´╗┐Mindy Kaling is at the top of the Hierarchy of Personality A few years ago, I did a post about the Hierarchy of Personality, which described the structure that I observed in radio (though people said it exists in other industries). Basically, the idea is that a select few are allowed to express their true personalities and act how they want because they are at the top, while the rest of the scullery staff have to acquiesce and be quiet, lest they get in trouble for daring to try to rise above their station.
Now I've found someone who's a winner in the hierarchy: Mindy Kaling, who has her own show and was previously a writer and actress on The Office.
I decided to read her book Why Not Me? because her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?, was self-deprecating and funny. The second book is basically about how great her life is, how successful she is, how much money she has, how she's reaped the rewards of her hard work big-time (and oh, by the way, her mother died [brief mention] and she wants to be married). It doesn't have the same tone as her first book; instead, she sounds like she's celebrating herself while offering insights about the entertainment business along the way. But both books are well-written, so I can see why they're best-sellers.
What sort of struck me in her first book when she got The Office gig, and what really struck me here, was that she is at the top of the Hierarchy of Personality because she can express her intelligence, chattiness, and enthusiasm to people around her, in a variety of work and non-work contexts, and people like her for it. Usually in the Hierarchy, people can't be like her, unless the environment has given them permission. And if someone assumes they can break the rules, then they will be yelled at harshly (with swear words thrown in), ignored, or gossiped about while plans are made to send the person packing.
Her luck started early in her amazing career: when she was in LA having a kind of interview (or exploratory meeting; I don't know technically what you'd call it), she was sitting in an office of a powerful TV guy (the son of an even more powerful TV executive), who was in charge of The Office. He said, ?I gave her a lot of room to shine and open up.? So right away her high position was being established. And it continued, because she said that they often argued in the writers room, and the worst thing that happened was she that was told to leave. She wasn't fired, she wasn't belittled, and she wasn't criticized for her personality traits. She was able to return to the room and resume her work; no punishment beyond that.
She describes her attitude during those early Hollywood years, and she says "...if I had a writer on my staff now who behaved like I did, I would throw them out...Though I deserved it probably dozens of times, Paul [the showrunner] never actually fired me.? So once again, her position in the Hierarchy was safe because her behavior didn't get her in trouble, and her career continued to flourish (and her social life, since she often talks about her many friends who she gets to work with or rub shoulders with at industry events).
I have to wonder: how does she feel when her staff dare to show their exuberant personality, or express strong disagreement about her show? Does her staff feel like they're in the lower rungs of the Hierarchy, thus have to suppress who they are and want to be?
She describes herself as "very chatty" with "a very anxious, argumentative personality.? People who are lower on the Hierarchy probably would admit that to their confidantes, but wouldn't feel they could admit it in a public forum, or in an official blog (which is why we of the lower caste have secret ones). Plus, being argumentative is reserved for the privileged, because you'd be called a derogatory name if you dared to disagree, especially vociferously, if you were not one of the chosen.
Interacting with her is probably pleasant, because she says that she's "a pretty fun person to talk to. I find almost everyone fascinating and I love to ask questions.? But only her employees know the truth, and I doubt they'd speak about the true experience beyond their closest confidantes. I wonder what they think when she talks about what she wants (one perk of being in her position), because she says "The single best thing about working in a writers? room is that you can disrupt the entire process to discuss and investigate your latest crush.?
What if The Help were to disrupt a work session to talk about their latest crush? What if a loved one was dying, and they wanted to break out of their role to talk about more personal matters? I've seen that opportunity being enjoyed by the free, but the more tied-down have had to either keep it out of the workplace that has a hierarchical structure or only talk to those they trust (some places generate lots of allies, but the more toxic ones barely have a couple).
In case I ever cross paths with the blessed Hollywood powerhouse, I want to honestly say that I have nothing against Mindy Kaling; I'm just describing a situation that has confirmed what I theorized when I was working more in the radio biz. Some people have abused their position and have been heavy-handed in their domination, and I doubt she's one of those types of people. What she's achieved, beyond her amazing career, seems to be a rare accomplishment: the ability to be who she is and actually prosper and thrive with it. The unlucky ones are shut down and shut out, or are hindered in their attempt to progress towards their dream.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Crumbs I was chatting with a British-born American (i.e., he came to the US for school, got married, and decided to stay), and he said he was running in the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Then he said "Crumbs." I had never heard that expression before, and I thought it might have been a typo until I looked it up. It's a legitimate British expression that, according to the Cambridge English dictionary (which is a prestigious source since it's the epitome of British education), means "an expression of surprise or worry."
Not these crumbs
According to The Express, which seems to be on a different trajectory than Cambridge (I've formed that conclusion based on the Wikipedia description), "[Crumbs] is one of many [expressions] which originates from using the first few letters of a swear word and substituting a more socially acceptable ending. So Christ becomes crumbs or Christopher Columbus."
I reiterate: I've never heard this expression before, even though I've watched lots of British shows on PBS, and certainly have never heard an American say it. Maybe I should start using it. But then again, people will think I'm spotting some bread or cake crumbs on the floor :p
I met him at my good writing gig (he gets off the air when I arrive to work, but I?ve written intros to his recorded news stories during my shift) and read his book Night Radio because I like radio and wanted to see what kind of fiction writer he is. In spite of me telling him my honest opinion about the book, which wasn?t totally effusive (though Part 2 makes it especially worthwhile), he still agreed to be interviewed (I'm joking; he had no problem being interviewed, whether I was crazy about the book or not). He seems to be a very friendly guy, and I feel like I should really get my act together now that I?ve found out more about his productive, creative life.
How long did it take you to write Night Radio?
From concept to publication? Probably eight years. I wasn't sure about the idea or the approach, so I batted around a number of forms and narrative structures, writing then stopping, then starting again. But once I was sold on a rough story arc, I started writing with the full manuscript in mind. From that point on, it took about a year. I'm a regular writer, meaning I try to write everyday. So, the first draft was done in about 8 months. Then more edits and changes and fixes.
How do you establish a story arc, and what is considered an effective arc?
Frankly, I don't think about this too hard. Not in the traditional sense, at least. But what I do pay attention to in either nonfiction or fiction is to be sure something is happening to those in the story. Focus on what is motivating the characters, and if it is memoir or creative nonfiction, that "character" is me or the narrator. It can be subtle, and many times that is best. Or it can be dramatic. Still, there must be some sort of action?physical, emotional, and/or spiritual?some movement in the story.
What makes a good story?
What touches us. I'm not of the belief that there must be conflict or action or a crossroads. I think these are good in a story and many times they are essential, but to me it's about the heart. What moves us.
For this book, what was your method? Did you have an outline?
This was my first book of fiction. I wasn't sure at first how to approach it. Generally I do not work with an outline, at least not a formal one. I might have notes and bullet points about major turns or drama in a story, but I tend to just write and see where the story leads me. Joan Didion said that she writes to find out what she's thinking. I like that. Plus, I really believe the story is already there inside me somewhere?I just have to write to get it out.
Is there anything that's based on your real-life radio experience?
It is impossible to write any fiction without parts of your life seeping in. People who are fiction writers who tell you otherwise are fibbing. But let me make this clear: Night Radio is fiction. It is not a memoir. It is not a nonfiction narrative of life in radio. Still, there are characters, scenes, and narrative turns that definitely are linked to real events. Are they word for word, piece by piece? No. But there are elements of things that did occur. I'll let the reader figure out what they think is based on some truth.
What do you want people to gain from reading Night Radio?
I have found that nearly everything I write has the theme of redemption intertwined in it. Someone has to come to grips with something or find peace. Maybe not discover some ultimate "answer," but some level of acceptance. I think I want that from Night Radio's readers, too?to see that all of us are flawed. But it's how we develop after those discoveries. I think the protagonist in Night Radio is not very likeable at first, but then begins a journey that changes him forever. That can happen for all of us.
How has the response been so far?
I've been fortunate to have had good reviews both from readers and critics. It's, to some extent, an unconventional story narrative. But as one critic said, "it works." I hope so. I'll permit the reader to decide. It may be MY story when I'm writing it, but it is THEIR story when they are reading it.
When do you write every day? What's your favorite time and place?
I'm a coffee shop writer. I don't like total silence or what I call the tree house approach, to hide away somewhere. I like energy and people and the clinking of coffee cups and even the whir of an espresso machine. Most of all I like conversation around me. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be writing in the middle of chaos, but I do want life around me. Time for writing? Anytime. But I do like mornings, when I have that opportunity. But I have written at every hour. If I had to pick a time I do not do well writing, or don't like, it would be after dinner. I prefer mornings? even early, early mornings, just as the sun is rising?or afternoons. Two to three hours. Rarely more. Take a break, come back to it, but never 4 to 5 hours straight. And always quit for the day knowing where you are going with the story. That way you?ll come back with a place to start.
How are you able to write books in addition to teaching at Columbia and doing radio news?
I really do think it has something to do with my broadcast background. We write fast in radio; we write on very hard deadlines. Plus, as I mentioned before, I work hard at trying to make writing a priority. I think of it as working out?got to go to the gym and get the work done. I carve out time here and there?an hour here, two there, fifteen minutes on a train. Writing for me is at the top of my list of things to do; I always make time.
What's the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction?
I had a friend in a writing workshop one time ask me what I wrote. At the time it was all creative nonfiction, memoir. "Creative nonfiction," I said. "Oh," he said, "you write the hard stuff." He was a fiction writer. He truly believed writing what was real was tougher than making it up. For me, that seemed ridiculous. I come from a journalist background, and to make it up seemed very odd. But now that I have written fiction, along with memoir, I see what he meant. All my fiction has come from someplace real, but I can change and tweak the story to fit a narrative. Creative nonfiction or memoir is real, or at least the essence of truth, and that sometimes can be raw. I really like the raw stuff, the good and real emotions below the surface, but I have to say, I also like "making it up" more than I thought I initially would. The difference is permitting yourself to be free of restraints. You can be utterly free in fiction and only marginally free in memoir.
Do you write by hand?
Laptop. But I do take notes in a journal that I refer to sometimes. It's a Moleskine.
Why do you like writing so much?
I have always been a creator. Wrote songs, some bad poetry, but when I started writing more regularly, it became my go-to outlet. It's life-affirming. It gives me peace and energy at the same time. I am compelled to do it.
What other books have you written?
I have four books and a fifth coming out in 2017. Accidental Lessons was my first, a story of my time teaching in a public school system at a very tumultuous time in my personal life. Any Road Will Take You There is also a memoir, probably my most intimate book. It was named the 2012 Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association for non-traditional nonfiction. I was quite humbled. And There's a Hamster in the Dashboard, which is a collection of essays about living with pets. I was pleased to have the Chicago Book Review name it one of the Best Books of 2015. Night Radio is my first novel. And October Song, due out in April of 2017, is about holding on to dreams when we age, a road trip story about music and the passage of time.
Do you wish you could go back and rewrite any of them?
I'm laughing thinking about your question regarding rewriting a book. Here's all I have to say about that: I believe it was Leonardo da Vinci who said or wrote, "Art is never finish, only abandoned."
What have you learned over the years in writing your books?
If you are writing memoir, don't hold back. Be willing to open your heart and be brutally honest because the reader will sense, will know, when you are not giving it all up. And in fiction, never answer the question fully when you are asked, "Did any of this really happen?" But above all, I've learned, at least for me, don't write to a genre or a particular market; write what matters to you. Please yourself first. Your readers will come. Writing is zen-like, spiritual, personal. When you turn art into a business or exclusively into an act of commerce, it loses something very special.
What authors do you like?
Oh, there are a lot. Creative nonfiction writers?Joan Didion, Philip Lopate, Dinty W. Moore, Abigail Thomas, Annie Dillard. Fiction?Jack Kerouac, Hemingway, Tobias Wolff, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon. I'm missing a ton. Poets, although I don't claim to know poetry, but I know what I like?Billy Collins, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Whitman. In 2014 you were Writer-in-Residence at The Kerouac House in Orlando, and now you are Writer in Residence at the Hemingway Birthplace home through next summer. How did you get those?
In both cases, I had to apply for the positions. They are vetted through writing samples and history of publication, and your vision of what you want to do with your time there. Author : Margaret Larkin
Bridgeport Continuing my "series" about the positive aspects of the South Side...is Bridgeport, an established neighborhood that's becoming an extension of Chinatown and possibly a future hub of hipster activity. There are traces of it so far on 31st street, where there's a popular bar called Maria's (that I was told Northsiders flock to)...
...and the more ubiquitous Bridgeport Coffee House, which feels like how coffee places used to be, and is the source of local coffee that's distributed throughout the city.
What I love about living in the city are the details, and this coffee shop is not short on aesthetics; it has one of those old ceilings that is a work of art in itself, and is filled with light fixtures and other decor that express its uniqueness.
The sign blends with a carved exterior from a long-gone architectural past....
...that also appears next door.
And as is typical around the city, elaborate stonework pops up in different parts of Bridgeport, including Holden Elementary School.
In other words, Bridgeport is worth the trip!
Author : Margaret Larkin
What\'s good about the South Side I've been teaching on the South Side (more specifically, southwest side) of Chicago for almost a decade, and I have met great people down there. Before that, my interaction with wonderful South Side people was in the southwest suburb of Burr Ridge, where I worked at an excellent company (and made the huge mistake of leaving, which I regretted for years [that's worth a separate post]).
What bothers me is the bad reputation the South Side gets because of the shootings and other dysfunction that's reported in the local media, national media, and probably international media as well. The South Side is not all bad--it's a huge place with beautiful areas, friendly, straightforward people, and the best Mexican food in the city. I was going to start a separate blog about the Good of the South Side, but decided against it because I don't want my hobby blogging to feel like a job (I do blog for work sometimes); I love blogging and want to keep the feeling of fun alive.
I was at the good writing gig and was talking to coworker Dan Frank, who's yet another super-friendly Southsider, about the positive aspects of the South Side that do not get reported or really noticed, unless you work or live down there. He took a picture of this nice, large house on Longwood Drive, south of 103rd Street. This is the South Side that you don't see on the news.
It's in a stable neighborhood with more birds and trees than the concrete and guns you often hear about.
There will be more positive news coming from the South Side...stay tuned. Author : Margaret Larkin
I don\'t want to type on glass Just when I thought I'd found a great phone (I gave up my iPhone for a Blackberry Classic), the company is killing the Classic. This is horrible news for me and the other people around the world who totally enjoy the solidity, accurate typing (with a real keyboard), and reliability of this great phone. Sure, we don't have access to thousands of apps (which I still don't care about), but it's been so helpful for communication. I have seven email accounts on my phone (and sometimes have to add Outlook as well)*, have been able to successfully go online, talk to a human via voice, use the phone all day without charging (it's been on for over 12 hours so far today), input Japanese (lots of languages available), etc. I've also taken lots of notes on the phone because the keyboard is real. I don't want to go back to typing on glass or avoiding communication because the typing experience was a chore (I used to avoid emailing until I got to a regular computer). I got the phone in February, which was obviously too late because I'm the owner of a phone that is on its way to extinction, and it's barely entered my life :(
I will use the Classic until it doesn't function well anymore (as I've been using this MacBook Pro2,2 for this blog post...it's 10 years old at this point). I have to eventually decide if I'll go back to the iPhone or use Android (on which I can use the wonderful Filmic Pro app that obviously could not be used on the Classic).
I was afraid that I would regret giving up my iPhone, but I don't. I have totally enjoyed the Classic, and will miss it when it's gone :(
*I have 12 or 13 email accounts (hard to keep track), but I keep seven on the phone because the others aren't necessary to have access to all the time. Yes, I'm proud of the fact that I have so many email accounts, and look forward to getting more :p Author : Margaret Larkin
Why I got a Blackberry It's too bad I'm not a rich, powerful, or famous person because my endorsement of Blackberry would probably affect a lot of people, and the company would be happy. I'm just an average joe, living life and trying to find ways to effectively communicate with others.
It took me a while to get a smartphone (which will probably not be called "smart" or maybe not even a "phone" in the future because such devices will be commonplace and won't need such a descriptor; but that's another post). The only reason why I moved from a simple cell to a smarter version is because I literally missed out on freelance work; people emailed me, and since I wasn't at a computer, I didn't read the emails for a while, thus missing opportunities.
I got a Blackberry Bold, and I was just glad to have something that combined my multiple email addresses (I currently have six on my phone, and have an additional three at a few workplaces). I wasn't happy with the slow Internet and was even more upset about the lack of multilingual capabilities. So I switched to an iPhone 4s, which had lots of great features.
This is not a slam against Apple because I've been using their computers since the early 80s, even when they fell out of favor. When people started noticing how great Apple computers were and bought various iProducts, I was proud of the fact that I'd been a loyal customer for so many years, not just a fair-weather friend. Of course, I liked the iPhone because it was a further example of the elegant technology that was characteristic of Apple.
But there were some things I missed about the Blackberry. The biggest feature was the keyboard. I could write long pieces of texts, and even typed out all my notes from a class on it. But I figured that ship had sailed, and we either had to choose an iPhone or Android.
One day, I'd had enough of the iPhone. It happened when they did an OS update, which made my phone almost inoperable. Until then, I'd managed to use it for videos (with an excellent Apogee MiC that I could plug in to it), photos, Google Voice (which has been discontinued for Blackberry), email, and other things. Even though the system seemed solid and the design was pleasant, it seemed that they didn't care about older phones; with every OS update, they made the phone less enjoyable, almost seeming to punish us for not upgrading to a 6. I didn't want a 6; my phone was enough for me, and the Apogee MiC's plug fit my phone, and I didn't want to get an adapter for the newer versions. I also liked the thickness and smaller size of the 4S; the 6 was bigger and thinner, which I didn't want (even though lots of people want such sizes, and it was Apple's response to the popularity of Samsung's bigger phones).
There was also the annoyance of the forced U2 album, which auto-played at random times, even when I was using the phone to make an actual phone call (I would hear some music starting, wondering if there was some kind of on-hold music somewhere, but it was a U2 song that I hadn't requested or downloaded or even knew existed). I eventually followed the directions to remove it from the iCloud (which continues to send messages that I have to log in, even though I didn't, and still don't, care about using it). That imposition was part of the larger iPhone issue: they're really into their identity to the point that I end up finding out about executives' personal lives and personalities, as if they're aspiring to dish out their own version of celebrity gossip; the company seems to be about its image and people, as well as the product. I don't care about the people; does the product work? It does? Good. I'll buy it.
I was way overdue for an upgrade, so out of curiosity, I checked to see if Blackberry was still around. I found the Blackberry Classic with very good reviews. They were so convincing, I went to a Verizon store to check it out. That was a mistake. I told the salesperson that I was interested in the Classic, and she did *not* want to accept my request. She tried to convince me to get an Android. I kept telling her I wanted the Classic, and she asked me why, not accepting my reasons. So I left the store and called Verizon for the upgrade. When I said that I wanted an upgrade, the person probably assumed it was in the iPhone family, because when I said "Blackberry Classic," there was a long pause. Silence. Disbelief. But he processed my request. (Dear Verizon: it's okay to want a Blackberry.)
The Classic is fantastic, but if you're into lots of apps, stick with Android or iPhone. People say there are plenty of apps, and you can find some in the Amazon App store. But in other places, when I see apps advertised, they give only iPhone or Android options. Also, some apps don't behave like they should, even though they can be loaded.
But I don't care about apps anyway, except for Filmic Pro, which was my go-to friend when I created iPhone videos. They don't have an app for the Blackberry (of course), so I have to use my husband's iPhone instead. And Google products are pretty useless on Blackberry as well (though I have a Chromebook and an Android OS on an SD card in my aging Nook, which is another topic for another post).
Bottom line: I don't regret returning to Blackberry! This is why: 1 - Excellent typing. I've resumed taking lots of notes and communicate with people a lot more because typing is so easy. Before I'd wait a while to respond (if it wasn't work-related) because I knew I'd have typos. And of course, I'd never write anything that was lengthy. Now it doesn't matter! 2 - It's now international! I easily loaded the Japanese alphabet on my phone, and can switch back and forth with no problem. 3 - Anything can be done on the touchscreen, but there are options, like the menu button. I can also select text by touching the screen, but I can also use the trackpad. Options! 4 - I like how the text looks when I'm reading an eBook (Amazon works very well on it), article, etc. I feel like it's solid and sleek. 5 - I can put files where I want! When I had an iPhone, I couldn't download files where I wanted; it forced files into "boxes" or apps that I didn't choose or create. But the Classic allows me to use it like a computer, with file folders and a directory that I can control. So if I download an mp3, it's a pure file; I can put it where I want. Same goes for a PDF, photo, or anything else. And mp3's just play when I hit them; I don't have to open iTunes or whatever to process them. I like the flexibility! 6 - They've improved the Internet speed and photo quality, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on better tech.
When people see my Blackberry, I get perplexed looks, with comments like, "They still make Blackberrys?" Or "The company is still around? I thought they went bankrupt." Or "God bless you for having a Blackberry." I'm a throwback, and apparently, I'm part of the one-percent, which seems to be the market share that Blackberry has. But I don't care. This is not a popularity contest, and I'm getting what I need out of my phone. Like I said earlier, I can't affect many people because I'm not rich, powerful, or famous, but at least I'm one person helping to stem the tide of the company's failure. Author : Margaret Larkin
When "we" is really "I" I recently went to an event at a professional organization to hear a specialist speak about a technical issue, and before I went, I looked at the speaker's website (I won't link to it here or mention the specifics because I'm not being complimentary and don't want the person to know I'm being critical). All over the website, it used the pronoun "we," as in "we provide," "we train," "we deliver," and even the title "Who we are" on the About page. So I assumed there were at least a few trainers/consultants working for the company. But when I asked the speaker how many employees he had, or if he used freelancers instead, he said, "I'm the only one who works there." I was surprised, but when I really thought about it, I realized he's not the only business person who puts "we" on his website. Earlier this year, I was looking at an acquaintance's website, and since "we" was all over it, I naturally asked how many people worked for the company. But I got the same answer: "I work by myself."
I think it is misleading and even untruthful to put "we" on a business website when there is really just one person working there. Are people seriously impressed (and do they believe it) when a business *appears* to be more than just a one-man show? It ends up being hype and can even affect the person's reputation because other people might find out that he/she is putting misinformation on the official site. It also seems like individual business people are trying to puff themselves up to attract attention. I know of an established company that hired someone who implied that they were larger than they actually were, and when they were given a large project, they couldn't handle it, because their "we" was really "I." So the large company had to find an alternative when the single person couldn't deliver on time (he was totally overwhelmed, though I don't know if he scrambled to find some freelance help). People don't always end up being exposed like that, but they're still taking a gamble when they claim to be something they're not.
Some people seemed talented and professional, but when their website ends up being hyperbole, it's not only insincere but not respectable. Plus, some people create a website with "we" all over it, and they haven't even bothered to create a proper business (ie, registering with the Secretary of State, paying the fees, creating an LLC or incorporating). It's better to be honest and say you're a freelancer rather than create a fancy website and pretending to be more than you actually are.
So I commend those people who are truthful in the representation of their business and services. One such person is language fan/pro Sarah Dillon. When she only had her translation/interpretation business, she was totally upfront on her website about working by herself (I've never met her, so I'm just summarizing her approach based on what I saw). Now she's become a consultant, but she still makes it clear that she's alone. There's nothing wrong with that, and she doesn't seem to be a wannabe. So I'm assuming the way she works is ethical, as well.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Language nerd? I was doing a search for the meaning and usage of the word "twee" because I like the sound and connotation. I've heard British people say it, and I like how they apply the word to a variety of situations. I don't really consider it a common American word, so I was surprised that a professional journalist wrote an entire column/article (whatever it's called) in the Tribune pretty much focused on it. Even out of the gate, he seems obsessed with it:
Twee is pervasive, genteel and hard to bear, pixie-haired, wide-eyed and precocious. Twee is also out of hand, and more complicated than it seems. See, though being twee is often regarded as a negative quality, tweeness is not necessarily insufferable.
Obviously, he's into language in a general sense because he's a professional writer and seems to be doing well (and lucky to be working in the shrinking newspaper biz), but he *really* seems to be into language because he shapes his piece around the word "twee" to the point that I wonder if his intention was to write about the word or about pop culture (which seems to be his beat). It's almost nerdy, which is refreshing to see in the simplifying media world. (I'm a proponent of clear, simple writing, so it's not a knock against what 21st century mass writing has become, just an observation.)
But back to the American vs British usage of the word. Because I pretty much never hear people say it in the USA but have heard Brits use it, I assume it's not at the top of people's minds here. So it's surprising that he shapes the essay around the word, as if people have heard it often and are nodding their heads in agreement. Are people sick of the word, or concept? I don't know if they hear it enough to get sick of it, or even know what it really means and how it can be applied.
I'm not saying what he's doing is wrong, it's just atypical because his post seems like it's meant to be a review of some TV shows, but it's also a review of American culture, yet also expresses a fascination with the word itself. His enthusiasm is obvious, and his writing seems to be really good (which is why he's living the dream). Author : Margaret Larkin
They transliterated ??? as "sushiito." The double-i means it's a long sound, but ??? doesn't have that: ?=su ?=shi ?=to. If they were truly transliterating it, the Japanese would be ????: ?=su ?=shi ?=i ?=to. It seems like they're trying to be clever because they've created a sushi burrito, so they've combined the two words, but they failed in the execution.
Also, I'm concerned about the spelling of "kimchi." According to my favorite Japanese language site, Popjisyo (which now has other Asian languages), when I pasted the Korean word ?? in, it translated it as "kimchi." Even an official kimchi museum in Korea spells it that way. But the sign has that spelling, plus "kimchii." Why couldn't they at least settle on one? (Thought I suspect the double-i would be wrong anyway.)
I'm surprised that a restaurant in a major part of the city (downtown Chicago) made such mistakes. They could've gotten some native speakers or knowledgeable non-natives to proofread the sign. Way to go! How's your food? Author : Margaret Larkin
I think I figured out what a friend is For what seems like a long time, I've been wondering what defines a friend. A lot of people have several "friends" on Fakebook and other social media, and someone might say they're going out with a friend after work, or going on a friend's boat or to a party with "friends." But are those people really friends? Does it matter?
I think it's easier to make friends while we're in school because a lot of people are around us every day, which makes social connections easy. Once we leave school, our environment isn't saturated with people. Some workplaces have a lot of people, but they're silently working at computers or are guarded because they have to maintain a public face in order to survive the politics and maneuvering. One wrong word and they could be out of favor with coworkers, or even out of a job. So as we get older, socializing becomes more superficial because there's more at stake, and lines have been drawn.
People also get busy and live on their own track. If you happen to be on the same track, such as at a job, in a neighborhood, or at your kids' activities, then they'll let you in, and you seem to become friends (or remain friends if you met at another stage of life). But once the track changes, individuals continue moving in their own direction, and crossover is rare or non-existent. Especially in the USA, Americans travel on their own path, and busyness just creates walls between people, or they don't even bother to notice who's around them. Even if people had lots of friends as they were growing up and in university, conditions change because their friends might not be motivated to keep in touch or make an effort to meet up offline as they take on more responsibilities and are worn out from their personal and professional lives. One big life change is having kids--the parents have so much to do every day that friendships become auxiliary, and free time is pretty much non-existent until the kids get to a certain age (as long as they're not high maintenance or the parents aren't the helicopter types).
Sometimes we go through life assuming that people really don't give us much thought, until someone dies. A person who seemed to not have many friends could end up with over 100 at their funeral, where people say positive things and remember the person fondly, as if they really were friends. Maybe it takes death to realize who our friends are, but let's hope not--by that time, it's too late.
Here's what I've realized: friends stay with you no matter where you work or who you are. For example, I worked with someone who I got along with very well. When they got a job somewhere else, the communication via email, text, and even in person continued. That is a friend. Here's who is not a friend: someone I work with who ceases to communicate with me when I leave the job, even when I make an effort. Essentially, the relationship is contextual. Friendships aren't contextual; acquaintances are. Some people will consider their coworkers their friends because they eat lunch together, talk about problems, recognize each other's birthdays, etc. But unless that person is a friend, it all crumbles when someone moves on.
Time also determines friendship. It's very hard to remain friends with someone as life continues and changes occur. I have a couple of friends who I've known for several years, and we really don't have a lot in common at this point, but we keep in touch, go out occasionally, talk on the phone, and generally make an effort to stay connected. It's history that has bonded us, not every similarity.
Which brings me to the next point: friends accept you even if you have different views or lifestyles. A key to enjoying a friend is hanging out with them and talking about whatever you want to, and feeling comfortable enough to express yourself and disagree with the other person without any condemnation. It's also the opportunity to relax and be yourself. I don't care how free American culture claims to be; not many people create an atmosphere for others to be themselves, and people are self-conscious, so they reign in their personalities if they want to feel like they belong.
Friends don't control others. There is the obvious way of controlling, which is sadistic and usually refers to abusive romantic relationships. But what I'm talking about is more subtle and is revealed over time. Some people were raised in chaos or simply have a need for their world to be ordered. That includes people. So they want their friends to behave in a certain way and to say certain things. If the person crosses some kind of perceived line, they're punished or ignored. There's a lack of freedom in conversations or behavior, and there's a kind of standard set which stifles the non-dysfunctional person. Controlling people aren't friends and won't be until they lighten up.
As life throws us curveballs, our definition of friendship changes. They're no longer just the folks we go out with and have fun. They're the ones who encourage us, are available, can talk about anything, and know how to take it easy. They also can give constructive criticism and don't have a problem with receiving it, either. Basically, when we meet someone we click with, it begins a journey and develops from there.
There are a lot of people I like who are interesting and nice, and I wish we could be friends. They are acquaintances or simply people I have met who I might not see again. Because they don't care about becoming friends, or they just don't make the time, the "acquaintance" status doesn't change. And then there are other people who I used to know, who I wish I could still be friends with, but geographical distance or disinterest caused communication to cease.
I know some people who I don't see often, but they call me a "friend." So what they recognize is the connection or history, but we don't carve out a space to hang out. I guess that's okay, because it could be the thought that counts in the end. Author : Margaret Larkin
Dialling I had to borrow a Brit's cell phone because I forgot mine, and as the call was going through, the phone said "dialling." I noticed that the phone was a Chinese brand, so I told the Brit that the Chinese company didn't proofread before production. She said "dialling" is the correct spelling in the UK, and that was the first time I'd ever heard of such a variation.
Even when I wrote the word in the headline and in this post, it was underlined to alert me to the misspelling, but in England, it's okay. And after doing a search online, I noticed that it's the correct spelling in Canada, too. A CTV news story from today says, "he advised that dialling 911 is still the best option during an emergency." There goes that spell-check warning again because I'm in the USA, and here we write "dialing," which seems to make more sense to me.
I know that the English-speaking world has different spellings for different words (such as "specialize" and other words that end in "lize" in American English, but "lise" in other countries). I also know that American English is not the mother tongue, so what right do we have to question anything? But still, after a lifetime of seeing a single "l" after "dial," it's jarring to see two of them.
Ones that really strike my American eye as wrong are BrE dialling and fuelling. Since the l is preceded by a 'long' vowel (the diphthongs /aj/ and /ju/) in my pronunciation), they shouldn't have doubled consonants, just as one doesn't double the L in tailing or healing. They seem to come under the 'doubling' rule because dial and fuel are perceived as having two syllables each, with the latter one being unstressed--i.e. di-al and fu-el. The COD presents the BrE pronunciation as /dai(?)l/ and /'fju:?l/--so definitely two syllables in fuel but not necessarily in dial.
Actually, I think I usually pronounce "dial" as two syllables, but since the emphasis is on the first syllable, the "l" still "shouldn't" be doubled. (I put "shouldn't" in quotes because it seems to be some old rule, and who am I to judge?) I don't have any linguistic theory to add, so I'll just simply say that the spelling seems weird (that's my non-intellectual, non-academic take on it, since I don't even claim to be a linguist). Author : Margaret Larkin
Secondment I was watching the British show New Tricks (the "London Underground" episode), and heard the character DCI Sasha Miller tell another detective that he's someone's "secondment." I had to look up the meaning, since I've never seen or heard it, especially in any kind of media or fictional story. Even when I type the word in this post, it gets underlined in the draft as if it's a spelling mistake (underlined to be spell-checked). My American Heritage Dictionary book doesn't include it, and it's not on their website, either. I even have a large Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, and it's nowhere to be found.
So I'm concluding it's a British word, and that's what the Oxford dictionary says, too. The way the word was used in the show, I assumed it was alluding to the more "traditional" meaning of the word, which is found at the Merriam-Webster site: "the detachment of a person (such as a military officer) from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere." But Oxford defines it as "The temporary transfer of an official or worker to another position or employment." I'm guessing that the Oxford definition (which also shows up elsewhere online) is the contemporary meaning of the word, which is probably a result of the evolution from military to civilian use because work takes up so much of our lives. Basically, when Sasha was telling the other detective to work with someone else on an aspect of the case, the meaning could fall in either camp.
The word seems to be major enough in England to cause people to write on websites about it. For instance, one article on a job site gives advice about "Going on secondment". I bet such advice has never existed on American sites; if people were to see such an article, they'd wonder what it actually means. It seems like a foreign word, even though we share the same language. And Brits reading this would probably think I'm making too much of it. But it's new to me, and another word that shows how our English languages can be dialectical in some respects :p
The full episode is below (which is very kind of the show's producers to post online).
Author : Margaret Larkin
Speak only to the sympathetic I was talking to someone who hasn't had to work in several years, didn't get a college degree or even take any classes, and basically has been living a good life, thanks to a successful spouse and insulated social circle.
They were asking me about someone who is working in a very tough industry, who has had a hard time getting work. The person has done "day jobs" between being unemployed, and success in the desired profession has been elusive.
The lack of success has been devastating, demoralizing, and depressing. It's caused sadness and anger, and the suffering is real.
The insulated person who was asking about the sufferer had the usual judgement in their voice. And for once I could say, "They're working." Not just at a job, but one in the desired profession. The professional breakthrough seems like a miracle, and is a welcome reprieve from years of striving and strife.
What many people don't seem to understand is that pursuing a dream is hard, heartbreaking, and can even be painful. The mistake that the dreamers make is telling all kinds of people about their pursuit. What they should be doing is only talking about the dream to those they trust, who won't judge them or discourage them.
The problem with people who are living safely, or are happy to maintain the status quo, is that they don't seem to comprehend or care that others don't see life as a straight, predictable line that can be tamed. The people who are taking chances and are paying the price for their vision need to avoid those people who are not on a similar path. Otherwise, they will be faced with judgement, indifference, and a lack of understanding. Which will make the suffering worse, and cause further isolation.
A person doesn't have to be free of the need to work to lack sympathy; it could be someone whose logical steps have led to a "sensible" career, who hasn't even thought about pursuing anything outside of their scheduled job commitments. What matters most is to avoid those who are not supportive and instead find like-minded people. Then life will become more sane.
Author : Margaret Larkin
How death changed my perspective I've been thinking about this for years, especially since I seem to have experienced a lot over the past decade (I want to write about it all here, but instead I talk about it offline with sympathetic people).
In 2006, when John Deaver was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in less than a month, my view of friends and people I like changed forever. Before he was sick, I communicated with him usually via email, but I always assumed he'd be around. So I took him for granted. That's not unusual; there are a lot of people in our lives who we expect to live for a while because they're not elderly and aren't ill. But surprisingly, he had advanced colon cancer which spread to his brain, and his life was cut short.
After that, when I would meet someone I like, I would make an effort to stay in touch and would compliment them and let them know about the positive feelings I felt. I didn't do that with John. I remember when he'd just had brain surgery, and he could barely talk. He seemed like a content child. I shared how I felt, but I knew time was running out. Since then, I'd be sure to be honest with people and try to encourage them. I also realized that the relationships we have should be valued. That means I want to connect with others in a real way and not waste time on trivialities or tiresome games.
I think some people think I'm weird. That's probably because they haven't experienced such an awakening. So as I've become more sensitive, honest, and wanting to realistically connect, many people have not. They're on their own tracks, pursuing what they want. I used to be the same way; I had my tasks and goals, and I went about trying to get them done. I'd see people along the way, but I didn't really consider their worth.
What's resulted is a frequent analysis of how people, especially Americans (since I'm American and have been in the US most of my life), relate to others. We are in a country where we can pretty much live how we want. We can pursue our dreams, meet lots of people, and travel on our own individual path. American life is fantastic in that way. There aren't many cultural rules that emerge from a long history; we're a young country and there is so much variety, we can pretty much shape our destinies. We can establish something in one city, make friends, join clubs, then move somewhere else and start again. Those friends we make are situational, and we might maintain contact on social media, but we don't really have to do much because new people can be found wherever we are.
I guess I was a typical American in that way. Since John's death, and the deaths of family and others over the years (and witnessing serious illnesses), I've realized that people really matter. I don't even know how to define a friend at this point because a lot people operate at a busy pace, getting their stuff done. If something were to seriously happen, who would show up? I've noticed people say kind things when something serious happens, but then they're back to their own grids.
I wonder if other people have noticed what I have, or what they think. Many people have written about social isolation, and that could be another post. But does the typical person think about their view of others' roles in life? Maybe death will make them think about it. Author : Margaret Larkin
I\'m keeping a journal It seems like I've neglected this blog, but I've still been writing a lot. I decided a few months ago to keep a journal, and it seems to help. I've avoided it for several years because I didn't want to face my thoughts, but it's helped me clear my head. I'm also able to quickly express how I feel through writing instead of walking around with the feelings bottled up inside.
What's not typical, I guess, is that I'm doing it online, though I'm not publicizing or promoting the entries. I've started another blog somewhere else, and haven't told anyone about it. Most of the entries are private, and a few are public, but they're about topics I can't write about here, because I would probably get into trouble for being too honest.
At first, I was going to just create a document on my computer and write that way, but I thought since I really like writing online, I'll do my journal there, even though there's no audience. But there's something "dangerous" about writing online, even when the posts aren't exposed. The service could be hacked and all the contents revealed, or maybe someone would figure out who I am from reading the public posts. Who knows. But it's not as solid as writing in a book or typing a Word document.
Sometimes my private posts become public because I realize things that should be shared with the world, in case someone stumbles upon it and wants some "help" or at least understanding. I've done lots of searches online and have found blogs that nailed what I was thinking, and that kind of sympathetic expression helps me feel that I'm not alone.
I recommend people keep a journal (I'm not going to use "journal" as a verb, as in "I recommend people journal"), especially if things are not going their way. Then they can avoid venting to people who don't want to listen or getting angry about some disappointment in life without turning bitter.
Honestly, if the Internet was how it was 20 years ago, maybe we could get away with being honest online. But at this point, I don't want to be so transparent because I have no idea what my work situation will be, and I don't want to jeopardize any potential opportunities. Now I'm getting frustrated, so I think I'll resume writing elsewhere :)
Author : Margaret Larkin
About video production I took my second digital video class this semester, and the instructor said we can get extra credit if we talk to someone at a video production company and write an essay about it. So I contacted an established business in Chicago: Big Shoulders, which is a full-service production house. They do all kinds of production for various clients, and do live broadcasts as well. They have three locations: one in the Hancock building, one on Wacker and Michigan, and a warehouse in Alsip. On the day I visited the Hancock location, they were broadcasting a live satellite tour. A man was sitting in front of an image of the Chicago skyline, and he spoke to TV outlets throughout the country.
Big Shoulders doesn?t own any shows but provides whatever is needed to get projects done. Several people work there, so the company usually doesn?t have to hire freelancers, unlike other production companies that are headed by one or two people who staff each project with lots of freelancers. Usually employees are assigned to one aspect of a project, including motion graphics, camera crews, audio engineering, editing, and graphic design.
I talked to Jeff Tudor, who is an executive producer. He has worked in TV news with CNN, and also freelanced with crews in Chicago. As part of managing projects at the company, he has to set the budget. In order to efficiently budget a project, he has to know the day rate of the employees, overall labor costs, how long it will take to shoot and edit, and allow for extra time in case there are problems at the location (such as sound) or if the talent makes mistakes. A project includes a budget, production schedule, shooting which takes 10 to 12 hours a day, photography, building sets, and post-production. Editing could take up to two weeks, and the company usually uses Avid (by the way, he said if you don?t know Avid, skills from other computer programs translate). If clients have a smaller budget, more inexperienced people are assigned to work on it and cheaper cameras are used.
He said that video is a small community, so it?s important to network and get to know people in the industry. A good way to build relationships is to make friends and to listen, and as you work on crews, you can meet people who will tell you about opportunities. Big production houses have cocktail parties and seasonal events, so people can connect there, too. He said the best way to build a network is to do an internship. Big Shoulders has internships for students and an extern program for people who are already out of school. Doing an internship or externship is a great way to gain skills and demonstrate your proficiency because that?s how they usually hire people. He also said people should get to know the scheduling departments of production companies to find opportunities.
He said a person?s reel should be a one-and-a-half minute compilation of their best, most recent segments. If you work behind the scenes and aren?t involved in imaging or other work that can be represented visually, then use photos that show you working in a studio. If you?re too busy to update your reel, you should compile notes about what you want to put in the reel when you have more time to do it. It?s also important to be on LinkedIn so that potential employers can easily see your experience.
Overall, you should be professional, easy to work with, and open to new opportunities. Jeff said his friend was a boom operator on many shoots, and because he was always on a set, he was able to watch people work. He learned a lot, and is now a director. So just observing the whole process helped him move ahead. What I found interesting was that Jeff said the industry in Chicago isn?t really competitive. People get along and just focus on doing their jobs. He said that Chicago is a friendly, hard-working place, and people are open to sharing information and talking about projects. That is very different from radio, which is a competitive, shrinking business full of insecurity. He also said that while LA is more entertainment-oriented, Chicago is varied, where people do independent and corporate films. He said he likes working in the business because it?s collaborative, fun, creative, and every day is different.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Rare newsletter I've been getting newsletters from various people and companies for a while, and I've even written newsletters. But recently I got a really good newsletter from Dobie Maxwell, who's a comedian. You'd think his newsletters would be light, funny, and even superficial, but his latest newsletter has a lot of honesty that is rare.
Usually newsletters, even end-of-year holiday letters, are filled with positive information that is also self-congratulatory to make the reader feel impressed. But Dobie's newsletter from this month has sincere feelings that are pretty much never seen in newsletters or in those boastful holiday cards that make the family seem extraordinary. Such honesty is also rare nowadays in blogs (which I've mentioned before), but he's consistently written such posts at his blog, too (though he discontinued it last year to write a book).
Anyway, he said I can post an excerpt from his newsletter, so here it is:
My whole life is taking on a new direction of late, and I?m not 100% sure where it?s going but I know I?m really liking it. Gone forever are the days when I devoted the all of my being to chasing the dream of being an entertainer. No more being on the road 45 to 50 weeks a year ? year after year after year. I?ve had my fill of that.
The thrill of being on stage is still fun, but only to a degree. When I?m off stage I am finding there is a lot more to life than just trying to get to the next gig. There is a huge price that comes with chasing the showbiz dream, and I just don?t think it?s worth it ? at least not for me. I feel myself yearning to experience new challenges.
One of if not the most delightful things that has happened in my life has been the continuing reconnection with my siblings. It has been exactly what I have wanted since I was a small child, and having it happen has been nothing short of a miracle. I never thought it was possible, but after a lifetime of waiting it really is happening.
Not caring in the least what happens show business wise has ironically given me a new found power I have never felt before. There is all kinds of sucking up to be done to people of questionable integrity, and that?s pretty much what show biz is. I never enjoyed that part of it, and it has showed. I have managed to alienate myself with more than one ?powers that be?, and that has caused undue pain and stress.
Now, I could not care less about any of that. The people that don?t like me aren?t going to change their opinion any time soon, so why try to change their minds? I?m not going to let them control my ultimate destiny, even though they think they do.
They might be able to book or not book me for some comedy shows, but that?s as far as it goes. They can?t stop the growth of my soul, and that?s what has happened in this past year with my family reconnection. There is a part of me that was asleep for decades, and now it?s wide awake and enjoying life. Comedy can?t touch that.
The newsletter is longer than what I've posted here, and if you want to sign up for them, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Author : Margaret Larkin
A good writing gig I was going to name this post "The Best Writing Gig" but I decided against it because I don't know if "best" is possible in anything. But for the past year, I've been a news writer at one of the most successful news radio stations in the US, and probably the top radio station in Chicago.
I've been writing for several years for different companies, and because I'm not an introvert, it's been sort of tough in some situations because there wasn't much, or any, in-person human contact. I assumed that's how writing is, which is why I've never done it full time. However, when I got the news writing gig, I discovered it had these positive elements:
1 - I'm really part of a team. I work with an editor, who sets the stories and content; an on-air news anchor, who reads what I write; and an assistant producer, who's in charge of audio that appears in some of the stories (some stories are only text while others include audio). Each of us plays a role, and we each have to do our job to make the group strong. So instead of writing alone at a computer and sending out the copy to someone who I might never meet offline, I am in a room with other people, which helps to satisfy my more extroverted characteristics.
2 - What I write is immediate. Even though the deadlines are tight, what I write is read on the air within an hour of when it's finished. I can also hear the person read what I write, so I know that what I write really matters. The urgency forces me to be quick and correct while also making sense for the listeners. The challenge gives me a rush and also satisfies another aspect of my personality, which is intensity. Other types of writing may have a deadline, but I usually just send it out and don't know when the person will respond or what they think. I also have to motivate myself to finish the work because there's no one physically there waiting for it to use it as urgently. It's satisfying to know the value of what I produce.
3 - I'm working with professionals. Radio is full of people who knew someone to get their job and others who are hired for reasons other than skill. But everyone I currently work with is good at what they do, and they take it seriously. They didn't get their jobs because they knew someone but because they had to prove themselves in some way, through tests (writers have to take a timed writing test to be considered), airchecks, and experience. It's probably one of the few radio stations that is so professional, and the standards are high. It's like playing with a sports team that's won a bunch of championships.
Basically, I've done a lot of solitary writing and translation work that is really suited to an introvert. I love language, but I don't always want to sit at a computer all alone working on pieces that are sent out into the ether. When I started this blog, I was working a lot more with language in such a situation. After taking some detours, I'm back in the language world, but I'm even more convinced that I don't want to just float in an orbit around the connected world alone at my desk. So I'm glad I have this good writing gig to offset other work that is more indicative of isolating, technology-driven modern society (which is a subject for another post).
Author : Margaret Larkin
Some work-related highlights of 2014 Now that the year is coming to a close, I want to write about some memorable, positive work experiences that I had this year. I don't usually write about work, though sometimes I'd love to vent about some things, but that's obviously a huge mistake to make online. During the holiday season for the past few years, I've worked many days at WGN Radio filling in for the Creative Director, Commercial Director, and even some producers. This year I haven't had the opportunity to do that because I was required to leave there in order to take a writer's gig at another radio station (which will be a separate post because it's the best writing gig I've ever had). Even though my positive work experiences really span more than just this year, I want to talk about it now because this year was the end of that chapter in my [weird] work life.
First of all, radio is a shrinking, failing business for many reasons that a lot of other people have delved into in various places online, so I won't get into it here. But the combination of the insecure business plus insecure people means working with others, especially on-air folks, can be challenging (some aspects of which I wrote about in The Help and The Hierarchy of Personality). Earlier this year my time with Bill Moller wrapped up. I had been working on his show as a producer for almost two years. He has been working in media (mostly TV) for several years, and is also a highly-paid consultant. Basically, he's a very successful guy, but the way he treated me was memorable because he didn't care that I wasn't successful (well, that I wasn't successful in the same way--I guess in terms of life satisfaction, I'm successful). Successful people *should* treat others well, but unfortunately I've noticed that someone as decent as Bill is rare for a few reasons that probably include money, position, and the inability to relate to, or care about, those who aren't on the same level. Bill always let me be myself, which meant a lot to me since I don't have a milquetoast personality, and he let me express my thoughts and opinions, even if he didn't agree. He also consistently showed appreciation for what I was doing, even though, honestly, my job wasn't difficult. It's his decency that made my job easy because he was never demanding or rude, and he never "pulled rank" to let me know he was the Talent, and I was not. I really felt like I was a part of a team, which, again, is rare in radio. I was treated so well and respectfully, it became a standard when I worked with others to the point that I really didn't want to work on other shows anymore.
Another excellent experience was filling in for the Commercial Director. What made it so fantastic was that I was doing very enjoyable work, plus I was interacting with wonderful people *every single* time. It is very hard to find such a combination. When my boss took time off and I would fill in, he totally trusted me and just let me do my job. I absolutely looked forward to filling in for him, and it is probably the best work experience I've ever had. I won't name the people here because they might be embarrassed, but I had to deal with sales people, production people, voiceover people, traffic/continuity people, management, and sometimes on-air people, and I always had fun, fulfilling interactions with them. There were times when the deadlines were tight, but it always worked out, and I really felt like the whole thing gelled in every way. Another rare experience.
Filling in for the Creative Director was a different experience, but what made it special was the guy I filled in for had a ton of experience and was super-picky, but he also trusted me to do the work. He even complimented me, which he doesn't do readily, so it meant a lot. Overall, doing creative audio for a radio station engages the mind like few other tasks do, and I was privileged to get that opportunity.
Of course, teaching this year was good, and I will continue to do it because there is no strife or office politics, which is another rare situation. It's also a place where we can be open and outgoing and have fun. (I mentioned that workplace in my Introverted World post.)
I've tried to thank individual people outside this blog post, but if I've forgotten anyone, I'd like to say THANK YOU and have a great 2015! Author : Margaret Larkin
If you like David Bowie, see this exhibition Even though I live near the Museum of Contemporary Art and like David Bowie's music, I wasn't very interested in going to the exhibition until I got an email offering a slight discount (because I'd already bought a ticket for someone else). It was worth the price! I wasn't expecting much because when I'd seen other exhibitions of famous people, there weren't many artifacts, and the presentations didn't seem so innovative. A good example of an underwhelming and disappointing exhibition was about PelÚ, which I saw in Brazil. Even though I don't care much about soccer, I thought there would be more information and items to look at that covered his life and career. What I remember most was how it seemed to be a commercial for Coke. Maybe I'm not remembering accurately, but the Coke logo and red color seemed to dominate the exhibition. So I thought the "David Bowie Is" show would be a bunch of hollow hype. But it was way more!
The most impressive aspect of the exhibit was how they creatively used multimedia to show his performances, influences, and recollections. There were also numerous documents, including handwritten lyrics, historical artifacts, and sketches. Plus, there were several outfits displayed that he'd used throughout his career, along with explanations of the designers and inspirations (such as Kansai Yamamoto using concepts from 19th century Japanese theater). When I bought the tickets, the guy said that it would take 1.5 hours to get through the whole show. But I spent about 4 hours there, and would have stayed longer if the museum didn't have to close. It's best to go through it twice to fully get the impact of all the visuals and to listen to the audio that enhances some of the installations. If you're into his music, you'll hear many songs in your headphones as you pass by TVs and through rooms, and in the final room, you can see various performances from over the years. This is a room worth settling in to for a while because it also has his outfits that are illuminated between the sets. I even watched all of his film clips. Seriously, it's a vibrant show that effectively showcases his creativity over years.
Time is running out--the exhibition is only until January 4, and Chicago is the only venue in the United States! If you don't live in Chicago, it's worth the trip, because you'll also get to see the city all lit up for the holidays. I didn't intend on even blogging about the show, but it was so impressive, I really think Bowie fans should see it. (I took all the pictures below: prepping the poster, opening night, and how the poster looked on the museum's wall.)
Author : Margaret Larkin
A great explanation of creative struggles It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog, and I thought I was going to post more often since I resumed working more with language (as a news writer and ESL teacher). But I've been taking a digital video class this semester that has filled my brain, ie, I haven't really expressed myself creatively in other areas. Even though my video projects are short, they've taken several hours, in addition to the other homework, class time, and socializing with other students. It's been fantastic, and is one of, or possibly the best, class I've ever taken!
Since I'm not working in radio much and haven't been doing any audio production for radio lately (which I used to do more often at the previous companies I worked), I've felt down and frustrated at times. But then I would notice that my mood would lift when I worked on my video projects. For instance, I've been working on creating a rough cut of my final project, and even though it's just a few minutes long, I've spent thousands of minutes refining the visual and audio aspects of it, and have felt great every time! Even when I do a blog post here, I feel really good, like I'm in The Zone. But my lack of writing here made me inexplicably muddled and I kept feeling guilty due to procrastination and avoidance.
It turns out that the weird feelings I've been having are actually "normal" for a creative person. I don't go around thinking I'm creative, and really don't admit to it if someone brings it up, but after reading this post by an artist, it all makes sense.
The artist, Cedar Lee, writes that artists struggle psychologically and have other negative feelings, then offers her theories about why they get depressed if they don't work: art is empowering, art gives identity, art makes you high. The post is worth the read--you might identify with what she's saying, even if you do other creative things. Actually, I've heard that performers crash when they step off a stage or away from a microphone. There are probably other good articles out there about creative depression, so I'll keep looking. Author : Margaret Larkin
I should answer this question, then duck...because it'll drive people who are trying to get published absolutely crazy. I was asked to. I was off the air at the time ("between jobs" as they say in the business), and was sending out a weekly newsletter called "JC Mail," which was a collection of random thoughts and sort of a text version of the show, really. A guy who owns a publishing company here was a subscriber, and sent me a note that said, "I think you should write a book!" I responded, "I think you're right!" About ten months later I did my first of about twenty book signings for Real Life Stories of JC and the Breakfast Club...Or Twenty Minutes In the Dark with Madonna. (The title refers to an interview I was doing with Madonna when a power failure hit.) That book went on to become the fastest-selling book in the publisher's history.
How did you write it? Was it hard to remember all the anecdotes and experiences you had?
The mistake most creative people make is that they don't record or write down their ideas. The greatest idea in the world is useless if you can't REMEMBER it. At the time I carried one of those little voice-recorders around religiously. When I had an idea or recalled a story I thought might be usable I'd bark it into that recorder. Then I transcribed and organized the hundreds of entries and started writing.
When you started writing, did you do an outline? How did you organize all those stories? Did the publisher help you?
The publisher didn't really contribute. I outlined things. The first book was a lot easier because there was a chronology of sorts. It was, in essence, part autobiography, so you start at the beginning, talking about how you got into the business, who your early influences were, then trace the development of your career and take everyone right up to what was, at the time, present day.
Your book makes the radio biz seem really intense and difficult. How would you describe it?
Cut-throat. Radio might be on the bottom rung of the show-biz ladder but it's still show business. And show business is a cut-throat racket.
How is it cut-throat?
ANY form of show-business is cut-throat. Radio is no exception. If you're successful at something, there's always a bunch of people observing who don't think you deserve it and think they can do it a lot better than you can. Radio and show-business is no place to go looking for friends. Now, you may MAKE some friends along the way, but I've found it's the exception to the rule.
What do you think of radio's future?
As for radio's "future," I'd say it's not good. And outside of a few rah-rahs, consultants and industry proponents whose very existence depends on a thriving broadcast industry, I don't know too many people IN the business who think much of it anymore. And, really...why WOULD they. The people calling the shots, by-and-large (and many of them ARE, btw...) are running what's left of it into the ground with ridiculously long commercial stop-sets, a great-diminished on-air staff, decidedly UN-exciting music programming, talk show hosts more interested in what THEY have to say than what their listeners have to say...and all of this at a time when radio is facing its most challenging competition in history. It's all a recipe for disaster, really.
How did people respond to the book when it came out (people in the media and fans)?
Even some of my biggest detractors praised the book because it really was good! I didn't see a single, rotten review. They saved all their venom for the SECOND book! But I think people were really surprised to see I could write. Even my dad, who was a voracious reader, was just stunned.
Why did they save venom for the second book?
I think I stunned everyone, even including my greatest detractors, with the first book's "quality." Nobody saw it coming. When the second one came out they had "recovered," righted themselves, and got their claws out again. In their defense, the second book wasn't nearly as good. But you can only tell your life story once, and I did that in book #1.
How did you have the energy to do so much in your career and keep those crazy hours?
I've never been afraid of hard work. I won't say it was the most difficult thing I ever did, but it required tremendous focus. I was newly-divorced so I was pretty much able to write, for the most part, every day for about eight months.
What about when you were working in radio? I noticed you did morning radio which required waking up very early, plus you did promotional and other activities.
There were really long days and I worked really hard. If you're going to sign on to do these kinds of jobs you have to understand it just comes with the territory. But I really enjoyed being as prominent in the market as I was at the time. I mean, the new "Batman" movie comes out and you're one of a small handful of people who's seen it? That's exciting to know hundreds of thousands of people are listening to and watching what you say, and wondering how YOU got to be sitting across from George Clooney and kidding around with him. There is an incredible rush that comes with that. It's like being handed the baseball to be the starting pitcher of the World Series.
What kind of reaction did you get from the people who you wrote about in the book, such as Emmis management, the head of KMOX, and others?
Much to my surprise, I think most people derived a twisted sense of "enjoyment" over having been referenced in the book. But the thing I really had going for me is that I was very much a "pack-rat" back in those days. So I literally had the newspaper clips, letters, memos, videotapes and other documentation for every story I told, every claim I made and every person or group I called out. It's sort of hard to challenge the validity of a story when you include the clip from the newspaper or a transcript of an encounter.
What kind of feedback did celebrities give about your assessments about them in the back of the book?
Well, I knew they'd never see that stuff because they're all in California and New York, so I was real brave about the things I wrote. Now, I also wrote about some local "celebrities," but I don't recall much reaction. Frankly, in most cases it was a lot of more-detailed back-stories of things, events and people most of my readers already knew about and had an opinion about.
This book was published about 15 years ago. What would you change, omit, or write differently?
I'm embarrassed to admit there were sixteen errors, typos or mistakes. I got the most guff about referencing the address of "The Munsters" address incorrectly. I'm serious. Also, I had a lot of issues with the editor that was assigned to my project. She was a 40-ish, single, very Catholic type and I just don't think she got it. So I'd want a different type of editor. I may also have wanted to "slicken" up the production values. We had an awesome cover and introduction, but the font, resolution and other curb-appeal aspects of the book could have been better. But, in terms of content, I was pretty pleased at the time. It was a first venture. You learn a lot.
What did you learn, and what advice do you have for people who want to write a similar book or another non-fiction book?
Advice: Take notes for six months to a year. Along the way, write down specific phrases and/or short thoughts about exactly HOW you want to write certain passages. WRITE DOWN your ideas!!! Test out some of the stories on friends and family. See if they react with interest and curiosity to the extent you anticipate. Remember, when Jay Leno was at the absolute peak of his popularity and making twenty-five million dollars a year, he was still out every Sunday night at a comedy club in Hermosa Beach testing out new material.
What did I learn? That writing a book is hard. At least it is if you want to write a real good one. Author : Margaret Larkin
An extrovert in an introverted world I've been thinking about this for a while and have searched online for blog posts or articles about extroverts dealing with an introverted culture, but have barely seen anything. Some articles tend to be about the characteristics of extroverts vs introverts, or how extroverts are misunderstood. But in my case, I've had to submerge my more extroverted qualities to survive in the introverted world.
First of all, I'm not struggling as much as I was several months ago when I was doing a lot of work that didn't require much talking because I've been teaching, which requires talking and the ability to connect with people. Plus, my coworkers are extroverts and are truly interested in people, so I feel like I've been liberated from the introverted shackles that surround people like me who just want to be ourselves. When I first returned to teaching after a couple semesters off, my boss asked me what was wrong because I was so quiet. I told her that I had been silenced and limited for months, and had to act a certain way to survive and be tolerated. It seems like a weird concept in a place of extroverts, but I eventually adjusted to that more open environment and have felt satisfied. And in my non-teaching work, I don't deal with people directly but I work with people who like to chat, so it's a good balance. Still, it shouldn't be so rare that I have to write about the exceptions.
I'm married to an introvert, so I know very well what they're like. They're drained by people, they need alone time, they feel pressure to talk, etc. There are several articles and blog posts about introverts' trials and tribulations, especially since Susan Cain wrote the book Quiet, which I read with amazement. What world is she talking about?! In many workplaces, it seems that only certain people are allowed to talk or even attend meetings and conventions. But I see those people as part of the elite, or in highly paid jobs that are hard to get. When a meeting is required, usually the managers are the ones that go, and if more people are invited, the lower level employees aren't really allowed to give feedback or show their personality (especially if they work in a hierarchy of personality), so they have to stay quiet. Yet Cain was talking about meetings, social functions, group work...she was a highly paid attorney in a high-powered job. The average worker doesn't have such opportunities. And it's more apparent when an extrovert has to deal with such a situation. A lot of work has to be done on a computer, and that has nothing to do with people interaction. I'm sure she had to work on a computer too, but she was in a privileged position that allowed her to walk away from the screen to attend the extroverted functions she abhorred. Hey Susan Cain, if you have a Google alert activated and see this blog post, please contact me and explain how I can get a piece of your extroverted chores. I will gladly take on speaking engagements (she's become so successful, that she has expanded the opportunities from her extroverted-oriented jobs to having to do speeches, including the impossible-to-score Ted Talk), social activities, and other tasks in a life that seems far from the usual drudgery that people have to put up with.
For an extrovert, jobs shouldn't have to be totally people-oriented to be satisfying (like nursing, teaching, customer service, retail). I don't want to always work with people because I like to write, research, read, take care of website content, and do other introverted things. But hey, people like me who like to do such work also want people contact and to laugh and socialize. We want social interaction to break up the silence. We don't mind being interrupted. We want to use our minds but occasionally use our mouths, too, and we want a lively atmosphere because we like people-oriented stimulation. But I've noticed that in situations where computers are a necessary tool and there's a certain power structure in place, the ones who are in the special segment get to do more than just stare at a screen. They get to go to functions and conduct training sessions and socialize with others in the upper echelon.
And it's not just attaining such access to those more extroverted activities, but being able to be ourselves. That in itself should be a blog post, because I think it is very difficult to be yourself, even if "experts" in American culture say that's the ideal goal. Actually, being yourself can be detrimental whether you're an extrovert or not. One time I talked to someone who loved acting, loved becoming someone else, loved becoming a character. I've always maintained that I would love to be...me. We're too busy trying to survive by not being who we are, that becoming someone else seems to be superfluous. However, even if it is rare, it is possible to be who you are if you're working or circulating in social/extracurricular circles where such tolerance to authenticity exists.
Then there's the changing workplace, where work isn't done at a company with other people. I often hear about the great economy that existed after World War II and for several years after that, where people got jobs...somewhere physical. Now companies are fractured and people freelance or work alone. What a perfect economy for an introvert but a nightmare for an extrovert. Even if someone has a job at a place, they may not be able to stay there long or establish relationships with their coworkers due to downsizing, layoffs, dysfunction that results from paranoia and restrictions, etc. But in Cain's baffling world, people have jobs, they work with others, they have to survive a workplace where collaboration and communication are required. What a great concept...can you hook me up with your nightmare?
Anyway, other than work is just the world that we live in--it's more introverted because technology has created walls. A lot of interaction is online or through other digital tools, and people don't know how to communicate offline so well. That's another reason why I find Cain's book puzzling. She talked about the school culture, which is very well suited to my needs, since there are lots of social opportunities and clubs to join. But once we leave school, we're faced with a hyper-individualistic culture where people use their phones more for texting than talking, and where people like to stick to small talk, if they talk at all, because they haven't been socialized too well to actually deal with people. Everyone says introverts don't like small talk, and guess what...extroverts like me don't like it either. We like to communicate with live people and have fun, but that doesn't mean we want to talk about nothing all day. Also, people assume that extroverts like talking to just anyone, but I really clam up when I encounter phony people. That's when I do seem like an introvert.
In fact, I've worked or been in so many situations that were restraining, thus were better suited for introverts, that I've learned how to be more introverted myself. I've gone days without talking, and inside my head I was suffering, but outside I seemed like a bland, quiet person who didn't have much to say. People have even told me I'm introverted and have been surprised when I've said I really am not. I'm just not a shallow extrovert (and there's nothing wrong with those kinds of people--at least they're excited to live) but rather someone who really is energized by people--as long as they're interesting and not phony :) So to those introverts who feel like they have to be extroverted: I have had to be like you to survive as well. In fact, if Cain did hire me to work for her introverted empire, I'd fit in well because I not only could take on her extroverted tasks, but I would be able to conform to her introversion because I've already been doing it for years.
I did work in a situation that required both introverted and extroverted characteristics, and I had a great time because I worked on a computer for hours, but sometimes salespeople or other extroverts would come in to ask questions, request certain projects, or just chat. It was fantastic because I could use my mind and analytical abilities but could also socialize once in a while. On the flip side, I worked in a situation where there was no extraneous talking tolerated, and I wasn't allowed to ask questions until the end of the day. Or I had to gather up the questions to ask them all at once sometime during the day. So if an extroverted person were to blend work talk with social talk, we'd get in trouble.
Introverts are lucky that they have technology and air conditioning and other things that take them indoors away from people. If you're suffering in a world of extroverts, think about how many times you have to work on a computer, or when you have the option of a computer and phone over live people. There are many opportunities to not socialize with people, especially if you have a quiet job instead of a people-oriented one, and you don't have to go out after work, either. There's TV, Internet, books, a solitary walk, and lots of other things introverts can do. But if you're an extrovert and want to score an invite to a cool social event where there are people you can click with, or want to have a job where talking breaks up silent tasks or a top-heavy structure, then good luck! Maybe my short tale of struggle will cause other extroverts to share their stories, thus counter the abundance of pro-introvert stuff online, which is where introverts seem to love to hang out. Author : Margaret Larkin
Metrofiction is back If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably seen me mention the Metrofiction site, which was originally created a decade ago. John Deaver (who passed away in 2006), John Banas, MM Plude, and I met in a fiction writing class and formed a writing group. I decided to set up a website for the group, and called it Metrofiction since we all took the writing class in the city and I'd been living in the city for several years.
I took the site down for a few years because I was getting more involved with radio and my podcast (which also meant I didn't post here as much), but decided to resurrect it because I'm working more in the language world again.
I also included John Deaver's story that he submitted to the original site. I wish he was still here!