Sunday, April 19, 2009

Disposable is the new Digital -- No, I'm not Kidding

Whoever said digital cameras were the new disposable was strongly mistaken -- or at least that's what I tried to prove to my friends Saturday night.

With my college graduation weeks away, I attempted to document my final sorority formal on two disposable cameras. It wasn't to prove a point. It wasn't to appear as if I was in any way to superior to my peers. I just felt like it.

The reason behind my strong desire to capture the classy yet semi-debaucherous acts that my classmates and myself chose to act upon is simple: no one has real photos anymore.

To top it off, the most common complaint after handing my disposable camera to a friend in order to capture the obligatory "cute photo of you and your date for your family members" photo was, "Wow, do I really have to look through this little hole to take a picture? I can't see anything!" False. You can see something. Look through the darn view finder! It's not hard.

The older that the generation born at the end of the 1980's (and so on...) get, the more pictures taken of them and their friends end up on Facebook and not in a picture frame at their bedside or upon their walls. The world is in this digital fantasy playland that they don't want to escape from. It's as if people know they can click their ruby slippers three times and then go home to a simpler time, but they don't and they won't.

There are many benefits to using disposable over digital. For example, the suspense factor skyrockets when you have no idea what the pictures you're taking look like before, during, and after clicking the shutter. There is no "instant gratification" to taking a picture on a disposable camera ... unless you count the fact that you know it will be quite entertaining to see after being developed.

Technology has and will continue to change the cultural landscape. Trends come and go based on the next gadget produced by Apple, Sony, Cannon, and the internet as a whole. It's up to the people buying and selling those products to make the final decision in the amount that they use them.

I too am an iPod using, digital camera owning woman of the 21st century. But that doesn't mean you have to abuse the privilege.

Digital camera owners don't have to downgrade and go back to using film cameras or disposables, but simply printing the photos they take instead of sticking them online would be nice.

I can't tell you how many times I've taken pictures on my digital camera with the sole intention to post them online for the whole world to see. It's a way of "showing off" what you did to as many people as possible as fast you can so everyone can see all the cool things you did. That's why I urge all digital camera users to be far more weary of what they post. Take all the photos you want but ask yourself this: is it really worth posting if it's not worth printing?

So do something new this week. Go get yourself a disposable camera, head out in that spring weather, and take some pictures. The results may surprise you!

All photos in this entry were taken by R.H. Levitin with a disposable camera, compliment of CVS Pharmacy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No. 42 Honored Today in All MLB Games

Baseball brings people together in the most wonderful way.

Today is the 62nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson bursting out onto Ebbets Field, becoming the first man of color to play the game. Everyone will be wearing number 42 in 12 parks across the country. That's beautiful.

Just thought The Chicago to DC POV should mention it.

Go Cubs.

- R. H. Levitin -

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pootch Beats Prez in Popularity Contest

Okay America, you've done it again. You've made us look like a horde of materialistic, possession obsessed, drones whose sole purpose in life is to follow and agree with media coverage.

The Obama family's latest addition isn't a giant unrealistic circus tenet for Malia and Sasha or a re-creation of a Hawaiian beach for Mr. President to catch some waves, it's a just a damn dog people.

Sure, Bo is quite the cute little pooch. He's a six month old Portuguese Water Dog and a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. But that's not the point.

The real kicker is that Bo's gotten more media coverage than Michelle Obama's fashion sense -- and we all know that the world's been keeping close tabs on which J.Crew cardigan and skirt combo she's sporting on any given day.

In one day day alone, there were front page full-length features in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Times. There were also countless informational updates on the AP Wires, blog entries and polls on VH1, the coverage appears to be endless.

And keep in mind, the dog hadn't even moved in yet. Just wait until they get Bo his own water dish, collar and leash, and countless pillow beds in every room of the house he's actually allowed access to.

At least Bo's more fun to talk about than President Obama's daily workload.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Addiction to Constant Communication Plagues the American Social Scene

What a spectacular spring-time holiday weekend filled with home cooked meals and citrus libations. The Easter/Passover weekend is a time for all of us stuck in our various college towns to spend time together and cherish the fact that we didn't have to catch a train, drive for hours, or fly across the country to be with family for a 48 hour period during the busiest academic time of the year.

Finals are approaching and tensions are high, but all of that disappears when good friends gather to chit-chat and pass the time.

A Sunday brunch is the exact fix anyone who's a month away from graduating needs in order to forget their worries and gossip about the latest inter-greek life drama that happened at last week's impromptu gatherings. It's an excuse to stress about the little things that don't matter instead of daily woes about the inevitable transition into "the real world".

There's one thing that bothered me during today's holiday feast. The constant use of cell phones for entertainment while in a room of your closest friends.

I suppose I missed the memo that read: "While at this social event (or any other for that matter) feel free to browse the internet while on your various wireless devices. They are no longer a simple phone but rather an intricate social tool to help carry on a conversation. It will encourage your time spent bonding with your friends or acquaintances by the simple press of a button. Don't know what to talk about? Go for a Google search. Want to watch the latest Beyonce music video? You Tube it! The possibilities are endless. There will never be another lull in any conversation you ever have ... just as long as you carry your cell phone at all times."

You can call me old fashioned, but I find this ridiculous. I'll admit I have been known to send the occasional text message while hanging out with a friend, but then again, who hasn't at this point? What I find absurd is the social implications people just three years younger than me seem to think a cell phone has.

It's understandable that shy person might turn to their cell phone as a tool to aid their socializing process, but to rely on it 24/7 seems a bit much.

People today have no idea that the rules of social etiquette have changed -- and it's all because of the cell phone.

There were days, not too long ago, that people who get dirty stares from strangers if they were caught talking on their phone while on a public bus or train. Before the Blackberry became a staple of the business man or woman on-the-go, sending messages via a phone while you were at a cocktail or dinner party was unheard of and slightly blasphemous. But now, anything goes.

Adults aren't the only ones with this addiction to constant communication. Children, teenagers, and college students have all caught on to the trend.

The saddest part is that this trend was self-inflicted. We did it to ourselves.

It's A.D.D. of the social spectrum. It's an infectious desire to be continuously connected and a fear that if that connection is lost, everything will fall apart.

There's no chance of a worldwide recall of all wireless devices connected to the internet but for the sake of humanity, I wish we'd all take a step back and minimize our usage.

Wouldn't it be nice to shut off those darn things and just spend time with each other? Turn off the TV. Shut down your computer. Put your phone on silent. Relax. Breathe some fresh air. And -- remember -- at the end of the day, all of those contraptions that feed you information are nothing but plastic and artificial intelligence.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Taya: The Chicago to DC POV's Pick for Rock of Love Bus

The 60 minute weekly showdowns between femme fatales comes to a close this week when Poison frontman Bret Michaels chooses a winner from the final two. Who will be it: Taya or Mindy?

Mishap after mishap and drunken brawl after drunken brawl proves that these girls have what it takes to dig their claws as hard as they can to hold on for dear life, but will that be enough to win the heart of an aging rocker?

The final showdown features Penthouse playmate, Taya, who appears to have maintained her sanity throughout the entire season of Rock of Love Bus. As opposed to her competition and supposed "friend", Mindy, whose southern drawl is cute enough to notch her a victory .... that is until you actually hear the words coming out of her mouth. The girl makes no sense and I'm sure any viewer would agree that their is a definite lack of secondary education on her part. The girl's got no brains.

Before the choice is made, it's essential to look over Micheals' previous choices.

Season 1: Jess = fail
Season 2: Ambre = fail

What do these two girls have in common? Nothing. Jess is a rocker chick whose unmistakable combination of pink and white hair during season one is a enough of a turn on for any full-blooded male searching for a rock goddess. Ambre is the sweet, girl-next-door gone sexy who had the potential to make a good wife for Michael's -- had she actually wanted to stay with him. But she did the smart thing and left.

Here's the dilemma: Mindy or Taya. Mindy would be a season one choice and Taya would be a season two choice. Please for the love of all that's holy Bret Michaels, make up your damn mind! What are you looking for in a woman: a glorified sex object or a life partner? If you want both, Taya's your best bet.

If it's a show the people want, then a show is what they'll get. Rock of Love Season finale episodes tend to be just as dramatic as the women that inhabit the cast, complete with pre-written witticisms dictated by Michaels before, during, and after a pivotal scene.

It's been the ride everyone expected but who will win Rock of Love Bus? Find out tonight at 9 p.m. on VH1.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April's One-Liner of the Month

People change, nobody stays the same. Nobody's picture perfect, you've got to step back from that frame. And even when you feel like there are no four walls to call home, you've got to know and trust that you'll never be alone.

- R.H. Levitin -

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cubs On Track To Win Third Straight NL Central Title

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- and no, I'm not talking about Christmas.

Baseball is in full swing and the back-to-back National League Central champions are out to defend their title for a third year.

The 2009 Chicago Cubs have a long season ahead but the line-up to get it done. Forget faith, this year's team has to focus on staying healthy, strong, and hanging that "W" flag atop the center field score board after games.

There is a hard truth to stomach though. It's been 101 years since the Chicago north siders won the World Series. But that's not the hot topic of conversation inside the clubhouse.

"I feel bad for the organization to have gone a long time without winning," Soriano said, "but we're not responsible. We're not the reason. We're in a new era now. Whatever happened in the past 80, 90, 100 years ago, we're not responsible.

Soriano is right. This year's team, last year's team, and any team from 1909 to the present has nothing to do the Cubs World Series drought. It's easy to scapegoat the team for an entire century's worth of failure, but there's no point in doing it now.

The Cubs have produced results despite their 0-6 playoff stint with veteran manager Lou Pinella. What the Cubs have to do now is prove themselves on the field and not to their fans.

If they focus on the game and not the media, this year's team has a solid chance at 3-peat as NL Central champs and a shot at post-season glory.

The Cubs open the season in Houston against the Astros tonight for a 3-game series and have their home opener at Wrigley Field on the 13th against the Colorado Rockies.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gavin DeGraw - and others - Re-Establish the Root of American Pop Music

The root of American popular music can be summed up in one word -- soul. It's all about the nitty gritty detail of a story yet to be told that makes American pop music what it is.

This style can be traced back to the earliest and simplest form of American story telling through music. And no -- it's not the folk troubadors of days past that started the trend -- it's the men and women who bared all they had. The truest and purest American pop music is the blues.

Contemporary pop musicians, whether they fall into sub-genres including rock, alternative, power punk, etc., all have a touch of the blues in what they write, record, or perform. It's hard not to admit that a pure, acoustic performance (live or recorded) is something that provides a listener with that sense of understanding -- they make you feel like you get what they've gone through because ... well ... you've been through it too.

The blues exists as a a coping mechanism. It enables the musician's ability to gain a sense of confidence and get a good laugh from something that's got 'em down. It's a way to get out of the dumps and make a joke out of shitty situation.That's why the blues resonate with fans when singer-songwriters incorporate that style within their own. It gives a song that "personal touch" people want.

Arists are going back to their roots and catering to fan requests for some "real" music by stripping down their once multi-track, artificially produced sounds and making music without any technical help. It's just a voice and an instrument, no computer-strings attached.

Gavin Degraw, who has tooled with this concept in the past on his re-released version of his debut album Chariot, took the "stripping down" concept and applied it his work. March 30 marked the next step in his attempt to get back to the basics of making music by releasing his latest album Free.

"I just wanted to make a legitimate record, an artist's record for an artist's fans," DeGraw told "I didn't want to saturate the tracks with overdubs and flying guitars and unicorns and shit. I wanted to keep everything out of the way and allow the songs to really be about what the songs are fundamentally, which is music and lyrics."

The sound on Free is simple, rootsy, and less pre-packaged than that of his first two releases. It features earlier unrecorded songs written by DeGraw that have become live show fan favorites such as "Dancing Shoes" and "Glass". He even included a new version of "Young Love" from last years self-titled sophomore album.

DeGraw isn't the only ace on a roll with this simpler take on popular music. Singer-Songwriter Ray LaMontagne started a noticeable trend after appearing on NBC's Saturday Night Live in March to promote his latest single from his 2008 release Gossip in the Grain, "You Are The Best Thing".

LaMontagne is known for his velvet voice, reminiscent of what Rolling Stone Magazine describes as a young Van Morrison, as well as his storytelling-songwriting style. More importantly, he's not alone.

Another member of the acoustic-storytelling gang includes singer-songwriter M.Ward. You can call him old school if you like, but his style is as pure as music comes in a digital world. His recordings and instrumentation are all acoustic. He does not record digitally and probably never will. That's what makes his style distinctive and appealing to listeners.

The push back to roots is important in today's consumer driven music market that focuses on records sales as opposed to making music. Ward, LaMontagne, and Degraw made the right decision when it comes to musicianship and they're still selling records. Maybe they've got the secret that the rest of the industry hasn't discovered yet.

Here's to hoping this band of acoustic songwriters end the digital era and re-establish the American tradition -- unadulterated music full of soul.