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Rough Day? Howard the Duck to the Rescue

When I'm having a rough day, I have a few different clips on YouTube I watch to brighten things up. This is one of them. It's the end to Howard the Duck. It makes me feel better because no matter what I wrote that day, it's probably not as bad as this scene concocted by a cocaine-addled mind.


The End is Nigh, or so they say.

Encyclopedia Britannica has stopped printing hardbound volumes. They actually stopped in 2010 and they haven’t been able to sell 8,000 sets from that printing because, well, no one needs information from 2010. A lot of opinions I’ve read are saying that it’s a terrible thing, that it’s a sign of the end of print publishing. I couldn’t disagree with them more.

Encyclopedia Britannica is facing the same problem newspapers have been facing for the last few years. The internet is becoming the primary source of news information over anything in print. The first advantage is that it’s faster – a lot faster. It’s hard to be exclusive as the paper hits the pavement in the morning, when I logged onto Twitter before I went to bed and found out the same information. Not to mention the added advantage of being able to find things out directly from the source instead of having some kind of a filter. As protests were breaking out in Libya and Egypt, people on the ground were using Twitter and social media to get the word out about what was going on. The only advantage of print media during that time was to consolidate the information we were getting elsewhere.

Maybe an encyclopedia isn’t best for late breaking news, but what about history? Some blogs I read complained about the students and the libraries. Frankly, it’s better for them and anyone that thinks differently is an idiot. Even the past is never concrete. There’s always something new being discovered even about our history. And to be handing students old information seems irresponsible, but it’s done because schools can’t afford to keep buying the newest volumes. The best thing for them is to use the online services that Britannica will still offer to schools and libraries. Students can still use the resource, but still get the latest information.

A good example that comes to mind is Mark Felt. Seven years ago, Mark Felt was revealed to be the Deep Throat informant from Watergate. (If you’re not familiar with any of this, read All The President’s Men, or watch the film.) Now, if a kid wanted to do an article about Watergate in 2006 and he had an encyclopedia, he’d probably have the wrong information. Even if that encyclopedia was published at the beginning of 2005, the same year the news broke, it wouldn’t have Mark Felt’s name as Deep Throat. It may reference his name as a suspect, but it’s hardly accurate information the kid is reporting. Are we helping or hurting kids by turning them to this out-dated print information? How will they stay informed in adult life?

At the rate information moves today, it’d be a disservice to any students to have them learn from something that is missing information the day after it prints. We have to give students the information that’s going to give them the best advantage. I don’t think I knew anyone growing up that had encyclopedias in their house and if I did, we never used them. We just went to the library.

I saw one article which cited that about one-third of Americans don’t have access to the internet at home or work. What are this people going to do? Well, chances are if they don’t have money for the internet, they aren’t going to be buying encyclopedias either. They’re problems aren’t going to be solved by how they receive information. That’s an issue for another discussion.

But is this latest news really a nail in the coffin of print media? I don’t think so. It’s a bad sign for newspapers maybe, and magazines – anyone that is trying to serve as our news source. It shows that we want out information faster, and that’s a good thing. People will still want to read books non-electronically. They’ll want to read Tom Clancy thrillers, James Patterson mysteries, and vampire novels on things that won’t also receive their emails or give them calendar reminders. Print publications will go down, electronic publications will go up. At some point they’ll find a balance with each other and we’ll all be okay.


One Month Later...

It feels like Spring today. It's actually a week away, but I'm glad it's decided to show up a little earlier. I usually say that Fall is my favorite season. Fall has my birthday, leaves changing color, cooler temperatures than the summer, and, from the conditioning of school, it's when I see the opportunity to start fresh. But really, that's what Spring is for, a new beginning. Flowers are starting to bloom, there's a lot more sunlight, we can finally end our winter-hibernation. It's a good time to be around and think about things in a new positive light.

After the last few months with losing work and a mental block on editing, (Is Editor's Block a thing?) it's good to get some fresh air and see things more postively. And I finally get to use the porch on the new house without it being late at night after I get home from work. My only wish is that we lived on a quieter street. A nice Spring day - especially the first one -- means everyone gets out their motorcycles and their muslce cars to go cruising. It's loud, but let's face it, I'd do exactly the same thing if I had a classic Mustang. I'd at least be playing some good music. Creedence or something. 



I'll never say: "I used to write."

Editing is worse than Writing. That’s where the true battle comes in. I took seven days off last month to work on the novel. I was hoping to complete it, but there were distractions. (I’d been going non-stop since Thanksgiving and some chores had piled up.) And there were more edits that needed to be done, scenes that needed to be rewritten and new scenes to be created than I had anticipated.

When I told them I was working on my book during my vacation, many of them said, “I used to write,” somewhere in their response. I was surprised though by how many people used to write. It was always “used to,” never “I write,” or “I still write.” I think editing is what makes the difference. Anyone can write. But to be a writer – to call yourself a writer – to go for the success, you have to edit.

Editing isn’t just changing words around, fixing sentence structure or misspellings. Editing is telling a better story with better writing. You have to make sure that everything connects, not just in a factual sense, but you need to make sure that the themes and ideas you start off with flow throughout. You have to be critical of yourself. You have to admit how awful something is, or how it has nothing to contribute to the story whatsoever. Even though something may be a beautifully written line, it may make no sense on the page and you have to cut it. Eat your pride. The parts where you find yourself wanting to quit the editing process and put the beast down for a while, is the same thing that will make a reader put it down and maybe never pick it up again.

Most people don’t want to do that. They like the idea of writing. They want to be a writer. Most people I run into “used to write” because they liked the act of writing, they just didn’t like the job. Personally, I hate it at times, but the moment things click and a work is improved, when you’ve created something wonderful that wasn’t there before, that’s when I thrive.

Thank you, Joe.


As a Penn Stater, I feel a strong connection to Joe Paterno. His passing is a loss for his family, the fans and football. But his passing is also a great loss for all of us. It's hard in these times to find someone with the character that Joe embodied. He gave so much of himself to helping others. I'm hardpressed to find someone that more perfectly exemplifies the ideas of dedication, loyalty and humility.

Joe was the head coach of Penn State for 46 seasons, an assistant coach years before that. It's a career that's hard to match in any field. He was a loyal supporter of the University, even til the very end. All the money and all the fame never got to him. He stayed loyal to the values he started with. He never took praise that the players deserved. Though I'm sure there were many offers, he stayed loyal to his team and his fans.

Joe was a man of great character, an example for us all to live by - an example that was rare in his time and is sadly rarer now. If everyone had a fraction of the character that Joe did, the world would be a much better place.

"Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy." - Joe Paterno