ESL Blogs


Updated : Sat, 11 Apr 2015 16:54:09 +0000

David Tennant's American accent
I was watching a news show and saw a promo for Gracepoint, which is the American version of Broadchurch. I can't believe I haven't seen Broadchurch since I've seen a lot of other British TV shows, but now I'm interested. But what I'm more interested in is David Tennant, who has an American accent in Gracepoint.

He's Scottish, but he's already stretched himself by using a British accent for the various TV shows he's done there. But in Broadchurch he has a strong Scottish accent, so I'm sure he was able to relax. However, in the American show, I bet he had to work very hard at developing the right sound. I don't know how successful he is because I can't find videos online that show his performance at length. All that seems to be out there are previews, like this one:

A number of British press outlets have quoted Alicia Lutes from her interesting analysis of his accent, and props goes to the Guardian for providing the link to the article (others didn't). Lutes criticizes his accent but I don't think it's so bad, at least the tiny parts I've seen. Maybe if I could watch an entire episode, I'd be a better judge.

Actually, Erica Buist gives an interesting analysis in the Guardian that is a counter-argument to Lutes' criticism. But I am not taking sides since I don't have enough to go on.

A nerdy type took the time to put together a comparison of the two TV shows' trailers, so you can see how Tennant switches between his Scottish and American accents. You can also see how similar the two shows seem to be, which seems risky since anyone can see either and might be annoyed at how close they are.

One person whose American accent is weak and who seems self-conscious about it is Poppy Montgomery (which I criticized before). It seems like she's trying so hard to have an American accent, it makes her acting suffer because she doesn't show much emotion and seems like she's in accent-survival mode. Because I'm aware of her struggle, it keeps me from just sitting back and enjoying her performance. I've seen her shortcomings in Without a Trace and a TV movie she was in called "Murder in the Hamptons", but TV Guide includes her in a "Worst American Accents" list for her "confusing" accent in Unforgettable. She's really Australian, yet doesn't seem to use her native accent in TV interviews, either.

Anyway, we'll see how David Tennant does in the new show and if other people approve or criticize him in his American portrayal. And for the record, there are plenty of Americans who can't do a proper British accent or even southern American accent, so it looks like various actors need good voice coaches.
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 30 Jun 2014 21:38:00 +0000

Interview with JC Corcoran
J.C. Corcoran has been working in the media for several years, and he's also a very good writer. His book Real Life Stories of J.C. and the Breakfast Club...or 20 Minutes in the Dark with Madonna is mostly about his radio (and TV) career in St. Louis, but you don't have to know that market or even his show to appreciate the book. His stories are entertaining and he offers interesting insights into the radio and media business. I previously interviewed him for my podcast about his career.

Why did you write the book?

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)
Publ.Date : Thu, 28 Aug 2014 01:14:00 +0000

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)
Publ.Date : Thu, 01 Jan 2015 00:04:00 +0000

Translation of Anime News: 50th Anniversary of Astro Boy

I did another translation from the "Anime!Anime!" site of the article, "Family Gekijo's special TV program 'The History of Japanese Television Anime Creation' on the 50th Anniversary of Astro Boy." Here's what it said:
In 2013, the television anime "Astro Boy" [Tetsuwan Atomu], which played an epoch-making role in Japanese anime history, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast. The 50th anniversary will be commemorated this year with the following schedule. 
First, in February, the major cable company Family Gekijo will present an Osamu Tezuka special, and in March it will feature the 50th anniversary of "Astro Boy". There will be two special programs that will focus on Tezuka's anime. 
Family Gekijo has produced its own special program, "The Manga God: the History of Japanese Television Anime Creation," a 30-minute documentary that explores the birth of anime in Japan. 
The basis of Osamu Tezuka's anime will be explored, as far back as the experiences he had in his childhood. Anime supervisor Daisaku Shirakawa, animation history researcher Nobuyuki Tsugata, and Eichi Yamakawa, the first producer at Toei Animation, will be interviewed. The program is planned for March 10. 
Also, "The Manga God: Phoenix Reincarnated" will air on February 17. These are the same original Family Gekijo programs that aired in 2012, in which Osamu Tezuka can also be spotted. 
In February, Tezuka's special collection, "Black Jack", "Phoenix Houou [Mythical] Hen", "Phoenix Yamato-Hen", "Phoenix Uchu [Space] Hen", "One Million-Year Trip: Bander Book" [Hyaku-man nen chikyu no tabi banda bukku], "Undersea Super Train: Marine Express" [Kaitei choutokkyuu Marine Express], and "Three-Eyed One" [Mitsume ga touru] will be broadcast. 
In March, the HD remastered "Astro Boy" will be shown on television for the first time. "W3", "Vampire" [Banpaiya], "Adventures of Goku" [Goku no daibouken], and "Dororo" are the television anime masterpieces that will be shown from that period. 
Starting March 2, "Osamu Tezuka Gekijo" will be a regular feature every Saturday at 8:00, a powerful push of the Tezuka and Atom 50th anniversary.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Wed, 06 Feb 2013 19:01:00 +0000

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)
Publ.Date : Sat, 11 Apr 2015 02:41:00 +0000

Translation: Zuiikin English intro
A while ago, someone told me about some amusing videos from Japan that taught people English with the "Zuiikin Gals". The videos have ended up becoming popular because they seem so odd. Here's what the Fuji TV site says in the introduction (explanation) of that program:
Starting in the Spring of 1992, the Fuji Television network aired an epoch-making educational program called “English Conversation and Exercise” [Eikaiwa Taisou] in which people combined English conversation and exercise! It was a mysterious program that seemed very serious and required hard work, but ended up evoking laughter. As the title says, the program brought together English conversation and exercise. In the beginning, with each movement, as the muscles were trained, they also remembered English conversation! The program was based on that concept. In the beginning, there were short situational plays, and then those scenes of English conversations stopped. Suddenly, the station’s exercise program introduced three “Zuiikin Gals” in leotards on the set, who cheerfully chanted and repeated English conversation in tempo while exercising. The program naturally brought together movement and English conversation to the body. By the way, the rectus femoris muscle was trained the first time.


Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Thu, 14 Feb 2013 00:52:00 +0000

Translation: Kyuji Fujikawa's blog post about missing baseball
Today, the day after the Chicago Cubs announced that relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa was going to have surgery and miss a year of games, he wrote this blog post about it:

Real thoughts

Everyone, there was very bad news in the morning--excuse me. Also, thanks for the encouraging messages!
I've gotten support for this injury, but I feel disappointed because I haven't been able to live up to the Chicago Cubs' expectations.
I cannot show everyone the place where I pitch, and I can't see the scenery of the batter and game from the mound.
I definitely want to return to the mound to see the scenery again!
Now, I remember where I was on the mound three days ago, and I don't want to forget it.
Of course, I love baseball.
When I read everyone's messages, I wanted to write a bit of my true feelings.

Unfortunately, I missed a great opportunity to break some news. The day before the American media talked about the injury, he did a blog post about it. I saw it yesterday, the day the big news came out. But if I had looked the day before, well...I would've become a sports journalist, even if only briefly :p
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Thu, 30 May 2013 22:09:00 +0000

Calm down introverts: you don't have to act extroverted
Even though I've done a good job of hiding it, I'm more extroverted than introverted. In fact, I'd say I rarely get to express that aspect of my personality (a rant that I'll get into in another post), but when I do get a chance to act how I really am, ie, talkative and extroverted, I'm quite happy.

But sometimes I meet people who are *too* extroverted, like they're trying too hard to act that way. I really like talking to outgoing people, but the folks I'm talking about seem to try too hard. Sometimes those people will tell me that they're really introverted, and I say I'm surprised. But upon further reflection, I'm really not because they seem to be over-compensating for their introversion. It's the forced behavior that makes me become more quiet, and those faux-extroverts will ask me why I'm like that, or they might make some snide remark to someone--or even me--about my deficiencies.

More than once I've talked to people who go out of their way to be really talkative and *too* cheerful, and I'll pretty much clam up and not say much because I'm not into phony conversation. I really am excited about stuff, but I don't want to have to manufacture such an attitude to match their hyped-up one. So what's happened is they'll say something disparaging to a common acquaintance about me. Some people might be appalled I didn't say much, or I seem cold and distant. Well if they would just take a breather, then I would say something, but they seem to go on to the next thing and want me to follow along. Basically, I'm the real deal, they're not, and they seem to be so wrapped up in creating their extroverted persona that they don't bother to discern my true one. Or sometimes they'll ask questions and we'll "talk" but they'll be so hopped-up they'll over-ask or over-talk and I feel like we're not connecting. Which probably also annoys them. I just want to say, "Calm who you are. Then I'll talk more and you won't be annoyed with my reaction."

On the other hand, I've talked to people who are truly outgoing and are energized by people. I had a job where I'd sometimes have to talk to salespeople and other talkative folks, and I had a fantastic time. It was much easier to talk to them because they were sincere in their communication and were ready to interact with the world. Since I'm basically the same but didn't have as much chance to show that side of my personality, I was ready to participate and I think they enjoyed my side of the conversation, too.

So here's some advice to introverts: use your analytical powers to judge people, then talk to them accordingly. I don't know about what other true extroverts think, but being hyper and over-talkative and aggressive does not impress me; it makes me clam up and wonder what's up with you. There is nothing wrong with introversion, unless you are socially inept and don't know how to have a conversation with someone. Then you need training. But talking a bunch because you think that's what you're supposed to do makes you seem oblivious to social rules, and the resulting judgement when I don't respond how you want makes you seem super small-minded.

A while ago I worked with someone who talked a lot and barely listened...he seemed to talk too much to the point where another more extroverted coworker asked if he was dull-witted, or what was going on. I just said, "He's introverted," and the coworker understood: overcompensation.

If you act like yourself, a lot of people would probably appreciate you. And you don't have to smile all the time either. Calm down. There are all kinds of people in the world, and the more mature of us appreciate diversity.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 28 Apr 2014 22:52:00 +0000

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 Pelé, 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)
Publ.Date : Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:08:00 +0000

Getting unstuck
I haven't posted here in a while because I've been reading a variety of books to blog about, and was asked to interview businessman and writer Barry Moltz for another blog. So I spent time reading his new book called How To Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again, formulated questions, and worked with the answers. I could've easily asked him questions by just skimming his book or didn't really have to read it at all, but if someone wants me to do an interview about a book, I read the entire thing.

So I read the book, asked him questions, wrote an introduction to the interview, and submitted the post to the blog. Unfortunately, it didn't fit the blog's format, so instead of trying to rework it to make it fit, I decided to post it here with a more expanded introduction that fits *my* format, which is not business-y or agenda-driven (which a lot of blogs have become--stiff, impersonal, self-serving, over-functional, etc).

I've done work for Barry over the past year and have had a good experience working for him. He's also a consultant who knows what he's talking about because he's experienced failure and success, and is honest about his struggles. That's why the book he wrote is helpful. You also don't have to read it from beginning to end because it's set up to solve a variety of business problems, so you can just look up the issue you're dealing with and read that part.

One chapter that stood out was about understanding financial statements. Some people are really into numbers, so they take the time to check their balance sheets and other statements to make sure their cash flow is good. But many business owners find it tedious and intimidating to analyze the numbers, so they continue along in ignorance. Then when they notice that they have major financial problems, they are surprised. Checking financial statements isn't as exciting as doing the business, but if a business owner doesn't understand them, they're going to end up broke or not making what they should. Barry says in the book that he sold a business for way less than it was worth due to such ignorance.

I haven't read every business book and blog out there, but there isn't a lot of advice that includes understanding financial statements. It's not a sexy topic and seems really dry, and the lack of such information really makes me wonder if those "experts" understand their *own* financials. After reading Barry's book, I realized that an enterprising person can create a niche by giving financial advice to business owners who are afraid or uneducated about financial statements. The person can break down the complexities for any kind of entrepreneur to understand through books, lectures, and various media, then create their own successful business through that! So take this idea and run with it because I'm not numbers-minded.

But it's not like no one talks about financials. In one business reality show called The Profit, Marcus Lemonis will look at a failing business' books and let the owner know how off the mark they are with their own estimates. Even restaurant reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant Impossible talk about the economics of running a restaurant and tell the owners to think about what they're actually spending on each meal.

Anyway, below is the Q&A I did with Barry, who's super-busy but seems to still enjoy non-work aspects of life.

What is the biggest problem that causes business owners to get stuck?

Companies only do sales and marketing when business is slow. They need to have a systematic way to always do marketing so they can be there when customers are ready to buy.

What are your suggestions for creating a system?

You’ve got to watch my videos or take my class :-)

I was surprised to read that many business owners don’t understand financial statements. Why is that, and what should they do?

They do not get an education on how to read financial statements. It is not intuitive and they are afraid to ask their CPA for help.

Why are they afraid, and what do you suggest for learning how to read the statements?

They are afraid they should understand the statements but don't. Read about how to learn in my book How to Get Unstuck.

How can business owners avoid complacency?

Always ask, “Am I still solving a real pain for a customer who can pay to fix it?”

What if you've discovered that you're no longer solving a pain?

Morph the business to find the pain.

What’s a good way to stand out in a down economy when there’s also so much competition?

Connect personally with customers. This can be done through some pretty slick tech to show that you really care.

What slick tech do you recommend?

No slick tech but using CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and Social Media work--be personal.

How can business owners maintain their passion and productivity?

Ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this, and how do I want to make a difference in the world?”

Do you have suggestions to go through that reflective process?

Ask everyday, “Why am I in the business I am in?” Take time off during the week, month, year to reflect.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Tue, 27 May 2014 16:34:00 +0000

Are we supposed to play roles?
I've been reading the book Lonely, and it's made me wonder if we're expected, or if society is set up, for us to play roles as we get older. I think when we're in school and we have an outgoing or social personality, we naturally make friends who we can call or hang out with at random times. We don't need structure to connect with others because our interests and personalities help us to bond with them more organically.

But as we get older, most of us have to work to pay bills, and to advance in our careers, we have to navigate tiresome interactions that cut into spontaneity. Not everyone can be trusted because they have their own agenda or they're simply not good people. Or they could just be boring conformists.

Some people amazingly stay in touch with their school friends, so even if they're isolated in a new situation, they manage to have some type of social life that doesn't require them to be anything than who they are. There is so much movement and individualism in American society (the one I know best since I live here), that it's like people are putting up fences around themselves as they proceed on their own tracks. So crossover seems to occur in structured situations: work, kids' schools and activities, or groups people join.

There are many causes of loneliness (which I want to discuss in another post sometime), but one of them is the lack of connecting with people through natural interactions. If someone gets involved in an organization, it's easy to communicate with people through formal events or plans. But what would happen if the organization ceased to exist? Would those people want to hang out and even help each other? What about mothers who are in the suburbs raising kids and connect with other moms around them through sports, park programs, PTA, etc? When those kids grow up and move away, they won't have the kids' activities and goals to work within to connect to other parents. So their role is a mother, a working professional's role is entrenched in a socially inclined workplace, and another person is on the board of some group. Their roles are set, and they come with places they belong.

But is it possible to belong without having a formal title or role? I know only a few people who don't tie relationships to roles or responsibilities. They just like to connect with people and make an effort to communicate despite the context. But it seems most people expect pieces to be in place, and when a piece of the environment is gone, the cord is cut.

American society seems transient and temporary, which I think causes isolation and loneliness.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Sat, 12 Apr 2014 17:59:00 +0000

I'm back in language land
It's been almost 10 years since I've started this blog, and when I first started it, I was doing a lot with language: writing, editing, translating,, I was an aspiring fiction writer and needed a space to express myself and my love of language.

Then a lot happened in my work life, and part of it consumed my mind to the point where I really didn't have the space or energy to write much here. Basically, I got interested in the radio biz when I met Rick Kogan, then eventually got some work in it about a year after that. Then the drama began, and I was trying to balance dealing with the challenges of the [not always nice] people and the business itself, which seems to be hanging by a thread (when you compare it to other media and entertainment outlets). Somehow I've managed to stay in the business for eight years, and recently achieved the seemingly impossible: I've been hired to write and edit at one of the top stations in the U.S.A.

Until recently, I'd been so focused on audio, though I did continue writing and editing for various businesses the whole time I was working in radio. Plus, my podcast was getting a lot more traction, so I focused more on that because it was satisfying to get positive reactions and lots of hits. (But this blog had gotten lots of hits too, especially before social media took my attention away as well.)

I just didn't have the headspace to think about language other than when I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) or used it at work.

But now that I have this unbelievable gig, it's totally reignited my love of language. I sit there wondering how I can make active verbs more effective than passive, and I just feel good because what I write goes on the air to millions of people within minutes. It's a satisfying writing experience.

I've even begun to read more because I feel more settled at a great station that seems to have no drama. It makes thinking off the clock easier and more accessible because I'm not wasting brain cells trying to figure out a survival strategy.

So I'm going to post here more often, and get into language enjoyment once again. And I still have more to say about my months-long absence, but it's time to eat something now :D

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 07 Apr 2014 23:59:00 +0000

The hierarchy of personality
I posted this on Fakebook, but I think it's something that people can relate to in various businesses, based on some feedback I got from a couple of people who read the essay before it was officially posted. It didn't occur to me that a hierarchy of personality exists outside the media, but they said it does. One person even recommended the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, which seems like an extreme version of what I'm talking about. Anyway, here's what I wrote:

I've noticed that there is a hierarchy of personality in radio. There is probably a hierarchy in TV too, but since I haven't worked in it, I can only assume it's similar. In the hierarchy of personality, someone emerges at the top of the structure, in a hierarchy that, of course, exists vertically. The determination of who is at the top is made either explicitly, because people have assigned importance to the person and have given that person freedom, or it's made through an understanding within the culture of the station.

When someone is at the top of the hierarchy, they can act how they want. They don't have to worry about reigning in their personality to get along with coworkers or appease their superiors. If the person is on-air talent, then their superiors are the management of the station. If the person is someone in station management, then their superiors are the upper management of the company. Some people assume the talent are at the top, but because corporations are running many radio stations, the management may be the most important entity. It just depends where the station is, who controls it, and how the hierarchy has developed.

When a person reaches the top of the hierarchy, the rules that those who are lower down the ladder have to follow are optional. Also, the privileged person can express how they feel: if they're angry about something, even if it's as minor as a color they don't like, they can express their anger, and the people around them won't think there's anything wrong with how their behaving. In fact, there are people who excuse such anger, saying it's just how they are, though they feel it's important to prevent such an expression of wrath on them. However, if someone lower in the hierarchy expresses anger, even if it's justified, people will not accept it and may revile the person. That's because the person doesn't have the cushion of protection that the privileged person has.

People surrounding the top person will acquiesce to the point that they will suppress their own feelings and be hesitant to give their opinions. They also won't express any dissatisfaction or frustration towards the top person, but will instead yell at, berate, or belittle those who are lower than they are in the hierarchy. They will put up with anything the top person does and stay silent when that person degrades them because they understand that the person holds the power to their livelihood and even their future. They know their place, and know that there are enough people below them who will, in turn, tolerate their eruptions or snide remarks.

The top person may decide to not arrive on time, attend meetings, do paperwork, do commercials or promotions (if they're talent), listen to other people, or consider other people's feelings. Their demands must be met and usually are because they exist in a space that is free for them but not for others. If they want to worry, they can. If they want to complain, they can. If they want to be happy, they can. If they demand a certain item, office, or workspace, they'll get it. However they want to be, they can be who they want because their personality can be fully expressed, and they know that no one is going to impede that.

What people at the top of the hierarchy of personality do more than anyone else, is treat all other people like "The Help." However, a person doesn't have to be at the top of the hierarchy to treat others like The Help. That is done at different levels, and it's prevalent as well. (Read about The Help here.)
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Tue, 25 Jun 2013 18:07:00 +0000

In too deep: a stilted translation
I saw a post at Madameriri and decided to translate it because it was titled: "I often tell foreigners 'I don't watch anime'." What I should've done is finished reading it before I dived [or dove] in, because I thought it was about a Japanese person who doesn't like anime. So I slogged through it, and by the end I realized that the writer *did* like anime, or at least didn't mind them.

Not only did I spend a lot of time translating it, but my translation ended up sounding like stilted English. And that's the problem a lot of translators have: do you try to stay true to the original text, or do you write/edit it to make it sound really smooth and natural in the target language, thus majorly reworking the original author's word choice?

I've been trying to figure out what to do. I'd spent all this time translating it, plus the title was deceptive, and the original writing seemed sort of vague and circular in how the author was trying to make her point. I was thinking of not posting it because it sounds sort of odd, but I didn't want all that work to go to waste. So I've decided to post the stilted version instead of rewriting the English to sound like a regular blog post. Did I do the wrong thing?! I don't know! But I hope it makes sense. I need to let go and move on! So here it is, the translation of「私は日本のアニメは見ない」という外国人にありがちなこと:
Japanese anime have been popular abroad for a while. But even now, there are a lot of people throughout the world who have a prejudiced view of anime. Japanese anime are for "geeks who like Japan" or they’re what "kids" watch, so I decided to not watch them.

Until now, when foreigners asked me which anime I watch, I’ve usually said, "I don't really watch them." If I had seen any, it was just one of Ghibli’s, or what I'd occasionally watched with my siblings. Basically, I hadn't really seen them--that's because I decided I didn’t like them, and because of the image they have.

When I’d hear people talk, I’d think, "How pitiful." As a result of deciding not to watch anime, I've probably missed out on seeing a lot of great ones. It’s up to the individual to watch or not watch anime. And even if they disappear from society, they'll still live on. But saying, "I don't like that thing" can give the wrong impression, and that person’s life and outlook can seem narrow.

Other than anime, these things have often come up:

"I don't trust raw fish, so I don't eat sushi."
"I've never eaten blue cheese and it seems impossible. I will not eat it."
"Indian movie? I haven't seen one, not interested."
"Since I get along well with Japanese people, I don't need foreign friends." …etc.

A while ago, I met an American foreign student who wanted whatever she ate and saw explained to her. For instance, when we ate champon, she asked questions such as, "How was this soup made?" "What kinds of seafood are in there?" "Is the seafood in here also in America?" "Where does the shrimp come from?" etc. She ended up not eating champon, and I was disappointed that I couldn't introduce her to that delicious Japanese food.

Perhaps if she'd trusted me and tried the champon, she probably would've thought, "Unforgettable Japanese flavor." It would've been good for her to take even just one bite. It would’ve been good to do it, even if it tasted just slightly good.

It’s better to try eating something instead of being afraid. Then someone can decide if they like it or hate it. If someone doesn't eat it, they won’t know how it tastes, so they can't say anything about it. Even if it doesn’t taste good, it's good to understand that it's "bad."

A while ago, I didn't like anime or manga. At that time, after my foreign boyfriend (who's now my husband) pretty much forced me to watch anime, I thought, "Japanese anime are wonderful." Until then I'd decided, "Anime are something kids watch" and thought I was stupid for believing that.

Inside of me there's a subconscious "decision" box that's been cleared, but it's difficult. I really want to protect the box, and by making the box important, I protect myself, though it reverses unexpectedly.

When I try Out of the Box thinking (thinking outside boundaries), the best benefit for me is that I am not like others. And if I don’t like myself, I have to first try.

Maybe I will start to know things my entire life.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Fri, 09 May 2014 20:51:00 +0000

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 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)
Publ.Date : Thu, 21 Aug 2014 00:50:00 +0000

Translation: ☆Taku Takahashi from m-flo criticizes the Japanese music scene
Here's a translation I did of the article, "☆Taku from m-flo says, 'Japan's music is 20 years behind Korea's'" [m-floの☆Taku「日本の音楽は韓国に20年遅れている」と指摘]

☆Taku, from the famous Japanese hip hop group m-flo, talked about how “Japan’s music is 20 years behind Korea’s,” which has been making waves in Japan.

Even though the K-POP boom has spread around the world with PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” etc., people are interested in groups that are active in Japan, which has raised questions about how the Japanese environment has ignored Korean music.

Recently, ☆Taku answered questions about K-POP in a media interview. “Korea has started to expand in the world because the scene is not only domestic. Japan currently resembles Korea 20 years ago, but it should be internationally aware. Even in Japan, when you compare it to Korean music, the sound is very different,” he said about Japanese music, which does not have a total advantage.

“Korean idols are good at singing and dancing, but there are people who say critically, ‘K-POP just imitates hits on the American Billboard Charts!’ However, there are many Japanese people who don’t have the ability to imitate current Billboard songs,” he harshly exclaimed.

☆Taku also answered questions about PSY’s popularity. “I think PSY’s popularity is good luck, but luck is simply not the issue. If he hadn’t thought about how his music would sell in foreign countries, he wouldn’t have emerged,” he pointed out.

“Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Japanese singer who is becoming more popular internationally. Her music is interesting, but she’s in a totally different league than PSY,” he said about PSY’s total dominance.

“In Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s case, her producer Yasutaka Nakata likes Western music, and he blends Western dance music with Japanese melodies so that they’re hits in Japan and abroad. At first, he wasn’t thinking of doing business abroad, but people unexpectedly liked it,” which was a primary cause of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s success. “Korean idols are mainly kids from their own country, and for people who like American music to be introduced to their songs, they have to continue to be sent abroad. Not only Japan, but other Asian countries need to think of expanding as well. PSY’s success came from always thinking about the international market,” he said.

In ☆Taku’s interview, he said the insular Japanese music market needs to be thrown open. “Japanese singers only stay in Japan, but there should also be an environment of expansion in China, Korea, and Vietnam. Korea has been challenging Japan in that area. At the same time, for singers to come to Japan, the country should be musically open,” he emphasized.

Japanese people's response to ☆Taku’s interview has been intense. Many say it's correct that the music marketplace in Japan is limited, but on the other hand, VERBAL, who's one of the members of m-flo, is Korean-Japanese, so people wonder, “Was VERBAL brainwashed?” and “He's sold out his country.”
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Tue, 19 Mar 2013 19:26:00 +0000

Acknowledgments with a twist

This week, John Records Landecker's memoir, Records is Truly My Middle Name, is being released, and he has written Acknowledgments that end like this:

I would like to thank everyone who listened. I would also like to thank everybody I ever worked with — but if you’re one of those people who made my life a living hell — go f--- yourself.

I don't think I've seen such sentiments in an author's preface, but I'm sure he said what lots of people want to say.

BTW--the book was produced by Rick Kaempfer, a fantastic author who I interviewed for this blog about his books  and The Living Wills.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 25 Mar 2013 22:19:00 +0000

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)
Publ.Date : Thu, 04 Dec 2014 00:48:00 +0000

The Fake in Facebook
I recently read The Boy Kings, which some big-time media outlets have billed as a “tell-all” of Facebook, but it really isn't. It's written by Katherine Losse, who left the company, even though she managed to go from mere customer support staff to the writer of the Big Boss' blog and get a really nice paycheck for it. She also was responsible for internationalizing Facebook, a feature I've taken advantage of because I'm currently using it in Japanese, but have also used it in French, Portuguese, and British English (because it's still cool to use a version of English that's different than mine).

I wasn't going to finish reading it because I found her detachment through much of the book irritating. I wanted to know how she felt about working there, not just what she saw. It didn't seem to go very deep. However, towards the end of the book, she started to break out of her observational distance and express her feelings of frustration. So I concluded that perhaps her detachment was a reflection of how she managed to survive the company's culture and the guys she worked with. Actually, at one point, even though she was complaining about her male coworkers, it seemed like she enjoyed the attention of the guys and felt cool to be in their inner circle.

If you're looking for gossip about Facebook or some sordid details, you won't find them in this book, but if you're looking for one person's perspective, you'll probably enjoy it. One thing I liked about her point of view was that she questioned what social media is about. It claims to connect people, but it can make people more distant from each other because what they're presenting is phony and a manufactured image that they want to convey. Also, she tried to define what a friend is, and what kind of world we're creating if friends are just a bunch of names on a list that we're trying to impress. Her concerns weren't exactly like mine, but I'm glad that someone on the inside wasn't totally enamored with Fakebook and had the guts to write about it. She was employee 51, now she's living in a tiny town in Texas enjoying her “retirement”.

(image by Bruce Lee)
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Thu, 06 Dec 2012 00:42:00 +0000

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.

When the site was established, popular blogger Arthur Chrenkoff contacted me from Australia to find out about submitting a story. After his story was posted, he ended up getting his novel published!

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!

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:27:00 +0000

The Help
Yesterday I did a post about The Hierarchy of Personality. This is part two:

I'm talking about radio, but I'm sure the entertainment business and TV news also have talent who treat people like The Help. Some people who are on the air haven't gotten the memo about the democratization of the media. They think they are the most important figures in the culture and think people are there to serve them, whether they're producers, interns, sales people, or even station management. They are the performers, they seem to think, they're the ones disseminating information, and it doesn't seem to occur to them that they are human beings who are equal in worth to other human beings.

Talent who see others as The Help express such an attitude in various ways. When sales people go to talk to them, they see it as a waste of their time and might grant an audience for a brief moment before they say they have to leave. They think sales is not supposed to be in the vicinity of their craft. After all, they are the talent, and the sales people are "over there"; why would they want to spend time with them? They're part of the bean counter class; they don't get it. And when station management wants the talent to participate in a meeting, they don't see it as necessary because meetings are for regular workers who have to do what they're told. They think management doesn't understand how hard it is to talk into that microphone every day, to come up with something witty and compelling. They're just a bunch of suits that don't get it either. And producers: who are they? They're supposed to have everything ready and do everything, even when the talent change their minds. It's as if the talent are lying on a divan and are being fanned by large feathers which The Help hold. If the talent want the fanning to go faster, they end up complaining that it's too fast, even though they requested it. They'll keep changing their speed requests and are never satisfied and complain that The Help are inept because they're not able to deliver what they want. Or it's as if the producers are holding buckets that must catch every drop of liquid that spills over from the talent's cup, wherever the talent go and however they're holding the cup, even if it's not correct or structurally sound.

Sometimes the talent will appear really nice, but they're really being condescendingly benevolent because if they don't treat The Help graciously, they won't get what they want. But behind closed doors, when they're talking to what they perceive as their equals, they'll complain about The Help, no matter how small the perceived infraction is. They'll smile and speak in a seemingly professional way because they need a technical issue resolved, which makes The Help feel like they're interacting with talent who are really "cool". But once The Help walk away when equipment is working again, the Talent will roll their eyes to those in their inner circle and nitpick about other problems that are always, in the end, The Help's fault.

But woe to the talent who are confronted with talent who are greater than they are. All of a sudden, they are faced with someone more important, more powerful, more beloved than they are. They get upset when those bigger stars don't respond to them or treat them as The Help. They have no condescension as they do for the lesser people who usually surround them, but aspire to be like that greater talent and even envy them. They look for approval and become disgruntled if they're not considered equal to those higher beings. But it doesn't occur to them to take their negative experience and apply it to those people they treat as The Help. They just resume their attitude and continue their status quo.

But not all hope is lost, because there are talent who understand that the media is no longer the monolith it once was, that they're merely human beings in a business who are interacting with other human beings in the same business. The talent that do not treat others like The Help speak to people respectfully, without condescension. If they're rude, they apologize to those they've yelled at or whom they've been overly demanding towards. They realize that if someone were to behave towards them in such a negative way, they wouldn't like it, which is why they have the humility to recognize they were out of line. They also don't see the people around them as in a caste system, who reside in a lower tier. They see everyone as part of the team, whether it's the intern, producer, management, or janitor. But even if the media weren't in meltdown mode, no talent should treat anyone as The Help, no matter how much power they think they have.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Wed, 26 Jun 2013 20:13:00 +0000

Translation: explaining "giri" to French people
During the first year of this blog, I mentioned the book Cent Questions Sur le Japon, which was published around 30 years ago. It teaches Japanese people how to talk about Japan in French, and is written in French and Japanese. I still have the book and read it occasionally because it's a good way to simultaneously maintain my Japanese and French.

Recently, I decided to translate one of the topics, and had a hard time finding the book online. Then I discovered that it's been updated, republished, and renamed to now be Qu'est-ce que c'est? フランス人が日本人によく聞く100の質問 [100 questions French people often ask Japanese people]. I chose the topic of "giri" since that is unique to Japan, thus has to be explained to people in other countries. The original article is here and the translation is below. Since this is written for Japanese people, there is an introduction in Japanese, and then the questions and answers are in French and Japanese.
It is rather difficult to explain giri, a unique Japanese way of thinking. Like ninjo, wabi, and sabi, it's a word that expresses Japanese logic and a sense of beauty. It will be easier to explain if a concrete example is given for this word. 
Q: Giri is often talked about. What is it? 
It could be said that it's an intrinsic part of the moral society of Japan, the principles of behavior. If someone does a favor for you, you have an obligation to return it. This takes priority over ninjo, personal feelings and affections. Literature from the Edo period often showed the psychological conflict between giri and ninjo and the suicides that resulted. 
Q: Has giri always been part of the Japanese psyche? 
Not like in feudal times. But even today, many Japanese people respect the concept of giri. For example, someone can't break off a long-term business relationship with a client, even if there are other clients who seem more advantageous. Also, it's important to give gifts at certain times of the year, such as chugen or seibo to people who have helped us. Giri in modern Japanese society could be considered a cultural restraint rather than an expression of appreciation from the heart.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Tue, 22 Jan 2013 20:37:00 +0000

Translation of Anime News: Be in a Manga
I asked an anime fan if there's anything I should translate that would help fans find out what's going on in that world. He suggested this news from the Anime!Anime! site, so I did a brief translation to give people a basic idea of what is going on. Here's the news: Campaign: Monthly Shonen Champion Series Will Draw Your Image 
Manga artists can make your dream come true by drawing an image of you. Winners will have their image drawn by eight manga artists from Monthly Shonen Champion (Akita Shoten). Shonen Champion Comics will choose a total of eight winners, one per comic, between January 7 (Monday) and February 5 (Tuesday). 
Participating manga artists are: Ryu Itou from "Sengoku BASARA3-Bloody Angel", Katsuki Izumi from "Oi!! Obasan", Yuu Minamoto from "Kamisama Drop", Masaru Suzuki from "Drop OG", Daishiro Suzuki from "Narikin!", Masayuki Saiwaki from "Chicken", Shingo Honda from "Hakaijuu", and Yoshiji Yamaguchi from "Examurai Sengoku G". 
To enter, purchase a manga and fill out the enclosed entry form. Winners who are chosen will be asked to send in their photo. 
This is a rare opportunity for fans! 
You can purchase the mangas and get more information about this 2013 New Year's gift at

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Fri, 11 Jan 2013 21:15:00 +0000

How blogs used to be
I came across a blog that was linked from Twitter, and it really reminds me of what blogs were like before Fakebook became popular. It's called Random Thoughts from an Info Junkie by David Eppley, and what strikes me is how personal it seems. I've been reading blogs for several years (mine is going to be 10 years old next year), so I remember when blogs were the way people communicated with each other, discussed issues, shared feelings, and even became friends.

Then social media became more mainstream, and people started sharing more there. I can understand why, because you get a more immediate response, you have a closed system of friends, and essentially a captive, engaged audience. Uninformed "analysts" claim that social media has made blogs obsolete, but I disagree because information can be shared in different ways online.

But what's emerged are a lot of informational blogs, blogs built for business, marketing, and other pragmatic functions, and it seems like it's becoming harder to find the more organic, honest, and non-commercial blogs.

I sort of miss those blog-dominant days because a network grew that allowed a variety of voices and styles to be read outside the mainstream media. It came to a point where I stopped reading some established columnists because their observations seemed inane, and they seemed arrogant. I remember the "media elite" dissing blogs and other online expression, and I even wrote a post about it around seven years ago. So as they hunkered down in judgement of "us", I alternatively found lots of great writing and thoughts from people who had a passion to express themselves but hadn't had a vehicle before.

Even I started posting at Fakebook more than here (as you can see from the dwindling post numbers over the years), but it sort of backfired. I assumed Fakebook was a briefer version of blogs, thus thought there was nothing weird about posting my feelings and struggles about challenging pursuits. But when someone said I appeared unhappy and some others showed concern that I was posting such stuff online, I looked around and realized the bloggy aesthetic had morphed into a shallow, vain expression that sets out to impress rather than share. I didn't think my FB posts were a big deal and not that revealing or pitiful, either, but I wasn't successfully conforming to the environment the FB bosses had created (as described in the book I read), so I seemed "unhappy", that "something was wrong."

So yes, count me as someone who's sort of lamenting the loss of the blog world as it used to be, though I'm sure those blogs can still be found in a few corners of the Web.

Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 03 Jun 2013 22:51:00 +0000

Why Rick Kogan deserves his success

I've been wanting to write about Rick Kogan for a while, but I've been too busy working and too tired during my downtime to clear my mind enough to do a post, but this is something that has to be put out there.

If you've noticed my masthead (the top part of this blog), you've seen Rick Kogan's quote for a while. He's been a newspaper writer for several years, and has worked at the Chicago Tribune for the last chunk of his career. He's also authored several books, has been on TV and radio, and has hosted events all over Chicago. Bottom line: he's a very successful media guy, and I'd say he has the best gig in town.

The fact that he submitted a supportive quote of my blog shows what an open-minded person he is, who cares about quality more than celebrity. Sure, he knows everyone, even powerful people in politics, but he doesn't judge people on their resume or pedigree. For example, not only is the quote in the header an example of his generosity, but he also was very cool when I first met him around eight years ago. I first met him at an appearance he did at the Harold Washington Library for his Ann Landers book, and he signed the book for my mom and wrote that I'm very smart. I barely talked to the guy, but he was complimentary in that way. Then I met him at another book event at the Chicago History Museum, and he asked me to come on his radio show to talk about a book that he actually bought for me! So I went to his show, went on the air, and he said I could come back whenever I wanted. Which I did. I ended up going to the radio station several times after that, and would just hang out in the studio and watch him do interviews.

What's important about his invitation is that he *never* asked me what I did for a living, didn't ask me what my educational background was, where I was from, who I knew...nothing. All he did was meet me, liked me as a human being, and invited me to his show. Then after that, while still never asking me anything, gave me an open invitation. Seriously, who would do that? It seems like something out of fiction, but that's the way he operates. He even let me come on his show a few times to promote a reading for the book (anthology) I published and for a podcast seminar I did, in addition to just making comments on the air once in a while (you can hear a couple interviews he did with me on my media page).

Also, when I eventually got work at the radio station he was on (which took several attempts and rejections btw), I ended up filling in for his producer a few times. Rick always got the producer, the news guy, and the engineer whatever they wanted from Starbucks. Every single week. I've worked with various radio people, and I haven't seen such generosity from others, even the ones who earn a lot more than him. But that's how he is: he thinks about other people and has a truly giving spirit. Maybe it's how he was raised, or that he's retained that 1960's attitude, but he has helped many people throughout the years. He has paid attention to those musicians, writers, artists, and others who don't have the slick PR campaigns or the insanely huge followings and has promoted them, and given them exposure that has helped them.

Also, through the years I've been writing and working in radio, he has been consistently encouraging. I've had my disappointments and have encountered people who haven't given me a break or who have been discouraging or downright rude, but he's always complimented me and has even told me that I should be tapped to do more than I'm doing now. It hasn't happened, but even if it never will, I can keep his words in my mind to remind me that he's one of the talented, successful people who believes in me. And I'm sure others who've met him would say the same as what I've said.

Right now he's filling in at another radio station, and he continues to write and have an interesting life. If anyone deserves continued success and a dynamic social life, it's him. There's a saying, "What goes around comes around," and he's helped so many people who have been toiling in obscurity like me, so he *should* be getting the good things that come his way.

I did an interview with him for my podcast last can listen right here.
Author : (Margaret Larkin)
Publ.Date : Mon, 22 Oct 2012 23:27:00 +0000
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