Understanding “On the Road” in Columbia, Missouri

I sat with an old woman at Flatbranch bar last night.

Although not a Royals fan, she flailed her arms and cried at the flatscreen TV hanging above the bar’s glass bottles when Kansas City lost. I struck up a conversation with her asked why she was upset. She told me she couldn’t stand to see a team from Missouri lose.

This was her state after all and she told me stories of her German heritage and of her Catholic upbringing and of a Civil War battle on her property near Jefferson City. She then told me about her college days at the University of Missouri in the 1960s.

“On campus everyone was nicer then,” she said. “Nobody’s nice around campus anymore except, well, you.”

I laughed. That wasn’t true. But it was interesting to me that she felt that way. I had just finished Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and reflected on what life must have been like back then — Jazz music, drugs, women, cars racing up and down the roads. From the old woman’s perspective and Kerouac’s, people probably did seem nicer or at least more exciting.

Kerouac gives us rich description of his experiences in “On the Road” from the bustle of Times Square to the horn-honking Mexico City where ambulances zipped through traffic without slowing down. Maybe the old woman, too, remembered her days through that exciting beat-lens of happiness and freedom without a care for money.

Despite the rich descriptions of the adventures and people, “On the Road” ends with the main character, Sal Paradise, looking out into a New Jersey river and longing for his pal Dean Moriarty. It’s a sad ending to a book where Sal desperately tries to find his next “kick” for 300 pages but finally realizes the only thing that matters is his relationship with other people. The book ends like Tom Petty’s “American Girl” song, where a woman standing alone looks out into the ocean and thinks about an old lover. “God it’s so painful when something that’s so close is still so far out of reach,” Petty wails.

So, back at Flatbranch bar, the old woman thanked me for being nice to her. I grabbed her number and promised her I’d call. My buddies laughed at me for talking to the old lady as we walked along Broadway back home.

And, as we started to discuss other plans, I thought about Kerouac and how relevant “On the Road” is to people even today. Then, I thought about the old woman at the bar and wondered how she was doing.


Clear eyes, shirts off, can’t lose

When Kolten Wong stepped to the plate Sunday night, some Cardinal fans had lost hope in the game and in the chances of winning a World Series. Not me.

With Game Two on the line, I repeated what I did when David Freese hit a game-winning bomb in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and what I did when the Cardinals rallied for four runs in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. I took my shirt off. Yes, I removed my tomato-red Cardinals gear from the top half of my body, exposing my chiseled (read: pale/unflattering) chest.

The baseball gods did not disappoint. In the ensuing pitch, Wong launched a solo shot to right field, winning the game.

Some call it magic. Others call it coincidence. I call it faith.

You see, I don’t really believe fans can alter the games with “lucky” socks or switching seats. That makes no logical sense. But what does make a difference is when a person or group of people unite in belief. Just like in the movie “Elf,” if we all believe, it will happen.

Faith, by definition, is an act of irrationality. Many of my rational friends who are Cardinals fans do not have faith in this team winning the World Series and often do not have faith even in their own lives. “It’s better to just be prepared for the Cardinals losing it all,” they say. “That way, it will be easier to move on.” Sound familiar?

Better question: Move on to what? Your average, pessimistic life? No, I refuse to live that way. In a world of faith, life is suddenly exciting and wonderful. And even if the Cardinals win the World Series, I still have faith that something good will come to those who believe.

So, yes, this October my shirt will be off for my team. I will be “Shirtless in St. Louis.” You may think I’m stupid or crazy but I’m just here to have fun and spread love for the cause.

Clear eyes, shirts off, can’t lose.

Sourcing and framing

Every article is framed, whether you like it or not. Journalists choose who to talk to and who not to talk to in articles which causes frames.

Since frames are unavoidable, journalists shouldn’t concern themselves with with whether or not their article is framed. The better question: is a frame transparent, so readers don’t feel deceived, and is the frame done effectively? Any educated reader knows to seek out multiple viewpoints on an issue, so reading both “Smell of money” and “Bad air” adds different perspectives on the same issue. Both articles are framed effectively, but, on their own, they do not give the complete picture.

“Ya’ll smell that? That’s the smell of money”

Bryan Mealer frames the beginning of the story from his family’s point of view. He openly talks about his own perspective on oil booms and then launches into stories from others involved in oil booms, giving his own commentary on those stories. Mealer also uses official sources in his story, including the University of Texas. I like the use of “I” as it adds transparency to his reporting process, and, although he didn’t interview or write about everyone who was involved in oil booms, at least his writing style was honest. The frame in the piece clearly demonstrated he was writing from his own experiences and observations of big oil in Texas.

There only photo in the piece was of an oil truck rolling down a Texas highway. The photo shows the pervasiveness of oil in Texas.

“Big oil, bad air”

It’s worth mentioning that the framing in this article is done by three different news agencies, meaning many different perspectives went into creating this piece. The story begins with a personal lede, focusing on a how oil and gas booms affect a couple’s health. The story then uses “official statistics” frames, citing researched facts, and talks to scientists, another “official” source. After reading “Smell of money” I feel like I have a more complete understanding of the oil and gas boom story in Texas. These two stories alone, though, do not give the whole story of big oil in Texas.

The photos in “Big oil” give a distinctly anti-oil feel, predominantly using photos of people suffering from the environmental issues and big, ugly oil flames burning into the blue sky.