The Ghost of Al Amode

⊆ 9:44 AM by Adam Liebendorfer | , , , , . | ˜ 9 comments »

Nowadays, you know when you're talking to a member of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation." Their humor is easier to come by and seem to be personally defined by some kind of thrifty tic, which is something of a great thing in itself.


Around a year ago —election time— such a heavy emphasis was put on us Millennials, Generation Y, particularly how we were going to clean this world up. I remember an article discussing Generation Z, the Internet Generation. The article's main point was how interesting they're going to turn out, having always had the World Wide Web, raised in an ugly recession. It was titled "The Generation of Thrift."

In late 2007/early 2008, our housing bubble bursted causing the rest of the global good times bubble to burst with it. It would've been catastrophic, apocalyptic if it had been when my grandparents were children.

But the difference: a decade-long depression versus a two-year recession. Let's face it, we're getting better at this economic crisis thing.

I wonder how many Gen Zers will fill a bowl with six or seven potato chips and be content because that is what the serving size is or save everything from quarters to trinkets. I suppose it won't matter; I probably won't be around to see it.


Buns and a Prayer

⊆ 2:20 PM by Adam Liebendorfer | , , , . | ˜ 1 comments »

I've been looking for a way to revitalize my blog, and I think I may have just found it.

It was a day shy of 11 months ago that I gained fame.

It was the Fourth of July. I had the day off from work, I remember. I never thought I would have preferred the halls of my old high school to the scorching summer heat, but it truly was a scorcher.

Not knowing what to do with myself, I rode my bike around aimlessly for much of the day, until I heard about the eating contest, I'd say around 1 p.m. The entry money was due at 2, so I rushed back, got the $5 to be in it, and rushed to the local hot dog shack to begin my path to greatness.

When time came compete, my parents came with me, still intrigued that I, then a 6-foot-2, 165-pound cross country runner, was competing in an eating contest. Not only that, but I sat during the car ride with my head held high.

We get there, I see a girl I went to school with but hadn't seen for a few years. We exchanged friendly words, but then I learned that she was in the contest too. I wasn't worried; I politely dismissed her a competitor, and she did the same to me. By the time they brought the dogs out I was hungry.

They blew the whistle and it was very quickly a two-man battle between me and an employee of the hot dog shop. We tied at 7 a piece. He puked. I won. $35 all for me.

Since then I didn't think much of my hot dog eating exploits (I had two hot dogs after that; I was restricted by the time limit). But now, as the weather has gotten truly summery and I'm waiting for next the dining hall opens, I can't help but wonder if I'm squandering a talent, for in the words of the famous Steve Prefontaine:



"To give any less than your best is to sacrifice a gift."



Anybody can be an expert on anything these days with a simple Google search. And that's exactly what I'm becoming. I'm learning the in's and out's of competitive eating. There are certain techniques eaters use to hold more volume, like water training where somebody drinks a gallon of water in 30 seconds. The blog I read about that one suggested not to do that though: It can tear stomach lining or induce water poisoning.

Spartan acts like that beckon young men. Go big or go home.


Scheduling: Scheduling 101

⊆ 11:37 AM by Adam Liebendorfer | , , , , , . | ˜ 3 comments »

Friend me on Facebook and before long you'll see how conceited I am about my quarter schedules:


"Adam Liebendorfer has God's own spring quarter schedule."

"Adam Liebendorfer has bested even God in His scheduling abilities."

Big claims, but ones I can defend.  Fall quarter, I didn't know what I was doing.  I had class everyday, including Friday.  That would be the last, I told myself.

This quarter, nothing on Friday.  A victory, a triumph in scheduling, only to be eclipsed by spring quarter's schedule:
Information Gathering
News Writing
English Writing and Rhetoric
Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics

Three of the four classes are directly knocking out classes required for majors.  The other is a required freshman course I would've gotten out of if I hadn't gone to a bo-dunk Appalachian high school.

The beauty in this schedule?  No classes Tuesday, starting my weekend at noon Thursday, and a healthy gap in classes Monday and Wednesday.  O, your Merciful, how did you manage this great feat?

Two pink slips, one friend inadvertently holding a spot, and registering the very first second I was allowed to.  Oh yeah, and a grain of luck.

Forethought, ye of little experience.  Forethought.

That is my first lesson in scheduling: have a game plan.

Hopefully this post will be the first in a long series of helpful scheduling tips, but unfortunately I have to get a harsh fact of life out of the way now.  Knowing what you want to be when you grow up really does put you ahead.  

College kids without a game plan is one of the saddest things in the world today, especially journalism.  

All ego aside, let me share what you can do with a game plan.  Instead of going through college in four years and entering the workforce armed with one degree, why not get two, or maybe a minor?

After four years, I plan on graduating with two majors, three certificates, a study abroad, and an internship.

Am I super ambitious?  I'd like to think so, but no, not really.  The only thing I lucked out on was placing so high into Spanish, my second major.  I might have to take one or two 20-hour quarters, but not many.  It's all in the schedule.

The only thing sadder than college kids skipping class is college kids taking classes they completely don't need.  Every single one of my general education classes I chose with a certificate in mind.  I need two quarters of sociology or anthropology; may as well take Sociology 101 and 210, knock out the sociology requirements for a Political Communications certificate.   Hmm ... what should I take for my two required history courses?  Oh, how about the two quarters of Latin American history for that Latin American studies certificate.

So let me end with an analogy.  On camp outs, we used to have a dining fly that we ate under.  It was made with heavy metal pipes and metal connectors, and I was in charge of fitting all these connectors back into the crate we brought them in.  I'd fill the crate and have one left over, move some around and have three left over, shift everything to one side and have the perfect fit.


Death of a Modern Author: Chapter One

⊆ 1:36 AM by A. Liebendorfer | , . | ˜ 0 comments »

    "The Clevengers, that's their name."
    "Lucky number seven," Lucas mocked.
    "Don't be like that Mr. Redding.  We have to always be optimistic."
    "I am optimistic, Janet.  But what if the Clevengers aren't the right fit too?"
    Janet didn't like the tone he used.  He didn't sound optimistic at all, but she couldn't do anything.  He was her boss.
    "Toby's been through a lot, Lucas."
    "I know just as well as anyone, Janet, but after the Clevengers, I don't know.  I think we've done all we can.  Shuttling this kid from home to home won't do him any favors."
    Janet sighed, defeated.
    "You know I'm right."
    "I know, I know.  It just feels like we're giving up on him."
    "He gave up on himself," Lucas replied.
    Both sat at the desk quietly.  Autumn was being forced out and winter was starting to settle in.  Outside the window, the last leaves were finally falling off the birch tree.
    "You know, I lost my mother when I was young."
    "But Mr. Redding, you weren't orphaned."
    "Damn near.  Dad was never home.
    "Look, what I'm getting at is, I never gave up, but this kid apparently has.  He doesn't even try to live with his foster families.  He's at the end of his road."
    "Yes, yes, you're right, I guess," replied Janet.

    Janet's car pulled into the driveway.  Though it was a short drive, night fell, and the headlights glared off the garaged door.
    Toby awoke in the passenger's seat.  He had wanted to sit in the back seat but Janet wouldn't let him.
    He groaned and sighed.  It was the most he said the entire ride.
    "Well, time to meet those Clevengers!" Janet squeaked.  "I wonder what they look like."
    Toby rubbed his eyes and pointed to the front door, where two older people were standing conservatively apart.
    "Hey, they don't look so back. Hey."
    Toby tried to get out of the car.
    "Hey. Look.  Let's try to give these folks a go, ok?"
    Toby glanced up and saw Mr. Clevenger start for the car, but Mrs. Clevenger stopped him.  They apparently didn't know what to make of the discussion in the car.
    The two opened their car doors.  Janet took care of conversing with the Clevengers while Toby collected his things from the trunk.
    "How are you doing, my homey?" asked Mr. Clevenger.
    "Pretty well," Toby replied, "A little tired, though."
    "Understandable, understandable," said Mrs. Clevenger as she ushered him into the house.  Mr. Clevenger followed, and behind him, Janet.
    That he even spoke a reply instead of grumbling it was a enough send Janet beaming into the house.
    Mrs. Clevenger told him where his room and Mr. Clevenger offered to take his bags with him, but Toby only went as far as to acknowledge they were in the same room as him, then he walked flat-footed up the stairs.  As if to reaffirm the point, Mrs. Clevenger yelled up stairs that if Toby needed anything they were "only a holler away."
    Janet came up to his room soon, after she finalized all the arrangements with Clevengers.  From downstairs he could hear her persistent "He's really tired, it's been a long day."
    Unpacking was more eerily silent than in the car.  Somehow moving around his bedroom, Toby was quieter than he had been when he was lightly snoring in the car.
    After it was all said and done, Toby crawled into bed.  Janet stood in the doorway with her arms akimbo and surveyed the room.
    "Toby?"
    Toby said nothing.
    "Toby, is something wrong?
    "Well, if anything is on your mind, do you have my phone number?"
    Toby rolled over; she apprehensively kissed him on the forehead; he grunted.




    Larry dropped off a package earlier that morning.  The man from the penthouse held the envelope; on the front was scribbled "Bryce Barnes."  For a middle-aged American man, the name had a foreign sound to it.  Bryce always speculated he was an old English mariner in his past life and the name had stuck.  That would be a clever book idea, he often thought.

    As Larry was saying goodbye, Bryce the man from the penthouse closed the door quickly to preserve the silence he had been working all morning to cultivate.

    Writing was the nature of the man's work, and for him at least, it required pindrop silence.  When playing with something as loud at times as thoughts, who needed noise?

     He was excited by the package's thickness.  The first big wave of reviews had finally come.

     He was apprehensive however.  He couldn't find a proper, concrete analogy for it.  It was as though every time he started to get the big envelopes from Larry, he was given an answer key and told to grade himself, and failing meant dire consequences.  One failure would mean no more eating out every night, two failures, no more heating.

    He glanced around the apartment, noting its chic design, its comfortable look, and thinking securely to himself that if all was lost, at least it wouldn't be lost the very instant a bad review was read.  "And that was the idea of reviews, right?" he asked himself.  Self-improvement.

     To the author's mild surprise, the reviews were succinctly positive.  He hadn't expected bad reviews, and though these were mild, the were mild enough to get by.  The man would have never published something he expected not to sell; however, what he had in mind was much more lukewarm than the reception he perused over that morning over cereal.

 

 

A Stark-Naked Challenge to Mr. Barnes

 

    This weekend, students big and small filed into bookstores across the country to secure their copy of "A Stark-Naked Guide to Everything," the latest coming-of-age bread winner by Bryce Barnes.  I never thought I would see so many children in this day and age flock to books like kids flocked to "A Stark-Naked Guide."  

    It made me feel a little bit nostalgic of the old times.  Gone are the days of lining up for the latest Vonnegut.  While waiting in lines, the kids, ranging from 10-year-olds to high school graduates, weren't without their 21st-century amenities.  Most bookstoregoers passed the time listening to mp3's, texting, chatting on the phone, or multitasking a combination of the three.

     When asked why taken so aback by such a work of literature, one teenager in line responded, "I just can really connect with Bryce Barnes' books."

     An interesting point considering the content of the novel.  In it, the main character, nondescriptly named Toby Connors, is put through one year of pubescent hell.  The book opens with Toby, an orphan brimming with the usual angst, moving in with a foster family, the Clevengers.

     The boy is subjected to harsh reception and the usual hazing once he starts school, and by the flighty arguments he has with his foster counselor, Janet, proves him to be a tough shell to crack.  In the end, though, through various late-night life lessons in Mr. Clevenger's woodshop in the basement, his attitude and outlook pulled a 180 degree turn.  He compiles all the life lessons and ways he used it into a book, "A Stark-Naked Guide to Everything."  By the epilogue, Daylight has won an essay contest, opted to stay with the Clevengers until college, and hooked up with the buck-toothed curly-haired girl of his dreams.  All this after surviving an armed burglary and witnessing the gruesome filet of his biological parents years prior.

    Needless to say, Toby enters the first chapter less than happy, and definitely less than quaint about it.  He's laconic in the opening chapters, a sort of mix between Clint Eastwood and Holden Caulfield.  Naturally, we get the hint that Toby has been floating from foster home to foster home and the Clevengers may be his last chance.

     In the following chapters, we find out if the Clevenger's situation doesn't work for him, he's going back to the local boys' home, where Rosco, described as "strong and fierce, like gnawed-up badger at the rodeo" but "as thick as an ogre swimming in a milkshake," is waiting to give him "the pounding of his life." With this in mind, Toby puts forth the least effort possible to stay at the Clevenger's place.

     And still one night, while Mr. Clevenger retreated to his model boat, Toby opens the door and they have the first of their many heart-to-heart talks about love and life.  You know the rest.

     As I read through this "masterpiece" I couldn't help but think how stiff and confusing Toby was.  In that way, Toby was an extrememly realistic character, perhaps the future of literary adolescent heroes even.  Though that may be a very exciting thought, Toby strikes me as a poorly-written, flat, boring main character.  I highly doubt anybody has every reared a teenager anything remotely like Daylight.

     I'll have to admit, when writing reviews, I tend to spend more time reading other reviews than reading a book.  In describing the protagonist, reviewers threw around words "dynamic" and "engaging" and some (KidsLit monthly) even went as far to say Toby "is the driving force behind this book's numerous rereads."

     "Numerous rereads" is a little strong. The numerous plot twists this young man endures is what drives the story.

     I tried to apply the same criticism to other books of the Young Adult genre.  This led me to a frightening, stark-naked conclusion: Young Adult books are terrible.  

    The plots are only unpredictable by tagging an endless string of shallow, circumstancial disasters -the kind a vast minority of us go through singularly- time after time after time.  To cope with these stresses, the protagonists of these bloodbaths adopt outlooks that are unnatural, constantly forgiving, and just plain lame.  Books like these are teaching our kids that despite the fact you're the only white kid in all-black school and your mother's walked out on you while your father is a dope fiend and though you try to forge relationships with people at your school, you're deep down a homosexual, everything will be hunky dory.

     The fact of the matter is if most of us were put into the same situation Toby was put in -or any other YA character for that matter, we would be pretty angry at whoever did that to us.

     If I were Toby, I would take matters into my own hands.

   So I pose a "Stark-Naked" challenge to Mr. Barnes: Write us a book about yourself going through the things you put your characters through.  Or maybe just a book where you explain to Amanda Simmons why her parents started beating her all of the sudden, or explain how winning point guard Ezekiel Williams beat cancer in four weeks before the big basketball game, or how Toby Connors, Damian Dafini, Sharisa Michaelson, or half the other characters in his books were orphaned at an early age. 

    That would make a good reread.

 

     

 

    This article unnerved Blythe.  He sat in his lounge chair and held the copied paper at arm's length. 

    It was time, the old author thought.  He sighed, then he marched upstairs to his office and locked the door behind him.  Somewhere off in the distance, faintly, he could hear a dirge drumming on.



Lessons from the Desert: Civil War is Civil Again

⊆ 4:26 PM by A. Liebendorfer | , , , , , , . | ˜ 2 comments »

I've been keeping up with rumblings from the Middle East a lot lately, and I've started to collect some observations.  Thinking back on all of them, I realized that most --if not all-- of them I go out on a limb or play devil's advocate in some way, but here it goes, and hopefully you can see my thought process.


To start out, when I heard Israel was attacking Gaza again, I was disappointed.  When I heard how aggressively they were attacking and about the politics behind the newest campaign, I wasn't exactly supporting the Jews like I felt I should.  It almost feels like a loveless marriage between us and the Israelis.

Then I realized how well-reported Israel is.  We almost know more about what the Israeli military's doing more than our own, daily casualty reports of combatants and civilians alike.  And all with limited press access into Gaza.

This took me back to Gandhi's method of protesting, which preached "Media exposure, media exposure, media exposure," the very method millions of Americans can trace their civil rights to.

As I previously mentioned military casualties in the current "situation" going on in Gaza are staggeringly in favor of the already much larger Israeli army.  And the Israelis have evolved.  With U.S. smartbombs, the Israelis are bombing Hamas targets and leaving relatively few innocent civilians dead, all things considered.

What I think is, is that Israel is redefining how to fight a war.  By and large, the age of world wars and front-line battling may be on its way out.  With nuclear weapons and bigger and bigger conventional bombs --not to mention ever-bubbling global interdependency-- it would seem unpractical, a waste of resources, to wage an all-out war between two world powers.

So war changes to a policing operation where one side is bad and broke the law and the other side punishes them.  Media has become its own front, and the attacking government makes up a kind of (making up a new term here) neo-propaganda, which is nothing more than good PR.  Every successful PR worker will tell you the best way to look good is do good thing (smartbombs) and be transparent, like having a YouTube channel or a blog.

Ideally, Israel would make a really smart bomb that wiped out only Hamas militants all in one blast, but for now they have to make due with their sloppy, but well-planned media strategy.

So many people are doom and gloom about journalism these days, but I'm optimistic.  There will always be a place for journalists as long as there's strife and human rights involved.