Saturday, September 13, 2008

W. or when I learned to stop laughing and hate American politics

Oliver Stone is completely insane. On October 17, the controversial director’s latest movie will open in theaters. Entitled simply, W., the movie is another Hollywood dramatization of actual events, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Stone’s 1991 conspiracy theory thrill ride, JFK. The film's title, “W.” is in reference to Walker, as in George Walker Bush. The film is about our yee-hawing cowboy president and his family’s dynasty, which stretches across nearly three decades of American politics.

When I first saw the trailer, my sense of patriotism was sort of confused. As the trailer begins, George Thorogood’s song “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” starts to play, and a younger, sexier, Hollywood version of our president is depicted gambling, taking beer bongs, and driving under the influence. He is yelled at by his father for his shenanigans. The elder Bush says to his son, “Who do you think you are? A Kennedy? You are a Bush! Act like one!” Watch the trailer on YouTube; you’ll see what I mean. Ridiculous! This movie will come out while Bush is still in office. It boggles my mind. It seems like “politician” and “celebrity” are becoming synonymous.

In the race to become the next president, both Republicans and Democrats have celebrity candidates who are more desperate for attention than a knocked up Miley Cyrus. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has often been compared to John F. Kennedy, the sacrificed king of celebrity politicians, and recently, The Los Angles Times ran an editorial comparing Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to Princess Diana, another political celebrity.

Oliver Stone’s movie will only give added weight to a candidate’s celebrity status. The fact that this movie was made exposes the pettiness of national politics and the ways in which real issues are kept hidden behind a facade of personality cults. Be honest, you have always wanted to have a drink and shoot pool with George W. Bush. It’s impossible to resist his mischievous grin and unpretentious Texas accent. I just hope that is not why you voted for him, if in fact you did.

Bush may not be a great leader, but he is a great politician, because he can get votes. He is likable and appears to be a genuine good hearted American. He is the friendly face that Dick Cheney, who is often compared to Darth Vader, and the Bush family’s other allies can hide behind. Take political mastermind Karl Rove, for instance. He is no less diabolical than a used car salesmen. Rove has sold the American people a lemon that has caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers.

I have to agree with author Douglas Adams who once wrote, “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” Politics is a dirty, dirty game, and there may not be any room at the top for an honest candidate while there are so many good looking puppets around.

Let’s not let American politics become like countless grade school student council elections. An election is not a popularity contest, nor is it a beauty pageant. Don’t let the glare shining off of Sarah Palin’s designer eye glasses blind you to the fact that she is in bed with big oil (literally, her husband has worked for BP in Alaska and now operates oil field production there). Palin is also a dangerous Fundamentalist Christian who would have us all learning creationism in public schools, fearing the rapture, and condemning condoms as an instrument of Satan.

If you vote in November, make an informed decision. Sarah Palin is a smooth talking hockey mom, and Barack Obama could talk circles around the Dos Equis mascot “The Most Interesting Man in the World”, but these factors alone should not earn them your vote. Entertainment Weekly is no place for politics. So, stay thirsty my friends. Stay thirsty for the real issues.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Levon Helms For a New Generation

This video is awesome. Levon Helms is the former drummer of The Band. His voice is an icon of American music. When he sings, I am reminded of the American Heartland. This short film features songs from Helms' 2007 comeback album, Dirt Farmer. Helms battled and beat throat cancer in the 90's. His vocal chords were severely damaged during that time, and his once chilling voice was replaced by a quiet rasp. Helms began singing again in 2004 at "The Midnight Ramble Sessions," concerts featuring a variety of guest musicians held regularly at Helms' home and studio in Woodstock, New York. In February 2008, Dirt Farmer won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album, showing that nothing short of death will keep Helms from singing and playing the drums, and thank god. May he continue to get the respect he deserves.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Beijing Olympics and American Aesthetics.

Nearly one thousand years ago, the Chinese invented fireworks. Fireworks have since become a symbol of celebration and new beginnings the world over. The ancient Chinese people who invented them used the blasting pyrotechnics to ward off evil spirits and illuminate the darkness of night. They prayed to the light they created for happiness and prosperity. The light of the Chinese people’s creativity and technical skill shines as bright as ever today. The opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics was a massive demonstration of Chinese cultural achievement, and Americans should be taking notes.

Famed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou, who brought us movies like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, designed and created a performance that is an unmatched display of human creativity. The artistic force of the opening ceremonies was in excellent contrast to the obvious physical aspect of the games. The theme of contrast was used throughout the performance. Parallel themes like the one and the many, light and darkness, quiet and loud permeated the different movements of the show.

At 8:00 p.m. on August 8, 2008, an estimated 4 billion worldwide viewers tuned in, as 15,000 performers took to the stage inside the beautifully crafted Beijing National Stadium. Impressive chorography and massive displays of ancient arts like Tai chi-chuan and calligraphy added to the splendor of the event. The human element was contrasted by an enormous scroll, which lay on the floor between and beneath performers on the field. A technological marvel, the scroll unfolded into a 15,000 square foot L.E.D. screen. The screen projected scenes from Chinese antiquity which framed the movements of the performers. The stadium and the people inside of it stand framed in their place amidst the impressive Olympic village, in the booming city of Beijing, a shining tribute to Chinese Culture.

The Beijing National Stadium was designed by the Swiss based architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, in collaboration with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group. The group, working with director Zhang Yimou’s production team, designed a building that would participate fully in the opening and closing ceremonies held within the soon-to-be-built structure. A built in fireworks show, beyond impressive lighting, and massive jumbo screens are a few of the features integrated into the stadium specifically for the show. The stadium, sometimes referred to as “The Bird’s Nest” easily sold out its 91,000 seats for its debut at the opening ceremonies. An impressive number of Heads of State showed up for the event, among them: the entire Bush family, Henry Kissinger, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. With the largest television audience to date, and a rumored $150,000,00 U.S.D spent, the show could hardly have been anything but astounding.

Astounding is but one word to describe the opening ceremonies in Beijing this summer. Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago was also in attendance. His city is the American finalist in the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The mayor has a lot to live up to if his city wins. Daley went to Beijing looking too see what it takes to host the Olympic Games. What he found, and what we all simultaneously found out, is that it takes more than just great athletes to make the Olympics the major historical event that it can and should be. It takes a great city in a great country, capable of producing the world’s foremost arts and entertainment experience. This is what China has done. The question is: Can America keep up the pace?

Even given the full financial support of one of the largest and richest governments in the world, it is doubtful that American directors like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or Mel Gibson could ever come up with and pull off something as beautiful and poetic as 2,000 Tai-Chi masters performing the ancient martial art in perfect unison live in front of billions. Chinese culture is rooted in an ancient tradition of artistic excellence and disciplined mental activity. American arts and entertainment have suffered from a lack of such a tradition.

The Beijing Olympics have asserted the Chinese culture as a leading force in art, entertainment, technology, and engineering, which can hardly be dreamed of in the United States. Artists, directors, writers and performers alike should look at the world for their inspiration. The world is without a doubt a global community and we should all act accordingly. America’s cultural isolation has led popular culture into the dumpster. The Chinese architecture and performance art at the Beijing Olympics may be seen as strongly nationalistic with a heavy military theme, but nonetheless it was a warm expression extended to the world’s greatest athletes by China’s greatest artists, which at this moment may too be the world’s best.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dawg Days

The summer is in top form; it is hotter than hell as we enter the month of August. Soon autumn will battle its way through the heat and September will arrive and back to school we will go. I like to think of the year in terms of the growing season. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the medieval poet William Blake writes, "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, and in winter enjoy." The cycle he describes speaks on many levels. We can read it to mean, each year we learn things, and pass those things on to others, and so enjoy the wisdom we gain from being a year older. It can also be looked at in terms of our entire life span; when we are young, in the springtime of our youth, we go to school and educate ourselves; as we grow older we reap what we sow, and pass what we've learned on to our children, and once we've fulfilled our role as educators, we can enjoy a peaceful retirement and let the winter settle in and slowly allow death to come take us. It can also be looked at from the larger perspective of humanity in general; our ancestors learned and have continued to teach their decedents what they know, so we may enjoy the benefits of science and technology. Anyway, William Blake's work is always rife with mysterious meanings and subtle suggestions, always open to interpretation.

At twenty years old, the summer, it seems to me, is for work. At a younger age, things were different. The summer meant freedom, bike rides to the pool, vacations to summer homes in the backwoods of Wisconsin, ice cream, popsicles and for the already business minded youth: the lemonade stand. Making money will never be as simple as it is for the young proprietor of a lemonade stand. For advertising, a sign taped haphazardly to a nearby tree will suffice. The place of business is no more complicated than a card table dragged to any suburban street corner. Overhead costs for production are usually covered by donations from the pantry. Hours are flexible, positions are always available, and the money being made is straight profit. Yes, for the employees of a lemonade stand, life is sweet.

A generous $5 tip from a friendly stranger on a bike would make the day, but $5 would go a lot farther when we were young. Therein lies the problem. Our costs increase drastically as our needs and our wants increase, and the pantry becomes empty. We grow up and become embedded in a world of material existence. We consume. Our identities are defined by our purchases, our clothing, the music we listen to, the food we eat, the weight we gain, and the gym where we exercise. The property we own and the ways we get to and from the work that we do. What makes you you? How do you want to define yourself? What happens when life stops handing you lemons?

that's all,

Selah folks,

-Kevin Lepore

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Office Episodes Online

Hey, here's a great place to watch The Office online:

Watch The Office here!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Semester in Review - Spring '08

Another semester has come and gone, bringing me one step closer to graduation. This semester sparked in me a passion for my education that was missing before. As my education moves forward, I have been given the chance to study particularly interesting and valuable topics. This semester, I became fascinated with information and communication technologies and their effects on society. Throughout the course of the semester, I studied in depth the ethos of collective intelligence projects like Wikipedia, the nature of Web 2.0, and the relationship between communication technologies and economic development.

This semester, it was my goal to integrate the work I did in all of my courses into one cohesive body of work. In some ways, I was successful. In other ways, I was limited by the general education curriculum. In any case, I learned a great deal about the world in which we live.

A course in environmental biology gave me an understanding of the ways technologies can effect ecosystems. The course emphasized sustainable ways of living, even in the face of increasing dependence on technologies that pollute the environment. Technologies that have a positive or neutral effect on the environment were also discussed.

A course in ancient Greek philosophy gave me an understanding of the earliest stages of western thought. The course focused on the beginnings of philosophy and natural science. Questions like, "what does it mean to live virtuously?", and "what is the nature of reality?" were discussed in depth. Both this course and the environmental biology course gave me moral guidelines, which provided the framework for my investigation of technology's effects on society in general.

I was not able to produce any original work relevant to my general inquiry in either of these two courses. In my rhetoric course and in my geography course though, I wrote multiple papers on the topics I mentioned in the first paragraph. I have set up a place to post my work online. Here is a brief description of each paper and a link to its location.

1. Michael Jordan, Wikipedia, and Internet Rhetoric - This first paper is what started my investigation into information and communication technologies. It was written for my Rhetoric course. It reviews several websites, including the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wikipedia has become immensely useful to people from all walks of life. In this paper I compare the ethos of Wikipedia to other "credible" websites. In the end, I conclude that Wikipedia is just as reliable, if not more reliable, than traditional sources of information.

2. Communication and Information Technologies in the Developing World - This paper, written for my Geography of the Developing World course, examines the effects that technologies, like mobile phones, have on developing economies. Massive inequalities exist between the developed and developing worlds in terms of access to information. This translates into inequalities in many other aspects of society, most notably economic development.

3. Soma - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 - I wrote this three part short story independently over the course of the semester. It is a mythological tale about a young man who is transported to a mysterious castle located in orbit around the earth. The nature of reality is questioned when 1000 origami cranes become real live birds. Experiencing art is elevated to a new level, which raises questions about the digital age and the rise of alternate online realities.

This collection of my work is somewhat incomplete. A significant presentation about the development of communication throughout the ages is missing. Also missing are several essays which are not all together relevant to the theme of technology's effects on society.

As I look back on this semester, I feel I have grown as a student and as a person. It is my pleasure to share with you the fruits of my labor this semester. One thing that I have learned at Elmhurst College so far, is that what college aught to be, is a community of students dedicated to pursuing knowledge in any way possible. I feel that online communities will soon become the epicenter of modern education. Until that time comes, I will continue to advocate for the internet as the most effective means of sharing information.


-Kevin Lepore

Sunday, May 18, 2008

O Summer, Where Art Thou?

The summer is fast approaching, and everywhere college students are worrying about finals and are getting ready to start working at summer jobs. Life for college students changes dramatically during the summer months. Our brains are given a chance to mellow out and our wallets are able to slowly fill up with cash.

Though our wallets might bulge initially, rising gas prices are sure to thin budgets and curb travel plans to far away places. Where o where is that elusive Green Revolution hiding? On the West Coast? Progressive California has seen a massive increase in Green technology, in architecture, transportation and other aspects of daily life. Though you might not be ready to buy a hybrid car, there are measures you can take to help protect the environment and save you money.

My first suggestion is, RIDE A BIKE. Riding a bike is good exercise and it is obviously much cheaper than having to pay for gas. Anyone who can, owes it to themselves to ride a bike whenever possible.

My second suggestion is, SAVE ENERGY IN YOUR HOUSE. Recently I've noticed how often lights are left on at my house, overnight and all day long sometimes. Make sure to always turn lights off whenever you leave the room. As our entire nation moves towards a more sustainable way of living, simple things like energy saving light bulbs and reading a book instead of watching T.V. will make a huge difference in the amount of energy we consume.

My third suggestion is, TALK ABOUT IT. Start a conversation about Greening your community. Start thinking about ways to create a cheap sustainable lifestyle for yourself. Solar panels? Alternative fuels? Green roofs? It is really important to think progressively about this topic. Lots of people already understand this, so get ready to join the movement as it sweeps across the United Sates.

Just this weekend, Chicago hosted a Green Festival at Navy Pier, which showcased 350 local and national green businesses that are helping to make our future more GREEN. Mayor Daily was in attendance and delivered some remarks about his city's environmental successes. You can read more about the event here.

Go green this summer!


- Kevin Lepore

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Internet and The Printing Press:

I am beginning to think we are on the verge of a New Age Renaissance.

When Johan Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439, information was spread across the European continent like never before. The printing press enabled widespread literacy, and thus the scientific revolution, the protestant reformation, and modern forms of participatory government, i.e. democracy. Cultures started to spread and bleed into each other, which boosted creativity, and so great works of art and music start to appear. This of course all steamrolled into the American and French Revolutions. And all of this was enabled by the widespread availability of information.

Twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet. We are beginning to see the same sort of things happening now that happened five hundred years ago during the first Renaissance Age. The internet is the printing press of a new renaissance. That is an over simplification of an idea that I intend to look at more closely in the future. Nevertheless, information is becoming more widely available now then it ever has been before. People are working together on collective intelligence projects like Wikipedia and other forms of 'Web 2.0' participatory media. More people in the developing world are becoming educated. All of humanity can come together on the internet. Our cultures are migrating onto the internet, and forming the ultimate global melting pot of ideas, images, videos, music, art and information.

It's a very exciting time to be alive. Don't you think?

Ah, selah!

-Kevin Lepore

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh, I Do Lots Of Things:

Here's a list of useful ways to spend time on the internet:

1. Stumble Upon - This fun application can be downloaded for free here. Stumble Upon is a web surfing tool that allows you to attune your web surfing experience to your specific interests. Click the stumble button on your web browser's tool bar and Stumble Upon will bring you to a website that may or may not interest you. A rating system is used so that Stumble Upon can learn your likes and dislikes. This tool will help you find all of the golden nuggets hidden in the deep recesses of the internet.

2. TED Talks - Ted Talks, available at, are by far one of the most educational nuggets that I have ever stumbled upon. TED is an annual conference, where experts in Technology, Entertainment, and Design are invited to give 20 minute lectures about the most exciting advancements in these fields. Some notable attendees: Bill Clinton, Steven Hawking, Richard Dawkins, J. J. Abrams, Peter Gabriel and Bono. The talks are about a range of things; from saving the African continent and building a better (more GREEN) future, to the importance of slowing down and stopping to smell the roses, TED has it all.

3. UC Berkeley Webcasts - Only about a tenth of applicants are accepted into the freshmen class at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley. Now, thanks to the internet, anyone can attend classes at UC Berkeley for free (though not (yet) for college credit). For convenience, the university records lectures and posts them on a specially created Website. Here anyone can view an entire semester's worth of lectures in a range of subjects.

4. Hulu - is a website that has all of your favorite t.v. shows in one convenient location. Fox and NBC control over 50 cable networks, all of which post high quality streaming videos of the hottest shows onto Hulu. Such fan favorites as The Office, The Simpsons, Family Guy and Arrested development can be watched here, at anytime, for free, with very limited commercial interruption. Remember the writer's strike? Writer's weren't getting paid for ad revenues coming from sites like these - now they are.

Whether you are looking for entertainment, an education, or any number of other things, the internet has something to offer for everyone. Flip through these websites and let me know what you all think.


- Kevin Lepore

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times:

Check this out. It's a real doozy.

What do you all think about this? Is the internet evolving into "a summary of the world, deeper, broader and more nuanced than ever before?" or has it become "merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow shallow and sensational?"

I dont know. I think you have to make the call for yourself.


- Kevin Lepore

A Meme Depository:

What is this blog's purpose?

This blog is a meme depository. What is a meme depository?

A meme is a unit of cultural information, that is transmitted by humans, from one to another. I will filter the most interesting memes, or bits of culture, from my life and from the internet and deposit them on this blog.

A word about myself: My name is Kevin Lepore. I am a student majoring in English and Philosophy at Elmhurst College, a small liberal arts school in suburban Chicago. I have a passion for music, language, history and science. I am majorly interested in the ways information technologies affect societies and civilization in general.

That being said, this blog will serve as a place to learn about the ways in which the world shapes our lives.


-Kevin Lepore

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dear Students: From Elmhurst College:

The time has come! For an internet renaissance at Colleges everywhere.

Do you use the internet?
Do you enjoy writing?

Then blogging is for you!

Come join the budding blogging community, as it makes its debut on computers across the globe.

A blog is essentially an online personal publication site, which one can use to post news, editorials, gossip and other things, like music, videos and more! The word blog comes from the term web-log.

What can you do once you have your own blog?
  • Submit your stories and funny observations about life.
  • Share information, ideas and questions
  • Share papers and research materials
  • Advertise on your blog, and GET PAID!
  • Start a "blog-roll" and link your blog to your friend's blog
  • Participate in a global cyber-community

For More information about this blog email me, Kevin Lepore, at