On: Branding, Spunk, and Giving a Damn.

I think I’d miss a number of things about the actual, tangible, printed edition of the newspaper if it ever disappeared. I’d miss the struggle to fold the paper on a crowded subway car. I’d miss working through a crossword puzzle, eraser always in hand. I might even miss that daily test of the sidewalk on a wintry morning, as I gauge whether or not I can make the run from my door to the newspaper without needing shoes.

But beyond that, I’d certainly miss newspaper slogans. The New York Times“All the news that’s fit to print” wouldn’t make much sense in anything other than ink; besides, NYTimes.com has unlimited storage space. (And “All the news that’s fit to click” just doesn’t have the same ring.)

I’d forgotten about other slogans, though, until I clicked over to the website of The Nantucket Independent, a newspaper I worked at five years ago (!). And right at the top of their site, I saw their new slogan. I’ve spot-shadowed it here, but go ahead and click on the image to get the full thing.

“The newspaper that gives a damn about Nantucket,” it reads. Simple, direct, and compelling. If that’s not a good enough reason to keep subscribing to a paper like The Indy, I’m not sure what is.

Porkus Maximus.

There are a number of Latin phrases that I’m particularly fond of. Among them: “Ex nihilo nihil fit.”

Which means, “Everything has its origins in something.” 1. Except, apparently, this.

If you’ve come here from Twitter expecting to find news of swine flu in Doloma, Missouri, well, sorry. There’s no swine flu in Doloma. If you type it into Google, you’ll find that here’s no such town as Doloma. 2. And you really need to stop clicking on every link related to swine flu. Calm down, and go wash your hands. We’ll be fine. I promise.3.

I’ll leave you with a final thought: “Ut totus amicitia.”

Which, if Caesar was a Bugs Bunny fan, would’ve meant something like, “That’s all folks.”


1.) It also means “work is required to succeed,” though I can’t say I support such a viewpoint. >back to article

2.) For the record: “ex dolo malo” is Latin for “from fraud.” >back to article

3.) This promise based on no scientific research or proof on my part. >back to article

No Matter What You May Have Been Led to Believe, I Do Not Have a Rabbinically-Related Bacon Sex Obsession

A serious, actual warning: this blog post contains material that is mildly pornographic. If you are my parents or anyone who is seriously considering hiring me — with the exception of the fine editorial board over at the Adult Video News family of publications — I advise that you just click here to read my more, uh, kosher material.

End of warning.


I am writing today because I am concerned — as many of you are, I imagine — that millions of American men are under the impression that Jewish youths fantasize not of Catholic schoolgirls or slightly-submissive cheerleaders but of bacon-wielding Rabbinical scholars.

Perhaps I should explain.

Where to start is a hard question 1.. When I was a kid — in the clean, wholesome 1990s — companies were in the business of using sex to sell Pepsi or Chris Rock albums instead of, well, sex.

Even when the President decided to let the other zipper drop, all the American people got were a few Slick Willy jokes. Those were simpler times.

But as Y2K closed in, something changed: doctors at Pfizer realized that their new blood pressure medication wasn’t doing what they they thought it would do. And now they needed a megaphone to tell everyone of the side effects they’d discovered. Meanwhile, the NFL needed a new sponsor; those 1-800-COLLECT ads weren’t going to survive. So if you’re looking for a moment when Americans became weirdly okay with talking about sex in public, I’d nominate Viagra’s first TV ad campaign as the tipping point.

A decade later, we’re completely unimpressed by overt displays of sexuality on television. If you watched the NFL Draft this weekend, you were probably exposed to equal amounts of Cialis advertising and draft analysis 2.. If you watched on a satellite provider, like Dish Network, you saw an additional dose of ads for something that’s called — with all irony intended — Extenze. And may I remind you: in 2004, a famous entertainer exposed herself to nearly a hundred million Americans. It is no coincidence that the incident took place at halftime of a football game.

Lately, we’ve been channeling our sex obsession towards pornography. Two weeks ago, an obituary for an adult film actress was featured on the front page of The New York Times’ website. The Washington Post ran a multi-part series about the Maryland state senate’s quest to squash a public showing of a pornographic film titled “Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge.” Porn isn’t taboo anymore; it’s actually headline news.

Even today’s sex advertisers are evolving with these social changes. They’ve actually started to — and I cannot believe I am typing this — microtarget to consumers.

Microtargeting is a technique that only slightly predates Viagra. Give much of the credit to Mark J. Penn — a political consultant for the Clintons, among others — who coined the term “soccer moms.” He started a movement among political-types in which society is fragmented until you’re left with only homogeneous groups of people. Those people — soccer moms, NASCAR dads, Rednecks for Obama, or whomever — are then sent as many political mailings as the USPS will legally allow.

Then there’s another side of microtargeting: localization. Specific advertisers — say, supermarkets — want to be able to advertise to the people who live within a few miles of their store. So they’ll mictrotarget their ads only to those consumers. It’s easy to figure out who those consumers are, too: your Internet IP address is basically a Lo-Jack for your computer.

What’s frightening about today’s sex advertisers is that they’re microtargeting to both specific demographics and local markets; they’re actually customizing their smutty ads to your liking and locale.

On a theoretical level, microtargeting makes sense. If you can gather information about an Internet user — Dan, age 21, Jewish, enjoys baked goods — and can pinpoint his location — Columbia, Mo. — then you can deliver an ad that cuts directly to what I like and where I can buy some of it.

But this really only works well if you’re looking to get me a good deal on hamantaschen in mid-Missouri. It does not work as well when you’re trying to sell sex.

Which, finally, brings me back to the matter at hand: a disturbing new series of Internet advertorials that have brought together Jimmy Dean breakfast meats and shiksas in a way I never thought was possible.

(N.B.: The following screenshots have been reproduced directly. With the PG-aged in mind, I have edited in leavened distractions to block any unsightly parts of the photo. Other images have been slightly Photoshopped to blur out 3. what matzah could not.)

The advertisement features a number of slides that progress every few seconds. I’ll start with the first slide:

Initial thought: what’s with the fake beards? And I don’t even want to guess what they’re trying to sell. To the next slide:

First things first: I belong to a synagogue in Washington, D.C., that’s lucky enough to have not one but two excellent female rabbis. So I’m not entirely sure what this ad is getting at by asking “if.” But to answer the question at hand: no, even as a young Jewish man, no, I have not had that fantasy.

Also noteworthy: I still have no idea what’s being sold here. Next slide:

Now’s the point where I start to really wonder how customized this ad is for me. I mean, ass-slapping? With pork products? And it’s not like the Google search that led me to this ad was “Lesbian rabbis AND ass-slapping AND the other white meat.”

And I’m completely clueless as to what’s being sold here. From what I can gather, it appears that Johnsonville may have finally gotten into the kosher breakfast meat/sex toy industry 4.. Still, there’s no way I’m clicking away now. To the final slide:

Now here’s where microtargeting can go really wrong. Sure, I suppose that there’s enough Jewish stuff about me on the web to figure out that I like Tu Bishvat as much as the next guy. Yeah, I’ve written one blog post too many about matzah, I suppose. And I’ve managed to slide a Shabbat mention into my work before.

But there are ZERO Jewish women in Columbia, Mo. Trust me: I’ve been looking for them. And now some smut advertisement is telling me that there’s a cult of slutty, Rabbinically-dressing girls 5. somewhere in this town?

I’ll believe that the day someone convinces me that Catholics guilt their children better.

Now, the ads turned out to be for a website that’s kind of a Match/eHarmony/J-Date-gone-smutty. I wasn’t previously aware that such a service existed. I suppose it would make for an unusual answer to the “So, how’d you meet?” question at the wedding, though.

Regardless, there is a lesson here for advertisers: be careful with microtargeting. You can’t always be sure that you’re actually reaching your target audience. Personally speaking, I prefer pastrami to ham.

And another thing: are there really that many Jewish-taboo-breaking-ham-lovers to even warrant such a targeted ad?

I’l leave you with a final thought: this ad could’ve taken a page from the 1990s. This decade, we’ve been using sex to sell sex. I think that’s the wrong tack.

Sex sells others things pretty well. Had I been shown the above ad — and then been asked to click through to buy a honey-baked ham — I think I just might have considered.


1.) Yes, that’s what she said. And if you get bored of that, add the words “in bed” to the end of a sentence. That also works well with fortune cookies. >back to article

2.). Why it seems like a good idea to mix Mel Kiper, Jr., with subliminal sex advertising doesn’t fully make sense to me. His mustache must have something to do with it. >back to article

3.) I do not think it is a coincidence that when blurring out the less suitable parts of these photos, I used a Photoshop tool that measures the strength of the blur in something called “hardness.” Hey, it wasn’t my idea. >back to article

4.) And if there ever was a company to get into the breakfast meat/sex toy industry, you’d want it to be named Johnsonville. >back to article

5.) Also: I really cannot imagine how the company solicited actors for this ad. “Wanted: 36-24-36 non-vegan for photo shoot. Experience working with large, salted meats preferred.” >back to article

My Resume, in Brief

I was looking at my résumé this afternoon and struck by a strange realization: the thing is three pages long, including references and clips. Ideally, I’d like it to fit on a page. So what follows is an exercise in brevity: my work in journalism, in one — albeit very long — paragraph.

When I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. It seemed like a good idea at the time. ❡❡ At 15, though I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it, I got an internship working at States News Service in D.C. By summer’s end, I’d been published in The Boston Globe. This gave my parents the unfortunately false impression that I was talented. ❡❡ Then I started working as a stringer at Redskins games. I became good at interviewing people who were wearing towels. I still consider it one of my most developed skills. ❡❡ I spent the next summer working for The Nantucket Independent. While journalists from The Globe and the AP were mocking John Kerry for his windsurfing skills, they were citing my opus on Nantucket politics in their stories. I also improved my in-towel interviewing technique, only this time, I was the one wearing them. ❡❡ The Kansas City Star gave me an award for sports writing the next year. In K.C., I tried the local barbecue for the first time. I selected the University of Missouri as my college destination that same day. ❡❡ That spring, I interned at The Business Gazette in Maryland. Four years later, some of my articles still show up the later pages of my Google results. If you go even deeper into those results, you’ll find out that, apparently, I have children and am bald. ❡❡ I showed up at Mizzou in the fall of 2005 with a dream: to learn how to tell stories via any number of platforms. I also wanted to see ESPN’s “College GameDay” come to campus for a football game. I was ambitious back then. ❡❡ Soon after, I worked at The Washington Examiner, where I learned how to cover the Nationals in less than 350 words per night. Non-Nats fans still wonder how I managed to fill those 350 words. “They lost, again” is only three. ❡❡ Back at Mizzou, I became a student senator so that I could change the school’s ticketing policy for sporting events. I started DJing at the college radio station, too. In four years, I have still yet to figure out how to work the station’s phone line. (573) 882-8262 is the request line if you’d really like to test me, though. ❡❡ The next year, at CBS News, I produced radio stories about Presidential frontrunners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Fred Thompson. We were all quite sure that one of those two was going to win. ❡❡ Last summer, I worked as a political exile multimedia journalist for The Rocky Mountain News in Beijing. They let me do stuff that I’d prefer the Chinese not know about. ❡❡ Now I’m graduating from Mizzou next month with a degree in convergence journalism and minors in spanish and sociology. ❡❡ I’ve mastered a number of technologies — like Final Cut Pro and Photoshop and Flash and CSS/HTML and Audacity — as well as digital photography. ❡❡ The only thing I didn’t learn, I suppose, was how to get a job. ❡❡ Maybe I should’ve taken classes in that instead.

Swing and a miss.


Mizzou junior outfielder Greg Folgia had an impressive game against Texas Tech, including a home run in the 2nd inning that extended his hitting streak to eight games. But after one late inning strike out, Folgia took out his frustration on his bat by actually screaming into it.

The bat was not available for comment after the game.

However: I did have my camera with me at Taylor Stadium today. Check out a few additional photos from today’s 9-5 Mizzou victory over at my Flickr page.

Twitter Has Killed Small Talk. (Or: Why We Are Less Interesting Than Ever.)

If you are like the majority of Americans — and I suspect that you are — you suffer from a severe condition that scientists typically refer to as “not being interesting.” I, myself, have more than two decades in the field, and after extensive research, I feel compelled to note that only a small percentage of Americans have anything useful to say.

A slightly larger percentage of these uninteresting Americans are, however, entertaining. But I should note: this condition is not the same as being interesting. This is the reason why people who become stars on YouTube are infrequently consulted when it comes to matters of national importance.

The problem is that we, as Americans, are quickly becoming less interesting. Naturally, I would like to blame Twitter for this decline.

Research shows that blaming Twitter for things is now the number one media pastime in America, just surpassing “baseball metaphors used in a political context” and “finding new excuses to subtly insult that woman on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ for her looks.” We, the media, love to blame Twitter, because those articles will soon be Twittered by potentially millions of people, which, in turn, should exponentially increase the size of our Twitter followings. There is a good reason why the number one most re-tweeted article yesterday was about the rise of narcissism.

Now, I have been using Twitter since the fall 1. I liked my first tweet — “attempting brevity,” I wrote — and little else. I’ve surpassed 1,000 tweets. I have potentially read thousands more. I cannot say that my life has improved as a result.

However, I do feel comfortable saying that I am less interesting than ever. There is a good reason for this: Twitter is killing small talk.

No longer do I have those go-to questions to ask friends; instead, I’m finding out the answers in real time via Twitter. And we, as humans, are not interesting enough to maintain small talk if you take away our most inane questions. Now that I don’t need to ask the basics — “So, how are the roommates?” or “Did the test go well?” or “Was that you I saw passed out face down in a pool of nacho cheese on 9th Street Tuesday night?” — I’ve been left with the cold realization that I’m not that interesting 2.

And the Twitterati will say, “Shouldn’t you have more to talk about now that you have access to regular snippets of information about friends?” Hypothetically, yes. Sadly, few of my Twitter friends are tweeting about topics such as the search for absolute zero. And even if they were, their tweets would just get lost among the avatars on my screen. Imagine that a formula along the lines of “E=mc2” was discovered today. Sure, it’d get re-tweeted 3, but only if Lindsay Lohan wasn’t currently trending on the site.

Look, I understand why Twitter users are so fanatical about the service. Information delivered on-demand from whomever you want is a pretty good deal.

But may I remind you: we are a nation — to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld — built on nothing. Now that we’re microblogging our nothingness, we’re emptier than ever before.


1.) I use Twitter as a personal news ticker to monitor what’s happening right now (or what happened in the last 15 seconds). I don’t scroll down to see old tweets. Anything that’s far enough down the page has probably been written about in a space that’s measured in inches, not individual characters. >back to article

2.) Completely unrelated tangent: Ashton Kutcher has a million online followers (though, for the sake of this comparison, I’ll add these words: “per month”). The New York Times has 20 million monthly followers. So why does Kutcher get more publicity? Maybe if The New York Times had a “followers” or “articles published” counter on their homepage, people would take notice. >back to article

3.) “RT @aeinstein: OMG this is WAY bigger than relativity!” >back to article

UPDATE: Jason Kottke defends Twitter for its banality.

H/T to Robert Scobie for the image.

My Life in T9 (or: One Last "Woo-Hoo!" for Alexander Graham Bell)

Girls hated it. Well, maybe “hate” is the wrong word. They didn’t understand it, really. The strange thing is, every time I’d explain my situation to a girl, no matter where she’d grown up or how popped her collar was, she always had the same look. I got used to it, eventually. It was a look somewhere between incredulity and confusion, the kind of look you’d get if you asked a class of third graders to dissect Dostoevsky. Girls just did not understand this complication of mine. In all their years, I was often the only one they’d ever met in such a situation.

I use the word “situation,” because that’s what it was to them. It was something I’d learned to deal with, I’d tell them jokingly. But truthfully? Life really was better without it.

They didn’t see it that way. They’d cast me that look — always that look — and try to find the right way to phrase their next question. Sometimes, they’d scan me over, searching for more overt signs of my madness. And when none were to be found, they’d part their lips just so, and a few words — always the same words — would slip out:

“If you don’t have text messaging on your phone, then….”

A pause, their minds turned into a personal T9 — the cell phone predictive text feature — trying to sort out the words and cues buzzing in their brains.

“Then…. how do you live?”

The question was never asked with a smile or a laugh; they were always serious. They’d hush, waiting for my answer. Sometimes, they’d even put down their phones, thumbs akimbo, desperately seeking justification.

But how to explain such a life choice? Voluntarily, some two years ago, I called up my cell phone provider and asked them to block all incoming text messages. No longer would I fear that brief whir, my phone spinning on the countertop, a ringtone jingle fading as quickly as it had arrived. No longer did I worry about flipping open my phone to find “R”s or “U”s masquerading as full words, punctuation lost in the rush to 160 characters. No longer would I awake from a mid-afternoon’s nap to see one simple letter — “K” — and wonder why I’d been stirred by a non-vocal affirmative.

Girls did not understand this. I would explain that, no, it wasn’t that hard to survive without texting. It wasn’t like I was depriving myself of human contact. I was still reachable via any of my three email addresses, plus instant messenger or Facebook.

Or — and this typically drew the most confused look of all — I could always be called on my cell phone. I only had about 500 minutes per month, I’d say, plus free nights and weekends. So I was always happy to actually talk via phone.

Sometimes I’d get a nod back, or at least a smile that showed that they didn’t think I was completely crazy. Oftentimes, I couldn’t even get that. I began to realize that I had a personal public relations disaster on my hands.

Last year, I caved and bought a text messaging plan: 200 texts for $5 a month. I’d finally accepted that there were two situations in which I liked texting: 1.) At sporting events, when the volume of cell phones in a single stadium sometimes makes calling impossible, and 2.) For brief, GPS-type purposes during those crowded or just-too-freaking-loud-to-hear occasions.

Initally, I didn’t even tell friends that I’d unblocked text messaging. I let them know slowly, my phone’s message inbox pinging infrequently at first. That was last fall. Some friends kept calling, which I liked; others decided that the sound of my voice — or the threat of entire minutes of small talk — wasn’t worth the bother. They started texting frequently. Lately, it’s only gotten worse.

College students don’t use texting like I do: as a last resort. As a demographic, we use it to make dinner plans or — increasingly — to pass along a random line from whatever Andy Samberg’s latest “SNL Digital Short” was. The two word message — like a stray status update directed, for whatever reason, only to me — is as popular as ever. “Just showered,” SMSed one friend last week. “You would,” said another. “What up” my phone reads, over and over again, the question mark lost in our digital drain.

Last month, I noticed that 200 texts had become an imminently reachable monthly milestone. That became even more evident when I went to AT&T’s website and discovered these words:

“AT&T bills for all messages whether sent or received, read or unread, solicited or unsolicited.”

All of those unwanted texts — every “k,” and especially every “i’m on a boat” or “when bruce willis died at the end of sixth sense'” — had pushed me far past my limit of 200. And each of those overflow texts started costing me, sometimes just a dime, or sometimes more. I didn’t ask my parents to send me a video message of the JumboTron shuffle game at that sporting event. But they did, and it cost me a quarter each time.

The obvious solution for me is to bump up to the next level of text messaging plans. On AT&T, that means going unlimited — and I’m just not prepared to make such a change in lifestyle.

The thing is, I still prefer actually speaking to people. Like yesterday, when a random-but-pertinent thought popped into my head, I gave my friend a ring. I heard him sigh over the phone. “You’re wasting my minutes,” he said. I found that strange. This friend pays for about 1,000 minutes per month and gets free nights/weekends. In the four years I’ve known him, I do not believe he has ever reached that 1,000 minute plateau — and I’m adding up all of the time he’s spent on the phone during those four years combined.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at my latest phone data right now. I have 366 anytime minutes remaining this month (I started 15 days ago with 500). I have 4,852 night and weekend minutes, and 1,748 rollover minutes. Hypothetically, I have enough minutes to talk for nearly five full days without incurring any extra charges. Logically, I expect to use approximately two percent of those remaining minutes.

I should note, though: when prompted, AT&T didn’t send me that update about my minutes via email or the postal service.

No, quite naturally, they sent it to me in a text.

(H/T on the photo above to user kiwanja, via Flickr.)

Re-living Tiananmen Square, via Panorama

For the sake of this blog post, let us assume the following three premises are true:

1. The Internet is constantly evolving.

2. McCartney and Lennon were not lying when they suggested that things are getting so much better all the time.

3. I have an unbelievably large archive of photos of Beijing residents going crazy during the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, I tested out a newish multimedia collage program called VuVox tonight. The goal: to repackage a story I produced on Aug. 8, 2008, from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Above, find the new version, which really needs to be viewed in full screen to be fully appreciated (or wide screen, via this link).

Below, you can find the original version of the story: “Tiananmen Square During Open Ceremonies.

I am Bigfoot

In the north, they speak of this creature called Bigfoot. Perhaps you know him as the Sasquatch. He is a creature of great size, they say, often documented but rarely seen. To anthropologists, he is the Holy Grail of woolly beasts.

So you can imagine my surprise when, today, flicking through some old images on Facebook, I realized that I may be the Sasquatch.

Perhaps I should explain.

You see, I have an unusual habit of appearing in the backgrounds of images on television or in newspapers. Often, I appear out of focus, an amorphous blob, cloaked in earthy golds and blacks. I imagine that to the world, I am an enigma, an unknown. I am the bottom line on a DMV eye chart: a mere blur.

Perhaps, at least physically, it is too easy of a comparison. I am 6’5”. I wear a size 13 shoe. My hair swings from kempt to unkempt with the slightest breeze.

So to further explain, I’d like to present examples of the existence of this Dan Oshinsky… er…. Bigfoot (and, though this is not for the faint of heart, click on the images to see a larger version):

Here I am on January 16, 2006. I appear on the far left of the image, slightly pixelated, left hand gracing an uncouth beard.

CBS cameras caught me on March 4, 2007, in St. Louis, mouth ajar, as former Creighton basketball point guard Nate Funk stands statuesque at the front of the frame. Again, I appear to be sporting unruly facial hair.

Just weeks later, on April 7, 2007, I was spotted on ESPN, out of focus as I exchange greetings with a slightly more humanoid figure wearing gold.

Local photographers in Columbia, Mo., captured me more than a year later, on October 10, 2008, lankily striding in front of a black minivan, just paces behind Senator John McCain.

Finally, on March 26, 2009, I was spotted by several outlets in Phoenix. CBS cameras found me, again in gold, here:

And Sports Illustrated featured me, blurry as ever, here:

What can we learn from these images? For one: there is no definite proof that I am not Bigfoot. The physical similarities are remarkable. The dedication to such a tangled mess of facial hair is undeniable.

So to anthropologists, I say: perhaps one day, you will find me. Or, perhaps not. I am, after all, unmistakably blurry.