2011 - %3, April

How to Unsuck Corporate Jargon

| Wed Apr. 6, 2011 12:00 PM EDT

Somewhere, a grammarian cries whenever an office email contains jargon like "upskill" or "calendarize." Fortunately, Mule Design Studio's Unsuck-It.com transforms business twaddle into sparse Hemingway prose—or at least English. Here, for example, is a soul-crushing bizspeak sentence translated into something E.B. White might recognize:

"We can't boil the ocean, so let's start by bucketizing the deliverables and picking the low-hanging fruit."

Unsucked: "We can't waste time, so let's prioritize what we can easily accomplish."

More corporate argot defanged for your amusement and dismay:

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Tribute to a Murdered Jewish-Palestinian Hero

| Tue Apr. 5, 2011 11:00 AM EDT
Juliano Mer Khamis, pictured here in his 2004 documentary film, returns to the Jenin refugee camp to reconnect with his former students.

Jewish-Palestinian peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis was shot to death on Monday in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, near the steps of the theater program he helped found. Condolence messages from Palestinians and Israelis are pouring in, and the Palestinian Authority has arrested a suspect. The Jenin mayor saluted Juliano as someone who lived in the camp through "sweet and bitter days" and developed the theater program to reject oppression, injustice, and occupation.

In lieu of a tribute to this hero I've never met, I'd like to encourage readers to watch the 2004 film, Arna’s Children, which Juliano narrated and directed. I've watched many Israeli-Palestinian documentaries. None have haunted and moved me like this one.

The film, shot over almost two decades, is set in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin, a place where Israeli bombs and tanks are inescapable realities of childhood. In the first half of the film, we are introduced to Juliano's mother, Arna, a Jewish Israeli who set up the theater group in Jenin in the late 1980s. Arna is bald from chemotherapy, yet devotes her dying days to her playful and talented little actors, helping them express their anger and grief through art and drama.

 

Years pass. Arna succumbs to cancer, the 1994 Oslo peace accords unravel, the theater program shuts down, the Israeli occupation hardens, and the 2000 second intifada erupts. On April 3, 2002, the Israeli army invades Jenin, killing more than 50 Palestinians and destroying hundreds of homes.

And many of "Arna's children" have now become militiamen and suicide fighters.

In the second half of the film, Juliano returns to Jenin to find out how and why this has happened. We see that it's not mainly about anti-Semitic brainwashing—Jenin residents adore Arna and Juliano despite their Jewish background and Israeli nationality. Rather, Arna's children have chosen "martyrdom" because of the searing horrors they've witnessed with their own eyes.

One of the many unforgettable stories is that of Yousef, who had been the "joker" of Juliano's theater group. At age 22, Yousef attempts to rescue a 10-year-old girl who was hit by an Israeli tank shell; the girl dies in his arms on the way to the hospital. One week later, Yousef finds he has nothing left to laugh about. He and another theater group alum open fire on Israeli civilians, killing four women before Israeli police shoot them dead.

Juliano himself is now another tragedy of the conflict. I hope more Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans will watch his film, reflect critically on its message, and work to end this cruel bloodbath once and for all.

Dear Anna: Tips For Viral Video Fame

| Tue Apr. 5, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

If that punk Rebecca Black can get rich by making a crappy song and video, I wanna do it too! How can I make viral videos that win me financial and celebrity acclaim?

~Rebecca CRACK

If I knew the answer to that, do you really think I'd be telling you how to become a millionaire while I sit here in my Target pajamas, drinking Charles Shaw out of a measuring cup?

For the three of you who haven't been on the Internet for the past few weeks, or have simply had better things to do with your time, eff you. I mean, this is what happened with Rebecca Black. She's a 13-year-old whose rich parents gave $2,000 to Ark Music Factory to write two terrible songs and make a video out of the one whose lyrics included the order of the days of the week, and breakfast. Black "sang" it, and Ark made said video into an auto-tuned monstrosity, with kids in braces pretending to drive convertibles and such. The scathing reaction to the song made the video go viral. (As of this week, it's been viewed almost 65 million times). Musician Mike Bauer impersonated Bob Dylan in a hilarious cover of it, which is totally worth watching just to hear him sing, "Gotta have cereal." And bam! Insta-fame.

According to Slate, Black has probably made about $40,000 from the song, and assuming she doesn't use most of it on therapy from the hatefest she inspired, that's a decent sum for a 13-year-old. While there's no magical key for making lots of money that you don't deserve, here are a few suggestions for you to try on your way to Internet infamy, based on YouTube's most-viewed videos of all time.

Read the rest of my social media column at SF Weekly.

The Top Media Policy Stories of the Week

| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 6:23 PM EDT

Editor's note: Every other week, The Media Consortium rounds up the latest media policy news in a blog called the The Wavelength, posted below.

Last week, the New York Times debuted a long-awaited paywall, and stats blogger Nate Silver used the launch as an opportunity to explore the value of a news organization based on the amount of original reporting it produces. While Silver's rankings could be a valuable tool for news organizations, Mother Jones' Nick Baumann finds Silver's methodology wanting.

"The results, as you might expect, made the Times [paywall] look like a pretty good value," Baumann writes. But the real problems are in how Silver ranks "original reporting"—namely that online citations don't always identify the outlet, and that larger, established news organizations sometimes get credit for breaking stories when smaller orgs actually had the scoop first. That's not to say that rankings like this don't have incredible value for media, but that they need to be explored in a deeper manner. Baumann writes:

It'd be nice to see a foundation interested in journalism—the Knight Foundation, say, or Google.org—invest some time and money to expand and rework the rankings. It would be great to see media outlets competing to produce more and better original reporting.

Ultimately, Baumann believes rankings like this, if done right, could be a valuable barometer for measuring quality in journalism. Let's hope someone takes up his call to arms.

Nothing Beats a Limerick About the GOP

| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 12:54 PM EDT

If you're on twitter, I highly recommend you do a search for @FloridaGOP. As you'll see, approximately 95.785% of tweets mentioning @FloridaGOP are about the #OMGuterus debacle, wherein the Florida GOP said the word "uterus" wasn't appropriate for the oh-so-delicate ears of young pages and families who might be listening to House debates. Uterus, you may ask? Isn't that a medically correct term for a body part the GOP really likes to regulate? Why yes, it certainly is. And the GOP might consider that at least some people on the Florida House floor have heard the word uterus because they have one. To further express my disdain for the Florida GOP's "no uterus" policy, I wrote this limerick. Because nothing says scorn like a limerick.

A man on the Florida House floor

Cried, "Let us say uterus no more!

It's vulgar and crude

(especially to dudes)

And that's who this party is for!"

 

The Mystery of Stack-O-Lee

| Mon Apr. 4, 2011 5:45 AM EDT

On Christmas Day, 1895, a local pimp named "Stack" Lee Shelton walked into a St. Louis bar wearing pointed shoes, a box-back coat, and his soon-to-be infamous milk-white John B. Stetson hat. Stack joined his friend Billy Lyons for a drink. Their conversation settled on politics, and soon it grew hostile: Lyons was a levee hand and, like his brother-in-law—one of the richest black men in St. Louis at the time—a supporter of the Republican party. Stack had aligned himself with the local black Democrats. The details of their argument aren't known, but at some point Lyons snatched the Stetson off Stack's head. Stack demanded it back, and when Lyons refused, shot him dead.

The story of Stack-O-Lee—or Stack O'Lee or Stagger Lee or Stack A Lee depending on who's singing—became the popular subject of murder ballads and blues songs in the early 20th century. In the liner notes of a new collection, People Take Warning: Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs, 1913-1938, Tom Waits argues that most murder ballads are "just a cut above graffiti...the oral tabloids of the day." They were written by street singers to capitalize on the pulp appeal of violent local crimes. Certainly the ballad of Stack-O-Lee seems to have begun this way. But unlike most ballads of its time, Stack-O-Lee's has survived and flourished through the years. What accounts for the story's longevity?

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week [9]

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 8:59 PM EDT

Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with a great read than over the weekend? Below, a hand-picked bouquet of five interesting stories, including word count and approximate reading time. (Readers can also subscribe to The Top 5 Longreads of the Week by clicking here.)

Besides "Uterus", What Other Dirty-Sounding Words Would the GOP Ban?

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 1:21 PM EDT

Fresh on the heels of Uterusgate (and the hashtag meme #GOPnames4uterus), we wondered what other dirty-sounding non-dirty words Republicans would prefer that you not say on a legislature's floor. So far we've got:

  • Uterus
  • Moist
  • Knickers
  • Penal
  • Caucus
  • Assonance
  • Ventricular
  • Annals
  • Panties
  • Titmouse
  • Gonad
  • Urethra
  • Screw Jack
  • Stimulus
  • Spotted Dick
  • Global Warming
  • Christian Fundamentalist
  • Equal Pay
  • Empathy
  • Public
  • Community
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Tort (unless followed by "reform")
  • Racism (unless preceded by "reverse")

Got others? Add 'em in the comments!

The New York Times' Paywall and Nate Silver's Reporting Rankings

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 10:45 AM EDT

On Monday, after a 14-month, $40 million dollar development process, the New York Times finally launched its much-heralded, much-debated paywall scheme.1

Reviews are mixed.2 But perhaps the most interesting response to the paywall was from the Times' stats expert, polling guru Nate Silver. Instead of attacking or defending the concept of the paywall head-on, Silver took a different tack: attempting to quantify what, exactly, the $15 per month would buy you. To do that, Silver put together a ranking of how much original reporting the 260-odd top journalism outlets actually produce. The results, as you might expect, made the Times look like a pretty good value. The eight top organizations ranked—the Associated Press, the Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the BBC, AFP, and CNN—were responsible for more than half of the original reporting Silver catalogued.3