Say it ain’t so, Dave!

Humorist Dave Barry is apparently giving up his column, though he leaves open the possibility of returning to it in the future. “I want to stop before I join the horde of people who think I used to be funnier,” he writes in his farewell column.

Dean sells out

Howard Dean, the media-darling-turned-loose-cannon poster child for grassroots civic involvement, is now shilling — and yelling — for Yahoo! Local (hear the radio ad). While it’s not as lame as Bob Dole pitching Pfizer’s little blue pill, I think it still hurts his image. If Dean had a hard time seeming “presidential” before, he can forget about it now.

Louisiana: A model of civic virtue?

(I swore I wouldn’t talk politics on this blog, and this is the only time I’m going to break my self-imposed restriction! Really.)

Irritating Republicans and Democrats alike, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has thrown his weight behind a proposal for an open primary system similar to that used in elections in my home state of Louisiana. I’m thrilled that, after so many years of political ridicule, Louisiana is finally being held up as an example of something positive.

Though it’s regarded as a conservative state, Louisiana actually has sent a number of fairly moderate legislators (such as Sen. John Breaux and Rep. Billy Tauzin) to Washington over the years. That’s partly because the Louisiana system, unlike the closed primaries used in most states, does not compel candidates to run to the right or left at the outset of their campaigns. By not having to compete for a party’s nomination, candidates are spared the awkwardness of playing to the party faithful during primary season only to moderate their views a few weeks later for the broader electorate. It’s no wonder voters think politicians will say anything to get elected when the prevailing electoral system in this country encourages candidates to take two positions on everything.

Open primaries strike me as a sensible step toward reducing partisanship at a time when the country is dangerously polarized. In California, a state that prides itself on empowering voters, open primaries could help us judge candidates by the virtue of their ideas and the strength of their character rather than their fluency in doubletalk and their aptitude for political sleight of hand.

Florida: More to come?

Battered by four hurricanes this year, Florida — home to much of my extended family — now gives new meaning to the term “disaster area.” FEMA has already called this the most costly clean-up in its history.

But consider that hurricane season runs through Nov. 30. That means we’re actually only two-thirds of the way through. So, statistically, Floridians should expect two more hurricanes before the season’s over, right?

Well, no. The storms tend to taper off in frequency and ferocity well before the end of the season. But another hit for storm-battered Florida is, sadly, not hard to fathom.

Maybe mother nature will take pity on these poor people and give them a breather… At least until November, when they’ll be caught in a whirlwind of a different kind.

End-of-semester frenzy

Well, I’m closing in fast on the end of my first semester at USC. I can tell you that it’s been (and continues to be) a lot of work, but I’m really happy with how things are going here. I am looking forward, though, to a little more down time this summer.

If you want to have a sneak peek at what’s taking up most of my time right now, look here. This is the class project for my multimedia journalism course, an in-depth report on the challenges of getting by on a small income in L.A. (which could apply to me, but our subjects are in somewhat more dire straits). This is still a work in progress, but it has to be finished by this time next week, because we’re presenting it to faculty and other interested parties next Thursday.

Hopefully I’ll have a little more time to blog once the semester’s over. Stay tuned…

Beware the dreaded moir

The reaction to President Bush’s first prime-time press conference in more than a year? Muted. What people really felt strongly about? His tie.

Yes, as E! Online reports, the president’s dressers apparently failed to heed the advice I was given in my first broadcast news class: Avoid ties with small, high-contrast patterns, or your viewers will fall victim to the hypnotic moiré effect. It’s a distracting appearance of movement as the image of the tie’s pattern gets filtered through the pixels on your television screen. (I’m sure there’s a better way to explain this, but you get the point.)

According to a tongue-in-cheek Knight Ridder story, rumors that “Bush’s tie shut down the electric grid in Ohio and hypnotized Americans into forming a cult that worships presidential adviser Karen Hughes” are likely untrue.

Still, will heads roll in the West Wing over tiegate?

Why I’ll never be famous

Watching Ben Affleck painfully mug his way through Jersey Girl (Kevin Smith fans, save your money), I figured out why I’ll never be a celebrity: I don’t want to work that hard.

Seriously, you’ve got to work hard to be famous — because generally you have to earn the spotlight by being good at something. Or, in Affleck’s case, you have to act studly and hang out with Matt Damon (and even that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth).

This isn’t to say that I don’t work hard occasionally. But the things I work at just aren’t spotlight material. You won’t hear, for example, people exclaiming, “Boy, that Eric Ulken sure is talented… He can code HTML and catch dangling participles with the best of them!”

If you’re lucky, you might land a break — like American Idol reject William Hung did. I’ve never watched a single episode of Idol, but even I have heard his hilariously bad rendition of Ricky Martin‘s already lousy song. (And all you people who laughed: Really, could you do any better?)

Thing is, even accidental stars have to make some effort to get noticed. I don’t really see myself performing bad pop songs in front of television cameras just so the passive masses can get a quick chuckle at my expense.

So, Hollywood, I won’t burden you with my aspirations of stardom. I see now that fame calls for far more toil and sacrifice than I can muster, and I salute your people for carrying that heavy load. You’re off the hook, at least until headline-writing becomes a celebrity occupation.

But in the meantime, can you get me a date with Jennifer Garner?

The non-entry

See? I knew this blogging thing would never work out. I’m just too busy (or lazy, or easily distracted) to post regularly. I would be asleep now, but they’re filming this elaborate car chase sequence across the street (no kidding), and the squealing tires and gunfire sounds are keeping me awake.

I brought home the first actual grade of my graduate school career today — an A–/A on a midterm exam. My seemingly conflicted professor points out that an A–/A is closer to an A– than an A (where an A/A– would have been closer to an A). I’m not sure I understand all that, but anyway… I scored somewhere between an A and an A–, which is just peachy by me.

Anyway, this post is just to let you all know that I am alive. Thanks for checking in. 🙂