Archive for January, 2011


Can words heal wounds? Can words stop a war? Can words bring justice? Can words make you laugh? Can words make you cry? Can words build a home? Can words put food on a dinner table?

When I came into college at Liberty University, I had already decided that I wanted to write or become a journalist. I declared my concentration on print and have never looked back on that decision.  When I tell someone I am a journalism major, they raise their eyebrows in obvious perplexity or feign support. They give you this overall impression that you are heading towards an industry that has no future. Over the past recent years, I have heard the recurring phrases “The print industry is dying” or “journalism is dead.”

My response to these statements is that they are typical misconceptions of a long-lasting and much needed industry. However, given this current day and age of technology, I also understand why such statements have surfaced. Simply put, I agree the print industry is dying but it is reincarnating as something more powerful. As a result, journalists have been challenged to compete and satiate the demanding need for instant information.

Since the days of American independence, the newspaper revolutionized the way people communicate. It established a new relationship between the reader and writer. I believe the newspaper has always served as a voice or the watchdog within its community. For example, the famous ‘muckrakers’ who wrote compelling stories that brought down big industries and monopolies to proper regulation. Persistent journalists such as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein from the Washington Post sought out to seek the truth and forced Richard Nixon to resign as President. These stories or iconic writers elevated the status of print journalism.

People once emplaced a trust in the information they held in their hands. Newspapers were on the high, jobs were available and profit was on the ride. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. Since the days of online journalism, there is no doubt things have drastically changed. I have researched various online articles on the current status of newspapers and the first thing you will read about is the crippling amount of losses in revenue, the decreasing subscriptions and the troubling lay-offs. An example from the New Yorker in March 2008 states until recently, newspapers were accustomed to operating as high-margin monopolies. To own the dominant or only, newspaper in a mid-sized American city was, for many decades, a kind of license to print money. In the Internet age, however, no one has figured out how to rescue the newspaper in the United States or abroad. Newspapers have created Web sites that benefit from the growth of online advertising, but the sums are not nearly enough to replace the loss in revenue from circulation and print ads,”

To make things worse, the magazine goes on to explain most newspaper owners go the length of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts and reductions in page size and column inches. According to columnist Molly Ivins, the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem is to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.”

Overall, the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it. The average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only 19 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is 55 and rising. I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a physical newspaper and read it cover to cover. I check everything online.

A passage from The Economist is not on the bright side of print journalism either. “Circulation has been falling in America, Western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand for decades but in the past few years the web has hastened the decline. In his book ‘The Vanishing Newspaper’, Philip Meyer calculates that the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition,”

Maybe this is some valid proof that the print industry is dying. So as a print journalism major, Shouldn’t I ask myself- is this the path of career I want to follow?  I am very aware that the life of the average writer is not easy. There is the belief or stigma writers live a lonely and depressing life. They work long hours behind the desk and receive little pay desperately trying to make end meets. In an address to UC Berkeley journalism grads, prominent journalist Barbara Ehrenreich once said, “You won’t get rich, unless of course you develop a sideline in blackmail or bank robbery. You’ll be living some of the problems you report on – the struggle for health insurance, for child care, for affordable housing. You might never have a cleaning lady. In fact, you might be one.”  She went on and told stories of her glory days of being paid $10 a word and working for Time magazine. Sadly, all that changed by 2005 when she became a meager freelance writer scrapping for work.

The funny thing is, despite all these statistics and tragic stories, I never have questioned myself or career choice. In fact, at this point and time I have never been more excited at the mere thought of being a writer or working for a news publication. The emergence of online journalism presents an exciting time for today’s aspiring journalist.  Online journalism represents the face-lift for print. It’s no different from VHS tapes upgrading to DVDs. Owner of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington could not put it any better, “People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous,” she says. “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”

From my perspective, we should not be opposed to it. Online journalism means writers will be able to reach readers faster. With the assistance of technology news subscribers will be able to access articles with a click of a mouse or touch of an iPad.  According to PC World Magazine, moving towards the online medium can beneficial. “The future of customized online subscriptions is already at the door. The Times itself introduced two innovative tools on its Web site that allow readers to share the articles they enjoy and, much like Google News, check out various sources for front-page stories. The services, called TimesPeople and TimesExtra, respectively, bring a Web 2.0 perspective to an antiquated industry and may help the Times when its advertising dollars run out.”

These are times we live in and we have to get with it. It is not a terrible thing. As I have said the print industry only served as a format and its successor is the Web. It is faster, stronger and better. Not only is the format changing but writers also have to adapt and become more versatile with online mediums and learn how to piece photography, video and illustrations with words as well. The decline of print does not mean I will be out of a job but that I have to work harder and re-brand myself in the midst of competition. In this day and age, there will always be a need for journalism because good journalism is useful and objective information that is beneficial for the public. The use of online media will serve as a platform for writers and work as a catalyst for the demand of information.  Paraphrasing Ehrenreich, journalism as a profession does not mean you are a big shot. It means you are part of a working class.

“As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us because we are all on a mission here. That’s the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight,”

NOTE: This is an amateur interpretation of the original graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Scott Pilgrim is not my work and I am not claiming it as my work. The content within this work is a mere inspiration and expression of my enthusiasm for the series. The original characters are modeled through my own perspective and that of the original author’s. This is not in any way  or form, an act of plagiarism or copy-right infringement.

Vol. 5

Scott Pilgrim immediately fled from the towering construction site at Queen & Bathurst with desperate urgency. He had just rescued Kim Pine from the Katayanagi Twins. The twins, Kyle and Ken were the fifth and sixth members of the league of Evil Exes. They were Japanese and deadly roboticists. The league controlled Ramona’s love life and were hell bent on destroying Scott because he tried to get romantically involved with her. Now only Gideon remained, the seventh and final evil Ex.

Kim used to be with Scott back in high school. He had rescued her then too.  He had to fight a horde of evil minions to get to an 80-foot tall dude in a purple suit who shot lightning-bolts out of his eyes but Scott kicked him so hard that he saw the curvature of the earth. Scott remembered he went through all this just to be with her then. That was such a long time ago. With Kim was just another girl he dated. It just ended. But they were still good friends and he hurried as fast as he could after he received an urgent text from her. She was trapped in a cage, freezing her ass off and she needed his help.

Honestly, He would have rather stayed and worked things out with Ramona. He distinctly remembered the painful things she said to him the night they slept in their bedroom. You are a bad person. You’re just another evil-ex boyfriend waiting to happen aren’t you?

The phrases echoed in his mind over and over. His heart beat faster. He ran faster.

***

Like the Night Before

Right after Scott  dismembered a giant robot into dysfunctional oblivion at another one of Julie’s frigging parties,  the couple  saw off Kim at the subway station and came back to their apartment in Ontario. Scott and Ramona busted through the door locked in a sleazy open-mouthed embrace. They made their way impatiently up the stairs and into the bedroom. Ramona slipped out of  her wedding-like costume and got on top of an anticipating Scott. He never wanted her so bad then. Her eclectic blue hair came down her rounded and mysterious face. Scott’s eyes widened with calm pleasure. He was so ready for her.

After that passionate session, Scott was knocked out but Ramona lay restless. She tossed and turned for a few minutes then her dark blue eyes burned intensely into Scott. She looked back up at the ceiling.

“Did you cheat on me?”

The question immediately awoke Scott from his blissful slumber but he pretended to be still asleep, trying to buy himself time and come up with a decent answer that would assuage the burning question.

“Scott.”

“Yes?” Scott replied, his back towards Ramona.

“Did you cheat on me with Knives Chau?”

“What?. No.” Scott answered with a certain defense. Ramona bent her eyebrows. Suddenly, her head started glowing and it lit up the whole room in a neon-green aura.

“I cheated on Knives with you.

Ramona quickly turned her head to him, her face was scrunched in obvious disgust. “Is there a difference?” She snapped sarcastically.

“You. Weren’t wronged?”

Ramona couldn’t believe her ears and violently turned to the other side of the bed. The glow around her head got brighter.

“I thought you were better than that.”She said abrasively.

Suddenly her white cat with black  patterned stripes on its back sneaked quietly next to the edge of their bed.

Scott could feel the tension drowning the room and him. “So did I! I just…it  happened. I’ve been…trying to forget about it. I’m-”

“You are a bad person,” Ramona accused.

“I’m a bad person. You think I’m a bad person?” Scott finally turned his eyes over to Ramona.

“Well you’re a liar and a cheat.”

Scott pleaded, “I’m trying to be better Ramona. I’m trying to change for you.”

“Great! Good job! you tricked me into thinking you were a decent guy.” she said. “But you’re just another evil ex-boyfriend waiting to happen aren’t you?”

Scott’s heart felt like it stopped beating. “A-are you breaking up with me?” Ramona’s head glow shone on his face, illuminating the fear and desperation in his honey-colored eyes.

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” She turned away from him and went  back to sleep. The glow suddenly hovered over Scott’s head. I thought you were better than that!

I’m sorry,” Scott whispered.

“What?!” Ramona said.

“I’m sorry for being  a bad person. Please don’t break up with me,” His pleading started to annoy her and irritate the glow on her head.

“Sometimes sorry isn’t good enough,” Ramona said finally.

***

Scott smacked into the brick wall from a ridiculously hard kick to the mid-section. He staggered to bring himself up to his feet as debris came off his blue hooded parka. The Katayanagi twins were not impressed and wondered if this was the same Scott Pilgrim who was revered as quite the worthy opponent. “C’mon Pilgrim! What’s wrong with you? Pick up the the pace!” taunted Kyle Katayanagi. He stood over Scott with a very wicked smirk on his face. His bleached silver hair split at his forehead and crowned his scalp with icy confidence. He was a Japanese handsome jerk with his fashionable all white clothes.

“Ugh, I dunno man. I must be coming down with something.” Scott grabbed his head. It felt like it was spinning in all directions and it encumbered his balance significantly.

Kim rolled her eyes while she watched from her dangling cage. “It’s called a hangover.” She said glumly.

It must have been from pounding all that tequila last night with Kim and Ramona. All that tequila? He couldn’t believe it.

“And welcome to club,” Kim said sheepishly, her own head aching massively.

Scott placed his hand on a wall for support and finally balanced himself. He balled his fists, ready to take on the twins. “You show up to our battle hung over?” Kyle Katayanagi incensed at Pilgrim’s sheer lack of seriousness. “Let us teach you some respect!”

The first brother leaped at Scott and descended upon him with a powerful high flying kick  but Scott managed to block it, only for Ken, the other twin, to sneak attack him from behind with another flying kick. The back of his head throbbed painfully as he hit the floor with a hard thud. Kim watched on tired from her cage.

“And how is Ramona this morning?” Ken asked plainly. He  brushed little dust off the epaulets of his sheeny suede jacket. He was smiling arrogantly as if he was fully aware of his tall height and slick dark hair. Scott looked at Kyle and thought what a perfect asshat.

Scott started to get off his fours. “She’s fine! And you guys are cheating! I thought you were supposed to fight me one at a time!”

Ken scoffed. “Cheating is why we joined the guild in the first place.”

“You mean the league?” Scott said dusting his jeans off.

“Whatever. We joined because Ramona cheated on us!”

“The two-timing slut!” Kyle added.

A worried look came upon Scott. He was confused. Ramona cheated? “She cheated on you? Seriously?”

“She played us against us each other”

“and since the day we discovered her treachery, we vowed always to work together!” Kyle said, finishing his brother’s sentence. The twins stood side by side and crossed elbows. They clasped their hands together in an ultimate twin-link. A signature move of theirs that would let them co-ordinate dangerous attacks together.

Scott charged angrily at the seemingly conjoined twins but they countered with a double hurricane kick. The kick created a whirlwind force that sent him smashing into another wall with a loud WKAM!

Ramona cheated? Scott looked up at the twins. “But she…I mean…I cheated and she…but…she’s…”

“A hypocrite?” Ken said as if he were finishing Scott’s sentence. Scott whipped his finger violently at the evil twins. “I don’t have to listen to any of this! You guys are trying to bring me down! I just have to defeat you and Gideon and everything will be perfect!”

Kim called out to Scott “Did you and Ramona have a fight?”

“Of course not!” Scott tried to assert convincingly while fighting the evil duo but Kim could sense the frustration in his voice. “Damn it Scott. You were doing so well last night.”

Ken threw a punch at Scott but he dodged it “Did her head glow?”

“Of course not!”

“You’re in denial!” Kyle threw a roundhouse kick but Scott ducked. “What does the glow mean?” Kim said gripping the bars of her cage as she watched Scott battling it out with his twin enemies.

“Can we talk about something else?” Scott said.

“Let’s talk about you liberating me from this stupid cage!” Kim argued.

Kyle came up to Scott at full force and  locked him in a fist grapple. His eyes peered into Scott’s with brutal and very wicked menace.

“You know why Ramona came to this city, don’t you?” Kyle asked.

“She got a job.”

“She came here to escape.” He corrected. “To escape from what?” Kim asked. “Herself.” Kyle said. “Gideon.” Ken finally added. Scott broke from Kyle’s grapple. He fumed with hate for the twins and prepared to launch another attack but they struck him with a thunderous simul-punch. The two-hit combo tossed him up in the air like a rag doll and he came to the ground with another hard thud. Gosh, Scott’s getting his ass kicked Kim thought.

“You guys are full of it.” Scott said with grimace in his voice. “She’s a runner Pilgrim.” Ken said while they looked down on him. Kim saw the confusion and anger that clouded Scott. “Stop listening to them Scott!” she called out from the dangling cage.

Scott gritted through his teeth. “If you dicks know so much about her what was her last job?”

“She worked for Gideon of course,” Kyle answered, “and her services are missed.” The other twin completed his brother’s sentence in customary fashion.

“SAVE ME!” Kim shouted shaking the dangling contraption furiously. Scott glared at the twins. “She’s done with that. You Japanese jokes.”  He got on his knee, balled his fist and took off like a sprinter on the start line.  “I’ll show you how ancient of history it is!” He yelled. Ken visciously swung his foot to Scott’s stomach before he could get back on his feet. A loud boom echoed throughout the construction site. Scott groaned in pain and clenched his teeth. Kim’s eyes grew with fear and she became more worried. “Scott.” she said helplessly.

Scott writhed on the ground in agony. He held his torso tightly as if he were trying to keep it from disintegrating. “Scott!” Kim called.

The twins crept over to their fallen enemy. Their shadows hovered over him. They sensed defeat.

“You poor fool!” “Going through hell.” “All for the wrong girl.” “You think she’d do this for you?” “I wager she’s packing her bags.” The twins said one after one another. Suddenly, Kim called out to her friend. “Scott! I got a text!”

She pulled out her flip phone and reached out of her cage. “It’s from Ramona!”

The evil twins became alarmed at the sudden news and as soon Scott heard this, he had forgotten about his pain entirely and a glimmer of hope shone in his eyes.

Kim read from the blank screen of her dead cell phone. “She says she misses you, she believes in you. She just wanted to make sure you’re alright. I mean against the twins and I- I’m texting back. C’mon! He’s SCOTT PILGRIM!”

Impossible! The twins thought. Ramona can change? The glimmer of hope in Scott’s eyes literally turned into raging fire. He stood up with a swagger that looked indestructible. The twins were shocked and scared shitless. The twins rushed at Scott with their fists held high in a desperate attempt to put him down. Scott had had enough, he thrusts his right leg so powerfully, it knocked the rushing Ken with super G-force into Kyle. the brothers rolled all over the ground and were sprawled out on the floor. They saw the determination in Scott’s eyes and trembled even more. “I fear Gideon may have underestimated this one brother.”  Kyle said as if he accepted his fate.

“I’ve got a message for Gideon you identical turds.” Scott said calmly. “He’s next.” The twins were gearing up for a witty comeback but Scott pulled off a monstrous leap from the ground with such speed and velocity. Still suspended in the air he bent his knees to make himself smaller and they met the twins’ foreheads with a loud crack.

He landed and crouched to the ground. All that was left of the evil twins was the flurry of coins clattering and clinking behind Scott. He defeated the Katayanagi twins simultaneously. An achievement he unlocked. Kim sighed with relief and closed her flip cell phone. She was sick and tired of them completing each other’s sentences and sick of this damn cage.

***

Scott finally released Kim from the cage. She snugged her head in his chest and she let him hold her. As much as Scott annoyed her, she was glad he came for her. “I’m sorry you had to get involved.” Scott said, staring deeply at her freckled face.

“Whatever, it’s cool.” Kim said, which was her own way of saying thanks. “What about you? Are you gonna be okay?” Kim asked.

“One more asshole to go right? I should really run home though. Ramona and I, we’re…”

“Yeah of course,” Kim interrupted. “Go get her. go work it out.” She said nonchalantly. Scott took off immediately. “Thanks Kim!”

She folded her arms as he ran out the construction site. “Yeah sure.” She said to herself. She hated herself for thinking about when she was with Scott back in high school. Sometimes she wished she got a chance to- She shook the thought off, came back to her senses and walked home.

***

Scott Pilgrim ran as fast as he could. He had to get to Ramona and let her know everything was ok. Despite the troubling things the twins said to him about her cheating, her infidelity with past relationships. The things they said raised so many questions about why she treated him coldly that night. It didn’t matter. Those sub-space highways could really come in handy right now Scott thought. I could get to her faster.

***

Ramona was sitting in her bedroom, she had a letter in her hand and she had been holding it for a while. She had on the slim black hoodie she got from Fashion District on Queen street. Her purple laced stockings covered and graced her thighs while her forelegs were warmed by fashionable boots. She gripped the letter tightly. She looked up because she instantly heard footsteps thumping loudly up the stairs and coming closer through the hallways of her apartment.

“Ramona!’ Scott wildly swung the door open as he bustled through. “Whoa.” Scott saw that her head was glowing again like the other night and her cat was straddling beside her. “Your, your hair.” She kept it short to her ears and it popped a different color too. This time it more of a mellow green. Not as bright as usual.

“Hey, so umm. I took care of the twins. They had Kim but uh, she’s fine and they told me some things. Not that everything they said was necessarily true, but…” Scott looked at her but she didn’t seem to pay him any attention. She seemed lost in solace as she calmly fidgeted with her  strap like necklace. She kept on glowing. Scott started to get a little nervous.

“Ramona, I…I love you here and now. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from or what you did. As long as you love me.”

An uneasy quietness filled the room.

“I’ve done bad things.” Ramona whispered with sullen regret.

“We both have. Everyone has.”

“I’m a bad person.” A small tear streamed from the bottom of her left eyelid which made her sad eyes glisten even more.

“People can change Ramona,” Scott assured.

She looked up at him and saw the kindness in his eyes. They belonged to someone who had been through hell and back. She had never been with anyone like him. She flashed back to all the good things he did for her, how he stood up for her at every moment and the things she put him through. She loved him too. Yet she wasn’t sure if he was what she needed or that she even deserved him. She finally let out a smile as she stifled a sob.

“Scott, thanks.” She wiped the tear from her face.

“You’re welcome,” Scott seemed relieved. I knew everything would work out fine, he thought.

Then she literally began to fade, slowly. Like an old photograph desperately trying to hold onto the happy memories it once stored. Splotches of nothingness swept over her as if she were being erased. She saw Scott beginning to fade from her as well too. He was still smiling.

“I had a good time,” She said, her body half-colored and transparent. Scott’s heart stopped beating.

“Wait. What? Ramona, wait!” but she  already disappeared like a whiff of cigarette smoke into thin air.

Scott  stood at the edge of an empty bed, gazing at Ramona’s belongings strewn across all over her room. He took  a step closer to the bed. All that was left was her cat and a letter that was addressed to Gideon.