Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gopher2GopherLink! The Top 15 Street View Sitings from Google Maps. Brought to my attention by Shanley. Read more here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breaking News! The Pope a Catholic!

M.Z. Hemingway notes some of the ridiculous coverage of the Pope following his statements about birth control in Africa. Journalists seem genuinely surprised when he follows traditional Catholic teachings. Isn't that kind of like saying "Whoa! What's up with Obama backing American democracy!"

Read her excellent piece here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birthday Shopping for Nana

Alright. I usually pretty good at buying presents for people...if they're easy to get presents for. Problem is my grandmother (who I call "Nana") is impossible.

Let me describe the character: She's an elite, cultured, proper New England woman. She won't hang paintings or put up decorations unless they're "just so." She puts on makeup to go the grocery store. She refuses to discuss or put words to any mention of sexual activity or bowel movement. After one husbands' death and another's divorce, she was married to a golfer in Palm Beach, Fla. for many years until his passing. She continues to live in an older-aged, upper-income community that looks out over a golf course and has a clubhouse with what she would call "pristine service."

I tried to get her a pot once. She put a plant in it and put it WAY in the back of her garden. Then a year later it mysteriously disappeared. Similar situation with a painting I bought for her. It went in the kids room for a year and THEN mysteriously disappeared. She won't read books that plainly about the unmentionables mentioned above. And she's read every non-fiction book known to man (previous years' presents). This year I'm drawing a blank.

So I typed Nana into Amazon. Turns out it's a graphic novel:
Nana Komatsu is a young woman who's endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she's hoping to take control of her life and put all those messy misadventures behind her. She's looking for love and she's hoping to find it in the big city.

Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is cool, confident and focused. She swaggers into town and proceeds to kick down the doors to Tokyo's underground punk scene. She's got a dream and won't give up until she becomes Japan's No. 1 rock'n'roll superstar.

This is the story of two 20-year-old women who share the same name. Even though they come from completely different backgrounds, they somehow meet and become best friends. The world of Nana is a world exploding with sex, music, fashion, gossip and all-night parties.

I think I've got a winner...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jesus Riding a T-Rex

Confession: pointed in this direction by the illustrious Chris Moody.

Did Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem? False. T-rex.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What would a Comment Stream look like in real life?

In further reflection on Facebook in Real Life, a friend suggested this video while talking about the social norms of online content. Interesting. We'd just finished conversing about how in real life, people don't appear as racist and sexist as they are in a comment stream. Quite a bit of research contend that people reveal their true selves under the guise of an internet avatar...Here's hoping that's not the case....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: The Watchmen

I know there was a lot of hype. I really did have high hopes for this one. As a fan of the graphic novel, I recognized that there was alot the movies would not be able to do (just for sake of time and sensibility). I think my problems come down to whether the movie ought to have been made--the same question the Washington Post raised the day before it's release.

As a rule, movies based on movies stray to far from their original narrative. In this case, the Watchmen didn't do too bad, but it was to the detriment of the movie. What seems cool and exciting in a graphic novel seems...well, kind of slow in a movie. In the graphic novel, the flashbacks are gripping and immerse you in the book. But on set, you just want the action to start. So here it is: the positive three and the negative three:

(1) It's true to the book- I'd wondered how they were going to spin a book that doesn't have a true antagonist. (spoiler alert: The "bad" guy of the movie never really stopped being good. He just a realized that "save billions" he would have to "kill millions.") It a bit of a statement for moral relativism.
(2) The visuals are stunning- I mean it. If you put screenshots of the movie next to panels from the graphic novel, it is stunning how they recreated these scenes.
(3) The characters are well played- I really did think they'd try to make Night Owl a more attractive protagonist. But they allowed him to be the regular Joe portrayed in the novel. Rorschach is creepy. Silk Spectre is hot. All is as it should be.

(1) It's true to the book- as I said earlier. Being true to the book really held back the pace of the plot.
(2) The visuals are stunning- so the gratuitous violence and sex are not held back. Now mind you, Alan Moore is the sick dude who had the graphic rape of Batgirl by Joker in Killing Joke, but even the graphic novel was more staid. Did we really need to see the bones coming out of the guys' arms? How about when Dr. Manhatten splats a guy and his body parts are left hanging from the ceiling (not even in the book)? And then of course you get the sex scenes and yessir, it's all there.
(3) The characters are well-played- at least those who appear. The Minuitemen make only a brief appearance and the entire pirate sideplot is gone. Sidebar: The sideplot really helps the viewer understand what the heck is going on in the story. Without it, the ending seems a bit ambiguous.

Grade- C+

Monday, March 16, 2009

Review: Sonic Unleashed

So Mimi and I bought this game a couple weeks ago and I just completed it yesterday. Here's the review.

The positive three, then the negative three...

(1) It works- This is, truly, the first Sonic game since the Sega Genesis that has controls and gameplay that match up. And if I can say so, this is probably the first Sonic game since then that feels like a Sonic game
(2) Dark Sonic- The addition of the "dark" Sonic character actually adds intrigue to the game. It's not all running-really-fast-and-hoping-you-don't-fall-off-the-ledge-into-the-lava. With the dark sonic character, the time constraints are far less and you have more time to explore the levels. I must say though, this plot device seems very similar to the one used in Zelda: Twilight Princess...
(3) Extensive world- there are so many secret missions in this game, it's ridiculous. And there are numerous extra doors you can open up in the temples as well (I know, Temples. That sounds like Zelda too.)

(1) The dialogue- the powers that be haven't realized yet that there was something glorious about having a silent Sonic on the Genesis. Because when Sega tries to do dialogue it kind of...falls flat. In all fairness, the dialogue is trying to reach out to what is still Sonic's target audience--kids. That said, I think even kids will find the dialogue stilted and corny.

(2) Chip- so the new character they introduce is this fairy like thing named Chip. He sucks. He does nothing for you. He's only a plot device not used until the last five minutes of the game. He's supposed to "Light Gaia" to the "Dark Gaia" we have to confront in the game. That being the case, I'd wager on Dark Gaia anyday.

(3) Limited ally appearances- I suppose the limit on Sonic allys in this game is to combat the hodgepodge they threw at us in "Sonic Heroes" (you only encounter Amy Rose and Tails in this game). But how can you have a game that goes across the entire planet and never end up on the Floating Island with Knuckles. Seriously the game would have been alot cooler.

Grade- B

Saturday, March 14, 2009

100 Confessions: Rejection Letters

(34) I'm a creative writer. Thus I am an expert at failure and rejection. I keep a file of all my rejection letters at work. I used to hang them on my wall, but my wife made me take it down because it was too depressing. They don't bother me. Publishers can't ignore me forever.

100 Confessions: Trailer Life

(33) I spent about two years of college living out of a trailer 20 minutes from campus. I may have been the only one there without tattoos and with a job. One day I walked outside and there were two enormous women fighting over one enormous, shirtless man. It was like Jerry Springer. Only worse.

One summer I planted flowers all around my trailer. When Hurricane Frances destroyed my trailer, I came back and someone had stolen my hibiscus. Who steals a hibiscus? They're like $5 at Walmart!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Putting a face to the Journalistic Crisis

610xWhen I think of what is happening to the journalism industry, I think of Tim Pallesen. We worked in the same newsroom and represented opposite ends of spectrum. I was a year out of college after a short stint at a community newspaper; he was a weathered, longtime reporter in our area. He'd covered my area of South Florida for an excess of 30 years. He had a column that took a different location in our city each week and told us the history of it. He'd been there long enough to know it.

When it came time for buyouts at the end of last year, he took it. I was let go as the sports feature writer around the same time. He left at the sunset of his career, taking with him an irreplaceable Rolodex of contacts. I left with the sun barely above the horizon, wondering what I'd gotten myself into and whether I had any chance of a future in this field.

All this comes to mind as a result of a very excellent "John Kelly's Washington" I read in the Washington Post the other day. Here's a short excerpt:

The last two journalists in America sat at a card table in the middle of their empty newsroom. They faced each other, about to flip a coin...They'd known this day was coming -- had spent the past 10 years watching it get closer -- but even so it was a bit of a shock to see it arrive. The newsroom that had thrummed for so long was vacant. The computers and phones were gone. The desks had been sold for scrap...The idea was that whoever won the toss could choose whether to be the one written about or the one to do the writing.

It's a mournful column. And perhaps pessimistic. But isn't it fair to mourn for what's lost? At least a little? Its easy to take a column like this to heart with the industry in the shape it's in: The Atlantic wonders whether the New York Times has reached the End Times, New Republic headlined it's last issue with "The End of the Press" (which they say will bring in a new era of corruption into democracy as well), and TIME magazine pleads with the world to "Save Your Newspaper" with a micropayment revenue model.

Last Rocky Mountain NewsI can remember getting out of school with journalism degree, full of vigor and a desire to Tell the Story. I worked a year at the community paper. After pressure from former professors and colleagues who told me the paper wasn't "good for my writing." I looked elsewhere. Lucky thing, the big daily in town was hiring a News Clerk. The problem is that both my wife and I worked at the community newspaper and only one of us could go for the job (and have a happy home life). My wife went for the job, I went for a youth director position working with local community middle and high schoolers. I managed to squeeze my way in to the paper eventually, offering to write sports features for the local communities and eventually building the freelance gig into two or three stories a week.

That's when I met Libby, the former drill sergeant who did to my copy what she'd done to her army recruits; Eliza, the photographer who would fall in love with my stories because they were always easy to photograph; Lady, the city writer who could never seemed to lose her smile; Jessica, my wife's fellow news clerk who would go on to partner with her in a fun city column called "The Uptown Gals;" and of course Tim, the quiet, experienced writer in the back who would spout the history of every place you visited if you gave him the time (and maybe a cup of coffee). Yet after a very short two years, we're all gone except for Eliza. My last conversation with her, I asked how work at the newspaper was. "Well, I'm still working," was all she could reply. Even the space we all worked in was gone. On my last visit there, the entire section was empty, the lights out, prepared to be rented out to a start-up Spanish speaking TV station. They're paying month-to-month.

2576025898_b121cb3194I don't think news is dying, I think it's changing. But it feels wrong to not mourn for what was lost. I mourn for the loss of writers like Tim Pallesen. In all fairness, this is a cruel world but I'm young and have a number of places to take my love of the media. But Tim? He loses the work he loves, we lose someone who knew our community better than anyone else.

I now teach at the Washington Journalism Center, helping young college journalists break into the industry. I encourage them that there are still a lot of jobs for the young, internet-minded and multi-media talented; just not necessarily the more experienced. And midway through the semester, I discussed a feature I read from New York Times' famous series "Portraits of Grief" on the victims of 9-11. It's short but one of my favorite stories of all time:

How to comprehend the terrible symmetry that returned Candace Lee Williams to the place of her triumph, the World Trade Center? A 20-year-old student in the cooperative work-study program at Northeastern University in Boston, she toiled from January to June at Merrill Lynch as an intern on the 14th floor of 1 World Trade Center.

"They loved her there so much, they took her out to dinner on her last day and sent her home in a limousine," said her mother, Sherri. "Then they wrote Northeatern a letter saying, 'Send us five more like Candace."

After finishing midterm exams in her June-to-December schedule, Ms. Williams agreed to meet her Northeastern roommate, Erin, at her home in California...So on Sept. 11 in Boston, Candace boarded Flight 11, which was then hijacked and sent crashing into the same trade center tower where she had worked.

"The airline told us she was seated next to an 80-year-old grandmother on the plane," her mother said, "and I know that Candace was consoling that woman to the last."

The questions raised by The Atlantic and New Republic are legitimate: what happens to our world when there is no one to put a tape recorder in front of the local county commissioner? When there is no one to check to see if his vote happened to be on a piece of land he owns?

But my question is more basic and more human. What happens to the world when there is no one who knows how to tell Candace's story? What about your story?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Safe Baby Handling 101

In high school, I volunteered for a Church nursery once. The key word in the previous phrase is once. Some of the lessons below might have come in handy. They're from the very excellent book, "Safe Baby Handling Tips:"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gopher2GopherLink!Sitcoms online aren't as funny. Looks like script writers will need to learn to write for the online medium.

Also, the changing face of American religion. Shunnnnnnnn?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gopher2GopherLink! Mitzi (friend of this blog) started a news blog for my alma mater. It's brilliant! Check it out here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Family Guy and the FCC

This clip came up in my Media Industries seminar the other day (which is conducted by a director in the Federal Communications Commission). Apparently, they got quite a laugh out of it. They were certainly calling out the FCC, not unlike the famed "Seven Dirty Words" by the late-George Carlin. Unlike the "Seven Dirty Words," Family Guy never actually showed or said that which they were forbidden (at least at an hour when they can get in trouble). But it was close.

As it should be. Cheers Family Guy!

Tales from DC: Quotable Student

Quote from breakfast this morning. My student noted that the first things she looks at in a guy are his teeth and his shoes.

Student: "My family always says I look at a man the same way a vet looks at a horse."

For her own "P"ersonal reflections (she has a thing about the letter "P"), read here.