I Am a Genius: listen to my words

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listen to my words

Posts Tagged ‘Daily Universe’

What Are You Writing For?

First of all perhaps I should disabuse you of the pseudo-scholarly nonsense that everyone’s opinion is of equal worth; it’s just not true. It’s as if people believe you don’t have to know anything about something to be able to say talk about it meaningfully. No, while it is true that everyone has a legal right to say anything they want to, in the name of good taste, some people should just please, please stop. I used to be somewhat of a libertarian, but since I’ve started writing this column I’ve started to believe that perhaps we need to legislate good sense.

What brought this on? The other day I wanted to find some good e-zines on the Internet. So I went to Google and executed a web search. Then, I executed a second web search that included a command to exclude the word “sex.” (If you don’t know why I had to do this, you need to do more web searches). I never found any good ones. If you know of some good e-zines, fell free to email me the address, because most of them suck.

What else brought this on? I read the Daily Universe a few times a week. Reading that even once is enough to send anyone on a rant (as you can tell if you read my last column). People who read, write for, and write to the Daily Universe are necessarily petty and lame. I provide no evidence for this, you have to read it to believe it.

So, in the interest of good taste and making it so I don’t have to hate everyone in Utah and on the Internet, I’ve come up with a list of guide lines for aspiring writers and web page makers. Note that this probably applies to all artists and multimedia gurus.

The first thing you should take into consideration is what your motivation is. Think about this. If you’re writing to make a living at it, get better before you tell everyone you’re worth publishing. If you’re doing it primarily for yourself, then please don’t inflict yourself on anyone else unless you realize what you’ve done is pure genius. If you’re doing it for the attention, then either be funny or have something insightful to say. If you’re writing because it’s glamorous, go to hell.

In short, don’t try to publicize your writing unless your writing is any good.

Here are some other tips:

A desperate need for attention is not sufficient time to waste a newspaper editor’s time. If you want to be published, don’t write a letter to the editor about how socks with sandals is tacky, or any other non-issue. (A corollary hint is that if the only option you have for publication is the school newspaper’s letters to the editor column, then you should just give up.)

If you are a sixteen-year-old posting on MySpace about how you like that guy in your math class, and Fluffy the cat was especially cute today, and mom is so mean because she grounded you even though you were only two hours late for curfew, and you were kissing that guy who’s too old for you but you didn’t use tongue, and your English teacher is mean, and the Gap has the cutest clothes, and that artist guy in your history is so creepy when he comes dressed in black, etc. JUST STOP NOW and never touch your computer again after you’ve deleted your web page and everything associated with it.

If the only thing you have for material for your web page is how old you are, where you go to school or work, and several unfunny pictures of your cat, don’t. (These last two reasons have led me to believe that it should be illegal for any girl under the age of 18 who has not had a CS class to publish a web page).

“Backstreet Boys Fan Fiction” is not a valid genre. Most fan fiction is not a valid genre.
Getting an idea from a good book does not mean that YOU will write a good book.

If you’re publishing on the web, make sure you provide links so a visitor reading can easily access the list of contents. Even better would be a link to the next story. (I’m referring here to online comic sites who think that a link to a .jpg or a .gif is sufficient ease of navigation. If your comics are in a certain order, please, please, please give me a “next” button.) Always remember that web surfers are lazy; otherwise they’d be outside playing. They don’t want to take the trouble to hit the “back” button in their browser every 30 seconds.
Format! (And make sure your colors contrast so people can actually read it. “Pretty” does not mean “legible.”)

In poetry, “free verse” does not mean “whatever obnoxious whim took me.” It means the meter and rhyme are determined by contextual artistic concerns, not a predefined format.

Please remember that this is only a partial list. Just keep in mind that when you write, you should be focusing on quality, even if you don’t want to be professional. I really would like to see a lot more amateur writing on the web and in the print world. But if you’re going to be published, you’ve got to think about someone other than yourself.

Got Beer?

Observe an item that appeared in The Daily Universe on 14 March 2000 from the Associated Press. The article in question discussed PETA (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and it’s latest ad campaign: “Got Beer?” PETA claims that cows are mistreated by the dairy industry (we won’t talk about what the dairy industry has to say about that in this rant), and besides, beer is better for you than milk (and don’t even get me STARTED on that because I’m still bitter from when my friend told me to give up cheese so I’d be healthier). In the face of accusations that they’re encouraging underage drinking and alcohol abuse, here’s what PETA’s campaign coordinator, Bruce Friedrich, had to say (pay attention because we’re going to make fun of it in a moment), “College students are savvy. Nobody’s going to put beer on their Cheerios or get drunk and drive as a result of our campaign.”

Let’s look at this statement in a few different points, shall we? First “College students are savvy.” I’m not sure what he means by this. Certainly college students know better, but they don’t always DO better. To paraphrase columnist Eric D. Snider, college dorms are where the leaders of tomorrow are peeing in the elevators of today.” Mr. Friedrich has obviously not seen such classic films as Animal House, PCU, Big Man on Campus, or for that matter, virtually any movie taking place on a college campus, or else he would understand that college students have a natural tendency to do the most idiotic and unsafe things simply because their parents aren’t around to stop them. The more it appears that only someone with a mental disorder would seriously consider doing something, the more likely you are to find a mentally sufficient college student doing it, whether he knows better or not. So much for “savvy.”

The next phrase is, “Nobody’s going to put beer on their Cheerios.” In brief, let me just say that I’ve seen a lot of beer on a lot of Cheerios, and it doesn’t look like there will be less in the future. I’ve also heard a lot about how (despite the fact that both Cheerios and Beer smell like the aforementioned urinated on elevator) this particular recipe is very tasty. Must be how the barley and the oats combine. Don’t know. The point is, Mr. Friedrich is wrong, the beer-cereal combination is common.

Finally, nobody is going to “get drunk and drive.” OH! So THAT’S why it’s not a problem anywhere. Duh.

I thought that these would be the only arguments (as if common sense weren’t enough) I would be able to make, since I’m too lazy to do research on drinking trends and so forth. However, observe this second item (same paper, the 15 March 2000 issue) titled “Binge Drinking on the Rise in Colleges.” Apparently, 22.7% of all students in the country have 4-5 drinks in a row at least three times in a two week period. That means almost one in four college students are drinking way too much, and with the intention of abuse. They are more likely to be binge drinkers if they are under 24. This may be conjecture, but it seems to me that makes it very likely that many of those drinkers are probably under 21. Tell me if that sounds too bizarre.

In short, even if PETA really believes that their ads will not promote alcohol abuse, then they are certainly biased, ill-founded, and in extremely poor taste. In other words, IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT! I welcome any messages from PETA sympathizers who want to defend this position. I know I’ve left a few things out, but I have counter arguments for those too. I really just can’t see how these people can justify what they’re doing.

The problem, as I see it (and believe me, while I’m certainly not going to give up eating steaks and pork chops soon, I am certainly not a proponent of mistreating animals) has nothing to do with the ethics of drinking milk. It has to do with an acute lack of responsibility and a refusal to accept natural consequences. If you’re going to try and influence policy, you darn well better do some research and make sure your claims are substantiated. Just because you feel sorry for a cow is no reason to hate people who drink milk, and just because you don’t believe that someone’s stupid doesn’t mean that they aren’t. You shouldn’t ignore the consequences of an action, and you certainly shouldn’t make them up. If you can’t make an educated guess (like some people above can’t), then you need to do some research. (Hint: controversial ads are not always good. Anything for the sake of itself is bound to be destructive.)