Took pictures last night at a women’s expo in Bridgeport, Michigan

I am by no means the world’s greatest photographer, but I enjoy doing it and it is a passion of mine. Someday, I’d like to have my own private collection of photography and hang worthy pictures on the wall. My tastes are eclectic: I love the photo of the skyscraper workers in New York City eating lunch on a steel girder about 30 stories above the ground and how calm they look.

No. Stinking. Way. I would ever do this!

I also like the photo of the Mississippi law enforcement officers sharing a laugh during the infamous “Mississippi Burning” incident, just because that picture is a fascinating portrait of hatred, smugness, racism.

I do not endorse the racial mentalities in this picture, I just think they’re captured extremely well. Oddly enough, the photographer who took this picture reported Sheriff Rainey was very polite during the shooting of the photo.

I spent about two hours last night walking around the various displays and aiming to get great photos. Some turned out really good while others, well, not so much. When I’d find a good shot, I’d play with settings since the lighting provided can render some camera settings useless. I definitely need to improve my technical proficiency.

I can’t think of a better analogy, so I’ll use this one: being a good photographer perhaps mirrors being a good hunter or sniper.  You must be patient, observant and have attention to detail. One brief second is the perfect photo and then, before you know it, it’s gone.

What do I look for in a great photo? Realism. I like people to pretend as if I’m not there. I may make occasional exceptions, but for the most part I hate posed photos. They scream “Fake!”.

Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Goodbye, ‘The Hunt For Red October’, hello ‘Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl’

Well, technically I didn’t finish reading read Tom Clancy’s novel The Hunt For Red October. I tried. Twice. This time, I made it halfway through the book before finishing the rest in skim mode. I’ll watch the movie soon when I can.

The idea was great, and I agree with a lot of Clancy’s politics. The problem was, I found this book to be far too technical. Clancy likes to describe technology, intelligence procedures and military equipment in explicit detail. It made for slow pacing and, frankly, boring reading. Yes, I know that President Ronald Reagan loved this book (which tells me his attention span was far longer than what his critics care to admit). But for me, while Clancy has great ideas, it just didn’t work for me.

Years ago, I tried reading Patriot Games and didn’t finish that, either. It seemed too far-fetched that Irish terrorists would travel to American soil to avenge a crime. I may try sometime to read Cardinal in the Kremlin, since it deals with a spy for America inside the Kremlin. Maybe. Other books are awaiting my time. Sometime soon, I’ll have to make some time to read Ben Bova’s Mercury. As readers of this blog know, Dr. Bova has turned into one of my favorite sci-fi writers. If you haven’t read Jupiter, do yourself a favor and read it…

I’ve read the first entry of Anne Frank’s iconic diary. This was originally required as reading in my high school in the freshman or sophomore honors English program, but since I didn’t take honors English until my junior year, I missed out.

Little did Anne Frank know, her writings to “Kitty” would become an important piece of literature.

I look at Miss Frank as a delve into two genres of literature: classic (it was written in the 1940s and, technically, was written not only in the prior century, but also in the prior millennium) and foreign (the German-born, Dutch-raised Frank was Jewish and penned her diary in Dutch). What we read in English is a translation.

Having a short attention span has always made it a challenge for me to start and complete classics in literature, especially if they seem slow or are filled with archaic language. We’ll see how this process goes.

I am determined to succeed.

Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.
 

 

An Australian journalism student interviews me

It’s always exciting to receive e-mail from someone across the ocean, whether it’s in Europe or down under. Recently, I received questions over e-mail from Dianne Denisse Climent, a journalism student at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Dianne came across my Ponderings From Pluto satire blog and had questions about satire and blogging. Here are my answers.

1. What are your passions and credibility’s to date?
I’ve been a professional writer for 10 years. I’ve done news reporting, feature writing, sports writing, copy writing, copy editing, proofreading, columns, and, of course, blogging. My passions are journalism, column writing, blogging and fiction writing. I work 30 hours a week at a weekly newspaper, and in my spare time I like to blog.

I also hope someday to be a fiction writer.

When it comes to blogs, I have four: my writing career, my opinions, my life and thoughts as a Christian, and my satirical news blog.

Here is my most recent satirical blog posting.

2. What does satire mean to you?
To me, satire is the exaggeration or embellishment of news events. If done properly, it can make people laugh as well as think. One classic example is Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, which he facetiously advocates cannibalism to draw attention to Ireland’s famine. I remember one girl at college was in tears after reading it, convinced that Swift was 100% serious. I got a good laugh out of that and thankfully, she didn’t organize her friends to lynch me. I think explaining to her that it was satire saved my life.

3. What are the different types of satire?
There are two basic types: one type favors humor while the other favors driving a point home. One example I love regarding humor is a United Way parody on Saturday Night Live where Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning spoofs his good-guy image by teaching kids unsavory habits.

I wonder how many anti-Peyton Manning football fans saw this ad and thought it was really true.

Regarding driving a point home, Swift’s essay has stood the test of time.

4. What does that satirical clip on Nintendo Wii fit demonstrate to you about satire?

It’s brilliant–serious enough to be completely convincing. This is an excellent piece of satire.

5. What do you believe are the ethical implications associated with the satire in this clip?
None. It is strictly a harmless parody. I see no problems with this video.

6. What do you believe are the legal implications associated with this clip?
Please see my answer to Number 5.

7. Do you think that satire is a legitimate commentary on society and life? or just ‘taking the piss’ out of everything?
Both. In my recent posting I try to draw attention to how the American media give Joe Biden a free pass of making a fool out of himself while crucifying Dan Quayle for mostly-apocryphal quotes of his. But yet, it is also fun to be satirical strictly to be funny. I still get angry comments from readers who think I’m an inaccurate reporter because of my satire of the American band Green Day releasing American Idiot II as a way of saying the band regrets voting for President Barack Obama.

8. Do you think satire is effectively used for social comment? Or because it draws on assumptions that people have knowledge on the set topic, it is easily misunderstood, or disregarded?
For those who grasp what satire is about, it can effectively be used for social comment. For those who read a satirical story and either believe it is true or believe it is a legitimate news story based on terrible research and reporting, it can easily be misunderstood and disregarded. Still, to me, when someone reads a satirical posting of mine and either believes it is 100% true or tells me what a great laugh they had, I am content I did my job well.

9. Is it correct for people to use humor in a derogatory manner? explain?
Excellent question, Dianne. I sometimes will do this in satire to make a point. One recent example is Fred Phelps, the Kansas “pastor” who believes American service members are dying because of the United States’ tolerance of homosexuality. In the post I “quoted” Phelps using very derogatory homosexual slurs, such as “fag”. For me, it was part of making a point. The trick is to make it relevant and try to keep in tasteful. I suppose if I did satire on African-American rappers some might expect to read a few “N-words”, but I feel very leery about doing this.

10. Online content is to be quick and eye-catching, as oppose to traditional formats which have more time to meet deadlines. As a blogger what does this mean for you and your blogs?
You have to keep things fresh, updated and remain aware of the times. Computers are constantly changing, and the Internet is changing. “In” is Facebook and Twitter: on its way “out” is Myspace.

When it comes to satire, I like to add images and videos to my posts to help with the visual appeal. Sometimes unflattering photos add to the humor.

11. The  Nintendo Wii fit video is online, therefore it is spread quickly, and is easily accessible- should this be a cause for concern, as traditional media would not have that same exposure?
I don’t see any problems except for those who might be genuinely disappointed when they realize this is false.

12. As a blogger, what are your thoughts on the perception that bloggers are less ‘ethical’ when it comes to their posts?
Bloggers aren’t held to the same type of accountability that newspaper or magazine journalists and columnists are–unless the blogger works for a client who reserves the right to review, edit and delete posts. But bloggers like Perez Hilton can pretty much post what they want as long as long as they are not false or grossly misleading (Hilton famously had to delete a post suggesting Michael Jackson was faking his illness after it was revealed Jackson had died). Other bloggers who have their own blogs on WordPress, Blogspot, Typepad or Live Journal answer to themselves and don’t have to worry about negative ramifications when their blogs are ignored. While there are reporters and columnists who are dirtbags, there are also many bloggers who believe everything they see, hear or read and will post accordingly. Try to write professionally like that, and you will soon be fired.

13. Do you think that the online format enhances the potential for an improvement in ethical or “best practice” publishing over traditional legacy media? explain.
Traditional legacy media will probably someday be a relic in a museum. I think that most–if not all–media sources someday will be online only. As for potential in ethical or “best practice”, I imagine the government in the future will start passing laws designed to hold bloggers more accountable for their actions when they write “news” that is inaccurate.

14. What are the legal and ethical challenges you encounter when posting online content?
If what you posted is factually incorrect and libelous, you face lawsuits. If it is just incorrect, you quickly remove or re-edit and, when necessary, issue a correction. If it is incorrect or misleading, you face a loss of respect for readers who sometimes will tell you in blunt language that your blog isn’t worthy for reading during time on the toilet.

15. Being a blogger, do you enjoy receiving comments, likes and or dislike on your work? What does this type of online interaction do for you?
I love reading comments–whether people agree or disagree with me. Hate mail doesn’t bother me as much anymore, and I seldom respond directly to it. Online interaction is a validation that someone out there is reading your blog. That is wonderful.

16. What do you hope the online world holds in future for bloggers like yourself?
More user-friendly, smaller computers. Perhaps blogs that you can write on or update through mental thought commands. Perhaps even ways for you to blog in ways that disguise you’re away from home.

Richard Zowie is an American writer based in Michigan. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

My thoughts on Isaac Asimov’s short story ‘The Last Question’

I finally read Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question. Fascinating story, one that bears re-reading. I found it to be very enjoyable. To those who might be offended by it, they are forgetting it is science fiction. I personally believe God is eternal and unchanging, but, obviously, to the humanist Asimov, “god” comes about through enough evolution on the part of civilizations.

Or maybe I’m completely misinterpreting the story.

It does make you wonder something: is this story really intended to be in the distant future or is it describing events from the distant past? When God says “Let there be light” in Genesis, perhaps in Asimov’s mind the “god” of this short story was the result of perfection from the cumulative knowledge of countless other civilizations eons ago. Or, maybe it is a declaration that will be made trillions of years from now.

I have often thought that atheism, in its purest form, actually does not disbelieve in the existence of a higher power; rather, the belief is that mankind through enough sufficient eons of evolution can become godlike.

If you believe in billions upon billions of years of evolution (I do not), it is sobering to think that billions upon billions of years from now in another civilization in a distant galaxy, it will be as though we on earth never existed.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer who enjoys reading science fiction (even though he believes in creationism but also likes to keep an open mind). Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Looked at potential freelance clients in magazines

Specifically, The Writer and Writer’s Digest. A few weeks ago, I also perused the 2011 Writer’s Market. Made note of clients for both freelance and fiction markets.

I am curious about something. This is almost 2011, and e-mail has been in common use for more than 20 years. People can send things in plain-text formats. Why on earth do so many magazines and publications still insist on snail-mail submissions?

Two years ago, I wanted to submit a story Fantasy and Science Fiction and was told the manuscript had to be mailed in. Today’s perusal into one of the magazines revealed that Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine still insists on submissions sent by mail. So, instead of making a submission that takes mere moments to be sent and received, they insist on the archaic way that takes days.

Anyone know why?

Richard Zowie is a writer. Send comments to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Working with police as a journalist

In the past 10 years as a journalist, I’ve dealt with various police departments. Some are unfailingly polite. Some are even more difficult to contact than the President of the United States. Some require you to pay for police reports while some won’t even let you look at those reports without a Freedom of Information Act request.

A friend who has retired from the journalism business tells me it’s very difficult to build a successful working relationship with the police and very easy, with even one bad article, to tear down a relationship that took years to build.

Twice in my life (I won’t say exactly when), I’ve written stories about sensitive matters and have been asked by my police source to keep a few items off the record. I complied, but another newspaper did not. When a newspaper publishes sensitive information that can compromise a police case, it can be devastating for the police and can result in them never wanting to work with you again.

More recently, I had a disagreement with an officer about his procedures for dealing with the media. However, since then I’ve worked with this officer on one case. He told me there was no update on the case, and when I guessed why there was no update, he told me I was probably correct but asked that I not publish that. I complied.

You know you’re making progress on the police beat when your source tells you, when you’re talking to him or her in private, to call them by their first name.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.