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STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Category: News

The Dark Knight and Night Within Us: The Colorado Shooting

Aerosmith’s “Living on the Edge” played on the radio station I was listening to a few weeks ago. I hadn’t heard the song in years. I’d forgotten not only how good it is, but how relevant it has remained.

There is something wrong with the world today. And I don’t know what it is, either. But here are some thoughts.

I grew up in a time where kids played outside, and sure, there was some degree of bullying even in my youth, but never to the degree that it exists today. No matter who you were — jock, nerd, or whatever other label had been attributed somehow to each individual — you had a place in some crowd. Everyone belonged somewhere. You didn’t have to find friends online — indeed, there was no online then — let alone find out those so-called friends weren’t really who they claimed to be and, on top of that, weren’t really your friends.

I grew up in a time where people knew their neighbors — perhaps even a little too much, like how Mrs. X had a disturbing preoccupation with sweeping the driveway twice a day. I grew up in a time where people — young and old — really weren’t isolated, sitting behind screens all day, possibly stuck in some perverted scene or another without a sense of compassion for humanity or grip on reality.

I grew up in a time where spanking wasn’t considered child abuse. I grew up in a time where there were real consequences for even minor transgressions at an early age, where kids were reined in long before the vast majority could ever go too far.

I grew up in a time where people for the most part knew how to interact with each other appropriately face to face, understood the difference between fantasy — even dark fantasy — and real life.

This is not to say there wasn’t war, murder, rape, or other horrors humankind inflicted upon each other. Perhaps I am under the delusion that certain incidents are more common today than they were then. Perhaps it was that we didn’t hear as much about these tragedies because we simply weren’t as interconnected then as we are now.

Still, is anyone really content with the current state of affairs, whether they’ve gotten worse or (I say with a large degree of skepticism) perhaps even better, statistically speaking?

Yeah, me neither.

There’s something wrong with the world today. The light bulb’s getting dim.

But what can be done?

Even more frustrating than ensuing arguments about gun control, corporal punishment, law, etc., is the thought — perhaps truth — that there really is nothing that will stop this insanity… at least nothing from a large-scale perspective.

So this is where I return once again to the issue of individual responsibility. Each and every one of us has got to be personally responsible for our actions in this world. While I do not endorse any religious belief system here, I did find some of what this Christian Science Monitor article had to say reasonable — specifically the first half. The following quote was particularly thought-provoking:

“The ultimate goal is reliable protection.”

While law enforcement, weapons regulation, etc., can potentially assist in the reduction of violent ends, they will never be able to prevent violence entirely. All these things do is serve to temper the swell. They are a treatment of the symptoms, not a solution. They will never be able to stop all evils, though they may thankfully head some off at the pass. They will never be a cure for the dark desires we all have but that rise to the surface for some people, who subsequently act out such fantasies.

Which is why heroes like Batman are so appealing in the first place. Heroes remind us of the good that also exists in people. They help us — particularly as children — to feel safe in an otherwise unpredictable and therefore terrifying world.

But the world is unpredictable, and that is and should be terrifying. Let’s not forget that even Bruce Wayne possessed the awareness that safety is an illusion — a lesson he learned as a child, when he witnessed his own parents’ murder.

He also illustrates why personal responsibility is so important. He could have taken what happened to him and let it warp him into a villain. Instead, he chose to be a force of good.

But even he stands as an example of how problematic “fighting” for peace truly is. He wreaked vengeance upon those responsible for his parents’ murder, which gives the character dimension, though he would’ve been prosecuted in our justice system for assault at the very least whether we consider it justifiable or not. The injustice he suffered as a child served to drive him toward helping others — but sadly, this requires violence to counter violence.

Guns and people kill people, but so do knives and people and fists and people. What’s the common denominator? People. We all have it within ourselves to be forces of evil or hate, just as we all have it within ourselves to be forces of good or love. We can all be knights fighting for the good of humankind or get swallowed up in the abyss of our own dark nights.

But the fight is really never with others. It’s strictly with ourselves. Batman’s cause is utterly hopeless, when you really think about it, because even his fighting against criminals can’t transform the root of the problem in the first place, which is in all criminals’ minds — and in each and every one of ours.

You can help yourself from falling. In fact, you’re really the only one who can. (This is where Steven Tyler and I disagree.)

In spite of all of those wonderful toys comic book characters have, and in spite of those heroes’ most benevolent intentions, real heroism resides in each of us; it manifests itself as the responsibility we take for our own self-control as individuals. No one else can take personal responsibility for the mastering of the self or its dark side. And though I’m sure it’s of no consolation to any of the lives touched by the Aurora, Colo., tragedy — to whom my thoughts and prayers go out to — I do believe this is the only logical solution to the problem, the only thing that can possibly prevent such atrocities from happening again in the future.

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Teh Sade Stat of Journalism Today

This blog is a consideration of the state of journalism today from the point of view of a non-journalism major/MFA recipient/magazine writer/editor/feminist/idealist/brunette/crusty 30-something. And as is the case with most of my blogs, this will likely take me several paragraphs, goofy pictures, and sarcastic captions to get to my main point. And if you didn’t realize my title was part of the joke, I don’t blame you; for the record, though, it is. You’re welcome.

This topic was initially inspired by a friend’s bad day with the news-reading experience. Finding truly unacceptable typos and/or grammatical errors in the following two (one, two) mainstream news articles, she expressed her angst on Facebook, naturally — where all of today’s angst finds a happy home.

Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005

Status update: I’m pissed, brah! (And that, my friends, is what’s known as a pun.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The offending quotes:

1) “Oh, how you disappointment me my Aussie friends.”

2) “‘[I]t was hard to tell whether it was with faux or guanine naiveté,’ Losse writes.”

To which I replied (partially, at least):

‎1) “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” When it comes to editing, this is true! Granted, even if Chase had a proofreader review the piece, depending on the quality of the proofreader, these errors still might have been missed; but I’m guessing Chase worked alone on this… But, hey, what do I know? This is only my job… and I’d be out of it if there were fewer illiterate or just plain lazy people out there.

English: Chicken cooking on a gas grill rotiss...

Chicken Little, you were delicious! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Part of the problem — not to make excuses in any way — is that writers for today’s publications are a) on crazy deadlines to keep up with Twitter or some other news outlet breaking stories before they do, b) generally pulling a lot more writing weight than they can handle, and c) grossly underpaid for handling such a large workload, if they’re even willing to take the job for such a pittance. So quality suffers either because of overworking, apathy, lack of qualifications (aka recent grads who didn’t have a writing gig in school… and even some who did, based on some articles I’ve seen), or all of the above.

Slaughtre to lupin popup typo 04

Your attempted contributions fail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having moved on from her rage for, oh, a day or so, my friend then went on to ask her Facebook followers what they felt were the most unbiased, reliable media sources out there. Among the ones cited: Reason, The Guardian (though left-leaning), NPR, Consumer Reports (which I found to be a pleasant and surprising candidate for “news”), and Link TV.

While considering this query, as fate usually likes to have it, I stumbled upon this in my Twitter adventures:

@BostonReview

28 June: “Grab dinner with BR editor and political philosopher Joshua Cohen in San Francisco: http://kck.st/KEptL1  #kickstarter

Hmm… Boston Review piqued my curiosity — and followed me back (which was hot, by the by) — so I clicked on the link. Bam! This is what I read there:

“Are you disappointed by the tone and depth of public debate?”

Check…

“Are you frustrated that sensationalist political coverage and talking heads drive our public discourse?”

…and mate.

“You are in good company. And it is a big problem. The media — old and new — are not providing honest, thoughtful, open debate on key issues like economics, war, and justice.”

Yeah! Eff that!

“Our democracy is suffering as a result.”

Viva la Revolucion! (Wait, I got carried away. I’m just a little white girl…)

Postcard or print of a photo taken during the ...

Postcard of the only two journalists present during the Mexican Revolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naturally, I recommended Boston Review to my friend, but I’ve been thinking about this BR statement ever since. Yes, they’re looking for funding, so yes, they got a writer talented in PR and the art of persuasion to inspire readers to donate to the cause. But honestly, people, are you going to hold it against them?

Consider the following: One major flaw in today’s journalism is the fact that most media outlets are owned by a) major corporations or b) their advertisers. And I use the term “owned” loosely here, because when an advertiser threatens to pull its ad campaign — and, subsequently, its funding — from your publication in an attempt to dictate what you will and won’t print (e.g., you will not under any circumstances print something your staff wrote that, while factually accurate, it doesn’t like), and you give in, you are essentially owned.

Let me bring you the real, dear little journalism undergrads: Journalism today ain’t no Woodward and Bernstein shiz — not with most publications, at least. Back then, a journalist had to fear retaliation from, say, Richard Nixon. But today, if you work for, say, the fictional outlet of Flox News, do you know whom you have to fear? Your bosses. And their bosses. And even your interviewees. Because you can forget about getting another interview with Joe Blow if you didn’t let him see your article before it went to print (in to the sane!) and change his relevant yet controversial points to self-promotional, meaningless drivel. With the exception of all the fluff you can handle, you will write and report what these people tell you you can write and report — nothing more.

English: Flipped censorship.

Hi! I’m acting as this blogger’s representation of censorship. Point illustrated. Can I have my junk back now or what? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And perhaps you already know this. And if that’s the case, is it any wonder to either of us that you’re fresh out of the gates with your cute little degree all rolled up in your hand, completely apathetic about what you’re planning on spending the rest of your life doing?

Knowing things like this make me infinitely grateful I pursued studying my passion — creative writing — instead of doing something “safer,” like a journalism major. Because even when I have to stop caring that I likely won’t ever be paid (let alone allowed) to write accurate yet abrasive material, I still have the love of language, the love of writing itself, to keep me fulfilled, to keep me pounding out the paragraphs, inserting those commas and correcting those typos. And, of course, writing whatever I very well please on the side.

English: Poetry

I didn’t actually write this, but it’s pretty hilarious. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings us back to that initial complaint my friend made about the lack of proofreading and editing in journalism pieces. This here — this thing that you’re reading right now — this is called a blog. Is it a blog because it’s online? Partially. If it’s online, does that make it a blog? No. A blog — especially a personal one such as this — has one editor, typically: the writer. I don’t excuse any mistakes I may make herein, but I am the only set of eyes looking at it (albeit multiple times) before I hit “Publish.” But a news blog should have at least one editor — and one who knows what the heck grammar is and can spell properly without the squiggly red line. And a news article — also online, but not a blog — should absolutely have at least one editor reviewing it as well. The fact that it’s online for the whole world to see is no excuse for laziness on the part of the writer or acceptance of said laziness on the part of the reader because, “Oh, it’s just a blog”; in fact, because an online presence tends to completely replace or at the very least supplement — not subtract from — a print readership, to me it should be even more critical that everything in the text be accurate from not only a factual but a grammatical standpoint.

In other words, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, you have some work to do. Get to it!

English: Glue

Here’s some glue; get your shiz together! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mistakes will be made — sure. But seriously, this is why we have proofreading and copyediting. This is why we have editors. Find at least one good one, and here’s some additional advice on that: Since most college grads period (even English/journalism majors) are not learning proper writing skills in school these days, test and choose wisely.

You’d be amazed if you saw what some of the stuff coming through my work door looked like before we beat it into submission, because you see it in its prettified state. And that’s the way it should be. If it still looks like something a third-grader wrote by the time it’s posted to your website for all your readers to see, you got problems.

Test your writers, invest in your writers, and invest in more writers. And for g-d’s sake, let them do their jobs! That’s what you’re supposed to have hired them for!

Thank you, Boston Review, for (hopefully) representing a publication of integrity — one everybody in this country can learn from. I hope you are successful in your mission.

If I find out you’re owned, though, I’m going to retract every kind thing I ever said about you here. You’ve been warned.