Sunday, November 29, 2009
Example from an event the other night. An alum of the Washington Journalism Center began describing a story he chased that took him into gay bars. Students aren't allowed to drink in the program. So he asked legitimately, and to the interest of other students.
Alum: "I'm not sure I was allowed to enter a bar. Did I break policy?"
Me: "No. You brokeback policy."
Other examples: here, here.
-Kid in my youth group who plays lots of video games and likes to read. One day I'm riding in his car and am surprised by the smell of ramen noodles. I noticed that he has bowl sitting on the floor of the passenger side seat, with the dregs still sloshing a bit at stoplights.
Me: "You eat ramen noodles in the car?"
Kid: "Yeah, I got hungry on the ride home three days ago."
And we called him Noodle. Or Wild Man. Both are true.
-Student from southern California. Had a conversation with her one time while watching the remade 90210 series. My question switched from academic to "is this what you people are like? What's in the water down there?" And so we call her 90210.
-Coworker who was shy. But despite her shyness, she delivered really solid journalism. To build her up, I would call her Big, Bad Brandi. This was inspite of the fact that she was neither big, nor bad. In my defense her name was Brandi.
-Student who didn't know how to cook. She confided to me one day that she'd been eating sloppy joes since she left home. And thus, we called her Sloppy Joe (She wasn't actually sloppy).
Thursday, November 26, 2009
- A beautiful, caring wife.
- The Washington Journalism Center and the bright, passionate students there.
- Terry Mattingly
- A chance to go to graduate school at a top-20 school.
- Julie and Jared James
- Mike Plunkett
- The CCT program and the awesome people I know there
- I live in Washington DC, which may be the greatest city in the world.
- Sean at the front desk of the Clara Barton.
- Royal Poinciana Chapel and the Norris family
- Grace DC
- My little sister
- The craziness that is my family
- My dog (formerly my wife's dog), Mia
- The Palm Beach Post
- Josh Manning at the Town-Crier, for taking a chance on me as a writer.
In the morning, I wake up and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Mimi and I always stay in town for Thanksgiving. We go everywhere else for other holidays--Thanksgiving is our holiday. We stay home and invite any friends that are in town to come join us. We make too much food (it allows for turkey sandwiches later in the week). And after we're done with our meal, we watch my favorite movie, (And the movie really should be a rite of passage between Thanksgiving and Christmas) It's a Wonderful Life.
Then we can begin listening to Christmas music publically. As in the case this year, I cheated the weekend before Thanksgiving, but you've really got to save 90% of the Christmas music until Christmastime otherwise you get tired of it before the end of the season. It's just math. There's only so much Frosty and Rudolph a man can take.
(84) I jam the "close-door" button to keep other people out of elevators. Elevators can be awkward. The only time people usually make conversation is if I have a dog. Conversations are usually like "What's your dog's name?" "What kind of dog?" "How old is she?" Notice that there is never any recognition that I exist. I don't know why people think it's less awkward to ask for a dog's name than a person's, but whatever.
So I'm an awkward avoider. If given the opportunity to get in elevator alone (and with no one watching), I try to keep my ride solo.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Since then I've applied that lesson to just about everything in my life. My writing, my lectures, my work projects. It's hard to judge your own work until you've actually done the work.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Hilarious. In the above, a Toronto Star editor copyedits the publishers memo announcing layoffs. It was the editor's subtle clue that the publisher could benefit from editorial aid and that outsourcing copyediting to freelancers might not be the best idea.There's no doubt that newspapers are in trouble. Copy editor layoffs haven't gotten much attention -- certainly not as much as the reporter layoffs. After all, copy editors are invisible by nature. They're layoffs are the unacknowledged part of the larger loss of "journalism jobs."
That's a lot of people out of work, and in the case of copy editors, a lot of people who served a valuable function to the community. What do we lose with copy editors?
Unfortunately, the marketplace now eliminates journalism jobs at a rate in excess of 1,000 a month.
(1) We lose people who know their community- During one stint as a copy editor, I had a piece of copy come across my desk that said that an informal but influential village council was dissolving itself because the council members all hated each other. I'd only been there a month or so, but sounds like BIG news right? Wrong. Turns out they used to do that every six months or so. They'd take a month off and when people started talking about electing new council members, the old council members would go back to work.I had no sense of how important the news was. And I don't doubt that there are the occasional geeks who know all sorts of random information about their community. But in my experience those geeks want to be paid (there's not a lot of interest in "Citizen Copyediting"--not a ton of perks). More likely you'll get cheap editors who can do some story structure, some grammar editing but aren't going to be the best when it comes to deciding what goes on A1. Here's Poynter:
(2) We lose people who care about getting accurate information- As the copy editor said in his edit of the publisher's memo, to lose your salaried copy editors is to lose people who, well, care if an error gets into a story. Here's another adventure from that same, very weird newspaper.
Copy editors matter. They bring news elements together to make the whole more than the individual parts. They think about news packages, news pages and overall content and credibility.
One time I got a 6000-word story on a council meeting. It was supposed to be 600. And I had to edit it. I was pretty sure I was going to quit. But I didn't. Am I a hero for not quitting? I can't really say. But yes.
To this day, I have no idea what that quote was about. But the fact is, I didn't have to care. And in many situations -- far more serious than a random quote -- salaried copy editors serve to protect misinformation from getting into the hands of the public. Losing stakeholders, losing copy editors is loosing a hold on misinformation. And you know, after that story (which I essentially rewrote), I didn't even get a byline. The reporter got calls telling her how good her story was.Karen Dunlap's post does make copy editors sound like superheroes, but she does make a good point:
The industry is changing and it's hard to argue that cuts have to be made. But in the case of copy editors: their contribution was invisible, but their exit will be very evident.
They know that some of their best work is invisible. Writers and editors might admire the flow of a story without noting the deletion of an article, a change in punctuation, or the upgrading of verbs that helped the story flow.
Copy editors know that their work is also among the most read and influential copy in newspapers or online. Even television news turns increasingly to headline writers to produce news crawls across the bottom of the screen.
Friday, November 6, 2009
-I think it makes me a good worker because I'm want to try new things to improve what we're already doing.
-I think it makes me a good husband because I don't take my wife for granted. I have to continually win her hand.
-I think it makes me reach for goals others might find unachievable. And maybe they are goals that, for me, are unachievable. But at least I try.
-I think it makes me obsessive. I feel like a failure if I'm not working toward the next big thing: the book publication, the Ph.D program (and it has to be the best Ph.D program), a house, etc.
-I think it sucks the enjoyment out of the great work I do. I don't live in the moment. People say that they "live for today" and I don't argue, but I don't think I do. I don't think I'm good at it. I was raised to "be responsible," to "look out for others," to "make a difference." Smelling the roses just wasn't in there. And hey I'll bet they'll smell the same when I eventually write a book on the subject right? At least then I'll have accomplished something.
-I think I'm slightly worried it will make me a bad father. Will it go away when I have children? Will I keep reaching for things when I have kids and not spend enough time with them? Or will my perspective change and will I be that overbearing father who forces his children to achieve all the things he hoped to achieve himself. I'm scared that I could be both.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Here's the story:
Phantasy Star IV takes place in the year AW 2284 (1,000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II). It is the story of Chaz Ashley, a young bounty hunter, who along with his friends and allies, unwittingly becomes the savior of the Algol solar system. The story takes place on the planet Motavia, which has suffered through dramatic climate changes over the past 1,000 years.Once again, we have a story where the people of the planet come from a fallen civilization elsewhere. In keeping with my method with Final Fantasy IV, I'll reserve judgment on the game (as my critiques would be remarkably similar with those voice in Super Mario RPG--all the RPGs back then had the same problems) and focus instead on some unique narrative features:
After an event called the Great Collapse, much of the once-thriving ecosystem has been reduced to desert, and life has become difficult for the planet's inhabitants. To make matters worse, there has been a marked increase in the appearances of "biomonsters", strange and violent mutations of the normal plant and animal life.
Keeping these creatures under control is the job of "hunters" like Chaz and Alys, and it is during an investigation into an outbreak that the characters learn that the biomonster problem is related to the planet's ecological crisis. In truth, the planet is only reverting back to its natural desert state, which had been changed into an ecosystem more suited to human life by climate-changing technology thousands of years earlier. For reasons to be explained later, and relating back to the events of Phantasy Star II, this computer network suffers a system-wide malfunction, leading to the series of catastrophes throughout Algo.
Chaz and his allies connect the world's troubles to a man named Zio, whose aim seems to be nothing less than total annihilation - not only of Motavia but of the entire solar system. Their aim then becomes to defeat him in order to restore the computer systems maintaining Algo. However, it soon becomes clear that Zio is merely the vanguard to a much larger threat. Amidst great tragedy and struggle, Chaz and the others must eventually fight against an evil from time uncounted to restore peace to Algo once and for all.
(1) Narrative scenes are done in an anime style- note the picture shown here. Text intermingles with multiple text boxes, making for a comic style appearance. The drawing style is also unmistakably anime. The main character Chaz, is also very nationalistic. He's dressed in his red and white like a Japanese flag.
(2) We have a Messiah- Like Final Fantasy IV, like Breath of Fire II and the Obama Candidacy, we have a "chosen one." At a certain point in the game, the characters journey to a Church of Espers ("Espere" is French for "Hope") where they worship a legendary magician (Lutz) who died 2000 years ago, but lives on in the Church to be passed on to the one "chosen" to carry the will and memory the magician. Very Calvinist. Predestination anyone?
(3) We have an absolute evil Devil, but no God- According to the story, there was a great spiritual being that split in two. For whatever reason, the good part "Le Roof" decided to leave, but left all sorts of stuff behind to kill off the evil part, "Dark Force." (This is also the same scenario seen in the Breath of Fire series and others. A true Satan, but humankind must defeat it with only the help of some weapons, etc. from God).
Oh, and the evil dude is apparently pentacostal. (a)It's a rapidly spreading church movement--there are numerous church's run by Dark Force's fall guy "Zio" but none by Le Roof. What up). And (b) these churchgoers faint in the spirit and speak in tongues.
Monopoly: Barack Obama Edition squeezes all the fun and challenges
of The Obama Administration into one board game! Stage
vigorous debates with other players over valuable Health Care Reform or Bank Bailouts!
Click on the image for the full size version.H/T Harrison Keeley
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I've recently been on kick of playing old (are they old enough to be called "vintage?") video games and I've come to one of the three or four games that dropped me into the role-playing game genre. In Final Fantasy IV (originally released as Final Fantasy II in the states), we several groundbreaking innovations that took place.
This is, as far as I can tell research-wise, the first game (released on Super Nintendo in 1991) that really made use of the big cast, epic storyline that would become a staple of role-playing games to this day. You also had the advent of "active" turn-based fighting. So you go to a special screen during battle and have dozens of decisions for how to fight (unlike other hack-and-slash role-playing games like Zelda, where you have only a handful but don't have a special screen), but while you're deciding, the enemy can still attack you. It doesn't sound too impressive today, but World of Warcraft, Dragon Quest, Star Ocean, Radiata Stories all owe homage to this game.
Here's a brief overview of the story:
The player takes the role of Cecil, a Dark Knight from the Kingdom of Baron, on his journey to save the world from the evil Golbez. Struggling to prevent Golbez from acquiring powerful Crystals, Cecil learns of his heritage and travels through three realms to battle Golbez's minions. His lover, best friend, and other warriors join him for the adventure.
Final Fantasy IV introduced innovations that became staples of the Final Fantasy series and role-playing games in general. Its "Active Time Battle" system was used in six subsequent Final Fantasy games. With its character-driven plot, use of new technologies (such as Mode 7) and critically acclaimed score by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy IV is regarded as a landmark of the series and of the role-playing genre.
And if Wikipedia says it, it must be true. I should also note that this game remains so enormously popular to this day, that his spawned three re-releases and recent sequel that I hope to do a review of shortly. I'm going to have a difficult time not being biased in terms positives and negatives, so for this game, I'm going to focus on a typography of what's key in terms of the game.
(1) Redemption is a major theme.
There's a conversion! And it's better than the one in Left Behind (not hard). It's perhaps a non-religious conversion, but it certainly redemptive. During the course of the game, the protagonist Cecil Harvey must cease being a dark knight to become a paladin (a holy knight). During his time as a dark knight, he attacks a town called Mysidia. But once realizing his king is corrupt, he turns against him and in the midst of travelling to confront him, Cecil and his party are shipwrecked. The wreck leaves Cecil back Mysidia, where he is understandably not welcomed. But the elders warn him that if he's fighting evil with evil, he will have no success. So he's sent to an ancient monument on Mt. Ordeals where he will have to "part from his past" in order to gain the power of paladin. The monument tells him he must:
"Conquer your Darkness within! If you can't overcome your past self, the sacred power of Light will not accept you."And on the mountain, Cecil fights himself. There are several ghosts of "sin" discussed in the confrontation. He doesn't allow his friends to help him fight, saying:
"This is my own fight! I must defeat him to amend for my past guilt."There's also a plea for pacifism as well.
"To be a real Paladin, you must not fight now. Justice is not the only right in this world."And at the end of the story, Cecil's brother, Golbez (who is the antagonist for much of the story), tries to destroy big bad guy Zemus. But Golbez, is unfortunately, a dark knight and can't do it. Cecil the Paladin is able to destroy him, with the help of prayers from earth (they call it "wishes" but everyone is going prostrate and reciting liturgy. I'm sorry politically correct translator--that's called a "prayer").
(2) Self-Sacrifice is a major theme.
During the course of the story, there are three major incidents of self-sacrifice.
(a) Sage Tellah uses a powerful spell to fight off Golbez (antagonist) and protect his friends, revenge his daughters death. He knows using the spell will kill him, and it does.
(b) Karateman Yang Fang Leiden destroys a cannon to save those who would have been killed by it's blast. He manages to survive (?) but for the majority of game we're pretty sure he's toast.
(c) Engineer Cid Pollendina basically performs a suicide bombing to save his friends from attackers. He also manages to survive (?).
The Lunarian FuSoYa (who wins the award for weirdest name) does get a little preachy near the end:
Zemus: "I will not perish as long as there is evil in the hearts of people."
FuSoYa: "Evil in our minds will never disappear...We are all both evil and good in our minds...So long as evil exists, so does good."
(3) Creation story:
Basically, we have the case of "really-smart-aliens-come-to-earth-and-some-are-really-bad-and-some-are-really-good" story plot. You'll find the creation story in here:
The Lunarians are a race of human-like wizards who came from a world destroyed which became the asteroid belt, and are identified by a moon-shape crest on their foreheads. They created the second moon that revolves around the world the story takes place on, resting until a time they believe their kind can co-exist with humans. The only known full-blood Lunarians are Fusoya, the guardian of the Lunarians; Zemus, a restless Lunarian who plans on destroying life on Earth so his kind, alone, can inhabit the planet; and Kluya, who is believed to be the first Lunarian to interact with humans. In fact, Kluya fell in love with a human, and had at least two sons with her: Theodor, whom Zemus corrupted and renamed Golbez; and the younger brother raised by the King of Baron as Cecil.
I had no awareness of healthy eating habits while I was living alone. A typical day looked something like this:
(Breakfast) Tall glass of orange juice, leftover pizza
(Lunch) Tall glass of gatorade, tacos
(Afternoon) Heavy workout with a long run, situps and weightlifting. Afterwards, drink a glass of a water and another tall glass of orange juice.
(Dinner) More pizza and Dr. Pepper.
So yeah. I got an ulcer my senior year of college. It wasn't pleasant.
During my time in the trailer, I liked to make eggs and bacon some mornings for breakfast. One day after having said breakfast, I left and came home to a very thick, odd smell in my motorhome. As it turns out, I'd left the gas on. No problem, I thought. So I turned off the burner. About fifteen minutes later, while relating this story to a friend, I decided to cook myself some shrimp. So I turned the gas on again and lit the burner.
From what I'm told, that much trapped gas usually would have made my trailer explode. Thank God it leaked.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Greg: "So what's going on at the Kindness blog?"
Student: "Well, they had a really interesting article on breast awareness. Even though breast awareness month is done, there are ways we can keep breast awareness going the whole year--"
Greg: "Umm...Do you mean 'Breast Cancer Awareness?'"
Greg: "Although I'm glad you mentioned that cause. Guys in particular will have no problem getting behind that one!"