Wednesday, November 21, 2012

To the editor

I was looking through my old files on my laptop today and came across the following gem from when I was opinion editor in college. I think I was really bored with studying and was going to do it as a blog post and upon second thought decided not to, possibly because I didn't want to get myself into hot water for publicly mocking readers. But I don't work there anymore so here it is:

The following is a mashup of actual lines from letters to the editor I’ve received this semester, printed with amusing typos included. These are from legitimate letters to the editor by BYU students and faculty only, not the really nutty ones I used to get from people like the guy from Salt Lake convinced the "Mormon CIA" kept deleting his blog. I also excluded poetry and letters I felt were offensively sacrilegious. Enjoy, and don’t judge all the normal people at BYU too harshly for it.

To all Lebron Haters:

I leave in New Jersey. Am disturbed by the staff of the Daily Universe. The Daily Universe has gone astray!  What a waste of ink and paper. On today's (Sept. 21st) issue of the Daily Universe there is a glaring error that would cost someone their job as an editor in the real world. I sincerely hope the editor didn't think that because both stories involved cars they should go next to each other. The author merely took her gut reaction and ran with it, which constitutes shoddy journalism at best. To write an article like this and not get the simple facts down is embarrassing to the "journalist". Learn from this mistake and just remember next time you do that, it could cost you your job. Just wanted to bring this to your attention, as others in my office were similarly offended. Thanks for devaluing my CV just a little bit more this week. I don't think I am asking too much for the Daily Universe to print an apology. Is BYU a real university? Just wandering.

Say a suspected terrorist doesn’t want to cooperate with the government, why don’t they just Jack Bauer him/her? You never hear about “massacres in the gun shop”. The Doctrine and Covenants justifies this people in "befriending" The Constitution (D&C 98:6), and you have all but declared it an enemy. Opinion: To his admirers, Glenn Beck has been a voice crying in the wilderness, a prophet who warns us that we have been wandering in darkness too long. Fact: bears eat beets. Failure to acknowledge the role this issue plays in American political policy is immensely coarse. I can't help but see the resemblance between the recent actions of Senator Harry Reid and the actions of Fredo in the film the Godfather.

Honesty is taking a punch to the stomach every time we enter the testing center. The incredible unethical power of “none of the above” has taken its toll. The bookstore offers a simple solution to the women who don’t meet their standards of perfection: buy our stuff, and quickly get the educational and spiritual understanding you lack. I saw a kid in a Boise State t-shirt today. I wanted to punch him in the gut and then barf on his face. When I see a kid in another college’s shirt it makes me want to go to McDonald’s, order everything on the menu, and try to eat it all in one sitting.
Cut it out with the Jimmer worship. Last time I checked, idol worship was very much frowned upon in the scriptures. Eventually I noted the futility of arguing with BYU fans so I decided to write The Daily Universe in the hope that someone there could stop the madness running rampant through our campus. Even though I do not partake of Jimmer worship, I will not stop anyone who chooses to serve Jimmer. Your comments were highly offensive to those of the Jimmer faith. Thank you for helping me see the error of my ways. My roommates and I have decided we will no longer pray toward Glens Falls.

I would like to take a moment to tell everyone about spinach smoothies. Who doesn’t need another pair of hot high heels, right? High heels never made anyone suicidal. Next time, I throw eggs. I think it's an important mating ritual for the LDS male, similar to a peacock's stunning display of plumage. At first I had the absurd notion that you were spreading cake batter all over your arms and hands, the smell reminding me of my favorite flavor at Cold Stone. Am I the only one that's really bothered by the posters exhorting us to celebrate our "culture of honor"? If we really wanted to get students more excited, we may want to permit alcohol inside the stadium and inside the students.

Happy Columbus Day! By the way, thanks for slaughtering my people. Everyone was enjoying a nice Columbus Day only to be confronted with implications of genocide (guised as “awareness”) directed towards them. Should the “white man” always hold the “red man” accountable for the genocide of the Nephites? Since BYU naturally attracts students of diverse nationalities, many foreign authors of letters published in the Readers’ Forum have perspectives on the United States that are informed extensively by their non-American cultures. America needs no criticism. The well-known businessman Michael Scott once said “if you are a racist, I will attack you with the North.”  Today I say to the Brigham Young University student body, “if you are an underachiever, I will attack you with cougars.”

Do we really want our future leaders listening to Lady Gaga for advice? I, frankly, am surprised this discrepancy has been allowed to continue for so long and hope to hear of changes sooner rather than later. Harold B. Lee Library, I exhort you to purge yourself of the vile and nefarious literature that you harbor within your walls.

“God, if BYU wins the national championship,” she pleaded, “I will take it as a sign that it is Thy will that I attend that school for graduate studies.” That was the only year BYU has taken the title of national champion. I was shocked. In my dream world, the crowd would faithfully cheer-on the Cougars no matter how the game was going, and politely accept even the worst calls made by the referees, or the most blatant oversights made by the team.

The word is officially out: There are some hot girls that work at the testing center, goodness! Out of the 150 or so girls that came out, I counted only 7 that were wearing shorts, skirts or dresses of the appropriate length. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll confirm that I’ve never ogled in my life. Ladies, it’s fine if you want to wear your gigantic moon boots and obnoxious head flowers, just remember that following the latest fashion trends isn’t worth sacrificing your integrity. 

To all you doubters with legs on both sides of the fence, you better evaluate your testimony and make some necessary changes or you might just find yourself without enough oil in your lamp. I am sorry if you feel left out that noone texts you I would be happy to send you a text every now and then to make you feel good or you could text one of those ads that are on late at night. Please get a life or a girlfriend or both! Do you really think that Celine Dion transposed into a minor key and played uptempo is proving to the world that they are Mozart in an unappreciated form? Honestly, I think most of the opinions expressed in the opinion section are silly.
Poker Face


Dear Letter to the Editor,

I would like to withdraw my article from the consideration for

publication.  I wrote this at a time when I was upset and reading it

now shows me that it was a foolish thing to send in. I would once

again ask that this letter not be printed ever.  Thank you.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

It was all an experiment by the Chinese

This is the time of year that TV networks usually start announcing which of their shows are getting the ax, and as usual one of my favorite new shows is getting cancelled. I don't know why I ever bother to start watching thrillers with a good hook like Last Resort, because they always get cancelled and then I never get to find out who was behind whatever the mystery was and how the person who was in peril in the final episode gets out of the situation. And it drives me crazy. Remember Flash Forward? Yeah, I'm still wondering about that one.

How hard would it be for the writers of cancelled shows to put a summary online of what would have happened next? "Dear loyal fans: The secretary was the mole. The hot guy survives by climbing down a previously unnoticed elevator shaft but he is too late to save his girlfriend from blowing up. And it was all a secret experiment by the Chinese."

My very favorite shows, quirky and somewhat nerd-friendly comedies like Community and Chuck, tend to be cancelled and then uncancelled and the renewed for "just a few more episodes" for about four or five seasons before they actually die a death so completely that even rabidly devoted fans of the trekkie variety can't scare the network into continuing them. I think that's part of why they end up being so good-- the writers understand that whole "live every day like it's your last" mentality and throw the formulas out the window. "Yeah boss, we know the hero isn't supposed to overcome the major baddie until the season finale, but we felt like blowing him up today. You're cancelling us anyway so what do you care?"

But most people don't appreciate episodes of shows that revolve around chaos theory or computer hacking marathons or Tron. NBC, home to many critically adored but low-rated shows, said they are changing their comedy brand to appeal to a broader audience. They say they are going to do that by coming up with "totally unique" show ideas, but who are they kidding? Broad audiences don't like unique ideas, they like the CSI or NCIS or Law and Order teams to solve the crime every single week. They also don't like their humor about unique topics. They like it to go something like this: "Sex! Giggle giggle." Obviously the only difference between middle school boy humor and "adult" humor is experience. And lately bigotry also seems to be doing well. Apparently if it's a made-up character instead of a real-life politician or pundit who said it, it's called edgy humor instead of an outrage.

Of course, there are always some surprises. I thought Modern Family's zingy one-liners and subtle jokes (Stella!!!) might be too smart to survive, but it's a smash hit. And Go On is doing fairly well, even though it's on NBC. Who knew that so many other people would find a show about a guy whose wife died going to therapy with a bunch of other people who also had terrible things happen to them so hilarious?

Maybe there is hope for American television after all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ten reasons to buy a newspaper

As a journalist, people seem to think I know everything. It's pretty common for people to start a sentence with, "You work for the newspaper, so you know everything, so I'll bet you can tell me why ..." Here is a little secret: You, too, could "know everything," for the amazingly low price of whatever your local newspaper charges for a subscription.

I'm always amazed at the number of bright people I know who can talk at length about presidential politics but have no clue about things going on in their own town that affect them directly. It gets really annoying when people are like "Wait I can't do what anymore?! We have to go complain and get them to change their minds! You need to write a story about how unfair that is!" when I already wrote like a billion articles about public hearings on the issue back before a decision was made. Everyone has been complaining this year that the school district is making elementary school kids who live within a mile radius of their school walk to school. Guess who wrote a story about that decision months before it went into effect? Me.

Here are some of the other reasons you should (shameless self-promotion alert) subscribe to the local newspaper wherever you live:

1) So you know how your tax money is being wasted, whether it's buying expensive equipment that will rarely be used, creating an extra position for the spouse of a current employee, sending people to trainings on on the east coast for things they should already know how to do or paying more than your annual salary to a consultant who will tell them a) what they already know, b) something anyone on the street could have told them in five seconds, or c) something that will prove to be completely inaccurate down the road. My next job is going to be as a consultant so I, too, can be presented with a large check in return for a report containing the number I got after handing my calculator to a three year old to play with, combined with the fortune from my last fortune cookie and whatever my magic eight ball told me. "Well, madam chair, based on my calculations 10,978 people will vote for the bond measure. If you embark on a journey you will find a pleasant surprise awaits, meaning that if you go out for a bond the chances of it passing are definitely yes."

2) So your entertainment life consists of more than watching TV and going to the movies. If I had a dollar for every time someone said "Wow, I really wish I had known about that event because I totally would have gone. Why didn't they advertise it more?" and we had put a preview story on the community page and had it in our entertainment listings and carried paid advertising ... I could buy myself a few gallons of ice cream at the very least. People who say there is nothing to do in their town obviously don't read the newspaper, because there are so many concerts, dances, forums, fundraisers, sporting events, poetry readings, book signings, documentary screenings, bands playing in bars, talent shows, guest lectures, contests, holiday parties and other events--many of them free or a couple of dollars--that sometimes we don't have room for them all.

3) So you know when people are dead. Seriously. More than once I've talked to someone who doesn't read the obituaries who was shocked to find out someone like a business owner or former teacher had been dead for several weeks. It can lead to awkward situations, like when someone I know asked a co-worker how their weekend was and the person said "Umm... I guess you didn't hear my [fill in the blank with a close relative] was murdered this weekend." Trust me, it's worth a few bucks a month to avoid that.

4) So you know what people you know got arrested. Proofreading the police beat often produces statements from people in our office like "So that's why my mechanic wasn't in yesterday when I went to get my oil changed!" You also might want to know if your neighbor was arrested for public indecency, if the babysitter you use most often was charged with driving under the influence or if there has been a pattern of burglaries in your neighborhood. There are also some entries that are pure entertainment, like the man who stumbled up to the road with broken bones and asked to be taken to the hospital because he had fallen down a cliff. He wasn't wearing any underwear or pants. When police searched the area they discovered a pair of women's underwear and other women's clothing. That must have been a tough choice...

5) So you know which people not to talk politics with. Sometimes people who otherwise seem totally normal can write letters to the editor containing some pretty out-there opinions. Letters to the editor can produce all sorts of insights, like which of your neighbors are in favor of legalizing marijuana because they smoke it all the time and they're fine.

6) So you can stop being curious about why all those police cars rushed past your house this morning. Chances are good a reporter rushed past right after them and took stalker photos from across the street, so you'll have a nice shot of the accident or the armed standoff to appease your curiosity.

7) So you know who to vote for. In the last election, the county commission candidate for our county who won the primary run-off by a landslide lost in the general election. Why? It might be because we published a story in which he admitted upon confrontation that he has a side job as an unlicensed, unbonded contractor who often doesn't get permits for his work either.

8) So you know about new rules and regulations. We tell people when the city council is putting together a city ordinance to ban yard sale signs or to make everyone who sells things to a consignment store get fingerprinted or to ban burn barrels in the city limits so it's not a surprise when the fire department shows up to tell you that you have to dump the yard waste you're in the process of burning out of the barrel or they will put it out.

9) So you know lots of weird stories and facts to bring up when the conversation around you is dying. For example, a local farmer owns a camel and the camel loves Wheat Thins more than anything, so they're trying to get Wheat Thins to feature their camel in a commercial. If a tomb guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ever fumbles his rifle, stumbles or messes up in any other way while on duty his bags will be packed for him by the time he gets back. And the local animal control officer who just retired said one of his worst nights on the job was when a drunk guy got rushed to the hospital after being bitten by his pet cobra and the animal control guy spent the next couple of hours rounding up the rest of the poisonous snakes loose in the house.

10) So I don't have to become a public relations person.