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Crosswalks and Gimmicks

Monday
August 26, 2013

First things first: to my Nashville crew, I'll be back in town in a little more than a week for my brother Matt's wedding. Luckily I was able to get time off from work to be able to get down there for several days, and I'm certainly looking forward to it. No matter where I go, and no matter how long I go between visits, Nashville will always be my home.

It has been an interesting summer in Huntington. The city takes on a different feel when Marshall University isn't in session. Some of it is a positive, like parking availability at my apartment complex being much better, though Huntington tends to lack the youthful energy that it does when school is in session. That's not particularly surprising, I know, but if nothing else it serves as a reminder of just how important Marshall is to this city.

But, regardless of what time of year it is, Huntington isn't all that bad of a place to live. When I moved here in 1999 it was without the benefit of knowing anyone here, so returning in 2012 I came back with at least a slight advantage comparably. It helps having friends and connections whenever possible, to be sure.

The city does have its quirks though, just like any other. One thing that has left me baffled is why the crosswalk red light on 3rd Avenue near Marshall's campus has remained active even with there not being anywhere to reach on the other side of the street with construction blocking off anything close to a walkway. Unless you want to climb the retaining fence like Tony Stewart after a NASCAR victory, there would be no point to going across there.

Yet, for months now, the red light has remained active, stopping baffled drivers who crane their necks as they look to their right, trying to make sense of the nonsensical. The photo below was taken in June, but the situation is no different now save for more advancements on the construction having been made.

Crosswalk to Nowhere

This crosswalk near Marshall leads to nowhere, yet the red light remains active for it.

If anyone has a rational explanation for this, like traffic flow reasons or something like that, I would love to hear it. I haven't heard one yet, and I work in a television newsroom, a place where few questions go unanswered for very long.

I turned 36 on Saturday, and it was interesting the way the timing worked out with Marshall and Evansville both having their freshman move-in day. 18 years ago to the day, on my 18th birthday, I was a freshman moving in at Evansville. It's kind of strange to think that was half a lifetime ago -- more than that now, and counting every day. Time waits for no man.

Road Warrior Hawk (WWE)

The talk of the pop culture world last night was Miley Cyrus' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. People have panned her bizarre act, an off-kilter rendition of "We Can't Stop" (which, I must admit, is one of my guilty pleasure songs of 2013) in which she was surrounded by giant dancing bears and channeling her inner Road Warrior Hawk with her tongue sticking out like a loon.

From there she segued into what was a brilliant transition into a duet with Robin Thicke (who borrowed Beetlejuice's suit) with his 2013 Song of the Summer, "Blurred Lines". The outrage over her overtly suggestive gyrations in the newsroom, where I was completely in the minority in my opinion (more on that in a minute), was almost palpable. Miley provoked a reaction that reverberated across Twitter, and while most of the opinions I read were negative, she left the event as the talk of the show, eclipsing Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and the rest of the A-list music stars in attendance.

As for the newsroom reaction, hearing her performance described was almost comical in soundbytes in hindsight, comments about her using a foam finger with "some guy" (Thicke) and how off-puttingly sexual she was and how her behavior had ruined one of my co-worker's Disney childhood memories. That last one in particular might not have stood out had I not watched the movie Spring Breakers earlier in the evening, which by chance I had rented on Saturday from Redbox with a freebie birthday rental code the company had texted to me.

For those of you who haven't seen the film, which I rented primarily to see how Jeff Jarrett would do in his cameo (quite well) and how accurately St. Petersburg was portrayed (over the top but with characters that all resembled exaggerated versions of people I ran across at one point another during my five years down there, from the party girls to the thugs to the vacationers to the drug dealers to the strippers), it is a very edgy movie with a flimsy premise that, most notably, featured former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.

So, with that fresh in my mind, not to mention memories of Britney Spears' 2000 performance or the Britney/Christina Aguilera/Madonna three-way kiss from 2003 (Britney and Christina are both also Disney alumnae), I had plenty of ammunition to choose from in presenting a dissenting opinion on that point.

Also, the portion of Miley's performance with Thicke was a direct allusion to the controversial but brilliant video for "Blurred Lines", which took advantage of the internet era to reach millions and millions of viewers with material (at least in the explicit version) that never would have made it to MTV in any era. Granted, there weren't any foam fingers in the video, but it certainly fit with the vibe of it.

But, while I had all of this information at my disposal, I didn't say anything. Wonder why? Two reasons: one, I had a newscast to put together in a setting where every minute is valuable, and two, I've learned through the years that making even the most well-crafted arguments to an unreceptive audience is usually a losing proposition. So I saved it for here.

There is a way to do sexy and classy, and there are plenty of examples of it; a particularly good one that I saw mentioned on a message board earlier today was this sultry offering from French singer Alizée. But that wasn't the point -- and since when have the VMAs ever been about being classy? As it is, MTV almost never plays music videos anymore, opting instead for the cheap-to-produce, high-yielding amateur improv fare billed as reality television. If a musician wants to make an impact statement on MTV, the VMAs are far and away the top platform from which to do so.

In short, if the goal was to generate a response (even if it contained the vitriol from some corners of the internet that was the equivalent of thc crowd response to Hulk Hogan turning heel and forming the nWo in 1996), it was a grand slam for Miley Cyrus. Twitter exploded, which leads me to my final point: in this era, airing any east coast live event on tape delay for the west coast is ridiculous.

If anything truly memorable happens it will be online before you can blink, and people en masse who are prevented from seeing it live based on their geographic location can turn to the internet and watch it before you finish sending the first round of cease-and-desist emails. That in itself is an exercise in futility, a real life version of Whack-A-Mole.

Particularly in the DVR era, with live programming being more valuable than ever, to take something of great interest (even an outdated concept like MTV airing a music video award show) and prevent a large portion of the viewing audience from seeing it live is an antiquated line of thinking. Eventually that will change and everyone will get to see live events at once (even you, Hawaii), but for now it's a When Worlds Collide clash caused by those in power who stubbornly insist on going the tape delay route.


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