Hannah Scribbles

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

How (Not) to Write the News

In News & Media on January 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Step One: get assigned a lead to follow. Preferably it should be something exciting and engaging – despite the basic importance of city councils, zoning boards or town hall meetings, these topics are boring and nobody will read them anyway. So don’t bother with your assigned topic of parking tickets. Go for the gold! The people want to hear about how the parking authority is (allegedly, according to conspiracy theorists) embezzling meter funds.

Step Two: research the lead. This step begins easily because Wikipedia is a handy tool for locating background information you might otherwise actually have to ask someone for. However, for local stories that aren’t easily accessible online, you’ll need to make some phone calls, visit archives and actually do your job. Bummer for you, but once you locate a stack of substandard information that you can’t decipher and don’t bother to review it’s on to step three.

Step Three: do some interviews. At this point you should have shaped your story based around what you want it to sound like. Now, conduct your interviews with questions that tie into this rational thinking rather than wasting your precious time with the mayor on what you were originally assigned to cover: parking tickets. Ask him instead how his campaigns are funded and whether he thinks emergency snow routes are worth raising the cost of speeding tickets. Yes, the questions aren’t even related to each other or your assignment, but you’re really just looking for a “money quote” to take slightly out of context.

Step Four: write a report on the parking authority, and make sure to slide in mention of certain embezzling accusations. However, assure the news consumer that there is no grounds for these accusations, and forget that you created the controversy by casually mentioning it in your article, which completely ignored the issue at hand: parking tickets. Stress that you are being impartial but manipulate the situation until people have forgotten what the story was actually about (hint: you hate getting them when you only ran inside for five minutes without paying because you had no silver change snuggled anywhere in the penny-catching carcass of a car you drive).

Step Five: Mission accomplished! You have changed a boring ol’ story about parking tickets into a media frenzy over… wait for it… the controversy over whether illegal aliens are posing as the parking authority to embezzle the city’s meter money.

And what did the mayor have to say about all this? “Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you need to be consistent to fund a political campaign.” If you’ve done your job properly, you will have ignored that he was referencing the junior high school bake sale his daughter organized for the student government.

Gamers would love it; everyone else, stay away.

In Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on January 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Gamer, a 2009 film starring Gerald Butler, had lofty goals but failed to reach them in this sci-fi gaming thriller.

Set in a future where oddball genius Ken Castle, played by the cheesy Michael C. Hall, has created a nanotechnology that allows gamers to take control of real people in staged areas set up for pleasure (Society) or violence (Slayers).  Real life death row inmate John “Kable” Tillman (Butler) is a “character” in Slayers, the ultraviolent game that teases him with freedom after winning 30 levels – an impossibility.  Tillman has been falsely imprisoned, of course, and his wife and daughter taken away from him… that is, until underground organization Humanz unexpectedly leads him to his freedom, his wife and then the man who put him behind bars.

Gamer attempts to make a social critique of such glorified sex and violence – the problem is that the fast-paced, stylized camera shots that linger on explosions, gore and bare breasts don’t really send the message.  In fact, the Gladiator theme of the movie backfires as soon as the film begins condemning the very material used to sell it in previews.

The only truly enjoyable things about this movie were the vivid scenery and creative costumes.  The special effects are amazing and bring you right into the action.  Sometimes blood even hits the camera!  These extended scenes were meant to attract lovers of the 3rd person shooter genre, and they do.  Gloriously.

Gamer could be a great movie… without the preaching and stiff acting.  Give me more emoting and less multiple-camera-shot violence and this might not have been game over for Gamer.

A Review of the Millenium Trilogy

In Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on January 15, 2011 at 9:33 am

If it weren’t for the murders, corruption and shameful family secrets, Sweden seems to be a great place to live. Everyone offers you coffee.

Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, which he had planned to expand to a total of 10 books before his sudden death at age 50, is an exciting ride through the streets of Stockholm into a world where men are either honorable or evil.

The three books focus on lead characters Mikael Blomkvist, a prominent journalist who recently ran afoul of corrupt capitalist Erik Wennerstrom and now finds himself with massive libel fees and a prison sentence, and Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant and strong-willed woman who has been declared incompetent by the government. Their paths would not normally cross, but Larsson pairs them not only as sleuths but (eventually) friends.

Never before has a protagonist seemed so antagonistic as Salander is in the Larsson’s trilogy. She’s a social misfit who never compromises and can be ruthlessly vengeful, and she thwarts a society that would have her be a victim. She fights back.

Larsson does his damndest to prove that men can be insufferable bastards, and so he fills his books with women-hating sadists (the original title for “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was actually “Men who Hate Women”). Make no conclusions, however, that he harbors the same feels they do; Larsson sets them up to be confronted by the relentless Salander-Blomkvist duo and ultimately to be unmasked and vilified.

I didn’t give away much of the plot because if I did no one would read the books. You can go to Wikipedia for a plot summary that ruins the tense emotions and ignores well-built characters. To get the full experience – including graphic violence, coffee and even more “coffee” – you need to pick up the books for yourself, because there’s no way they can pack that much mature content onto a movie screen in America.

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