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...but it feels that LJ is more limited than most! So I'm back to using Wordpress on my Web site, http://www.news-geek.com/

You can still see entries on your friends page, however, if you subscribe to the RSS feed I set up awhile ago: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/news_geek/profile.

News-Geek's first short film...

I decided recently to branch out from journalism, just as an exercise for myself. I wanted to write, produce, and direct a fictional short film, and I somehow managed to do it in a weekend. (Even with the most amateurish of films, getting all the right shots in a weekend can prove pretty challenging, especially if there's plenty of scripted dialogue.)

What follows is an attempt at comedy. I won't give away the plot--the film is less than seven minutes long, so it's not exactly Citizen Kane--but I will tell you what inspired it. The idea came from a conversation I had with my husband, Steve, while we were on a flight to Memphis. He commented on the still popular pre-worn clothing phenomenon and said that while he liked the look of faded jeans and could tolerate off-the-rack old-looking t-shirts, he was completely shocked at seeing a pre-worn Bible at Barnes & Noble, stains and all.

When he told me this, I too was flabbergasted. Pre-worn Bibles? Seriously? Isn't that kind of ironic in how anti-Christian it is? (I'm a little rusty, but I'm pretty sure that attempting to look more pious than you are is probably a no-no.)

But enough back-story. I now give you my one-camera, no-mic, no-lighting, no-budget film!

I saw this video earlier, and I still can't decide who to be upset with. Please watch it and then read my comments below.

Full video from Fox News

I never liked Governor Sarah Palin all that much when it came to politics. She really only seemed to speak to Senator John McCain's base, yet to a might-as-well-be-independent like me, Palin seemed a little out-of-touch and more than a little arrogant in her assumptions about all Americans. My husband isn't a Joe Six-Pack. He's a Steve One-Beer, if anything, or perhaps a Steve Doesn't-Define-Himself-By-What-He-Imbibes. As for me, I don't define myself by my trade, and I don't think that I'm in any particular demographic that would have benefited from McCain's tax plan more than President-elect Obama's. I don't feel squelched by liberal policies (I like both gays and religious freedom) and further, I don't believe Palin was at all a victim of "Gotcha journalism." Finally, I never found Sarah Palin particularly qualified even though she had served as governor of one of our great states.

But even with all of this in mind, Palin is not the one I'm upset with.

John McCain and his people led us to believe that Sarah Palin was the woman for the job. They told us she was brilliant, that she was qualified, and that she would be a woman to serve all Americans. So either McCain and his camp lied to us from the very beginning and almost saddled us with this now seemingly unqualified woman as the second in command in leadership of the free world, as they say... or, McCain's campaign folks and Fox News (all big Palin people) are now totally passing the buck.

Who can be so dedicated to a cause one minute and then just abandon ship the second things go badly?

I don't know about you, but I'd like some answers.

Where do we really stand in 2008?

On the heels of Californians' decision to ban gay marriage yesterday, a friend of mine posed a question to the effect of "Do you think gay marriage will be legalized in all 50 states within the next 30 years?"

My gut reaction to this was that it definitely would not happen. I've lived in some of the reddest American states, and I know how tightly the people there tend to hold on to their convictions, especially those convictions they associate with their faith. Plus, if an historically liberal state like California could ban same-sex marriage, why would any other state that doesn't support such partnerships yet ever see fit to do so?

But then, someone else responded to my friend with an interesting question of his own. "It's 1978: Do you believe we'll elect a black president within the next 30 years?"

I'll have to admit, that was some serious food for thought.

Of course, some might say this is like comparing apples and oranges. While this election gave Obama a pretty big victory, it wasn't anything like 1972 when Nixon won 49 of the 50 states.* Then again, the question's overall point is incredibly valid: a great deal can change in 30 years.

So what do you think?

Poll #1292097 It's 2008:

Do you think most or all of the 50 states will have legalized gay marriage by 30 years from now?

Not Sure
Don't Care

Please elaborate here or in the comments section

* Yes, you read that right--Tricky Dick won 49 states in 1972. For those of you playing at home, the only state to pick George McGovern over Nixon was my own, Massachusetts. (I hear you could eventually get bumper stickers--after Nixon fell from grace--that read "Don't Blame Me, I'm From Massachusetts.")

Cross Into the Abyss

There's a strange garden just outside of Boston that's been grabbing a lot of attention lately. It's called "Cross Into the Abyss," and like most things people put any effort into these days, it even has a Web presence. I recently completed an audio/stills piece on the Abyss, which you can see in all its overly compressed glory below. I plan to upload a higher-res version of the file to News-Geek fairly soon.

The goal here was to take a low-budget, NPR-esque/"This American Life" stab at a feature story. I wanted to cover something quirky and interesting. But while these pieces are fun, they can also prove challenging:

- How do you know that what's interesting to you will interest your audience? Unlike hard-news pieces, features don't necessarily justify themselves.
- How quirky can quirky be before it becomes crazy? That is, will your audience laugh at you for doing serious or semi-serious pieces on topics they might find... comical?
- Are you introducing bias simply by choosing your angle? Let's say you want to do a story on how, when Timmy Smith and his parents took in a five-legged dog, the animal changed their lives for the better and made them all kinder, gentler human beings. But what if they all hate the poor mutt and simply can't find anyone else to take him in? Pick your angle, but be willing to change it (or even your entire story) if the facts don't fit the idea.

"Crossing into the Abyss" video, images, and audio (unless otherwise noted) © 2008 by Rima Chaddha-Mycynek. Two images from Post Secret and music performed by Piano Tribute Players used under fair use and not intended for profit.

News-Geek in the News: Personalized Gifts

I was interviewed last week for a feature in Mississippi's largest-circulation newspaper, The Clarion Ledger. LaReeca Rucker contacted me for the piece, which was to focus on the increasing popularity of personalized products, when she learned that I had used HeadBobble.com to create Bobblehead versions of my fiancé (Steve) and myself. You can read my brief commentary on love, personalization, and the fun of bobbles below, but first here's the article:

Getting personal: Products touting individuality appeal to the masses

LaReeca Rucker

Ole Miss graduate Rima Chaddha and her fiance, Steve Mycynek, are fans of the NBC television show The Office and the show's quirky characters, Dwight and Angela.

Click on either image to enlarge
"One year for Valentine's Day, Angela gets Dwight the perfect gift - a mini bobblehead of himself," said Chaddha, who did the same as a first dating anniversary gift for Steve.

Using photographs submitted to HeadBobble.com, customized figurines were created that look eerily similar to the couple. Mycynek holds a golf club, and Chaddha, who studies ninjitsu, wears a martial arts uniform.

Despite her effort to find the perfect gift, Mycynek topped Chaddha's offering, presenting something a little more personal - an engagement ring.

Today, it's all about (insert your name here.) Americans are getting personal with products, and you can find everything from customized Bobbleheads to DNA portraits.

Several Mississippi businesses allow customers to showcase their individuality. The Jackson store Fresh Ink offers personalized stationary, decals, towels, money clips and a variety of bags that can be monogrammed.

"We even have cutting boards with initials," said manager Allison Ertz.

Emily Hassel, manager of the Jackson store Turkoyz, said engraved initial necklaces are popular.

"A lot of movie stars are wearing them," she said. "They were in the new movie 27 Dresses. Catherine Heigl was wearing a 'J' for Jane."

Stacy Stovall, owner of the Jackson store Monogram Magic, said she bought the business nine years ago when it was a luxury to have an item monogrammed, and since then, the demand has steadily risen.

Click on either image to enlarge
"It does make a $5 gift look like a $25 gift," she said, adding that the store carries personalized car mats, among other products.

"When I saw the car mats, I thought, 'What will they come up with next?' "

At MyKleenexTissue.com, you can upload a photo and create a customized box of Kleenex for $4.99 plus shipping. M&Ms offers custom-printed candies. NikeID.com lets you be the shoe designer. Clinique offers perfume bottles featuring your favorite pictures. And at ColorWarepc.com, you can customize your computer, gaming console, digital music player, cell phone and other products.

Adrian Salamunovic, 32, co-founded DNA 11 three years ago with friend Nazim Ahmed, a 31-year-old geneticist. They started their business in a 600-square-foot apartment in Canada and now operate a multimillion business selling DNA, Fingerprint and KISS Portraits to 52 countries and all 50 states.

Salamunovic saw a brochure of technical DNA images, thought they resembled modern art, and an idea was born. He asked Ahmed to "take a picture" of his own genetic code, and a new personalized product soon hit the market.

The company also creates lip and fingerprint portraits that resemble Andy Warhol pop art. You can even send a copy of your signature, and they'll add it to the piece.

"The art is very now, very modern and it's very personal," Salamunovic said. "Whether it's the DNA of a loved one or a pet, that's what makes it so unique."

Personalization is about distinguishing yourself from the pack, Salamunovic said.

"We've really noticed an interesting trend," he said. "What's happening is, in the world of cookie-cutter homes and generic cars in suburbia, people are trying to differentiate themselves from one another.

"The bigger and more compact the city, where you've got thousands of people stacked on top of each other, the more we sell."

Chaddha, who lives in Boston where she produces Web content for the PBS science television shows NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW, understands the trend.

"We're saturated with things to buy, and the variety we're offered is insane," she said. "Remember how the first iPods were all white, but not the bright white we see today? Now each of the several varieties of iPods has its own line of colors.

"I think people get addicted to that. Everyone wants to stand out. And why not?

"To get philosophical, I think it gives some people more of a sense of identity ... Once you have everything, the next step seems to be 'How can I be different?'"

The extended version of what I told Rucker is basically this: I feel that personalized gifts aren't limited to (yet certainly cater to) a very specific demographic--people who are young, professional, and who have fewer worries in life compared to those with families and more prominent financial burdens. They tend to live in cities in similar buildings with similar amenities, and they tend to have similar hobbies and interests. (For a tongue-in-cheek list of these hobbies and interests, see Stuff White People Like. One interest is irony, hence the racially exclusive name of the site.) It seems that once you have "everything," the only thing left to do is to stand out, lest ennui set in. Think Edward Norton's character in Fight Club, only taken down a notch.

As for the American version of The Office, anyone fan can tell you that neither Dwight nor Angela is the epitome of love, romance, or feelings in general, at least on his or her own. As the more likable character, Pam, put it when talking about Angela's decision to date another Office nuisance named Andy: "Angela and Andy might actually make a good couple... but I couldn't do that to Dwight. Or Angela... or Andy."

But here's the kicker: In the scenes where it was just the two of them, Dwight and Angela made a great couple. Their affection for one another came through in a very real way, at least for prime-time TV. And it reminded me of the sweet "secrets" that so many close couples have--their inside jokes, their stolen glances, even their pet names (Badger and Monkey, in this case). Love is a very raw emotion. It can be as cruel as it is magical. But it is, in my humble view, a feeling and an experience to be cherished.

And so, the bobbleheads. I had ours made for Steve because I admired the way these two characters were able to portray the honesty of love, and because I knew that Steve felt the same way.

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The Rebel Faction

In this post you'll find some archived radio programs by The Rebel Faction, a talk show formed by and consisting of Matt “The Watcher” Williams and myself (the "lovely" Rima, as my co-host called me) in January of 2004. During our first months on the air, we covered various topics such as the state of education, energy and the economy, and the legal issues behind music piracy and recreational drugs, just to name a few. In time, we chose to take on a more laid-back format for some shows, dropping the point-counterpoint technique for more laid-back, research-based conversation and analysis. We also had a variety of guests over the show's three-year lifespan, from law enforcement and professors as well as other experts on given topics to dedicated liberal and conservative political activists and popular musicians.

Over the years, The Rebel Faction saw a number of changes, mainly because the Watcher and I were always willing to try something new. It was not uncommon for us to have serious shows on timely and important news topics for a few weeks, and then switching gears to bring listeners something more "fun"--our Halloween shows were always very laid-back, as were our episodes analyzing popular culture.

Below, you'll find several shows from our last season, including our goodbye special:

02.04.06 — Freedoms and the State of the Union
Guests: Emmett McClary and Jason W. Johnson

With conservative McClary and liberal Johnson on the show, we were able to form a well-rounded debate on issues relating to the President’s State of the Union address, and to the First Amendment with regard to an arrest that took place prior to the speech.

[.mp3 format | 00:59:59]

02.11.06 — Video Games: Part 2

A discussion among Matt (The Watcher), (The Lady) Nekko and (The Lovely) Rima, this was our second show on video games. We had planned on doing this the previous semester, and I had even conducted interviews as can be heard below, but we sadly had to put things off. By the time we did the show, the interviews were no longer timely.

[.mp3 format | 01:01:59] || [Interviews in .mp3 format | 00:10:08]

02.18.06 — K-12 and the Standardization of Higher Education
Guest: educator Jason Johnson

Recent news reports showed that a policy similar to “No Child Left Behind” could be brought to higher education with a new national K-16 or K-20 system.

[.mp3 format | 01:01:57]

02.25.06 — Islam and the East-West Divide
Guests: Dr. Mary Thurlkill and Muslim Student Association President Islam Eshrah

On this show, we took a look at the religion of Islam from two different perspectives, one scholarly and one personal. The guests spent the hour addressing common concerns, questions and even myths held about Islam in the Western world.

[.mp3 format | 00:58:57]
[Note: This show is now an Award Winner.]

03.04.06 — Stem Cells and Therapeutic Cloning
Guests: Dr. Ken Sufka, a psychologist and pharmacologist, and Dr. Brad Jones, a biologist

In light of recent moves to ban therapeutic cloning in the state, we invited Drs. Sufka and Jones to speak with us regarding stem cell research and its implications for possible medical advancements in terms of diseases and gene-linked defects. The scientists provided listeners with information on both what these terms mean and where these procedures could lead in the future of science.

[.mp3 format | 00:50:47]

03.25.06 — Abortion and the Ole Miss Community
Guests: Dawn, a mother and a student; Steph, an alumna and a high school teacher; Richard, a student and our male voice for the topic

After a two-show hiatus for spring break, we returned to the airwaves with three guests who joined us in a discussion of women’s issues at Ole Miss and in the South. The state legislature had recently attempted to pass a bill that would ban abortion, and so this became our discussion focal point.

[.mp3 format | 00:51:41]

04.01.06 — President George W. Bush Resigns: A Nation in Turmoil

This extremely successful April Fool’s Day joke had many listeners calling in, wondering where to get more information on the president’s “resignation.” For realism, we edited and spliced together sound clips from several speeches and press conferences to form an “excerpt” from a fictional press conference he’d supposedly held earlier in the week, we rewrote parts of former President Nixon’s resignation speech, and we had our regular third-season guest Jason Johnson call in to confirm our far-fetched claims. As a special treat, listeners are encouraged to listen to the last few minutes of the show where we “confess” things about ourselves. Happy April Fool’s Day!

[.mp3 format | 00:50:25 - music breaks removed in the interest of copyright]
[Note: The show was so effective that columnist Marty Russell wrote about it for The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal | (mirror site)]

04.08.06 — Is America Due for Revolution?
Guests: Jason (a literary scholar), Casey (a scholar of history) and David (a political scholar); via phone: Melody (a political activist)

This week, we discussed a very dangerous topic: revolution and what it would mean in America today versus what it meant over 200 years ago to our nation’s Founding Fathers. We covered everything from Jeffersonian thought to the First Amendment and current United States Code. The danger itself came with respect to the U.S. Code (Title 18, Section 2385), among other things, which states the penalties facing anyone who advocates or encourages the “violent” overthrow of the government. In today’s Post-Sept. 11 world, such legal issues are no longer monochromatic, and therefore must be discussed thoroughly to be understood and defined once again.

[.mp3 format | 00:50:18]

07.08.06 — Goodbye Rebel Faction

Life moves on and so shall we. This week, Matt and I decided to give our show of three years, The Rebel Faction, a proper send-off. With only one day to prepare, we decided to treat the show just as we did in our first season. The format was fairly relaxed (although the conversation did become passionate at times), and the topics were varied. Given the special nature of this broadcast, the we extended to show to two hours, something we had not done since the 2004 presidential elections. Thanks to all who listened, and who e-mailed and/or called us to say goodbye.

[HOUR ONE | HOUR TWO — .mp3 format]

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Welcome to News-Geek.com

About the Blogger

Rima Chaddha Mycynek is a writer, reporter, editor, photographer, videographer, former talk show host and all-around journalism nerd.

She most recently worked as a multimedia producer for the PBS science series NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW, where her responsibilities included creating interactive audiovisual features for each episode's companion site, as well as conducting interviews with experts and researching topics on the cutting edge of science.

Mycynek's background is in print, broadcast, and multimedia journalism. While an undergraduate (2004) and then graduate student (2006) at the University of Mississippi, she served as assistant editor (2003-05) and senior editor (2005-06) for Dr. Samir Husni's Guide to New Consumer Magazines. During that time, she also freelanced for such publications as the Commercial Appeal, Conceive Magazine and Mental_Floss. While obtaining her graduate degree, Mycynek was also an assignment desk editor at the university's multi-million-dollar converged news center. Her experiences at the center inspired her masters thesis, which covered the perks, pitfalls, and perils of convergence and student-run, small-market, and large-market media agencies.

News-Geek.com is Mycynek's personal and professional blog where she will post examples of her work, interviews, articles, and general commentary from her perspective as a media junkie. She hopes that you'll enjoy it!

How to use News-Geek.com

Under the hood, News-Geek.com operates via the LiveJournal blogging service using a template designed by Tana Tienauchariya and graphics created by Rima Chaddha. To comment, users with accounts on LiveJournal, Vox, TypePad, and a variety of other sites may use their own usernames and passwords for the sake of identification. Others may comment anonymously and leave their names and contact information in their messages.

If they wish, users can also take advantage of the RSS feed (right-hand column) and those who use LiveJournal can add News-Geek to their friends page.

About News-Geek

Rima Chaddha Mycynek is a writer, reporter, editor, photographer, videographer, former talk show host and all-around journalism nerd. She most recently worked as a multimedia producer for the PBS science series NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW. ... (more)

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