Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fairfield Cribz

In the four years that I spent at Fairfield University, I never saw a student-produced television show that left me in awe.

Fairfield Cribz, a localized imitation of MTV's Cribs, changed all of that. To even call it an "imitation," would be degrading the true value of the production.

The exaggerated camera panning and zooming techniques are identical to the style used on the MTV version. Even the wide selection of pop-music clips that seem to "pop" up every 10 seconds, nailed the bullseye.

It was a wise decision, on the part of the producers, in choosing a bunch of bubbly, laid-back girls, who, legitimately, have a sweet house and a good sense of humor (e.g. the bed where "magic" happens). Doing so added an extra dimension to the episode, which also served to further engage the viewers' captivation.

The only sub-par element was the show's own logo. I seriously think I could make something better than that in Microsoft Paint. But as you can see, I had to stretch just to find a critique!

Student or not, the clip is definitely worth eight minutes of anyone's time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

'The Office' is Closed: Why Television Writers & Crew Strike

So why are our favorite TV shows, such as "The Office", going on a hiatus/showing re-runs during November sweeps (and possibly thereafter)? Because writers, the production crew, etc. aren't being fairly compensated!!!

Writers make 4 cents off when you buy a DVD. Writers make NO MONEY when you watch that TV show for free on the internet.

This simple video (above) explains the issues that are causing the writers to strike. Kudos to them for standing up to the broadcast companies who are taking advantage of their creative abilities! Without them, the foundation for brilliant shows like The Office would be non-existent.

La musique d'Amour

Unless you are cultured worldly music...or a huge Final Fantasy nerd, you wouldn't really know this artist.

I am neither.

During my college years, my roommate introduced me to Lara Fabian's The Dream Within. Sung in English, it is a pleasant, romantic theme emphasizing the search for your love within the heavens and stars.

The theme and lyrics are a bit cliche. The song is even featured in the "Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within" movie.

However, Lara's French & Italian material are very thematic; it conjures emotions of electric energy. Her vocal prowess, no matter if it is in English, French, or Italian, swoons the ears of listeners.

The fact that I do not speak, nor understand French positively contributes my enjoyment of her music. I feel that even if I did, I would still enjoy her work (as I admire her English pieces).

If you get a chance, listen to some of her stuff.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gothic Toys R Us

It's been more than half a decade since I explored the darker side of me. The "hardcore/emo" stuff isn't really my scene anymore. I've gone from wearing band t-shirts and listening to bands like Thursday to sporting a clean, GQ-like wardrobe while rocking out to Michael Buble.

Despite this shift in taste, my friend Patrick, his roommate, and I took a trip to New York City to visit the 2007 MF Toys Show. This art exhibit features hand-crafted toys that sport a gothic, Halloween theme.

I, surprisingly, did not bring my dSLR with me, fearing that I would have to lug it around all day. I wish I did as the exhibits were all pretty neat to look at...

One of my favorite exhibits, created by Patrick's friend Nikki, were similar to that of ships in a bottle. Replace the ships with sculpted dolls about the size of an index finger. These dolls' eyes, made out of marbles, were big and gloomy. I hesitate to use the word "innocent" in fear of being chastised as creepy...but this further expressed their sadness of being trapped in a bottle.

Among other admittedly weird toys on display include a gruesome-looking rocker with his genitals on full display, cotton human eyeballs (which made me think of the Visine commercials), and a Darth Maul stuffed animal.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Abstract Human Body Photographer

Ladies & Gentlemen, this is the type of stuff you can find in a museum.

PopPhoto.com recently wrote about up & coming photographic artists in an article entitled, "Emerging Artists 2007." My favorite highlight focused on Steven Laxton, who has a portfolio of "abstract body shots." He enlisted the aid of the New York City Ballet to stand under a beautifully lit studio and pose as his models.

Please note that Mr. Laxton's portfolio does contain nudity. However, they are by no means pornographic. Laxton's work actually reminds me of a modern day Discobolos - sculpted by Myron. Laxton's abstract bodies accomplish the same feat; it emphasizes the beauty of the human body - similar to Myron's work during the classical Greek period.

I urge all of you to take a look at Laxton and all of the other photographers featured in PopPhoto's featurette!

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Flirting with Florence

"I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighbourhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although it's only been a few days since my arrival, there is no better feeling than sitting outside a Florentine cafe and admiring the culture as it surrounds you. I'd like to call it an industrialized paradise as the noises that would normally bother us (late night chatter outside your apartment, cars being driven around at high speeds, the click-clack sounds from pedestrians' footsteps)...they are all so soothing!

Although my housemates complained about the miscellaneous noises occuring outside our window while trying to sleep, I slept through it like a baby. It's almost like listening to those silly Nature CD's, except the sounds are artificial.

The people here are also very kind as the natives are willing to ask you for assistance if your body language calls for it (e.g. staring at a map for five minutes with a confused look on your face). That happened to me as I was exploring the southern areas of the Northern half of Florence -- this is where a lot of the nightlife is located

This one native gentleman was kind enough to walk me back to my apartment on Via Sant Antonino (about a 2 minute walk from the train station in the middle of town). Mind you, it was one in the morning and even I felt sketched out as I walked past many dark alleys (which also reeked of drunkard's piss puddles). But the man gave off a very friendly vibe; one so safe that I felt protected.

Speaking of sketchniess, there is nothing more awkward than having a random drunk Italian come up to you and put his leg up against your crotch. From the little Italian that I understand, he was trying to explain to me the sport of football. He seemed too drunk to be trying to pickpocket me (and if he did, it would be even more awkward as all of my belongings are in my waist pouch under my shirt).

The apartment itself is on the fourth floor of a five story building. It's small and quaint with two bedrooms, a small, full bathroom, and a small kitchen. It's nothing to write home about but at least we have hot water, electricity, and a washer! I know there are a couple apartments around town that do not have any of the three commodities that Americans take for granted.

The kids that are studying abroad with me seem very fun and friendly. I've effortlessly made friends (many of them actually came up to me to start conversations) and I've started to do the same. It's comforting to know you are with companions who know as equally little as you do. :)

Although most were predicting that we would get culture-shocked, I personally did not (as I had originally figured). There is a decent amount of texts written in English and a good amount of people know at least the basics of the language. So it's hard to be culture-shocked but I don't blame people if the "syndrome" of sorts does hit them.

The language barrier can be problematic as I tried ordering a latte and a sandwich but they could not understand my English nor (poor) Italian accent. This is extremely dorky but whenever I hear Italian dialog, it reminds me of how characters in The Sims communicate (through their babble of a language). Through the many dialogs I've had with the people of this city, I've learned one thing: SMILE! It's a universal signal for friendliness and it really helps alleviating that notion of "damn you tourists for invading my home" -- a common vibe that all of us have shared on multiple occasions.

A general mistake that foreigners do in Italy is touching food at a market. You're not suppose to touch the fruits! I actually saw this lady get scolded for that and she walked away as if she did nothing wrong. I know my mother would hate that about Florence as she loves to examine the fruits and vegetables before buying them.

Frankly, the only real "con" about this whole place is the excessive walking people would have to do during the winter. I love it during the summer as it's so beautiful to walk these Florentine streets and admire the exotic architecture or the alien behaviors of those who live here. I often find myself pondering just how much life is different in the middle of December. But I'm sure it must still be grand in one way or another during the winter.

I've spent an hour on this thing...so it's time to get off and enjoy the city some more. So until next time, ciao!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bon Voyage, Asian James

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." - St. Augustine

As I patiently wait for my airport limo service to arrive at my house, I'm surprised that I am neither scared nor anxious about this trip. From what all of my friends have told me, Florence, Italy is a great time and it's normal to be scared. I'll be interested to see if the emotion of fear does emerge as I get closer to the country.

On a similar note, I'm curious to see if I'll experience culture shock, the state of being terrified from being in an alien environment. I adapt pretty well to unknown situations and have always been a very independent person (being able to make decisions on my own, live on my own, taking care of myself without the help of others, etc.) but I've always been at least a bit familiar with my surroundings. Knowing me, I have a feeling that I'll just chalk everything up to being "COOL" or "AWESOME" instead of thinking "WHAT THE F*(&?"

Since my time in America is winding down, this entry will have to be kept short. The limo arrives in 10 minutes so it's time to go sit on my front porch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Flippin' a switch

I can't stand Livejournal - the interface is poorly designed (if you've used it before, you'll know what I'm talking about). Part of it was being spoiled by Blogger as I was introduced to it through last semester's Digital Writing class (if you look at the previous posts, they're academically oriented). Blogger's navigation is easy, the aesthetics are slick...what more could you ask for?!

Blogger > Livejournal

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Lesson on Adobe's InDesign

While glancing on the inside of a random issue from The New Yorker or The New York Times, I've often been left in a state of aesthetic awe. Professional layouts help organize the material in relation to the graphical art associated with the written content. Whether it's wrapping text around a picture, or making sure each page of the publication follows a consistent theme (for example, a six column structure).

On March 30th, the Mirror (Fairfield University's independent school newspaper) held a tutorial session on how to use Adobe's InDesign program - computer software that allows you to graphically layout how each page of a magazine or newspaper looks before it is printed.

While initially launching the program, the program seems intimidating as it holds the ability to perform many functions. Now mind you, I had never used InDesign. However, the saying of "don't judge a book by its cover" holds true as Adobe strategically made it as foolproof as possible, without comprimising on the program's powers.

The seminar was conducted by Ryan Blair, now Editor in Chief of the newspaper. He ran the audience, composed of mostly Mirror staffwriters and contributors, through a recreation of that week's issue.

First, he showed us how to do the cover page. This included:
  • adding headlines
  • copying and pasting content from Microsoft Word and into empty text field boxes
  • resizing images to make it look better on a page
  • showing us a variety of templates available for use
  • linking the articles from the front page and onto each subpage (such as material that is "Continued in B3")
Then he ran us through minute details within the design process in which most novices overlook. Two examples are a) choosing the wrong font and size which makes the page look funky in comparison to the other pages and b) improperly linking the article which appears on different pages.

As an amateur user of Adobe's powerful software called Photoshop, I was already comfortable with the similar structure and design themes that the company incorporates through its other expensive software. I just had difficulty trying to add text and graphics while making sure everything was proportional and consistent.

InDesign can be had for roughly $700 excluding tax. It's not a program that the average joe will purchase. Rather, experience with the program will come in handy with any career involving publication design.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Cory Maye Case

Your 18-month old daughter is cuddled along your side. The moon shines brightly on her face through the bedroom window. The only noise emanating from this room is the repetitive sound of snoring.


Your door gets kicked in by police officers wielding dangerous weaponary. Fearing for your life, what do you do in a situation like this?

This scenario was adapted to the real-life story of Cory Maye, an African-American man who was peacefully sleeping when his bedroom was broken into as part of a drug raid. Further details and commentary on the situation can be found at Battlepanda and Professor Kim, a Mississippi professor's blogs.Scared for his own life and that of his young daughter, he instinctively fires his own pistol at one of the police officers -- the caucasian son of the town's police chief.

Authorities later found out that the drug raid was meant for his neighbor, a man who lived on the other side of the house. Authorities initially did not find any drugs in Maye's part of the house, but later altered their story as to finding traces of marijuanna.

Although the situation is extremely unusual, there is one point that can be brought up: gun control.

Police officers are trained not to fire unless necessary. Hypothetically, had Cory Maye not owned a weapon in his bedroom, police officers would have held him at gunpoint and searched him only to later identify him as the wrong person.

Granted, a gun would provide adequate "protection" against home intruders of any sort (robbers, serial killers, even police officers). However, a compr0mise needs to be achieved: allow homeowners to own tasers or other sorts of defense that will disable the offender but not murder them. This applies not only to the Cory Maye case, but also to society in general as handguns clearly pose a threat to society, even to those who are licensed gun owners.

This topic can be debated for hours on end, but one thing is for certain: accidents do happen...but they can be prevented at the same time!

Wiki...The Final Frontier...

Imagine the whole world uniting for one common purpose: to share wealths of information. Scratch that! There's no need to imagine as this concept already exists with Wikipedia. Such a site is possible through the use of wiki technology - the ability to let anonymous visitors freely edit a webpage at their own leisure.

As we speak, Wikipedia entries are updated very frequently (and in some cases, more than once a day). This prevents Wikipedia from ever becoming obsolete as long as Internet users continue to contribute. Besides the encyclopedia, the authors of the same site also created other Wiki-based sites which include...
  • Books (cookbooks, computer manuals, etc.)
  • Dictionary and Thesaurus
  • Directory of Species
  • Collection of Quotations
  • Updated News
Have no fear computer illiterate people! It's VERY easy to contribute information using wiki-technology! It resembles typing in Microsoft Word as users type in a white box in which the text is editable (ex: boldface & italicized). Wikipedia currently has a "sandbox" open to new users; this page allows those who are unfamiliar with wikis to practice before they actually edit real, legitimate content.

Like blogs, the design layout of a Wikipedia entry is similar to that of a blog. Let's use the entry on the Thirty Years' War as an example. This particular entry has a Table of Contents similar to that of a blog's "Recent Posts" box which allows visitors to navigate through different topics. It's also important to note that graphics and artwork are integrated into the text as it wraps around the images. There is also a great deal of interconnectivity as hyperlinks are abundant allowing for many entries to become linked to each other somehow.

Are wikis simply a fad that will fade away one day? How will wiki's emergence change the way we publish websites now? Is this new level of interactivity change the way producers deliver the news and consumers receive the news? It will be interesting to note the role that wikis play in our lives and on the Internet over the course of this next decade.

From Vietnam to Space to the Classroom

Fourty-seven years is a long time...even my own mother isn't 47 years young, yet! But for Jeff Gralnick, 47 years equates to a laundry list resume that is full of lifetime broadcasting experiences. And these experiences are not ordinary in any sense, as most broadcast journalists yearn to even have a fraction of what Gralnick has seen.

One right that Gralnick has to brag is his work experience with the big three (ABC, CBS, and NBC). According to his employer, MSNBC's website, Gralnick has notably...
  • Reported on the field in Vietnam for CBS News
  • Served as a Vice President and Executive Producer for ABC's World News Tonight
  • Served as an Executive Producer of NBC's Nightly News with Tom Brokaw
  • Served as an Executive overlooking the creation of ABCNews.com
  • Covered Astronaut Alan Shepard's mission in 1961
  • Produced the coverage for every U.S. space flight through Apollo 11
  • Covered man's return to space in 1988 after the space shuttle Challenger's accident
Gralnick's shelf is crowded with gold as he's become the receipient of many emmy awards, according to Consumer Reports. Several of these recognitions were earned for his journalistic efforts during the 1991 Gulf War, and 1992 presidential election. His nearly five decades of excellence in the field makes him a modern-day Walter Cronkite.

As a graduate of New York University and an adjunct professor of new media at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, Gralnick is sure to be familiar with the NYC metro area -- including Fairfield University. He is scheduled to speak at Fairfield's campus on Wednesday April 5th.

When he makes his visit, I will pose these two questions to him:
  1. During your experiences in covering the Vietnam war, did you have a pro or anti-war stance? Did either of these stances pose difficulty in doing your job as an unbiased journalist? This question intrigues me as I am of Vietnamese descent and am always curious as to what people thought of the war, as well as how much it personally affected them.
  2. If you had to choose your most and least favorite experiences during your 47 years - what would they be? I want to see if he is able to choose two moments throughout his vast career or if he will cop out and say he enjoyed every single minute of it.
It will be a pleasure for our Digital Writing class to become enlightened by his presence when he comes and speaks to us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Web Design: A Poor Man's Way of Painting

In a society where style rules over substance, the aesthetic nature of an object is seen (no pun intended) to be more important than its actual purpose. It's important as a web designer to maintain an artistic perspective when creating a web page, but also to not lose focus on its content. Colorful, eye-catching visuals are nice to stare at for the first five minutes, but the value becomes lost if there is nothing else to hold the visitors' attention.

In James Glen Stovall's book, Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium, he states three fundamental elements of aesthetic design.
  • Type - the fonts and typefaces used to display the actual text; it has to be readable and fit the theme of the website.
  • Illustration - the usage of photographs and other visuals throughout the website; nothing is more boring than a website with all text and no pretty pictures to gaze at.
  • White Space - the "null" background space that fills up any area of the website unoccupied by text or graphics; too much or too little of this is bad as it can bewilder the eye of visitors.
Similar to designing a newspaper or magazine, certain themes must be sought and then maintained throughout the end product. Stovall considers consistency to be one of the largest factors in building a website as it establishes a website's identity and exerts a sense of order.

Like a painter criticized for his works, not everyone will appreciate the value of a webpage's design. It is important to appeal to as many visitors by accommodating their eyesight. This can be done by following certain techniques such as the strategically placement of bigger graphics versus smaller graphics, making sure there is contrast within the colors which adds visual appeal, and directional guidance (e.x. left to right text, up to down navigational links).

Making sure everything fits on a computer screen is also important. Horizontal scrolling is frowned upon as readers/visitors do not want to scroll back and forth after each break in the line. Vertical scrolling is much less irritating but if there is too much scrolling involved, the visitor may feel overwhelmed. Stovall suggests keeping the length of a front page to be very short.

While building a website, the webmaster must not compromise the simplicity of the website. Although technology is prominent in our society, it does not mean everyone is literate with its usage. There are still quite a few of people who are intimidated by the overwhelming technology, and the last thing on their mind is having to navigate through a maze of a website.

Stylish Editing on the Internet

It's been hammered home that web journalism isn't dramatically different from print journalism; with the main differences laying in the Internet's ability to deliver more dynamic content. With this extra power comes a greater responsibility as a web editor will need not only his/her fundamental print editing skills, but also to pay more careful attention for digital details.

In James Glen Stovall's book, Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Media, he states in Chapter 6 that one of the main duties of a web editor is to know the special language of the Internet. For example, direct linking is much more effective than a "Click Here for my website." What's even more tacky is a literal link: http://theasianmuse.blogspot.com . The first method of linking allows for the best flow for any visitor who reads the piece.

Parallel to the print medium, it is vital to have flow within your digital writing. Usage of trite or cliche phrases, redundant sentences, and offensive language are frowned upon no matter who you're writing for.

And last but not least, accuracy: the most important element in any form of Journalism. Stovall lists his five commandments of copyediting for the Internet, with one of them being "Thou Shalt Do the Math." He says that numerical figures need to add up, logic cannot be faulty, questions must not go unanswered, and information must not be contradictory.

These points carry over from print news but many forget that pretend-journalists roam the Internet, giving web journalism a bad reputation. In order to establish credibility, web editors must not forget the basic fundamentals nor the specialty skills found only online.

The Argument on Evolution Stands!

To continue the discussion on James Glen Stovall’s book, Web Journalism: Practice and Print of a New Media, the argument still stands that web journalism is simply an evolvement of news in the form of print media -- NOT its murderer! Stovall breaks down the structural elements of news websites in Chapter 5…and they greatly parallel that of its print sibling.
  • The usage of the inverted pyramid in both writing styles
  • Same rules upheld for Headline writing (Stovall writes that the New York Times requires its online staff to adhere to the same standards its print headlines meet)
  • Cutlines used in photographs for identifying, explaning, and elaborating on what the picture is trying to show
  • Even on the web where it gives you links “to jump from the beginning of the presentation of information to where he or she wants to be” can be found in a newspaper with a “Continued in Section C5”
  • Summaries are found in many newspapers, such as in the inside page of the New York Times where they showcase one-sentence blurbs on their tops stories
  • Subheads, a sentence that foretells the general gist of the story can be found on both online and offline articles!
  • Visual layouts are important in newspapers too, especially the rule of having at least five lines to allow for a columned paragraph.

The only real differences can be seen in having colored text as newspapers seldom have anything colored except their front pages or inserts. That is simply a limitation of resources on the part of newspapers...or else it wouldn't be shocking to see a more magazine-esqe look to newspapers! The USA Today is a great example of a newspaper which takes full advant

Showdown of the Century: Web vs Print Journalism

Sit back and think about the websites you visit everyday. The New York Times Online. The Drudge Report. The Connecticut Post Online. These three websites are examples of what can be generalized as web journalism as they possess all the necessary qualities listed in James Glen Stovall’s book, Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium.

In the first three chapters of the book, Stovall describes the positive and negative differences between news media and how it has changed over the years. He cites the top four advantages in which Internet news has over Print News is:

Immediacy – being able to receive the latest news without having to wait for tomorrow’s edition

Flexibility – ability to incorporate different video and audio clips to accompany the piece

– no longer is an article limited to having only one or two images or news hole to fit as the Internet has a seemingly unlimited amount of space

– consumers of the news can interact with a website. One real example in which Stovall talked about is an online game showcasing the differences between the old and new strikezones in Major League Baseball.

But digital news has its disadvantages, too, as resources can prove to be an obstacle. Many websites do not have the manpower necessary to carry its own dedicated online staff so it shovels news from its print edition onto their website.

For those who do not know, Stovall defines on page 16 that shovelware is “the practice of simply shifting content produced by the organization for another medium (newspaper, radio, or television) to the website with little or no change.” It’s done in order to give the company a presence on the Internet while the news consumers are the ones who get screwed due to the high degree of redundancy.

From the rise of radio, to the emergence of moving imagery on television, and now to electronic text on a computer screen, newspapers are now doing everything it can to preserve its livelihood. However, digital news should be seen more as an evolvement of print news rather than its murderer as they share almost all of the same fundamental writing qualities:

– how many people does the news story involve?

– A clashing between two or more parties always makes for an interesting read.

– Viability of the news; how truly important is this piece of news?

– The number of recognizable people involved in the story such as a celebrity or well-known politician.

– Out of the ordinary stuff that happens adds a different spice onto the story.

– how close the story happens to your home (ex: a fire that burns a house down in California isn’t as interesting to a Connecticut reader as it is to someone who lives in California).

– news that happened recently is worthy of being written about.

One local example of a news organization which has more than a simple online presence is the Fairfield MirrorFairfield University’s independent student newspaper. They release a few online exclusive articles on most Mondays and Thursdays, as well as their print edition every Thursday. The website actually receives more about three times the amount of hits than the newspaper does with hard copies being picked up.

Although print news is currently able to coincide with digital news, don’t be surprised if news becomes fully electronic. Already are many businessmen loading the daily news onto their Palm Pilots and cellphones, or picking up the news on an audio CD (the San Francisco Chronicle, for example) with someone narrating the top stories. That is just step one towards a true paperless society.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A New Teaching Tool

Imagine being able to watch a class lecture from the comfort of your own home. With Sonic Foundry's Mediasite software, it allows you to record a video and during playback, the video clip is side-by-side with another form of electronic communication (such as a Powerpoint slide).

The technology was demonstrated during the March 1st RCade workshop by Fairfield University's Media Center technician Peter Sarawit. He was recording his own workshop presentation while displaying a Powerpoint slide on the other side of the computer monitor for the audience to see.

Another cool feature of Mediasite is being able to videoconference with another location that has the software installed. More specifically, a meeting held in one office can "call" another office that has a meeting going on, and have the two meeting groups communicate together. Think of it the same way as using a telephone but with crisp, fluid video. This ability to videoconference with people anywhere around the world is done so by using the H.323 protocol, known to many as Voice over IP.

The focus of the workshop was not solely concentrated on Mediasite, as the intent of the workshop was to expose the audience to new types of technology that has yet to catch the mainstream’s attention. Mr. Sarawit also touched upon Podcasting, a new ability from Apple that lets anyone record video and/or audio and publically release it through Apple's iTunes software.

This allows for a media consumer to download the video/audio clip onto his or her iPod and listen to it at anytime they wish. Podcasting is rapidly becoming popular as many people are using it to voice their opinions on hot-button issues such as the Iraqi war. One can think of it as a poor man's radio transmission.

These new forms of communication will help the educational environment as instructors are able to teach students even if they are not on the same continent.

Mediasite can allow a student to watch a class lecture if he/she is studying abroad in another country. It will also let the instructor and student communicate and see each other's faces through the digital spectrum. Podcasting would allow for students to listen to class lectures right from their iPods while walking to class, or grabbing a bite to eat.

These types of technology can also help to serve as an archive of past lectures, perhaps one day building a database similar to that of Wikipedia. A database site called Mediasite.com already exists as it lets you view every public presentation created through the Mediasite software.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

You. I. Me. Crazy?

"Often when you come across 'you' in texts, you'll suspect that that 'you' is a hidden 'I' in a concealed autobiographical story..." - Jill Walker

You. A word reflecting American individuality. Overused? Perhaps. Trite? Nah. In an individualistic society filled with many distractions, the stylish use of you allows for a more personalized experience when reading texts. In Jill Walker's "Do You Think You're Part of This? Digital Texts and the Second Person Address", she analyzes the various usages of the word you.

When straying away from the usage of you, there will be an implication that a you will be present. Walker gives the example of the video game Deus Ex where the human being controls the protagonist in a fantasy world. Although the narrator does not use the word you, he/she is still addressing the human being controlling the character -- you.

The strength of writing will be weaker without the usage of you, whether it is the direct usage or an implied reader via narrator. The alternative usage of the first-person "I" are not welcome as it alienates the reader; the "I" would be referring to the author and only the author, unless noted otherwise. In our digitized world, two-way communication is becoming extremely dominant, with your feedback as the reader being expected.


Sit back and imagine the feel of soothing winds brushing against your face during the summertime. That is the reaction visitors receive as they first lay eyes on the Subaru website. Like their sleek and stylish vehicles, their digital domain also possesses the same pizazz. Take for example: When a sub-menu such as "Build Your Own" is pulled up, the smooth animation will remind viewers of the plesant comfort and ride of a Subaru vehicle.

Visitors will also find that navigating through the website is easier than passing a driver's license exam. Almost fool-proof, the website allows for drivers of any age and experience to bask in the wonders of this Japanese-based car manufacturer.

The website is also very aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. The contrast is precisely balanced, allowing for the best blends between dark and light colors. Not one color obnoxiously dominates the website which would leave visitors in disgust. Instead, even those with no intention to purchase a vehicle, let alone a Subaru, will be in for a treat.

Couch Computer chair potatoes have little reason to visit the actual car dealership until a test drive or purchase is warranted. The same information seen on a car's sticker can be found on the website. Price quotes for local dealers are pulled up upon entering a local zipcode. And there are no comission-driven salesmen to hassle with!

Monday, February 20, 2006


Attention Readers: If you have not yet noticed, the links on the sidebar have been updated. So has the sub-title of the blog. Most of this by editing was done by hand (a.k.a. fooling around with HTML within the Blogger template -- scary stuff).

A quick tutorial on how to add links to your own Blogger site can be found here.

The Chart to Happiness

"Money: If you're poor, money does make a difference. But above a threshold of about $40,000 a year, more won't make you happier. Comparisons, though, influence your state of mind: No matter how much or how little you make, doing better than your neighbor will make you feel better."

What matters the most to you? Money? Education? Social Skills?

What about the least?

Walking up the stairwell in Townhouse 87, you can find my little information kiosk; a magnetic board in which I put up random things such as discount coupons to retail stores, weekly bulletins, and other random things that I may find funny and/or interesting. One particular example is a printout from Psychology Today, a visual of the everyday things in life (like one's sense of humor or one's conception of beauty) and how much it actually matters to your life. It also compares how awesome or boring these things may be.

Of course, these generalizations are very subjective and will vary person-by-person. But logically speaking, the publication's placement of these generalizations on the chart seems to be quite accurate -- at least in my own life.

For example, the quote at the beginning of this post about money struck my eye when I first printed this out last September. It reaffirms just how much of a competitive society we live in and also how central of a role money plays in our lives. And with social skills, it's labeled as Matters More Than You Think: "spending time with friends lifts your mood more than spending time with family. Being cooperative and knowing how to chat up the opposite sex are also associated with happiness."

Take it for what it's worth, ladies and gentlemen. It isn't the modern day Bible by any stretch of the imagination. But next time you get stressed out over something like an exam or paper, just remember that it "opens the door to a better career, but it also fosters higher expectations that may be disappointed." Relax -- because it matters less than you think!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Frequent visitors will now notice that most older, archived entries have been touched up. Namely, some of the writing has been re-done, and strengthened as a result. There are more hotlinks. Not to mention, there are quite a few new pictures added, allowing for the blog to be more aesthetically pleasing. Happy Blogging!

The Blogs of War

"A warblog devoted mostly or wholly to covering news events concerning an ongoing war." - provided by Wikipedia
Commonly referred to as a milblog (short for "military blog"), gone are the days of receiving letters from soldiers months after being sent. Frequent blogging eliminates the shroud of mystery surrounding whether a loved one has died. And the public no longer needs to rely on the mass media as their sole source for visuals and textual accounts straight from the battlefield.

What's so wrong about this? In the August 2005 issue of WIRED magazine, an article titled "The Blogs of War" speaks about the dangers of soldiers-turned-pundits via online journalism.
"A new policy instituted this spring requires all military bloggers inside Iraq to register with their units. It directs commanders to conduct quarterly reviews to make sure bloggers aren't giving out casualty information or violating operational security or privacy rules."
From a selfish standpoint, it may seem that revealing casualty information at a local hospital is insignificant. But think of the subtle hints that a piece of information, revealed to the public, could hint the enemy in regards to the military's status. Take for example, this fictional scenario:

Hospital A: 47 casualties taken in, 25 shipped to a larger medical facility.

If the enemy were reading this, the "insignificant" piece of information has hinted at the quantity of troops/squadrons in the area, the quality of life among the forces, how well or poor those troops faced against resistance, etc. Although it may be an unrealistic portrayal of war, television and movies have shown that every little bit of information is proven to be quite useful for smart commanding officers.

It is definitely interesting to read actual accounts of a soldier's life, straight from the battlefield. But at the same time, it is not worth it to compromise the security of the armed forces. Perhaps a balance between the two will be achieved when the Pentagon finishes its analysis on milblogging.

A Postmodern Professor

It takes balls to walk in a classroom and teach a bunch of theory on postmodernism, to a group of students who are most likely hung over from the prior evening's festivities. Dr. David Gudelunas of the Communications department at Fairfield University does just that.

As a fellow avid-blogger, I agree with Gudelunas' point that weblogs are revolutionizing man's sense of community. He believes this trend of social networking is a rebellion to the one-way "traditional" means of media control; which is true because blog-keepers are now able to dictate what's "cool" alongside with the old white men sitting atop a corporate building. If my blog had a large readership, I could start posting about how neon silk shirts are "in." And to me, that would be "cool" and other people have the option of supporting my stance on blinding fashion.

Gudelunas brings to the table 6 points of postmodernism in which he relates it to the world of blogging. I will use the college student favorites such as Facebook or MySpace -- webpages updated frequently by the author, profiling his/her lifestyle and other volunteered information, as a standard of comparison.
  1. A Semiotics of Excess or Endless Circulation - the blogosphere is one huge network linked together. His point makes great sense because the social networking sites allow users to "link up" with one another. And as a true example, I have friends on both sites that are currently residing in Florence, Italy and other parts of the world. I like being able to keep up with what he/she is doing and the feeling is mutual.
  2. Intertextuality and Hyper-Consciousness - references to other productions (such as a television show making mention of another television show). In this particular case, I find that it's very easy and useful to link to another blog, such as the one Gudelunas maintains himself.
  3. Bricolage and Pastiche - everything is built upon by smaller fragments and put together to form something more grandiose (think: puzzle board). His point is 100% correct because if there were only 1 person registered on MySpace, that site would be considered a flop. Instead, millions of teenagers, adults, bands, etc. nationwide are toying with it. And I actually joined MySpace because I wanted to network with my Staples co-workers. I had no intention of networking with other non-Staples people. That quickly failed as those who knew me from college, high school, etc. added me to their own social network; thus piecing together this "puzzle board."
  4. The Triumph of Style - Gudelunas cites this as visual and audio aesthetics taking priority over actual content. I admit (and I'm sure most do this too) that I mull over which picture to put up for my online profiles. My own random musings: Is my hair perfectly spiked that day? Are my teeth not white enough in this picture?
  5. Simulacra - a "simulation" of real-life; creativity as a product of one's imagination. Being the 6'8" Italian stud that I am, my girlfriend Natalie Portman agrees that it's been very easy to make stuff up--especially with the power that blogging offers.
  6. Crisis of Referent - blogs are digital soapboxes that allow individual voices to be heard--at a cost. As a journalist, I've always been taught that there is always more than one side to any story. I've often used other sources' material as a foundation for myself to voice my opinion. Whether I'm supporting or arguing it, blogging adds a new dimension to one's Freedom of Speech. Heck, I feel that blogging is actually a better way to voice concerns and contribute to society than to cast a ballot with our flawed electoral college.
As someone who has taken Gudelunas before, it was more than a pleasure to hear him at the front of a classroom once again. Sure, he threw theory at us (and that probably lost a couple people along the way). My only question is: why isn't he teaching this turbo, too?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who Let HIS Blog Out?

A "geek" is one who admits to enjoying a good dose of Star Trek and knows exactly how Wil Wheaton reached stardom. Biz Stone's "Who Let the Blogs Out?" is an enjoyable read for geeks and non-geeks alike.

Similar to William Gibson's Neuromancer where the reader is introduced to a fictitious, digital world, "Who..." explores the blogosphere, the worldwide network of blogs, and what makes them tick. The big difference? Blogs are more real than the skin on your body.

Apples and Oranges you might say? Sure, one's fiction and the other isn't. Just remember that the reader simply cannot hop on a plane and fly to Gibson's Chiba City. Even a less fictitious locale featured in "Neuromancer" such as Atlanta, GA. requires a great amount of money and time to visit.

With a few clicks of a button and a couple minutes out of one's hectic schedule,
the reader can actually visit all of the blogs cited in the book--all without paying a dime. One example is Heather Armstrong's rants on everyday "public stupidity." Think: A real life Office Space.

Chances are, readers stumbling upon this page already have a semblance of what a blog is, at the very least. Stone gives a good walkthrough on how to set up a blog, attract visitors, and even gives tips on how to make money through blogging, effortlessly!

This book is by no means a literary masterpiece and will not be the most challenging thing you read. Instead, it will serve as a great time-killer; something to read in the crapper or during "primetime Blogging hours" -- when your boss (or professor) is not looking over your shoulder.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thoughts on the Academic Excellence

There is always room for improvement.

Although overused, the aforementioned phrase holds true for any situation--including Fairfield University's quality of education. In the school's independant newspaper, The Mirror, reporter Mary Therese Church writes an article examining a new movement helping to improve the education entitled, "Center for Academic Excellence ups technology on campus."
Students in dozens of classes have already played a huge part in the progress of the center. Professors can now ask the center to do a mid-semester assessment of their courses. Half way through the semester, students in the class are asked to anonymously survey the professors' teaching methods and to comment on what works and what does not work in the class. The comments are then typed and there is a debriefing with the professor about the students' reactions.
It is not to say that Fairfield's education is terrible, because it is anything but that! And as a student who has taken a class evaluated by the Center for Academic Excellence, I am proud to say that the class overall did benefit from a mid-semester evaluation. It was one of my Communication classes from last semester, and it was already one of my favorite classes ever--but that sentiment did not hold true among the rest of the students. The evaluation helped the second half of last semester's class more enjoyable for my peers, and the class remained one of my favorites.

The reporter does a great job at describing the evaluation process and why it exists. Think of it as the tables being turned; instead of teachers giving out a mid-term examination, the students get a chance to even the playing field. And according to the article, many professors such as Kurt Schlichting appreciate that notion as it "can help teach old teachers new tricks."

I was not too high on the headline of the article, though. From what I gather, the only mention of technology used was when the evalutions were typed up electronically. It was also mentioned in the article that eight out of nine students had never heard of the "Center for Academic Excellence." So to put the organization's name in the title is essentially meaningless as a better title may have been, "Students Give Professors Mid-Terms" or something along those lines (though I will admit it is clear that I am not a headline writer).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blogging - Connecticut Style

An Asian-American college student whose spent most of his adolescent life in Fairfield County writes about the trials and tribulations he faces day-by-day. That is the theme of my own personal blog that has enriched the lives of my peers. And like the blog-keepers mentioned in Jane Gordon's article, "Dear Blog: It's Another Day in Connecticut," (which appeared) in the October 9th, 2005 edition of the New York Times, my blog's specific theme revolves mostly around my life at school with the occasional random entry about anything (ranging from political to satirical) that prompted and deserved its own mention.

However, Gordon makes a fallacy in the differentiation between a blog and a journal. In my own experience, many people treat a blog as if it were a journal, with the only differences stemming in the fact that a blog resides in cyberspace and is available for public viewing. A good analogy is to compare a blog to a sitcom such as "Everybody Loves Raymond"
where the show portrays a family man's life in a satirical manner. A blog is simply a textual, public discourse representing what life is actually like; descriptions can be exaggerated and taken out of context.

Rich Hanley, director of the communication graduate program at Quinnipiac University, makes a great point about the world of blogging. He was quoted as saying, "even if it's only to two or three people, you've succeeded." The statement holds true because your publicized opinion now has an audience. It does not matter if the audience is composed of three people or three thousand people, someone cares about what you have to say.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Gains and Pains of Blogging

Ready. Set. Defend.

In our hostile world, one person's phrase or sentence can be taken out of context.
Michael Berube's "Blogging Back at the Right" is an eerie example of how powerful but dangerous blogging can be; the more people it reaches, the higher chance of aggravating a reader. Berube learned the hard way when his "snippets of text [were] taken out of context and batted around the Internet like beach balls in football stadiums."

Unlike a newspaper, it allows the writer and reader to instantaneously duel through the confines of cyberspace (instead of waiting until the next issue). And Berube agrees that is one of the advantages to writing on the Internet; labeling his blog a "rapid-response device."

But blogs are way too formal! I agree with Berube when he says that, "[his] is also an outlet for all kinds of whimsical, satirical, and occasional writing--from musings on the paradoxical status of autonomy in disability-studies debates to parodies of contemporary political events and discussions of popular music and film..." Blogs are better suited to be the writer's own personal soapbox so he/she can speak about a variety of topics -- almost like an Op-Ed section in a newspaper; NOT the actual newspaper articles themselves!

Assignments for Feb 1

3 Blogs
Choose One at Dr. Sapp's blog (available this evening)
NYTimes: Connecticut In-state Blog (Stagweb)
Story on Conservatism in a Classroom (Stagweb)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Neuromancer Reading Guide

1. I feel that I am being assigned this reading because William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, possesses the unique ability to describe the surroundings with great eloquence and detail. His writing style allows the reader to feel as if he/she is truly inside the book. And because Neuromancer invites the reader to step into a very alien world filled with unfamiliar jargon, this sense of immersion is crucial to the enjoyment of such a story.

2. The existence of the science fiction genre allows the reader to step into a fantasy world that possesses some origin or influence from the actual history of the world as we know it, and puts a massive spin on every element within that fictional story. To make things clearer, lets take a brief look at Star Wars, a story about good versus evil that involves humans, weapons, and space. These entities found in Star Wars can also be found in real life with one common difference: their characteristics have been altered and exaggerated--humans have supernatural powers, the weapons are not projectile but rather energy based, and the story does not take place anywhere near Earth but rather in a "galaxy, far, far away."

Neuromancer is an example of science fiction because it takes elements that we see in our everyday lives, such as the common references to company names like Sanyo, Sony, Toyota, and Mitsubishi and incorporates it into the actual story. Real-life cities such as New York and Atlanta are each portrayed as a metropolis filled with vast technology.

3. The science fiction genre influences our daily lives because it allows inventors to conjure up an actual products that were once only found in imagination. Even with our use of language and attitude towards technology, popular culture has been impacted by science ficiton in many subtle ways that are not readily apparent. Take a look at palm pilots and cellphones, two commonly used pieces of technology that were first seen on the cult classic Star Trek. Even in Neuromancer, the term "microsoft" was used to label a small black chip that held information; little did Gibson know that two decades later, Microsoft is one of the most prominent technological corporations in the world. And that the term "cyberspace" (as first seen in Neuromancer) can now be found in America On-Line's advertisements.

4. Case can be considered a "hero" because although he was a computer hacker who stole data, he is using these skills for the sake of the good. For example, he linked with Molly and helped break into Sense/Net's computer in order for them to steal the Dixie Flatline's construct; a character who was murdered but whose thoughts were saved to a computer chip of sorts. The evil that he opposes is simply the society around him e.g. the large corporation Sense/Net that is very dominant in technology who tried to stop him.


6. Cyberspace - can be described as a large construct of virtual reality (at least in the Gibson world)
Matrix - the data network that links all of Gibson's "cyberspace" together
ICE - Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics; a security defense that protects crucial, valuable data from intruding viruses (such as the "Mole" in the story)
simstim - a technology that allows for one person to simulate a telepathic link to the stimulus of another person
coffins - a cheap man's motel where you pay and sleep in a coffin
virus - a program that has the intension of sneaking onto a system to cause harm
zaibatsu - a large Japanese conglomerate that possessed alot of political power and control in Gibson's world
meat - the "human" that was within the artificial exterior shell
microsoft - a little chip that can be inserted into one's head that contains a plethora of database information
artificial intelligence - the act of programming a computer to mimic that of a human brain
subliminals -
puppets -

7. Seeing as how this novel was written 25 years ago, it is very prophetic because the world we live in today is quite similar to the one described in the story. For example, people are now starting to have chips embedded into their skin. Case's pancreas had to be replaced and they patched it up with technology. Our real world is coming close to achieving such magic as seen with stem-cell research. The existence of a cyberspace where residents within Gibson's world were able to escape into can be found in today's video games where thousands of players join the same world and compete with/against each other. And I do believe it is cynical in a sense that the technology can be abused, no matter if it is 1984 or 2004. Take a look at all of the electronic credit card thefts that exist today. Now take a look at Neuromancer when Case had to trick the cameras within Sense/Net in order to bypass and fool security.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Writing for the Web Isn't So Much Different After All

"Anything makes a good subject, as long as you take your time and crystallize the details, tying them together and actually telling a story, rather than offering a simple list of facts."
That is just a bit from one of Dennis A. Mahoney's many tips on "How to Write a Better Weblog." As someone who has experience writing in a variety of media, I will have to admit that there does not seem to be as much of a difference as I had once thought.

Let me preface by saying that it is ironic I am writing this entry from the first-person perspective (hence the use of "I"), whereas the connoisseur of blogs, Mr. Mahoney, recommends against using it unless absolutely necessary. I have maintained my own blog for almost half a decade and also read other authors' blogs for a longer period of time. And although I agree with restricting the use of self-perspective, I deem it is necessary to do so in order to hone and critique Mr. Mahoney's tips.

His tip in regards to the inclusion of detail in web writing (as listed above) proves to be quite accurate and usable in other media as well. Take for example, I am a newspaper reporter who has just been assigned to cover the fire on Main Street.

If I am not to include specific details such as the number of casualties, how devastating the fire is, etc., then I shouldn't be surprised to find a pink slip on my desk. In any reading, it is the effort placed into the details which keeps the readers enticed by the captivating literature.

I wholeheartedly disagree with his tip of amusing the readers. I respect his opinion as a fellow writer and as a human being, but it is illogical to believe that "everything is funny." Mahoney cites one's race and sexual orientation as being humorous, and that making light of a serious situation does not have to be disrespectful.

I rebut with this question: what if you are maintaining a blog for MSNBC, a well-respected news site, and you make light about the eternal debate over abortion. Granted, Mahoney says that blog authors should be able to "expect both rational and irrational criticism" but I personally do not believe the employer nor a good amount of readers will be too pleased with tasteless humor.

To claim that the blog is only for the author's own use is an illogical statement in itself. In my opinion, the blog is a *public* soapbox which allows the author an opportunity to share his/her thoughts with people worldwide. If the author truly wanted to generate content only for their own use, he/she would not post it on cyberspace, but rather on a saved Microsoft Word document or a traditional pen and paper.

And to say that blogs lack style or approach is also another illogical statement, as I believe every literate being possesses his/her own approach to writing; whether it's through the computer or with a pen in hand.

I feel that Bernstein would agree with my point of view since he backs up the common writing style of an amateur claiming that the unnecessary amount of "un-profound" content is due to the overexposure of our society's many sources of information. With the large amount of information available at a click of a button, it comes as no surprise that the average reader would want their voice heard too. After all, Bernstein says that "you've got this absolutely batty opportunity of instant global publishing. Publish!"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gizmodo, A Haven for Nerds and Non-Nerds Alike

There is a reason why Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog is the 6th most popular blog according to Technorati, and that is because the author(s) are able to intertwine a variety of elements such as sex with technobabble, allowing for a broader appeal audience. The requirements associated with the enjoyment of this particular blog is not steep by any means. Readers are not forced to be in-the-know when it comes to the latest technology and gadgets, but rather are required to have a sense of humor.

Take for example, the author(s) made an undated entry regarding a new musical instrument which requires six different musicians playing it at once. The instrument closely resembles a guitar resonating a unique sound because all six musicians are responsible for his/her own product. The title of this entry? "Six-Man Guitar Orgy"

Another amusing entry is entitled, "There Was a Text Messaging World Record?" The entry details the story of a Singaporean businesswoman who won $10,000 for breaking the Guinness World Record of words tapped in a certain amount of time (26 words in approximately 44 seconds). But in reality, the first thing that catches the reader's eye is a photograph of someone's cellphone displaying the words, "Hey idiot."

Even the layout of the website is appealing to the reader. The background of the site is white, a neutral color which allows for the best punch in terms of the text's visibility. A sans serif-based font was used to display the text which also adds to the ease of reading. Most entries are accompanied by a photograph which either makes the reader go, "oooh," or "haha." The language used is neither overwhelming nor trite. And like coffee, the author(s) of Gizmodo are able to find the perfect blend between serious technology-related news with things that are not-so-serious, allowing for excellent readability.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


It isn't everyday that you meet someone whose been enlightened by Michael Bolton's wisdom of love. But today, I was given the pleasure of introducing myself to Christine, a senior at Fairfield University who personally received love advice from the popular singer Michael Bolton during a Fourth of July party at the "O-Bar" in Westport, Conn. "Men don't want to be tied down until their late 30's" was one of the pieces of advice Mr. Bolton gave to Christine after praising her for not having wrinkles on her skin (not realizing that she is in her early 20's).

Christine has also trekked outside the realms of the bubble we call Fairfield County. Just today, she came back from her Campus Ministry service trip to Ecuador. She said that instead of helping the poor, she often found herself asking Ecuadorians about what their thoughts were on topics such as dollarization; a contributive effort towards her International Studies Research Capstone project.

Besides International Studies, Christine is also double-majoring in English (which is probably why she's in this class right now). She gets the opportunity to see Dr. David Sapp more than once a week as she is also taking his Business Writing course. And just to wrap things up, she's the only sibling in her family and lives at a beach house called, "The Mall."

Assignment for Wednesday 1/25
Three Blog Posts
1. Gibson (see Dr. Sapp's blog for Questions -- http://enw350.blogspot.com )
2. Assigned Article (see Dr. Simon's blog for Questions -- http://jsimonfu.blogspot.com )
3. Find an interesting blog using a search engine (see Dr. Simon's blog) and write a description and response to it. Pick a serious topic, please.

Numero Uno

First posting ever!
Just a random entry trying to get a feel of how Blogger is compared to other blog services that I've used in the past.