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Category Archives: news

How to make enemies and alienate people

We’ve discussed here before how to win social media, both on Facebook and Twitter. Most of the advice boils down to Wheaton’s Law, which is:

Surprisingly, this is very, very difficult for a lot of people. I’m not sure if this is because they truly like being dickish, or they don’t REALIZE they’re being dickish, or it’s too hard to think, so therefore they just say whatever crosses their minds the minute they sit down at a keyboard…but whatever the reason is, the dicks seem to outnumber the people with something real and helpful to say online, most specifically in the comment sections.

Most people I know are, for good reason, aware that if you read an article online, you don’t, under any circumstances, read the comment section. Why? Well. Because here be dragons, of course.

For every kind, helpful and relevant comment online, you have to wade through people being racist, sexist, or just downright weird, and it starts to turn your stomach and despair for the human race.

But what about if you CAN’T avoid the comments? What if it’s your job to be the one to POLICE the comments?

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLTICIAN EVER!

I will never not love this guy. FAVORITE POLITICIAN EVER!

One of the aspects of my current job is social media. Five days a week, I’m in charge of the work Facebook page and Twitter account (along with my other multitudinous tasks, of course. I’m a busy bee. But I am a HAPPY busy bee, so there’s that, then.) I not only schedule the posts our readers see, I’m in charge of reading their comments for a few reasons – to see what they’re saying (it might come in handy in the future); to see if there are problems (sometimes they tell us about typos/errors in the article or on the site, which we can hopefully quickly fix); and to make sure things aren’t getting off-topic or squirrelly.

Things often get off-topic and squirrelly.

Twitter isn’t bad, only because people in this area don’t use Twitter as much as I wish they did. (It’s a great resource for a newspaper – we can get the news out almost immediately and have a constant stream of it going to our readers. It just hasn’t taken off around here like it has in more populated regions. I think it will, eventually; we’re just late adopters.) The people who follow us on Twitter are respectful and polite, for the most part, and I never feel like I’m wading into The Princess Bride‘s Fire Swamp when I check our Twitter page.

fireswamp

The Facebook page, however, is a very different beast.

Now, please don’t go into this thinking I don’t appreciate – and even enjoy – a vast majority of our commenters. We’d be nowhere without our readers, and I love that they’re out there and paying attention.

It’s the fringe contingent that worries me. And keep me busy hiding their comments. And sometimes shaking my head and thinking, “oh, I don’t…oh, oh no.”

SO. For those people, I’d like to give you a quick list of pointers. You are very quick to complain when your comments disappear, vocally and angrily; you are very quick to shout “CENSORSHIP!” and “THANKS, OBAMA!” when you think you’ve been silenced. Hopefully, this will help you navigate the waters of our social media more successfully.

HOW TO NOT BE A DICK ON PUBLIC SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES

  • Watch your language. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Facebook has a helpful function for those of us that moderate a public page. We can choose to have comments with swear words immediately hidden, so only we can see them. We very much utilize this function, as we have every intention of being a public page, and the last thing we want is some hapless child stumbling upon you cussing the hell out of a news story. Also, you kiss your mother with that mouth? Good grief, yo.
  • Stay on topic. Of course, there’s leeway here. I’m not saying there’s one path to greatness, people. But if we put up a post about, say, a fundraiser picnic, and you start rambling on about how angry you are that there are so many mosquitoes this year and there’s no global warming because of that LIAR AL GORE!, that’s just confusing and you might be a conspiracy-crazy. I’m not saying I’m blocking it, but people are going to think you’re a looney.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

    Except for you, Mulder. You can comment any old time.

  • Remember: since it’s a public page, everyone on your timeline, as well as anyone in the world, can see what you’ve said, and hover over your icon and see your profile. It’s just the way Facebook is set up, my little chickadees. You give up your anonymity when you comment on a public page. If you’ve got your page locked down, when they go to look at you, they won’t see much…but you’re still not anonymous. Your name is there. EVERYONE NOW KNOWS YOUR NAME. And your comment shows up in your friends’ newsfeed. I have a friend of a friend who’s very involved with commenting on social media sites. Every time he comments on our paper, my friend says, “I see So-and-So commented on your work Facebook page again!” Everyone’s seeing what you say. Keep that in mind when you comment. If you’re not being a jerk, you have nothing to worry about. If you are, however…well, your mom’s probably seeing that (assuming your mom has Facebook. My mom doesn’t. I’m one of the lucky few.) Do you want your mom seeing that? Are you sure?
  • Personal insults? Really? What grade are you in? We have had to take down entire posts because people randomly started insulting the other commenters, the people in the article, random politicians (seriously, if I never see another non-ironic “THANKS, OBAMA!” it’ll be too soon), and, in one weird thread, God. (Yes, some guy started really insulting God, like, over and over. SO MAD AT GOD.) That counts as off-topic, and it counts as just downright mean, people. STOP IT. I get it. You are filled with all of the hatred. You are ready to explode like a hatred volcano. Sometimes *I* am the target of the hatred volcano. Sometimes my beloved coworkers who wrote the articles are (and it takes every bit of my precarious self-control to not respond with a very biting “WE ARE RUBBER YOU ARE GLUE!” rebuttal, because when it comes to my coworkers, I am such a Momma Bear.) But if you go too far, I’m hiding your comments, buckaroo. I don’t like meanness. I don’t like the idea that people are walking around with a stomachache because someone was mean to them for no reason on our social media. Make a new plan, Stan, and screw off home.

    Oh, is THIS who's to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

    Oh, is THIS who’s to blame. UGH THANKS OBAMA

  • Why you gotta be so dirty? SO MUCH NAUGHTINESS. I’m immediately hiding your comments saying female politicians got to where they are “on their knees” or that the local taco place sells “fish tacos that remind me of my ex-girlfriend.” Seriously? What are you hoping to accomplish with this comment? Like, cracking up your friends with a “HEE HEE DIRTY COMMENT ON A PUBLIC SITE?” or “UNGH I AM SO SEXY THIS IS LIKE AN OBSCENE PHONE CALL FOR *EVERYONE*!” I don’t even know. I have ALMOST the least tolerance for this. The LEAST tolerance is saved for…
  • On my watch? No racist, sexist, homophobic comments. Not going to happen. Don’t even try. And if they happen when the other people I work with are on social media, I’ll sometimes randomly check and hide your comments EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT WORKING. Yeah, you heard me right. I FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT THIS, I DO THAT SHIT FOR FREE, YO. You don’t get to have a public forum to spew your hatred. Sorry. I know, right, FREE SPEECH? Well, we run the page, and you lost your right to free speech when you commented on it. We have the right to moderate. And until the day my fingers fall off, I will not allow you to put hate speech on our site.
  • Acting too cool for school is actually the stupidest thing ever. We get a lot of “who cares?” or “slow news day” comments. Did you really take time out of your day to write that? Actual time you could have been spending on something else? YOU obviously care, because you took that time out of your day. And no, it’s not a “slow news day.” There’s no such thing. If we posted the article, we think someone can benefit from reading it; if it doesn’t resonate with you, maybe…oh, I don’t know, don’t feel like you have to comment? It’s not like you have to comment on everything. No! Really! You don’t have to! I know, freeing, right?
  • Maybe spell/grammar check? I’m a little more stringent about this than others. I hate ALL typos. It’s what I do for a living; you can’t really blame me. Most people don’t care if you make a few. But I’m talking about the people who write a comment like “For teh all people eat fodo there waffles, good yunger.” I don’t…what does this mean? Do you even know what it means? Is it a puzzle? If I solve it, what do I win? (Is it waffles? That’s a worthy prize. I’ll take it.)
  • Don’t try to sell me a car. We randomly get a Ugandan businessman who spams about 15 of our posts with a huge long “CARS FOR SALE!” comment. We block him; he comes back in another incarnation about a month later. We’re going to keep blocking you, buddy. No one wants your used Buicks. And how would they even GET here from Uganda? Logistical nightmare.

These all seem common sense, right? Yeah, you’d be surprised. If you’re looking at the comment section of a public site, know that most likely, even though your blood pressure is up? Most of the worst comments HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAKEN DOWN. I know. Humbling, right?

So the next time you’re going to comment on a public page, take a deep breath, think, “Is this a dick move? Should I do this? Am I building someone up, or knocking someone down? Do I have a valid point? Is there even any REASON for me to make this comment?” If you can answer all of your questions and still look yourself in the eye in the mirror…you are welcome! Comment away! If not…maybe start a blog where you can say what you want, with no fear of The Powers That Be shutting you down.

...or you'll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don't want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

…or you’ll make Ron Swanson annoyed. You don’t want to make Ron Swanson annoyed. Trust me.

And, to those of you with actual, helpful, intelligent comments to make? THANK YOU. You make my day/month/year. Keep on keepin’ on, you guys. You make what we do worthwhile.

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That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

So, the biggest news of the week, publishing-wise, is that Nelle Harper Lee, the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, will have a new book coming out in mid-July. Go Set a Watchman is supposedly the book Lee submitted before submitting Mockingbird, and follows Scout as an adult, going back to the small town that shaped her. Cassie wrote a beautiful piece about the upcoming release, and asked that I write about my thoughts about the release, and I told her I was scattery (as I am!) but I’d been thinking about it a lot this week. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a whole post about it, but started writing…and here we are.

I’ve talked about this before (probably ad nauseum) but Mockingbird is, most sincerely, one of my favorite and most formative books. I think it’s the same for so many people. We want to be (and hope we are, deep down) Atticus; we identify with tough little scrappy Scout; our collective hearts break for Boo. Some of the most beautiful lines in literature come from the book…

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’”

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” 

His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
“Hey, Boo,” I said.
“Mr. Arthur, honey,” said Atticus, gently correcting me. “Jean Louise, this is Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you.”

“Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it. When he got up and walked across the porch into the shadows, his youthful step had returned. Before he went inside the house, he stopped in front of Boo Radley. ‘Thank you for my children, Arthur,’ he said.”

 And in looking for these online to get the wording exactly right, I teared up at the power of them. It’s been so long since I read the book for the first time – I don’t even remember the first time I met the Finches, honestly, whether it was in high school or early in college – and I’m still moved to tears by the simple beauty in Lee’s words.

I’ve read the book more times than I can count; I held off on watching the movie because I didn’t think it could possibly have the power of the book, but oh, was I wrong. Gregory Peck was Atticus Finch. His calm authority gave me chills. I saw a beautiful production of a theatrical version of it a couple of years ago which moved me to tears; the actor who played Atticus gave the most beautiful reading of “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” perfectly tear-choked and stiff-upper-lipped, and I audibly sobbed in the theater. (I wasn’t alone in that.)

All of this to say, when a friend posted that Go Set a Watchman was going to be published in July, my heart jumped. Of course it did. These characters have become my family over the years. A book showing me what happened to them? A book following Scout into adulthood, giving us a peek at Jem, seeing if they’ve kept in touch with Dill, letting us know if Atticus has kept his idealism with everyone around him trying to beat it out of him, letting us know if Mayella turned out alright? How can I not want that?

Then news started coming out that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t what Lee wanted.

Short version: Everyone knows that Mockingbird was Lee’s only book. She’s been a bit of a recluse ever since – not Salinger-level, or anything, but not going around the world singing “I WROTE MOCKINGBIRD, WHOO-HOO, LOOK AT ME!” (And side note, there have been rumors for years that her dear friend Truman Capote actually wrote Mockingbird – because of course a woman couldn’t have written something that luminescent, and she never followed up on it, so WHAT IS SHE HIDING? And then there are other rumors that Lee wrote Capote’s In Cold Blood, so how about we just assume they each wrote their own books and let people have their successes as neither of them have, that I know of, ever accused the other of nefariousness?)

Her sister was her lawyer for years, until she recently passed away. Lee has had a stroke and, by most reports, isn’t of sound mind. Her sister was very protective of her, and it’s come up that it’s very suspicious that this long-lost manuscript has suddenly surfaced upon her death. People are saying she’d sign anything anyone put in front of her these days, and without her sister to look out for her, she just might have signed off on a book she never wanted published. It’s a savvy move from the publisher – the book was announced just a few days ago, and is currently #5 on Amazon’s pre-order list of Contemporary Fiction and#10 in the Kindle Store for Contemporary Fiction. And Mockingbird? #1 with a bullet, baby. Topping the list currently on Amazon in the Kindle Store for Literary Fiction, #1 in Literature and Fiction in the United States, and #1 in Legal Fiction. Take THAT, John Grisham! I’m not saying, if this is true, it’s not a completely slimy move…but financially, it’s savvy.

She's kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

She’s kind of adorable, right? I want her to be my neighbor. I want to hang out with her and talk about birds and crocheting and words, words, words.

So what’s a reader to do?

There’s no way I couldn’t read this book. I have to. Everyone’s going to be reading it. It’s going to be like when the last Harry Potter book was released and I couldn’t go three feet without seeing someone with that gigantic book in their hands because they didn’t want to go even minutes without reading it. This is going to be a global discussion when it comes out. A global discussion about a book? How can I not be part of that? And the sheer fact that more people are reading Mockingbird – how can I not love that? But I’m torn. What if Lee – this woman who introduced me to Atticus and Jem and Scout and Dill and Boo – didn’t want this book flying around in the wild? What if it’s not up to her standards and that’s why it hasn’t been released until now? Don’t I owe more to this woman who’s been such a force in my life, whose given me so much? None of us will ever really know what she wants, will we? Do we let the book speak for itself?

Yes. Of course I’ll read it. And I have the highest hopes that seeing all of my old friends again, these people that I consider family, will be everything that I hope it will be. I will talk to my most beloved readers about it and we will discuss and argue and fight over our favorite lines and characters and it will be glorious.

And I will hope in my heart of hearts that my beloved Nelle Harper Lee, even if she didn’t want the book released, will understand that I’m reading the book out of love. I’m being given another chance to see people I love. How can I say no to that?

It’s just that it feels a little like killing a mockingbird.


It’s like my own personal episode of COPS every night.

A newspaper-thing that’s always intrigued me, ever since I was younger, is the cop briefs.

Don’t even deny they intrigue you as well. If you haven’t read them for entertainment value, you’ve read them to see if anyone you know was arrested. They’re vicarious sordidness, aren’t they?

Cop brieffffffs! (Don't Google "cop briefs" unless you want to see a lot of men's underpants, my friends.)

Cop brieffffffs! (Don’t Google “cop briefs” unless you want to see a lot of men’s underpants, my friends.)

Oh, in case you don’t have these where you are (doesn’t everyone have these? I’d assume yes, but you know what they say about assuming…) cop briefs are those quick little blurbs in the paper that say something like “John Doe, 46, of Somewheresville, was arrested by state police on Saturday at 1:02 a.m. He was charged with lewd lewdness, crazy loudness, and public urination.” Things like that.

One of my (many) jobs at the paper is to put certain things online immediately, as soon as they’re proofread. Major stories, some wire stories that we think people will be interested in, and the cop briefs. Cop briefs are *very* popular around here. (I don’t know if it’s just around here. I think they’re probably popular everywhere. People are alike all over. Somewhat nosy.)

I almost immediately realized that the cop briefs were both the funniest and saddest things I would be reading at the paper.

Things that seem surprisingly popular around here, so much so that they’re probably 75% or more of our cop briefs:

  • heroin-related crimes (heroin is HUGE around here. Apparently locals really enjoy riding the horse. Who knew?)
  • Meth-related crimes (cookin’ the meth, yo, cookin’ the meth)
  • drunk driving
  • domestic violence
  • child molestation (yes, I know…shudder)
  • petit larceny
  • check forgery

SIDE NOTE: There is a 50/50 split at work of people who say “petit” (just like it looks – “pet it”, like you would do to a cat, specifically, Dumbcat, who ALWAYS wants petting) larceny and who say “petty” larceny. I’m in the latter camp – too many years of French classes drilled the latter pronunciation into my head. But the “pet it” people are as adamant about their choice as the “petty” people are. I find this fascinating.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: We have a road here named “Gotham Street.” How would you say that? I’d assume, based on the world’s consumption of Batman-related things, you’d say “Gaw-thumb”, right? Nope. Here, it’s “Goe-thumb.” This makes me laugh. Like, a lot.

"It's GAW-thumb! DID MY PARENTS DIE FOR THIS!?!?!?"

“It’s GAW-thumb! DID MY PARENTS DIE FOR THIS!?!?!?”

So. Most of the cop briefs are for the things above. It’s gotten so second-hand that I’m all “ho-hum, another trailer exploded because they were cooking meth in it.” The domestic violence and child molestation ones bother me, I’m not going to lie. I don’t know if I’ll ever get inured to those. I think if the day comes that I am, I’m done. Roll me up and throw me in the sea.

My favorites, however, are the petit larceny ones. Specifically, the FUNNY petit larceny ones. Yes, yes. I know. Stealing’s not all that funny. But when you’re hanging your hat on dark humor, you take it where you can get it, you know?

There was…

  • the man who bought a bunch of crap at Walmart with counterfeit $100s, got caught, got arrested, got an appearance ticket, then THREE DAYS LATER got caught AGAIN for trying to buy MORE THINGS with a counterfeit $100. (Vitamins. He was trying to buy vitamins at the drug store.) This time, the cops were all “yeah…think we’ll keep you” and he had $50,000 bail, or something. We were all, “Hee! You know he’s saying ‘oh! $50k? I HAVE THAT! Do you take $100s?'”

    Ben Franklin disapproves of your shenanigans.

    Ben Franklin disapproves of your shenanigans.

  • the woman who decided she HAD TO HAVE the Keurig from her hotel room, so she put it in her bag and was all “gonna gooooo now” but got caught (not sure how…but based on future info, I’m guessing it was just poking on out of her bag, she doesn’t seem the brightest) and when the cops showed up she had a PLETHORA of wee bags of meth on her. Now, my thought: if you’re packing, like, MULTIPLE bags of meth? Probably don’t also steal the Keurig from your hotel room. You can buy one from your meth money later, and you want to keep a low profile, you know? You don’t need that Keurig right now. No. You don’t. Put it down. PUT IT DOWNNNN.

    "If it's in the hotel room, it's mine, right? I'm just going to take this, then. Thanks. DO NOT CHECK MY POCKETS FOR CRACK COCAINE."

    “If it’s in the hotel room, it’s mine, right? I’m just going to take this, then. Thanks. DO NOT CHECK MY POCKETS FOR METH.”

  • the guy who got arrested at his home for stealing something but then resisted arrest, and then his mother got arrested for trying to stop the cops from arresting him, and then SHE resisted arrest as WELL, and then his BROTHER tried to stop the cops from arresting his MOM and then resisted his OWN arrest. So, we’re three for three, then. Good show, folks.
  • the woman that got arrested for stealing a Dr. Pepper and some Cracker Jack from the convenience store. That one just made me sad. It was less than $4 of stuff. I kind of wanted to find her and give her $5 and tell her to keep the change.
  • The woman that just walked right out of the grocery store with something called a “mega meat savings pack.” This one was kind of the best, because the reporter who was on cops that night was on the phone with the police station, and we overheard him say, “I’d like a little more detail about this petit larceny of the ‘mega meat savings pack?'” And Coworker R. and I (BTW, I’m quite convinced Coworker R. and I are siblings separated at birth) at the exact same time said “Mega meat savings pack?” and got the giggles. And then the poor reporter was trying to hold it together while he was talking to the cops, but it was like on “Saturday Night Live” when everyone gets the giggles and no one can behave. Church-giggles, is what it was. And when he got off the phone, he was all “YOU GUYS” and I was all “MEGA MEAT SAVINGS PACK!” and even now I can’t say that without laughing like a looney.

    MEGA meat! We seriously discussed for like 20 minutes how she hid this to get it out of the store. Like, in her bra, or what?

    MEGA meat! We seriously discussed for like 20 minutes how she hid this to get it out of the store. Like, in her bra, or what?

  • The couple that got arrested for stealing a shopping cart filled with camping supplies from Walmart (Walmart gets stolen from, on average, 47 bajillion times a week…ok, I’m exaggerating, it’s like 47 KABILLION times a week) and then after listing all the things that were stolen, like “Sterno, a tent, tent poles, marshmallows, an inflatable mattress” it also listed “sexual lubricant.” Heh. Well, I guess the point of couples camping is that it’s (turn your eyes away, kiddos) fucking in tents. Or maybe they had some other campy use for that lubricant; I don’t really do outdoorsy well, so I couldn’t begin to tell you. Like, maybe it keeps away bears, you don’t know.

    "QUICK! GET THE K-Y!"

    “QUICK! GET THE K-Y!”

Probably the best, though, which was NOT petit larceny related, was the chick who foiled a kidnapper.

YES! A man called the cops, and said “someone tried to kidnap my ladyfriend in front of the convenience store!” so the cops were all on red alert and ran over and took statements and there was a lookout for a black SUV with a couple of nefarious white guys in it, and the woman was all “I left the store, they tried to pull me into their SUV, I fought ’em off with my sweet ninja moves” (I might be making that part up a little, but it was something to that effect.)

Everyone on our Facebook page, when we posted the story, FREAKED OUT. “Why are the cops hiding something from us?” “It’s like they WANT us to be kidnapped!” “FIND THESE EVILDOERS!” “CASTRATE THEM WITH RUSTY GARDEN SHEARS!” (Again, I might be making that part up a little.)

There was no news for a day or two…then the truth came out.

So, the chick had a job interview across the street from the convenience store. She and her boyfriend showed up early. Because she had time to kill, she proceeded to get very drunk (…yeah, I don’t know, either) and then she somehow lost her boyfriend in the convenience store. Convinced he’d left without her, she went in the parking lot, angry at him. When he came out looking for her, she was all, “YOU ABANDONED ME. And…um…because you did that, SOMEONE TRIED TO KIDNAP ME. I hope you’re HAPPY, Frank.” (His name wasn’t Frank. Like I remember his name. Please.)

So the boyfriend, who wasn’t (I’m assuming) drunk, was all, “babe, I was just inside this convenience store, how did you lose me? And more importantly, WE GOTTA CALL THE COPS ABOUT THIS KIDNAPPING.” And, mired in her web of drunken lies, she said, “Um. Yeeees? Yes, sure we sure do. Those dirty kidnappers who totally tried to kidnap me just now heh heh I’m not even lying at all even a little bit.”

The cops then broke her down after intense questioning (I’m guessing “intense” was just they looked at her seriously and she was all “OMG I AM SO SORRY” and started crying, she’s not really the criminal mastermind type, is she?) and she was charged with wasting police resources and reporting a false claim and inciting a riot. I made up that last one because it sounded cool. And, I have to assume, she did not get the job, probably. Unless the job was “professional drunken parking-lot kidnap liar,” in which case, she NAILED the interview (and I’m guessing there wasn’t much competition.)

As you can expect if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I totally crack up over these kinds of stories. And I tell ALL my coworkers about them. “DEAR COWORKERS!” I say, and proceed to tell them the latest transgression in a VERY dramatic reading, which I like to think is appreciated by all. (Or, if it’s not, they’re too polite to tell me to shush it.)

What have we learned?

If you do something stupid, your name’s going to be in the paper. THAT IS SO EMBARRASSING!

(Also, just an FYI, we have computerized archives going back to the 80s. So don’t be thinking I won’t look you up and see if you were ever in the cop briefs. I SO WILL. This is like the next step in Googling one’s date. Newspaper-archive-searching one’s date. I am not going out with someone and then finding out after I’m head-over-heels he deals meth out of his nasty meth-trailer. I also, by the way, researched my apartment to see if it was a murder house. What, like you wouldn’t. It was never a murder house. But it WAS a drug house in the 90s. So if I find any little packets crammed in the corners, I’m going to probably not eat those, then.)

So…probably don’t do stupid things, my little gumdrops. Or someone, somewhere, is laughing HYSTERICALLY at you at the copydesk of a paper with their amazing coworkers they love more than all the cheese in the world. (ALL the cheese. And there’s a lot of cheese in the world, is how much those coworkers are loved.)

Thus endeth the lesson.

(Oh, and I guess also bring K-Y jelly camping? I don’t even know about that one.)


I have a fancy nametag and EVERYTHING.

You’re totally right, anthropomorphic computer equipment. Thanks for the reminder. Stop talking about me behind my back, though, you’ll give me a complex and scare the cat.

Things have been a bit upended thisaway. Completely upended, actually. To the point that I have to reschedule the time I sleep and eat and such. Plus a gigantic move to a new town, and a whole new apartment, and a new town to learn, and a new JOB to learn, and and and…

I’m a bit chicken-head-cut-off here.

Overall, all’s well. I miss Albany, and I really miss my people there, but am learning my new home. My job makes it worthwhile; it’s a fantastic job. I love my coworkers, who are intelligent and sarcastic and make me laugh until I snort pretty much daily. I love the work, because it’s never the same and I get to be all crack-the-whippy about grammar issues and I get to be the night-and-weekend social media person, things I love doing AND I GET PAID FOR THEM. How often do you get to do things that you like, and get paid for them? I love the building, which is old and historic and filled with the best of newspapery ghosts whispering “extra, extra.” I like that my apartment is literally four minutes from my job, which will be fantastic when the snow falls (and that could be any day now…it’s getting chilly here.) I like that I know the news because I have to proofread all the stories so I’m all knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world. (Some days, I wish I wasn’t as knowledgeable. There’s a lotta shit going down right now, yo.) I like when the phone rings I get to answer it with “Newsdesk, Amy speaking.” I like that I had a hand in 5/7 of the newspapers that come out in this city every week. (5/7 only because I get two days off each week, not because I’m a slacker.) I like that when people ask what I do, and I say “I work for the paper,” they get an impressed look on their faces for the first time in my LIFE. I like that I look forward to going to work every day. Every single damn day. They even gave me a nametag with my PHOTO on it so I am all OFFICIAL.

This is NOT from my paper, but from my beloved cousin S.'s paper. I asked her if perhaps a tutor was revived IN the Tudor; the answer was no, sadly.

This is NOT from my paper, but from my beloved cousin S.’s paper. I asked her if perhaps a tutor was revived IN the Tudor; the answer was no, sadly.

I’m getting used to a nights-and-weekends schedule; there are pros and cons to it. Nice to only have to set the alarm a couple times a week, but working until the wee hours still makes me a little loopy. I assume I’ll get used to it eventually and stop being so yawny all the time.

My new place is amazing. Roomy and beautiful and old. Dumbcat and I have moved right in. This morning, he realized if he sleeps right on a register grate, the hot air from the furnace is ALL HIS. I walked by and laughed so hard I hurt my stomach. He had a look on his face as if he’d discovered pirate gold. “ALL HEET! ALL MYNE! MOM, IS SO GUDE!” My birthday present from my parents this year was – are you ready? – MY OWN WASHER-DRYER. I don’t have to leave the house to wash my clothes! I FEEL LIKE A MILLIONAIRE!!!

Random apartment photos! Ignore the cat-hairy floor. LOOK AT ALL THE ROOM I HAVE!

Random apartment photos! Ignore the cat-hairy floor. LOOK AT ALL THE ROOM I HAVE!

Bookcase! Bedroom! All the space!

Bookcase! Bedroom! All the space!

Kitchen! Frog-thing hanging on the wall! SO MUCH SPACE OMG!

Kitchen! Frog-thing hanging on the wall! Random Amy-shoes on the floor! SO MUCH SPACE OMG!

I have also purchased many bookcases and filled them with many books. And there is room for MORE books (which is secretly why I purchased VERY tall bookcases.) Gigantic book sale going on at the library starting next week, yo. Guess who’ll be there? ME ME ME. (Dude, fifty-cent paperbacks and dollar hardcovers? Like I’d NOT be there. Please.)

Two of my 6 bookcases. The guy at the store where I bought bookcases was all "are these for books? YOU OWN THIS MANY BOOKS?" Heh. Yeah, kind of.

Two of my six bookcases. The guy at the store where I bought bookcases was all “are these for books? YOU OWN THIS MANY BOOKS?” Heh. Yeah, kind of more than that many.

SIDE NOTE: I haven’t had time to read a single book since I moved. Not one. I KNOW. It’s kind of a travesty, yeah? I’m hoping to chisel out a little more time for that sometime soon. I also haven’t written a single poem. NOT ONE. Another thing I need to get a move on. I have scraps of phrasing scribbled on a million post-its all over this place. I need to turn them into something.

Very little theater here (at least compared to what I’m used to in Albany) but a decent amount if I make a bit of a drive. Went to a concert in Potsdam last night – about an hour and a half away – which was totally worth the trip. (Postmodern Jukebox – if you live on the internet like I do, you’re sure to have heard of them. They’re the ones that take pop songs and make them all swing-y or blues-y or big-band-y. They’re fantastic live, and they’re on tour, so I highly recommend if they come by you, go see them!)

Terribly actiony shot. They were very move-y. Such a wonderful show.

Terribly actiony shot. They were very move-y. Such a wonderful show.

This was my favorite song they played:

(Also, we totally had a singalong to a “Baby’s Got Back” mashup that made me laugh and laugh. And YES, I sang along. Of course I did.)

All in all – all’s well. Some sadnesses, sure. When are there not? Those weigh heavy on my mind. It’s funny how the little sads weigh so much more than the big happys, isn’t it? Relatively-speaking, they should all weigh the same, like the pound of feathers and the pound of lead in that oft-repeated brain teaser.

So: yes. Alive: check. Well: check. In the middle of a billion things, most of them completely different than anything I’ve ever done or dealt with before: check. Mostly remaining upright throughout all of them and not collapsing into a pool of puddly tears: check (mostly, so I’m counting it as a win.)

I keep thinking of things I should blog, like things you learn working at a newspaper, and things you learn running a newspaper’s Facebook page, and I think Dumbcat wants to talk to you about how it is living in the new apartment, and I want to tell you about the new town, and the new library, and all the local fauna here (holy crap with the fauna that seem to live in my backyard exclusively!) but it’ll have to wait for another day. Hoping that’ll happen sooner than later.

Here is a teaser of local fauna. A GIGANTIC SKUNK WAS LIVING IN MY BACK YARD FOR A WHILE, YOU GUYS HOLY HELL.

Here is a teaser of local fauna. A GIGANTIC SKUNK WAS LIVING IN MY BACK YARD FOR A WHILE, YOU GUYS. HOLY HELL.

Happy Wednesday, people of the blog. Hope you’re all happy and healthy and wise. Wealthy would be nice, too, but let’s not push it. How about JUST wealthy enough to afford delicious HoHos. There you go, then.


Kicking the bucket list

I don’t believe in bucket lists. 

OK, back up. I believe they EXIST. And the idea of them is valid. I think it’s nice for some people to have a list of goals to progress toward; things that, if done, would make them happy. 

The idea of a bucket list, however, is creepy on one level and flawed on another. 

Creepy on the level that, once you’ve crossed everything on your list off, you’re ready for death, apparently. I saw the movie with that sassy Jack Nicholson. I know the score. You skydive, you climb a mountain, you make up with your estranged daughter and then you can die with a clean conscience and I need like a whole BOX of tissues because my ALLERGIES, damn, you know? 

DAMN YOU NICHOLSON!

DAMN YOU NICHOLSON!

Flawed in that the bucket list overlooks where, I believe, your true joy lives. 

Let’s say your bucket list has things on it like “visit Rome” and “walk along the Pacific coast” and “sing karaoke in a dive bar” or something. Sure, you can do those things. They’ll probably be fun, too. 

But I don’t know about you guys, but me? If I build something up in my mind too much, it reaches untouchable status. I make up mind-stories about it. And those castles in the air are SO ELABORATE that once I actually do the thing, it can’t live up to the story I’ve spun about it. Sometimes it still does, but sometimes I’m disappointed because, say, I’d imagined that once I got to Paris, I’d have a torrid Parisian love affair and really it was rainy and overpriced and the people sneered at my pitiful attempts at high-school français, you know? 

No love pour moi dans le city d'amour, non non non!

No love pour moi dans le city d’amour, non non non!

My best memories, my most bucket-listy memories, are the ones I didn’t plan. They’re the ones that I didn’t write on a list and didn’t expect to happen and didn’t check off when I was done, but that stay with me; the ones that glow warm inside me, the ones that I have folded and tucked away and when I revisit them they’re golden and they’re the kind of memories I’ll revisit when I’m really bucket-trending, (hopefully) many years from now. 

Watching fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Being completely alone at the South Street Seaport, eating breakfast on a bench, reading the paper, watching the city wake up around me. 

Walking around a museum in Rouen with my headphones on, experiencing art and music at once, feeling at once both very adult and very young. 

Waking up for the first time with Dumbcat sleeping on my pillow, when he became brave enough to creep out from under the bed, and having him headbutt me in a tentative “you are mine now?” way. 

Holding my nephew for the first time, and having him scowl up at me, and knowing I’d do anything for this kid, and that I always would, for the rest of my life. That this kid I’d just met absolutely owned me. 

These aren’t things I planned. I didn’t write these things on a list; I didn’t say, “man, someday I really want to do the 4th of July in the City” and then work toward that goal. A few days before the 4th that year, my then-roommate said, “why don’t you come with me and the boyfriend to the City for our annual 4th thing we do?” and I was like “yes, that sounds like an adventure” so I did. Bam. I didn’t plan on going to Rouen; it was a last-minute decision when I was in Paris, and the museum was just there, and I had a few hours to kill before my train back to gay Paree. 

This is a lot of buildup to the main event, here. 

I did a non-bucket-list bucket-list thing last night. And I glowed like a little potbellied stove with the unplanned wonder of it. I’m still glowing the next day. I can’t imagine I won’t always be. 

Some (typically Amy-lengthy) background: 

I got assigned the review of Ghost the Musical this month. I remember being a fan of this movie back in the day. The jaded lady I am now thinks it’s a little cheesy. But I can still appreciate that its heart is in the right place. And I do so like “Unchained Melody.” And Demi Moore’s haircut was fierce. 

GHOOOOOST! Aw, this was a nice movie, right? Kind of, in a cheesy 90s way.

GHOOOOOST! Aw, this was a nice movie, right? Kind of, in a cheesy 90s way.

(Dad still can’t watch it. The black hell-ghosties scare him too much. “Those scary bastards!” he calls them, and has to leave the room. Dad’s not a fan of scary things.) 

So apparently someone in the UK made Ghost into a musical, which came to New York last year, and closed after 4 months, and now it’s on tour. We’re the first stop on the tour, actually, which is super-cool. The show’s been teching here for three weeks. We’re on the Wikipedia page for it and everything. And remember I met the lead girl when I was having lunch with David on Sunday? Yep. 

So friend N. (who doubles as Boss N. during work hours – having a boss who is also your friend? Total win) and I went to see Ghost the Musical last night. (Well, that’d be your Tuesday night, I suppose.) 

I’d heard mixed things going in. I knew it’d be tech-heavy (there are a lot of effects when your lead character spends 85% of the show dead) and that there had been some issues; the early reviews from people I knew were good, but the people I knew were biased in one way or another, so I took them with a grain of salt. (I try to go into shows I’m reviewing with as little prior knowledge as I can. I think it’s only fair. I mean, there’s baggage we go in with that we can’t ditch, but you don’t need to add traincases and hatboxes to that baggage, you know?) 

Effects like this happened. PEOPLE WALKED THROUGH DOORS. Only not really. IT'S THE MAGIC OF THEE-AY-TAH.

Effects like this happened. PEOPLE WALKED THROUGH DOORS. Only not really. IT’S THE MAGIC OF THEE-AY-TAH.

So N. and I settled in for the show. 

I realized about 15 minutes in I was not going to be able to give this show a good review. 

Now listen. I’m usually the sunshine and rainbows reviewer. Some of the reviewers in the area are often very negative. I’m usually not. I’m pretty easy to please. Honestly, the hardest part of this job for me is finding theaters I’ve never been to before when my GPS is being a dick and finding thesaurusy ways to say “amazing job.” 

The show was too tech-heavy. The plot was put to the side to concentrate on “ZOMG LOOK AT THIS EFFECT WE CAN DO!” The actors weren’t fantastic. (Luckily, the girl I’d met with David? One of the two watchable people onstage. WHEW.) The writing was TERRIBLE. The songs weren’t good. The band was too loud. Someone had the bright idea to have lights the wattage of the sun shining right AT the audience; it got so bad that a., I felt as if I was involuntarily trapped in a tanning booth and b. there was one whole song I covered my eyes for because OUCH and I was pretty sure I would need my retinas for driving home.  There was a random parasol being wielded in one number. There was a rapping Dr. Seuss ninja. Sam yelled “Mollyyyyyy!” much in the style of Rocky calling for Adrian. There was much too much use of projections; at one point, it got so silly I got the cry-giggles and N. was all “I CANNOT EVEN LOOK AT YOU OR I WILL LAUGH” so we studiously ignored one another. “Unchained Melody” was sung (poorly) like a BILLION DAMN TIMES. Once it was sob-sung while projections of a screaming Sam were all over the background. I can’t even. CAN. NOT. EVEN. 

This is Ninja Dr. Seuss, also known as "subway ghost."

This is Ninja Dr. Seuss, also known as “subway ghost.”

(This makes me sound like I was being obnoxious-loud. I promise I wasn’t. I’m a good theater-goer. I held in my noises to the point of almost exploding my eyeballs.) 

At intermission N. said, “You know what’s the worst?” and I said, “That there’s an Act II?” and we giggled all over again. 

This is not the bucket-listy thing, just in case you’re wondering. Not even a little. 

So a couple of weeks ago, the reviewers found out that the review date for Ghost the Musical had changed. It was supposed to be on opening night, Saturday, so that’s what we planned, with a run-date for the review in the paper of Monday, giving readers 5 days to see the show, if they were so inclined. The venue changed the review date due to it being so tech-heavy (it happens) so the review date was Tuesday. The show closes Friday. It usually takes two days for a review to post; mine wouldn’t post until Thursday, giving readers only two days to decide whether or not to see the show. 

My editor contacted me on Monday, concerned about the lateness of the review and that it would be useless to our readers. Could I file that night, as soon as I get home, so it could get in the Wednesday paper? (Usually our deadline is 1pm the following day.) 

Well, I always file the same night, for two reasons. One, because I have a terrible memory, so I like to write when it’s fresh in my mind, and two, because I (almost) always have to work the next day, so the night of is the only time I have to write. I wrote back to her and assured her it would be filed that night and to expect it by midnight. 

“In order to make the next day’s paper, it has to be filed by 11,” she said. 

Eek. 

“The show’s out at 10, and it takes me a half-hour to get home,” I said. “It usually takes me 45 minutes to an hour to write a review. I can try, but I can’t guarantee anything.” 

She wrote right back. 

“What if I had someone let you in the building, and you wrote it at the Gazette?” 

ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG 

See, the Gazette’s about 5-10 minutes or so from the theater. So I could get to work faster. 

But ALSO? 

IT IS A REAL NEWSROOM. 

I WOULD GET TO GO INTO A REAL NIGHTTIME NEWSROOM AT A REAL PAPER. 

I did not take this. I found this online. But this is totally what it looked like.

I did not take this. I found this online. But this is totally what it looked like.

I’ve been in three different television newsrooms. One on the NBC tour, one on a tour of our local NBC affiliate when I was a counselor at summer camp upstate as a teenager, and one when I interviewed to work at a news station (not on-camera, something in the office, and I didn’t get it. Sigh.) 

Television. Whatever. Fine. But NEWSPAPERS? You GUYS. You KNOW how keen I am on newspapers. I love them more than is even LOGICAL. And as a freelancer I NEVER get to GO to the BUILDING! I emailed all my people all “ZOMG Z!O!M!G! I need a fedora! And a press pass! EXTRA EXTRA I’M WITH THE PRESS I AM FANCY!!!1!!” 

Then I tried to be all professional emailing my editor back all, “Yes, that would work, thank you so much, cheerio, wot wot.” 

(She also was all, “I hope you have a laptop. And here’s our wireless password.” I WAS ONE OF THE ELITE, BABY!) 

So after the show, I did something I HATE (I think it’s so rude, seriously, but I needed those extra ten minutes) and I got up the MINUTE the curtain call started and ran out to get to the car to get over to the building to write the review. My normal top-secret easy-enter-easy-leave parking lot totally got found out and now is barricaded, so I had to park like a billion miles away and THAT was a bother. So I had to hoof it to the car. Also the show started late. And intermission ran late. So I was later than 10 even getting OUT of there, even leaving the MINUTE curtain call started. N. and I zipped up the aisle and of COURSE I got behind some old man who was all putt putt putt and N. was all “important lady coming through! REVIEW TO BE WRITTEN, PEOPLE!” but it didn’t even faze him. Kept on a’puttin’ along. Sigh. 

Race-walked to the car. Got in the car. GPSed the Gazette. ZOOMED to the Gazette. Almost missed the building because it didn’t have a sign by the street but it looked so newspapery that I was like, “This MUST be it.” IT WAS! 

Called the guy who was supposed to let me in. Waited in the dark outside A REAL LIVE NEWSPAPER. Imagined what the guy letting me in would look like. Decided probably Cary Grant. Rumply suit. Tired but ruggedly handsome. 

Yowza. YOWZA.

Yowza. YOWZA.

Not really Cary Grant, but I got the tired part right. He was a very nice man. 

“I AM AT A NEWSPAPER,” I said. 

“Yes,” he said, looking at me like I might be a looney. 

“How COOL is this?” I said. 

“Not so cool if this is your job every night,” he replied. 

“Oh, I don’t know. I can’t imagine that this would ever get old. NEWSPAPER!” I said. There may or may not have been jazz hands. He kind of laughed. I don’t think he quite knew what to make of me. No one does, really. When you’re faced with the full-on force of this kind of enthusiasm, you either go with the flow or it blows you away, really. Choose go with the flow. It’s a hell of a lot more fun. 

So he brought me upstairs and was all, “Let’s get you a desk and a computer” and I was like “DUDE I HAVE A LAPTOP AND THE SECRET CODE” and he was all, “Um.” And I said, “Ha. Wifi password, I have it” and he was like “’kay, let’s get you a desk, then, here you go, I’m right over here, come get me if you need me” and I WAS IN A NEWSROOM. 

Now, by the time all this happened, it was 10:30. I had to write a review in 30 minutes. Also, my laptop takes a long time to turn on, and I WANTED TO LOOK AROUND THE NEWSROOM BECAUSE YOU GUYS, NEWSROOM. 

But I had to write the review. I’d written the basic frame, like, show title/run dates/cost/etc. so I just had to write 500 words about it and I was DONE. Luckily, a bad review’s easier to write than a good one. 

I wrote like the wind, you guys. Any idea when I finished editing and proofreading that bad boy (and also I emailed three people just to say, “I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO MENTION I AM EMAILING YOU FROM THE GAZETTE I AM GEEKING OUT ZOMG?!?!”) 

10:49. I hit save at 10:49. I emailed it to the proper address where it goes at 10:51. 

I wrote that sucker in NINETEEN MINUTES.

I then surreptitiously peered around to report back to you about a real live newsroom. (I couldn’t take photos like I wanted because there were SO MANY PEOPLE IN THERE.) 

There are a ton of cubes and desks with computers. Not typewriters, but it is 2013. Everyone has all the fun flair on their desks like wacky stuffed animals and bumper stickers. It is all gray and industrial carpetinged. It is very busy, even that late. There are a lot of windows. There is a police scanner at one chick’s desk, I assume so they can write about or go to emergencies that are newsworthy. No one was wearing a fedora (sadtimes.) One lady said, “I’m going to add three sentences to this copy” and that made me smile because COPY is totally a newspaper term and I WAS IN THE KNOW!

Everyone was sleepy but also very alert at the same time and you could feel all the history and newspaperiness. Like, if a story happened, you could tell all these people would like RUMBLE into action like BEARS COME OUT OF HIBERNATION. I just sat there and thought about all the history of these people, and how this job went back and back and BACK, and what a proud job it was, to be someone who reports the news, who tells the people what’s happening, and I got all sniffly that I was IN THE NEWSROOM and then I was like “dumbass, you have to go to work tomorrow, yo, you need to get HOME” so I went over to the guy’s desk who let me in and made sure my article arrived to the place it was supposed to go (it did) and we joked a little bit about how bad the show was and he gave me quick directions to get out of the mazey newsroom and to the elevators and then I was leaving the newsroom. GOODBYE NEWSROOM. 

In my head, it was totally black and white and looked like this, by the way.

In my head, it was totally black and white and looked like this, by the way.

You guys. YOU GUYS. I want to work in a newsroom. Don’t you think I would be the best at this? Why do I have to be in love with a dying profession? Sigh. 

Then I drove home and the GPS hates Schenectady and was all TURN HERE and it was a one-way street and tried to get me killed. DAMMIT GPS YOU STOP THAT. So then I was driving through all these little towns with the knowledge I totally just got to be in a real live newsroom all bright in my chest and I kept grinning recklessly about it. 

And today I am SO SO TIRED because I couldn’t get to sleep because SUPER-EXCITED and Dad and I had this conversation:

Dad: You’re just like Jimmy Johnson.
Amy: Am I? Who’s that? Someone super-famous at writing?
Dad: Yes. He worked with Spiderman.
Amy: What? He did? Jimmy Johnson?
Dad: EXTRA EXTRA! Remember? With the hat? He was like a cub reporter. But not a BEAR cub.
Amy: No, I don’t…do you mean Jimmy Olsen?
Dad: Yes, that’s what I said.
Amy: He worked with Superman.
Dad: They’re all the same person. You can’t see their faces.
Amy: You can see Superman’s face.
Dad: Whoa, that’s a really good scoop, there, Jimmy Johnson. 

SUPERMAN'S PAL! Look at this cuckoo-bananas comic, yo.

SUPERMAN’S PAL! Look at this cuckoo-bananas comic, yo.

Usually you have to pay to read my reviews, and I can’t guarantee you won’t have to pay to read this by the time this posts, but as of THIS VERY MINUTE, the review I spent NINETEEN WHOLE MINUTES writing is FREE on the Gazette site (due to technical problems on their end, all their stuff is free until they fix the site) so you can actually read one of my reviews in its native environment where it belongs. I KNOW! (And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t write the title, the guy who let me in the building did. It makes me laugh. It’s a very good title.) 

Sometimes it seems like I’m living this weird velvet-rope high life. I assure you most of the time it’s me, the cat, and a plastic tumbler of grape Koolaid. 

Bucket list, my ass. I’ll keep blundering into these kickass situations. With my jazz-hands. Who needs a damn list when you’ve got shit like THIS going on, I ask you?


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