Tag: Social Media

Music, Muppets and Menorahs

Music, Muppets and Menorahs

Today the Rochlin clan made its way up into the Santa Monica hills for a day trip to the Skirball Cultural Center.

For those of you who aren’t aware (as I wasn’t before our trip today), the Skirball is a Jewish institution opened in 1996 that, frankly, is quite beautiful. Right next to Mulholland Drive and… Well…

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Just look at this patio. There’s plenty of fancy little resting places like this all over the museum.

It’s also, to their credit, very handicap accessible. Which is quite important for us since my dad had foot surgery a while back.

But that’s another story, because I’m clearly not here to talk about my family medical history. I’m here to show off all the cool pictures I got walking around a bunch of different exhibits!

I’m splitting up my slideshows in order of the exhibits we looked at this time around, so that said I hope you enjoy this little look into a place you might not have heard about.


Leonard Bernstein at 100

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I’ll be blunt, I’m not great with names that aren’t in constant circulation through the circles I follow. So off-hand I couldn’t have told you who Leonard Bernstein was despite the apparent long legacy there.

Of course you bring up West Side Story and the New York Philharmonic and it all essentially slides into place. Especially since our family has apparently been on a WSS kick after that play we attended a while back.

Still, Aly would be most disappointed that I don’t know music people super well.

But that’s okay because she’s never beaten a single Pokémon game. #ShadeThrown

Again, besides the point. We’ve got pictures to look at.

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The Jim Henson Exhibition

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Or, as an alternative introductory picture:

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Alright here’s the part we were all here for. Mr. Bernstein was a nice appetizer, but if there was anything that was going to get me out of bed early this morning, it would be Jim Henson.

We all love Jim right? I mean how could we not.

The Muppet Show.

Sesame Street.

The Dark Crystal.

Labyrinth.

Need I say more?

Though it might be partially attributed to all the build-up that led into it, the Henson portion of our day at the museum was definitely the coolest. Not only were there actual puppets (Muppets? Though more than just them) all over the place, there were also behind-the-scenes paraphernalia like scripts and storyboards for different projects.

Those were particularly cool in my opinion.

But don’t just take my word for it, check some of it out for yourself:

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Visions and Values

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Now we move into the Judaism portion of our tour. Over on your left you’ll see a brief history of the experience of my ancestors from ancient times to their transition into America.

This area was the most fleshed out portion of the museum for… Well, obvious reasons.

As a Jewish Cultural Center, this exhibit was the one thing at the Skirball that’s always available to the public while the other pieces rotate out.

Anyone with an eye on history would enjoy walking through the different descriptors of timelines, holidays and culture. However, the thing that stood out most for me was all the artifacts.

I don’t think I’ve seen a larger collection of Torah, Menorah or other household antiquities together in one place. Everything was really pretty — unless it was more of an oddball. Like the Menorah shaped like a cactus.

Yeah that exists.

Check it out, along with other wicked things like an actual full-scale recreation of the Statue of Liberty’s torch arm, here:

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Noah’s Ark

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Now over on your right you’ll see the much less serious portion of our trip through the Hebrew arts.

The Noah’s Ark side of the museum was pretty heavily built-up as well considering it was the one portion that we needed to reserve a time to get into it in advance.

Unfortunately it wound up not actually being an informative, historical look at the story of the flood. No sort of deeper examination into whether actual evidence existed or any sort of intellectual approach of that caliber.

No, Noah’s Ark was a play place for young children.

While it wasn’t exactly a place meant for us to enjoy, there were some pretty cool things about it. All of the animals on the ark were interactive or made of some wacky material that all contributed to a very interesting style overall.

Seriously check out some of these animals. Lord knows a few of them may just be in your nightmares tonight.

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While I had a great time at the Skirball with my family, I’m a little exhausted after doing that museum visit alongside a trip down Mulholland, a stop at Mambos for a Cuban lunch and a half-a-dozen other different things this afternoon.

This would have been up way earlier if not for that… So I’m not going to waste too much time concluding things.

Mostly I wanted to take this last opportunity to point out a couple of funny things we found in the museum’s gift shop. Because yeah the super pretty collectible glass Menorah and Jim Henson puppets that were available all made for lovely gifts. But they’re also way less funny then some of the random novelty goods.

For example, this series of books.

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You know. For when you want to teach your kid how to be a Yiddish dork that throws random words out at their Catholic friends to confuse them.

Or hey if reading isn’t your thing, maybe you’re more into board games. Well in that case, this is the perfect gift for you:

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I love Monopoly, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing really inherently funny about the game itself.

What I think is hilarious is the fact that if you’re playing a Jerusalem-themed Monopoly game, something like the Wailing Wall just HAS to be a location on the board, and I can’t get over the idea of building a hotel on the Wailing Wall and forcing your friends to pay $1,000 just to go pay their respects.

That’s just funny no matter who you are.

But anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. Hopefully you enjoyed this little visual tour of the museum with my family.

If you’ve got any fond Jim Henson-based memories, let me know about them in the comments! That sounds just wholesome enough to be fun.

Even if I get that Kermit vine spammed at me. Which I probably deserve.

Something Sonic this way comes

Sometimes when you’re sitting around with your friend looking for a thing to do, you come across something so incredible that it transcends all expectations as both a concept and an experience.

For Juan and I this afternoon, that something to do was this:

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Shout out to my OG Splatoon Amiibo

Sonic the Hedgehog. A SEGA Genesis game. From 1991.

Ported to the Apple TV.

Hoo boy.

As would be expected for an Apple product, this port is actually a general iOS title available on iPhone and iPad as well. On those devices the control schemes are based on virtually imposed joysticks and buttons. To be expected on any sort of iOS port or emulator in my experience.

… Not that I emulate games on my iPhone. I just saw that sort of thing going around a lot back in high school as different people played Pokémon on their phones.

Obviously the Apple TV doesn’t have a touch screen, so that begs the question. How exactly do you control Sonic the Hedgehog using an Apple TV remote?

Spoiler alert. Very. Very badly.

Yeah… This is a thing. Whoever decided to give a platformer swipe-sensitive controls like this is some kind of person.

While the controls are rather atrocious, there are other things about this port that simply baffle me.

For one, the game’s App Store information page suggests that the title is free with in-app purchases. But Juan and I looked through every conceivable place and couldn’t find a single microtransaction.

They didn’t even pull something dirty and offer a continue when you game over for a few bucks. There’s just no in-app purchases.

So why did they advertise them?

Also, when you first load up the game, the first major studio credit after SEGA themselves is Christian Whitehead. Which blew both our minds.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Whitehead is one of the chief members of the team who developed the widely successful Sonic Mania for SEGA for the blue blur’s 25th anniversary. He’s a mega-fan that did such good work with such a passionate interest in the series that he actually got to add onto its canon.

So what was his name doing on a port of the original Sonic game on my Apple TV?

Well as it turns out, porting the original two Sonic games (and Sonic CD) for mobile devices was what got Whitehead recognition in the first place. That work wound up also being available on the Apple TV as you can tell, giving me a perfect transformative end to my day.

In all honesty, as much as I joke about the baffling controls on this hilariously placed port, I might actually keep playing it. Assuming I can get past Marble Garden Zone sometime soon — it’s easily the worst thing in this game and I’ve only seen up to it.

I missed out on being able to play Sonic when it first had its run because I was a Nintendo kid primarily. So it’ll be really cool to go back and experience the original game in the series that has become such a… Controversial mainstay in our popular culture.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even talk about the game as a game on here at some point. We’ll see.

Jason and Dara explore Netflix’s ‘explained.’

Jason and Dara explore Netflix’s ‘explained.’

Mom took me down a rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting to go down today.

A Netflix documentary rabbit hole.

But not any sort of traditional documentaries. No, we’ve been watching the series of mini-documentaries produced by Vox for Netflix called “explained.”

Technically it’s more like “_____, explained,” as each episode takes a different subject and dives into that subjects history, impact on human history and potential future developments in neatly packaged 15-minute segments.

For those who don’t know, Vox is a primarily social media-driven news organization that emerged fairly recently with the pretense that they would cut through the noise and succinctly “explain the news” rather than just telling it.

They do a pretty stellar job at that role and have become rather popular in just four years thanks to their well-developed infographics and other such visually-driven pursuits that thrive in the Internet age.

Thinking it over now, their Netflix series is essentially a series of documentaries that feel like some of the best YouTube explainers you’ve ever seen.

Actually, they go further than that. A lot of the editing and visual-driven style of each mini documentary feels very similar to other series birthed by people seeped in the Internet’s ways.

The one that comes to mind most immediately is Game Theory or Wisecrack, who take highly analytical approaches to popular culture, usually.

Yet that style is applied to a more traditional news format that you might expect out of televised enterprise stories or other similar organizations like Vice News.

Basically, to make that whole long story short. “Explained” feels like watching a 15-minute YouTube video developed by practitioners of classic newspaper storytelling styles.

Every episode of the series is engaging as a result of this finely-tuned combination.

However, each episode is also engaging in its own specific way. Because each chooses a different interesting topic and, well, explains them in their own way.

Some episodes, like the piece on eSports or the piece on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, use lots of animations to show concepts that are mostly ephemeral.

Others, like the piece on K-Pop or the piece on monogamy, bring in general people from all around the world for man-on-the-street portions that speak to a deeper human interest in each subject.

Then there are episodes about the racial wealth gap or the failure of diets that seem to rely heavily on historical documents, novels and other media to demonstrate what has happened over time.

Yet in spite of all these different styles of explaining information used, each piece keeps the same core. A similar fast-cut editing style interspersed with expert interviews and well-crafted infographics. They’re all recognizably ‘Vox,’ but carry different stand-out portions based on the topic.

My favorite bit is probably the child-led recreation of how the stock market works using a lemonade stand analogy.

As you can probably imagine just from how many different directions I’ve pulled that last segment of this post in, there’s a huge variety of stories that are being told in the documentary series.

Each, on top of being visually appealing, is also very well-researched and informative. I could recount at least one thing I learned from each story.

I suppose if I’m taking this in the direction of a ‘review’ of the series, it should be obvious that I’d highly recommend everyone with Netflix check this one out.

It’s a great example of a series that’s informative and engaging, something that takes the lessons of the Internet and applies it to teaching in a way more and more groups should take into account.

There’s also apparently more coming out every Wednesday, so it’s something we’ll keep coming back to I’m sure.


Dara’s Corner:

Favorite Episodes: “!” or “K-Pop” or “Designer DNA”

  • “!” — My mom is deeply rooted in the professions of the English language like I am, and this episode was the one that she was first notified of that led to our shared interest in the show in the first place.
  • “K-Pop” — Like me, she enjoyed this episode because of the way it took a topic we were vaguely familiar with and explained its backstory in depth that we never would have expected to exist there.
  • “Designer DNA” — Mostly because the topic delved into areas of research she has already looked into while doing copy editing and fact checking for scientific magazines like “Genome,” meaning she was knowledgable ahead of the curve coming in.

Overall Impression: “The fact that it has little 15-minute interstitials where you learn something that you didn’t know necessarily, you walk away with something interesting to talk to someone else about. I highly recommend this show to everybody.”

Stealing from Sports’ Traditions

Stealing from Sports’ Traditions

I may not be a very sport-y person, but if there’s anything I enjoy about sports it would be the team naming conventions.

Yeah I know that’s a strange thing to latch onto. But trust me, there’s a through-line to this conversation. Which, spoiler alert, is video game related.

Because hey if you wanted to see me spend an entire post talking about sports alone, you should have been around for this discussion I did a while back about watching the behind-the-scenes goings on at a baseball game.

As a home-grown Southern California kid I do have some interests in sports teams that come from some semblance of nostalgia. Namely the Dodgers when it comes to baseball and the Lakers when it comes to basketball. I’ve gone to see them many times over the years, so there are fond memories there even if I’m not as much of an avid follower of their games as I am Nintendo games.

However neither are striking examples of the kind of naming conventions I enjoy when it comes to sports teams. Like… What even does the name ‘Dodgers’ stand for? If anything, you wouldn’t want to be good at dodging a ball when you play baseball. Don’t you get to walk when you’re hit by the ball while at bat?

Come on Dodgers, get your act together.

Granted there is something interesting about them specifically. The fact that both the Dodgers and the Giants were originally East Coast teams before coming to California.

Inherently that brings up some questions about the permanence of a name if it can be so easily uprooted and moved around. Like yeah now we always associate the Dodgers with Los Angeles, but they weren’t always so closely linked with the culture here. That’s kind of fascinating, honestly.

Though according to official records by Major League Baseball themselves, the only reason those teams moved were simply to bring baseball to the West Coast. Which is a kind of underwhelming answer to an intriguing question.

But hey that’s a long tangent isn’t it? What I was going to get at was the fact that I enjoy seeing sports teams that are named after singular entities which could potentially duke it out.

The phenomenon tends to be more prevalent in high school and college sports, in my head. At my high school the main rivalry was the Sea Hawks versus the Mustangs. Though I did have some school spirit, for the most part I couldn’t care less which campus actually won. It was just kind of cool to imagine some kind of battle between a vicious hawk (which my biology teacher told us was actually based on a real life bird known for crushing bones) and a majestic hoofbeast.

I imagine the same thing could be said for many small-town sports rivalries. Certainly the idea of two forces of nature going at it is much more exciting than some other team names. Like the Patriots. Or the Redskins.

Much less racist too.

As I already mentioned, I’m not just bringing up this idea because I have a sudden passion to talk about sports. Or racism scandals. There was actually a spark that got me thinking about the subject of sports team names.

Unofficial Pokémon battle tournaments.

Yeah you heard me right. Bet you didn’t think anyone would be relating competitive Pokémon battling to actual real life sports in your daily blog posts today. Well I am, so you best be ready for it.

There’s actually a healthy amount of comparisons one can make between the two. When preparing for a Pokémon battle, trainers are restricted to six members, much like sports teams are limited to X number of team members on the field. Those six Pokémon fit different roles, be them wholly offensive, defensive or supportive. Or they could be some combination of the three.

It’s not hard to say that my hyper-offensive glass cannon Mega Beedrill in a battle is comparable to a football team’s leading quarterback, or that my heal-passing Audino is supportive much like a shortstop on a baseball team that quickly gets the ball from base-to-base for multiple outs.

I don’t know, I think it’s a pretty easy comparison to make. Maybe you disagree, but it’s all just an unapologetic segue anyway.

The reason I’ve come to think about this subject is because of the lengths I’ve seen certain Pokémon-playing YouTube personalities go to when establishing battle leagues that are steeped in the traditions of real life sports.

There are about a billion examples out there, but the one that’s most impactful to me is the United Championship League (UCL). There’s no real specific reason why other than the fact that most of the circle that competes in it are a close-knit group of Pokétubers that I tend to watch fairly often.

Which yes is possibly one of the nerdiest things I’ve said around here. But does it look like I care?

The UCL started about three years ago and carried an interesting aesthetic:

It comes to mind today specifically because the draft for Season 3 happened over this last weekend. Based on the video that was put up by TheKingNappy not too long ago, it took five hours just to get teams assigned to each competitor.

Yeah that’s right. This is a Pokémon battle competition with an extended team draft and a classic branching tree tournament board. On top of that, each team tends to do a pre-game discussion where they determine which members they’re bringing based on the opponent’s overall draft and how they’re building their teams up as a result.

It’s kind of crazy to thing that that’s almost exactly the same thing as a real sports league, but I adore one and can’t bring myself to seriously care about the other.

I think part of the reason I do care so much about the UCL — other than the fact that I’m a Pokémon junkie in general — is the fact that another real life sports trope they use so well is the naming convention.

Every team in that league names themselves the same way. City name (or some other location) followed by a Pokémon name that matches in some way.

Tucson Terrakions.

Pittsburgh Pichus.

So on and so forth.

Though of course it would be a terrible mistake for me not to mention my absolute favorite Pokémon sports league name:

The New York Mankeys.

Shout out to ShadyPenguinn for coming up with literal perfection. That’s the kind of name I wish I was clever enough to come up with on my own. Not only is it a solid team name, it’s a great reference to an actual real sports team too.

I just love it man. I basically wrote this whole post just so I could say New York Mankeys out loud. It’s just the kind of name that makes me giggle whenever I hear it. More of the world deserves to hear about it even if it couldn’t give a damn about Pokémon.

Now before you ask. Yes. I have had moments where I’ve tried to figure out what my Pokémon sports team name would be. Though I haven’t exactly come up with a good answer as of yet.

Incorporating my favorite Pokémon Gardevoir would be tough without stretching my location to Gardenia (though Gardenia Gardevoirs is a cool name).

I do like the sound of something like the Manhattan Beach Mimikyu, though again that requires relegating my location to somewhere I’m technically not, a city that’s my city’s rival if nothing else.

Unfortunately I’m just not sure which ‘R’ Pokémon I would use to go with Redondo. Ralts sounds a little not intimidating, though they fit the Gardevoir line love. Roserade also doesn’t seem right, despite being one of my favorites.

Also let’s be honest. As much as the Redondo Rayquaza sounds dope, I’m not sure I’d want to use a Legendary. It seems a bit cocky.

The Redondo Rhydon might work well. I have a pretty strong affection for him too, and Rhydon certainly sounds like the kind of Pokémon that could fit a sports team.

I guess if you want you can leave your suggestions in the comments below. Or you can say what teams you might be able to make using your home region. That’d be cool to hear!

In the meantime, I’ve got a five-hour livestream recap to catch up on. So I’m going to go off and do that.

In the meantime, I suppose I should come up with some kind of moral for today’s post.

Uhh…

If you’re a sports guy, don’t make fun of nerds that like Pokémon. Because we do wacky competitive things too.

And if you’re a Pokémon guy, don’t make fun of nerds that like sports. Because they built up a cool structure that we can do stuff with.

Let’s just all live together in harmony. Liking weird things that we all like without judgement.

Yeah, that’s a good lesson. Nailed the ending.

Lucky Number 300

Like yesterday, I didn’t exactly do a lot today that I would qualify as blog post worthy. However I don’t have as easy a crutch to lean on as the play I went to with my family last night.

So yeah I could spend the next couple hundred words or so talking about the almost 9,000 word transcript I did for a Boom conversation with Merry Ovnick of Southern California Quarterly. But I’m not sure a second-hand account of the discussions on regional architecture in California and Los Angeles specifically would be super interesting for anyone but me.

That probably doesn’t sound fair. It’s not an inherently boring interview or anything. In fact, it went over some interesting points, particularly about the effects of history and culture on architecture and vice versa.

I just don’t think I can do it any justice without coming across about as blandly as possible. So I’m just going to leave that to the experts and encourage you all to go read the piece as soon as it’s officially published.

With that mindset in place, I figured this was going to be a short “don’t have much to talk about” kind of post.

But then I started to set it up. When I did I realized this is actually a milestone of sorts.

My blog post yesterday was the 299’s I’ve published here. That means you’re currently reading lucky number 300 — as my headline so aptly remarks.

So yeah. Happy tri-centennial… Erm… I’m not sure what the right term would be… Post-iversary… Thing.

I guess it’s not even so much an anniversary since it isn’t time-specific as much as it is content-specific. I’ll try to come up with something better if I do one of these for the next milestone. Probably 500, or whatever it may be.

While I wish I had something more substantial to say, I suppose it’ll have to do for me to just reflect on my summer project now that we’re at about the halfway point.

I’ve honestly been surprised to see that posting something every single day, rather than putting out a post every other week or so, actually has a substantial effect on how many eyes the words get to. At least twice this summer I’ve broken my record on blog post views and likes (though both are just barely into the double digits so I can’t proclaim it’s that much) and I’ve more than tripled my following.

Even if that’s, again, a less than substantive nine or so followers up to the low thirties, it’s still pretty awesome. I’m sure it sounds cliché when I say it, but I really do appreciate all of you out there that think I’m worth taking a look at for what mostly amounts to random bouts of rambling.

That also extends beyond my direct WordPress followers into the realm of social media. Though that also comes in spurts, I like to know whenever people take a look at the stuff I’m putting out here.

Even if it’s just that Takumi that always retweets my Fire Emblem Heroes posts. I’m 99 percent sure that’s a bot account in terms of retweeting my stuff, but I’m also 99 percent sure he’s the only one who actually takes any sort of interest in those.

So shout out to you Twitter Takumi.

Just based on what I’ve seen come out of this so far, I think I’m probably going to continue writing a blog post a day even after the summer ends. That might be tougher once school starts, but if nothing else I’ll probably just be able to talk about what I learned in class on a given day or something along those lines. So who knows, I’m sure it’ll work out in one way or another.

That’s honestly all I’ve got to say on the matter, but I’m well over 500 words writing about nothing at this point, so I think that should be more than enough. Especially if I want to get something out before midnight.

Again, thanks for all the support, and here’s to many more posts from here on out! Perhaps if I actually keep up this daily business, soon it’ll be child’s play when I hit a number like 300.

That’s the dream anyway.

Receiving the Carl Greenberg Scholarship

At first, I figured today was going to be a day where I would talk all about the trailer that was dropped about the upcoming Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu & Eevee games.

But something much more important came up after I started writing that which feels like a better conversation topic for the day. So sorry Pokémon, you’ve been sidelined.

Today I received word from the Scholarship Chair of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Los Angeles branch that I have been awarded the Carl Greenberg Scholarship for Political and Investigative Reporting.

Frankly, that’s pretty kick-ass and I’m excited about it!

According to the SPJLA website, the scholarship is “awarded to a college student pursuing investigative or political reporting,” named after a LA Times political reporter “famed for being singled out by Richard Nixon as the only reporter who covered him ‘fairly.'”

So not only am I excited about the fact that I won something I applied for kind of out of the blue — mostly as something to do early on in the summer when I was sitting around — but I’m also humbled at the fact that I’ve been recognized to sit in a pantheon which sounds so prestigious. Helps give some perspective to the work I’ve had the pleasure of doing, and all those other clichés that must be expected from an awards acceptance speech of sorts.

Though to be completely honest, the $1,000 that comes with it certainly helps pique my interest.

What can I say, prestige is nice and all, but so is food and gas when you’re a broke college student.

As are plenty of new video games coming soon, but don’t tell the nominating committee that.

In celebration of my award, I figured I would throw out this short post as both a way of logging the fact that I earned this recognition and as a way of slyly promoting myself.

You’ve all seen those articles out of major newspapers that showcase stories which received accolades. Hell, I even wrote an article in that vein for the Daily Titan at the end of the Spring 2018 semester.

So consider the bottom of this blog post one of those for me. I submitted three articles alongside my scholarship application, and I’m going to link out to each of them here.

Before I do, I just wanted to thank the SPJLA Scholarship Chair Richard Saxton, who helped let me know what I needed to do to apply, and all the other members of the Scholarship Committee for this awesome opportunity. Here’s to many more hopefully coming in the near future!


This article has arguably been one of my proudest achievements as a journalist thus far. That could be said for most of the stories in this small list alone, sure, but there’s so much history to my coverage of Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to CSUF that I consider it a saga.

Kicking the whole thing off was an article that was weeks in the making. It began as simple rumors that supposedly there were plans in the work to bring the conservative provocateur to campus based on a petition online to keep controversial figures off campus. Based on that rumor I talked to a myriad of sources and eventually put out this fairly large piece covering the entire process of how one can bring a speaker to campus in light of the confirmation that Yiannopoulos’ visit was in the works.

And that isn’t even going into all of the coverage of the Canin scandal from the semester prior that helped build my relations with the College Republicans Club enough to help them trust my reporting.

Even during that initial coverage I knew the plan was to bring the man to campus on Halloween. At the point this initial piece was published, however, I kept that to myself in case the reporting of that information changed the plans at hand in any significant way.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Our semester was thus far filled with coverage of Yiannopoulos’ visit from any conceivable angle from myself and other members of the news desk staff. Eventually that culminated in a massive three-story package of a paper that went on to receive a special edition reprint, got me a talking head spot on NPR’s ‘Take Two’ and earned a number of accolades at the most recent LA Press Club Awards.

Plus Milo himself said on Facebook that he liked how balanced I was with the story on his speech. Never would have expected that, but it’s something I’ll take on as a badge of pride considering I didn’t get that praise while also upsetting the other side of the aisle.

I could talk about this article all day, but then we’d be here all day. Nobody really wants that.

So check it out if you haven’t, and see all of the reporting that emerged as a result while you’re at it.

My coverage of Project Rebound goes back a ways. Multiple semesters, in fact, unlike the one-semester shots of the other articles on this list.

I was the person who covered the story when the program, which helps offer previously incarcerated individuals an opportunity to earn their degrees and avoid recidivism, first came to campus. At that point I made friends with the program’s director, Brady Heiner, and its brand new coordinator, Romarilyn Ralston.

At least once a semester I try to go back and see the Project Rebound folks because, despite obviously being objective in my reporting, I do feel the cause is an important and righteous one.

The story I used for this scholarship application is my most recent piece about the program: A profile of its coordinator, Romarilyn.

It started as an assignment for my Multimedia Journalism class, and the actual meat of where it originated comes in the form of the video I produced alongside the written article. It’s embedded within the story if you haven’t seen it, and it’s probably my most proud achievement in a multimedia realm.

Though that being said, her story is also incredibly powerful, and certainly one of those stepping-stones that I would argue got me more invested in the idea that Features are a powerful tool for telling other people’s stories more than they are extra avenues of reporting.

Another piece stemming from my work with the Daily Titan’s advisor as a part of her Investigative Reporting class, the homeless coverage I was a part of is another ‘saga’ in my reporting experience thus far that I remember fondly.

Certain specific events, like our coverage of the Point-In-Time count toward the beginning of that semester, are things I’ll never forget.

However, the coverage of Mercy House I did alongside Roxana Paul is another thing I’ll always hold dear. It fits into a similar vein as the Romarilyn story I talked about above, as it gave a hard news-focused kid the opportunity to do slightly more Features-based coverage by actually going out and talking with some of the homeless population in Orange County.

Yet it was also a story steeped in hard news, covering the numbers with how much help is available in the County and talking to the people who provide the aid on the ground.

There are plenty of other elements I could dive into regarding this story. It was one of the first time I took pictures for my own article, it had graphics and other multimedia elements, it was part of a wonderful series put together by a group of really talented reporters. On top of that, it helped me out further last semester when I assisted with the coverage of Santa Ana clearing out whatever homeless population was living along the riverbed.

It’s another story I would consider one of my most in-depth and powerful. So read it if you haven’t, and check out the other Homeless in OC coverage the Titan did as well!

Fort MacArthur heats up in 2018

Fort MacArthur heats up in 2018

If the heat yesterday wasn’t bad enough for you, how about this?

California heat wave. Open field war reenactments. Heavy wool historically accurate Civil War uniforms.

Fun, fun, fun.

Luckily I wasn’t one of the poor saps that had to stand around outside for hours in a heavy outfit. Instead I just got to go around and explore, migrating from shady spot to shady spot learning all about cool historical things.

That’s right, it’s Old Fort MacArthur Days time once again! If you missed out on the post I did last year showing off a slideshow of pictures I took, you can check it out here.

But for those of you who fit into the center of the Venn diagram between ‘not initiated’ and ‘too lazy to click the link,’ Old Fort MacArthur Days is a yearly event at the closed military base on the cliffs of San Pedro, California. People of all creeds gather in historical gear and bring a treasure trove of knowledge about whatever era of history they aim to represent.

It’s a really sweet two-day event that my family has been going to for probably five+ years now. Not only is it a good time wandering the grounds of the old base learning historical fun facts, but there are vendors and war reenactments that offer plenty of reasons to come back.

I’ve made it something of a tradition of mine to introduce new people to Old Fort MacArthur Days every year, as I think it definitely deserves the traffic and makes for a fun day of hanging out.

Even if these last two years have been face-meltingly hot. But that’s another story.

While I brought my friend Sam last year, this year Juan got to join in on the fun with me and Aly:

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Road Trip, baybee

Shout out to that boy for always being down to go on random adventures.

Also shout out to this great picture we took as a means of making Sam regret her decision to not come along again because of the heat.

We actually listened to a couple of really interesting figures today.

There was a Union commander for the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment that told us all about the very first attempt at using a submarine during the Civil War which failed spectacularly because of the unforeseen consequences of concussing every member aboard the vessel when an explosive went off too early.

Then we spent a good amount of time listening to the Barber Surgeon in the English Civil War region that told us infinite details about various surgical devices and how English superstition led to the creation of myths like the Tooth Fairy.

But of course we also can’t forget the Saloon owner in what I will affectionately call West World who handed out both lemonade and detailed descriptions of tabletop games kids would play in the 1800s.

While the discussions were all wonderful as ever, just as wonderful were the reenactments.

This year we only got to two of them before the heat knocked us out of our desire to stick around. We saw a World War II battle in which the American soldiers used an actual for real tank (which was awesome) to take a bill from German soldiers, and we saw the West World gun show where a man swindled some other cowboys from their money before being killed by his wife for using their daughter in the scheme.

I’m sure it’s great for you all to hear me just talk about the stuff we saw, but I figure I should do you one better and show off this neat slideshow of pictures with mediocre bits of commentary where I can fit it.

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Pretty cool stuff, right? It was totally worth probably getting a sunburn even through two coats of sunscreen to nab some of these.

Especially the cowboy gunshot I used as the attractive featured image. I love that sucker a whole bunch.

However, this year you should all be glad to know that I’ve stepped it up a notch.

Last year I took some videos that I considered putting in my blog post, but couldn’t quite figure out how to insert them here without blowing my storage out of control or having it take three days to upload.

Since then I have become a smarter man and now know how to use my gmail-associated YouTube account to my advantage.

So enjoy this video of the WW2-era tank in action:

And this video of a cowboy decimating a water bottle with a shotgun:

Plus, here’s a bonus video of another cowboy failing to fire his gun and getting ragged on by all the other cowboys:

I think my favorite part of that one is hearing Juan lose it next to me at the physician comment.

That’s about all I have to share from my trip to San Pedro this year. While I hope my pictures are a cool window into this little world that many of you probably haven’t seen, I really have to encourage everyone to check out this event at least once if they’re in the area at the right time!

It’s an awesome historical adventure that’s well worth the heat stroke. Something I’m sure I’ll say after I forget about how much I die in the heat and do it to myself again next year.

July 4th, 2018: A Parade in Photos

July 4th, 2018: A Parade in Photos

There’s nothing like a parade on the Fourth of July.

Well… Actually I’m not so sure about that. It just seemed like the right cliché to start this post off with considering I’m talking about going to a parade on the Fourth of July.

To be completely honest, I think my most fond Fourth memories date back to these pool parties I used to go to at a family friend’s house. Not only was it a poolside BBQ every year, but we could all see fireworks from that yard as the night fell.

Also I have very fond recollections of playing Donkey Kong Jr. one year off of that kind of bizarre card reading attachment that existed for the GameBoy Advanced I think? That might just be a fever dream, but if nothing else it helps me associate the Fourth with DK jr.

Probably a different story for another day, though. I just wanted to punctuate my conversation about Alyson with a video game thing.

Because she loves that.

Spiteful recurring jokes aside, this 4th of July I went out past LAX to Westchester for a parade. Alyson and the RUHS band perform in this particular parade every year, and it’s my second time coming along for the ride.

Last time I went was a few years ago when I wasn’t focusing so much on the power of having a blog to spout nonsense into, though.

So I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to fill up one of my daily writing requirements.

However, I’m also spending the day with the family since it’s July 4th, so I’m going to keep it brief and just do a neat little slideshow of all the cool stuff that made its way through the parade route before RUHS performed.

Hopefully you enjoy this very non-politicized Fourth of July post. Because god knows the fervor is strong when I hear people yelling things like “take him down” at Maxine Waters, a U.S. Congresswoman, as she makes her way down the parade path.

God bless America.

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Also, can’t forget the bonus recording of Aly and the band performing:

Happy birthday, America. May your founding principles continue to hopefully shine through to number 243 and beyond!

The Fire Emblem Heroes Sacred Summer – Interrupted!

The Fire Emblem Heroes Sacred Summer – Interrupted!

This is arguably the most… Bizarre banner we’ve seen in Fire Emblem Heroes. Possibly ever, in my opinion.

When the banner’s silhouette was first teased out, much of the internet was quick to pick up on the fact that Tana and Innes appeared to be the featured heroes.

After last year’s two summer banners focused on Awakening and Fates, the most recent Fire Emblem titles, this gave me hope that we would have the Summer of Sacred Stones banner.

A special variant banner for my favorite game? What could go wrong!

Well… As it turns out, quite a few things. Sort of.

For some reason Sacred Stones did not get a special banner all for itself. Instead the spotlight is shared with more Awakening units.

It’s an odd choice for sure, especially considering those two Awakening units are also split between a child unit and parent unit who theoretically have nothing to do with one another in any discernible way.

Beyond being fan favorites, of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Cordelia as well. And Noire is a unit my friends and I have wanted to see come to Heroes for some time, so I’m not complaining about their inclusion.

It’s just kind of lame that Sacred Stones didn’t get the full spotlight, in my opinion.

But that said the summer heroes were enticing enough to stop me from spending any more orbs on the June Brides, that way I could focus my time on these newbies.

So just how good do these special heroes look? In terms of skills, of course. We all know how they look in their swimsuits.


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CordeliaKnight Paradise

Skill Set:

  • Shell Lance (Might = 14 / Range = 1)
    • If unit initiates combat, grants Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance +2 during combat.
  • Harsh Command (Range = 1)
    • Converts penalties on target into bonuses.
  • Sturdy Blow (A Skill)
    • If unit initiates combat, grants Attack and Defense +4 during combat.
  • Dull Close (B Skill)
    • If foe uses sword, lance, axe or dragonstone, neutralizes foe’s bonuses (from skills like Fortify, Rally, etc.) during combat.

Analysis:

As I mentioned in my opening monologue, it was kind of off-putting seeing Awakening units show up on this banner. Luckily they picked ones I care about, which helped to lessen the blow.

Especially in the world of Heroes, Cordelia has become one of my favorites. She’s my endlessly useful lance flying unit, and I have a +8 merged Cordelia so far. I also used Bride Cordelia on my main infantry team for the longest time, and she remains my current favorite archer.

Until they add Neimi of course. But we won’t talk about that, because she could’ve easily fit in on a summer Sacred Stones banner paired with Colm.

Cavalier Cordelia leaves me… Apprehensive. She’s adorable for sure, but we’ve been burned with tons of mediocre lance cavaliers before, and Cordelia’s base skills don’t do her any justice outside of that Sturdy Blow.

Hopefully her stat line is solid, because if so I’ll be happy to add her to my growing Cordelia squadron. But if not… We’ll see.


NoireShade Seeker

Skill Set:

  • Cocobow (Might = 12 / Range = 2)
    • Effective against flying foes. If unit initiates combat, grants Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance +2 during combat.
  • Ardent Sacrifice (Range = 1)
    • Restores 10 Health to target ally. Unit loses 10 Health, but cannot go below one.
  • Attack/Speed 2 (A Skill)
    • Grants +2 Attack and Speed.
  • Infantry Rush (C Skill)
    • Infantry allies within two spaces gain: “If units Attack ≥ foe’s Attack +1, grants Special Attack cooldown charge +1 per attack (Only highest value applied, does not stack).”

Analysis:

So right off the bat let’s get this out-of-the-way. Noire definitely wins the “most revealing and suggestive outfit” award this time around. It’s actually almost to the point of being unbelievable in my opinion. Why would such a cripplingly shy, reserved girl choose to wear what amounts to a couple of crossed straps and loose bits of fabric?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain about fanservice, it is just out-of-place for the character. I’m a man who appreciates character as much as I appreciate revealing anime gals.

Even with that slightly awkward point, Noire is still a unit that has been highly anticipated in Heroes, and her skill set — while not overall perfect — doesn’t disappoint.

Okay that’s not true, Ardent Sacrifice does. But Infantry Rush more than makes up for it. That alone, alongside her anticipated entrance into the game, skyrocketed Noire high into my radar of interest for this banner. She’s just not necessarily a unit I’ll use widely when out in public.

Though I will 100 percent pair her with Inigo. Because best ship.


InnesFlawless Form

Skill Set:

  • Beach Banner (Might = 14 / Range = 1)
    • If unit initiates combat, grants Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance +2 during combat.
  • Rally Attack/Defense (Range = 1)
    • Grants Attack and Defense +3 to target ally for one turn.
  • Defense Feint (B Skill)
    • If a Rally Assist skill is used by unit or targets unit, inflicts Defense -7 on foes in cardinal directions of unit through their next actions.
  • Goad Fliers (C Skill)
    • Grants Attack and Speed +4 to flying allies within two spaces during combat.

Analysis:

The prince of Frelia is here to upstage Ephraim by showing off his amazing beach-y figure. While I still personally prefer Ephraim, Innes does make a good case for himself here as a rather handsome addition being the only male on this skin-showing banner.

Strangely enough he’s a wyvern rider this time. It’s… Not exactly something I would have ever expected for Innes. But it’s a thing.

He gets some points for having the wyvern design from Sacred Stones specifically, the second showcasing that following Valter. It’s beautiful and it’s my favorite kind of wyvern for nostalgia alone.

Also the fact that I only just now realize he’s voiced by the same guy who does narration for Super Smash Bros. helps too.

I do have to question his weapon. If his axe is a flag, does that mean the actual flag itself is stiff like a blade? Or is he just whacking people with a stick? It’s arguably the most confusing axe design since Summer Tiki brought a watermelon on a stick last year.

What’s that? Talk about his skills? Err… Well…

Let’s just say my interest in Innes relies entirely on things outside of his viability as a unit here. Sorry dude.


TanaNoble and Nimble

Skill Set:

  • Fruit of Iðunn (Might = 14 / Range = 2)
    • Grants Speed +3. If unit’s Health ≥ 50 percent, allies within two spaces can move to a space adjacent to unit.
  • Rally Speed/Resistance (Range = 1)
    • Grants Speed and Resistance +3 to target ally for one turn.
  • Attack/Speed Push (A Skill)
    • At start of combat, if unit’s Health = 100 percent, grants Attack and Speed +5, but if unit attacked, deals one damage to unit after combat.
  • Renewal (B Skill)
    • At the start of every second turn, restores 10 Health.
  • Spur Attack/Defense (C Skill)
    • Grants Attack and Defense +3 to adjacent allies during combat.

Analysis:

Tana joins her brother on this beach vacation and draws a much larger share of the attention. Not just because of her fuckin cute ass outfit, too.

Though that is a huge draw, I’ll admit. Especially when she carries the strangely suggestive modiker of “nobile and numble.”

But Tana is a strong fighter in her own right and brings some new, interesting things alongside her summer gear.

She’s the only hero in this banner whose weapon does not simply bolster all of her stats during combat. Instead it has guidance built-in, which was her claim to fame as a unit originally. On top of that she’s bringing a brand new skill with Attack/Speed Push that gives her a solid stat boost upon her first attack before taking away Health to balance it out.

It pairs pretty perfectly with Renewal, so I don’t necessarily see the skill as being too detrimental. If anything I like the idea of building her as a health regenerating unit!

Especially since she’s coming in with a red tome as a flying unit. Crossing my fingers that she can fill the void left by my lack of a Halloween Nowi.


If I had to rank them, I’d say I’m looking for Tana the most, because favorite game hype, then Noire, then either Cordelia or Innes. I’m a bit split on those two, but I know I don’t want them nearly as much as the prior two.

Actually that’s not true, Cordelia is probably above Innes here. Because she is super cute. Sorry my guy, cute girls > dope wyverns in this game.

I’m starting off this banner with about 150 orbs under my belt thanks to some hardcore saving following the disappointment of Legendary Ryoma, but will the summer units prove to be just as disappointing?

Well.

I guess this is supposed to be an apology, isn’t it?

Honestly I was shocked when Cordelia showed up as my free summon of all things, and Noire showed up not too long after.

Though they don’t have the best stat boons and banes from my best estimation, I ain’t even care. Somehow I managed to get two focus units on a special banner within 50 orbs! That’s awesome.

Granted I still haven’t gotten the Tana I really wanted, but there’s a whole 34 days to summon. That means I can sort of take it easy for a while and make sure I don’t just blow all my orbs in one shot, especially when there’s probably more summer units coming soon.

For real though, sometimes it’s nice to be lucky.

Thanks game ❤️

Now how about we return to the sun-soaked beaches to enjoy some paralogue story, shall we?


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Thinking it over now, I didn’t get a single summer unit last time they were in season. I remember I had been saving up my orbs for other things at the time, eventually culminating in a huge binge to try to summon Delthea.

Thus the only thing I really got out of the last summer session was some nice environmental set pieces and a somewhat creepy storyline out of Anna’s greed.

You’ll be happy to know that both of those things carry on in spades this year.

Yes that’s right, instead of trying to “girls gone wild” some Heroes, this time around Anna is looking to record the sounds of them having fun in the water as something to sell for the Order to make money.

Glad to see some things never change. Don’t stop being creepy as hell, Intelligent Systems.

When the Order of Heroes arrives at the new summer paradise, everyone’s favorite Sacred Stones siblings are front and center. *Snorts*

The first thing they do is argue.

This is so beautifully in-character for both of them that I actually died a little inside seeing it. It’s wonderful!

They even keep it up post-battle.

Why couldn’t I have summoned one of you two.

Oh well, there’s time. In the meantime, we move onto the Awakening units.

I’m not sure who decided to throw Cordelia and Noire together as a set-up for helping Noire get over her mood swings. It’s a bit strange when they could have chosen another child unit like Severa, who canonically helps her out a lot in Awakening’s story.

But hey, if we did that, we wouldn’t get this scene where Cordelia ogles Noire’s body.

That’s not weird at all.

One of Cordelia’s voice lines actually suggests she worries that she isn’t “filling out” her swimsuit enough, so I’m assuming this interaction is just to suggest she’s jealous.

But like. Still, pretty weird.

Way to almost vaguely hit on your ally’s daughter Cordelia.

Anyway you know the drill from here. Noire flips her shit when she loses:

Then everyone gathers together for the final battle on the sunset beach:

Then you win the big battle. It’s actually probably the easiest set of maps we’ve seen in a long time, even on the highest difficulty setting.

But hey battle over and all is happy. Right?

Right??

Naturally, not so much.

Anna is obviously distressed by this because alternate universe Anna (a fact of existence in this universe that I suppose I’m happy we’re just going to gloss over) was going to pay for the sounds she had hoped to capture.

So instead, Sharena suggests that the relaxing sounds of the crashing waves might be worth selling around as well because it reminds her so much of the beach.

Anna is happy about the idea, but Alfonse…

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Less so. Guess it’s up to me and him to find a way to make mone- and it fades to black.

Alright guess that’s it.

Thanks IS for this somewhat uncomfortably enjoyable romp back into summer land. Looking forward to seeing what you’ve got for the next batch.


I’ll be honest with you all, I’m still not over the fact that I summoned two focus units. Even if they weren’t the ones from the game I was looking forward to seeing in the spotlight for a while.

That said, how do you feel about these summer units? Do you think it was unnecessary to split up the game representation this year?

Or are you of the camp that the units are so good anyway that we shouldn’t care?

Let me know in the comments below! And tell me who you want to see taking the beach by storm in the future while you’re at it.

Am I Uncomfortable with Silence?

Am I Uncomfortable with Silence?

So this post comes in response to what I wrote the other day about the dichotomy of transcription, why it’s a terrible thing to do but also why it’s the best thing one can do when practicing journalism.

I know there was a gap where I talked about videa gaymes because of timely E3 business, but these extended thoughts kept nagging at me.

So consider this a part two of the discussion of transcription, and check out part one here if you haven’t already.

There was another ‘con’ to the act of transcribing that I considered going into while sitting in Starbucks with mom, working on the first post. But I decided not to include it because the more I thought about it, the more the problem felt like one example of a larger, personal idiosyncrasy of mine.

The idea of being subjected to total silence as something potentially uncomfortable to endure.

Now, to preface this discussion with myself, I’d like to say that I don’t actually feel like I’m the only person on the planet who might just be uncomfortable with silence. If anything, I think it’s an inherent part of being as social a creature as humans are.

There are likely hundreds of scientific studies out there on the matter, covering things like our tendencies to fill dead air in a conversation by changing topics or inserting speech fillers like “um” or “ah.”

But I’m going to be looking at the subject from an entirely personal perspective. None of those silly “empirical tests” and whatnot to murk up my subjective torrent of words.

I’ve always been a rather introverted person growing up. Ironic for someone going into a field where they need to constantly talk to people, I know.

My passions have always leaned toward personal activities like reading, writing and video games rather than group activities like partying and sports. I had my groups to do things like play video games with of course, but you get the idea.

Because of that I’ve generally considered myself the kind of person who enjoys, if not thrives in more silent environments. Sitting sheltered off in my room to do work, for example, which has in the past led to my parents deeming it “the cave.”

Yet the more I reflect on my past, the more I’ve come to realize that perhaps it’s more the isolation in which I thrive, rather than the quiet. I say that because more often than not I’ve always tried to fill the silence with other noises even when I’m not with other people.

Video games themselves are the perfect embodiment of this. I’ve been playing them my whole life, and the songs and sound bites from a number of titles are just as iconic to me as some images, just as likely to help recall certain events or moments from my life.

As a quick example, I’ll never be able to disassociate the opening theme to Pokémon White 2 from the specific Target (right across the street from the South Bay Galleria) where I started to play the game for the first time after having put it down unfinished when it first came out.

The idea of making sound ever-present in my life goes much deeper than that, however.

As much as I love driving as an activity, I find my commutes to-and-from Cal State Fullerton nearly unbearable when I can’t listen to a podcast or a video as I go.

When I’m falling asleep, I can never just lay back and go to sleep. I have to do what I consider pre-dreaming, where I start to imagine some sort of scene in my head – a scene that includes some sort of dialogue or musical score – in order to really lull myself into unconsciousness.

While reading tends to be one of the exceptions to this rule, as sometimes ill sit silently just imagining the pages play out in my head, sometimes particularly boring novels for class can get so unbearable that I need something else running in the background to help me get through it.

More often than not I have my computer somewhere in the bathroom as I shower, that way I can continue to listen to whatever video series I have running while standing under the relaxing spray for arguably way too long.

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The laundry basket makes for a convenient pedestal.

The list, as I’m sure you can assume, goes on-and-on.

Having gotten far off-track with that background information, let me tie everything back to why I believe feeling uncomfortable with silence is one of the reasons transcribing audio is such a terrible thing for me. As counter-intuitive as that must sound.

Sound. Audio puns. You know the drill.

When I imagine audio that fills all of the dead space in a moment, it’ll often be the sort of things I’ve discussed already. Podcasts. YouTube videos. Music.

Hell, more often than not my family has the TV on, but it’ll be on a mindless channel like the Food Network just to create background noise while we do other things.

However, I don’t consider work audio, something I’m transcribing, to be in the same category of unencumbered noise to distract from the uncomfortable void.

Part of that could be distilled down to the psychological difference between doing something for pleasure versus doing something for work, I suppose. But I think it goes deeper than that.

When transcribing an interview, you aren’t simply jamming out or getting engaged with an adventure someone else is describing. Unless of course your interviewee is describing an adventure… But again, semantics.

Rather than having the chance to just mindlessly enjoy something and absorb what’s happening, transcription is a much more heavy-duty job. You’re listening to someone talk in the same way, but instead of just absorbing it passively you’re very actively listening to that audio, translating it and jotting it down before going back to make sure what you’ve jot down is accurate.

You become more like a wall or a mirror than a sponge, bouncing that information off to a different place rather than just taking it in. The activity is much more taxing, and it becomes easier to lose your interest.

But on top of that, the requirement to constantly repeat things for accuracy leads to a whole host of other internal issues inherent to the process. While transcribing is a “listening” activity, large portions are spent in total silence. Silence is needed to finish copying down the sentence you just heard before the subject moves into their next thought. Silence is needed as you go back in time to listen to something again, and one can’t even have any other sorts of sounds going on the side because the copying needs to be as accurate as possible.

Then let’s not forget the fact that when one is transcribing audio, they can’t necessarily think about anything else other than that audio, either.

While a mind can wander while going to sleep and fill empty space with memorized sounds, transcribing requires a person to repeat what they’ve heard over-and-over again in their head to make sure they don’t forget what they’re writing so they have to go back and hear it again.

That reminder of the sentence is noise to break up the silence, yes, but again it plays back to the mundane, repetitive nature of transcribing that makes it somewhat unbearable as an activity.

Imagine constant switching between total silence and hearing the same sentences on repeat for a few hours. That’s what transcription is at its core.

Whether or not everyone else in the world feels the same way about silence and how it effects things like transcribing is hard to judge since I’m just going off of my own thoughts.

But if nothing else, simply reflecting on those thoughts and trying to imagine why certain things make me feel the way they do, even if I don’t come to any sort of substantial conclusion, is something else that’s inherently characteristic of being human.

The ability to reflect on one’s own situations, and even reflect on the ability to reflect in the first place. That’s the kind of meta that I find fascinating.

Especially when it comes off of an essentially pointless “deep thought” that winds up boiling down to me complaining about my job, if you think about it hard enough.