Category Archives: Selfless Favors To My Readers

In which my husband solves the newspaper publishing crisis

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the future of journalism residing in “hyperlocal” news. Hyperlocal news steps in where the doomsday scenario leaves off: Newspapers fire experienced writers, writers have no place to go, newspapers die out, the end is nigh. Yet we still crave news that is streamlined and directly relevant to our lives. So instead of scavenging a national paper on its deathbed, we might read a blog written by an out-of-work reporter who lives down the street, a meaningful voice that in turn aggregates other meaningful voices.

This is where Darren Hoyt comes in. He and Ben Gillbanks, an English colleague, just launched Dispatch, a WordPress blog theme for writers and journalists. An add-on to the Mimbo Pro WP theme, Dispatch gives any journalist with $20* an online platform that looks and feels like a professional newspaper or magazine website. So with minimal effort and financial commitment, you can launch a respectable blog for posting pictures and stories of your tour in Afghanistan or your cat or whatever. God, my husband is on the cutting edge.

Tech Dirt tells us why hyperlocal news makes sense, and, by extension, why you should be interested in Dispatch:

The technological and economic constraints of newsprint meant that the whole process had to be done by full-time employees and carefully coordinated by a single, monolithic organization. But the Internet makes possible a much more decentralized model, in which lots of different people, most of them volunteers, participate in the process of gathering and filtering the news. Rather than a handful of professional reporters writing stories and an even smaller number of professional editors deciding which ones get printed, we’re moving toward a world that Clay Shirky calls publish, then filter: anyone can write any story they want, and the stories that get the most attention are determined after publication by decentralized, community-driven processes like Digg, del.icio.us, and the blogosphere.

Other tech people weigh in on hyperlocal news here and here and here.

In my own hyperlocal news, I want to punch that word “blogosphere” in the gut. And then make sweet love to it.

Here’s a “for instance”: Your wife needs a new website ASAP so she can compete with the New York literati! You just created an awesome website! What’s your next move?

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

*Keep in mind that Dispatch is an add-on to Mimbo Pro, which costs $79. Still, that totals $100 for a website with amazing functionality and versatility that you might otherwise pay a designer thousands of dollars to develop for you. I feel like I am one step away from an infomercial right now.

Reverse caption contest

Yesterday* my sister and I made a pit stop at the BP station to buy some snacks for the movie theater. My sister, who takes her concessions seriously, bought a turkey sandwich. But when she asked the sandwich artist for tomato fixings, the lady said, “The tomatoes have a virus.”

So in the spirit of the New Yorker caption contest, I want you to draw me a suitable picture for the punchline “The tomatoes have a virus.” Nevermind the fact that this is the internet and you can’t color directly on the monitor or on the server. Nevermind the fact that I have every intention of forgetting I proposed this contest. But note that unlike other national sweepstakes, only family and friends can win this one.

*This actually happened sometime last June, but the draft disappeared into the back end of my blog. [Cue a “That’s what she said!” Or maybe a chuckled “If you know what I mean!”] Since I’m home on a Friday night with a stomach ache, I thought I’d take the opportunity to revive some of these DOA blog posts, thus creating zombie posts that will eat your brain over the weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to catch a ride on an elephant

A few years ago Washington D.C. resident Kimberly Zenz discovered a strange loophole in the elephant polo bylaws. An elephant polo event must provide elephants for all participating sportsmen. So Zenz formed a team – the Capital Pachyderms – and her players have since traveled to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to compete on the backs of real elephants.

You can find the full story on Mental Floss.

Elephant polo

I might steal a page from Zenz’s playbook and start a Charlottesville yacht club or hot air balloon squadron. Then I can compete in circumnavigating the globe without any initial investment. I also wonder if NASA might provide me with a space shuttle if I challenge George W. Bush to a race to the moon.

Another short and sweet post about arm wrestling

I give you the best multimedia feature about arm wrestling the Daily Progress has ever done.

Hot damn, it’s going to be a good day after all

Nerve and IFC present. . .

The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time.

Life lessons learned on April Fool’s Day

1. If you’re applying to an MFA program at a prestigious university affiliated with Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the fiction you submit shouldn’t be about the following:

a) oral sex

b) dildos made out of balloons

c) shit smell

In case there’s anyone else out there who didn’t know that intuitively, consider this cautionary tale my gift to you.

2. If a big-name New York literary agent tells you that MFA programs are a waste of time, and then two days later you are rejected from an MFA program, guess who is your new hero.

3. Don’t waste your time being hateful, just find out how to be employed during the 08-09 academic year.

4. The best revenge is blogging for the VQR, my spectacular new gig.

5. The second best revenge is curling up on the couch for two hours. That’ll show ‘em! Yesterday I babysat Tula, my sister’s puppy, and she was so happy eating my slipper and peeing in the grass and sniffing dead worms while I miserably buried my head in the couch cushions, and I thought, “There’s probably a life lesson in here somewhere.” But no, in fact there wasn’t. I took Tula home so I could grieve in peace.

New website idea

I think there should be a website devoted to online content that moms find funny. Then they can stop forwarding said content to their children.

Finally learning to trick out the blog

I chose this for my first hosted image. I know you understand.

colouring.gif

How to survive in a small town when you have big city ambitions

I live in a small town where I also happened to be born a baby. I love Charlottesville, Virginia, and so do many respectable magazines, but it is still a small town. When you are young and ambitious, the well of opportunity can sometimes seem to run dry. Especially when you are the type of person who sits around waiting for business proposals and dance parties to come to you. As my dreams get bigger and bigger (bestselling author, Salman Rushdie’s girlfriend, millionaire mother of fifteen, non-nailbiter. . .), I have thought a lot about the limits of small town living. So here is my survival guide for ambitious people who aren’t ready to leave their small town, but who want to be more than mayor of the local bar.

-First, decide why you are still here. Here are the wrong reasons:

a) You are neurotic about leaving your house.

b) You don’t believe you can make it in a big city.

c) You hate ethnic diversity.

d) Someone is guilting you into sticking around.

e) You are afraid of terrorist attacks.

Read More →

DSM aka Tickle personality quiz

When I was a little girl reading Seventeen Magazine, YM, Cosmopolitan, and Penthouse Letters, I quickly realized that their relationship quizzes were for chumps. The answers were always so obvious. “Are you a jealous girlfriend? When you see your boyfriend flirting with the pretty Gap salesgirl at the mall, do you: a) punch him in the balls; b) slink away to Sbarro’s because he obviously found someone better than you to go out with; or c) approach him amiably and put your arm around him, asking him if he has seen the Gap’s holiday collection of flannel boxers? If you chose a, you need to keep the green-eyed monster in check. If you chose b, you need to stand up for yourself more. If you chose c, you are really good at passing these quizzes.” The girls that were the greatest friends, girlfriends, and lovers when judged by the women’s magazine criteria were always the bitchiest, loneliest, most virginal girls when judged by my own criteria. That’s why I started subscribing to Playgirl at thirteen. Playgirl wasn’t constantly testing me, trying to find out what kind of person I was. Playgirl just said, “Hey, here are some fanciful pictures of penises for you, from me.” I was like a) I love you; b) You’re handsome; c) Let’s go steady. That was gross and not true at all.

Anyway the other day Noelle sent me a link to this Tickle personality test called Is He “the One”? I think there’s also a version for men. I still don’t know if Darren’s the one because the test didn’t ask about whether or not he was willing to give me the fifteen children I desire. The Tickle site features emotionally relevant quizzes like “Could You Be Seduced By a Celeb Babe?”, inexplicable quizzes like “What Kind of Swashbuckling Pirate Are You?”, and essential quizzes for clueless women like “Are You Having Enough Sex?” I learned a lot about myself, and about how I spend my time. If I was more active on MySpace I would publish my test results for all my friends, but then everyone on the internet would know that I’m a sex-crazed buccaneer who could easily be seduced into a six-way with the Spice Girls. Did you guys know that the Spice Girls are back? Well it’s true. They are back.