Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let's be serious

Normally, Additional Jesus is not the place for serious talk. Or good pictures. Even the ones I steal off the web suck. But today I have something to say. Some of it's my opinion, some is from experience. People will disagree, and that's OK. If you do, just be polite about it.

I'm a newspaper journalist, and I feel strongly about newspapers. Partially because it's my livelihood (and my husband's), but also because they have always meant something to me.

As most people probably know, newspapers are struggling immensely right now. They have been especially hard-hit in the recession because they are supported nearly entirely by advertising revenue. The measly 50 cents you pay for a copy is not really what keeps your local newspaper afloat. When businesses struggle, advertising drops, newspapers shrink and some of them go under. Our nation has lost many newspapers over the past few years.

Most newspapers have an online presence. Mine, the Albuquerque Journal, has long been a pay site. You get it free with your subscription, or you can pay for an online only subscription. We have been lambasted for that, but more and more newspapers are starting to use or consider a paywall for their content. Results have been mixed, admittedly.

People get up in arms over the idea of paying for news coverage. Why? Is there an obligation for news organizations to provide everything for free? If the print side (or TV side) is faring well, then maybe a paper can afford to subsidize a website. But articles like this one suggest the imminent death of print journalism and at the same time criticize the concept of expecting people to pay for the news online.

Newspapers are a business, folks. They can't provide quality reporting, writing, photography, design and editing without money. And while people are quick to dismiss journalists as biased, unless you've worked in a newsroom, you have no idea how much time is spent discussing fairness and balance. You have no idea how often stories are held so we can make sure every detail is right and that every side has a chance to comment. You also may not realize that one minute we're answering a phone call with someone screaming about how liberal we are, and the next caller is angry about how conservative we are.

Online advertising has not paid off for us. It doesn't bring the same kind of revenue as print advertisements.

So who will provide your news? There is always the TV network news with its 10 second coverage of stories. Or the 'round-the-clock cable networks. You're paying for that news, by the way, with your cable service, although those networks depend on advertising. The point being, you don't get cable news for free -- you have to pay for something.

Do you think you can rely on neighborhood bloggers to provide reliable journalism? I'm sure some/many have integrity, but who do they have to answer to? What is the true motivation behind a community activist running a blog? Can you trust that an effort has been made to be unbiased? And if they are providing "news" for free, how are they making a living? So they have a day job, and now you're relying on a local blogger who is just doing a bit of reporting for fun on the side. And this is how you want to get your information? Further, without any real clout, just how much can be accomplished? Government agencies and others figuratively (and perhaps literally) slam the door in journalists' faces all the time. If you don't have the clout, readership and financial backing to do something about it, what will you accomplish?

I'm certainly not saying that all bloggers lack integrity or seriousness, but I hate to see this as the new standard in news reporting. I don't think people are really thinking hard about what their local newspaper really does for them, whether they buy it or not. When the biggest newspaper in the state does in-depth investigative reporting, people get nervous. Unethical behaviors in government get revealed. Changes get made. People get prosecuted. Taxpayers stop getting ripped off, at least in that particular instance.

Do you think that a neighborhood blogger will have the clout to dig things up, get people to talk, open up a big case? Do they have laywers who can step in when government agencies illegally refuse to share public documents? What about when someone accused them of libel? Do you understand what will happen when you don't have newspapers to make things happen? Are you really going to rely on 25 second TV news reports to make people accountable?

On a human interest front, we have countless stories of people in desperate trouble getting much-needed aid from the community after being featured in the paper. Abused women who have fled with their children and are homeless, jobless and carless are gifted vehicles and other help. Babies dying of brain tumors (you can't see that if you're not a subscriber. Quit yer whining. That's my friend's baby) get much-needed financial help with medical bills. Decades old mysteries are unearthed and solved. These are all real stories from the Albuquerque Journal. People's lives have changed because of publicity.

If you're a looney or a drunk, who will you call in the middle of the night with weird, random questions if the newspaper isn't there anymore? If you're not a looney but can't figure out those crazy internets, who will you call to find out how to contact this place or that place? You'd have to learn to use a phone book. I'm joking here, but seriously, people call us when they can't get anywhere with the government or the police on a problem, and that opens up doors for them.

I know the younger generations take newspapers for granted, but I hope everyone will really stop to think what will happen if they go. They aren't all just going to turn into online publications and give you the news for free. Quality journalism costs money, and although journalists are used to living on peanuts, peanuts cost money, too. Sure, without printing, production costs will go down. But regardless of how things play out, expect to pay for your news if you want to get it from a quality institution, and don't expect it to be as comprehensive. Don't expect 60-inch investigative pieces; the staff left probably won't have time for those. Community news will pay the price.

Hey, ya'll. This blog is not typically a bummer. So please, go forth and have a Merry Christmas. Sometimes, maybe you could stop and pick up a newspaper. Smell the ink and enjoy the pages. Wrap up some ornaments in it after the holidays. Enjoy it while you can!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas house of horrors

You know those houses in magazines or on everyone else's blogs that look really beautiful at Christmas time? Well, not our house. My husband's motto is "The tackier the better." But, it's not really his motto because he doesn't think it's tacky.

I wanted to share a few of my annoyances. First up is the bride and groom. Mark has a Christmas Village, which conveniently becomes a Winter Village after Christmas when it's February and I want him to take it down. "It's not a CHRISTMAS village. It's a WINTER village, so it can stay up through March."

One year, I wanted to be supportive of his love for gaudy holiday decor, and, really, the ChristmasWinter village isn't that bad, so I bought him this bride and groom. It was to represent us and our true love. And he quickly banished them from his village. BANISHED THEM!!! Why, you ask? Well, because they aren't wearing coats and it's winter, so that's TOTALLY UNREALISTIC.

Above, they are standing by the paper towels because Mark is allowing me to look at them but they can't go near the village.

My ass they can't.

But he has a point about the village being realistic. I mean, don't most places have gigantic pine cones that are the size of a cow?

Doesn't everyone eat gingerbread cookies half as big as their own bodies?

Aren't all of our doors half as tall as we are, or roughly the size of a gingerbread cookie? Aren't they? Aren't they?

So, yes, I do think the romantic couple have a place here. No they don't have coats because maybe they are going to take wedding photos and the bride couldn't find a cute furry stole to put over her gown. I have, of course, added the bride and groom to the village and we shall see how long it takes him to notice that I have ruined everything.

**UPDATE before I even posted!!! I went to take a picture of the lovebirds, because these pics have been sitting on my camera for a while. They are gone! Gone, people. I'm busted, and it almost feels even worse that he didn't say anything.**

So, now I'd like to talk about Evil Santa.

He's got the creepiest face, and I don't think Mark is particularly attached to him, but I'm scared of him. I'm genuinely frightened of him. I don't think you can get the vibes I get from him when you're just viewing on the computer. He's scary. He's Chuckylicious. He's going to murder me if I try to throw him away. He will keep reappearing in odd places after I put him in the trash bin outside. He will torment me and then he will kill me, so I just lovingly place him on the tree each year. Last year after Christmas, he ended up in a clear bin of ornaments, somehow facing out right where I could see him all year, just staring at me in the garage. *shudder*

"Nothing says Christmas like Muhammad Ali!" Those are the words I utter each Christmas as I pull out what is now my favorite ornament. But what is better than good ol' Cassius Clay on the tree?

Good ol' Cassius Clay in the ChristmasWinter village! Oh, Mark's gonna be pissed! It will be awesome.

So, just for fun, here are a few short videos of the more annoying Christmas decorations we've got around the house. Funny, my dad and stepmom can be thanked for most of these. Therefore, I have specifically banned any new annoying decorations this year. To which my stepmom replied, "But if Mark sees anything over here that he wants, I can't say no!" At which point I started discreetly yet desperately looking around their house for things I needed to stuff under a couch cushion.

If you want the full effect of this one, please turn up your speakers as loud as they will go.

I had another video, but it mysteriously disappeared.

One thing our decor DOES have going for it, though, is our beautiful 12 foot Christmas tree. Although it's a pain to set up, it IS pretty awesome. And one thing that I love about it is that all the ornaments are, for the most part, different. It's not one of those trees where all of the ornaments are, say, red and gold balls. The ornaments are wonderful because each one is a special little treasure, many with special memories to go with them.

It's hard to even get a picture of the whole tree because it's so tall. As the years have passed, the built-in lights have failed, but we just add our own. And the ornaments on the bottom are not so well-distributed because one wee elf takes them off and then they just get stuck back on wherever is convenient.

I have been sitting on this post for days because I just didn't have an ending. I still don't. But it's got to end anyway. Goodbye. And Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brock's quiet book

My friend Amy (Chickenbone Jones) emailed me one day with a link to a quiet book and said it looks like something I could make. I replied that there was no way I'd be spending my time on something like that.

Then, I made one.

A quiet book is a cloth book full of activities for small children. I should take a moment to apologize for my terrible photos. It's a part of reading the Additional Jesus blog. Sorry. Just is.

Brock loves animals, and he quickly learned the pig snort sound. He now makes that sound whenever he sees any kind of animal. Or families.

So I put a pig on the cover. One thing I should admit right now is that I was pretty gung-ho about this project at the outset, but I quickly lost interest. I was also going to applique his name on the front, but ...

The ellipses ... kinda how this project went ... starts off bold and then sorta peters off ...

By the way, as a copy editor, I insist that all ellipses consist of three, and no more than three, dots, and that there is a space on either side of them.

Open the cover, and this is the first page. I made my pages go all the way across and then attached them by putting them wrong-sides together and stitching with a zigzag stitch. Then I used pinking shears to trim them. Once I had my pages, I put them together and stitched down the center. That green in the middle at the bottom is part of the other side of that page, which makes up the last page. I didn't do a very good job of making sure it didn't extend past the center. Oops.

I initially planned to do this in a nicer fashion, but ... ellipsis again ...

This page has balloons. Brock loves balloons. I swear that one time he said balloon, even though he really doesn't say much of anything. These balloons snap on. I used that snap tape that you can buy by the yard and clipped off one at a time. I also added a present with a ribbon he can practice tying. Someday. Not now. Not even close. For the balloon ribbons, I used rickrack and ribbons, and I added a string of pom-poms at top for textile fun.

The bird is pretty simple. I just appliqued a circle on, adding the beak, legs and tail feathers as I got to those parts so that they would be caught inside the stitching. It held the feathers surprisingly well. I took another wad of feathers and sewed them on as a wing. Then I glued a googly eye on with hot glue.

The next page is a pond scene and a robot.

The water has little slits cut out for the puppets to slide into. They are $1 finger puppets I found at Michael's. I glued them to popsicle sticks to make them easier for little hands and keep them from falling out and getting lost. The grass and pond are made of felt and the trees at the top I found in the scrapbooking section at Michael's. The goose is a button.

The big robot is made of felt with little washer things I found in the garage attached here and there. I used wire to make a thingie for them to slide on, and although this might seem a little questionable, I put tons of wire in the back and wound and wound and wound it so that it can't come loose and the washers shouldn't be accessible. I sewed more washers on for eyes and buttons for decorations. The other robot I found at Hobby Lobby. He seems to prefer it to the one I worked really hard on.

The last page is a dinosaur and some grazing sheep.

The dinosaur is padded and has a zipper in his tummy. There are leaves hidden inside, an undigested treasure trove. I was initially going to put little people, but I decided to make him a vegetarian instead because I thought that might be a bit creepy. Plus, although I'm not so good at history, I'm pretty sure people didn't exist when dinos did. And this book is accurate if nothing.

The other side of the page has green felt for the grass, cut with pinking shears. The sheep are also made from felt, but I glued cotton balls on top for texture. I had a little white picket fence from Hobby Lobby that I was going to stitch on so he'd have something to open and close, but it just wasn't working out.

The sun and tree are also made of felt. I put farm animal buttons in the tree instead of fruit. Wouldn't it be fun if you could just go pick a piglet right out of a tree? What if it were ready to eat? Like you just take a bite and it is crispy bacon?

The back of the book is the pig's butt. For the little tail, I bought one of those foam visors at Hobby Lobby for $1. I cut the coil cord off and made a hole and stuck it through.

It was pretty labor intensive. And mine isn't even very good. If you plan to make a quiet book, I recommend using Pinterest to find lots of great ideas and planning your pages in advance. Then go to the craft store with a plan. But also be open to new ideas and keep your eyes peeled (yuck) for cool things you could add in. Also, this won't be as cheap as you're thinking. All those $1 items seem to add up.

Good luck!

Santy Claus

First I was all, "I gotta take Brock to see ol' Santy Claus!"
Then I found out how much it cost to get pictures with Santy Claus. Then I complained on Facebook, like anyone cared. But then someone sent me a link to a Groupon for $11. It was at the mall across town, but worth the savings.

Mark wants everyone to know that he spent a long time styling Brock's hair into a cute little feathered 'do. And even though that would normally not be considered stylish, it's super cute on Brock.

Unfortunately, you can't tell he has cute hair in this picture.

You could tell Santa definitely preferred hugging little Brocky over the horde of fat teens who followed him.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bobbin organization heaven

These things are awesome! I found them on a blog where someone was selling them on etsy for a small fortune. But I found the same brand elsewhere for much, much cheaper. Just google and you can find them in bulk. They are called Handi-Bobs.

Basically, you snap the bobbin in, secure the end of the thread, if desired, and then snap the whole thing into the end of the thread that matches it. You always have neat bobbins and the bobbin and thread are kept together.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kitty Egg Crayons

Kitty Egg Crayons are adorable and perfect for chubby hands. Made by Kitty Baby Love on etsy.com, a new eco-friendly soy formula is being developed. The couple who makes them is seeking seed money, and you can check out that campaign here. I would love to get some of these for my son, who is just learning to draw.