Category Archives: Uncategorized ramblings

Declaring birthday bankruptcy

Scenes from an actual September birthday.

Scenes from an actual September birthday on a Monday night.

On Sept. 13, 2013, I declared birthday bankruptcy.

I sat in my apartment completely overwhelmed by the night’s schedule of birthday parties that lay ahead, including at least two in honor of very dear friends, of the can’t-really-make-an-excuse-to-miss-this variety, and two more held by peripheral friends, of the kind that you try to hang out with in because you’re always in the market to meet strange people in new scenarios when there is booze involved. But sometime around 9pm, looking at my looming Facebook events notifications and text invites, I pulled the ripchord on this birthday night freefall and decided to abandon the ride and go for none, spending the night instead making dinner with my roommates who, mercifully, have birthdays in the spring.

That night was merely the low point in my birthday bankruptcy considerations. Continue reading

Free idea for Netflix: Shuffle button

A simple idea of how Netflix could regain popular imagination: the shuffle button. This would bring the passive laziness that is so often associated with television watching into the on-demand world. Because staring at a screen with thousands of options of what to watch at any given time is too much pressure. You lose that willful ignorance of turning on the TV and being subjected to whatever the television gods dished out. Continue reading

Things that are better than episode recaps

1. Watching the episode.

2. Not watching the episode. Continue reading

The Iowa fallacy

[Hi there – I wrote this a few days ago as a frustrated member of the media, pitched it a few places, and you know how that goes. But I put some time into it so now it’s here for your face to look at. I hope it at least helps put ongoing coverage of presidential primaries in a different perspective.]

Cartoon by Drew Sheneman/The Star Ledger

The early primary season is based on one uniting theory: the candidate who is going to win is the one that has the most momentum, and the candidate with the most momentum is the one that won the previous primary, which was wan by the candidate with the most momentum, etc etc, reductio absurdum.

It’s posited to us that the Iowa caucuses set the tone for the entire year, that they are the pre-pre games that determine which teams wind up in the Super Bowl. This is the problem of our media, in that we’re only able to cover the presidential contest as a horse race, more focused on measuring the inches between candidates rather than the issues that separate them. From above, you’d think they’re covering a particularly abortion-obsessed game of Plants vs. Zombies. Covering electoral politics like the NFL is what keeps CNN and Fox News burning on TVs all year long.

But did you know that only two candidates — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — who won the caucuses went on to win the presidency? And the rest of the stats are even less impressive: The caucuses have only picked the eventual nominee for either party 63 percent of the time since they first rose to prominence in 1972. That’s an awesome D minus average for predictability, yet we’ve been getting wall-to-wall coverage of it for months now, with the cable news stations treating it like every one of Iowa’s 3 million residents is some sort of soothsaying wizard consulting mystical corn husks until they finally share their wisdom with the rest of the world this week. Continue reading

On trying not to abandon your blog

Hey, it's the first ever Inverted Soapbox post! Meta meta.

Readers here will notice the flood of posts has dried up to an infrequent drizzle over the past year or so and it’s due in no small part to being Actually Busy with Work That’s Read By More Than Four People. And this is the problem with blogs, the personal kind you start when you’ve got nothing else to do, say you’re maybe a frustrated reporter stuck at a small-town paper writing the same rezoning stories over and over again like some sort of Mac-toting Sisyphus.

So then you find yourself (not complaining at all) in the position of spending 8am-10pm some days in front of the computer writing, posting, editing, reporting, re-editing, pre-posting and working on even more pitches to give yourself even more writing and reporting work, and by the end of the day you’re so dead tired of staring at the computer screen and banging out content that you want to spend your one free hour chugging Trader Joe’s wine and killing an episode or two of Dr. Who. Which is why, if you ever look around the internet, you see lots of withered and abandoned blogs among the recently promoted set of the internet, the folks who had time once to blather away to their little corner of the internet before, you know, a bigger audience might look them up. Suddenly this little webspace that once contained emo ramblings about breaking up with a girl in South Carolina (long-since deleted) or what the iPhone means for the death of the bar argument (still up here somewhere) suddenly might be stumbled upon by someone I’m trying to profile for Inc. (like this guy) or, yikes!, even a potential date (Yes, I know who you are, sometimes. Statcounter is like reverse stalking: stalking the people who are stalking you. Does that count as stalking? Yes, I’m asking you, stalker).  Continue reading

A brief note on allergy warnings

A quick warning this allergy season: heed the warning on the label of a bottle of nasal spray. They say what they mean and mean what they say. I tried to test the fates, and now my sinuses have responded by clogging like a carnivore’s arteries.

Also, I vehemently blame all my allergy problems on growing up in New Jersey. The pine barrens. The pine pollen. The horrror.

Journalism pet peeves

  • Web sites where the only contact is a busted general email address
  • trying to spell your email address to someone over the phone (they never get it right)
  • Threats of subscription cancelations
  • People who say “nice to meet you” via email when we have never actually met
  • Presumptive emails that demand something along the lines of “add this to your coverage plans”
  • Presumptive emails that demand something along the lines of “add us to your links”
  • PR people who don’t have any information
  • Anonymous internet commentators who make claims of  inaccuracy
  • Bad newspaper websites
  • Reporters Employees of other media outlets who call you asking for your source contact information or other inside details
  • Journalists who think revealing their political beliefs absolves them of bias (or has anything to do with anything)
  • Content thieves
  • Content farms
  • Not getting any calls back all day then getting five during a 10 minute bathroom break at 4:30.
  • Press conferences (hell is other reporters)
  • Reporters who don’t use both sides of their notebook paper
  • Reporters who gorge on free food at events they’re covering
  • Being forced to be a “personal brand” now instead of just a faceless byline
  • Person-on-the-street interviews who have strong opinions about America but refuse to give their name
  • People who think there’s no value in occasionally writing for free in today’s market
  • Response-less pitch letters
  • Response-less job applications
  • Writing cover letters
  • All that paper I wasted sending out dozens and dozens of clip packets when applying for newspaper jobs (largely response-less)
  • People who only get their news from the teevee
  • Pens that go dead mid-interview
  • Breaking news that always happens on a particularly brutal hungover Friday morning
  • Constant hand-wringing over the future of the industry
  • Readers who don’t give you a head’s up about (easily fixable) typos online
  • Anyone who can’t see how you could be endlessly curious about the community, town, people and world you see every day.