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Archive for the ‘Bits and Bites’ Category

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Who. What. Why. The Keys to Your Elevator Pitch

Who. What. Why. The Keys to Your Elevator Pitch

This was originally posted to the OLC as part of an initiative to produce more content to help students better prepare for career fairs.

Crime Scene Procedurals and My Fear of Finding Feet

I watch more than my fair share of crime procedurals. I used to tune into CSI every week, until they started going up against Grey’s Anatomy (why yes, I do have excellent taste in TV, thank-you very much), and I’ve caught a few seasons of CSI: New York. I could never get into CSI: Miami, but mostly because I was convinced every murder was a result of A. Sharks B. Alligators or C. Cocaine.  I still watch every episode of Criminal Minds and Bones. I’m probably leaving out a few, the point is, I’ve seen my share of crime scene teasers, which holds the key to my fear of being in them.

They follow a basic premise:  An innocent looking scene, some day-player is jogging, or calling after a spooked animal, maybe cleaning up a beach. Sometimes it’s a couple, looking for privacy, or some kids trying their first cigarette. Whatever the reason, these poor unfortunates soon stumble upon a foot, or an arm, maybe even a head. It’s the shock scene that takes us into the jazzy theme song, while I scream and vow to stop watching this stupid show.

The show starts back up with our crime solving detectives/scientists/FBI agents poking the found body parts with gloves, snapping pictures of broken twigs and crime scene markers. We’re all quick to forget the poor guy who just had his morning coffee ruined by the decapitated head.

Now this is where the screenwriters and I differ. I want to talk to the guy who had to deal with that fun discovery. I have so many questions, who do you call? 911? What do you say? Should you make it clear that YOU aren’t involved in the murder, or is that just more suspicious? Do you have to stand guard while you wait for the cops, and if so can you ask them to bring you a soda or a blanket? Are you allowed to phone a friend while you wait? They can’t expect you to just sit there quietly. If you do call someone, who do you pick? Your best friend? Boyfriend? Mom?  It’s a very telling choice regarding your current relationships.

I’m fairly sure this book won’t be able to help.

These are all legitimate questions I wonder about every show. Scratch that, every day of my life. Why? Because I’m fairly certain that I will one day be that person, and I want to be prepared. When the opportunity to go morning jogging or attending some sort of beach clean-up comes up, one of my first thoughts is “What are the chances I will end up on the news for finding a severed foot?” If it’s above 50%, the answer is no. (If I’m the one doing the math, the chance is always above 50%). I just can’t deal with that in my day, I’m far too stressed out about having to tell someone.

(Yes, I’m thoroughly more concerned about how to start that awkward phone call than the trauma of actually finding a mystery foot). I know I would get very high-pitched, and attempt to sugar coat it for the operator…ending sentences with a question mark, like maybe I’m asking them if there’s a foot under that tarp? I’d also probably end up texting while I was waiting, which I’m sure would eventually get me into trouble.

Now, I know we have too many crime procedurals already, but can we do one, where someone just goes about their day and repeatedly has the bad luck to stumble upon body parts? Maybe they can solve the crime after, or maybe it’ll be a new person every time, a new unknown every episode. At least it’ll keep talent costs down.

I will tune in every week, I will be terrified every time, but you know I would watch, just to have my questions answered, so that when that inevitable day comes I’ll be slightly more prepared, because seriously, that is going to be an awful way to start a Monday.

Who We Choose to Remember: A Midnight Shooting

I doubt this will be the first reaction post to the Aurora shootings you will read, nor will it be the last. I’m not even sure it will be a particularly original take, but it’s mine, and here we are.

I found out about the shootings about 5 minutes after the movie ended, the credits hadn’t even finished, but there’s always a chance for extra scenes, and my friend needed a minute to digest the movie anyway. So I was still sitting in my theatre, about 5 seats from the door, checking for Twitter reactions when the reactions shift to horror; someone shot up a theatre full of people who were essentially doing exactly the same thing as me, at almost the same time, whose last sights were of something I had just finished watching with bated breath. Image

There’s something powerful about that, midnight screenings tend to build a sense of community, even if it only lasts as long as the movie, so despite the fact that it happened hundreds of miles away to people I would likely have never met, it still felt somewhat personal. Maybe it was the footage on the news, dozens of people standing around in a dark parking lot, staring at their phones, or off to middle distance, a news camera zooming in to catch every painful eye flicker, to immortalize very personal moments. I recognized that helpless look in their faces, maybe they weren’t sure what was going on, or how they got there, but some of them knew that a friend wasn’t answering their phone, and they knew that something was terribly wrong.

The terror in their eyes won’t soon leave them, because how is your mind supposed to handle something like that? One minute you’re watching a movie, eating some popcorn, and the next some coward is trying to kill you, to terrorize you and everyone who sees what he did.

That’s what the shooter is, a coward. Was he crazy? Maybe. Was he smart? Yes. He came prepared, with the proper gear, with a plan, with the patience to wait for a loud action scene so as to start his murderous spree with the most confusion. This wasn’t a tragedy, or part of some bigger picture, that implies a greatness. Tragedy should be reserved for earthquakes and tornados, unavoidable events of inevitable misfortune. The shooter does not deserve greatness or the morbid glamour of tragedy. It was a murder, and a cowardly one at that. There’s nothing glamorous or special about smoking up a dark room and shooting people who tried to get away.

He wants to be remembered, to feel big and strong and powerful, because he has the power to take life and make people scared. He knows that one of the biggest pop culture events of the year now has an asterix with his name next to it. He wanted to feel power, and be remembered, and as a coward he didn’t care why or how, just that he was never forgotten. Heroes on the other hand, can see the difference between the power and fame that comes from fear, and that which comes from admiration and respect. Anyone can find power in someone else’s fear, it’s not that hard. Fewer can earn it through respect, and that is why we should not remember the coward who hid behind some smoke and his guns, but the lives that should have had so much more to give. The youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan was six, her mom, having just been accepted to medical school is still in the hospital. Alex Teves, Jon Blunk and Matt McQuinn died acting as a human shields, protecting their respective girlfriends with their own bodies. Alex Sullivan died on his 27th birthday, his parents didn’t find out until 8pm the next night. Image

For me, that’s always the saddest part of young lives being taken, I grieve in part for all of the people who will never get to meet a wonderful person. Jessica Ghawi, a hockey reporter seemed like one of those people, I’m sure others were too, but she’s the one that people are connecting to, so she’s the example I’ll use. There was genuine sadness at the incredible career she could have had, and countless friends and coworkers immediately came forward to share her spirit far and wide. I experienced the same feeling when my best friend, an aspiring teacher was murdered. I was so genuinely angry at her killer, not only for taking her from me, but because of all the kids who wouldn’t get to have her as a teacher, she had the right humorous edge, with the kind of common sense and kindness that would have easily made her a favorite teacher, one which hundreds of kids are now deprived of. That made me angry for a long time. I tried to say the same thing as Jessica’s brother Jordan, focus on remembering the victims, not the murderer, because the victims deserve our attention, while he does not.

Of course, this advice is easier to say than follow, and I can’t say that I managed to follow much of my own advice, I still let news of my friends killer ruin my day, I still keep a Google alert on his name, and I sometimes I still let his cowardly legacy overshadow hers.

But let’s not do that this time. Forget his name, as he grows old in a jail cell, let him search for articles on himself and come up short, let him, and anyone who’s ever thought of doing the same know that they will not be glorified, they won’t be remembered or feared. If anything, pity him, pity this sad, anonymous coward who was too weak or pathetic to be remembered for something positive, and instead chose to use his talents to spread fear. Hopefully, one day, when the scars begin to heal, his name won’t be remembered at all.

Sources: Delcotimes.com and Digitaljournal.com

The Time I Wrote About The Hunger Games For Far Too Long

I started the night determined to get some real work done on a marketing project. Unfortunately, that involved critiquing online book selling websites, which of course led to Amazon, and eventually the Mockingjay book page. This is when I gave up on getting any school work done.

If you haven’t read all three books you should bookmark this page, go read, and come back. You’ve been warned.

The top user review of the book at the moment somehow managed to beautifully put to words almost everything I thought about The Hunger Games trilogy in a way I had never quite been able to verbalize. Quite a few people were horribly disappointed in Mockingjay. They hated the bleakness, thought Katniss was weak and completely out of character and scoffed at the epilogue. I have to admit, the first time I read the epilogue I was a little disappointed. After everything that happened it seemed too simple, life was left too ordinary.

But once I took a long walk to clear my head I realised that it wasn’t a disappointment at all. The ending didn’t have to be a tale detailing a life of glory, because there was none to be had.

Although some claim the ending was far too happy, it wasn’t. After all, we watched as these kids played in a meadow filled with graves.

I will be the first to admit that, at times, The Hunger Games is not the most well written series. There are stretches that could have done with another run through by an editor, but small glitches in the narrative voice can’t overshadow the overall themes and emotions.

I was furious and devastated as more of my favourite characters turned up dead or broken throughout the series, the final book in particular, and I think that this “throw a dart” method of killing characters upset a lot of people, but it worked.

Thinking back to the first book, despite being warned beforehand, I refused to believe that Collins would really kill off almost two dozen children in a YA book. I was convinced that a group of tributes would band together, refuse to play the Capitols games, and find a way to escape. When I was proved wrong, I started to compromise: Katniss, Rue and Peeta will all escape I assured myself, they’ll live as some happy little rebellion family, the next books can chronicle their triumph. Wrong again. Even when Katniss and Peeta finally escaped together I thought that the sheer tragedy would be over – at least for awhile. Until we learn just how serious eating those berries was. I suppose I felt just as clueless as Katniss here – why would holding up berries be anything other than a hopeless attempt at mutual survival?

Looking back, this is really when I should have clued in that there would be no glorious ending.

In the second book, Catching Fire, I often think of my reactions as an exercise in the five stage of grief:

  1. Denial: This district tour will be great, President Snow will be convinced, and something will happen so that we don’t have to worry about the Hunger Games again.
  2. Anger: This is dumb, they can’t send these two back to the area, it’s simply too depressing and hopeless.
  3. Bargaining: The tributes are banding together, the Capitol is in an uproar! They’ll have to cancel the games, if they don’t everyone can just refuse to fight.
  4. Depression: Everyone is dying again. I should just stop reading, because everyone is going to die.
  5. Acceptance: They’re saved! I don’t quite understand what is happening, but the good guys have come to the rescue!

I know, I was still horribly naive. I walked into these books completely unprepared.

The final book is dark, there’s no point in denying it. Collins purposefully took the most hopeful things we had left, and dashed them to bits. District 12 is gone, Peeta is, for the moment, worse than dead, and we’re forced to watch it all unfold through the damaged soul of our poor girl on fire.

I think I finally began to acknowledge that there would be no happy ending when details of District 13 started to emerge. As with most narratives I had always assumed there would be two sides: Good and Bad, Right and Wrong. But Collins refuses to give us that.

It only makes it all the more realistic, and is probably why I felt the series as a whole resonated so deeply for so many people. Life doesn’t have clear cut winners and losers. There is no group of “good guys” that win at the end. Sometimes the good guys lose, and even more troubling, sometimes there is no “good” side to cheer for at all.

Collins let that fact sink in slowly throughout the final book, a continual feeling of despair, where deep down you knew that the light at the end of this tunnel wouldn’t be much brighter than the tunnel itself.

These characters we had grown to love, and entrusted with a part of ourselves were already broken, soon after we met them.

Gale already had so much rage inside for someone so young. He had to grow up the night his father didn’t return from the mine, and it jaded him. When he should have been learning about the depth of human kindness and forming the internal lessons of right and wrong he was hunting on his own, weighed down with the knowledge that letting himself care too much would result in starvation for his family. It’s no wonder that he, intentionally or not, ended up designing the trap that would kill Prim. His life had left him with a set of morals whose edges were just a little too jagged.

When we met Prim she was too innocent and pure to survive long in this life she’d been handed. Sure, she grew so strong by the time she died, but the ideal that Katniss, and in turn we, had for her was too fragile. If she didn’t die she would’ve had the sweetness associated with her name torn from her.

Peeta was set to a high standard as well, he refused to be changed by the Capitol, he maintained a sense of self and assurance for so long that his eventual torture was made all the worse. Here’s someone whose own family didn’t think they’d see him again, and openly admitted it, but in so many ways he ended up being stronger than anyone.

Now we come to Katniss, the girl who was broken apart too many time to count. The only one who volunteered for her role in this, and therefore the one who takes the role of the tragic heroine. The girl who quite literally sacrificed herself at the alter to protect a sister who would only end up being killed a year or two later anyways. Critics of Mockingjay point at this as a fatal flaw to the series, after all what was the point of it all if Prim dies anyway?

The point, of course, is that the choices we make are so much bigger than that. At the very least, Katniss bought Prim a choice. She didn’t have to leave 13 for medic duty, but she did, because innocent people needed her, and that’s what she needed to do, something she no doubt learned from her sister.  Maybe that small choice seems meaningless, but it’s not. It means everything.

Another critique I often hear is the sheer randomness of who dies in Collins books, the pointlessness of it all, but that’s the point. Not everyone who deserves one gets a heroes finale. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s mean, and it’s random, and the fact that any of us can get up and deal with it is amazing.

People die every day for no reason. Sure we can preach that there must me a higher level reasoning we haven’t figured out yet, but there’s not. Horrible things happen, and all we can do is deal with it. If we’re lucky we can form some kind of justification, but we usually can’t, and it hurts, and it breaks us, but then it ends.

The pain stays as the scars fade, and we can scream and fight, but it happened, and yelling for pay back or revenge only turns one wrong into two. All we can do is deal with the fact that our souls and spirits need to be stitched back together, and hope that we don’t run out of thread.

Unfortunately for the parts of our souls that we gave to Katniss as we entered her world, she ran out of thread before she could quite finish the job.

Timeline: The Story of Me

Facebook launched their new timeline feature yesterday, and even before the announcement was made insiders were touting it as the biggest change to Facebook since, well, Facebook happened. I was skeptical, until they showed the Timeline video. The concept is so simple, yet so perfect.

I am sure others will be able to better express the importance of this change from a business perspective; raising the cost of leaving Facebook, the marketing potential, the ability for self promotion. Really, just imagine the viral marketing potential, being able to complete entire backgrounds on movie or television characters, presented as a real person. I’m excited to see these campaigns, I’m sure they’ll be great, I’d like to try some things myself, but where this new tool really shines is the personal level.

Scrolling through your timeline feels like turning the pages of a scrapbook, but one where your friends and your past self can reach out to you.

Admittedly, the effect is much stronger if you haven’t filled your page with Farmville invites, and for the scrapbook element to really work you need a solid history of photos.
If, like me, you’ve had your Facebook account since high school then scrolling through the early years feels like looking through an old year book or photo album and finding old notes, once passed in class, stuffed between the pages.

The timeline on your profile won’t show every little thing you did, and thank goodness, because that would be a mess, but if you go through the Activity Log then you can see every old wall post, photo comment and your own status updates.

I love it.

I found comments from old friends about a party long forgotten, pictures I forgot I had in that hidden from public view album, and notes from myself.

I went through a tough time when I started University. My best friend died four days before my first semester started. I had never lost anyone close to me, and despite all outward appearances I did not handle it well. Sometimes when the pain comes up unexpectedly I am amazed that I ever got through it.

Timeline takes me back there.

I can go through old wall posts my friend left me, comments she wrote on photos, or a message on my 18th birthday. It’s like getting a hug from four years in the past.

By reading old statuses I can remember how I felt then, and I can see how my posts slowly grew happier. I can see the first time I let myself take her initials off my posts. I can look through photos and watch fake smiles become real ones. It’s a reminder that I was hurt, but that I got past it. It reminds me that no matter how bad I feel today, I’ve felt worse, and I made it through.

The video at F8 explaining Timeline immediately brought to mind “The Wheel” the first season finale of Mad Men. Don is pitching Kodak’s new Carousal slide projector and he makes beautiful use of nostalgia to do it.
The executives in the scene are speechless, as is the audience at home.

Using Timeline has given me that same experience. I can choose to share it with the world, or I can hide it and keep it for myself. An online collection of notes and pictures that take me back in time then lets me see how far I’ve come.

“Nostalgia—it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels—around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

Hello world!

As if I need new ways to procrastinate on what I should be doing, I’ve started a WordPress blog!

 

It will soon be fabulous!