A new challenge for 2011: Poetry

10 02 2011

Well my life is starting to feel empty without a daily challenge, so it’s time to start a new one. I’m going to try to write a new poem each day. Here’s my first real introductory piece, not those ones I did on my phone earlier that sucked. I wonder how long I can keep this up!

Now, you might wonder what happened to 365 Hats. Well the actual challenge is over. (Although I still keep getting new hats. The latest is a cheesehead.) I finished that project as far as gathering material, and I even edited a video, believe it or not, but haven’t published it. The reality is I never completely finished the video editing because of musical concerns. I had started composing a track in GarageBand that is pretty much ready to go. Just a matter of getting it in there. But I really do need some better music … I’m so close, might as well.

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Waiting for the world to change

28 03 2009

I guess the frustrations that I’m feeling (and the world collectively is feeling) about the state of newspapers, journalism education, media literacy and academia have got to come to a head sometime. Maybe now. The tensions have always been there, and this bad economy is merely the tipping point that will catalyze further change.

It’s almost cliche now but Clay Shirky’s article about the uncertainty and possible troubles ahead (thinking the “unthinkable” so to speak) is a pretty sobering view of the challenges ahead. I’d like to think that things won’t be quite that bad, but we can definitely expect that things may never be the same. When I was studying journalism and walking the hallowed halls of academia, I always felt a little uneasy. Sort of like I was traveling back in time and not really in step with what was going on outside the newsroom and journalism classroom. (Granted, they were trying as hard as they could, and none of us really had the answer. We’re still learning.)

Especially in light of what you can see happening now, I can certainly relate to Shirky’s concept of being a “barking madman” about the future, although I can hardly blame my contemporaries for resisting in a time when finances weren’t so dire and there wasn’t such a stark division between success and failure. But going into college, I was terribly undecided and uninspired whenever I examined the reams and reams of schools and majors at my university. I simultaneously wanted to everything and nothing. So little information about what to do with information.

The job I do now didn’t exist then, and I couldn’t have conceived of it as I sat at desks listening to old war stories of reporting about criminals and city councils. Sure, we discussed the Web and experimented with it and did internships and made online magazines, but we viewed it with a certain distant reverence and simultaneous grateful pity toward the people making it happen. “Web producer” jobs at that time weren’t terribly exciting — little more than shuffling content from print to online. We knew that was the future, but we had horrific visions of being reduced to moles working odd hours to cut and paste someone else’s stories — nearly going blind from wading through a sea of poorly conceived HTML tags.

Overall, I am thrilled with the education I got. It steered me where I needed to go. But I got lucky, too, and I wonder if the time has come for everyone to think differently about things. (It’s not just me wondering.)

I remember how we used to think back then. Focus on the basics and then the technology will fall into place afterward. Turns out things are changing so fast that the basics themselves have changed.

What about the future? We all knew deep down the current newspaper model was unsustainable. I’m surprised it worked as long as it did. Are people really going to pay for what is essentially old and outdated news that wastes trees, when they can get the same thing for free? I love reading a newspaper and being able to hold it in my hand, but I don’t like dealing with the waste of paper or the mass of it, and I don’t want to pay for it every day. And this idea that newspapers should withhold news until the morning… that worked then, but what about now, when the rumor mill is so much more active? It will only be more so in the future. Sure, the “hold-for-release” concept has its appeal and its need, but for crucial information and breaking news, old news is no news.

Some folks from the now-beleaguered East Valley Tribune, once heralded as a great Phoenix-area paper, are trying to start online-only publications. Same with people who left the shuttered Rocky Mountain News. Lots of people are starting up as citizen journalists, and will be doing it. Heck, dealing with that stuff is my job now. Could we have imagined that someone like me would make a living like this just a few years ago? I never would have fathomed and yet here we are.

So… we’re certain now that the future is uncertain and people won’t have the big conglomerations that we once had. Things are going to be individually driven. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The question is, if it’s not your full-time job, will you have time to do the reporting? Will your employer allow you to be a reporter and can you maintain the distance required? Who’s going to keep an eye on City Hall?

From my limited experience doing traditional news reporting, I recall attempting to gain respect from sources and the community (and my editors) by building a sense of trust among people and having good relationships with area stakeholders. That’s not a whole lot different from what I’ve seen while experimenting with social media. You build a following on one of these sites by captivating interest, putting in work and reciprocating with other members. In other words, you “join the conversation,” one of the most overused phrases ever as of late. But that ain’t no bull.

Conversation and community give you something that content cannot. One important thing Shirky notes is that people on Usenet were making copies of Dave Barry’s work back when the Internet started, and publishers’ immediate guttural reaction was to attempt to stop the sharing and stifle human nature. It is human nature to want to share and even to take another’s idea and spread it around both because you like the idea and because you want a piece of that attention for yourself. In short, trying to fight this urge is counterproductive.

Content is reproducible in many cases, but you cannot take a human interaction or experience and replicate it.

At the same time, you well know that people tend to develop great interest in certain kinds of content and high levels of traffic can go to these places. Sites are very good at delivering this content. So this can be capitalized upon and even discussed. If you are the source of this discussion, all the better. But chances are you won’t be, given how information is shared at light speed. Take, for example the idea of people Twittering while in the middle of a plane crash. You can’t beat the speed of that.

What it comes down to is a complex dance not unlike to two awkward birds preparing to mate — not so much audience-performer but more like different voices talking to one another. At least, that’s what my college experiences eventually taught me.





Resting up for a wild next few weeks

23 08 2008

Currently writing from Phoenix, Arizona, right now. I’m on vacation hanging out w/ the family. We had a good time visiting San Diego and I enjoyed the trip immensely. We took a couple days to visit the beach and stay in a nice hotel where we could walk everywhere. On the way to and from California, we stopped at all the cheesy tourist stops you can contemplate. (Pictures!!)

A pretty vacation photo, originally uploaded by N-Sai. [Full set]

It will be bittersweet symphonies a-go-go when I go back to ATL because there’s so much to be done at work and outside of work and just in general. My life is more complex than it ever has been, and that’s a good thing. It’s not just working all the time or studying all the time or what have you, but rather a nice mixture of all elements of a good life. This can only get better. I mean, I just got my first approval for a credit card and I’m going to have one for the first time, ever. Since the economy went to pot, I’ve been unable to get one. I had to take out a loan through the credit union and pay it off (and wait until my fraud flag expired — in regards to a couple instances of potential identity theft in the now-distant past) before I started having any luck with credit card companies.

But… I was just kinda freaking out about my timetables for the next few weeks… this could get wild and wacky. Here’s the absolute bare minimum of what needs to happen, and when:

  • By August 28: I need to make it through the conventions coverage supreme (like a Taco Bell taco with all the fixins, for lack of a better term), with the DNC being fairly immediate upon my arrival, and also make my way through the RNC as well.
  • By September 1: I need to have made it through the Dragon*Con in one piece, and potentially *in* a one-piece. It’s up in the air what I’ll be dressing as, but I know I will be doing something. Might have to look up a comic book store or costume shop or just hit up Psycho Sisters or another similar shop to find something fun that I can wear.
  • By September 13: I need to be moved out of my old apartment and moved into a new one. The olde place has already been leased and a new occupant will be moving in by the 19th. Good luck hacking the cucaracha action, suckers! (Is that mean?)
  • By September 18: I need to be in Beverly Hills for the Murray thingy, something I’m not even close to being ready for. I need to get plane tickets, figure out the itinerary, write my bio again (note to self), figure out where I’m staying… this all has to happen pretty soon.

So yeah, busy times await. But I am starting to get a little excited about all this.





Pumpkin spice and everything nice

18 10 2007

I like to go to Starbuck’s every now and then, and I’m not even talking about the one roughly 50 feet from my Place of Employment. I would rather go to a locally owned coffee house (that serves quality coffee), but it’s tough to find indie businesses in my corner of the OTP without a bit of travel. Anyways so the last two times I went to the particular ‘Bucks that I always go to, I have been the “every 50th customer.” This means I am eligible for TWO entries in the October drawing to win $1,000. I’m gonna give it a shot, you know? I figure this isn’t going to happen every day.

And by the way, I’m kicking myself for repeatedly ordering the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which cost me more than purchasing an actual pumpkin. It’s not unpleasant, but it bears resemblance to neither pumpkins nor spice. It is a fine and enjoyable latte, however. It’s a different story when tasting pumpkin beer, however. That stuff doesn’t sit well with me. The last time I tried some I thought it tasted vaguely like, um, “upchuck,” and I didn’t make it beyond a few sips. I’m tempted to give it another shot, but of course, that’s what I always say about the Pumpkin Spice Latte. My picks at Starbucks are straight-up cappuccino, the cinnamon dolce latte and the chai latte. Even then I have to be careful to just drink a little at a time and spread it out over a few hours to avoid getting an uncomfortable stomach-irritating caffeine rush, and you know, to make it last. I’ve tried non-dairy and that helps a lot, but the soy milk doesn’t touch real milk. If I want something a little lighter I’ll go for a green tea lemonade, lightly sweetened. Delish.

[/whining]

So… beyond that, I endorse Stephen Colbert for president. To be quite honest, he’s the only candidate I have any sort of affection or affinity for.

I should also recap my recent journey to Stone Mountain Park for the pumpkin festival (featuring pumpkins that are probably NOT picked directly from a local patch, but I can pretend, right?). It was good times, and it was a lot easier to get there than I expected. Admission to the park itself is free (although attractions are not) so it’s a nice place to go and chill. I’m definitely going to go back and try out ALL the rides if I possibly can. I love the little touristy village inside the park. It reminds me of a Cracker Barrel on a massive scale. (And Stone Mountain Village itself has a charming little Main Street). What kind of weirds me out is the carving on the side, which is of course the main attraction of the whole thing. It’s a monument to the Old South, and you see a lot of, I dunno, characters going to see it. Then there was the kid who asked me if I was “from around here” and the lack of transit in the direct vicinity of the park. For these and other reasons, what I’m getting at here is that I sense that the crowd at this park is more representative of the population outside the city than the people inside it. If you catch my drift. And then there was a bunch of guys who drove by me and yelled “Hey!” to scare me. They laughed when I jumped. I don’t know, it was kind of a strange atmosphere over there peoplewise. Still, an enjoyable time, and I’ll definitely go back.

What I really miss is Young’s Farm in Dewey, Arizona, which used to have the most awesome pumpkin festivals featuring pumpkins grown right on the farm (if I understand correctly). I know I went at least once with my roommate at the time, and I’m glad. That place was totally awesome, but sadly, the owners had to sell it out for some reason or another, and now they can build a subdivision there for heat-weary Phoenician escapees. And by the way…

A CHALLENGE TO THOSE LOOKING AT THIS
Finally, I’m calling on all my readerses (I assume there’s at least a handful of you out there) to search for the term “adult balloon animals.” I’m currently the No. 5 result when you search for those words in Google, and the goal should be to become the No. 1 source of complete non-information on adult balloon animals. Together we can work together to make this happen.