Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Killing That Which You Love

I love the English language. The way words can be manipulated and used to do whatever we want.

Both spoken and written. The way a pun or clever turn of phrase can turn a sentence utterly mundane into something amusing, hilarious even. True, some of it is down to cadence and timing, but it can make a huge amount of difference.

So why, exactly, do I butcher everything I write? Things that I manage to say quickly (sometimes with sufficient wit or glibness) fail to convey meaning when I get down to actually getting it down. Tautology is king in many pieces. Often I stumble over phrases that sounded great in my head, but written out look like verbal vomit. Phrases become strangled and overly complex or indecipherable. If a sentence is particularly long, I sometimes lose interest and stop it mid-way flow.

It's a mystery, and has created a fair few pickles.
I recommend The Economist's Style Guide (it's hilarious, as well as very informative).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

New Blog Added - Amderlin Chronicles

I've added yet another blog to my profile. This time, instead of being a forum for some sort of opinion, it's one where I shall post updates on my novels, and how they're coming along. Sometimes there will be teasers, questions, and so on.

Just in case you were interested.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

HMP

Why is it that the culture in Britain calls for ridicule and scorn towards those who attended Private School? It's not as if they chose to go there - I know I certainly didn't. In fact, I remember locking myself in the car in a stupid attempt to avoid going! (Stupid because I forgot we were living in the time of car-door clickers, spoiling my revolutionary action somewhat, but no doubt the gesture was appreciated...)
I remember hating private school. I attended two - Port Regis and Marlborough College, and although I was too young to appreciate the hypocracies of the former, by the time I finished my A-Levels (well, considerably before that, actually) I could only hold Marlborough in contempt. The overwhelming fact that many could get away purely because they had parents willing to make vast donations, or parents on the board of governors made me want to strangle those who blatantly flaunted the system. It was clear that some teachers were equally irritated by the fact some kids were untouchable (in a sense, many still got the ever-present, freely doled out punishments - like blue chits (7:30am meeting with 2nd Master), pink chits (7:30am run), slippy chits (7:00am meeting with 2nd Master) and detentions (which means the same everywhere, so I shall not bore you with the details).
I heard tell of a big drugs' bust one summer - half were expelled (translation: swapped for other miscreants from within the private school system), while the other half were made prefects. The fact that no one seemed to notice is quite beyond me. And let's not forget our top scholar - the only shoe-in at Cambridge (my year was apparently famous for being the worst Marlborough had had in decades), who beat up his girlfriend and merely got a slap on the wrist.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Education & Crime

It is often argued that poor education leads to higher crime rates. First of all, that's false - they correlate.

Anyway, I actually think this is inaccurate for another reason. Poor education leads to more arrests, not more crime. Better education would lead to fewer arrests, as the criminals would be better prepared to get away with it...

Possibly not the best advertisement for a university degree, "Get away with stuff!". Well, maybe it would be in DC...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Journalism Careers

If you go into journalism with only work experience, you have to start at the bottom.

If you go into journalism with a postgraduate degree, you have to start at the bottom with £5~k debt.

What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

23 AS

23rd Year Anno Stefani

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Google-whacking

Am I the only person who thinks the world's favourite search engine has done nothing wrong? Certainly, nothing to warrant the vitriol that has been targetted at them over the past couple of months.

It's all about their decision to create www.google.cn, a China-based version of their ubiquitous search site. Where lefties are getting their knickers in a twist is the fact that Google agreed to Chinese Governmental demands for censorship of key words such as "democracy".

"Don't Be Evil!" is the company's motto, and many people think that this acceptance of censorship is the company being as evil as a company can possibly be. Of course, there are a lot of people who will immediately pounce on tidbits of news that might suggest a great corporation of the world has done something wrong and have conniptions of glee (Gary, this means you...).

Unlike the Chinese language Google.com that was available previously, Google.cn is run off servers based in China, which provides users with faster access to information. Now, the Chinese government censored Google.com, using their snappily named “Great Firewall Of China” (the wags), so surely this move is beneficial to Chinese netizens?

The fact that there are approximately 100 million of them, with ever increasing numbers each year, and the potential ad revenue boosts this will create merely shows that Google are finally accepting the fact that they’re a company who are in the business of pleasing shareholders (more on this, later).
Also, and far more straight-forward, Google has to obey the law. Just like any other company wishing to set up in any country, the local laws have to be obeyed, regardless of what they might be, and regardless of how wildly they might differ from your own country's laws. This, I believe, is why Google agreed to censor. They've been better behaved than Microsoft and Yahoo, too - the latter of which provided information to the Chinese authorities that resulted in a Chinese netizen being incarcerated.

Every left-wing, chattering article projects the idea that all Chinese people want to do, day in and day out, on the internet, is search for censored material. As if they have no other possible needs for a search engine. This is absurd! If a Chinese netizen really wanted to access this forbidden knowledge, they’d be able to find a way around the firewall – as they have been for years. Google.com is still accessible in China. Google.cn merely provides faster access to day-to-day information, very similar to the usual stuff we in the West search for every day (services, retail, entertainment of varying natures, and so forth).

Google have been giving off mixed signals, though. One minute, they’re allowing a foreign government to censor information, but the next minute they’re refusing to help their own government (more on that here). It’s not difficult to see how some people will think that Google are fudging their own motto to suit their monetary wants.

So, I think I’m one of the few people who actually supports Google on this issue.

As for the drubbing Google has received from Wall Street… well, what’s going on there? They’re posting 80%+ profits, and still their share price drops! 80%! That’s so far above the average that it’s insane to consider this a sign of the company underperforming.

Anyway, enough of this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Fluffy

Who wants to be a journalist?!

To tell you the truth, not me.
I've been subbing for the course magazine, and I've come across a website that has some truly disturbing facts: in the past decade, 337 journalists have been killed on-the-job. 337! My image of a peaceful existence as portrayed by Clark Kent (when not saving the world) and other literary journalists, feet up on my desk, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, waiting for the latest scoop to fall in my lap, has been completely destroyed!
True, the Iraq War has created its fair share of journalists in bodybags (60), but even without this, 277 journalists died in other countries! This includes radio journalists (62) and hapless photographers and cameramen (67).
These deaths aren't the results of accidents: 237 are confirmed murders! Of theses, 202 were murdered with impunity.
However, crossfire claimed 67, and natural disasters and "other dangerous circumstances" (such as street demonstrations) claimed the lives of 33 others.
Do you think they give hazard pay...?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Labour: A new shade of Green?

It was brought to my attention, today, that the Labour government was offered a choice of Toyota Prius or Jaguar, for their official cars. All but one MP chose the Jaguar.

This from a government proclaiming to be green, and eco-friendly? Not only that, the Jaguar is more than double the price of the Prius!

Is it a sense of style, that persuaded MPs to go for the ever-so-chic and desirable Jaguars - giving in to their poser mentalities? Or is it simply that they chose it because they didn't have to pay for it?

Either way, "Labour is not so much green as (Gordon) Brown"

(Thanks to my classmate for that quote)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Run for the hills!"

While researching a recent feature for uni, I've come across a very gloomy perspective in journalism today.
The feature was intended to provide some perspectives and advice on the benefits of work experience and university journalism courses. Out of everyone I interviewed, only two did not warn me against becoming a journalist. Some were jesting, others were dead serious. "Go into PR, there's more money in it!" some said. "Become an accountant," others recommended.
A retired City University journalism professor told me that "unless you have a driving urge to become a journalist - in which case go for it with rat-like cunning - you should think at once of some more respectable, profitable, or worthwhile career!"
It's true, journalism doesn't pay much (see later), unless you are a celebrity columnist, and it's also true that journalists aren't exactly the most loved public servants in the world.
John Humphrys, when asked if he had any advice for prospective journalists, told our editor "I don't believe in giving advice to would-be journalists... except, possibly, to consider another career. There are too many people trying to make a living in the game these days..."
All very glum and uninsperational, really.
As for the level of pay... Well, judging by recent criticisms of my work, the reason journalists aren't paid much, is because they're not actually recquired to write anything! Whenever I hand in a piece for checking, if a paragraph isn't 100% built around a quote, then I'm asked to cut it, even if it's actually a worthy point!
"No one's going to pick up [the magazine] and say, 'I wonder what Stefan thinks about this issue'," I was told. Well, fair enough, but that's not what I was writing at all! (For that, I have this blog.)
Instead of using a quote, I pooled stuff from conversations I've had with many journalists and turned it into a paragraph of advice, without attributing it to one person over another. Not a single personal pronoun in sight!
It's really beyond me, because the piece was already about 60% quotation, which is far more than you see anywhere else. To me, that's lazy journalism - there's no point in having reams of quotation, and nothing else. It's a feature, after all, so there should be analysis and commentary. None of it was about what I personally thought, without any outside input. It read better without a quote.
As for the columnists that are pulling in £300k (or whatever), good for them, but stop writing about yourselves! I really do pick up a paper and not think I want to hear what sort of party someone went to last night. I'd much rather read a commentary on a news story - personal opinions more than welcome - but the sort of diary columns that you find in The New Statesman are completely... useless.
Articles about a serious issue that are peppered with personal pronouns annoy the hell out of me - I want to read about the story or the news, not the author. If I wanted to, I would read their autobiography or their blogs.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Ever Deflating Ego...

My father always told me that criticism is a good thing, and that one should always be able to take it. In the end, it will help make you a better person. Character building.

However, it is possible to have a too much criticism, when it eventually starts to erode levels of confidence in your own abilities.

Take, for example, my Journalism course. I am all for receiving comments and criticisms for pieces of work, but it has to be substantial. "You need to do that differently" is not a sufficient answer. After about 8 attempts to get one particular article ready to go, I am still none the wiser what it is exactly that I've been doing wrong.

Coupled with ever-decreasing grades for pieces of work I was originally proud of, some serious thought has gone into trying to figure out why on Earth I thought journalism was the direction I should go down.

True, I've been writing for various school and university papers since I was 16, but let's be honest and admit that the level of sophistication is hardly noteworthy. Indeed, I spent much of my time on Marlborough College's Newssheet, contemplating the finer things of college basketball and whether or not Wicca was evil. Hardly the stuff of Pulitzers or even The Sun.

My own music magazine, MWRI (now on the web - see profile for link), was received relatively well by labels and PR - at least, that's the impression I got - and many appreciated the long album reviews. A contrast to the rather pithy, 20-word reviews you normally get in the press. But here, my reviews are apparently rather lacking.

The wide skill-gap is obvious in the class, but when your grades fall to the same level as people who can't speak English, you have to start asking yourself certain hard questions.

I guess I can kiss the PhD goodbye...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney's Got A Gun...

So, American VP Dick Cheney has shot someone in a hunting accident.

To be honest, I don't have anything particularly profound to say about this - other than it's amazing he thought he could just keep schtum about it and it'd all go away - but I really wanted to use that title...

(In case anyone's confused, look up Aerosmith's Big Ones, track 6)

Monday, February 13, 2006

People Wonder Why Many Hate America... Perhaps Now We Know

"Post 9/11, our philosophy should be: Raghead talks tough? Raghead faces consequences!"
What sort of maniac from the lunatic fringe would say such a thing? Well, you don't need to go that far to find the answer. It was none other than inexplicably well-paid, syndicated columnist Ann Coulter.
Ann Coulter is a dangerous woman.
She's the sort of character producers at Fox News dream about - she's attractive, intelligent (statements notwithstanding), conservative, and can work a crowd.
The above statement, though, is a step too far. It is the sort of declaration that stirs hatred towards an America clearly becoming more and more arrogant by the day. Especially considering the current climate; the furore over the Danish cartoons has yet to disipate, and the debate about respect for Muslims and other foreign societies continues to gather speed.
If anything or anyone should be censored or fired, it should be Ms Coulter for this incredibly racist, reprehensible comment. There is no way this can be dressed up as "misinterpretation". The term "raghead" is nothing if not meant as racist. This is the sort of thing governments should be targetting, not newspapers that decided to show everyone what all the fuss was about, vis-a-vis the cartoons.
What's even scarier, though, is the forum where this utterance occurred: the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. The acclaim and cheers that met the statement are equally worrying.
A once great nation, led now by soap-box pundits with money, America is slowly digging its own grave.