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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

The Monkey Prince: Eugene Walter

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In 1996, as part of a Feature Writing class I took to fill my journalism minor, I drove to Mobile, Alabama and interviewed a local legend named Eugene Walter. Eugene was one of the most fascinating personalities I’ve ever talked to — certainly he was the person who’d accomplished the most, or at least the most varied. The article he inspired helped me get an A in that class.

Eugene passed away less than two years after I wrote this article. I’m very glad I got the chance to spend a couple of hours with him that warm November afternoon. Eugene lived more fully and more authentically than most of us ever do, and I think there’s still much I can learn from his attitudes toward life.

(Don’t judge the writing too harshly — this was fifteen years ago!)

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Written by Allen

August 18th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Posted in General

Long Time No Write

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When I started writing this post, I opened up my text editor, switched it to full-screen view and was presented with twenty-one diagonal inches of pure, gleaming white. And I thought to myself: “Wow, that’s an awful lot of white space. That’s… a little bit intimidating, honestly. How am I possibly gonna fill that up with words? I don’t have to write this thing tonight, right?”

But I did. Do. Whatever. Those scaredy-cat thoughts popped up mostly because I’m so thoroughly out of practice writing. My brainmeats are so far out of the groove that even writing emails have become difficult for me lately. This blog hasn’t been updated in more than eight months, and my other more private online writing spaces haven’t been updated much more than that. (Hell, it had been so long since I updated this site, I couldn’t remember my password.) I can blame some of that on the arrival of Young Master Rockstar, of course, but honestly it’s not all because of him. It’s not even mostly because of him. He got here in October, so I hardly think it’s fair for me to keep blaming my lack of writing production on him six months later.

(Laurel likes to place the blame for anything she was supposed to but didn’t on “But the baby’s cute!”, as if being distracted by his adorableness is a good excuse for… well, anything. But if I won’t let her get away with that excuse, then I can’t use it, either.)

The thing is… I miss writing. I miss the thinking that goes into it (yes, please feel free to insert your own “what, you actually thought about that tripe you usually write?” joke here). Writing is how I figure out exactly what it is I feel and/or think about any given subject, so if I’m not writing, that means I’m not processing. It means I’m taking in experiences both profound and banal without giving them much (if any) consideration.

Well, it’s time for that blithe glossing-over of life to stop. I want to think about Things more, about my life and the stuff I see, do, and hear. I want to get back to writing reviews of movies and music and TV shows and books and performances and and and. I want to write more about my happens with my kids and my wife and my friends and my job and the world. I want to write about sports, though not that many of the people reading this thing give much of a shit about sports. Part of me even wants to write about politics, even though it’s inviting drama, and I freely admit that I’m not the most knowledgable person on political subjects — but again, that goes back to the “using writing to figure out what it is I think” angle.

Am I setting myself up for failure here by proclaiming my desire to write about Big Things, or with the somewhat implicit promise to write on a regular/frequent basis? Eh, maybe. If there’s one thing about me and my interests that’s proven itself to be true repeatedly, it’s that I seem unable to stick with any one project for too long. I’m sure eventually I’ll wander off and stick my head into something else… but I’d like not to stay away from writing for such a long damn time in the future.

(Oh, hey, I should probably mention: I won a Webby! Well, my team did — we won the Best Games-Related Website Webby for the site for The Beatles: Rock Band. For those of you unfamiliar with the Webbys, what we did was roughly the equivalent of winning, say, the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a pretty damn big deal, and I’m thrilled that we were honored. I’ll probably have more to say on this point later, as I think it deserves more than a tacked-on paragraph at the end of a post, but I wanted to throw it out there now. Go HMX WebTowne!)

Written by Allen

May 10th, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Posted in General

The Kindness of Strangers

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For the past year or so, I’ve been getting emails from various gaming sites telling me I’ve signed up for accounts with them. Funny, thinks I, I don’t recall signing up to play games on (for example) Cartoon Network’s site. Every few weeks, and sometimes more frequently, I get notification from some site with details about some account I didn’t sign up for using one of my many Gmail accounts. These sites are always gaming-related, and they almost always seem as if they’re geared toward boys between the ages of twelve and fifteen.

I’ll admit that this ongoing situation confused me — surely this person, presumably some other 12-to-15-year-old Allen Holt, would A) know his own email address and B) realize that he wasn’t getting any email from any of these accounts he was signing up for? One site, okay, sure — either you put your address in wrong or you that site’s mail setup is busted or something else kept you from getting email. But there were many of these sites this kid had signed up for, so, um, wha?

A couple of times I tried logging into these accounts — after all, I had the login information for them, so maybe I could use that info to find out who this kid who thought he had my email address was and ask him (very nicely, of course) to cut it out. But no luck. There was never any information I could use to identify the kid (which is actually a Very Good Thing, I feel, for sites geared toward younger users).

So the occasional random gaming accounts continue to appear in my inbox.

Then yesterday I received an email — again to that same Gmail account — from a teacher in Utah addressed to the parents of her new class of kids, talking about how happy she was with their progress so far this year. Luckily for me she didn’t BCC the address list: I looked through all of the addresses she sent the email to and found the name, at long last, of the boy who’s been unknowingly tormenting me for the last year (where “tormenting” equals “occasionally spamming my inbox.”)

Now I had my in.

I sent an email to his teacher explaining the situation and requesting that she tell the kid that my email address wasn’t his and asking if he would please kindly stop using it. She wrote back and told me she would, and also told me that he’s a really good kid and surely didn’t mean any harm — which I’d already gathered, of course, given the sites he was registering with, but it was still nice to hear that my email account wasn’t being used by a little douchebag.

This morning, she wrote back and finally answered the question I’d had all along: the kid’s mother has an email address one letter off from mine, and he’d either been mistyping it or just had it wrong all this time. Knowing that it was his mom’s address made the whole thing make much more sense to me. His teacher said she’d talked to both parent and child and everything should be copacetic now.

So thank you, Becky Ivory of Murray, Utah, for gracefully handling what surely must have seemed a bizarre request from a complete stranger on the other side of the country. You easily could have ignored my email or been less than friendly in your reply (assuming I was some kind of stalkery weirdo), but you did neither. I sincerely appreciate your help, and best of luck with your students — especially the clearly ones addicted to online video games.

Written by Allen

September 1st, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Posted in General

An Update of Sorts

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So a month-and-a-half ago or so I decided I wanted to redesign this website in a very public manner, following the Japanese principle of kaizen, or continual incremental improvement. I doubt many of you have stopped by the site during that time, but if you had, you probably noticed that, well, there really wasn’t a lot in the way of improvement going on, incremental or otherwise. I’ve been meaning to work on the design, but have so many other things I’m trying to do that redesigning this site just wasn’t high enough of a priority. I still intend to do so — I actually have a design well underway, just nowhere near ready to start putting together. For now, though, I’m going back to the previous iteration of the site, even if it’s not my design, just so the site doesn’t look quite so damn ugly, even if it was on purpose.

I think, in fact, that the site’s ugliness was one of the reasons I haven’t updated it much lately. Looking at the site and its ugliness, temporary or not, was a reminder of the work I wasn’t doing, so I tended not to look at it and, therefore, not update it. That problem, then, is now solved, and I hope to get back to a more consistent update schedule. Regardless of the other work I’m doing and the quality of that work, I almost always feel better about myself when I’m writing. I have one of those brains that tends not to be quite sure what it thinks about things if I’m not writing my thoughts down somewhere.

I have been doing some writing, of course: during the last month over at Moviegeekz, I’ve posted reviews of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Ryan Reynolds mindfuck The Nines and the fantastic and underrated Robert Downey Jr./Val Kilmer noir-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as the old Sandra Bullock romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping, just ’cause I like Sandra Bullock. I’ve got more stuff coming up over there just as soon as I find the chance to finish writing it; soon I’ll cross that magical fifty reviews mark and it’ll start to feel almost like a legitimate movie review site.

That’s it for now — just wanted this site not to feel quite so abandoned. More to come soon!

Written by Allen

August 3rd, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Posted in General

On Competence and Incompetence

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My boss linked to a YouTube video yesterday on Twitter which I wanted to share with you guys, but I couldn’t find a way into writing about it. See, the video (by TheraminTrees) is all about what’s known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect: their studies demonstrate that people who are incompetent don’t realize that they’re incompetent. They think they’re as smart and capable as everyone else and don’t recognize that others are more competent than they. Their complete lack of self-knowledge occludes their entire view of the world and affects their interactions with it.

(Funnily enough, highly competent people tend to undervalue their own competence, assuming better of everyone else than they really should.)

But scanning through the news this morning, I realized there was an absolutely perfect connection, a note-perfect example of exactly the sort of person Justin Kruger and David Dunning were talking about in their study: Sarah Palin.

Watch the video below with Palin in mind, and enjoy. (If it helps entice you to watch the video, I’ll note that the word “sodomites” appears several times.)

Written by Allen

July 7th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Posted in General