Moving Moving, and Some Links

Our dog is finally mature enough to roam the wilds of Idaho unleashed.

This thing has gone 11 months without an update, and it occurs to me that the flood of traffic coming in from Manilla, Philippines; Mississauga, Ontario; and So Joo Da Talha, Lisboa, Portugal, probably reads my site and takes me for dead. I am not dead! Now you know.

In one month my wife and I are leaving Boise, shoving all our belongings into storage and going over to Europe for 23 days. When we get back, we’re moving to San Francisco. Yes, I am aware of its awful real estate market, thanks for asking. You are the first. As excited as I am, I will miss Boise, Idaho. This is a cooler town that honestly seems to get better by the day.

A man in a hot springs in Hagerman, Idaho told me San Francisco will be a fine experience, “if you survive.” I’m hoping to slightly surpass those expectations. The hardest part with this stage in life is all the moving: a year in Boise, a year in San Francisco, who knows what beyond. It’s a gift and a challenge. Just when you hit your stride with a city, you move on to the next place.

Anyway, I leave you with some links, and a promise to write again.

  • Last fall Front Porch Journal published an essay of mine, “Ghosts in Glenrio,” about a ghost town I stopped at while driving Route 66. Check out the massive paragraphs on that thing; how intimidating is that? Those are Kardashian paragraphs, for sure. (This is why you don’t read something once it’s been published.)
  • I continue to keep my journo muscles in shape with some scattered freelancing. Here’s a recent feature I wrote on the academic situation in Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball program.
  • Lastly, I have a short fiction piece coming out in Midway Journal sometime this summer. Exact date TBA, but you will probably hear about it from Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News. I am hoping this piece has smaller paragraphs than the last.
Shout out to my Web traffic from Bratislava, Slovakia! I have no idea what you’re doing here.

You Can Find Me Everywhere

Reindeer farm in Palmer, AK

Finding the time to write this post is a relief in itself. The past two months have been a thrilling but exhausting sequence, but now the dust is starting to settle and consistency is finally taking hold. It seems appropriate for an update.

First, my physical whereabouts: I’ve been fortunate enough to take several trips this summer. To Alaska in June, where the landscape floored me and implanted an itch to move there. Then more recently to Billings, Montana, with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks along the way.

Of greater significance, though, is our move from Portland to Boise, Idaho. Haley’s 12-month psychology internship has brought us here, and we’re doing our best to dive in and experience as much as we can of the metropolitan heart of Idaho. If you’re in Boise and reading this: Hello. We’d love to meet you.

Between traveling, moving and making time for my day job, reading and writing have been scant in the few weeks. (Though my experiences have me bursting to sit down and bleed out some thoughts.) I have managed, however, to snag some nice publications in that period of time. In chronological order:

  • I reviewed Matthew Salesses’s “I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying” for [PANK]. You can read the review here. Spoiler: It was good. In fact, I highly recommend it if you’re headed to the beach.

  • I wrote two smallish articles for Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, which is run by fellow Daily Nebraskan alum Van Jensen. Van has written some incredibly cool things, including the graphic novel series Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer. He was also recently hired as the writer of DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps, but he’s transformed the GT alumni magazine into something really impressive.

  • A nonfiction travel piece of mine was accepted by Front Porch Journal, the literary magazine at Texas State University. I’m very excited about this piece, which has been stewing for several years, but for now I’ll only say that its subject was found driving Route 66.

And that’s pretty much it. So if you need me, I’ll be in Boise, where French fry addictions run wild and my schedule isn’t backlogged with a week’s worth of obligations. Boredom has never seemed so luxurious.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures:

Downtown market in Anchorage, AK

Grand Teton National Park

On Scar, Richard III and Megan the Phantom Girlie

Photo by hapinachu on Flickr

In all the excitement of finding King Richard III’s remains underneath a British parking lot, something got me wondering if he’d served as the inspiration for Scar, the villainous uncle in Disney’s “The Lion King.” The results of a quick Google search were far from definitive: A few debates on various Q&A sites, an offhand mention of the two on the world’s most antiquated news website, and, most convincingly, a decent repurposing of Lion King clips in a homemade Richard III trailer.

Fortunately, there was a diamond in the rough: A short, evidence-rich essay positing that Richard III truly was the inspiration for Scar’s character. The essay, which is attributed to the scholar “Megan the Phantom Girlie,” is one of several hosted at TheLionKing.org, an unofficial fansite straight out of 1995. I only browsed the others, though I did read most of one essay offering a fatalistic line-by-line reading of “Circle of Life.” There’s also an endless buffet of fan-fiction (Lion King/Jurassic Park crossover!) and fan art archived on the site, and I flirted with downloading a custom Lion King skin for my WinAmp player.

But while its setting is distracting, the essay itself was not terrible. It was short and economical, explaining that the connection between Scar and Richard III is even more apparent in the Broadway retelling than in the Disney movie version:

Richard is a skinny, dark-haired hunchback who walks with a limp. The connection here may not seem immediately obvious, but Scar is also presented with a limp on Broadway; in the film, the leonine lump between  his shoulders is considerably pronounced compared to the other lions.

Later, the essay illustrates how the narrative arcs of both individuals — eliminating heirs to become the unquestioned king — are virtually identical:

Scar and Richard’s kingdoms are practically destroyed, and neither of them seems ready to do anything about it. The plan rather shut down once the crown was achieved, setting the stage for a very unpleasant downfall.

For the two minutes it takes to read, I think it’s a good essay. (You can read it here.) It’s also a stunning reminder of the not-so-distant past, when semi-academic essays were published as text-only pages on Disney movie fansites and attributed to personas like Megan the Phantom Girlie.

A few thoughts on the Duotrope subscription

Duotrope subscription beings January 1, 2013.Judging from the social media reaction, last week’s news that Duotrope will soon require paid subscriptions has sparked a lot of conversation and reaction. While some writers are prepared to bid farewell to the searchable database, others are embracing a $50 annual Duotrope subscription as a means of keeping the website online. A handful of users have pitched their own alternatives to moving the bulk of the website behind a paywall, including charging the markets themselves to have their listings maintained.

As an active Duotrope user, I’ve been following the reaction online and considering how this decision will affect both myself and Duotrope’s overall product. Some thoughts on the news:

We’re all to blame.

Duotrope’s cash-flow problem is nothing new, and no regular user can feign surprise at the matter. In relying on donations to stay afloat, Duotrope has used emailed digests and an ever-present donations meter to inform users of where it stood in relation to its monthly donations goal. In nearly four years of using the database, I can’t remember one month that didn’t end short of that goal. As has been stated many times, including during the Duotrope subscription reveal, only about 10 percent of all Duotrope users ever put money into the pot. If even 20 percent had donated, things could have been different.

For seven years, Duotrope has faced the same problem that has confounded newspapers for years: Remaining financially viable while providing a service that consumers have come to expect for free. But Duotrope has more leverage than any newspaper because the searchable database has no formidable rival. In that sense, we should applaud the company for staving off subscriptions for so long when it likely could have cashed in sooner.

Submissions data could actually improve.

My first reaction was concern that, with user-reported submissions data expected to decline, one of the best features offered by Duotrope would depreciate in value. But the company dispelled those fears by relating user-provided data in terms of quality vs. quantity. The users least likely to invest in subscriptions are the ones who tended to provide the least reliable data, reporting responses inaccurately — if at all — and using the website only intermittently.

While the quantity of user-generated data will likely decrease, the pool of usable data should become more reliable — especially now that users are paying for the product.

Will mass submissions decline?

If there’s a downside to Duotrope’s services, it’s that the searchable database made it easy for users to fire off submissions at dozens of markets known only through their Duotrope listing. I’m guessing that a good chunk of those spam-submitters won’t want to pay $50/year to keep up their ill-advised practices. Similar to the expected changes in submissions data, it’s possible that Duotrope’s subscription will pare the mass of ill-fitting or poorly researched submissions flooding editor desks.

Meanwhile, the cost to writers continues to rise.

The unfortunate consequence of Duotrope’s subscription is that a handful of well-meaning, passionate writers will be denied room at the inn because they can’t pay the rent. Fifty dollars a year is no small sum for cash-strapped individuals. Unfortunately, this expense is in addition to the growing trend of markets charging reading fees for submissions sent online, which some journals have done to supplement their expenses while regulating submission volume and making sure they can pay their writers. (Not that I think that’s always a fair practice, but I’ll save that for another post.)

In a time when writers often seem to be the last ones getting paid in the publishing process, having to foot another bill stings. But the fault for this isn’t on Duotrope, which has done a lot for writers — and for markets — over the years. It gave us plenty of chances to mitigate our own costs with a few dollars in annual donations. But we didn’t want to pay, and now we’ve forced its hand.

Jonathan Crowl runs @LitMagNews and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Pretty colors

Photo by Flickr’s b0r0da

In the two-plus years I’ve had this site, I haven’t made much good use of it. It’s mostly been a repository for various professional accomplishments, and, on two occasions, impulsive monologues. An online portfolio of your work is a required asset in today’s journalism world, and in other professions, I’m sure. I still intend to use this site in that way, but I wanted to give it more purpose and, frankly, have more fun with it.

According to those goals, I handcrafted a header image with the irreplaceable MSPaint, a program as foundational and valuable to the Windows platform as Minesweeper itself. I am not an artist but I like pretty colors, and I REALLY like the spray can feature in MSPaint, so I’ve returned to my second-grade roots in hopes of injecting some personality and flair into this site.

While I’ll use this modest plot of Internet to post various achievements and other self-fellating notes about new journalism, fiction and food challenge victories, I’ll also use it for the entertaining and completely inane — posts about movies, art, readings, Boy Meets World (and Girl Meets World!) mucus in its varying colors and consistencies, The Voice, food creations, food failures, musings about my bamboo plant and transcriptions of my dog’s poetry. (She is a nine-pound wirehaired daschsund but she runs faster than you) Some of it you will hate. Most of it you will not even read. And that is okay. You’re probably a jerk, anyway.

Made Up Stories at Foundling Review

As promised, I’ve returned within six months to announce: a fiction story of mine has been published at Foundling Review, and in fact has already been brushed to the side by a more recent issue. But it can still be read here.

It’s finally getting nice outside, so my productivity is sure to drop, but hopefully there’s more to post here soon.

Some Recent Work

I’ve neglected to update this for a while, so I’m sure I’ll fail to mention some of the work I’ve published over the last few months. That includes some book reviews, including one of Jonathan Raban‘s Driving Home: An American Journey, which you can read at Bookslut.com. I also wrote an in-depth analysis/breakdown of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, which appeared on FootballOutsiders.com. I have a short fiction piece forthcoming in Foundling Review, and I’ll try to link to that within six or so months of its publication (no promises).

But probably the most notable thing I’ve done lately is starting up Recess Magazine. I had considered putting together something like it for a while, but the decision to go through with buying the domain and starting up the site was done somewhat impulsively. It’s more of a hobby-job than anything else and is in its early stages, but I’m trying to build it into a lit mag/pop culture website that blends fiction with sports with TV commentary and other topics. The site has already been receiving and accepting submissions of columns, fiction, and other interesting pieces, and I’m hoping to increase its publishing frequency over the next couple of months.

Below are a few pieces of mine that have appeared on the site, which I think embody the site’s goal of publishing work that is “serious about unserious things, unserious about serious things, and unserious about unserious things.”

Nihilists Rejoice: Bad TV (And Its Pandering Laugh Track) Wins Again

Faking Your Football Fluency: An Eater’s Guide To Super Bowl Sunday

Gang Green: cover story for Willamette Week

Three months of reporting (interrupted periodically by vacationing and life’s unglamorous demands) culminated in my cover story for Willamette Week.

The piece looks at the rise of arguably the most impressive (and productive) organized fan supporters group in the United States, the Timbers Army, how it generates revenues to put toward philanthropic efforts, and how the owner of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers soccer club hit some stumbling blocks on his way to developing the most effective front office-supporters group relationship in the United States — one that MLS would do well to see replicated elsewhere in the league.

Read the story here

Timbers coverage

I’ve been busy the past month covering the Portland Timbers as they make the jump from the United Soccer League to Major League Soccer. Their home opener was last week, and it was an unforgettable experience. Below are four stories I’ve written on the team:

Splitting Timbers (A season preview of the changes coming with the move to MLS)

Timbers’ Home Major League Soccer Debut A Success

Timbers Win Second Straight At Home

Cutting the Ribbon (A reflection on the game experience in the first weekend of home play)

Why Unpaid Internships Are Good, And Also Why They Suck

The “unpaid” attached to so many internships these days (so, so many) is smart because of the way it’s phrased: you aren’t a volunteer because you are — allegedly — getting payment in the form of education. This isn’t true in all cases; there’s plenty of interns out there with horror stories of months-long tenures as nameless coffee gophers. They sign up for one thing and get another, and usually it’s not anything they can use to advance their careers.

The subject of unpaid internships was broached today at ThoughtCatalog.com, which printed a template farewell letter for the disgruntled unpaid intern. I wouldn’t recommend using the template, since you will come across as unappreciative and venomous, and you will have torpedoed your chances with any employer that contacts that company, but the letter is worth reading to take in the gamut of quibbles that unpaid internships have with their employers. The short of it, as you might guess, is that more often than not, unpaid workers get screwed.

I sympathize with those stories. I’ve held several unpaid jobs and internships in hopes that they would open doors for me in the future. Some did. Others didn’t. For others the jury’s still out. Most of that work is behind me now, although I do read pro bono for PANK Magazine, which, admittedly, requires few hours and consists of me doing something — reading — that I would be doing in my free time anyway. I read submissions because I have a passion for it, I enjoy it, I want to learn from it, the work hours aren’t burdening, and because, frankly, I feel I’m getting much more in the way of education than I could ever give back. Technically not an internship, PANK has more value, in some respects, than my paying work does. For all of these reasons, working for free works for me.

There are things I hate about unpaid internships. Beyond the lack of pay, that is. First is the disadvantage it creates for individuals of a lower socioeconomic status (SES) — people who can’t afford to work without pay and consequently miss out on opportunities. It puts trust-fund babies and other upper-class offspring at a considerable advantage when trying to board the elevator at the ground level. They’re more likely to get in while the door is open while less fortunate individuals make for the stairs.

Richie Rich may be the most qualified applicant, or he may not. We can’t know for sure because a great deal of applicants are turned away at the first line of the job description. I’m no spawn of rich folk, but I’m much better off than most of the country, and probably all but a handful of the world. With that heightened SES has come advantages: being childless, having an advanced education, and being able to worry without the pressures of paying bills and supporting families while still in college.

Nobody in the world wants to work for free. Duh. The value of an unpaid internship is entirely up to the individual and how he values his time and resources in relation to the benefits — again, alleged — of the internship being offered. Yes, there are always people that view you as free labor, and just that. Yes, there will be the beguiling, creepy guy in the band T-shirt that locks his turrets on the fresh and eager female interns. It’s hard to know exactly what you will get from an internship, particularly if you don’t have former interns to reference, and this makes it all the more challenging to gauge the job’s value.

In a perfect world, you would get something back for the work you do, and most jobs feature a monetary component. But many programs and businesses, particularly those in the arts and journalism, are strapped for cash and barely afloat. As the money dries up in these sectors, it leaves a large group of passionate individuals clamoring to get in the boat and keep it afloat, and some try by sacrificing the eager optimists that choose to work for free. Let me embolden young people mulling an unpaid internship: do your research. Figure out what you are getting in return (there should be something). Take the leap if you can afford it. Put forth your best effort — make sure they miss you when you’re gone. This last rule is the most important: I’ve had unpaid co-workers who felt disrespected and under-appreciated. But the degree to which they were valued equated the contributions they made to the company. Because their efforts were half-hearted, they were treated with little regard. Sadly for these people, they never caught on that their biggest problem was themselves, and they missed out on rewarding experience and education because they were too busy fussing over exchange rates.

Unpaid internships are meant for ambitious people who work hard and have a passion for what they do. You must be one of these people. But if you are, and you have been led astray and are being used for free work, consider walking out the door. Give those bad employers what they deserve. Don’t feel bad — they’re getting what they paid for.

Just make sure you held up your end of the bargain.