Shutting the Door on the Hard-Knock Life

In sync with the resurgence of labor activism nationwide, actors, dancers, stage managers, technicians and others have been questioning the nuts and bolts of their contracts — both the documents that detail their jobs and the wider assumptions about what they owe an audience. Can the theater, they ask, find a way to uphold them more holistically as humans, even as they continue to gut themselves every night? Some people will not even agree that it should. The idea that theater is a calling, not a job, and that the two categories are mutually exclusive, is so ingrained in the…

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Two decades of Alzheimer’s research may be based on deliberate fraud that has cost millions of lives

Over the last two decades, Alzheimer’s drugs have been notable mostly for having a 99% failure rate in human trials. It’s not unusual for drugs that are effective in vitro and in animal models to turn out to be less than successful when used in humans, but Alzheimer’s has a record that makes the batting average in other areas look like Hall of Fame material. And now we have a good idea of why. Because it looks like the original paper that established the amyloid plaque model as the foundation of Alzheimer’s research over the last 16 years might not just…

Tales from the Antiquities Theft Task Force

A shot of Kim Kardashian leaning against an Egyptian coffin at the 2018 Met Gala by Landon Nordeman exposes his subject in a flash of light—though perhaps not the subject anyone expected. Out of the thousands upon thousands who saw the shot, one happened to be more interested in the gold coffin than Kim’s (heavenly) body in gold Versace. He had looted the coffin seven years earlier but was never paid for his spoils. And it was now sitting in the Met. Angry and in possession of receipts, he fired off an anonymous email to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to tip…

Scat “boop oop a doop” and variations (Esther Lee Jones, Helen Kane, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe); hippie “coo coo ca choo”; Beatles “goo goo ga joob”

A few years ago I was working regularly with a director who filled any conversation pause with a descending musical vocalization “doo de-doo de-doo.” While the similar “dum de-dum de-dum” means “I’m just sitting here minding my own business,” the brighter, more cheerful “doo de-doo de-do” was a cross between a satisfied sigh and a scat, and seemed to convey motion, or anticipation. It was so bright that maybe I should render it “doot te-doot te-doot.”   Not “attention!” like the CSI “dun-dun” gavel sound, or impatience, like the “writing down your Final Jeopardy response” theme song.  I remember looking into…

Google worker says he was fired for blowing whistle on cult

A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for “religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action.” It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to…

Farewell Internet Explorer: You Weren’t All Bad

The main reason I still dislike Internet Explorer was because its popularity often meant you had to create one version of a website that was compatible with emerging and established industrywide standards, and another version that worked in Internet Explorer. So I still cringe when I see that dizzy “e” icon — except in this image, where it’s on a gravestone. Having said that, I appreciated reading about the significant innovations that IE pioneered. Web 2.0 might have never happened without what was possibly the most reviled piece of software in history. Today, Microsoft Internet Explorer—which at one point accounted…

No, you’re not going crazy – package sizes are shrinking

It’s the inflation you’re not supposed to see. From toilet paper to yogurt and coffee to corn chips, manufacturers are quietly shrinking package sizes without lowering prices. It’s dubbed “shrinkflation,” and it’s accelerating worldwide. […] Bags of Fritos Scoops marked “Party Size” used to be 18 ounces; some are still on sale at a grocery chain in Texas. But almost every other big chain is now advertising “Party Size” Fritos Scoops that are 15.5 ounces — and more expensive. PepsiCo didn’t respond when asked about Fritos. But it did acknowledge the shrinking of Gatorade bottles. The company recently began phasing…

The Storyteller (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 14) A Bajoran village mystic names O’Brien his successor; Jake and Nog try to impress a teenaged faction leader

Rewatching ST:DS9 O’Brien tries to weasel his way out of an assignment to ferry Bashir to a Bajoran village that sent a vague (apparently medical?) distress call. The cheerfully oblivious Bashir asks O’Brien to call him “Julien” instead of “sir.” (O’Brien: “Is that an order?”)  The landing party is led to Sirah, an old man who names O’Brien as someone sent to him by the Prophets. Because this still early in the episode, we get only vague answers to questions about what’s going on, and O’Brien and Bashir just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ a lot, without asking any particularly pointed follow-up questions. We watch…

How a billionaires boys’ club came to dominate the public square

The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, attacked a publication owned by the world’s third-richest man, Jeff Bezos, last month for reprinting a column published by the world’s 13th-richest man, Mike Bloomberg. The Bloomberg opinion article, posted by The Washington Post, asked whether Musk’s recent investment in Twitter would endanger freedom of speech. “WaPo always good for a laugh,” Musk wrote in a tweet, with smiling and crying emoji. The jab underscored an unusual and consequential feature of the nation’s new digital public square: Technological change and the fortunes it created have given a vanishingly small club of massively wealthy individuals the ability…

Mobile is a “really punishing format” for indies, says inkle’s Jon Ingold

Mobile is a really punishing format for independent developers. It used to be that the App Stores drove users to find games in viable quantities – 80 Days certainly benefitted enormously from Apple’s Editorial featuring – but that process has largely stopped. To be big – which is to say, to be viable – on the App Store now, a game needs to have a lot of push behind, a lot of other strategies for finding users and keeping them. That all means up-front money, investment, and ultimately a loss of creative independence. There’re plenty of studios thriving in that…

As a plucky grad student, I walked in the door ready to negotiate with a department that needed my labor.

I think enough time has passed that I can tell this story. When I was a PhD student at the University of Toronto in the mid 1990s, the department asked me to sit through a week of undergrad presentations and proctor a final exam for my advisor, who needed to take a brief medical leave. I made a cup of tea for an afternoon of marking, tallied up and posted the final grades, and got some work-study money for my trouble. When I checked in with my advisor by phone, he mentioned he wasn’t going to return for the next…

We were a Neilsen ratings family during the pandemic

In March 2020, just as the lockdown closed down my daughter’s production of The Outsiders and the next couple of shows she had already lined up, and my school went to virtual teaching, my wife got a call from the  Nielsen Ratings company. My household had been selected as one of the representative families whose media consumption habits are used in TV Land to determine what shows are renewed and cancelled. All four of us were given what looked like 1980s beepers, which we clipped to our clothes or kept in our pockets. The devices listened to subliminal audio signals,…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In March, 2002, I was blogging about…

In March, 2002, I was blogging about The coming era of participatory news The “Worst Manual Contest” Ancient “Domesday Book” outlives electronic version (that article is also gone… but here’s contemporary coverage from Slashdot) My own text-adventure game “Fine-Tuned: An Auto-mated Romance“ PBS special “Merchants of Cool” (early observations about the cultural feedback loop as teens engage with, internalize, and mirror back the images marketers use to sell products) The Gettysburg Address on PowerPoint Star Trek Chaplains? (and religion on Babylon 5) Turn of the Century (the standardization of screws) William Shatner’s Blog

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo
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Pitching a Magazine Article: Resources for Beginning Freelance Writers

Jerz > Writing > Journalism A “pitch” is the publishing industry’s term for “proposal.” Your goal is to find out whether an editor is interested in a story you’ve written (or that you’re about to write). An editor with deadlines to meet and a flood of pitches from established authors will need a very good reason to take a chance on a new writer.  How to Pitch a Journal or Magazine Article (Harvard.edu) How to Pitch an Article to a Magazine (MasterClass.com) Pitching Articles: 5 Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Pitch  (WritersDigest.com) How to Write a Pitch to Editors That WINS (15m video from Megan Grant)…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In February, 2002, I was blogging about…

In February, 2002, I was  logging about Robert E. McElwaine was a conspiracy theorist who had a habit of spamming multiple newsgroups with his political, religious, and social ideas. He used an account at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and was very active until around the time I started teaching at that school. Animator Chuck Jones, who brought to life Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, dies at 89. (No, he was neither squashed by a falling safe nor run over by an Acme Indestructo Steel Ball.) Palindromatic dates:”The year 2002. The 20th day of the 2nd month, 2002.…

Academics want to preserve video games. The game industry is fighting them in court.

For decades, champions of the video game industry have touted gaming’s cultural impact as the equal of literature, film and music. Traditionally, the classic works from those mediums have been preserved for study by future generations, and amid gaming’s global rise in relevance, a group of video game scholars and advocates is pushing to preserve the game industry’s historic titles and legacy in a similar fashion. In the process, though, the would-be preservationists have found a number of challenges that include, ironically, legal opposition from video game companies and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a trade organization that lobbies on…

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, who testified unmasked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, has since tested positive for the coronavirus, the airline said in a statement.

Kelly testified at the hearing that he believes masks do not add substantial protection to airplane passengers and cited aircraft ventilation systems.

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” he said. “It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

The hearing lasted approximately three hours. Five witnesses were seated in close proximity and went most of the hearing unmasked.

Kelly was seated between American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. Kirby tested negative, the airline said. American said that “Doug is symptom-free, fully vaccinated and getting tested this afternoon.” –CNN Business

So glad to be attending another live theatrical production. @quantumtheatre never disappoints.

Projections, live music, sounds, props, costumes, scene changes, casting, performances… everything spot-on and professional. A moving, deeply relevant story, with lots of flawed characters whose story arcs were rich and engaging. The mystery was well-executed, with subtle details (parallels, echoes, clever misdirection) that amplified the plot twists. Very powerful. I leapt to my feet applauding as soon as it ended.

I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth

One of the heirs to the Disney fortune explains (and critiques) the mindset of the super-rich. If your comfort requires that society be structured so that a decent percentage of your fellow citizens live in a constant state of terror about whether they’ll get health care in an emergency, or whether they can keep a roof over their family’s heads, or whether they will simply have enough to eat, perhaps the problem does not rest with those people, but with you and what you think of as necessary, proper, and acceptable. –Abigail Disney Source: I Was Taught From a Young…