My Thoughts: Life After Vermont

Vermont has been everything that I dreamed it would be. But I am not destined to spend the rest of my life here.

I’m going to start with the positives. Vermont has brought me out of my comfort zone, and opened my mind to new ways of looking at life. I came here claiming it’s the “Wisconsin of the north east” and while I still believe that, there are a ton of differences here that I never envisioned. The hospitality and warmth of the people here is just as much as that famous “Midwestern hospitality” that I grew up with. I’ve met some great folks who have taken me under their wings and shown me some beautiful things about this state.

Vermont’s beauty truly rivals the beauty that I loved so dearly of central Wisconsin. Everything that I thought I would experience as a resident of Waupaca I feel as though I have experienced here. Vermont ended up satisfying the “countyside” in me so much that I’ve started to yearn for a bigger city.

I managed to finally achieve something higher than my high school diploma. CCV was a wonderful experience, and while I didn’t “Bianca Del Rio” it, I came fairly close.

UVM would have been wonderful. But unfortunately things didn’t work out. Two different departments advised me that the only way to get in-state tuition at UVM was if I submitted a birth certificate from Vermont, a marriage license from Vermont, or a property deed from Vermont. Because I didn’t have any of those, tuition would have been $19,000 per semester for me. I applied for private loans, knowing the big hole that would put me in (roughly $82,000 for two years worth of school!) and in the end I was denied. What I take away from the experience was that I was still accepted to UVM, so a public ivy league was willing to give me a chance. For the longest time I never believed I was capable of anything big, at it was a nice glimmer of hope. It gave me a renewed sense to try again.

The gay community here is so much smaller than Milwaukee. It’s also much closer knit than Milwaukee or even Chicago’s was. I can definitely appreciate that everyone knows each other but at the same time, it’s hard to break into that circle. I was also a little disappointed to find that the annual Pridefest in a state that has practically led the nation in LGBT equality was only a single Sunday afternoon, compared to the whole three-day weekend that Milwaukee throws each year. Again, I would imagine that it has more to do with the smaller community than anything else.

So what’s next?

For the longest time I was looking at Portland, Oregon. I made several references to moving there and was following some local news. It seemed like the perfect fit. What killed my interest in it however, were the riots that broke out there after the 2016 election. The fact that so many people would cause so much ruckus and harm over Trump, while they admitted they didn’t vote in the election just left a sour taste in my mouth. The other piece that Portland was missing was the concept of me finishing a bachelor’s degree.

When I came to Vermont, I wasn’t honestly sure how my education was going to play out. I knew that CCV was my first stop no matter what because of my record at Parkside, but I honestly didn’t have a plan for what to do when I got to UVM. Finding out that Business required Calculus just to qualify for the major, I panicked and tried to come up with plan B. Luckily, I really started to enjoy my time at my first hotel, and started to wonder if there was something more too it. When I got to really taste the hospitality industry at the Hilton level, I really started to believe more and more that this could be the kind of career advancement I have been searching for.

I just wanted to quickly add: when I lost my spot at UVM, I definitely had a good long thought about even trying to finish my bachelors. I have been disappointed in myself for not finishing in 4 years, although I’m comforted to know that it’s becoming the national average for 20-year-olds to spend more than 4 years working on their degree. What changed my mind about it was actually a book I read in my final year at Parkside, titled What Is The Purpose Of A Banana? It’s written by a man who went for his doctorate degree, just to prove he could do it. Obviously a bachelor’s degree would open up so many doors for me, but I’ve reached the point in my life where I want to prove to myself that I can finish my bachelor’s more than what the degree can do for me.

All my hotels had planted the idea in my head of going for a bachelor’s in hospitality management. UVM didn’t offer that program, and the closest they could come would have been Parks, Rec, & Tourism. Not a bad program, but considering the price tag it wasn’t going to be worth it. I found out that both of the hotels closest to my heart had founders with colleges named after them. Days Inn, started by Cecil B Day is reflected in the Cecil B Day School of Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University, and Conrad Hilton is honored in the Conrad Hilton School Of Hospitality Management at the University of Houston.

Now, both of these colleges are located in the South. Everyone who has met me knows how important having four seasons is a year is to me, and going to either of these colleges would break a 28+ year mental tradition. While I have absolutely enjoyed my experience with Days Inn, I am more attracted to the luxury of the Hilton brand. Houston is a far bigger city compared to Atlanta. Tuition for the Hilton College of Management is actually thousands of dollars less expensive than the Cecil B Day College. Hilton offers so much more to it’s own employees as well. There’s a reason they have consistently won the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For award. I keep telling anyone who asks that my experience at Hilton Garden Inn is “my Drag Race” and “this is my going on TV to compete for $100,000.” I think that getting the Hilton College stamp of approval & bachelor’s degree would be me “winning” my “Drag Race.”

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From this, I’ve been doing a scan of the Houston area. I’ve been asking the exact same questions I asked myself 4 years ago about Vermont: Can I live here? Would I be happy here? What does this area have that I don’t have here? What is the purpose in moving there? And so on, and so on. No matter what, I know that when I leave Vermont I want it to be a completely new-to-me area of the country. I want to go through the experience of starting at square one and building myself up again. It’s a challenge that I think has really shaped my ability to be an adult, and I want to grow like that again. I can already tell you which places I’d like to work at in Houston, I have three different apartment finding apps giving me a general feel for the cost of rent, and I’m looking into daily life like grocery stores and gas stations I’d be frequenting. I’m also watching the weather forecasts there regularly enough to get a feel of what it’s really like.

Being Houston, the events I’d want to see would all likely be making a stop there – The Welcome To Nightvale live shows, HUMP & Savage Love Live by Dan Savage, and live performances by more of the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of these big shows that feel so out of reach to me in Vermont would become accessible again. I’ve even peeked in at the Houston UU church to get an idea of what being a regular member there would be like.

Furthermore, with my own political views shifting (note that I consider Milo Yiannopulous to be an icon of mine), Houston would be an ideal spot to grow on that more. Not that Vermont political parties aren’t active, but I feel like I’d have a more involved learning experience in volunteering for the Harris County parties. There’s also much more selection for community theaters in Houston as well, plus a wider range of professional theaters to enjoy. I’ve been patiently keeping my stage management days on hiatus, but I’d like to go back to them someday. Being in a hotel where I’d have a set schedule (of sorts) I also feel like I’m in the right industry to go back into community theater again. I still stand by that it’s a great hobby to stage manage, since it wasn’t going to be a career for me.

In an ideal world, I’d like to celebrate my 30th birthday at the start of my post-Vermont life. Since 30 opens the door to a new decade, I’d like that decade to start in a new location for me.

And that’s where I currently stand on my future.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Inspirations: Michelle Visage

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The show may be called RuPaul’s Drag Race, but it’s honestly Michelle Visage that I look up to more on the judge’s panel. Nothing against RuPaul, but Michelle is someone that I see myself relating to more and wanting to emulate.

Michelle Visage is fierce. Most queens tend to be scared of her more when they first get started because they all know that she will call them out on their crap if they don’t give it their best each and every time. At the same time, she’s also very encouraging to anyone who is showing off their talent. The two moments that particularly stand out to me in her role as a judge are with Chi Chi Devayne and Ben De La Crème. In “New Wave Queens” as Chi Chi was complaining about being poor and not having the money, Michelle stops her excuses and reminds her that the show is meant to lift everyone up, and be the best they can be. She also reminds Chi Chi that you have to put in the work and look harder at thrift stores and other places if you don’t have as much money to pour into your career.

Ben De La Crème is one of the famous “I feel like we’re hiding behind another costume….I don’t think we know who you really are” stories. Michelle calls Ben on it during “Glamazon by ColorEvolution” and expands on this critique during “Drag Queens Of Comedy.” The idea of being vulnerable and versatile is such a running theme of what the judges look for in the contestants, that Bianca Del Rio used it as a famous joke in the episode “Drag Queens Of Comedy.” Both of those two concepts are things I strive for in my personal and professional life, and the better I get at them, the higher I climb.

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Michelle Visage is always able to back up any critiques she has of the queens, and makes hundreds if not thousands of references to various aspects of pop culture going back into the 50’s and 60’s. This comes from her background in radio and the groups she ran with in New York. She goes into great detail on this in her book, The Diva Rules, available on Amazon and Audible.

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Another life aspect that Michelle Visage has opened up about is the plastic surgery she has gone through. She’s expressed regret for how her breast implants have gone wrong and caused medical difficulties for her, but at the same time she does not blast the concept of having plastic surgery as a whole. I enjoy her candid conversations with RuPaul on their podcast about getting cosmetic work done, particularly since I have had one of my own and have been very seriously considering getting another liposuction.

Michelle Visage acts as a mother to the Dag Race cast as they tour the world. She often compares taking care of the Drag Race cast on the BOTS tour to caring for her own two daughters. I see myself as a motherly figure to my friends, and have often see myself as a mother figure to children of my own someday in the future. Michelle is a great representation of the kind of mother I’d like to be.

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Michelle Visage echoes many people who have given me life advice, and pushed me to make a better life out of my own. I cannot express enough how important it is to have that teacher and mentor in one’s life – to get you to grow and do better. That’s the very reason why I document that here on this blog and have a whole category of people and characters who help me to be a better person.

I’ve seen Michelle Visage live once, for Milwaukee Pride 2016. Someday I plan to buy the VIP Meet & Greet package for the BOTS tour and shake her hand to thank her in person.

Thank you Michelle Visage, for being an inspiration!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Politics

Like many other posts in my blog, this one has evolved as my views have grown and I’ve gotten more of a voice for my thoughts.

Years ago, I used to identify strongly with “liberal” and my only political understanding was through far-left LGBTQ-specific online media. As I gained life experience, I started to realize that LGBTQ issues are not the end-all-be-all of politics. In 2011, I discovered David Pakman, and spent the next 2 1/2 years listening to his Independent Political talk show on a daily basis. David opened my mind to realizing that there’s many more issues that affect the United States (let alone the world) on a regular basis. Also in 2011, on Twitter, I discovered @Shoq, who has taught me more deeply about the system of politics in the United States, and the nuances of how it works. Moving to Vermont has also had a major impact on my political beliefs, having been exposed to a very different political picture that what I was expecting when I first moved here.

Political Ignorance

What I didn’t realize until recently was how seriously uneducated the general United States public is on politics, both national and local. Forbes and Salon have some great posts that explain this. Furthermore, large groups of people use the internet as an excuse to avoid being active in politics. Here’s my proof of that.

While I understand that the above video comes from Libertarianism.org, I’d like to point out that many of the points it makes are things I’ve seen in my own life with growing frequency. So many people around me have not been able to tell me basic facts about the legislators who are supposed to represent them. In my Business Law class, one of the test questions asked “Name the justices on the supreme court” and I know this was a bit of a struggle for some of my classmates.

I am proud of the fact that I’ve at least been following political sources for over half a decade now. I can name most of the supreme court justices. I know who my congressmen and women are. I understand the system of checks and balances in the branches of government, and understand why they exist. I know how the political system works – specifically that it’s not a one-night deal. Political change takes time.

I understand that there are people out there who believe in the bliss of being politically ignorant, but I fiercely oppose that viewpoint. Living in ignorance of what’s going on politically (both nationally and internationally) is where the plots of George Orwell’s 1984 and the film, V For Vendetta come from. With this being said, my first and foremost political stance is to be informed.

This is a great place to get started on learning about politics for the newbie.

Political Extremism

Another issue is that there’s a minority group of people who are on the extreme sides of politics. I used to be at the extreme left end of the political spectrum, and have learned through life experience that political extremes are dangerous. Between leaving my first University and moving to a different part of the country, I’ve seen how being more moderate is far more rational and reasonable.

The above tweet sums the 2009-era me uncomfortably well. Many of my political views were more black and white than I was willing to admit at the time.

I believe that one of the root causes of the rise of political extremism in the United States (and the world) is the advent of social media, which gave a voice to all the extreme people in the world. When I think of typical political terms like Democrat, Republican, Liberal, and Conservative, my brain defaults to what has become some very extreme examples, such as Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer. Because of that, I tend to have an immediate bias for or against something or someone as soon as one of these terms is used to describe them. This is a bad train of thought, because I begin to filter out and ignore people/sources that I assume that I won’t agree with, based simply on a single word. The same bias that many non-conservatives accuse Fox News of having I’ve displayed myself. This was wrong of me.

It took having friends with different political affiliations for me to realize that using terms like this as umbrellas to encompass anyone who uses them is wrong. Thus, my second political stance is for more listening to others and more cooperation with others instead of the extremes. More on that here.

Here’s a discussion on this:

Political Independence

I see myself moving away from the political mainstream. United States Politics, in my opinion (though there’s plenty of evidence to back this up!) is becoming very polarized and turning into an “us versus them” type of mentality. As I grow in my political journey, I find more often than not that I don’t fall neatly into one specific party (i.e. Democrat). I like the concept that each of us can think for ourselves and we can come to our own conclusions about the world and how to operate within it. With this in mind, and understanding that being raised in a country where individualism is highly praised and celebrated, I consider myself to be politically independent. I am proud to keep an ear to the ground and evolve my views as I gain life experience.

This is a sign that political independence is a growing movement in the United States. The extreme form of this movement shines in secessionist groups. This listing (from a site based right here in Vermont!) points out that there are plenty of people in the United States that are seriously trying to make states secession happen again. While the concept of a secession is too extreme for me, I am growing frustrated that terms like “Democrat” and “Republican” conjure up corporate sponsorships and massive money being spent on politics, with money seemingly drowning out people’s voices.

I use the term Progressive to describe my political orientation, but I find myself slowly leaning a little closer to libertarian as I spend more time in Vermont. At the end of the day I use this word both because of where I stand on today’s political issues, and based on which issues are important to me.

I do feel that there is a large group of conservatives who consider themselves to be “morally righteous” and this is a problem among liberal and progressives as well. This is another article on how online liberal-identified people are becoming monster-like. A Season 7 contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race received death threats online after being eliminated from the show. These threats came from self-identified “fans” of the show. Now, if you call yourself a fan of a show about men putting on wigs, dresses, and make-up (yes, this is a giant over-simplification!) and you feel the need to attack someone for doing so, there’s only so much credibility you can give yourself and your beliefs. Fans of the show very rarely fall outside the politically left-leaning area, which is what made that controversy so much more disgusting, because the amount of hypocrisy there is scary.

Furthermore, I’ve found similar attacks coming from self-identified feminists. For a few weeks, I was wrapped up in a Facebook Page that produced daily screen caps of feminist extremes, and people using feminism as a tool to attack people, much like how religious zealots attack Queer people. I discovered YouTube clips that further discussed this, and became so immersed that I began to question the very concept of feminism.

No matter what my beliefs are, I never want to be so entrenched in them that I am unreasonable about listening to other people. As a Unitarian Universalist, my core belief is to learn from as many other people as I can about life, be it positive or negative things.

What finally made me take a step back was realizing that the sources for all of these presentations was a mixture of serious libertarian sources, but also conspiracy theorists (yes, I was listening to Alex Jones for a brief period). Again, it becomes critical to listen to the material, but also consider the source. It’s education 101. From there, the next step is to craft my own opinion and belief, rather than just parroting off what I’ve found. While there are many libertarian points that I can agree with, I find it difficult to agree with many conspiracy theories.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts: Hotel Industry

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I have ambitions of managing a hotel. My background puts all the pieces together that covers the services of a luxury brand. I have worked in restaurants as a host, busser, and trainer for all front of house positions such as serving and bartending as well. I have worked for a home cleaning maid service, so I understand that aspect. And now I work the front desk at two different hotel chains, so I’m building my experience on that end as well. While my experience is being built in Vermont, I have plans to move out of state upon attaining my degree.

Hotel management has a wide variety of options open to me. Hotels have various markets and brands, from economy level for the budget conscious, to the luxury and five star levels. Hotels can also vary from motels (where cars are parked outside of individual guest rooms) to casinos, to managing guests on a cruise ship. Many hotel management companies also mange apartment rental properties. The American Hotel And Lodging Association, a trade association for hotels and the lodging industry claims that in 2013 there were nearly 53,000 hotel properties in the industry. Each one of those properties has anywhere from one to several managers, depending on corporate chain standards to independent hotels that only need a single manager. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the range of hotel management positions that are available. As hotels are more clustered in urban areas, this is also where most positions are available.

Hotel management is less strict about requiring a college degree to perform the job functions. Instead, a bachelor’s or master’s degree would give me the option to negotiate a higher salary with the company that I would work for. The higher I climb in the organization, the more academic skills are necessary to accomplish the job requirements. While a low-level manager or supervisor might be expected to write the staff schedule and train staff, a general manager would be more responsible for accounting and financial management and marketing of the property. Many of these skills can be attained through on-the-job training in lieu of a formal degree. Payscale.com indicates that the education and experience that is most valuable to increasing salary is budget management. Hotel managers whose strength is budgeting, and more than ten to fifteen years of experience are the managers who push the higher end of all salaries, in the $90,000 to $100,000 annual salary.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2014 median pay for a lodging manager was $47,680 per year or $22.93 per hour. Entry level-education was only at a high school diploma or equivalent. There were more than 48,000 jobs with that title available, and the outlook for job growth 2014-2024 was 8%, which is average for all occupations.

Because hotels are generally open 24 hours, evening and weekend work is very common for a hotel manager. Stress is common in this field because of the hours worked, and the pressures of having a manager title. What lays the foundation for my skillset in this field is my background of doing stage management in high school, at my first college for 2 years, and my experience in stage management at a semi-professional theater just outside of Milwaukee for 4 years. Stage management teaches the basic management skills such as time management, effective communication, and file organization. Academically, I am building on that with an associate’s degree in Business management, and plan to contiune on that at the Hilton College of Hotel Management in Houston, TX. When I think of a luxury hotel, it generally has a bar and restaurant inside of the building with the rooms and pool and other amenities.

In addition to my work experience, I plan to be certified by for general management. Having the trade association stamp of approval gives more depth to what potential employers would be looking for from me.

What’s the best way to stay abreast of hotel trends? I follow several prominent travel bloggers, who all utilize the reward programs offered by not just hotel chains, but airlines as well.

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I’ve become very familiar with utilizing the following on a 24 hour notification basis:

  • Direct Bookings using Branded Apps
  • TripAdvisor as the #1 Hotel Review Website
  • Online Travel Agents such as Expedia and Priceline
  • Admin Apps for Expedia Reservations (EPC) & Booking.com Admin app (Pulse)
  • Hotel Meta Search Engines such as Kayak and Trivago
  • Hotel Coupon Sites, namely hotelcoupons.com

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Health Advocate

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My keyword for 2016 (and beyond) is health. I’ve been ignoring my own for a while, and it shows. This post can only cover so many things in one go, but I’ll give it a try!

Issues I care about:

Vaccination

As someone who was vaccinated on time after I was born (plus having a mom whose professional title is registered nurse!), I’m an advocate for vaccinating children on time. It’s been scientifically proven to curb the spread of curable diseases. Vaccines do not cause autism. Raw Story refutes 6 common Anti-Vax myths.

A friend of mine wrote a book on this subject, and she can defend it better than I can. Check out her book here. Mark Zuckerberg has a book from his club that talks about it.

I believe that anti-vaccination advocates are conspiracy theorists.

Obesity, Proper Nutrition & Physical Fitness

Body image is something that I’ve struggled with since 2001. I am obese, and have been since roughly the 7th grade. While I have sympathy for the “body acceptance movement” I do agree that obesity is still something we need to fight against, and the epidemic continues to grow (pun intended).

With that being said, I feel that it’s an ocean of opposing forces working against getting a healthy body. I have personally experienced how difficult it can be to fight sugar addiction, such as not drinking soda any more. This is at the core of why I believe that corruption has influenced corporate food service. It’s a scary thing to realize that 10 companies control almost everything that we consume in the name of food. What’s scarier is that the market for gyms and fitness centers is so focused on profits that it’s not so much about getting people healthier, but just trying to make a profit. There’s an internet meme that says:

Don’t write one more post about obesity until you can explain to me why a salad costs $7 and a hamburger costs $1.

I can completely understand this. My wallet thanks me when I choose to buy cheap junk food instead of pricey organic vegetables. Furthermore, I’m not a skilled chef in the kitchen, so I’m very unaware of all the great recipes for vegetarian dining out there.

I believe in more awareness of local farmer’s markets and spreading great vegetarian full course options.

HIV and STI awareness

STI rates are skyrocketing. And it’s not just gay men. I feel like not just the millennial generation, but the population as a whole has gone completely flazèda when it comes to safe sex. Honestly, I don’t even have words to offer about what to do, since the current concept of “safe sex education” seems to have ground to a halt when it comes to effectiveness.

For gay men over 40, it’s as if we’ve come back from a war that was far away and distant to most Americans even as it was happening — not unlike the actual wars we’ve experienced in this country in the past decade. -Michelangelo Signorile

I think most people under the age of 35 have forgotten the major AIDS crisis, and the number of lives it claimed. There’s a disconnect where today’s generation feels like it’s all just history now.

Proper Sleep

These days it’s too easy to lose sleep. Our several screens are keeping us awake, in addition to the rest of life’s problems that we constantly worry about. It’s occurred to me that even by having a TV in the bedroom also contributes to the problem. It’s so obvious that sleep is very important to each and every one of us out there. Sleep deprivation is a health hazard.

I used to hate the following quote, now I find it not only accurate, but I believe in it:

“I’m very proud if Grindr has forced us to up up our game. To brush our teeth. Comb our hair. Eat right. Go to the gym. Be a healthy person. Cut back on the smoking. Cut back on the bad things and look your best. We’re men. We visualize. We see before we hear, before we think, before we do anything else. That’s how we are. I haven’t changed that. That’s what our evolution has taught us to do. I certainly go to the gym more because of Grindr. I’m competing with the guy a space away from me on that grid.” – Joel Simkhai, CEO of Grindr, speaking to Michelangelo Signorile.

I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this in the months to come.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: The News

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Why it’s important:

For the past near-decade now, I keep saying that my news reader app, Feedly (Though I used to use Google Reader) is the most important app on my phone. It’s the one I check constantly, it’s where I learn so much about what’s going on in the world and understand what to be looking for when I leave the house.

Twitter has been a piggyback on that for me – most journalists are on twitter, news breaks on twitter, and I have several mentors and close friends whom I first met on Twitter. I’ve learned about men’s fashion from the Tie Guy, progressive politics from Shoq, and how to look at the world differently (and interact with it) from You Too, Can Be A Guru. A close friend who works for a TV news station and I first met on twitter at a conference years ago.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to constantly finding the latest story about the world. I pride myself on being a storyteller, and it’s my spiritual belief (as a Unitarian Universalist) to spend time listening to other people’s life stories and making my own life better for hearing them, that it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to the news.

How I Got Started:

I first got hooked in 2010 when I discovered what an RSS reader is and does. I learned through “the magic” of Google that website updates can be organized chronologically and like a magazine to be read at one’s leisure and bookmarked to pick up right where you left off. That was Google Reader. After starting my college education in 2006, I started trying to soak up as much of the world as I could like a sponge, since I spent much of my childhood in denial that there was a “rest of the world” out there. I made different categories for the different things that interested me – LGBTQ Issues, Politics, Technology, Finance, ect. I even found out how to plug in blogs and Facebook/Twitter feeds from friends, to keep up with them better. Eventually Google closed down reader, and I’ve had a home at Feedly ever since.

Over time, I refined my sources. The two sites I first ever plugged in were JoeMyGod (LGBTQ Issues) and Mashable (Technology). From there, I kept looking for new sources. I started with the places they quoted from. I found David Pakman on iTunes and started looking up his sources, like Raw Story and Think Progress. The point was to learn. The point was to know what was happening at any given moment. I started looking up local news sources like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and eventually Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press. There’s a number of people that come to me with technology questions, and the only reason I know how to answer them is because I’m armed with information from places like TechCrunch, Business Insider Tech, and MacRumors.

Bias In The News & Media:

As I continue to grow in my reading, I have come to see more and more about media biases. The bias in media isn’t “Liberal” per se, but rather money. Taking a cue from David Pakman & Shoq Value, I agree that the media market seems very controlled. There is an excellent infographic that can be found here that demonstrates this point perfectly. I make a specific point to seek out independent news sources whenever possible. I have rarely been to the website of a mainstream TV station (or seen a broadcast) in the past 6-10 years.

Money talks in media. The common reference is that “Fox News is owned by the republicans” and “MSNBC and CNN are owned by the democrats.” Here’s some evidence behind that. I think it goes even deeper than that. It comes down to the advertisements you see while browsing the web, on your phone, ect. Yes, I do have a specific political leaning, but part of my journey when I came to Vermont was to open my mind more and look at the world from a different perspective.

Bernie Sanders brought up this very point in his book, Outsider In The White House. He says:

Positive stories are ignored, negative stories are played up…It’s hard to win a fight against someone behind a TV camera. We need to keep thinking about it.

The context for this quote is that he’s talking about a local Vermont news channel’s bias against him in a 1996 election, but the idea applies in so many different ways. How often do you hear any happy news stories being played, not only on TV but online and in print? Happy stories don’t bring in viewers and page views, but negative and “shocking” stories do. Fox isn’t the only station that uses this technique to hook in viewership. Bernie goes on to talk about the media blackout of opposition to the Persian Gulf War in the 90’s.

Furthermore, specific people and companies tend to be shown more favorably on different media channels, and it’s because there’s an exchange of money for it. I don’t blame news companies, per se – they are businesses too after all, but it does make it difficult to take journalism seriously when you see if time after time after time.

There is a major difference between News Reporting, News Opinion, and Entertainment. Corporate media blurs the lines between all three of these. For the longest time, even I was blinded to the differences. I used to see the two political opinion show hosts I follow (David Pakman and Rachel Maddow) as political reporting, when in fact they are opinions and not strictly reports. And yes, Rachel Maddow is part of the corporate conglomerate that is MSNBC – I do see that. What I enjoy about Maddow is that her show (in my opinion)  falls on that blur between news opinion and entertainment.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine began working for a local news station that I watched regularly, that I started to understand what actual news reporting is. Of course, local news channels aren’t independent, they are franchises of their corporate versions, but for the most part, I feel they get much closer to actual reporting. Watching FOX 6 in Milwaukee is a different experience than watching the national Fox News network. Generally speaking, there’s not nearly as much effort to make local news pieces controversial. In my lifetime, I’ve noticed the subtle things that media will do to make events seem more controversial than they really are, in an effort to hook as many people as possible to them. I have been trying to train myself to speak objectively in as many situations as possible, and this blog will become virtual proof of that, assuming I ever get around to not talking about myself and my own life on here.

Another media platform that is sometimes overlooked is radio. While 40% of the world’s population has internet access, more people have access to an AM/FM radio, which is where the radio industry originates from. Now, many radio stations have obvious corporate backers, and independent radio stations have risen up. The David Pakman Show  started out as a radio program. RuPaul and Michelle Visage got their start in radio. This is part of why I get so excited about Podcasts, which I feel is my generation’s way of bringing radio back into the mainstream.

The bottom line is that I want my time and consumption dollars to be spent on media that’s not funded entirely by corporations that are only using the media to further their own interests. I believe that journalism should be about telling the story because it is compelling enough on it’s own, not because a reporter is being paid to tell it through a specific lens. And before you comment – I do recognize how “idealist” this sounds. It’s just my opinion.

Media Overload:

Every so often, I go through a cycle of cutting off some of my sources, if only for a little bit. I experience news fatigue. There’s just so much information coming at me in my own feed (Feedly, Facebook, plus Twitter is quite a lot), that I can’t handle all of it on the level that I used to. I actually tried to watch Pakman on TV instead of keeping up with his show via Podcast, and it got too overwhelming to constantly have to go in and add his videos to a playlist before I could watch them.

I’m curious to see if that rings true when/if I do go back to regularly listening to Pakman.

The news will always be important to me. For a brief period, I even considered changing my college major to journalism/communication to pursue it as a career. As I continue to look to it for my information, I will continue to improve my reading not only the articles themselves, but reading between the lines and seeing where the story is coming from and who wants it known. I’m looking forward to continuing to look at different sources, listening/reading about life from different perspectives, and expanding the way I see the universe.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Seasons

I am the kind of person that needs four seasons in a year.

Why do I need four seasons? It’s because I have a need for constant change, constant evolution. The changing of the seasons is a perpetual reminder that time moves forward and we are always growing and moving on. Each season is special, but also finite.

I’ve noticed that many people in this world can’t stand cold and snow. If they are born in an area of the country where it’s a normal occurrence, they complain about it and hate it whenever it happens. I love it, in it’s time. I chose to move to Vermont from Wisconsin because I still need that time of year where the ground is covered in snow, the chill exists in the air, and the peaceful silence is there for reflection.

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Winter is my favorite time of the year to go outside walking. It’s great for reflecting, for listening, for stillness and getting rid of stresses in peace. Poetically, it’s a metaphor for death – the end of a previous life. We celebrate the end of each year during the winter (at least, in my hemisphere of the globe). During winter I like balsam and cedar candles, wood scents, peppermint in my coffee.

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Spring is the poetic metaphor for birth. It’s a time when the light is coming back. It’s a time for the green grass to take over again. It’s a time for new beginnings, the birth of a garden. For me, spring is captured in the floral scented candles, images of flowers, caramel and sweet creamers in my coffee. Spring is also often “the penultimate test” for me, because it ends with school graduations. Having spent so much of my life surrounded by academia, I’ve always though of spring as “the end” of a year, which is why I’m always telling people that my “New Year’s Day” is somewhere between May and June.

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Summer is the metaphor for life. It represents happiness and joy to so many people. It’s the “normal” for much of the world, and it’s what those who hate the cold dream of every day of their lives. I capture it in citrus scented candles, lemonades on the porch, hazelnut creamers in coffee. Summer is always the beginning of the year to me, both because it’s just after the end of a school year, and also because my own birthday is toward the later end of the season. The older I get, the more I appreciate summer’s warmth and beauty. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up in a place where it’s summer all year long?

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Fall is the most beautiful season to me. In poems it represents dying and decay, but the colors and energy are so vibrant that it’s hard for me to picture it that way. Fall feels more like a beginning (once again, because of my academic life always starting in September), and I capture it in the cinnamon and apple candle scents, the cinnamon and spices in my coffee creamers, and the sheer beauty of the land around me. The real privilege of living in Vermont is the absolute painting of the landscape around me in the fall. I’ve been awestruck by how much of a firework show is put on by nature during the months of fall.

At this point in my life, I can’t picture living in a place without the changing of the seasons, just like the changing of the guards.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie