Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Hannah Lincoln
Journalism 315
15 December 2009
Final Reflection

            JOUR 315 was an afterthought.

            Originally signed up for a different class—that, for many reasons, failed miserably—I didn’t know that writing nearly a dozen reviews and editorials would ever be on my plate of English classes, much less included with my already over-indulged semester.

            Despite this original hesitation (and unawareness), Journalism 315 turned out to be the perfect mix of research, opinion and voice that I needed to counteract the long essays of my Lit major.  Quite frankly, it was fun.

            Stylistically, I came in with nothing in the name of writing journalistically.  I knew that lists dropped the last comma and that the paragraphs were significantly shorter than the ones I was used to, but that was about it.  I had to build this city from the ground up.

            My first group, Ringo, was a godsend to my insecure, faux-journalist beginnings.  Ashley, Sonia and Kayla read my reviews with kindness, pointing out more positives than negatives and giving helpful pointers from their own plethora of experience. 

            IMHO, my best review from Ringo would be the book review of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  I loved reading the book (and am very much looking forward to reading #2, Sea Monster, first thing Wednesday night), and I believe that shows in my writing.  The textual references were easy to pull out and the overall tone was extremely easy to convey—I loved the book and I think you will, too.

            And making an impromptu list of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses with my professor, Jeffrey, was pretty fun as well.

            *Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Demeter, Dionysus, Aries, Aphrodite, Hermes, Hestia….shoot!*
            I also learned valuable journalistic lessons during the writing of my first institutional editorial. 

            After attending an upsetting church service in October, I wrote a piece about the boundaries between a pastor’s personal opinion and that of the church he serves, and what happens when the line is crossed.

            I do admit—it was hard to keep my personal feelings and frustrations apart from the focus of the piece.  Especially because the church I attended was one I (formerly) held a high opinion of, writing about its shortcomings was a hard pill to swallow and it showed in my editorial.

            Another memorable review began with the theatre.  Unlike most of my peers, I was fortunate enough to attend the traveling performance of Mama Mia!  A long-time lover of ABBA and a patron of Mama Mia!, the experience at the theatre was extraordinary.  The review, however, was difficult.
            I found it hard to explain the plot of the play without giving away too much information.  Consequently, I left out too much.  This process of omission happened a lot during my journalistic journey, especially in the Transformers review.  Transformers was my first review ever, and I definitely had to redo my final copy for lack of proper descriptions.

            In fact, I reviewed every piece from my Ringo days.  Even compared to other journalists in the class who passed every review with flying colors, though, I’m not ashamed.  I was thankful for the opportunity to fix my mistakes and learn from experience.

            While I certainly had lots of practice editing and redoing with Ringo, my work paid off during my days with my second group, Paul.  Even though Paul had a different flavor than Ringo—the distinct taste of burnt-out college students heading face-first into finals, for one—there was one element that kept me going:


            As it turns out, I’m a way better blogger than I am a journalist.  The freedom of the blog style and the knowledge that basically no one was reading it made blogging different, fun and exciting. 

            I found that my voice drastically improved when writing for a blog.  The feeling of writing for a potential newspaper or magazine felt different for me than the freedom of my own blog, and my writing noticeably improved with the latter.

            Finding sentences that flow well even when there isn’t a lot of space was a challenge.  Learning how to craft sentences that came together in 500 words (or less) was difficult at first, but I feel as if my leads and overall tone improved once I moved to a blog.

            Of my blogging experience, I would say my favorite editorial was my final one—Obsession.  I feel like it encompasses everything I learned throughout the semester in terms of tone, examples and the crafting of a good lead.

            Throughout Journalism 315, my writing improved because of the examples of good writing around me.  The fishbowl experience was certainly daunting, but the two times my group went were ultimately positive experiences.

            It was, of course, terrifying to have my first fishbowl during my gay-marriage rant week—what a perfect piece to send out to the masses.  The editorial was well received within my group, thankfully, and the class didn’t have any vocal commentary. *Pass*

            Reading the pieces of others during their respective fishbowl weeks was often enlightening and refreshing.  Some memorable editorials and reviews that inspired me include Sara’s piece on the Sioux Falls convention center (and lack thereof), Megan’s thrift store search and Sonia’s whoopee pie parody.  Seeing the style, flow and blatant humor in these pieces in particular helped me to turn their examples into workable formats for my papers.

            Despite many good papers presented in fishbowls, however, there were also some that I definitely did not like.  Seeing some of the less than lovely writings week after week has also taught me what not to do when writing an article. 

            For example: I’m sick of your exclamation points (!), I don’t appreciate hearing about how much you hate Twilight and I really didn’t care for all of your bubbly enthusiasm and wordy embellishers. 

            These are just a few notes that I took when looking at other people’s writings and comparing them to my own.  Not that I’m the expert here, but I do feel like fishbowling has helped me form an opinion about what is good writing and what is not.

            Even though I’m an English Literature major and I have no intention of changing that (especially so close to graduation), I still value my experience in the world of journalism. 
            As a writer, this class was beneficial in developing my short-paper writing skills.  If I one day do any freelance writing, I now have a background in reviews and editorials and the resources necessary to write them.  

            In my experience, sometimes the afterthoughts have the best outcomes.  I may not have originally intended on joining JOUR 315, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obsessed, much?

It’s Friday night at home, and you can’t believe the scene in front of you.  Everyone in your house is stuck in front of a TV, a computer screen, or a book:

Your dad’s a trekkie, and he’s on hour nine of the latest SyFy marathon.  But you can’t count on him for help on your homework anyway, unless you ask him to “take me to your leader.”

Your weird Uncle Chester is in the corner with his Dungeons & Dragons books and, despite a collective eye roll around the dinner table (or shall we say, pizza box), won’t stop talking in D&D lingo.

And now your little sister is locked up in her room, suddenly obsessed with New Moons, Eclipses and other astronomical phenomena that are way beyond her normal 8th grade science class material. 

Something must be wrong here, because it’s Friday night.  Normal people should be out in the real world, not stuck at home living life through the boob tube.  And then the truth suddenly Breaking Dawns on you: everyone is obsessed with the imaginary. 

From Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight , generations of geeks have lived through fictional characters in books, TV shows, movies, and video games in place of living their real life.  The afflicted are usually characterized by their unparalleled knowledge about a single subject area (often involving dragons), their bounty of paraphernalia including t-shirts, swords, and Virgin Mary-shaped toast and their collection of magic wands.

While some may believe that the Twi-Hard fans hit the obsessive glass ceiling in full force this past fall, the invasion of the body snatchers began long before Edward and his little groupies came onto the scene. 

With your older brother, your father, and your grandfather all as followers, Star Trek certainly has one of the most infamous groups of obsessed superfans.  Iconized by the simple Star Trek T-shirt to the full on surgically altered pointy ears, Trekkies lead the pack of TV show-obsessed Klingons with an abnormal (and quite frankly, weird) amount of pride.

Diving into the world of fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons also has a fan base large and strange enough to comfortably rival any Trekkie convention.  Rumor has it that one of our very own Augie professors was once a world-class DD champion—but even he realizes that it’s too embarrassing of a feat to make public.

But an unfortunate number of these trends—especially those in the entertainment industry—fail to entice the right kind of excitement in their couch potato fan base.  Games, books and movies are simply enablers that do little to promote interaction out in the real world, making it easier and easier to “just say no” to real life relationships.

Obsessive to the point that they take on the personas of their favorite characters and forget to live their real lives, fans choose instead to live through Bella & Edward, the Gilmore Girls and the Call of Duty squadron. 

TV shows, movies, books, and role-playing games (RPG) have created an alternate reality that no one can sign off of.  These types of obsessions essentially make the whole world into a RPG, where we’re all just playing the role of our favorite character.

At this rate, the world won’t be made of anything real or original.  We’ll all just be living vicariously through fictional people and dropping our own identity all together.

And you’ll still be stuck next to Uncle Chester on Friday night. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Pirate's Life For Me

Pirate Radio, directed by Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Love Actually),  hasn’t been well received by the movie critic community.  It lacks general rock and roll raunch, according to some reviewers.  Others go even farther down the bad movie drain, grumbling that the movie rolls when it should rock.

Just like the DJs who disagree with Britain’s anti rock music policy, I completely disagree with these reviewers.  I think it’s only appropriate to flip off the establishment and give them exactly what they want: A Pirate Review.

Pirate Radio tells the story of eight rogue DJs who set sail in the middle of the North Atlantic to play rock music on the air, which was illegal in Great Britain at the time.  Interested in both British pop culture and in floating radio stations alike, I loved every part of this true 1960s account played out on film.

Using their unauthorized station Radio Rock, the eight men and one woman aboard the rusty fishing trawler continue to play music, despite the direct efforts of the British parliament to shut them down, partly for their love of pissing off the government, and mostly for their love of rock and roll. 

With such a small cast, every character immediately makes a memorable impact.  The story begins with Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) arriving on the boat, his mother having banished him to the floating radio after being kicked out of boarding school for the umpteenth time.  She hopes that a little sea air will help set him straight.

Although the “lost boy who has never known his father” storyline slowly carries itself out throughout the movie, it isn’t really central to the rest of the action.  We learn the identity of the missing role model over halfway into the movie, and, if anything, it throws a screeching dose of reality at an otherwise-hysterical film.

Tall and gangly with a hint of preppy bad-boy, Carl instantly fits in on the island of misfit toys led by Quentin (Bill Nighy, Love Actually, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), the ship’s eccentric owner and Carl’s godfather.

This movie was the best laugh-out-loud film I've seen in a long time.  Curtis does a phenomenal job of staging on the cramped boat quarters; no one on the boat has nearly enough space, and the boatload of comical interactions that follow are priceless.

Take Young Carl’s first sexual encounter.  The whole ship bands together in multiple attempts to get Carl laid, which results in several hilarious scenes of sex pep talks and how-to’s, lost condoms, found condoms and, finally, a call to Quentin’s niece, Marianne.  When the act is finally consummated, however, Carl opens his door to find a live broadcast awaiting him; young boys across the country simultaneously cheer as The Count recounts Carl’s encounter, while young girls instantly burst into tears.

Endeavoring to make us Americans proud in every way he can, The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt, Capote), the most popular DJ and the only American on the ship, aspires to be the first DJ to drop the F-bomb on British airways. He rationalizes that “if you shoot a bullet, someone dies. When you drop a bomb, many die. You hit a woman, love dies. But... if you say the f-word, nothing actually happens.”

Momentarily lamenting over his lost opportunity, The Count drops his F-bomb (and many other choice words) numerous times while lamenting over his lost opportunity.  To his gratification, and Quentin’s delighted dismay, the mic was on air the whole time.

His love of swearing like a sailor aside, The Count’s true love of the airways ultimately leads to a DJ-cockfight when the legendary Gavin (Rhys Ifans) makes his return appearance to Radio Rock. A top-of-the-mast chicken game consequently ensues, and despite broken bones and bruised faces, The Count once again does America proud and holds his turf.

Besides playing rock and roll and smoking marijuana all day, the sex-starved disc jockeys are always up for a night of fun when the boatful of women are ferried out to Radio Rock once a month. This night of shagging ends…ahem…well for everyone, except for poor Simon (Chris O’Dowd).

Fans across the country tune in one sunny afternoon to witness Simon’s wedding to the beautiful Elenore, played by Sioux Falls-native January Jones.  Now allowed to live on ship with her new husband, Elenore bluntly asks to move in with Gavin.

Simon’s wife leaves him after 17 hours of marriage, a spectacular feat the rest of the crew never lets him live down. 

Hasty divorces aside, one of the best features of the movie is the soundtrack.  Memorably playing “Elenore” by The Turtles in the background of Simon’s wedding to the same, the music in Pirate Radio lives up the Radio Rock’s expectations.  The CD, which has more than 30 songs and sells for $19.99 on iTunes, also includes “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks,  “Hi Ho Silver Lining” by Jeff Beck and “My Generation (Mono Version)” by The Who.

While it may not be something I'd take my mom to, the hilarious characters, the witty dialogue, the phenomenal music and the plain old raunchiness made Pirate Radio excellent not only to me, but clearly to all the twentysomethings in the theater that night. 

After all, that’s what we twentysomethings are supposed to do: flip off the establishment when we feel there’s something worth flipping off.  And Pirate Radio is definitely worth fighting for. 

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