Monday, June 30, 2008

In Defense of Geeks

Update: July 1st, 2008 to the original post below from June 30, 2008

Disclaimer: It has been brought to my attention by some, more specifically my lovely girlfriend, that the following post may be somewhat offensive or come off as especially d-baggish. I'd like to apologize to my readers if this was the case with the post below. My intention was to empower all people and to help increase the self-esteem of nerds around the world who often face persecution because of their interests. The "In Defense of Geeks" post isn't meant to signify that myself or any other geek is superior to someone who is not a geek. In fact, the overall point of the post is that we are all geeks. Everyone has that one topic, that one hobby, interest or activity that makes them feel so good — that they are so passionate about — they love to immerse themselves in it. For those traditionally referred to as nerds, this usually involves some sort of technology, role-playing or other extremely creative means. The idea presented below is that those who realize their strengths, play on them, and who aren't lazy will get ahead in life. We now live in a digital world. That is an undebatable fact. We must be flexible and learn to adapt quickly to the ever-evolving networks around us. The message is, don't make fun of geeks, because we all are in some way — embrace your inner geek.




In place of a banner today, I decided to let Weird Al Yankovic preface the blog post. It has come to my attention lately that several acquaintances of mine have deemed me to be somewhat of a nerd, a geek, a dork, if you will.

Well, interestingly enough, the people who have not decided to bring this to my attention are the people who I designate in my mind as the coolest people I know. These are my friends who also enjoying discussing for hours on end which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle really would've made the best leader, which character on Super Smash Brothers Brawl is the most superior, and which latest Twitter or Mac app offers the best features. This is not to say I do not love and care about the rest of my friends, but they just aren't as geeky as some of the others.

But I started wondering, why is being a nerd a negative thing in most people's minds? The only explanation I can come up with is that they are jealous of our superior intellect and unparalleled ability to level up in RPGs, write HTML or find rare, valuable comic books. Seriously, let's think about some of the most influential people in the United States.

Steve Jobs, for example — complete nerd. This guy is the father of Apple, and his geekiness has certainly paid off in the past few years. Apple's ever-increasing market share is bound to be making PC makers and users nervous, and Macs are becoming the standard among media professionals and on college campuses.

Speaking of making people nervous, Bill Gates has monopolized the market for so long that he's so rich he probably could care less what happens to Microsoft at this point. Well, sure, he cares, but he would probably survive if they became #2. There sure is no way Gates is happy about the Mac vs. PC ads that feature a character who looks stunningly like the father of Microsoft. All in all, though, Gates is extremely successful. A lot of people have called him their boss. Why? Well, he sure didn't become who he is by lifting weights and drinking beer all day.

Jobs, more of a hardware/accessory nerd (iPod, iPhone), and Gates, more of a software nerd (MS Office, Windows), have something in common — they are nerds. They are successful, and they are highly knowledgeable. Warren Buffett, investment nerd. Michael Dell, computer nerd. The Walton family, cheap stuff nerds. Forrest Mars, Jr., candy nerd. Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, media nerds. Alan Turing, cryptography geek. Nikola Tesla, electricity geek. Mark Zuckerberg, face fetish geek. The list goes on. What's the point? The point is, everyone has their niche — everyone is going to be good at something, but nerds are just REALLY good at the things that other people aren't. For example, we can memorize long codes that unlock invincibility powers in video games (or invent the Internet).

Let's face it, the next time you make fun of the person who actually does their work; the person who incessantly checks e-mail, blogs and knows the difference between a typeface and a font; the person at the grocery store with Bluetooth in his ear; the one who tweets and uses the latest in technology excitedly; the one who can kick your butt in video games, Scattergories and Scrabble; that person who points it out when you use incorrect grammar; the one who stays up-to-date on politics and news (even in other countries); and the person who happens to enjoy reading some good fantasy/sci-fi fiction — you might be making fun of your future boss, professor or government leader.

Do you want to live your life knowing only a minuscule amount of the information that is our there? Or would you prefer to be a well-informed geek? Success is measured in many ways, and being the leader of a corporation or making millions doesn't necessarily make someone successful. Being happy and living modestly is enough for many people, as it should be, I suppose. But being uninformed and rejecting other peoples' views and hobbies just because you don't like them doesn't cut it. As human beings, we have a responsibility to seek out new knowledge and do what we can to make the world a better place — you can't do this just sitting on the sideline and criticizing others for what they do. I think most geeks would say, "Fine, you don't want to participate in the future, that's OK. Just stay out of my way while I have fun and move forward." In other words, just because you don't like something doesn't make it a public nuisance.

Luckily for people like me and many of my friends, geeks have made great advancements in recent history. There's even G4, basically a cable channel devoted to geekdom (formerly TechTV). Now, the highest-grossing movies are about comic books we knew about years ago. Oh yeah, Stan Lee, comic book geek, and the creator of those X-Men, Spider-Man, etc., movies you've enjoyed (and paid money to see). One store even has a prestigious Geek Squad to help customers. The Internet has done nothing more than fuel the fire, creating an astounding number of geeks, some who probably don't even realize it.

For all the younger readers out there who may get made fun of at school for toting your Nintendo DS around, for reading comics, for collecting action figures and for making good grades — keep doing it. These things will all make you more successful and more creative in the long run. Many of the jocks and cheerleaders in your class won't go to college, and you'll probably give them a wave next time you drive through your hometown. Now, I should say, there's nothing wrong with not going to college. But there is something wrong with wasting potential, with sitting at home settling for something less than what you're worth, and with being too lazy to do much else than live off your parents. I realize sometimes circumstances arise that are out of anyone's control, and I don't mean to criticize people these things happen to. What I'm saying is to apply yourself, work as hard as you can, ignore the naysayers, and see where you end up at the end of the day.

It's time all people just do away with the stereotype of being a geek. Though we may still be a minority, the popularity of computers and the Internet is on our side. No one can avoid using these things in a day-to-day basis at their jobs in many cases, though they may not understand the inner workings as well as we do. And that's where we step in. The world needs us geeks. They need to stop treating the word as though it's a bad thing, and start realizing the potential all human beings could have if only they embrace learning and technology. One way we can ensure the future of humanity is to embrace the onslaught of Web 2.0. Start socially networking and tagging, create some content and get the word out about your niche — about what category of geek you are. Through this nurturing of our inner nerd, we can become more peaceful, fun-loving people. We can perpetuate new technologies, new cures and better solutions to the world's problems.

It has always been nerds who were history's inventors and leaders, so become one, love one, or both — and watch the world fall into place for you.

-------------------------------------------------------------

I've decided not to update every day on my internship. I realized I was including a paragraph or so a day, and I could probably just summarize what I've done and learned once per week or so — that should suffice. (Yes, I realize that was the original purpose of the blog... so sue me.)

I'll still update when I have realizations, have advice/need advice, etc., concerning journalism and public realtions. I'm still considering a bit of a redesign... just whenever I get time. I want to start whittling the blog posts down to one topic or so a day, hopefully with less clutter and more focus per post. Of course, this information below the fold, so to speak, is evidence that this will be difficult as I continuously come across links I want to put up here.

Speaking of links:

This editorial says in very eloquent terms some stuff I've been thinking about for the past couple of weeks concerning the credibility of the news media and bloggers.

Barack Obama keeps facing smear campaigns via the Internet and word of mouth from ultraconservatives who refuse to do any research or watch a real news station or read a real newspaper. The campaign has a solution, though.

Using Twitter in public relations.

Have you seen Ball Girl? Really? Did you realize it's a viral ad by Gatorade? The video is posted below, watch for the bottle at the girl's feet at the end.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

PR Packages, Blog Updates, Fun Links



It's Sunday, and after recovering from a pounding headache throughout the night, I got up to do a little work. This was a continuation of what I mentioned in Friday's post about the public information meeting I attended. I finished up a media package, basically consisting of a news release and photos from the event, to send to local media. This story will run in local media this week to get the word out about the meeting and the results of it, most importantly, the involvement of the local citizens in the development process of a project taking place in their community.

Now, if you make a mistake and mean to visit Relatively Journalizing by entering relativelyjournalizing.blogspot.com, instead of joshuadelung.blogspot.com, you'll still get to the right place. I registered the former address with Blogger yesterday and inserted the appropriate HTML to redirect your browser here.

I'm also considering a redesign for the blog soon, featuring a less-crowded banner perhaps and maybe the elimination of reverse body copy so you get easier-to-read black on white instead. Once I'm finished chronicling my internship this summer, I may come up with a weekly format for the blog, designating a specific topic or type of post for each day of the week. We'll see. Feel free to comment and let me know if you prefer PR/other media tips and news, geek news, cool links/photos/videos, personal life experiences/adventures or the current hybrid method of the blog.

If you haven't subscribed to the blog yet, please do so with the orange button link in the sidebar. Leave some relevant comments, and I'll be sure to reply. If you're on Facebook, search for us and join the Relatively Journalizing Facebook group. Follow me on Twitter (see the sidebar for a link).

As I reported, Diablo III could possibly be announced over the weekend — well, it was. You can check out the game trailer and more on the Diablo III site.

Ah, the differences between men and women.

Bill Gates' greatest hits and misses. (Why was "Not being Steve Jobs" not number one on the miss list?)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Country Weddings... Ah, the Twittersphere



A picture my dad e-mailed after stumbling upon this little guy the other night (oh how I miss West Virginia):


Let's have a caption-writing contest! Add a comment to this post's comments section with your caption for the above photo. I'll announce the best one in an upcoming post!

Relatively Journalizing is now on Facebook. That is, there's a Facebook group you can join if you like this blog. I hope to have a Facebook application soon for the blog that you can add to your profile, but coding it is kind of a pain. I would appreciate it though if you join the Facebook group and use the orange button in the sidebar on this page to subscribe to the blog. And of course, blogging about this blog, telling your friends, tweeting the URL, commenting and anything else that gets me traffic is appreciated. I'd love to increase traffic and know what sort of content you prefer. Right now, it's really difficult to classify this blog. It's become a hybrid of internship/other work experience insight and chronicling mixed with personal life experiences and adventures blended with geek news, media discussions (in everything from journalism to PR to advertising to marketing to academia) and cool links/videos/pics. I would love some feedback about what content would keep you coming back and actually engaging in some commenting and discussing. As I discussed with Mr. Bea Wednesday night, it'll be interesting to see how frequent my posting is when the fall semester begins. I'm sure the content will change up a bit then also.

Oh, got some work done on the news release package for Monday.

Do you tweet? I am trying out Twhirl, and I must say I'm enjoying it so far. Try Twistori to get a real-time feed on specific tweets — it may keep you glued to the screen. Also added my tweets to the blog's sidebar, and I'm trying out TwitterFeed to add blog updates to Twitter. Not sure if I have the latter set up exactly correct yet, but we'll see. Oh, and I saw the word Twittersphere today, obviously a play on blogosphere. What is world coming to? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KEEP UP WITH IT ALL?!?! Can I downgrade to Web 1.0? Eh, I'd probably go through withdrawal at this point.

I have to go to West Virginia this afternoon (third time in a month; I think that's a record since I started my undergrad five years ago) for a wedding. I don't mean to poke fun at the bride and groom, as they are good friends of mine, nor do I want to perpetuate stereotypes about West Virginians. So, that being said, the following list is for fun only, and I'm sure I won't actually see any of it. Disclaimer: None of this list is drawn from experiences with my own family (or so says this disclaimer — good thing sarcasm doesn't translate well via text).

Top 10 Things You Might Hear at a West Virginia Wedding

10. You may place the ring on your bride's left hand now... *ahem* her other left hand....

9. Hurry up and let me kiss the bride! These bibbed overalls are due back by quittin' time!

8. Let us sing a hymn... please turn to page 152, Take Me Home, Country Roads.

7. Now don't get cold feet son, if you don't make love to a woman tonight, the terrorists win!

6. Oh, Daddy, walk me down the aisle slowly, I don't want to trip in these boots.

5. Cousin?!?! Why didn't you tell me that earlier? Oh, fourth cousin, OK, let's get this over with.

4. Aw shucks, where's the caterer with that deer meat?

3. The groom has prepared a song for the bride. He will now serenade her with Dueling Banjos.

2. Not to be outdone, the bride will now have the first dance, YEEEEHAWWW! Are you ready to do the Boot Scootin' Boogie, y'all?

1. Hey! Can somebody give the new couple's pickup a jump? They got ta git on down the road ta the hunney-moon! 'At tent down on the New River ain't gonna wait all night y'all!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Give the Community a Voice — Real Public Relations



Today was a great experience! I feel as though I really learned a WHOLE lot about doing good public relations today from the event I was involved in and also just from talking with the firm's VP about various clients and PR strategies. I'm confident I couldn't be learning from anyone better than the people I'm working with right now. They obviously know what they are doing because they have some great clients (and quite a few of them).

I shadowed today on a public information meeting regarding a local project that there is potential for some opposition against. I'd prefer not to go into too much detail. But the good news is, the law and a lot of public support is on our client's side, and what I learned internship-wise today is that it is very important to get that public support (it is, after all, public relations). It may sound cliché, but winning hearts and minds is really what it's all about. Basically, a good way a PR practitioner can help a client do this is by encouraging the formation of a public advisory committee. By allowing representatives from the community to have a say, it is easier for a client to be honest with the community, to include them in decisions, to keep them updated and to explain how they plan to address problems when they arise before the community begins generating negative media and/or harboring negative feelings toward the client.

Part of my responsibility today was to take good notes and basically do the same thing I would do were I a journalist covering the event. I'll use this information to piece together a news release about the meeting, of course.

Interestingly enough, I ran into a friend today I hadn't seen in a while (who also happens to be the publisher of a magazine I write for). We had a good chat about some good opportunities in the future I may be able to participate in, growing up in West Virginia, Morgan Spurlock, and — of course — Hokie football season's inevitable return and the need for football stories in the magazine.

I also worked on writing/editing some Web content for a local law firm today, basically writing some introductory material for some case briefs and then breaking them down into Web-worthy snippets to put online for the site's redesign that we're doing.

Some personal projects I'm working on is learning to code Facebook applications so I can perhaps market the blog a little better, plus I may be using some social media to promote for a client next month. Here are some links I found between yesterday and today:

Writer's Guild not happy about all this, and perhaps you shouldn't be either. The Washington Post goes a little more in depth about the topic.

Do you really know who you're listening to concerning politics?

I say this in all seriousness... this war has gone TOO FAR when fellow graduate students are killed. What's weird to me is that BAE Systems also supplied the civilians who trained us on our new equipment transition from Abrams tanks to Bradley fighting vehicles. In related news, my last drill is supposed to be next month, though I don't separate until October. Maybe I'll actually get paid by then. They are two months behind on paying me — ever think maybe that's one of the many reasons why I'm not re-enlisting, geniuses?

I have a feeling mostly my male, gun-owning (See? I'm not completely liberal!) readers will enjoy this site I stumbled across (OK, a buddy sent the link to me today).

Word on the street is that Blizzard Entertainment may announce Diablo III very soon. I'd keep checking their Web site the next few days or so if you're interested in those sorts of computer games (namely hack 'n' slash RPGs).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just Read It




Listened to The Weekly Serge with Evan Serge today, with guests Alex "Beameister" Bea and Gordon "GQ" Curry. Check it out Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on WUVT. Listen live online.

Adding a new affiliate (guys I know with blogs) today. Check out the Black Tie Lounge, which will chronicle one man's journey to the Bahamas and who knows where else. Will he cut the dreads? Will he eat conch salad? Stay tuned!

Wolverine and the X-Men to air on NICKTOONS. Check out the trailer.

More on marketing to people at the workplace.

So, one government agency didn't have the information I needed, nor did they have the software to get it. So, today, I made a request to a different agency that hopefully will be able to help me out some. I'm getting pretty tired of waiting on other people to do stuff so I can do my stuff. Put in another round of calls today for all of my stories, followed with e-mails. Guess that's the perseverance of journalism in me. Of course, my old reporting professor would tell me to go sit outside their offices or on their doorstep at their house until I got to talk to them. Were any of these assignments big news stories, then perhaps I would do so. But really, my deadlines are somewhat flexible, and a lot of the people I need to talk to are about 200 miles away... so I suppose I'm just stuck waiting on them to call or reply to an e-mail. Grr.

Had a pretty good time last night — Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse for dinner, followed by some chillin' at the bowling alley and the Mill. Our hibachi chef was hilarious! His jokes were cheesy, to say the least, but his tricks were probably the best I have ever seen from a hibachi chef anywhere else, and he got funnier as time went on. One of his jokes went something like this:

What did sushi A say to sushi B?

Wasabi! (WHASSUP, B?!?! For those of you who don't get jokes.)

I am still pretty terrible at bowling. The last time I bowled, I did what I consider to be a great job, so I had some hope — but it quickly faded. I didn't do terrible... no zero frames, at least, and I picked up some nice spares, but that's about it. I had better stick to what I do best — writing, researching, shooting/blowing up things and courageously saving the world, one video game experience at a time. I suppose I have other talents, but the Internet couldn't contain them. Or, perhaps, just shouldn't.

Well, I need to do laundry at some point today, maybe eat something, and it would be nice to get a phone call back so I can finish another project. Tomorrow will be more interesting, as I travel with the boss lady to learn more about how to handle a public information meeting scenario.

Oh, and there's a wedding I must attend Saturday, and if nothing else, I'm excited to wear my new shirt and tie.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Waiting Game



Found out more about what I'll be doing later in the week — a project that will be more of a shadowing experience than anything, watching a real pro deliver some content to a group. My main role will be getting a news release package together about everything. Sounds pretty fun! Any PR pros out there have advice for putting together packages to distribute to media after public information meetings and such?

Placed more e-mails and phone calls than I care to count today continuing work on the annual report. Summertime = vacations = people not in their office until July. However, it also seems summertime = loooooong lunches for some people. Well, at any rate, I've got voicemails on the phones of people I need to talk to, and they have e-mails of the same request in their inboxes. Now, I wait. Any professionals in journalism or PR out there who have advice about what to do during this waiting game when you are caught up on/don't have other projects at the time? I like to use the time to increase my knowledge of the subject(s) by researching, and sometimes you come across answers to your questions or other people to talk to and don't have to keep waiting.

Same waiting game with a story for the paper today too, but at least I did get a reply... yeah, vacation there too, but I think the assistant director will be able to help me out. At any rate, I feel as though I got a lot done today, though I didn't finish anything, I chipped away at it all. Well, it's not 5 p.m. yet, so I may still get some calls and/or e-mails returned before it's over with. Mainly just wanted to go ahead and post for today because tonight it's Japanese food and bowling for the VT COMM grad students and friends (really, we should make a group called VTCGS&F... or not).

Yesterday, I had dinner at Red Robin, and the robin was there hanging out with the kids. I was able to capture this cute picture:

Aaannnnddd to the linkage:

Apple: Service = Marketing?

Green consumer demographics... so-called green consumers more likely to use almost all types of media, it seems.

McDonald's using internal blogging for internal communications (but judging from people I've seen at our local Mickey D's, I'm not so sure any of them will care).

More journalists becoming PR practitioners
... duh.

Finally, MySpace should have a redesign by fall. Will it keep people from making dumb design decisions such as putting black text on wallpapers of outer space? Will it keep porn stars from adding me as friends? Will it keep marijuana ads off my wall posts? Will it be superior to Facebook? (My guess is no to all of the above.)

Journalist looking for an expert? Expert looking for a journalist? Can reporting and relating get any easier than this?

When things fail, this blog is there.

I don't know if I'm ready to commit to this, as I really am used to and love Firefox, but if any social networking junkies out there are ballsy enough to try this new browser, let me know how it works out: Flock to it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dipping Smartly into Blueberries



Sweet, I was published again today: The doors of Pearisburg Theater open again

Worked on the annual report for Marshall some more today. Actually, I've got a scoop. I can't stand those journalists who refuse to embrace Web 2.0, by the way. I am not totally sure I would refer to a blogger as a journalist, as there is a level of training and knowledge that comes with going to journalism school, but more and more journalists find good stories on blogs that are often credible. Well, here is one such story. I searched the Web, Marshall news releases and The Herald-Dispatch and other local media around Huntington, W. Va., and no one has done anything about this yet.

In fact, officials at the university told me this story has yet to receive any press. I'm sure it's OK to put this out there before the annual report publishes because the event takes place in late July and will likely receive press by then. But as an alumnus, and as someone who is helping with the annual report (and therefore should also be committed I think to getting the word out about the growth at the university), I think it's my duty to get the word out about this. I think this upcoming project is really interesting, especially for anyone concerned about the environment. Basically, this is an environmental replenishment project. Every summer, high school students from across the state come to Marshall's College of Science to participate in the Hodges Summer Scholars program. This summer, beginning in late July, the students will work on the Blueberry Project. Dr. Mike Little from the Integrated Sciences Department has determined that blueberry bushes are perfect for the barren, scarred, unsuitable-for-vegetation wastelands left by mountaintop removal from coal mining. So, the students will begin planting these bushes and using bees to pollinate them, hopefully restoring some of these areas throughout West Virginia. Sure, maybe not the big story you expected, but this is first place I can find that it's made it to the Web, and I think it is very exciting and another example of the creativity and innovative growth taking place at Marshall.

Well, waiting on calls and e-mails to be returned now... the worst part of working in any vein of media, I think. I could put out a story every 30 minutes if I could get the quotes and info I needed instantaneously. Bleh.

In other news, I got to shoot b-ball yesterday AND eat some Moe's (he does, after all, know burritos). Got a little artistic at Moe's (as today's banner and this pic prove)...


Also talked to some horses on campus...


And... Shari finally got a flower to grow! Hopefully, more of them will follow suit.



I also saw Get Smart last night (the new movie, not the old TV show). Here's my review:

Get Smart (PG-13)

Summary: A desk jockey wants to become a field agent, but he'll need the opportunity of a lifetime to come knockin' if he ever wants to see action. Well, the miracle happens, and he finds himself in the middle of a nuclear arms crisis.

Acting: Steve Carell plays this part exactly like he plays his part in The Office. However, that's not a bad thing. There are no surprises in his acting, and it's uniquely funny. They probably could have just let him improv the whole thing with no script, and it would have been even funnier. Anne Hathaway's hotness factor increases even more with this movie. But she's a genuinely believable actress also, she's funny, and her chemistry with Carell, who looks a good bit older, is still very good. Dwayne Johnson is the same as he's been in every other film — likable, funny, but not capable of pulling off a real serious role. The villains in this film don't include anyone worth mentioning, and they are all pretty generic, and so is their acting. Bonus points for a Bill Murray cameo. (3.5 out of 5 overall, 5 out of 5 for Carell)

Story: This does the old show justice (I mean, it wasn't quite that great of a show anyway) with some nods, but not too many to make it cheesy. Expect to see the old cars, some of the old lines (missed it by THAT much) and some of the old gadgets. But the storyline itself is pretty decent, however not that original. We've seen the bait-and-switch double agent stories a hundred times, and nuclear arms crises are nothing new either. Let's face it, this movie doesn't cut it on storyline, but you're not watching it for the story as a whole — you're watching for each individual scene to see what you'll laugh at next. (3.5 out of 5)

Music: Nothing special, but definitely not bad. You'll hear some familiar remixes and some good symphony tunes. (3.5 out 5)

Attributes: Surprisingly, this movie had lots of action. It wasn't as well-done and expensive-looking at something from a Steven Spielberg film, but it wasn't noticeably bad either. It entertained, at least. And best of all, the action was balanced so that it didn't override the humor, and the humor actually happened during the action in some cases. There was even some romance intertwined into this movie, and it didn't go overboard either, but what it did do was help develop the characters more. Hands down, this is more comedy than anything else, and it does that well. (4.5 out of 5)

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5!

See It/Don't See It/Buy It/Rent It: If you've got the extra time and money, see it in the theaters. It's not an epic like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or other movies that are must-see-in-theaters flicks, but worth it if you get around to it. I think for anyone who is a fan of Carell, Hathaway or laughing uncontrollably, you'll want to own this one when it comes out on DVD so you can share the laughter with friends who haven't seen it. At least see this once at some point — laughter is good for your health!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Annual Report, Best/Worst TV Shows



I worked on an exciting project, for me at least, today. I did send out some more information requests for the rehabilitation center project, but most of my work focused on doing articles for the annual report for Marshall University.

It's definitely a treat to be able to work on such an important project for my alma mater as part of my graduate internship at my current school. The annual report is in its early phases, which means we need articles to fill some of the pages with events from 2008. The general theme is "growth," which is quite appropriate for Marshall.

I can hardly believe the growth that has taken place at Marshall in the short 13 months since I graduated. New residence halls and a new student recreation center are just two of the most significant changes on campus, but there have been plenty more in the way of buildings. However, there have also been renovations. Both the Marshall Memorial Fountain and the Spring Hill Cemetery memorial have been restored and look great. Some other projects I'm writing about include an initiative by the College of Science to use blueberry bushes and bees to restore barren mountaintop removal sites and a million-dollar project sponsored by BB&T to enhance the studies of American capitalism at the Lewis College of Business.

I'll continue working on the annual report this week, and I'll travel Friday to sit in on a local public information meeting, which should be a great learning experience.

I started working on some projects for the Roanoke Times today as well. The paper is putting together its annual back-to-school issue already, and this year's theme is "Get Involved!" I couldn't think of anything more appropriate after the success of programs such as VT Engage and The Big Event this past school year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm very interested in the idea of using social networking media online to get to consumers. The article I posted last time mentioned how you have to be willing to commit to such an enterprise, and here's another one that talks more about how you have to actually be involved and put some work into it to succeed when using apps such as Twitter.

So, just for fun, I was thinking today, what would be some of the best and worst TV shows that are on the air today? Leave some comments and discuss it — here's my list of best and worst of current TV shows.

BEST SHOWS ON TV:
  1. The Office — hands down, the funniest, wittiest, most entertaining show on TV. Steve Carell can just look at a camera and somehow make you laugh, and the awkwardness of Jim and Pam's relationship mixed with the frustration the employees obviously have with Michael makes for a ride you don't want to miss each week (and don't mind watching again and again in syndication).
  2. Scrubs — Sure, the series ended with this season, but you can usually find Scrubs on TV at any time of the day on multiple channels in syndication. It's sort of like one of those cheesy hospital shows, only with a touching storyline about coming of age and dealing with life and death, minus the unrealistic sexual frustrations and needless gore.
  3. Boston Legal — You thought Captain Kirk was gone. Well, you were wrong. The Shatner has been harassing women and narrowly winning cases as a lawyer on ABC for a few years now. This show doesn't get much press, but grab a season on DVD or check it out live, and I bet you'll be amused by what antics these lawyers can get into next. Better yet, there's always a drink and a cigar's worth of philosophical advice at the end of each episode.
  4. Two and a Half Men — The wife-beating Charlie Sheen (allegedly) may not be a good role model (allegedly), but his arrogance and (alleged) womanizing comes in handy when playing a socialite in this situational comedy. If you like quick puns and jokes about two middle-aged men trying to (allegedly) get laid, raise a kid and cope with living together, this is worth a half-hour.
  5. The Colbert Report — This would probably be higher in my list if it were more of a traditional show, but I'm a sucker for storylines. This is more comedy routine gone wild than a real news program, but the catch is — you have to be relatively informed to get the jokes. Clever, filled with truthiness.
Honorable mentions: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (The perfect balance of emotion and watching a cool house being built. Ty Pennington comes off as too much at first, but in the end, you really just wish you had his skills.); Army Wives (It's on Lifetime, so it can't make my list, but it's not bad for a Lifetime series.); 60 Minutes, 20/20 and Meet the Press (I decided not to include news programs in my list, but these are three of my favorites.)



WORST SHOWS ON TV:
  1. Jon and Kate Plus 8 — This TLC "masterpiece" is shown back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back (well, you get the point). If you enjoy hearing stressed-out women bitch at their husbands and eight kids scream for hours on end, be sure to tune in next time, folks!
  2. Real World (and any related spin-off or copy cat) — No, nothing that happens here is "real." Real people are not this stupid (I hope). Real people don't get paid to live in a house, have sex, cry, yell, rinse, repeat. The fact that this show and its relatives even still exists is proof that No Child Left Behind isn't working and that we really need more education in the U.S.
  3. American Idol — It has gone on long enough! How many failures (unless you count the fact that Reubens are considered tasty) can you produce before you kill the music industry? Like we really need another pop star... or Sanjaya.
  4. Grey's Anatomy — It's like ER, only not remotely exciting. It's like Scrubs, only not funny. It's like General Hospital, but it involves a little less sex. It's like they had an idea for a good story and a good setting and a good show — only they didn't.
  5. Ghost Whisperer — Even Jennifer Love Hewitt's hotness can't save this reject from the Sci-Fi Channel's dumpster.
Unhonorable mentions: Dog Whisperer (Like Ghost Whisperer, only with dogs... every episode is pretty much exactly the same.); CSI: Any City (Cool for the first couple seasons, but now every episode is pretty much the same formula, regardless of city, regardless of sexy murdered partier, and the unrealism that abounds in how quickly the forensics work has become quite apparent.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hoo Has Good Ideas, Disney Movie Recommendations?




What a crappy day. Rain all morning, dreary all day, and as I'm writing this, there's a hailstorm happening. Today was definitely not good for my yearning to shoot some hoops.

On the other hand, I suppose today was good for me getting some work done. Yeah, I know it's lame, I did work on a Sunday... hey, it kept me from going insane.

The DRS responded to my FOIA request... the response was... well, somewhat helpful I suppose. They referred me to annual reports from the rehabilitation council for the state. These gave me the total numbers I needed, but still nothing broken down to the 75-mile radius I need. The DRS so graciously offered to help with that, if we're willing to pay them the cost of staff time to get the data for us. So, I decided to try this on my own, being the EXCELLENT (sarcasm) mathematician that I am. Actually, I'm a lot better than I used to be... I got an A in graduate statistics at Marshall and in my graduate research methods class.

What I tried was taking U.S. Census Bureau data to determine the population for the major towns and cities inside our coverage area. Once calculating a total population, I determined what percentage of Virginia's population that is. I hoped to use this data to extrapolate a market share for the rehabilitation center. If I know that their coverage area is a certain percentage of all of Virginia, then that same percentage of all the DRS customers served should roughly be the number of possible consumers the rehabilitation center could serve. However, the problem I face is that, when using this method, I get unrealistic numbers (like the center having more than 100 percent of the market because the possible consumers number is too low). I tried not only using city populations, but then I tried using the total populations of all the counties these cities fall within. Still, I think that is leaving out too many people within the actual service area(like perhaps some in outlying small, unincorporated locations, etc.) — that's what I think is giving me too low of a possible consumer number, but I'm not sure how to remedy the situation. I'm not sure how the DRS people would be able to figure this out either, unless they have mapping software that reads the census data, which is possible. I did find some software programs that would do this, but they all cost money too, so perhaps it will come down to what incurs the least amount of cost. These mapping software programs seem to allow the use of user-defined radii in determining populations, etc., though. Well, at any rate, I was able to determine the center's percentage of consumers served out of total rehabilitation services in the state during the past five years, so that's something, and there's now a dent in this whole thing. I know what I'm missing, it's just determining the best route to get the missing info. Anyone out there have experience with this sort of thing and have suggestions?

All of this did make for some interesting, general knowledge-enhancing side research though. If you have never visited the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site and played with the MASSIVE amount of data there, I recommend you do so. You may learn something, or at the very least, go "hmmm."

I watched Disney's The Sword in the Stone last night, of course based on T. H. White's The Once and Future King (or the first 200 pages or so of it). I must admit that I'm not much of a fan of the computer-animated cartoon movies of today (I like a few of them, some of the originals such as Toy Story). However, I also have to admit that some of those old Disney cartoons just do not entertain as well as they did when I was a kid. That being said, there are still some that just have so much fun factor, such great music and such great underlying themes (such as The Lion King) that they are forever classics. Now, I had never seen TSITS (hm, that acronym just doesn't quite work) before, and it's not quite TLK (Tlick!?!) worthy, but this is one I could watch again. It's out on DVD now, and I recommend you give it a viewing, especially if you're a fan of Camelot tales.

While watching the movie, I decided it would be cool to own an owl, thanks to Archimedes, Merlin's owl. However, I found out it is illegal to own one without a special permit, but you can adopt snowy owls and other animals in peril at the Defenders of Wildlife Web site. I am seriously considering adopting something... maybe a panther or a tiger. It's pretty inexpensive, probably would make a great gift, and you get a stuffed version of the animal (the only way you will probably get to hold one).

Well, back to the grind tomorrow... bring it on, Monday!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Video Extravaganza!

I've got some videos for you today, most of them a result of the awesome VT Department of Communication graduate students and friends cookout yesterday. Aside from enjoying the nice weather for a bit today, I've mostly just done some reading and edited these for you!

First up, as a follow-up video to yesterday's post about West Virginia's birthday, check out this video by my buddy Crazy Hawk. Crazy and I lived on the same floor of the dorm our freshman year of college, and we were both journalism school students. We had a lot of good times together, and I'm honored to call him my friend. Crazy may indeed be the most patriotic West Virginian out there, and I encourage you to check out his video channel on YouTube (mugreentj is his screenname). Crazy is one talented videographer and director, having a degree in electronic media management. His Junction Junkies Web series is quite hilarious, but here's a serious message everyone should watch, especially if you think of West Virginia stereotypically.






Next, well, I mentioned in yesterday's post that Shari had played a trick on me. Here's proof:







And from the cookout yesterday, here's a video that proves the theory of love at first sight:







Well, we had a lot of fun, and here's a little montage that proves it:







Finally, this is one funny video... eating challenges abound when graduate students have cookouts!

Friday, June 20, 2008

West Virginia Celebrates 145th Birthday




Today is Friday, so the boss man had meetings to discuss upcoming projects, a couple of which I'll be back hard to work on come Monday. I took today to finish up a story for the Roanoke Times, concerning the historic Pearis Theater in Pearisburg, Va., reopening its doors. I believe as of right now you'll see it in Tuesday's edition of the paper!

Oh, while I'm thinking about it, happy birthday, West Virginia! June 20, 1863 is the day West Virginia became a state, after legislators in Richmond decided to become part of the confederacy, much to the dismay of citizens in the northwestern part of the state.

I'd like to share with you a quote my boss shared with me today, from West Virginia's own Homer Hickam. Mr. Hickam has a special place in my heart because he grew up in small-town West Virginia, had coal miners in his family, and he attended Virginia Tech. In fact, Hickam received an honorary doctorate in literature at my graduation from Marshall University and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from VT the same year. Another connection I share with Hickam is that he was in the U.S. Army. He served as an officer in Vietnam, and he later went on to become a great NASA engineer and a heck of a writer. He's even taken up amateur paleontology and has been credited with finding two Tyrannosauruses. And for Hokie football fans, Hickam designed the first-ever Skipper, the cannon fired by the Corps of Cadets after VT touchdowns (the original cannon by Hickam is now retired and in the corps' museum). This guy is one great American, and one of the few who represents West Virginia well. Now, on to the quote:
When you go out into the world, you will be surprised to discover that you have a great strength not shared by very many people left on this planet.

You are from a real place, one of the last real places left in this country.


You are from a place that has put its stamp on you for the rest of your life
whether you know it now or not.

You are from the toughest, most
exasperating, demanding, stoic, stolid, warm, and gentle (as long as you don't cross them) people in the world.

You will carry with you all the days of your life this place, this grand,
infuriating, rich, poor, magnificent, beautiful, ugly, challenging, and comforting place.

You are part of these mountains and they are part of you.


Leave them as you must, or if you must, but do so with the calm certainty
that you carry with you for the rest of your days a strength borne from these hills that nearly everyone you encounter for the rest of your lives will admire and even envy.

— Homer Hickam
Here's a photo from the Salem Avalanche game I blogged about recently. These are some of the Marshall alumni and friends who came out to the game.

Well, this evening we had a cookout at my friend Rachel's place. She lives in Blacksburg at the Foxridge complex, and they have a great little barbecuing area with a large field, a serene little pond and whatever you need for fun. It was a good time seeing all the friends from the department who are around this summer and just hanging out. I shot some video, so I'll try to get that up soon.

Speaking of video, Shari got a good one of me sticking my head out the bathroom door and yelling last night too. Not sure if I will put it up on the blog or not, but you never know. Let's just say she's kind of a prankster... and she thinks it's funny to hear me scream in the shower from being burned or frozen when she's messing with the water temperatures from elsewhere in the apartment. Funny, yeah, unless you're the guy in the shower.

I'll leave you with a cool picture and a cool link. This photo is of my news reporting professor during my undergraduate education at the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Marshall. This is (now retired) Professor Marilyn McClure, who is enjoying her retirement on this amazing 150cc scooter. I imagine it gets much better gas mileage than my SUV. She calls it "the poor man's red convertible," but I think it looks really cool, and I'm sort of jealous. I think I would turn a lot of heads driving one of these through downtown Blacksburg. Thanks for all the words of wisdom throughout the years, Prof. McClure, and coolness points to you.

Finally, the Orlando Sentinel is changing its layout for the print edition, and they've put together a cool little preview. What do you think?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Historic Boundaries and Senile Stimuli



Today involved sending out some interview stuff for some stories, and in the PR internship, it involved more research than anything. Today was supposed to be the meeting to finalize everything for the town's museum project, so I spent the day looking through the historic locations and information that will help me be able to work on that project. Yeah, call me the resident expert on the town's historic buildings and such. Oh, I also sent a FOIA request to the DRS so they have to get back to me within five days on the data I need to finish determining a market share for the rehab center.

Speaking of PR, one thing we as practitioners must be sure of is that we don't confuse media relations with public relations. While our titles often involve only public relations, the traditional role of press agentry is what comes to mind when most people hear about our field. Sure, getting media coverage for our clients is one of the best ways to get noticed by the public, but we can't ignore that personal, two-way symmetrical relationship either. In a related field, advertising (who can tell the difference anymore?) is likely to increase in video games, considering the market is growing more than any other entertainment media. In fact, recent studies show that gamers don't even mind in-game ads. What do you think? I know I don't mind seeing a Coca-Cola billboard in the background of a racing game, but I'd be a little pissed if they put a big ad as a loading screen just for the sake of some extra bucks.

The fight for Fair Use rights against the Associated Press is in full swing, as the AP continues pressuring bloggers about quoting too much of their stories. However, Fair Use is a very vague doctrine, and there is no set amount. In fact, if the material's owner doesn't lose money, it's probably going to be considered fair use. Regardless, the Media Bloggers Association is set to meet soon with the AP to perhaps set some guidelines, which may include a word limit when quoting AP stories. However, even if these guidelines are set, the AP will still have to sue bloggers who break the "rules" if they think it's a violation of Fair Use. This issue may likely end up in the courts before it's all said and done. The MBA is fighting for bloggers' rights, and they even plan to offer discounted liability insurance to members in the future, similar to the insurance newspapers have to cover libel lawsuits and such. The MBA isn't accepting members until the end of the summer, citing working out bugs in their membership rules and such, but they have a form you can fill out to receive an e-mail when the time is right.

My Society of Professional Journalists newsletter today actually mentioned this whole bloggers vs. AP deal, which is interesting... considering where the journalism industry stands right now. The lines are blurred, and with Wikinews and iReporters, who knows what really constitutes a "journalist." Does someone have to have a degree to be a journalist? Are citizen journalists and bloggers journalists? This whole ordeal of some bloggers getting into legal trouble just goes to show a little media law education could have done these folks some good, and maybe blogs and iReports don't require AP Style — but can we really say these people aren't legitimate storytellers? Of course they are, but journalists? That's a tough call, and I'm sure not going to make it. The addition of blogs to most newspapers' Web sites and the emergence of convergence journalism just adds to this whole complexity, and when the dust settles, we'll likely be moving on to Web 3.0 (whatever that entails) and still not know the answer.

Most importantly, there's unclaimed money out there! Seriously, old people, I know you may think filing taxes just to get a stimulus check takes too much work or whatever, but I'm sure there are plenty of ways you could utilize the extra dough. Here are just a few ways:

Top 10 Things to do with Your Stimulus Check Once You Get Off Your Geezer Keister and Cash It:

10. Tell the IRS to reroute the deposit to my account.
9. Buy a new set of false teeth.
8. Quit your job as a Wal-Mart greeter.
7. Renew your platinum AARP membership.
6. Quit trying to convince young Jedi to come to the Dark Side.
5. Get that hair transplant you've always wanted.
4. Refill your Viagra prescription! (And get your prostate examined while you're at it.)
3. Get Ben Franklin a belated birthday present.
2. Put some new tires on your Hoveround!

AND, THE NUMBER ONE THING TO DO WITH YOUR STIMULUS CHECK, YE OLDE PERSON...












1. Buy yourself something nice, and quit running as the Republican presidential nominee!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game




What a day it's been. I hit the ground running this morning working on the rehabilitation center project some more. I made a final draft of the survey to send out to referral sources (doctors, workers' compensation managers, hospital discharge managers, DRS, etc.), so hopefully that will be approved and mailed out soon. We know an online survey may be quicker, but we're not sure how many doctors actually utilize the Web. According to what we know from preliminary research, surprisingly, many of them don't. So, we're hypothesizing that snail mail will result in our getting more surveys back in the long run. Does anyone out there in the PR world have experience with this type of market research? What's worked best for your firm? I also made contact with someone from the DRS today about getting a breakdown of numbers on patients served in the state during the past five years, but no one seemed to know who did the estimated 2008 numbers that are on their Web site now. Hopefully, they'll find this mystery statistician and get back to me tomorrow.

Another project involves a historical project going on in town. After tomorrow, we'll know more about that, but I spent today downloading materials and records from the town's FTP site concerning this project, and we should be ready to promote it soon. The town is definitely a beautiful area steeped in history, so this will be an exciting thing to be a part of.

I've concluded that Best Buy has an uncanny power over me. I'm a member of the Reward Zone club, so I get $10 back for every so many points I accumulate. I get extra points because it's summer, sometimes when the Best Buy NASCAR car wins a race, etc. It's very persuasive, and it helps me feel better about myself spending money at Best Buy. Yeah, I know they are getting theirs in the long run, but there is usually a deal on DVDs and such that is about $2 cheaper than other places, and I get a return eventually. So, if I'm going to buy stuff anyway, why not get it at Best Buy? Of course, if it weren't for them, I'm not sure I would buy the DVDs in the first place. *Sigh* Well, regardless, I scored on some Disney movies today. Can't wait to watch both The Jungle Book I & II and The Sword in the Stone. However, I'm waiting until I've finished reading The Once and Future King before I watch the latter. I've started that book so many times, but this time I'm actually making progress.

Tonight, Shari, Alex and I went to the Salem Avalanche game. The local chapter of the Marshall Alumni Association had a little get-together there, which my boss happens to head up. It was a really good time, even though I don't care for baseball so much. The team is a Houston Astros affiliate, but will become a Boston Red Sox affiliate after this year. We paid $10 for "Feed Your Face Night" tickets. The normal ticket cost is only $7, so I figured $3 for all-you-can-eat hotdogs, hamburgers, popcorn and peanuts was a pretty smart deal. Well, I think I got my money's worth (two hotdogs, a hamburger, peanuts and popcorn), but buyer beware. You can only get one of each item (no chili on the dogs, no cheese on the burgers) at a time, drinks are not included, and — you'll spend about three innings in line each time. Seriously, those were the slowest lines I've ever stood in. However, we didn't really miss anything — neither team scored until the ninth inning. Koby Clemens, son of baseball great Roger Clemens, plays for the Avalanche, but it was some no-name who saved the day and won the game 3-1 for Salem in the bottom of the ninth. Koby, take a lesson from Dad — INJECT THAT JUNK IF YOU EVER WANT TO MAKE IT TO THE MAJORS! Oh wait, that's unfair. Seriously, folks, that was rhetorical hyperbole. Clemens has denied the accusations in the Mitchell Report, and I'm in no position to say he's lying. Although, that autographed Roger Clemens baseball they gave to some lucky Shmoe in the stands did look a little dented from such a strong signature... eh, probably just my imagination. In other news, I made it back from the concessions stand in time to catch the seventh-inning stretch, where they really did sing (read: mumble) "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Right, cue the links already — for the PR-inclined, keep in mind that promoting your clients through social networking requires a lot of hard work. And, advice from a PR guy, but good advice for everyone, learn how not to get a job.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Paper-Writing Tips and Other Links You Shouldn't Miss




Today, I took a break from the PR projects to get caught up on Roanoke Times work and to finish preparing an experiment paper for the AEJMC conference in Chicago in August. I'll present this paper, which discusses the results of an experiment I conducted with my research team in the fall. The paper is called Proximity and Framing in News Media: Effects on Credibility, Bias, Recall, and Reader Intentions. Here's the abstract:

A writer’s decision to localize a news article and the valence of the frame the writer employs can affect readers’ perceptions of credibility and bias as well as readers’ factual recall and the likelihood that readers would want to read the newspaper further. A 2 (proximity: local, nonlocal) x 3 (frame valence: positive, neutral, negative) factorial experiment (N = 136) tested the effects of proximity and frame valence on credibility, perceived bias, recall, and reading intentions. Articles that localized enjoyed greater perceptions of credibility but not recall, while articles with either a positive or negative frame yielded greater recall than articles with a neutral frame. Neither factor exhibited a main effect in predicting perceived bias, but their interaction was a significant predictor. In addition, localization and frame valence also influenced the likelihood that participants would want to read the source newspaper again. Implications for theory and media practice are discussed.
The paper should be squared away for the conference now, it's just a matter of making travel arrangements to Chicago. (Oh yeah, and the beach and Charlotte for our first football game!) Finishing up the last (hopefully, if I had a dollar for every version I've saved as "final") version of the paper has inspired me to provide a step-by-step list for writing a research paper.

Seven quick-and-easy steps to writing a research paper (plus a bonus eighth tip):

  1. Come up with a title. The title must be obnoxiously long and only slightly describe what the actual paper is about (you've got to make those lazy graduate students read the paper). Also, the title should include a colon to make it look more important, especially if you ever expect to get published. Example: That's What She Said: A Burkean Rhetorical Analysis of The Office and Criticism of the Dunder-Mifflin Marketing Strategy or Ouch, That Hurts: Discovering the Scientific Processes of Defecating a Squirrel.
  2. Write the abstract. Even if you don't know what your paper will be about ahead of time, or what the results may look like, go ahead and write your abstract. You can always go back and change it later, but it will give you something to look forward to and help you define your goals. Also, this is the only thing future graduate students will read anyway, unless you make the abstract somewhat interesting — then you might entice someone to read the results and conclusion sections.
  3. Research and then write your literature review. Once you've read plenty of articles in your field, you should get the hang of this. Pretty much, your literature review should look like the researcher's who has published most recently on the subject you're discussing. Just search EBSCO or whatever database you prefer for your topic, and include everything that even remotely mentions it. A few sentences from the abstracts (and maybe the results section, if the abstract is interesting) of each article will do. Be sure not to plagiarize (in other words, remember to use citations because your references page will look scrawny if you don't). If you've already written a paper in this field, just copy/paste your last literature review and be sure to look for anything that may have published since your last paper.
  4. Hypotheses and research questions. Wait, no, don't write this until you've conducted the study. It'll make you look smarter if you come back and say you hypothesized exactly what you found.
  5. Write the methods section. Talk about what you did and how you did it. If you surveyed some unsuspecting undergraduates, talk about how it went, etc. Write about your variables and such. Keep it short, no one is going to read this part anyway.
  6. Write the results section. Here is where you ask your professor for help. This will likely involve a lot of statistics and letters substituted for numbers. Basically, imagine some alphabet soup and some random numbers and symbols and hard-to-pronounce last names (Cronbach, Pearson, etc.) scattered across the page. If your results section looks something like that, you should be OK. Just make sure your results are explained in layman's terms in a summary near the end of this section so undergraduates can figure out what exactly you are trying to say you found.
  7. Discussion and conclusion — here's where you really need to put your best writing forward. In fact, if someone has read your abstract and decided this paper might not put them immediately into a comatose state, it's likely they will have skimmed your results and ended up here. Talk about what you found again, how that applies to various theories and such you already discussed in the literature review, discuss limitations to the study (things you didn't think about until you were too far into the project that may make it invalid), and make suggestions for further research (encourage others to find out what you really wanted to find out when you started the study but then realized that it would take a lot of work). Finally, say something clever and foreshadowing, and make sure everyone knows your paper really does contribute to the field.
  8. Bonus tip: Once you've repeated this process enough, you can begin citing yourself in your own works, therefore adding to the paper's credibility. (See articles on rhetorical criticism.)
I found a lot of good stuff on the Web between today's post and yesterday's. It appears the Associated Press is pissed off about us bloggers using their stories. However, there are plans to work it all out somehow. I realize not every blogger has been to journalism school, and those who haven't may not realize what constitutes libel or copyright infringement. I wish everyone could have had my media law professor, Dan Hollis, at the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications. That guy sure knew his stuff. For every other blogger who doesn't want to get a degree in journalism, maybe you'd consider taking a training course similar to the one discussed by the Washington Post. Maybe it'll keep you from getting arrested, as the number of arrested bloggers is expected to increase this year — hopefully not in the U.S., but you never know what might happen if you make Uncle Sam angry (no, he doesn't turn into the Hulk).

In other news, the U.S. Army is experimenting with arcade-like locations that aren't quite recruiting stations. These locations host simulator war games and other equipment demonstrations, all of which are probably great for brainwashing young, impressionable minds. Any predictions on how long this will go on before the public goes crazy? If MoveOn has its way, though, we'll not have John McCain in office, and the Army might be able to recruit again someday. Here's MoveOn's latest political advertisement:



Speaking of filling vacancies, what about Tom Brokaw taking over Meet the Press after the unfortunate death of the beloved Tim Russert? Why Newsday bloggers think he should... what do you think?

In nerd news, the latest Punisher flick is on its way by the end of the year. The trailer has been released. Also expect your favorite web-slinger on a video game console near you this fall! Finally, there's a flash cartoon buzzing on Newgrounds right now, and it is Mario-themed, pretty humorous, somewhat confusing and fun to watch (oh, yeah the music is Japanese too).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures in Promotion and Puddles



Today's adventure in PR — more market research and some preliminary work for promotions of an up-and-coming hip-hop artist. The guy you see in today's banner is El Prezidino, a.k.a. Demetrius Doss. He's also a former Marshall wide receiver. If you like what you hear on his MySpace page and you'd like to book him, then let me know! I'm getting some experience now in how to promote an artist such as Dino because I've been getting club contact info for nightclubs in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul area). I'm sure we'll have Dino puttin' it down up there soon! Have you had experience promoting artists in your work? What techniques do you find useful? As a music listener, what are things that would persuade you to listen to a new artist? As far as the rehabilitation center project goes, we've determined what we still need to iron out with the center, and I've contacted the Department of Rehabilitation Services to ask for some of their data to help with determining market shares.

Today's links — Two pages from CNN Money and one from the Chicago Tribune. First up, some Steve Jobs news and speculation. Then, word on how one company has used Facebook to help employees become more connected, efficient and creative. Lastly, but certainly not least, how technology fanboys (and fangirls), especially bloggers, can be key to making or breaking a product's launch and success.

Today's story — If you didn't notice already, the scenery behind Dino's mug in today's banner is none other than the New River Gorge, directly below the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, W. Va., the largest steel arch bridge in its hemisphere. Yesterday was Father's Day, and I made the venture back to West Virginia to visit ol' Dad. It was a good visit, filled with KFC and good conversation. I truly think I have a great father, and think it would be the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny if my dad fought Evan's dad. Seriously, what if they teamed up to rid the world of all evil?

Anyway, after the family visit, I went to see an old friend who just returned from working and studying in South Korea for a year. So, myself, Clark and Shari decided to go driving around enjoying the scenery of the New River throughout Fayette County. Miles of curvy, beaten roads later, a seemingly mediocre puddle loomed in front of us.

"Bet you won't drive through that puddle!" Shari dared me.

So, I floored it — and drove through the... pond. Turns out the small body of water was a bit deeper than it had appeared upon first sighting it, and my car drops down inside the water about halfway up to the passenger side doors. Water sprays and hisses underneath and around the car, and hydroplaning ensues. A rustic, splintered old fence approached, ever closer. Time seemed to move in slow motion, and all I could see was the fence. I steered with the hydroplaning enough to gain control, then hit the brakes and steered away from the fence just in time, missing it by mere inches. Shari and Clark laughed hysterically, barely able to breathe — I was not quite so amused... until I had to laugh at how hard they were laughing.

The night would not end without one more misadventure, however. Coffee was on our minds, and all of the small-town cafés in Fayette County seemed to be closed. McDonald's was packed — the drive-thru line was out into the street. So, we settled on Wendy's. We ordered two coffees, one with room. We were third in line, one car already at the window picking up food, another behind it before it would be our turn. Ten minutes passed. The seemingly obese drive-thru worker was angrily scolding someone else inside the restaurant. Then, a truck pulls up behind us and starts ordering. The drive-thru chick gets pretty rude with her, tells her that because she wanted to customize her order (get a larger drink instead of the standard combo-size drink) she would have to do it all over. Some arguing ensued, but eventually everything was figured out. At this point, the car already at the window got their food, reviewed the bag's contents, and handed it back. Geez! Come on, already!

Another five minutes passed, and no one had moved. By this time, there were six cars behind us, and now the Wendy's line was out into the street. I was getting impatient, but I hadn't done anything stupid — yet. Well, just before I could, Shari leans over and lays on the horn. At this point, a girl driving the car in front of us sticks her head out and turns around, facing us. She mumbled something in a harsh tone at us, but all I could hear was, "My eyes are crossed, my hair is dirty, my glasses are six inches thick, there are holes in my shirt, and I didn't finish high school!" I was later informed that she said something about if we had ever worked in fast food then we would know how difficult it is — I've worked in fast food, thank you very much, unfortunately ugly redneck chick. In high school, my first job ever was working at an A&W Restaurant. Pretty difficult. Yep. Flip, flip, flip, drop in grease, drop in grease, assemble parts on a bun (using a posted step-by-step list), push button, take money, give change, rinse, repeat. Oh, and I mopped some floors. It's not rocket science. For more on that, see an earlier column I wrote.

Long story short, we drove off without getting our coffee, and some other cars followed us out... when we drove away, that front car was still there, waiting. Shari and I would later get coffee at the Tamarack travel plaza on our way back to Virginia. The travel plaza there had a Starbucks, and it was entirely staffed by Czechs, one named Ekon, whom I had to inform Shari was not the rapper she likes named Akon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blog SMASH!



It's another weekend post, so not so much about what I'm doing in my PR work, etc. However, I do have plenty of good stuff from the Web to share with you.

First up, I saw The Incredible Hulk last night, which had some pretty amazing CGI! SUCH an improvement from the first film. There were some drawbacks, though. A big one was the elimination of the Captain America cameo scene (though Tony Stark does make an appearance). However, Marvel plans to release the Cap scene online soon (hopefully VERY SOON) and on the DVD version of TIH.

I've got to say this Hulk film, while it had great special effects and made the first film look even worse, it wasn't too great this time around either. There's almost no storyline there (other than the gamma story, Hulk angry, Hulk smash bad guy, the end), and the film was short on humor. Probably the most humorous line was when Banner mucks up his Spanish and says, "You won't like me when I'm... hungry," of course meaning "angry" as is the usual Hulk saying we've all come to know. The most exciting part of the film was probably (spoiler alert) when Tony Stark comes in at the end and mentions to General Ross something along the lines of, "We're creating a team," in regard to what to do with the Hulk. Again, more Avengers allusion, continued from Iron Man. Speaking of Iron Man, watch Hulk on DVD and go see Downing, Jr., in his hilarious and exciting performance again while you can.

You can click the movies link on the Marvel Web site to catch up on any of their films you haven't seen. There are LOTS more on the way (see yesterday's post for more on that).

Last night's adventure in film was, however, my first time at a drive-in theater. The experience is interesting, and while I can't quite say it's better than a high-quality cinema, it definitely has its perks. Sure, the picture isn't the greatest, and the speakers were a little fuzzy because of wetness from the rain, but there's nothing like kicking back in the comfort of your own vehicle. The cost is WAY cheaper. We paid $8 for two adult tickets, and $3 for M&M's, popcorn and a large soda. Total night's cost: $11. Total night's cost of JUST the tickets at the local cinema: $18. Wow. Last night was one of those times I was glad to own an SUV. I want to save the planet as much as the next guy, but I often need the extra space to transport equipment and such (in the Army National Guard), and it sure comes in handy when fishing/camping. I honestly would get a hybrid, but even if I trade in my Toyota 4Runner, I couldn't afford the Highlander hybrid. Maybe someday....

Anyway, while others were watching through their windshield wipers, I backed the 4Runner up and watched through a popped hatch, all stretched out in the back with pillows and sleeping bags. As the smoke from the scantily clad redneck woman in the truck beside of me drifted over, I realized the drive-in could have its limitations to greatness, though. When the 400-pound man parked on the other side of me slammed his door into my car just so he could fit out and waddle down to the concession stand, I realized it a little more. (Lucky for him, there were no marks... I've got his license plate number just in case I see some in the light today.) When the speaker in my window (left-sound, not surround-sound) started buzzing — I solved the problem by drying it off with an old rag. Just when I was settled in, some latecomers drove up, headlights drowning out the projector's light on the screen. Finally, everyone got in place, and things weren't that bad. Then, about halfway through the film, the focus on the projector went haywire and we were watching a blurry green mass.

Wait, let's back up a second. As you enter this drive-in, there's a 124-year-old man who sells the tickets in a booth at the bottom of the hill. Seriously, he owns the place, and he started working there in the ticket booth when it opened in 1958. Obviously, he was 50 years old THEN. His hands crumble into dust as he hands me the tickets, and my change — $2 — was none other than a two-dollar bill. EVERYONE knows that only supercentenarians carry two-dollar bills. Seriously? He was just giving them away? I know people who collect them... well, I thanked him for the tickets (I don't know why, I paid for them, I didn't really owe him a thanks, but you just feel like you have to thank supercentenarians). Before I drove away, the old man nodded, and I was later informed by my passenger that he winked at me with his one eye — yeah, I was too busy trying not to watch him decay that I missed the point that he only had one eye.

So, back to the out-of-focus projector — I can just imagine what happened up in the top floor of the shack in the middle of the field. See, the old man was up there, supposed to be running the projector, when, all of a sudden — he died. Yep, rest in peace, Mr. Starlite. However, it took about 20 different flashing headlights and honking cars to get anyone up in the shack to find the deceased (God rest his soul) Mr. Starlite. So, 10 minutes later, we have a well-focused screen.

Well, all this discussion about the drive-in sums up to one point — you've just got to go experience it for yourself somewhere. Everything balances out in the end, I suppose — you get ultimate comfort (depending on your auto setup) and save money, but the film experience itself isn't at exactly what I would call a preferable level. Oh, and when it's over — you'd better shuffle your ass out of there quickly (yeah, they didn't even show the credits) because the next group of cars is coming in for the 11 p.m. showing. This is getting to be a long post, but I couldn't leave that story out, and I already had some other stuff planned to share...


...The above photo is of the Puchi Puchi, and you can click on the link to buy the gadget. Thanks to AwareGeek for spotting this one! Basically, if you love popping bubble wrap (as I know I do!), this is a never-ending piece of it. The bubbles are always poppable, and you can even unlock a secret bonus sound once you pop enough bubbles.

On to some marketing/PR news — do you love house parties? Well, now you can have people host parties for your cause, organization, etc. Learn more about how to do it here. With hundreds or thousands of people attending house parties where your product is the focus, you gain loyal viewers, users, etc., and hopefully they will help spread the word.

Did you know you can get paid to blog? Socialspark.com and Payperpost.com are two sites that allow you to register your blog, then search through advertisers (usually $5-12 per post) who want you to write about a 200-word post about their product. Of course, there are ethics involved, and you have to be sure you let your audiences know that the specific post is sponsored by an advertiser. I'm in the process of getting my blog approved right now so I can experiment, so I'll let you know how it goes. If it works out, maybe I can ask my boss about using one of these services from the other end for some of our clients.

I'll leave you with a blog posting I found today that I liked. It talks about how you must develop and MAINTAIN relationships with clients if you expect to hang on to them and keep them happy. Good advice: It's the relationship, stupid. (THINKing)