Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dixie State University app--WTF?

At the risk of treading on the toes of Heather Harrison, who writes our publication’s “Tech Sassy,” I have to profess my love for smartphone applications.

There’s seriously an app for everything. I can shave a fake beard from my iPhone, I can build a town full of My Little Ponies on my iPad, and I can be sent updates each time the Catholic Church elects a new pope.

From flashlights to calorie counters, the App Store is my go-to place whenever I want to access something easily from my iPhone.

However, there is one app I find sadly lacking: Dixie State University’s.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t necessarily like it when it was first introduced, and I really don’t like it now that it’s become the school’s forgotten project.

Granted, the app developers are not students, so I’m not playing the blame game here. Well, I suppose I am a little.
When the Dixie State app was first unveiled, I wondered what its purpose would be. Would it let students look up their grades? Would it notify us of upcoming assignments? Would it allow us to pay our tuition online, register for classes, check testing center hours or anything functional like that?

Well, no. But hey, it does play the Dixie fight song—an instrumental version, anyway.

What the app does offer is a list of links that take the user to, Facebook or Twitter. The rest of the app hasn’t been updated since it was first launched.

If you check the “Campus Map” area of the app, it will show you a satellite view of campus, complete with the old Whitehead building and sans Holland Centennial Commons.

I posed a rhetorical question via Twitter a couple of months ago and asked no one in particular if the DSU app has been forgotten and obsolete. Since then, I was tracked down by the powers that be and was informed about the app’s status.

Yes, the app was designed a few years ago. And now everything on it is web-based. So that means everything you’re finding on the Dixie State University app is something that’s already on; when DSU’s website is updated, the links are copied to the app.
I’m not an app developer, but I certainly use tons of them.

A couple of years ago, a representative from The Spectrum came to our staff and asked for our input regarding the city’s publication. We said The Spectrum might reach a larger audience if it created an app. The representative poo-poo’d our suggestion and said users can access the Internet from their mobile devices, so why do they need an app?

The difference between websites and apps is a big one. Most websites are loaded with html code, which loads slowly on mobile devices and makes things hard to read and navigate.
And websites that have mobile versions are often leaving things out that make the whole surfing experience cohesive.

So an app can make all the difference in the world. They’re designed specifically for mobile devices, so you know you’re not going to have to zoom in on some crazy text or attempt to type in, say, your student ID into some ridiculously small window.

So when the DSU app to redirects me to, I just have to ask: Why have an app if there’s no intention of utilizing the purpose of having an app?

Here’s what would make the DSU app work best. Yes, there can still be links to press releases and the athletic department’s news. But there should also be an area where students can log in and view holds, grades and account information. We should be able to pay fees and tuition if we want, and we should be able to access our schedules.

Oh, and the app should be regularly updated.

I’m giving the idea of a school app five out of five Fabs because the potential is there. But I’m giving our current app, and its stagnation, two out of five trashes and a flip phone—because you don’t need a smartphone if you’re planning on using the current DSU app. You’re going to have to go to computer anyway, since it’s going to direct you to Dixie’s homepage.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Equality, Or Am I Seriously Writing About This In 2013? - By Taylor Grin

I’ve been involved in a discussion for about two hours now about gay marriage, and I’m really getting tired of making the same points over and over again. So, let me make this a (maybe, kinda?) friendly FAQ on why gay marriage should be legal.
Why should gays be allowed to marry?
Under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, there is a guarantee of equal protection under the law. States can’t deny rights to some which it grants to others.
But gays are free to marry whoever they want… as long as its a member of the opposite sex.
Let me put this statement in perspective: “But blacks can marry whoever they want, as long as it’s another black.” “A woman can marry whoever she wants, as long as her father approves.”
But marriage is for creating babies!
So infertile people can’t get married?
Ok, marriage is for people with the parts to make babies, whether or not they actually do.
David Hume covered this in 1740. arguing that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is.” This is to say, you can’t argue that something should be a given way, just because it happens to be that way.
Let’s make this easier to understand. Survival of the Fittest dictates that the fittest will survive. A clean reading of this would lead some to conclude that we should kill the infirm or weak. Obviously we find this unethical. So, we find that which is the case, often shouldn’t ought to be the case.
This is also called the Naturalistic Fallacy.
If we banned gay marriage because gay people can’t have children, we’d have to ban infertile people from marriage.
You need two parents, one of each gender, to properly raise children.
Putting aside the issues of ambiguity in gender roles and the distinction between sex and gender, this point is strictly speaking wrong. Not “In my opinion wrong,” but factually wrong according to the APA:
“On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the American Psychological Association and other health, professional, and scientific organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.” (emphasis mine.)
But marriage is a religious institution.
No, marriage is a social contract and a legal unification of two people for legal protection, power of attorney and management of estates. Some churches perform marriages, but the civil and legal rights afforded to married couples are granted and guaranteed by states, not churches.
But you can’t redefine marriage.
Marriage has had a definition constantly in flux. I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article on marriage to look at how it’s changed over the years.
If for some reason you don’t like Wikipedia, then check out this history at a German university website, which says basically the same thing, but is less easy to read.
The nuclear family that you’re familiar with is basically a white, suburban, American construct. You’ll find all sorts of successful family arrangements in different places, as far away as Brazil where children are raised among mothers, aunts and cousins, to the inner city where whole communities are involved in the upbringing of children.
But God says!/ America is a Christian country.
No, he doesn’t/ no it’s not.
The definition of marriage is not very clear from a Christian reading of the Bible. I think this video expresses that pretty well.
And America is not a Christian nation. There is the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . ..” but I find a more important point to be the Treaty of Tripoli.
The Treaty of Tripoli? What’s that?
The treaty of Tripoli ratified a peace between America and Tripoli after a short-lived war between the two nations. Every single member of Congress voted in favor of it, and one of the Founding Fathers, President John Adams, signed it. It contained the following statement:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
(emphasis mine.)
So no, America is not a Christian Nation.
But the Declaration of Independence says there’s a Creator.
The Declaration of Independence is not a legally binding document. Under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, Treaties are legally binding. And haven’t we gotten far from the topic of gay marriage?
But my priest will have to wed gay couples
No, (s)he won’t the second part of the establishment clause
But if we allow gay marriage, then next will be polygamy, incest or even bestiality!
No. What you’re using is called a slippery slope. It’s a logical fallacy where people say that because you’re doing one thing, a whole series of irrational events will follow. The same argument was used with interracial marriage.
Check out this example of an argument against interracial marriage from ‘Loving V. The State of Virginia, 1967:’
“It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems then those of the intermarried and that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.”
But gay people make me feel icky
Guess what? Interracial couples made people feel pretty icky 50 years ago too. Giving women the right to vote, or treating black people equally made people feel pretty icky a not-so-long time ago.
Hell, just over 300 years ago, the idea that independent colonies should represent themselves made a lot of Europeans feel very icky. But we live in America, a land where people deserve equal treatment and the freedom to pursue their happiness.
The right of gay parents to make decisions about their children’s medical treatment in hospitals, or the right of gay couples to pass on their estate at death without vastly higher taxation does no harm to anyone else.
The religious are afraid that society will crumble, but society didn’t crumble when blacks and whites could marry, or when women got the right to vote.
Equal protection under the law means you’ll be safe too when a religion or philosophy you don’t agree with tries to infringe on your rights. Denying rights for religions has an insidious way of harming everyone in the long run.
Let me end with a quote I’m sure you’ve heard before. Denying rights to people is dangerous, because you never know if you’ll be the next “non-traditionalist” to have them denied.
"First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."
Read More from Taylor Grin at Taylor Grin's Blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Columnist Under Attack; We Need Your Feedback!

As you may or may not know, in addition to running The Skewed Review (which is trademarked, by the way), I'm also the editor-in-chief at Dixie Sun News. 

We made local headlines this year when we started running a sex column. Believe me, some of the more religious among us here in southern Utah were having none of that! But ultimately, we fought for our freedom of speech, and the column is still being published.

But we recently received a letter along with a petition.

The petition read (and this is verbatim; I haven't fixed any punctuation errors, no matter how much they bugged me): A column recently added in the Dixie Sun News is threatening to take away the pride, honor and tradition of Dixie State University and its surrounding community. A recently added bi-weekly column in the Dixie Sun News is dedicated to the topic of sex and talks about just that; sexual relations. As this topic is and should not be considered "news" we are trying to have the article removed from the Dixie Sun News. As a current student, alumni or citizen of St. George please help Dixie State University keep its pride, honor and tradition! Thanks!

The petition was signed by 115 people--not all of them students. I don't even know if any of them are readers. But, the current student population at Dixie State University is 7,709. So that's just a little bit of perspective for you.

Here's the letter, and again, it's verbatim. I haven't fixed any punctuation or grammar.

As a current student at Dixie State University, I feel it important to voice my opinion and the opinion of my fellow classmates, alumni, and community members. Dixie State University has a name that represents integrity, pride, honor and virtue. “The Dixie Spirit,” as it has come to be known, is felt not only by the students who attend this university, but also by the members of the community in which we are privileged to reside. I have attached a list which contains the names of those who share this concern, support this letter, and wish to preserve the good name of Dixie State University.

We feel that the erotic sex column casts a dark shadow on the name that Dixie State University and the surrounding community upholds and continues to work to establish. In order to maintain the integrity and standards we hold as a part of the Dixie Spirit, we ask that the erotic column in Dixie Sun News be discontinued.

The erotic column is tarnishing the name that Dixie State University has accumulated over the years. As you are aware, Dixie State recently celebrated its centennial year and achieved university status. Dixie State University created a name that made its alumni proud to say they attended Dixie State and received a diploma. Our most recent building bears the name of a man who stands for honor, integrity and virtue. We desire to have the new Dixie State University carry a name that represents the same integrity, virtue, honor and pride for all of the alumni and current students. The Dixie State University name should give hope to future students who want to become a part of the Dixie State tradition and be known not only for their academic successes, but also for their moral integrity and outstanding character.

Our greatest concern regarding the erotic column appearing in Dixie Sun News is that it makes pornographic literature available to minors. As Dixie State University has a preschool on campus and is host to a number of high school students currently enrolled, the material presented in the column is inappropriate and should not be accessible to underage individuals.

With the many talented writers on the Dixie Sun News staff, surely there are more positive and helpful articles to be written. As Dixie Sun News is funded with the tuition paid by students, we feel that the newspaper should reflect the values and viewpoints of all of the students who attend the university, not just a select few. We feel that a column on how to overcome addiction or how to achieve academic success would prove to be of more benefit to the student body and alumni who read the paper than a column on erotic sex.

We ask that you seriously consider our request to preserve and keep the Dixie State tradition. As concerned students, alumni and community members, we ask that the erotic column be discontinued.

Sean Cardon

The following is my formal response to the letter.

To Cardon and his fellow petitioners: 

We at Dixie Sun News are first and foremost happy that you care enough about the school and our publication to take action on an issue you feel so strongly about. We wish more students would get involved in the same manner in which you are. 

However, we must address several items we fear you may be misinformed about.

First, we must clarify that no tuition money is allocated toward Dixie Sun News. We are funded through a combination of student fees and advertising. 

Second, labeling our column as "pornography" is simply untrue. Pornography is defined as material that's specifically meant to sexually arouse a person. We have not published, nor do we intend to publish, anything of that nature. We publish our column as a means of education and entertainment. The author of the column is writing content that pertains to 70 percent of the population. Yes, 7 in ten 19-year-olds have had sex. Ignoring this won't make the statistics go away. 

Regarding your suggestions for potential columns, we welcome any and all writers who want to contribute to Dixie Sun News. We've had a variety of column topics in years' past from politics to health and from movies to technology. We would welcome any student who wants to write a column on religion or drug rehabilitation. 

But a column is best written by a person who has knowledge of the topic and is willing to write new material every week or so. We don't assign column topics; columnists pitch topic ideas to our editors. And to date, we haven't turned down a single column idea. 

As far as representing the values of Dixie State University, one of DSU's key goals and values is diversity. 

According to the college's mission and core values page, "[DSU] will promote diversity among its employees and student body to enrich the teaching and learning environment. [DSU] will provide diverse educational, economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities."

The Dixie Sun News would be doing both itself and the college a disservice if it didn't attempt to offer content to every demographic on campus. As you stated, "We feel that the newspaper should reflect the values and viewpoints of all of the students who attend the university, not just a select few."

Currently, we can honestly say we do reflect the values and viewpoints of all students. We cover student government, sports, gallery showings, theatrical performances, service projects, club news, student housing, politics, food, technology, films and myriad topics in between. It just so happens that one of those topics is on sexuality—something that pertains to at least 49.9 percent of Utah's college students.

It's safe to say that almost half of our readership is not a "select few." One could consider 115 signatures, not all of which are students', from a campus of almost 8,000 to be a better representation of a "select few." 

And to be fair, when we conducted our poll earlier this year for the article, "Students polled; majority say sex column OK," by Heather Dake, we spoke with people who actually read Dixie Sun News. While we don't doubt your petitioners are concerned about this topic, we don't know if they are readers.

And finally, the numbers themselves do not lie. The column is one of the most read articles on, second only to the Macklemore coverage. How can we logically say the column in question is something our readers do not want when it's part of the most popular content on our website?

However, despite the amount of support we have received for keeping the column, your concerns and actions have not fallen on deaf ears. We have drafted a new and final poll regarding the column. You can find it at 

This will be the last chance for our readers to decide if the column should remain as a bi-weekly part of our printed issue, if it should be published online only (thus eliminating any concerns of physical distribution to non-college students on campus), or if it should cease being published completely.

We urge you to take the poll and share it with your friends. This poll will decide the fate of our column on sexuality. 

Thank you very much for your ongoing concern for our institution and our publication. 

-Matthew Jacobson, Editor-in-Chief

So what do you think? Should we keep the column, or should it go? Click here to take the poll. Haven't read the column in question? Well, have a peek at the latest one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The First Step To Solving A Hipster Problem Is Admitting You Have One

What defines a hipster?

I see what I believe to be hipsters all around me, all the time. They're usually wearing wrinkled plaid or some shirt they picked up from Hot Topic (that's meant to look like it's been picked up from a thrift shop) and some ill-fitting skinny jeans or a pair of olive green corduroys.

They're hair is impeccably styled to look as though it hasn't been styled at all, their non-functioning glasses are usually huge and reminiscent of Malcolm X's, and they're often wearing a pair of Converse that's been intricately laced to give the appearance of nonchalant lacing.

But until now, I've been deceiving myself about hipsterism. It's not about the clothes. It's about the attitude.

A hipster, by all accounts, is a derogatory term. Even people who fit every definition of the word would never define themselves that way. Because labeling yourself as some demographic is too conforming, and hipsters are far too cool to place themselves as a part of one type of social group.

And that's what I believe makes a hipster. A person doesn't like or dislike things based on taste, a person likes or dislikes things based on the tastes of others. Remember when Modest Mouse was a little more modest? Yes, those were the days when a hipster would admit to loving the music. But then the band got a little more popular, so, logically, the hipster crowd became disinterested. And now, as Modest Mouse returns to its obscure home from whence it came, I'd say hipsters are free to love them once again.

I don't even know why I went on that Modest Mouse tirade. I don't know if I could identify one of their songs if it was blasting in my face while one of the band members continually beat me with baseball bat inscribed with the words: "This Song Is By Modest Mouse."

But I'm sure you get what I'm saying. But here's the sad and scary realization I had the other day: I think I might be a hipster.

I was doing research for the Fabutrash Film of the Week and the Podcast Pick for April and it suddenly occurred to me that I was purposefully avoiding films and podcasts of fame and notoriety. I tried to convince myself that I was only doing so in order to bring lesser-known titles to the masses.

But I had to admit to myself, and now the world, that I get a joy out of loving things that most people don't. I am such a fan of grindhouse cinema and pulp films--especially when I'm the only one who's heard of them.

And give me an obscure book to read. I'll read the hell out of it and then be fein joylessness when I say, "Well, you probably haven't read it."

And the things I secretly love are the things that other people love openly. I'm notorious for hating Harry Potter, but secretly, I could watch those movies all day. And I was so into the books, I actually read them while driving.

Yes. I was so into the wizarding world of Harry Potter that I literally put my life, along with dozens of others, at risk. But until now, I'd be hard pressed to admit such an atrocity.

I feel like I'm at hipster's anonymous meeting right now.

Hello my name is Matty, and I was admitting I was a hipster before admitting being a hipster was cool.

But you know what? I think I'm justified because there's one thing out there that I've never lied about loving, no matter how mainstream it is: Lady Gaga. I admit that I liked her after she was cool. I proudly sport my "Fame" tattoo. I openly call myself a Little Monster.

So while this article may seem pointless to you, to me it's a piece of solidarity. Although I'm a hipster in every other aspect of my life, there's a part of me that's still human because I'm willing to admit that I am into something as mainstream as Lady Gaga.

I'm rating myself one out of five Trashes for my love of loving obscure things.

But you know what? I'm also rating myself five out of five Fabs for loving one of the most wonderful things that can be loved.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Minority Must Be Vocal

The majority rules.

That’s the way it’s been since the conception of our country, but we’ve got to ask ourselves the question: Just because the majority thinks something is OK, does that mean it’s, indeed, the right thing to do?

Whether or not the moral, ethical, cultural or religious decisions of the majority are beneficial to mankind, it’s no secret that being in the majority is the easiest thing a person can do. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of other people’s rights.

It’s incredibly effortless to be a community member in an area where the majority of the populous have the exact same beliefs. In St. George, for example, it’s safe to say that if you’re Mormon and conservative, then you’re already a part of the in crowd.

And this is reflected in our media outlets. It doesn’t matter which publication I turn to; I see a whole lot of playing safe. We’ve got religious columns written by retirees who’ve served multiple LDS missions. we’ve got opinion articles written by LDS mothers, and we have local talk shows that focus on the conservative demographic and a basic understanding that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is law.

But the minority, unfortunately, is sorely underrepresented. And no, I’m not just talking about being a liberal gay guy, so don’t think I’m beating this dead horse I keep around just for fun.

I’m talking about people of multiple faiths: Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism and any other religion that falls outside the LDS realm.
I’m speaking about people of different races: Hispanics, Asians, Europeans, Africans, islanders, tribe members and everyone whose skin happens to be a different shade than your average Utah vanilla.

And I’m talking about people with political affiliations outside of the conservative realm: liberals, green activists, libertarians, socialists and even Communists.

These demographics make up just a fraction of the white LDS-saturated southern Utah population, and actually, that’s OK. What’s not OK is when the majority of said saturation tries to enforce, nay, inflict the majority belief upon all classes, colors and religions.

The sad thing is I think a lot of St. George’s residents are fine with equality, but they’re just too afraid to be open about it for fear of retaliation from the vocal minority of the majority.
Yeah, wrap your head around that for a second.

St. George is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, but it’s also a harsh environment for those of us who don’t subscribe to the general way of thinking. The truly different of us are beaten into small social groups, thus putting an emphasis on the “minor” in minority.

Those who refuse to be corralled are usually those who have given up trying to be members of the St. George community and end up either skipping town or just plain conforming.
I certainly hope this isn’t the goal of our town’s majority. After all, didn’t our LDS ancestors come to Utah because they’d been constantly driven out of numerous places due to their religious beliefs? Weren’t the early settlers scrutinized because they believed in polygamy as God’s law? Didn’t the Mormon faith eventually conform to the majority’s demands in order for Utah to gain statehood?

Well, I suppose that last one is up for debate depending on what your religious views may be.

My hope is that we’re not living our lives hypocritically. I’m just offering a challenge: Hold yourself to your highest moral standards and live up to your beliefs. Make yourself the person you expect everyone else to be. And then leave it at that.

Let the rest of the people be who they want to be and live up to their own beliefs. Until southern Utah can learn to live and let live, I'm afraid I'm going to have to rate this town 3 1/2 out of five trashes. Come on, guys. Let's turn this trash into fab as soon as possible.

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