oddly don’t feel safe and satisfied with a news report unless it’s delivered with some heaping morsel of terror (whether real or fabricated… see Fox News).

No, these days, we don’t regularly write a letter to the makers of the chocolate chip cookie we just ate, to let them know it was delicious and that they should keep up the good work. We would be typing one up at a thousand words a second though if we didn’t like the way the cookie crumbled (do not pardon the pun) into our beer when we tried to dunk it in there.

I guess this sort of fad explains the popularity of people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glen Beck. These guys live pretty high on the hog thanks to America’s incredible appetite for sensationalized news (Instead of saying Bernie Madoff was going to get life in prison, CNN’s headline: “Madoff will DIE in prison”). And it’s not just the right wingers keeping these guys employed. People from all sides tune in to see what they have to say (some because they agree, and some because they want to see what’s going to come out of their mouths next). For that matter, folks like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Chris Matthews also do quite well thanks to the same group of people.

While Stewart and Colbert are comedians and present the news in a satirical way, they still end up in the mess with the radical news thugs. I am a fan of comedy. I think it allows us the ability to look fear, hate, and evil in the face…and smile. It helps us prove that so many things that we are told are important in life are actually quite trivial. It reminds us that life has a lighter side; a side that we need to focus on more than the negative. Because, after all, as a famous saying goes, “Hate begets hate.”

Now, I’m not saying that the news should be all kittens who can rollerskate and chimpanzees who build orphanages. I’m not saying we should all go around and thank each other for everything that goes right for us every minute. I am just asking the question: Why do we thrive off of the sensationalism and negativity? I really hope to hear back from people who have an interesting point of view on this topic, and hey, if you can throw a little humor in there too, we’re all better for it.

Free maps

My favorite part of Nashville
My favorite part of Nashville
“Google Maps are free as in beer, not as in speech,” reads the OpenStreetMap FAQ. I’ve always been fascinated by maps, so I thought it would be helpful to provide an update on the use of maps online.

Google allows the dynamic use of maps through their API, but you’re not allowed to take screenshots of the maps and post them elsewhere as images. Truly free maps are available on the OpenStreetMap. For basic use, I definitely recommend Google Maps – it loads faster and has more features. However, as with any open content project, I recommend OpenStreetMap whenever possible. The WikiProject Geographical coordinates is a very handy resource, as well, that links to dozens of mapping websites based on coordinates, like 36°10′00″N 86°47′00″W.

On a personal note, I’ll be traveling to Atlantic Beach, NC on Easter weekend to visit with my family. This got me thinking about other possible road trips… and so I decided to check out a map of the US. I could stare at a big, detailed map for hours.

OpenStreetMap of USA
OpenStreetMap of the USA

Be a guest blogger

This is an invitation for my people to come on board the blog. I have a lot of friends and family who don’t live in Nashville. Every once and a while, we get into some interesting topics over the phone or IM, but I’m often curious to see how we use the “written” word, too. Actually, when it comes to writing, I’d like to hear from my Nashvillian friends, too!

Facebook and MySpace get a lot of traffic, but I take pride in the permanence of (I’ll be fleshing out the History page soon). I don’t care for this site to be a hugely popular platform, but I do want it to be a stable and calm one (in my own way).

Here are some blogging topics to get you thinking. Be my guest!

Nashville Attractiveness

Michael and I were at Centennial Park on Wednesday reading our books and enjoying the warm Spring sneak peek. We quickly turned to judging people’s (anyone appearing to be 18-60 years old) attractiveness. There is an approximate 1-mile jogging loop, so we grabbed the first available swinging bench (southeast side) and began our study.

Attractiveness chart

The method was fairly simple: From about 3:30 to 6, we watched people walk, run, skate, or ride by. As each person passed, we’d agree on a judgment and tally the result. Any questions?

New blog for all things J. J.

I’ve just installed WordPress 2.7.1 on my website. This is the obligatory first post. The what, when, and why will come later. Basically, though, I’m reviving my blogging blood. It’s always bugged me to have my online identity spread all over the web (Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, etc.), so I’m back to a proprietary blogging platform. Yay friendly permalinks!

Expect an eclectic variety of topics to come, approximately once or twice a month. This is my personal blog, so I’m not targeting any specific readership demographic. Almost-daily content (twitter, photos, music, etc.) can be found on my FriendFeed.

Scream – Chris Cornell album review

Chris Cornell performs in London
Chris Cornell performs in London
In the shadow of U2’s release last week comes Chris Cornell’s groundbreaking album, Scream. If you’ve listened to any of the hype, you’ll most likely not give the former Audioslave & Soundgarden frontman much of a chance this time around. On the contrary, I’m quite enamored by this “album-oriented album” (as Cornell himself pitches it) and can’t stop listening to it. How often do you get to hear one of the kings of grunge sing with dance/R&B music by Timbaland?

When I have others listen to the new release (it’s streaming for free on MySpace), the voice is an initial drawback. It really does take some time to get used to hearing a made-for-rock voice against a dance beat. While us “I love the 90s” folk appreciate the voice of Soundgarden, it’s not a trained voice. Cornell puts soul into his music, and that’s why so many people love him.

After a couple listens, though, you’ll gain a better appreciation for both Cornell and Timbaland’s talents. The music literally never stops as there is an interlude at the end of every song. One could conceivably have a Scream dance party, although the album doesn’t quite work in that respect. The intensity is consistent throughout and the songwriting is solid, too. The only line that I cringe at is, “We met at a party bout almost two years ago,” in “Other Side of Town” as it sounds a little too juvenile; the rest of the song makes up for it, though. The five songs bookended in the middle of the album by the first two singles (“Ground Zero” and “Scream”) really have a great flow. “Never Fall Away” is a ballad standout followed by the Indian-flavored “Take Me Alive”.

I’m curious to see what demographic this album clicks with the best and where we’ll be hearing it the most. I haven’t heard anyone call this a sellout album yet – Cornell is too down-to-earth to fall for that. This is a collaboration as impressive as Santana’s Supernatural, although it’s not quite as accessible. Give it a listen and see if you can stop yourself from dancing or singing along.