Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Unrequited Love: Top Gear

By: Michael Lenoch

Top Gear is a show that features insightful reviews of practical everyday cars, to seemingly ironic critiques of ear-splitting supercars, as if that was to say they were cost-efficient or worth their generally steep prices. By this banner of Top Gear at the top, it may appear as a generic, European-centric science show. Well, I can confidently say, it is not some explosive-laden, destruction-filled show made for 12-year-olds; but rather, much more.

To avoid monotony, the producers always seem to know when to break from reviewing cars. This is done by throwing some challenges and celebrity appearances, where the celebrities take a spin on the Top Gear test track in a 'reasonably priced car' into the mix. But as for the challenges, they vary from utterly absurd and unlikely endeavors of impossibility, to demonstrations that may actually prove useful. For example, in this segment on "Cars for 17 year olds", there are moments that serve as comedic relief, although I don't imagine this challenge would be found as useful by anyone -- it's purely intended to be entertaining. And does a solid job doing so.

The car reviews progress as an average novel, film, or video game review would, and use understatement and fictitiousness to their advantage. Each review is captured by a camera in the car itself, as well as several cameras places periodically throughout the test track. Top Gear's test track was previously owned by Lotus Motors, and serves as a great litmus test, filled with wide variety of broad and sharp turns and a quarter-mile strip of runway that gauge the acceleration, top speed, grip, and overall performance of the given car quite accurately.

The reviews themselves have a distinct formula that nearly every successive review either improves upon, or follows exactly. Traditionally, the reviews come to a "But", "However", or "Although", and sometimes may even degenerate into harsh and senseless criticisms, eviscerating either the most minute or gargantuan failings of the given manufacturer. But what makes the reviews genuinely entertaining are the gleeful expressions any of the three presenters may use. This comes as refreshing to know the person you are watching on television is actually enthused with whatever he is presenting and loves his job, not himself.

The Stig is Top Gear's mascot. He is a wordless driver, dressed in white Alpinestars overalls, with a white helmet, whom of which outmatches any of the charismatic hosts in terms of lap times and inherent driving skill.

To the credit of BBC, the "identity of the white-suited Stig ... has been an open secret within the motoring world for some years, with newspapers refraining from publishing his name, to uphold the spirit of the programme." I simply love the unabashed approach the Top Gear crew embraces in order to run with the unknown racecar driver cliché, or in this case, the Stig.

There are very few programmes that can rival Top Gear's level of entertainment value, and for that matter, even fewer auto shows. The sly, gentlemanly British sense of humor makes Top Gear even more appealing.

As an American, I adore the blatantly honest criticisms of cars that have been all but conspicuously absent on even the most enthusiast of networks here in the land of the stars and stripes, such as the Speed Channel. I doubt I will ever tire of watching Top Gear. Good on ya mates, and motor on!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How the Prevalence of Technology Affects Us Directly

By: Michael Lenoch

Specifically, the internet, one of man's many impressive innovations in technology throughout the past 100 years has rendered as a primary aid to many, and a detriment to even more. As a preface, according to Wikipedia, one of the most cautiously trusted, yet popular websites of today, the year 1996 witnessed an enormous growth of internet users, up to a 100 percent increase. Personally, I can remember as a mere toddler witnessing the rudimentary AOL screens my father browsed as he shared information with friends throughout the early nineties. Now, the internet has spanned tremendously throughout the past several years, so much so, that computers in schools are becoming a commodity. This is both for better and for worse: children have an entire world of information at their fingertips, yet with such information it's as if children these days are implicitly being encouraged by their parents and teachers to live unscrupulous and unconcerned lives, lacking the thoroughness their parents boasted. As parents haven't grown up with the internet, they generally don't understand what it is like to become less as thorough in one's work or research, and ultimately do whatever they can to encourage leisurely internet "research" or "learning", scouring the mostly trustworthy words of Wikipedia.

From my own perspective, living in America, industries always seem to be on the move, businessmen seem to never be ceasing, and people driving on even the most tranquil of suburban streets are constantly rushing to reach his or her next destination. Psychologically, as most people these days seem to essentially live, or carry out business, communicate with friends or family, read the latest news, listen to music, or to conduct any number of a modern human's day-to-day needs on the internet, peoples' rushed lifestyles seem to be directly be correlating to the streets, boardrooms, and classrooms of today.

To demonstrate this 'failing' [by traditional standards] of a generation, take a look at any given message board. Message boards are intended to serve as virtual places where people can intelligently communicate and share opinions on specific topics. For the most part, any message board that is not met with sufficient moderating is doomed to fall to the wayside and to diminish in popularity, as the discussions will inevitably lose their focus, and no longer will users exemplify a desire to talk in-depth about the given matter or topic. Coincidentally, when researching to get somewhat acquainted with the topic of the 'short attention-span generation of internet users', I entered that very query on Google, which yielded this message board discussion: .

The original poster says:

"Does the internet encourage short attention spans?

I was at an internet site a few minutes ago looking up some code (DOM event models as it happens ;)) and although I was at an excellent, visually appealing site with just the sort of content I was looking for, I found myself instinctively scanning the page to find the information I wanted as quickly as possible, get the information in a hurry and then head off (after a quick bookmark I will probably never see again) somewhere else.
I think this might be a symptom of internet search culture, in that you are forced to analyse information at a fast rate in order to find the best site and good content, or risk getting bogged down in poor sites and pages.

I scan the serps looking for the ideal match, click through several sites after looking around briefly to see if the result was a good match. If I don't find it fast, I'm outta there.

Which would be fine if I only did this when trying to find a good site, but now I'm catching myself doing it on really useful sites too...

I'm sure we've all seen lots of 'hit and runs' on our sites in referrer logs. Designers (and SEOs) are encouraged to put the content we think visitors want as noticeably and as high up the page as possible, so we are teaching visitors that if it's not there, it's not a match.

Is it just me? Do I need to take some deep breaths and stop drinking so much coffee, or are attention spans on the web destined to go the same way as TV audiences?

Be interested to hear any thoughts :)"


In that message board discussion, the participating users commonly misspell words, and often neglect grammar rules, which is a similar behavior to that of the average YouTube user, commenting on any number of videos. Why is it though, that internet users generally always seem to be in a hurry, or carelessly cobble together words that are supposedly representative of some asinine thought that no one else but him or herself will have any hope on earth of understanding? Now how was that for long-winded?

As a perfect example of this short attention-span generation of degenerates, my sister demonstrates a lack of desire to think or contemplate abstractly. In school, she thinks with a single-layered intellect: "Do the work, quickly." It's possible she's been influenced by my father's strict, Machiavellian-like work ethic that he has surely ingrained in her, or even a lifestyle she's carved out in order to cope with her homework load. Her lack of any perceivable abstract thought whatsoever may be due to the way her friends communicate or perceive the world, which is on a single-dimensional, or concrete basis. Though, if my sister were to speak intelligently among, [which by that, I mean not saying the word "like" every sentence], it would be considered obstructive or strange, when the descriptive depiction is not entirely necessary. So, it all comes down to context, I suppose.

But even then, supposing "it all comes down to context", ignores how shallow her intellect truly is. And to me, that's not fair. People like myself, who think of politics, society, and current events in-depth are rewarded on a relatively rare occasion in terms of grades, with English papers and History essays for example. While schools have become more attune to teaching students with pitiful vocabularies and an unassuming imaginations, recommending concretely-minded mathematicians to prestigious universities, while the Philospher Kings [like myself, of course], by their innate abilities may as well get them no where. For all intents and purposes, no one cares in this day and age how beautifully one can construct a sentence, but how efficiently one can solve a problem that requires no extent of imagination. We are sorely in need of a renaissance. God knows how many mechanics working at Mike's Tires and Oil Shop are secretly brilliant composers of spirit and word, without half knowing it themselves. I digress.

As I come to a close, the most interesting part of all of this chatter is how people in this modern age are nearly encouraged to carry out these simplistic, mathematic, take-it-for-what-it-is type of lifestyles, and are gratified even though they rarely seem to exude any degree of thought. We who think outside the box are flogged and discouraged. Whoops, there goes another artist of superb intellect. Gone forever.

By my own observation, it is a shame the common populace of today demonstrates such little discernment that was once present many moons ago. People seem to instinctively carry out the processes of life, and to let the flow of life carry them.

"Does the internet encourage short attention spans?" Webmaster World. Web. 20 Sept. 2009. .

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2 Cents on Shopper's Remorse and One's Core Values

By: Michael Lenoch

Every time I have purchased virtually anything, I have felt some degree of remorse. Be that a far cry from my bohemian roots, or how I grew to perceive the world and distinguish the value of hard-earned money, I am what one may call a "Saducee".

For all my life I have thought in terms of extremes. Take a car for example, and what young boys hope to one day do with them: to customize or upgrade. I envisioned any number of modestly priced cars I hoped to one day assume from the standpoint of a ten-year-old, fully decked out in anything from improved exhaust systems, to mildly necessary body kits, purely for cosmetic and unique purposes. The other side of the spectrum exposes one of my core values as well. By the earlier end of my teenager years (which are currently in progress), I hoped [and still do] to move to Germany, and to appreciate what truly matters in life, outside all of the glamour and glitz that occupies our unquestionably secular lives. Sure, I do in fact take time to relax in my backyard, not only by playing soccer, but also taking my dog on walks throughout the unadulterated plot of 8.8 acres of land that sits alongside the yard. At the United States' core, essentially every citizen has the ambition to achieve that particular person's ideal extent of wealth or success. This is not a negative thing per se, but capitalism does indeed by its very nature, promote an expansionist-like ambition in many of the workers that blissfully reside within it. To provide a concrete example, imagine the 8.8 acre plot of land that sat near my backyard. Sadly, within a few years, that very plot of land could very well be gobbled up by some young and inspiring real estate agent trying to get a buck or two. Therein lies on a microcosmic level, how as populations across the world grow, "vacant", or otherwise wildlife-inhabited parts of the world will continue to diminish.

Recently, I took the time to very briefly snoop my sister's room and view her numerous treasures that render her carpet ostensibly invisible. Lying throughout her room, which is larger than that of my own, were absurdly tall leather, and presumably expensive boots that I was shocked to witness my sister's possession of them. Over the past few years, day after day, my family's computer's Internet Explorer tabs would be occupied by Nordstrom's, Neiman Marcus, and Free People shopping carts, ready to buy hundred-dollar shoes, boots, jewelry, dresses, skirts, and God knows what else. This is in all my expressible honesty, a travesty to use the fewest possible words of the English language. I ask for so little from my parents, yet day after day, my sister inevitably will insist on them ordering her a new article of clothing online, or them dropping her off at a high-profile, opulent mall, that mind you, is not what one would call "close".

But from a different perspective, this circumstance can be viewed as healthy for me. As I witness my own sister ask for anything that will supposedly lead to her heart's content, I know that having such a materialistic outlook on life is bound to lead to failure or ultimate discontent. By asking for such an innumerable amount each month, my father begins to think he is buying my sister love. Saying "thank you" in most cases is an empty gesture, devoid of meaning or spirit. I haven't the slightest clue as to how my father would understand a "thank you" or even a sign of appreciation, such as a smile, or a gasp of excitement as she would witness the package for the first time as a gesture of love. I think as of late, my sister's unreasonable desire for clothing and accessories has somewhat slowed, and my father has realized taking out checks for things that truly are not quite so important in life are not top-priority.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Breaking away from Exhibitionism: Facebook

By: Michael Lenoch

Such has our world as of late been consumed by the social time-sink, or Facebook. To my outspoken dismay, this is to the detriment of modern teenagers.

Never has there been a website that nurtured the average teenager's ability to glaze over the website's own text. You're with it if your Status is short. You're not if it's long, or if you gave it any thought at all. You're with it if you quoted a recent popculture reference verbatim. You're not if you come up with a clever aphorism of your own that provokes some thinking.

Facebook, otherwise known as the electronic organization of brainless commentary and social interaction, is a vomit-provoking site to say the least. Meaningless clubs that supposedly pair Facebook members with similar interests, coupled with endless and unremarkable messages and Statuses are certain to leave one with the thought: "Why did I ever decide to join Facebook in the first place?"

To quote Andy Ostroy from the Huffington Post;

"What started out as a social networking site for college kids has somehow turned into a cesspool of self-absorbed way-too-old-to-be-fucking-around-on-Facebook adults who think that the rest of us actually give a shit about what they're drinking, eating, thinking, reading, watching, and/or are listening to every five minutes. They post their top 5 records, movies and TV shows. They post "25 Random Things About Me" lists. And they tell us constantly what they're "fans of." One person is a fan of "grilled cheese." I kid you not. What have we come to when grilled cheese has its own Facebook page? Someone clearly has way too much time on their hands."

To think people who attend my school know various people purely from his or her Facebook profile is a social nightmare come true. The site is inundated with depraved teenagers who use Facebook as a way to "express" him or herself. That's not expression, that's beating someone over the head with all of your interests and activities at any given moment that no one cares to the slightest degree.

"The site is overcrowded with attention-starved [teenagers] essentially screaming "look at me... look at me!" all day long. They change their profile photos as often as I change my underwear, and they've somehow convinced themselves that their lives are infinitely interesting all the time. The "audience factor" is just way too attractive to these folks. It's drunken karaoke without the booze and the bad singing, but with all the requisite self-indulgence."

In what instance will I ever in my lifetime find any of this information useful whatsoever -- senseless musings of obviously confused teens, the regurgitation of music lyrics, and the stereotypical ignorance teenagers have been so apt to promote and reinforce.

But in the spirit of a carefully orchestrated crescendo, I must confess how I initially became a Facebook member. By my Sophomore year, I transferred to a new school. Prior to that time, I wisely neglected becoming a Facebook member, thinking, "It's simply not for me." But when I did in fact, break down and submit to the ubiquitous Facebook regime, there was nothing particularly remarkable, even from the outset. Sure it was helpful to get to know people before I stepped foot in my new school, but Facebook is a depressing waste of time that blares in your face how little people care about you no matter how little, or considered your contributions are, especially relative to your fellow self-absorbed peers.


Ostroy, Andy. "I Hate Facebook." The Huffington Post. 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 2 Sept. 2009. .