Looking back at the road fully visible

A trending topic on Twitter today gave me an existential moment that was as fascinating as it was slightly horrendous. The topic –  #10yearsago – is pretty self-explanatory. I have a notoriously bad memory, so I was sitting in the basement with my sister, thinking about what I could have been doing 10 years ago as we were having a conversation, coming up with very little.

I had to accomplish the task mathematically. Ten years ago I was … about to turn 16. That made me a sophomore in high school, I think. Sophomore year, second semester, I was about to buck the system and join the staff of Novi High’s newspaper, The Wildcat Roar, which was normally a class reserved for juniors and higher.

(UPDATE: I realized soon after this that I’d done the math wrong, and actually was a freshman in high school 10 years ago. That’s not really conducive to this blog, so in favor of writing the one that I’m interested in writing, we’re adjusting to #9yearsago.)

Sitting in the basement, wandering through my life the way kids go through history textbooks, I realized that the singular decision to join the newspaper has had a larger effect on my life than any other thing I’ve done – ever.

It’s actually kind of haunting, not to mention a little grotesque, the way this one choice has absolutely shaped every. single. thing. that has happened to me since. From academia to career path, from college choice to my love life, from who my friends are to how I spent various summers, from what I wanted to be to what I am, the Wildcat Fucking Roar is responsible for all of it.

How unsettling, not to mention altogether underwhelming (who am I, exactly, that I can be narrowed down and pigeonholed so thoroughly?), is that?

Not that it’s all bad. I’m painting the suck picture here, and there’s a hearty helping of that. There have also been some incredible things to come out of this decision. Finding something at which I excelled was hugely formative for me. I had very little self-confidence for the entirety of my time in school, and journalism turned me around, helping to become (somewhat) more outgoing and altering my view of myself and the world at large. I have a few key people and newspaper to thank for that.

Central Michigan Life -- three years of long hours and great people. I attended Central Michigan University instead of the University of Michigan, a decision I stand by (and am extremely thankful for) to this day. My college years were dominated by my work at Central Michigan Life, which was altogether amazing. Many of my best friends are journos and I love them. And there’s Caitlin M. Foyt, who I only know (and who only loves me) because of the time we spent together on the newspaper.

But let’s also track the ensuing carnage from that single moment, shall we?

In 1999, I joined the newspaper. I designed the sports section. Jason Skiba, a journalism teacher who also had a major effect on me, had just taken the paper from an 8×11 magazine-format craprag to a broadsheet newsprint Actual Paper. Game-changer, that guy.

Skiba also gave me my first high school B. Because I got my section done late. Because designing is goddamn hard (and I still don’t believe I deserved that B).

That first B knocked me out of contention to be among the 80-odd valedictorians in our grade-inflated high school. It pushed me out of four-year straight-A contention, which had a massive effect on my work ethic. Suddenly I couldn’t obtain academic greatness, and therefore, the pressure was off. I was somewhat coasting through of high school after that because really, who the hell cared at that point.

The majority of high school was dedicated to The Roar. I worked up to editor in chief, a role shared with one Nick Hurwitch, and I let it consume my afternoons and weekends. I wrote a feature column and stupid articles about movies and cartoons. It was a writing outlet and I was in love with it.

When it came time to go to college, journalism factored in heavily. My work at The Roar had me considering journo as career path, which in turn led to me looking seriously at CMU and Michigan State (at the time, I didn’t think I had much chance of getting into U-M). There were a handful of other things that occurred, including scholarship happenings that influenced the decision, but in the end, CMU was as much a choice that made sense financially as one that had a journalism program I could get behind.

As far as career was concerned, the thing I’d always sort of planned to do involved creative writing somehow. Mostly I was thinking “novelist” and therefore studied creative writing. Journalism was a backup plan, and thus my minor. It was later that I realized I could double-major without too much stress and it made much, much more sense.

But journalism was always the “backup career” in case I needed to do something in the meantime while waiting to get published/discovered/otherwise famous. Until, of course, it became the primary career as I devoted just about all of my time and energy to CM Life. I rose as high as managing editor at that institution, spent a summer as design editor, got some pretty great clips, did a whooole lot of editing, and parlayed my time there into internships and a couple of jobs. (It wasn’t until much later that I realized the industry was falling apart and as a “backup plan,” it was barely feasible.)

One has to wonder about destiny when you find a woman like this, a year after you thought you'd never see her again. While I was there, I met Caitlin, which tops the list as The Single Greatest Thing To Ever Happen To Me. For that reason alone, the 10 years of journalism that were the result of Skiba’s (and later newspaper adviser Lydia Cadena’s [she deserves much more mention than I’m giving her here]) influence and the intoxicating allure of newsprint have been, as they say, Fucking Phenomenal. The last year with her has been life-alteringly great, and without the decision to attend CMU, without the decision to study journalism, without my experience at my high school newspaper, I would never have found her and life would be sad and abysmal. Of everything that’s happened, even if everything that had resulted from journalism was negative, it would have been well worth it.

Although, she could have made it a little easier on me and said something to me five years ago, instead of us waiting until last March to finally admit to each other how we felt. But anyway.

The massive influence of journalism on me led me to my internship, which constituted a second summer in journalism, at the Grand Rapids Press. Since I’d been interested in page design and have some sort of irritating affinity for editing copy, I did a copy desk internship there. That work experience and my experience as an editor at CM Life (I basically started as an editor and designer, which robbed me, in retrospect, of a great deal of reporting) led me to a copy desk job at the Port Huron Times-Herald. Moving to Chicago led me to the Web copy editing job I currently hold.

I’ve come to realize editing definitely is not how I want to spend the rest of my life – at all. I wonder what might have happened if I’d had the foresight to drop journalism in favor of spending more time immersing myself in English, creative writing, and film – the way I’m starting to wish I had.

So today I’m two months out from turning 25, and pretty much reserved to the notion that journalism is not, in fact, what I want to do with my life. And deciding not to join the newspaper way back when I was two months out from turning 16 would have put me at a different college, in a different city, studying a different thing, and eventually working a different job. I wouldn’t have spent the last year living at home, or most of the year before that in Chicago, or most of the year before that living in apartments in southeast Michigan night shifts at newspapers and watching movies.

What ifs are difficult and, obviously, pointless. What isn’t pointless I think, though, is recognizing the path of life and how important a single decision can be. And despite all this random career insecurity I’ve been suffering from for the last year, it’s important to note: I have never ever been happier, in my life, than I am today. When I look back at the path of my life, despite some misgivings, I can’t help but wonder about the concept of fate – journalism, that one original decision, is responsible for me finding the woman of my dreams. And we’re together despite my inadvertent efforts to never realize how she felt about me, or to tell her how I felt. The path seems to have led me, inexorably, to Caitlin.

Hard to downplay the significance of that.

It’s weird thinking about the exact path of life over the last 10 years. But you can’t change a path if you can’t see it, right? And I can certainly see it, in stark clarity.

Thanks for the nightmares

Out of the darkness descends a shadow, unfolding from the somewhere unseen above. It curls down and drops to the gleaming metal floor below, at home in darkness, and only after it is standing at its full height do you realize it’s seven or eight feet tall.

Light glints off its edges, giving you an impression of a sleek, bony frame and sharp, shining edges carved of something jet black. It rises above you, towering like an obelisk.

You start to back away, horrified as black lips slide away from silver teeth that seem to shine with their own light, emerging slowly from the slick black head. And suddenly an entire second set of jaws explode forward like a battering ram, a living bullet, tearing through flesh.

That’s if you’re lucky.

alien Much more likely is the creature, the alien, will ambush you. You’ll never see it coming as its long, thin claws wrap around your face and chest and it rips you off the ground with incredible strength, dragging you off to its hive. There, it will secrete a glue that will bind you, cocoon you, to any hard surface. There, you’ll wait.

You’ll wait for the babies.

The alien might eat you, sure, if it feels like. But what it wants to do is feed you to its hive’s young. Imprisoned in the hive, another sort of alien, which looks like a spider, will attach itself to your face, force a tube down your throat, and lay an egg in your stomach. Where it will grow.

Before long, it’s time for the baby to be born. It’ll use its teeth. And it’ll come through your ribcage.

That’s easily the most horrifying experience I can imagine – becoming the victim of a creature that doesn’t just want to eat you, but to rape you so fully that when you finally give birth to the bastard child, it will kill you; and that you’ll help in the creation of a thing that knows nothing but murder. I’ve been captivated, and held captive, by visions – and fears – of the monster ever since I first saw Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” and even before that, when I read the novelization of writer Dan O’Bannon’s script for the film when I was around 9.

I found the novel, its cover coming loose and pages hanging half-free of the binding, in a used book store in Toronto. “Alien 3” was released just two years before and when that happened, the film series became a part of my consciousness that I’ve never been able to shake. A fan of sci-fi for the entirety of my life, I couldn’t put the book down. It was incredibly frightening – the story of a group of bored working-stiff spacemen on a tugboat dragging an interstellar mine across the galaxy. And then they were attacked by a monster that killed them all in the most vicious way possible.

225px-Dan_O'Bannon O’Bannon died on Dec. 17 at the age of 65. He was a writer and director for films, including “Return of the Living Dead,” a genre-altering zombie movie. (The zombie moaning “braaaaaiiiins” is the child of “Return.”) But O’Bannon’s work on “Alien” is what changed the worlds of science fiction, film and horror for me forever.

There are occasions when I’ll awake with a start and a cold sweat, searching the darkness in my room, convinced that one of those huge creatures is waiting just out of sight. There are few other stories that have had such a profound effect on my psyche. When I was young, I consumed all I could from the “Alien” universe – movies, novels based on the films, comics, video games, even toys.

O’Bannon’s death reminded me of how acutely this one story has affected me. The alien and its awful power and singular purpose still is one of the most original horror conceptions I’ve ever encountered – nothing I’ve seen that’s been created in last 30 years even compares. How many movie monsters have you ever had a nightmare about? Because my list is short (though it is a list, and maybe that makes me weird).

The list of things I can designate as “Made Me Want to Be a Writer” is huge, with more items that I can enumerate or probably even remember. But high on the list (really, really high) is the work of Dan O’Bannon on “Alien.” Really, it boils down to a single idea – but that single idea, that alien creature, holds the place as the scariest thing of which I’ve ever heard. That’s an incredible achievement, in my mind.

The very reason for creating something is to have a serious effect on the lives of others. O’Bannon didn’t do a ton of memorable work – the majority of his movies are some of which I’ve never heard – but just this one idea was so formative to me that the man had a serious influence on my writing in all genres, and in science fiction and horror in particular.

I wake up from bad dreams about O’Bannon’s monsters.

But it’s always a good thing.

Happiness derived of metal and plastic

cd cover I’ve been holding off writing a post about the most important aspect of my life, because I didn’t want to come off as sappy and ridiculous. In addition, who would want to read about it, I reasoned.

Alas, no longer can I refrain from pouring my heart out all over the Internet. I am absolutely, deeply, hopelessly, endlessly, ridiculously in love with Caitlin M. Foyt.

For Christmas, Caitlin got me the greatest, most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. You can read a more in-depth description on her blog, but suffice to say, she took the mix tape idea I utilized for her birthday and as is her way, did it 100 times better than I did.

Caitlin’s extremely involved 23-track mix CD, “Songs I Never Related To Before I Met You,” is an intense and satisfying love letter. You know a person is special when she has the ability to recast multiple songs you’ve grown to hate over the years and make them relevant and fun to hear. “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer is a crap song – except in the context of Caitlin’s album, where it’s not only perfect, but enjoyable. Who knew.

And she put a Meat Loaf track on there (“I Would Do Anything For Love,” which I love to belt) despite her dislike for Mr. Loaf.

That’s not to discount the case and booklet she made me with her patented collage technique with love letter liner notes. The undertaking was massive, the quality shows, and it’s impossible for me to overstate how great it makes me feel.

Part Two of the gift: engraved Zippo lighter. I’ve always wanted one and her message on it is a constant reminder that my life is amazing.

I’m a lucky guy.

Meanwhile, Caitlin often turns to me and asks, “Why do you like me?” As if there’s a way to answer that with any kind of brevity or precision.

Why do I like her? Because she’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met; because she’s beautiful, smart, funny, interesting, and incredibly talented; because she’s the kind of person who puts together a mix CD complete with its own unique and amazing packaging.

I can’t help but laugh at the irony of it. The most beautiful and interesting woman I’ve ever known – the woman of my dreams, the woman I’ve wished I could be with since the first day we met – wonders why I like her.

It’s especially weird because I’ve always perceived a difference in league here. I’m not someone who’s got a ton of self-esteem and confidence when it comes matters of women as it is, and to be honest, I never really thought I had a shot with Caitlin.

Even more strange are the occasional discussions we have about how close we both came to confessing how we felt about each other more than a year ago. It’s funny to think about how different my life would be if I’d chosen a different path (read: grown a spine) two years ago before I left Michigan for six months in Chicago.

Thinking about how my life could have been different just highlights how good it is now. Receiving Caitlin’s deeply personal Christmas gift is almost as good as getting her something that she’ll love just as much. And more than anything, I love being in a relationship in which giving and creating gifts – one of my all-time most hated endeavors because I endlessly agonize over finding and obtaining worthwhile gifts in (almost) all cases – is something that I now actually have a great time doing. And I love being reminded that I love it. And I love that my life’s become something in which I find thinking and writing about stuff like this fun and interesting enough to do it.

The king of all that is unfinished

Snapshot_20091201 I had been sitting here staring at a blank blog post for a few minutes now when I was struck a painful illustration of a fact about myself that drives me crazy. (The photo is meant to represent that I’m so counterproductive as to be unshowered for the whole of the day.)

To post these blogs, I use Windows Live Writer, a program that compiles all your blogs into a single program and offers a word processor for the purpose of writing entries. It’s not exactly necessary – the program is essentially the interface on your blog, so why do you need another interface that mimics your interface? – but it does afford certain upsides, such as being able to write offline and post later with slightly less hassle, and it works like Microsoft Word, and it was free.

I mention this because one of the nicer functions is a handy quick-action bar found along the right side of the post, which lets you quickly open the blog, or its dashboard, or stuff you’ve recently posted among several blog sites (I like it when I get lazy and share things between here and Wrath of the Damned), or unfinished draft blogs you’ve started and saved.

Sadly, I have a pile of such blog posts. Among their titles:

  • The king of all that is unfinished, in which I describe my propensity for using just half my ass in any given situation.
  • Gamestop, in which I started to complain about how badly I was treated at Gamestop the other week when I bought “Left 4 Dead 2,” but ran out of steam and decided to just quietly boycott rather than bother outlining my somewhat shallow reasons for it. (Suffice to say, I feel like those clowns repeatedly and extensively rip off me and everyone in the subset known as video gamers, who deserve to be treated well given who they are and how they’re treated by everyone else, and not exploited by some fat corrupt corporate bastards.)
  • A mystery spot inside a time warp, in which I started to do some investigative journalism about some possibly wonky workings in the Village of Holly’s local government, concerning the town’s very small police force and its employ of Dodge Chargers as its police cruisers. But it was a lot of work and didn’t seem like it was going much of anywhere. I also may need to exercise the Freedom of Information Act to finish it, and we all know what a hassle that can be.
  • The journalism industry, in which I was hoping to expound on an idea I started recently, partially to complain about the state of the industry in which I am trained and no longer really wish to be a part, partially because I’m sick of people crying about losing their jobs when it seems clear to me this is both a temporary setback and a necessary function of a crappy industry cleaning out the crap.
  • The reign of the benevolent government, in which I was going to complain about members of my generation specifically and people in general and the B.S. they spew about politics, about trusting their government to “take care of them” when they should be vigilant and irritated, and stumping for politicians because they voted for them and are therefore married to them.

So that was a little depressing. In addition, I’ve been in a dumpy mood lately anyway, as it’s been 10 days or more since I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. This is significant especially because today, Nov. 30, is the last day of NaNoWriMo, and I am well below the arbitrary finished novel mark of 50,000 words.

And that also was a little depressing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve failed to finish something that formerly was important to me. I’m well-versed in the, “hey, what a great idea!” portion of writing something, but not so much in the “yes, I worked really hard and now I have something to show for it” portion. Which is interesting, because for years I was completely unable to write anything shorter than 10,000 or 15,000 words and have it be complete, and therefore always wrote long, and therefore wrote a lot of long stuff. (I’ve since fixed that problem, and I’m starting to find myself with the opposite one, as I’ve trained myself to write short and now if something stretches much more than 4,000 words, I’m sort of impressed with myself.)

The worst part of the writing business, by far, is the business part. It’s the part that irritates me with journalism and the part that keeps me (relatively) unpublished as my body of work grows larger. Every so often I’ll get the itch to try to make something of myself, edit the hell out of some stories, ship them off to magazines and have a good time waiting for rejection letters to show up in the mail. It’s both an epic pain in the ass and a fair disappointment. Which is why I don’t usually do it, which holds me back as far as making money and building writing credits.

It’s actually a pretty stupid cycle. But it’s hard to motivate yourself to do all the non-creative stuff that writing requires, especially because those things are in no way as fun as writing actually is. So that hasn’t happened in about eight months, either. I’ll get to it eventually.

There’s not really a greater point that I’m building toward here. I don’t actually have one, except that I’m in something of a bad mood because inspiration escapes me lately. And stupid NaNoWriMo is over. And here I am. I could outline at length all the numerous other projects I’ve left unfinished – I have a folder of them on my desktop here – but it’s further depressing. Most of them are old, and I was so lame and young that they’re beyond rescue. That’s a pretty good excuse for not finishing them.

Anyway. At least I can check off this week’s blog post. Check.

In defense of ‘New Moon’

twilight It grossed more on its Thursday opening than both “Harry Potter” and “The Dark Knight,” and everyone has been ragging on the movie, but let me make an apparently earth-shattering statement:

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is really not that bad.

It’s no worse than the various dude-bro films that make tons of money and have huge budgets and people who know film acknowledge are bad but many laypeople like just fine. “Transformers” comes to mind.

Yes, “New Moon” sucks. Trust me, we all know. You can stop saying it.

What bothers me is that the people who are pummeling “New Moon” about its terrible-itude (which is fairly substantial) are not, at all, the people for whom the movie is made. I’m reminded of a review I once read for a Winnie the Pooh movie. The critic’s various reasons for not liking the movie included that it was “childish.”

Really? A children’s movie included simple, easy-to-understand concepts that were too low to engage an adult viewer? You don’t say.

Meanwhile, everyone is lining up to take a jab at “New Moon.” And what’s really irritating is that they’re all sitting around, giggling at how clever they are as they pan the film.

Roger Ebert, being a leader in his field, had this to say about the movie:

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” takes the tepid achievement of “Twilight” (2008), guts it, and leaves it for undead.

Most of the rest of the reviews I’ve read, from local and national outlets alike, have pretty much the same things to say about it: bad acting, bad dialogue, boring movie. Yes, all are true.

As hilarious as it is for critics to make fun of “Twilight,” why not just go around punting wounded puppies? Puppies flying through uprights are just as funny and they’re wounded, so they’re just as vulnerable.

But Ebert also says this:

Long opening stretches of this film make utterly no sense unless you walk in knowing the first film, and hopefully both Stephanie Meyer novels, by heart.

Exactly.

If a movie makes no sense to you, maybe you’re not the target audience. The people who are showing up for this movie in droves do, in large part, know it and the novels by heart. Trust me, I feel for these guys who had to sit through this movie because it’s their job – except stop whining, it’s your job to watch movies. I used to do it too. It’s a sweet gig.

We’re not talking about a movie that ludicrously sucks, such as“Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” which I myself ravaged in a review. I feel there’s a key difference. I’m a fan of the “Resident Evil” franchise, and the movie is god awful. Not just from a technical standpoint, or an acting standpoint, but from a standpoint that the movie fails even its built-in audience of people who like horror, like action, like zombies, like monsters, and like “Resident Evil.”

That movie is hard to watch for all involved. No one leaves “Resident Evil” happy.

“Twilight” might suck for critics, parents, boyfriends and the male gender as a whole, but it does one thing: It makes those 10- to 17-year-old girls who do know it by heart and who do like it extremely happy.

The movie is true to its source. It’s true to its fans. It doesn’t break any ground and it doesn’t work extra hard to appease critics, or even males.

It is “Twilight.” It is exactly what it is supposed to be, for exactly the people who want it to be that.

And the people who want it are happy. So happy that they outspent “Batman” and “Harry Potter” fans. They also blew away nerds of all sorts on releases reaching back years that include “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Because there is no “Episode I” debacle when it comes to “Twilight.” “Twilight” is perfectly “Twilight.”

Sorry that you’re not in the “it” group. Neither am I. But do we really need to pick on the Special Olympics of film here? It’s not for us. We don’t belong. Let’s just let those who like the thing like it, and all be on our way. It’s not that clever or funny anymore.

Setting Detroit, post-zombie

joe louis A project I was struggling with for the last few months is my latest entry to Wrath of the Damned. The story, “The Desert Stretched Before Him,” came out okay, but it took a long time to write and it ended up being long – like 9,500 words long.

If you haven’t read it and you care to, or you like me at all, jump over and give it a go before continuing here. The rest of this post contains spoilers about the story.

The writing of the story itself was intriguing for me. The theme comes mostly from when I read “Dune Messiah,” the sequel to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi masterpiece “Dune,” way back in high school. “Messiah” is set on Dune, the desert planet that’s central to the entire space-faring society described in the novels, and concerns greatly the somewhat-nomadic desert tribes of people who live there.

At the conclusion of the novel, the leader of the tribe is blinded while warding off an attack from whoever happens to be fighting them that week (it literally could be anyone). Rendered a burden on his people, he takes a weapon and heads out into the desert – to die. That always resonated with me.

I wanted to apply that idea – that a person would put the needs of his group ahead of his own, and accept a death on his feet fighting rather than slowly wasting away as a burden – to a Wrath story. Zombie fiction sometimes deals with the “infected,” a person who is bitten and, as we all know but characters rarely do, is on their way to becoming more than just dead, but a very real threat to remaining survivors. This lack of knowledge consistently leads to carnage, but it’s cliché and predictable.

Instead, my character, Brad, heads out into his own desert, rather than risk the lives of his people.

But there are no such deserts in the Midwest, and specifically none in Michigan, and one of the things I (usually) strive for with Wrath is an authentic feeling, and that often requires real places. Besides that, at the end of the world where there are no people, everyplace can be a desert.

So the story was set in an urban area I could get behind – Detroit. Specifically, the survivors hole up at Joe Louis Arena. The only problem: My real geographic experience with Detroit is limited.

I hate to admit it, but I’m a suburban guy. I’m not happy about it. My time in Michigan has been almost completely suburban, apart from a short stint in a Detroit neighborhood when I was really little and a summer spent working in Grand Rapids. (Full disclosure: My apartment was in Kentwood, a GR suburb. Lame.) And while I did live for almost a year in a real urban setting, that real urban setting was Chicago.

Therefore, I took to the Internet. With the help of Google Earth, I was able to map with extreme accuracy the path of the main character through Downtown Detroit from Joe Louis to (somewhat meanderingly) Hart Plaza. It worked pretty well and I was able to establish the area in the story to a degree that made me pretty happy.

Here’s a Google Earth video I made of the path, complete with markers noting where some of the major plot points occurred. I think you might need the Google Earth app in order for it to work, though.

In creating the path and researching Downtown for the sake of the story, I was reminded of a similar process James Joyce engaged in during the writing of Dubliners. Not to compare myself to Joyce in any way – his process used letters in the mail and friends in the city to verify his information and was much, much more arduous; not to mention I’m writing horror fiction about zombies, and he’s James Joyce.

But there are parallels in the process. Joyce was relentless in his correspondence to make sure that he recreated the city in literature as it appeared in reality, to the chagrin of his publishers and their lawyers. And he had to do so from overseas, removed from the city he was trying to capture, which adds to it this voyeuristic longing to see the place, to be part of it, to know it and make others know it.

Okay, so imagine some low-level semblance of Joyce’s need to immortalize Dublin about a hundred years ago. That’s kind of how I felt.

And of course, there’s an interesting element in thinking about Detroit devoid of life. The city’s on this cusp right now – failing, emptying of people, and in urban decay as it has been for years; but also ready to be reborn, with a recent election of a new city council, various programs attempting to pull it back up, a recent Superbowl and a lot of national attention recently. Two very different ways to look at the city – and despite being a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested frozen nightmare for Brad, Detroit isn’t necessarily cast that way in the story, at least visually, and the whole thing is spiritual and ultimately positive.

“Desert” is, after all, a desolate vision quest for a doomed man in a doomed city. But neither are, necessarily, beyond saving.

So back to the techno-savvy way of walking through a city. It’s definitely strange to do things this way. The ability to virtually wander around Detroit for the purposes of fiction was convenient, but as to authenticity, I feel a little weird about it.

But I did end up in Detroit not long after for, conveniently enough, a hockey game. We walked from near the Renaissance Center to the Joe, past Cobo and Hart Plaza, so I got the lay of the land first-hand, even though it was dark. And I got the layout of Joe Louis, which was very cool on account of I hadn’t been there in a while and the interior pictures on Google were lacking.

It’s a far cry from Joyce’s postal reconnaissance and I feel kind of bad about it being so easy. But I enjoy the fact that I, like Joyce, have been able to find some process in which to make a city into something more than a setting at least in this one story – with a little (or a lot of) help.

Game on, novel writing

It’s National Novel Writing Month. You can go ahead and read that as “kick in the ass necessary to get something done for real for a change,” which is how I read it.

So I’ve logged on and saddled up. I’m planning to finish “Millennium Men,” the novel I’ve been working on since the last of my creative writing classes at Central Michigan University. This is technically cheating, as the NaNoWriMo program is geared toward writing a new novel start-to-finish in one month, but my need is completion, not to wander off in a new direction.

I hope to finish the novel by focusing my efforts for the month chiefly on finding this story’s middle. I have the beginning and I’m happy with it. I know where things will eventually end up. But it’s fleshing out that interior portion that’s tripping me up.

I’m also hoping that the structure of the novel will make it easier to eventually sell. I’ve been impressed by my friend Brandon Doman’s efforts with self-publishing on his project, “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” and I definitely think there’s something to self-promotion.

But I am sure that I am no good at it.

I’m no salesman. That’s something I’ve always known about myself. I hate self-promotion, I hate “pounding the pavement,” I hate doing the grunt work associated with creativity. It’s the reason I haven’t sent short stories to markets in the last nine months – I hate it. It’s an epic pain and what’s more, it distracts from writing, from spending time with people, and from exposing myself to other people’s work.

Beyond that, there’s something validating in finding someone else to publish your work, I think, and that’s the kind of reinforcement that I really, desperately need.

In high school, I went to a reading and book signing in Ann Arbor by Chuck Palahniuk when his novel Choke came out. Palahniuk read a chapter from one of my favorite novels, Survivor, during the event. It was spectacular.

The chapter previously had appeared in Playboy. Palahniuk gave advice to the audience: If you can get a few chapters of your novel published as short stories, it’s a lot easier to sell the whole thing.

That’s been on my mind for a while. I finished a fantasy novel during the early portion of high school, although, looking back, the story is far too influenced by The Lord of the Rings to be really viable. Other than that, I’ve got two other half-finished books that I doubt will ever go anywhere. Both of those were high school projects and lent more to learning than to publishing.

“Millennium Men,” though, is different. Right now, it’s my opus. It encapsulates the whole of my experience up to now and I think it’s a story worth telling and a snapshot of this time and what it has been like growing up in the modern era. When I do finish it, I think (and more hope) that someone will want to buy it. It definitely feels like it’s worth finishing.

Finally, to the point I started some paragraphs ago: “Millennium Men” actually is a series of interrelated short stories. And while working on trying to get it published piecemeal is a HUGE pain in my ass, it’s a two bird-one stone situation: Publish and get paid for the stories while writing the novel, then sell the novel. That’s pretty much living the dream.

One of the stories, “Walking Dead and Other Personal Problems,” appeared in CMU’s The Central Review. It’s one of two stories I’ve ever had (somewhat) professionally published, and neither for pay.

You can read a couple of “Millennium Men” excerpts here that have appeared on my blog in the past. I’ll post “Walking Dead” at some point, but in the meantime, here it is on my MediaFire.

It’s Sunday, Nov. 1, and I’ve been up since 5 a.m. Time to get cracking.

One among the musically challenged

When it came time for Caitlin’s birthday, I remembered something she’d mentioned on Twitter (I think) about the inherent romance to be found in making someone a mixed tape.

I, of course, fancy myself a romantic and have a goal of being the best boyfriend ever, and thus immediately set about making such a tape.

I stared taking notes as I listened to my iPod, cataloguing songs I thought would be great for a compilation that could explain how I feel and pretty much be an amazing gift. I got together a pretty decent list over the next two or three months, then went about figuring out just how the tape would be laid out.

Not long before I got close to thinking about the final product (and procuring the many implements necessary for recording  a cassette tape in the age of the mp3), Caitlin and I had a conversation about music. More than one of the songs I’d chosen for the list (of which Caitlin was completely unaware) came up in the conversation. And of course, it was a conversation about crappy music.

Music comes up as a topic of conversation a lot in our relationship. This is something I really like. Caitlin is incredibly well-educated when it comes to Rock and Roll, specifically classic rock, and she can speak intelligently about all manner of bands, topics, songs, movements and genres. She knows a ton and we talk about it a lot.

Comparatively, I know almost nothing about music. Where Caitlin’s upbringing included tons of music – the movements of the ’90s coupled with extensive time spent listening to classic rock in the cars of  her parents, afternoons in front of record players and digging through vinyl collections belonging to her parents and the parents of her friends – I was subjected to bad late-’80s, early ’90s pop.

My musical education was as such: Top 40 hits that sucked on the easy listening stations that populate Detroit, thrust upon me in my mom’s car. When I was with my dad, despite his being a musician, I had little exposure to anything noteworthy. I remember a lot of Van Halen – not much else.

I spent a long time struggling with music in my youth. I was late to the party on bands, radio stations, MTV, and owning and operating CDs, to the point of it actually affecting my identity. After all, I didn’t do well as a kid as far as self-esteem, and here was yet another way in which I was inadequate, uneducated, and completely uncool.

People would ask me things like “What do you listen to?” and “What’s your favorite band?” and I had no answer to give them. In a lot of ways, that was really tough. When you struggle to interact with other people your age and can’t even connect on ground so common as music (and for a seriously long time – I was probably 12 or 13 before I bought my first CD and by then it was a survival necessity), every time someone asks you something stupid and simple like that, you wince.

When I was really young, I owned a total of maybe three cassettes. One was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells,” one was Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” (which my dad had a copy of by coincidence and gave to me), and one was “Dookie” by Green Day, which I lost or otherwise destroyed. Green Day would later become one of my favorite all-time bands, but there was a long gap between those first tapes and figuring out a musical identity.

It’s worth noting that you get this impression of being a freak if you don’t know anything about music. It wasn’t that I’d never listened to music – it’s that I spent so much of my life hating the music to which I was forced to listen. I spent so much time reading and watching movies and playing video games that the music I really liked was stuff by John Williams and, later, Japanese composers responsible for game soundtracks. I found myself hating Billy Idol and Paula Abdul and similar pop garbage.

So whenever anyone brought up music, I had nothing to say, and worse, when I was directly questioned I had no answers.

Ever known anyone who can’t say, “Yes, this is the kind of music I like?” Or who didn’t even know what the kinds of music were?

I started to grab hold of and hold tightly to whatever bands I could. This way I had: 1. Something to listen to and become familiar with, which meant being able to speak in a (somewhat) educated way about at least something, and 2. Something to point to in order to prove I wasn’t some kind of freak/diminish my status as a nerd-dork.

When I found a copy of Aerosmith’s greatest hits CD, “Big Ones,” among my parents’ albums, I grabbed it. I listened to it like crazy. Aerosmith was a respectable band, right? They had a fairly modern sound, one which people wouldn’t fault me for liking, right? It wasn’t about what the music sounded like – it was hitting a mark so that I could survive socially. Later, I saw Bush play “Swallow” on “Saturday Night Live,” and thusly picked up “Razorblade Suitcase” and started telling people how Bush was now my favorite band. Again – modern sound, cool guys that other people knew, who filled a social need and not much else.

It wasn’t until much later that I actually started to learn something about music. It was considered “cool” to watch MTV in the middle school era, and I tried that for a while, but I really found the station irritating. So eventually I stopped playing that game. I got further into the pop punk movement from friends, and before long I was just keeping up with them. In sixth grade I snagged a CD of “Dookie,” I stole from my dad’s CD collection, and I started burning CDs from other people.

About that time I got heavily into video game music and instrumental/classical type stuff. I still knew absolutely nothing about rock, but I was finding that I wasn’t really into the music available to me on the radio. At least I was finally starting to pay attention: By high school, I was building what I thought was a diverse, eclectic music collection that spanned genres and periods, leaning more and more heavily on classic rock.

Still, I struggled to talk to people about music. A friend of mine on CMU’s Ultimate Frisbee team was driving us to a tournament my freshman year. He asked me what music I liked, fumbling and stuttering I said “punk,” and then immediately afterward realized I didn’t mean punk, but the shitty modern iteration pop punk, and this kid was a real punk guy and knew what he was talking about. He asked about The Clash. I responded sheepishly about Green Day and The Offspring. We didn’t talk about music again.

But by the end of college I’d created what I thought was a decent musical identity, and I had a distinctive taste, and I knew what sounded good even if I didn’t know the history of it, and I could say definitively what was bad.

Then I met Caitlin M. Foyt. Then I started trying to make a mix tape that would both be a physical manifestation of my feelings for her and a tape to which she’d actually want to listen.

I started panicking.

My list sucked, I decided, and it was extremely obvious that Caitlin’s taste far outpaced my own. Often when we drive together, listening to my iPod, she blasts past numerous songs on which I would have lingered, finding more obscure things, or songs from genres I’m not used to and bands with which I’m less familiar. She’s usually, if not always, right when it comes to musical taste – but I’m painfully aware that what I might choose is stuff she’s been into, listened to extensively, learned about, and subsequently moved beyond.

Four or five nights I stared at the list for four or five hours each. I spent two whole nights going through all 4,600 or so songs in my iTunes arsenal, trying to decide what should go on the list. I ended up with a vat of more than 100 songs from which to choose.

Next I polled people I knew. Musically, Nick Hurwitch for a long time has been my touchstone, so I went to him. Courtney, Caitlin’s sister, knows her better than anyone, so I asked what she thought. Both sent me in directions that really helped.

But what changed the project and made it work was realigning my perception. There were some things I had to consider: First, that I’d likely never come up with a decent enough list to really impress Caitlin, because I simply didn’t know what I was doing; Second, that the tape could still be a success if it became more than just a simple mix.

The tape needed to tell a story.

It made a lot of sense. I’m worthless as a musician or music critic – but as a writer, I could potentially create something Caitlin could appreciate on a level beyond the weakness of my taste and understanding.

Suddenly I wasn’t picking songs based on how good they were, but whether I thought she would like them, and more importantly, on how well they interacted with one another.

The story I came up with is sort of strange. The tools at my disposal – other people’s creative work cobbled together in a short list of 17 songs – are blunt as hell. And it’s not our story (although that’s what I’d originally hoped for), because, again, I just didn’t have the tools.

But it’s a story close to our story. It’s similar to ours, it hits a lot of the right notes (so to speak), and that’s definitely the inspiration. It’s more fiction than not, unfortunately, but it’s a love story, and I think it’s a powerful one.

I haven’t given Caitlin the tape yet. I’m writing this the  morning of her big surprise birthday celebration, planning to post it Sunday, so I don’t know how she’ll react. But I feel good about it.

The whole experience opened my eyes to some things that I’d never really thought consciously about (now documented at length, as you’ve just read): Basically, how little an impact music has had on me as a person – a case that seems to be really at odds with most people my age, and most people in general. While I was reading and extensively watching movies and television shows, all of which had extensive impact on crafting my personality, other people were being angstily shaped by the things they were hearing.

I never got there, and I’ve come to realize – that’s weird. Which is why I like the conversations Caitlin and I have together, even though she often gets self-conscious because she feels like she’s talking at me. Really, it’s because I sit quietly and take in everything she has to say, and not because I don’t like the topic.

It feels like I’ve come a long way in musical development in the last nine months: further, likely, than in the last nine years. It’s one of the many bonuses of dating Caitlin. The test, I guess, will be her reaction to the mix tape. Regardless, her passion for music (and a lot of other things) is rubbing off. I love being in a relationship in which I’m always learning.

For anyone interested, here’s the playlist. Some of it’s a little weird, as it’s kind of a big inside joke, with much of it pertaining to us only.

“Chosen Carefully,” Caitlin’s birthday mix tape
1. “Who Will Comfort Me,” Melody Gardot
2. “Scattered,” Green Day
3. “Wish You Were Here,” Pink Floyd
4. “Molina,” Creedence Clearwater Revival
5. “Lips Like Sugar,” Echo & The Bunnymen
6. “Magic Dance,” David Bowie
7. “Anti-Gravity Love Song,” Incubus
8. “Stuck In the Middle With You,” Stealers Wheel
9. “Bad Things,” Jace Everett
10. “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure
11. “In Your Honor,” Foo Fighters
12. “The Perfect Drug,” Nine Inch Nails
13. “Please Read the Letter,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
14. “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” Cyndi Lauper
15. “Love You Madly,” Cake
16. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” Death Cab for Cutie
17. “Sure As Shit,” Kathleen Edwards

‘Whip It’ excels through phenomenal casting, and a ‘Paranormal Activity’ review too

11874295_gal Two words elevate “Whip It” from predictable teen angst-underdog sports movie to a fun and funny roller-derby hit: Ellen Page.

Actually, that’s simplifying things a bit. It’s the entire cast, led by the capable Page who hits her tried-and-true off-beat irritated teen mark. But among the ranks are Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Alia Shawkat, and even Juliette Lewis (who I normally kind of hate), all of whom do well to take this movie up a notch and bring the audience into the roller derby scene much more than if the roles had been filled by less-memorable players.

Bliss (Page) floats through her tiny Texas town life being mostly miserable. At 17, she bounces from being dragged to beauty pageants by her mother, being outcast in her high school, and being stiffed for tips at her waitress gig.

Then she happens to witness a few roller derby players dropping off fliers in a head shop/shoe store in nearby Austin. Bliss grabs a flier, sneaks off to the event, decides to try out – joins the losingest team in the league, becomes a breakout success, and so on.

All these things are the standard fare in movies such as this, and director Barrymore doesn’t do much that’s exactly out-of-the-box. What she does, however, is give her ensemble room to breathe and to have a ton of fun with the film.

First, “Whip It” is populated with some funny people. Shawkat did a hysterical turn on the now-defunct “Arrested Development,” and Wiig is a “Saturday Night Live” alumna who has been doing small and varied character parts in most of the big comedy movies of late, including “Extract,” “Knocked Up,” “Adventureland,” and “Walk Hard.”

Lewis is a more-than-capable superbitch and even Jimmy Fallon, the league’s game announcer, manages to maintain his funny (even though he comes dangerously close to losing it because Barrymore gives him much more screen time than he deserves, or maybe can handle). Smaller roles are played just as well, and all the roller derby teams are populated by actresses that look mean, run with the roles and pass their good times onto the audience.

Then there’s Page. As in “Juno,” she nails it, bringing her usual power and pain to moments of teenage hardship and triumph. You’re right there with her as she struggles to make her parents happy and balance her own needs and wants. Her emotions bleed through at all points, whether she’s crying with her mother, angrily confronting her parents, or wailing around the roller rink, equal parts excited and terrified.

The rest of the movie may be fairly standard, but it’s a testament to its direction and its cast that “Whip It” still works exceedingly well. It’s not the deepest film ever made, but it’s plenty fun.

—–

Scares and atmosphere plentiful in hyper-hyped “Paranormal Activity”

12269069_gal The theater experience is pretty essential to enjoying “Paranormal Activity.”

It’s an extremely simple movie. One camera. Two actors, three tops in any given scene. One set – the interior of a house, including living room, kitchen, bedroom and attic. That’s all.

But what could be relatively low-key and unimpressive in “Paranormal” is extremely elevated by experiencing it in a packed theater full of screaming, gasping patrons. Everyone else jumping right along with you brings up the scare factor by quite a few degrees.

Which is why the marketing for the film is almost as good as the film itself. Limiting the release, gathering attention via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and giving potential audiences the option to “demand” the film in their town serve to keep most showings sold out. The one I attended in Ann Arbor had people lined up down the block – on a Thursday. In its second week.

The premise of the movie is simple, and not all that new. Borrowing from “The Blair Witch Project,” the movie’s principal actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, hang around their house and hear creepy things. Katie’s been more or less “haunted” all her life, and after moving in with Micah, things have gotten a little creepier than usual.

So the couple decides to keep a camera running to capture the handiwork of the apparent ghost. At first it’s minor things: Keys jump off a counter in the middle of the night and unexplained footsteps sound through the house. Nothing too strange.

But things escalate, mostly due, it’s assumed, to Micah’s cavalier attitude about the ghost (he’s all like, “This is so cool,” much to Katie’s chagrin). The creepiness increases, mostly while the couple sleeps.

The methodology of the movie lends it a lot of support. Shot on that one hand-held, we get the impression of reality even though we’re likely dealing with many standard camera tricks. That said, the leads know how to sell what we’re seeing. They do a phenomenal job of interacting with each other, freaking out steadily and increasingly, and bringing back levity to the situation during the daylight hours. Tension is released slightly, but only as a contrast to an ever-growing plight that takes place when darkness falls.

“Paranormal” expertly builds this tension. The slow-burn of weirder and weirder things happening is just enough to keep audiences worried, and as I mentioned above, the shared excitement of a packed house only heightens the experience.

The movie also chooses its moments well. It speeds through hours of footage of the couple sleeping to reach the juicy parts, but even this speed-up tactic brings its own sense of anxiety. We know when the film slows down to normal speed at 3:14 a.m., not only is something about to happen, but the characters still have another three or four hours to sit in the dark and deal with it. And occasionally, the time-lapse shows us just how frightening and how extensive the paranormal activities can be.

Meantime, daylight scenes are filled with just enough exposition about the ghost, its origins, and what to do about it that the story is pushed forward without the audience being overburdened. Movies like this have a tendency to lay things out like a blueprint: It’s a poltergeist, a specter or a demon; here’s what it’s after, here are its powers, here’s how to get rid of it. Call this number, bless this room, sprinkle this dust, say these prayers.

“Paranormal” gives the characters enough to do so that they’re working against the … activity, so to speak, without handing them a surefire method of exorcising the evil. All these choices lend to the dread that builds steadily over the course of the film to its understated, well-designed climax.

If you have the opportunity to see “Paranormal” in a theater, even with the high degree of annoyance that accompanies large crowds of freaking moviegoers, I highly recommend checking it out. For all the hype this film has received, it deserves most of it and it will scare you. Especially in a room of 100 other scared people.

Creating the journalism Spam State

I’m working on a diatribe about journalism in general, but I need to temper and hone my argument better before I post it here. In the meantime, I’ll comment on a smaller portion of the evolving journalism industry: Citizen journalism.

Everyone’s got an opinion as to the evolution of the industry right now, but the ones that drive me the most crazy are these advocates of citizen journalism. Not only as a working journalist, but as a member of this society, I feel like full-scale citizen journalism will be a horrible development.

I’ve spoken at length with Caitlin M. Foyt about this idea. She likes the idea of citizen journalism in a lot of ways – instead of one perspective on events, you get many. You get eye-witness accounts of said events, and different people’s first-hand knowledge of what happened, from diverse voices.

It sounds great, and in certain instances and under certain circumstances, it is. Crowd-sourced news can be great.

Provided there’s a filter.

But often there isn’t. The idea that any clown from any place can write any thing on the Internet and not only are we going to believe it, but we’re going to encourage it, scares the hell out of me. I went to school to do this; if we educate people to do it, probably there’s something important to learn about doing it.

The consideration of ethics, of what’s fit to print and what should be held back, about doing harm when harm is unnecessary or mitigating collateral damage against the innocent, were all major subjects of study during my time at Central Michigan University.

Citizen journalists have no concept of ethics. There are plenty of things that most people don’t think about until after the fact – like the publishing of names of accused people, for example, or of photos showing people in compromised situations. Like at the moment of their deaths.

Not to mention that there’s nothing stopping all these random contributors from just posting whatever they want. Just because you have the name of someone who’s been arrested, or a rape victim, or whatever, doesn’t mean it should be public information.

There’s also nothing stopping these people from running rampant and publishing anything they want, true or not, verified or not. Or pushing their agendas and sculpting the news to fit their world views. All these things, all these biases, are supposed to be avoided by professional journalists. While this doesn’t always happen the way we’d like, at least we all recognize that we’re supposed to try to practice journalistic ethics.

Yes, citizen journalism can be extremely useful in certain situations. My favorite example is a car crash. Lots of eye-witness perspectives of people who happen to be there can bring clear focus to an event that has the potential to be confusing after-the-fact. In that regard, I like citizen journalism, because many accounts mean more of the picture is revealed.

But for a crime? For a government meeting, or a new bill going through the state senate, or anything concerning the rights of the accused, or corporate malfeasance, or any number of other things that newspapers and journalists are supposed to cover and cover well – no, thank you. No citizen journalists can handle things like that.

For one, they don’t know how. Two, they don’t know, or don’t care, that everyone is entitled to certain rights and that you protect those rights. Accused criminals are innocent until proven guilty, even if they’re accused of molesting children or murdering grandmas and puppies. But blogs and Internet comments ALREADY are rife with people leaping to conclusions, convicting people because they’ve been arrested, calling for public executions (really – that happens on newspaper comments all the time). These are the people I’m supposed to trust to give me the truth?

And that’s the other thing: What truth is there when there’s no one looking over your shoulder, making sure you get it right? The best part of the journalism industry is that reporters can’t just make things up (usually). They can’t just put together a story with only one side of things told. Because there are laws. There are editors. There are people who know better reading things over and saying, “You haven’t done a good enough job of meeting our standards.”

One of my major problems with journalism today is that these standards have become far too lax, but they still exist – unless you’re talking about a blog, or a citizen journalist, who not only doesn’t have these rules and this oversight, but has no idea what these journalists and editors are even looking for.

Any reporter will tell you, people are routinely trying to push their story ahead of everyone else’s. Even sources don’t recognize the need for fairness. How can people who write the news fairly when working part-time, for free, without education?

So I’m supposed to read these stories written by untrained, uneducated citizen journalists and find what in them – truth? Trust? Facts? How is it better to let people who have not only no financial stake in the story, but any number of conflicts of interest because they are NOT WORKING JOURNALISTS, create the news? What we’re giving people at random is the power of the press without any of the responsibility or preparation, and we’re pretending like it’ll be better for the country.

If a story is written about the impropriety of a used car dealership by someone else in the used car industry, how is that proper? A former employee – do we trust that? What about a competitor? At what line do we decide that no, your work is not to be trusted, but yes, this guy’s is? And how do we check random people out? If a story comes from random citizen, how do we know that his or her sister-in-law isn’t the owner of a dealership, or friends with someone who was fired, or even just a customer who got taken for a ride? How do you cleanse the news of all these agendas when ANYONE is allowed to push their stories like they’re fact?

Crowd-sourcing and citizen journalism have their place – as a supplement to the work of reporters. As a watchdog effect in which citizens, who SHOULD be gathering their own information, both add those perspectives to and call out reporters on the information they’ve found. But those facts contributed by anyone off the street must be checked out.

A journalist friend of mine mentioned on Twitter the other day what a source of citizen journalism the 10-million-plus user network Facebook could become. He suggested using its college network setup to create huge, crowd-sourced outlets for campus news.

On its face, it could be a good idea, but to me, that’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard of. Most of the people I know on Facebook can barely put together two sentences. Ten million idiots throwing content at the wall and calling it news? It’ll be an inundation of unsubstantiated mud-slinging, name-calling, and agenda-pushing. You’ll be getting the Dennis Lennoxes of the world spreading lies, propaganda, and defamation, coupled with the sorority clones and fraternity clowns making sure everyone knows about their philanthropy, fundraiser and party this weekend. And that’s just some of the b.s. that will populate a crowd-sourced Facebook news program.

What you’ll barely hear about, if at all, are the things that matter – tuition raises, actions of campus police, crime, security, administrative moves, changes in classes. And even if you do, how will you be able to find them, read them, and believe them in the face of all the garbage you’ll have to wade through? And what will these news stories be, except people bitching about paying more with “I’m not happy about this because it effects me” mentality?

You’re creating a spam state of journalism.

And there’
s just too much at risk. The power of the press is too great to try to create the news out of a compilation of random bits of information contributed from people with no filter. And no amount of seminars, workshops, or three-hour training sessions with real journalists is going to create journalists out of random people. They need real schooling.

I’ve been learning and practicing good journalism for the last eight years of my life. That’s why I’m qualified to write a news story – and editors will still read it over, make sure it’s true, and hold me accountable for every word that story says. Is that really something we want to surrender to the Internet just because it’s more convenient to let Bob, Jim, Sandy and Marsha write down what they see?

It’s a bad idea because journalism is no longer about the quantity of news produced, or the speed at which that news is found – it’s now about quality.

We’re going to figure that out real soon if we keep ignoring the fact that trained journalists know how to write stories that are good in favor of something that’s cheaper, faster, and above all, less trustworthy.