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The shore of New Jersey on the Atlantic Ocean. Sufficently warm and nice in the summer to vacation at as well as a great place to get salt water taffy.

OR

A small city in North Central Pennsylvania that you will see signs for if you are driving along Interstate 80 or the vicinity. Under 20 miles from the larger city Williamsport, the name makes it stick out more than anything else -- the name strikes one as being a trick, as the city is a few hours driving from the actual shore. Jersey Shore is also the home of the Tiadaghton Elm, under which on July 4th, 1776 a group of colonists calling themselves the Fair Play Men declared independence from Great Britain. They were unaware of the Continental Congress's simultaneous effort to this effect.

"Everybody at the Shore definitely knows The Situation. As far as I know, everybody loves The Situation, and if you don't love The Situation, I'm gonna make you love The Situation." - Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, discussing his personal magnetism, feelings of rejection, and optimistic social outlook.
I really wish someone would have noded the barebones info about this MTV show which debuted on December 3, 2009 because I would rather submit four paragraphs of invective-laden subjectivity, click submit, and be done with it. But, that would be the easy way out. Jersey Shore, at its core, is a reality show about a group of eight self-proclaimed "Guidos" and "Guidettes" from the Tri-state area (mostly New York), people of Italian-American descent who have a taste for gold chains, tanning beds, and near-constant partying. The premise is that these eight twentysomethings share a beachhouse in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for a month (August 2009), while working for the house's owner at his boardwalk T-shirt shop, and party, fall in love, break up, creep, and do all the things that carefree, money-infused youth do in the summer. And this being an MTV offering, all kind of simulated drama ensues making it surprisingly entertaining. Let's look at the cast:
  • Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino: 27-year old assistant manager of a Staten Island fitness centre and one-time male exotic dancer, Mike acts as the self-imposed "man" of the house. His cockiness, abrasiveness and utter inability to accept defeat or rejection leads to much tension with housemates - most notably with Snooki whom he called "fat", and with JWoww whom he refused to walk home from the club because he was trying to pick up a girl - both on the same one-day trip to Atlantic City. His self-dubbed nickname "The Situation" refers to the bristling, toned, tan six-pack abs he shows off at every available opportunity.

  • Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi: Certainly the most dominant female character on the show. This tiny, 4' 9" Chilean-born 21-year old desperately needs to be the life of the party and center of attention, going so far as threatening to leave in the second episode because she thought her housemates didn't like her. Most of her storylines involve her (unsuccessful) attempts to find a "hot guy" who isn't an asshole, and the drama she embroils herself in by trying to be the life of the party (including getting punched in the face at a bar by one Brad Ferro). It's never actually explained in the show how she got her nickname "Snooki", but for whatever reason it certainly fits. Also has a thing for pickles.

  • Ronnie "Fist Pump" Ortiz-Magro: Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, the thick, musclebound Magro brings a "hard knocks" sensibility to an otherwise vapid, privileged cast. As such, he manages to get into not one, but two fights during the course of the show, the latter which was a sucker-punch against a provocateur which landed him in jail for the night. One of the first things he said was, "First rule of Jersey Shore is never fall in love", which, naturally, he did, to fellow housemate Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola. However, despite the gruff physique Ronnie is a very funny, happy-go-lucky sort.

  • Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola: Billing herself as the "sweetest bitch you'll ever meet", the 22-year old Sammi comes into the show with a reputation for breaking hearts but, like Ronnie, winds up falling in love instead. The first real tension between the cast occurs in the second episode, where Sammi, after flirting and holding hands with The Situation, falls in love with Ronnie instead and winds up going with him for the duration of the show - this is a blow which the uber-confident Situation has trouble accepting for the remainder of the season. Sammi presents herself as the kind of ultra-needy, yet very hot girlfriend that most guys are irresistibly, and unwillingly, drawn to, blowing virtually every slight way out of proportion yet making amends with truly phenomenal makeup sex.

  • Paul "DJ Pauly D" Delvecchio: Six-times weekly club DJ from Johnston, Rhode Island, Paulie fits right in with Ronnie and The Situation with his penchant for tanning (he actually owns his own home tanning bed), working out and pre-clubbing laundry, a daily ritual these guys call "GTL" (Gym, Tan, Laundry - in the words of the Situation, "If you don't feel fresh, you won't be fresh"). Paulie acts primarily as a wingman for The Situation while he goes out creeping, and the one time he does land a girl it turns out to be a clingy, stalker-like Israeli. He's the oldest housemate, at 28 years old.

  • Jennie "JWOWW" Farley: Not actually Italian, but with a look and attitude befitting a Guidette, JWOWW immediately draws ridicule from her housemates for her nickname (Quoth Vinnie: "I don't walk in here and say hey, my name is VWOWW). Jennie enters the show with a relationship on the rocks (which winds up ending in episode 3 after a flirtation with Paulie) and claims to be a "praying mantis" towards men, but emerges as sort of a mother-hen character, being the primary caregiver for Snooki in her dramas and getting in fights to defend her housemates.

  • Vincent "Insert Nickname Here" Guadagnino: Lacking a nickname, Vinnie (at 21 the youngest cast member) is kind of the odd man out. Although he's quite cut, muscularly, and tanned, he doesn't buy into the daily "GTL" philosophy of the other three guys and acts somewhat as the house's resident philosopher, adroitly pointing out the personality quirks and foibles of his housemates (most notably The Situation) and presents himself as a sort of caring antidote to the daily pickup strategies employed by The Situation and Paulie. Is also the most authentically Italian of the group, with a Sicilian mother who dutifully visits the house to cook way more baked ziti than all of them could conceivably eat.

  • Angelina "Jolie" Pivarnick: Stereotypical "bitch" of the group, Angelina acts as a cockblock to every guy who brings girls back to the house, is loud, outspoken and brash, and ultimately gets kicked out of the house by her Boss for simply refusing to work. It eventually emerges that her boyfriend is, in fact, married, rendering her Jeremiads about female morality moot. Leaving in episode three, she is quickly forgotten and is not a part of the "Jersey Shore" family that eventually coalesces.
Despite all the emnity, clique-forming and backstabbing that occurs, enough bonding occurs to make for a montage-ridden final episode with soundtrack provided by Death Cab For Cutie and Blink 182.

"I left the club early because I didn't want to cheat on my boyfriend. And I felt like eating ham and drinking water." -Jennie "JWOWW" Farley, elucidating on her late-night behaviour choices.

Recurring Themes

Creeping is certainly a big one. Creeping is loosely defined as "attempting to woo females with the intent of later having sexual intercourse with them", and is best exemplified by The Situation who wastes no opportunity to do so - even going so far as trying to creep on a girl in the aftermath of Snooki's assault by a *gasp* guy. The Situation and Paulie go out on this endeavor almost every night, yet with little actual success; The Situation manages to get no fewer than three women into his bed, with all of them having to bail due to outside circumstances. In fact, a recurring theme of the show is The Situation's inability to "finish", as it were, despite his cockiness - he can get a girl to his house, in the Jacuzzi, and maybe to his bed, but absolutely no further. Paulie is pretty much a confirmed wingman, assisting The Situation as needed, but rarely actually picking up himself (apart from housemate JWOWW and the clingy Israeli chick).

There seems to be a lot of internal tension, particularly among the females, about their true intentions for the Jersey Shore. They claim to want to go "wild and crazy", while simultaneously trying to find "someone to fall in love with", a predicament best exemplified by Sammi who parties like crazy the first few days, then becomes a borderline recluse after shacking up with Ronnie. The guys, too, are not immune from this, Ronnie having been the one most vociferously advocating "not falling in love" on the shore. This "going wild" tendency, naturally, needs to be tempered with a need to work in the Boss' T-shirt shop, a plot device that becomes increasingly irrelevant after Angelina's firing; ironically, after that the Shop becomes so useless as a plot device that it goes almost unmentioned during the last few episodes.

The house phone is certainly notable. It's shaped like a carved wood duck (with the duck's head and upper body as the receiver), and rings with this imitation quacking sound. It's kind of a comic relief element on the show, like when Snooki, in the first episode, unwittingly hung up on her father three times while trying to make it work. It also serves the function, due to its ridiculous shape, of rendering every conversation on it regardless of gravity slightly ridiculous.

OK. So what *actually* happens?

Excellent question. To save you from having to watch all nine episodes yourself, here's a brief synopsis. All eight arrive at the house on the first day; the guys naturally get there first, and comment on the relative physical merits of each female as they enter. The Situation, Paulie and Ronnie bring back some girls to the Jacuzzi that night; Angelina is pissed. Snooki tries to ingratiate herself to the group by getting drunk and exposing herself; it doesn't work.

Snooki shows up late for work because of being hungover but is forgiven. She also feels alienated from the group, but is reassured by JWOWW and convinced to stay. The Situation and Sammi show some early love sparks, but Sammi goes after Ronnie instead after a night at the Karma club and forms a relationship. The Situation is pissed. Angelina refuses to work, saying she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to, and it dutifully fired by the Boss and sent packing. Vinnie gets pink eye. His housemates claim it's because he danced with a fat woman at the club.

Snooki winds up mouthing off to some college frat-boy named Brad Ferro at a bar, who punches her in the face. The guys puff up their chests in righteous indignation, and once the night is done, everyone feels closer together. Sammi and Ronnie are really clicking at this point, while The Situation picks up a brunette girl only to be crudely cockblocked by her blonde friend while she's in his bed, no less. He picks up this same girl several weeks later, only to be met by a posse of her friends who then fight with the female housemates.

Fighting and weird coincidences become a recurring theme at this point. Vinnie, coincidentally, hooks up with a girl who the Boss had taken out on a date that night. Ronnie is trash-talked by a local and winds up getting in a fight with him, and is later trash-talked by someone else who he also fights. Paulie hooks up with an Israeli girl who clings to him like Scotch tape, and will not stop calling him. Meanwhile, The Situation invites his sister down to party, and Vinnie, who doesn't like The Situation in the first place, tries to pick her up.

The whole shit-show ends with a big teary farewell; Ronnie and Sammi are now officially a couple, Snooki still hasn't found love, and The Situation is still a dick. Some things never change. Season 2 is filming right now, in Miami.

Commentary and Criticism
"I don't give a f**k if you'e fat, you're ugly, you're 45 years old. I'll dance with ya. I think it's hilarious." - Vinnie Guadagnino, on being a man of the people.
Jersey Shore, predictably, has generated its fair share of critical response. UNICO, which is both an Italian-American Association and delicious pasta maker, has called for the show to be cancelled, taking exception for their gratuitous use of the derogatory term "Guidos", and New Jersey tourism officials have claimed that it only represents a small portion of the Jersey Shore tourist base, in only one small shore-side town. Domino's Pizza, among others, have pulled their ads from the show, and Conservative types everywhere have derided the show for its "graphic portrayal of casual sex". Ironically enough, the only sex that we know of that *actually* takes place on the show is between two consenting adults in a relationship. The Situation, despite his deep and abiding love for casual sex, seems to get absolutely none of it, while Vinnie and Paulie hardly seem to even try.

Much of the controversy seems to stem from the seemingly misplaced values of these hyper-materialistic, dumb-as-doorknobs twentysomethings. In one episode, Vinnie loudly excoriates The Situation for bringing home so many girls, and I think to myself, great he's trying to get him to respect women. But then he supports his argument by saying the women Situation brings home are UGLY, and that if they were he were a better "player" maybe he wouldn't bring home so many UGLY girls. So to summarize, according to Vinnie, the quote-unquote philosopher savant of the group, The Situation shouldn't bring home so many girls because they're ugly and he doesn't want to have to deal with ugly girls. Erudite, that.

Binge drinking is certainly promoted here too, but I'm far from the last person to comment on that, seeing as how I'm mostly finished of two inches' worth of Bushmills RIGHT NOW at this very moment. Snooki, in fact, is the only cast member to verifyably puke during the course of the show, after several shots of Smirnoff. My criticism to that would be, come on Snooks. You don't shoot fucking vodka... go with Fireball or Sambuca instead.

Overall, most of the criticism of the show seems to be centred on the time-honoured "Kids These Days" thesis, whereby older members of a society willfully disregard their entire youth in favour of feeling superiorily indignant at the "wild" youth. Truth be told, while these people are incredibly callow and uninformed, they work fucking hard to be as tanned, rock-hard, and party-ready as possible, and their co-opting of a derogatory word to describe themselves, in the fashion of dusky-skinned peoples, is far from extraordinary. Sure, we could excoriate them for not being, say, better at math or arts. But to be honest, they seem happy in their life's calling, and I'm not convinced they could flourish better being any other way. God knows I've woken up next to many a vomit-splattered toilet in my time. This show, essentially, follows these people around and lets you share in the glory and defeat of their lives, inconsequential (in the big picture) as it may seem. But it's a tangible reminder that, for everyone, these little setbacks and victories *are* life, and give them the kind of gravitas they deserve.

Personal Observations
"I mean this situation is gonna be indescribable, you can't even describe the situation that you're about to get into the situation." -The Situation on the excitement of moving into a new house.
What I found interesting about the show is that it exposes one's own prejudices as readily as it exposes the cast members'. During the first episode, when each Guido and Guidette is featured, I remember thinking "Wow, look at these idiots, I hope they fail big time. What a bunch of fucking asswipes". But as you watch the show, those preconceptions fall to the wayside and you learn to accept them as they are, and identify with them. However one chooses to dress or spend their time is pretty much individual, but there are some things that we all deal with: love and loss, feelings of acceptance and rejection, interpersonal conflict, aggression, and caring. Just because they wear a shitload of Ed Hardy and tan on a daily basis doesn't really change that base at all, and to be honest by the end of the season I found myself forgetting entirely my old biases and just connecting with them as people, lifestyle choices notwithstanding.

This, really, is the root of most of the criticism lobbed against the show. I truly believe it's unfair to expect everyone to have a working knowledge of the internal politics of the Byzantine Empire; God knows they would have some skin care tips that I'm equally ignorant of. Like it or not, it's a portrayal of the dominant values of a large slice of the twentysomething demographic, and I don't particularly fault MTV for showing it; I'm certain that this show reflects society much more than influencing it. Women punch men a few times without much ado, but a dude punches a girl and all hell is raised. Men drop women like hot burritos, but when the reverse happens, dwell on it like Neanderthals. They encourage each other to go out every night and drink, but when one of them winds up puking the next morning, there is no pity whatsoever. This is our culture, here, in the flesh, warts and all. And praise be, to whatever deity you choose, that in at least a small slice of earth the most pressing concerns on a person's mind is which Christian Audiger t-shirt you think is better to pick up girls with.

I highly suggest you pick up a copy of the DVD download it, or watch it off your local MTV portal. It *will* elicit some emotion from you, either inveterate rage or unabashed glee, and isn't that really the mark of great TV? At the very least, it'll be a window into a life you've never lived, but secretly might want to experience - if only for a day.



BrevityQuest10 - just need to trim 2615 more words off, and I'm in!

I’m not here to write about those idiots from the reality show by the same name. They’re just manufactured stereotypes invented by MTV for consumption to a voyeuristic bunch of like minded viewers. They’ve had their fifteen minute of fame. In five to ten years they’ll be nothing but a distant memory, destined for the scrap heap like so many others things that masquerade as entertainment these days.

The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss

No, I’m here to write about the real Jersey Shore. A stretch of what was once prime real estate that wasn’t dominated by high rise hotels and fancy resorts. In place of those monstrosities there were quaint small amusement parks and small family owned businesses and bed and breakfast places that dotted the boardwalks and coastline. A place where you could eat some homemade salt water taffy and gulp down a few cold ones while listening to some good old fashioned rock and roll made by local bands without all the fanfare that accompanies major acts or tours.

A place where you could land a charter boat and kill an entire day going deep sea fishing. One of my favorite memories was when me and bunch of my friends went out on the ocean for the first time. One of my buddies couldn’t get his sea legs under him and got really bad case of seasickness. Since those boats don’t have any place to drop you off you had to ride out the storm. After hours of puking up every bit of food in him he finally passed out on deck in the midday sun. Unfortunately for him he did so with his hand covering half of his face. The next day his sunburn revealed a perfect imprint of his where his hand had been and it remained that way for weeks. In my minds eye, I can still see that imprint and a smile still crosses my face.

Anyway...

Beside the familiar hotspots like Atlantic City and Asbury Park the real Jersey Shore is also a place with small towns with heavenly sounding names such as Avon By The Sea, Belmar, Sandy Hook, Spring Lake, Beach Haven, Avalon, Point Pleasant, Surf City, Ocean City, Seaside Heights, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Cape May, Loveladies (best name ever!) and Wildwood. Each one of them had their own personalities and idiosyncrasies and they all seemed to come alive during the summer. For a city boy like me, to spend a week or so going up and down the Jersey Shore and escape the heat, humidity and hustle and bustle of New York City was like being in a state of nirvana.

Everything dies, baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

If you’ve been following the news as of late, you’ve probably heard something about this little thing called Hurricane Sandy. It took dead aim at the Jersey Shore and wreaked havoc on many of the towns that I mentioned earlier. Some of those towns will recover, others will not. Either way, it will probably take many years for the after effects to be fully realized and unlike the cast members of the Jersey Shore won’t fade so quickly with the passage of time. In the meantime, many people have had their childhood homes and memories washed out to sea as the flood waters slowly subside and help and rescue efforts continue.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to have an entire lifetime washed away over the span of a few hours or days.

On a side note, a big thumbs up to Republican Governor Chris Christie from the State of New Jersey. Even though I differ from him on many issues he had this to say a day or so after Sandy hit when questioned about the upcoming presidential election.

“I don’t give a damn about Election Day. It doesn’t matter a lick to me at the moment. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

To hear him say that in his thick Jersey accent and full of sincerity all I can say is “Bravo sir, bravo.”

Selected lyrics lifted from Bruce Springsteen, a native of the Jersey Shore, from his fine tunes Born to Run and Atlantic City.

Submitted in conjunction with Up My Street (A Quest for Local Knowledge)

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