Dead Wives and Lazy Writers

Dracula is a terrible show, and while Sleepy Hollow has great moments, it too is sometimes afflicted by lazy writing–and both shows suffer from Dead Wife Syndrome.

However, they make having a Dead Wife look so good that I almost want a Dead Wife or two myself.Dracula’s Dead Wife is beautiful, and he loved her. That’s really all we know about her,

My existence adds nothing to this show.


and those are the only things that matter about her. She’s not a real character, and she’s only important because of her relationship to Dracula. This is about as antifeminist as it gets, folks–a woman is dead, but it’s only important because of how the man feels about it, and what the man is going to do about it.

And it’s great that she’s a Dead Wife, because it means that he doesn’t actually have to work at having a relationship with her, and it certainly means he doesn’t have to listen to her. He doesn’t have any obligations toward her, and can in fact sleep with every woman on the show without feeling guilty, because hey, she’s only a Dead Wife after all.

In short, Dracula’s Dead Wife is just another objectified woman.

And it’s lazy writing, to boot. There’s no need for her to exist, except to create an artificial emotional connection between Dracula and a woman who coincidentally looks a lot like her. A real connection and a real attraction would be better, but hey, writing about that would be work.

None of my opinions matter because I’m dead. I’m just here to make my hubby feel things, thanks.

The Dead Wife on Sleepy Hollow is even worse in some ways, because while she’s conveniently Dead, she still shows up–but only when she is useful.

Katrina turns up only to save the male protagonist from the threat-o’-the-week, or to dispense massive gobs of exposition, which, by the way, is a sign of sloppy writing. In every case, the writers could have come up with some other way to deliver the same information to the viewers, so this particular Dead Wife is a sort of exposition-o-matic.

Sleepy Hollow at least tried to give its Dead Wife a personality, but so far it hasn’t actually worked. They tried to make her brave by having her talk back to an abusive enemy soldier. They tried to make her principled by having her be a Quaker. But none of her dialogue really made her stand out in any way, and it ended up being pretty empty, especially compared with the two lead characters on the show, both of whom are generally pretty well-written.

And again, of course, she’s a Dead Wife, so the male protagonist doesn’t have to work on any kind of relationship with her or really bother about her much at all. Sure, he says he’s upset that his Dead Wife is trapped in limbo, but he hasn’t tried to do much about it, and he certainly hasn’t tried to chat with her at all on the occasions she shows up.

He hasn’t asked why she lied to him during their marriage or deceived him about critical issues. He hasn’t even asked what she does all day in limbo, or if she’s feeling all right, or what she thinks about modern America. And she never has much to say other than what’s convenient to the plot.

She’s just a Dead Wife, after all, it isn’t as if she’s important or anything. She’s only there to make the male protagonist have feelings, provide exposition or be a deus ex machina.

She’s just a tool.

And I for one would like to see women characters treated better on my television shows, fantasy, scifi or none of the above.

For more information on using dead women as mere plot devices rather than characters, click here.

Rip Haywire Offers Snarky Adventure

The Jamestown Sun recently added three new comics to its roster, and as one of them is a serial adventure comic — and we started in the middle of a storyline — I thought I would provide readers with a quick guide to the new comic, Rip Haywire.

According to Wikipedia, Rip Haywire is written and illustrated by Dan Thompson. It’s a serial action/adventure strip, stylized, but with a snarky, comedic bent — occasionally it reads more like a parody than anything.

The great thing about serial comics in the modern age is that you can often read archives online if you miss an installment in the paper. Accordingly, a couple years of Rip Haywire are archived on GoComics.


Rip: He was hired to provide security for Fengshui Kelly’s poker game. The comic is named after him, and he seems to be the protagonist. Thompson has described him as a brave, handsome man of honor who lives for dangerous thrills. (Shown above, right)

Breezy: A pilot with an island charter service. Recently she apparently lost her helicopter. At some point after that, she saved Cobra’s life and then Cobra saved hers. She appears to be Rip’s girlfriend. (Shown at right)

Fengshui Kelly: With a mustache like that, he must be a villain. However, the portly gent wearing a Hawaiian shirt claims he’s running a high-stakes poker tournament, and hired Rip and Breezy as security and pilot, respectively. (Shown at the bottom of the post)

Cobra: A beautiful pirate queen, and according to Wikipedia, an ex-girlfriend of Rip. Thompson has described her as a self-reliant master thief. And an amoral one at that. (Shown at left)

According to the wikipedia page, this comic has a few other characters I haven’t seen yet:

TNT: Rip’s cowardly collie. Thompson called him “A coward’s coward.”

R.J.: An orphan kid.

The Story So Far:

Recently Breezy and Cobra were engaged in a battle of sorts over a magical wish-granting tiki statue, which ended up being lost to the ocean. At some point prior to this, Breezy’s helicopter was put out of commission and presumably, destroyed; I don’t know, as that was before we started carrying the comic.

Since the tiki storyline was over, the storyline has moved on to a high-stakes poker game run by Fengshui Kelly.

More information on Rip Haywire can be found here.

I’ll try to keep you updated on what happens in the comic as time goes on.

Fall Festival Photos

I took a lot of photos at the Medina Fall Festival, and we didn’t use all of them in the paper, of course. Some were definitely better than others, but here are my leftovers, so to speak.

Cute Baby

Cute baby! Look at those little toesies.

Waiting for Candy

Kids waiting for candy.

Not all the parade units were vehicles. Some people walked.

Tuckered Out

This little girl seemed tuckered out.

Tractor-Truck Pull

I believe this was used for the truck/tractor pull.

Disturbing Images on Facebook

I think people don’t always think things through before they repost them on social media sites.

While there are many bits of incorrect information out there involving bad health/food/diet information, feel-good or shock stories that turn out to be totally untrue, as well as photos filled with blood and gore, there are also a few things that seem to actually advocate violence.

Not at first glance. They don’t look like violent messages. Probably, they weren’t meant as violent messages either, especially not by the people who reposted them.

And I’m young, I guess. Maybe these things aren’t disturbing to others.

What do you think?

I have to warn you, if you’re easily disturbed you should probably not read the rest of this post. I found these things disturbing myself, although there is no graphic violence shown–only implied.

The above image seems to be advocating the belting of people as treatment for a psychiatric disorder. The note beneath it specifically mentions children, though the image does not.

For those of you who are not familiar with belting, it is a form of corporal punishment utilizing a belt, such as the one shown, to strike a person as a disciplinary measure. The person wielding the belt can use the end with the holes, can double up the belt so that it’s bulkier and heavier, or can even strike the other person with the metal end. It is intended to inflict pain, although I would think wounds could certainly result from the belting process.

For any of you still unfamiliar with ADHD, it is a psychiatric disorder, not misbehavior. Many people do believe ADHD is over-diagnosed or mis-treated, but ADHD itself is not fictional. It is recognized by the medical establishment as a legitimate psychiatric disorder.
Often, people with untreated ADHD can’t focus well enough to do activities they love, let alone activities they do not enjoy.

Further, many adults have ADHD — likely somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of the population. They might have impulse control problems, seem disorganized, can’t relax, talk too much in social situations and seem short-tempered. A lot of times they have comorbidities, like anxiety disorders, addictions or depression.

I don’t know how being beaten with a belt would help someone with an anxiety disorder. I’m not sure how it would help them organize their closets or fall asleep quickly at night, either. How would being beaten with a belt help someone with a short temper calm down and respond in a positive way to someone else? Does being beaten with a belt help with alcoholism?

If this is a legitimate treatment, who should beat adults with ADHD with a belt in order to treat their ADHD? Who should beat children? Should it be by prescription only in either case?

I suppose this is a (very disturbing) reductio ad absurdum, but there’s nothing within the image that indicates it’s just for children (only in the line beneath it), and it is certainly true that adults can have ADHD.

I find the image disturbing, though I think people who are posting it simply aren’t thinking of its darker implications.

I think if a doctor wanted to beat me as a psychiatric treatment, I would get a second opinion, and consider turning the doctor in to the authorities.

You “wouldn’t be here”? Why? Maybe I’ve been watching too much Columbo, but this seems to be advocating the murder of disrespectful children.

Maybe the theoretical parents are incarcerating their children in juvenile detention facilities instead, leading to either reformation (and no Facebook access?)  or hardening (leading to prison and no Facebook access?). Maybe they’re selling their children as slaves (no Facebook access there)? Are they beating them so much they remain hospitalized (no Facebook access in a coma)? Sending them to a monastery/convent (no Facebook)?

I don’t know, but “wouldn’t be here” sounds pretty dire to me. I think most people can get behind “Some children need to learn the meaning of respect,” but I think most people would also get behind “Some adults do too.”

And I also think most people would not claim their own parents would have actually, literally murdered them for being disrespectful. I hope.

Updated: North Dakota Has Lots of Escalators

Apparently some people have been making fun of Wyoming for only having two escalators in the entire state. I’m not sure why, but it’s prompted someone to count the six escalators in South Dakota–three of which are in Sioux Falls.

One of them doesn’t have steps, but is a moving ramp–that’s the one at the Sioux Falls airport, a pleasant, simple place to fly out of that lacks the confusing layout and complex structures of the airport in Minneapolis. That’s probably mostly because of its size, admittedly, but still, it’s much nicer to fly from Sioux Falls if you can, escalator aside.

Anyway, the whole discussion led me to wonder how many escalators North Dakota has. Apparently Medora has one, and as of 2009 we had another one somewhere else that had stopped.

Leaving aside the question of whether this means anything–which it probably doesn’t, given how accessibility means that elevators are more in favor than escalators–are there other escalators in North Dakota?

Updated, 3:05 p.m. Tuesday:

Preliminary List of Escalators in North Dakota:

So far, several people (thank you, Rob Beer, Eric, marann, Dan, Brad, Brent, Aaron) have responded with locations of escalators in North Dakota. They are:

  • Medora
  • Scheels, in Fargo
  • JC Penney, West Acres in Fargo (two sets)
  • Ralph Englestad Arena (two sets)
  • Fargo Airport (two sets)
  • Fargodome lobby
  • Grand Forks Airport
  • Alerus Center, Grand Forks
  • First National Bank, Grand Forks (was listed as defunct as of 2009, can anyone confirm?)

Does anyone else know of any more? Are there any in Bismarck?

Bad Ideas on Television: An Antivaccination “View”

FILE - This Feb. 4, 2013 file photo shows American comedian, actress, and author Jenny McCarthy posing for a portrait, in New York. The actress and former Playboy playmate was named Monday, July 15, to join the panel of the ABC weekday talk show "The View." Barbara Walters, who created “The View” in 1997 and has since served as a co-host, made the widely expected announcement on the air. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)

This Feb. 4, 2013 file photo shows Jenny McCarthy posing for a portrait, in New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)

Jenny McCarthy has been hired as a “personality” on “The View,” ABC’s morning TV show, and this is, most likely, a very bad thing.

It will give her a platform from which to proclaim bad ideas, primarily the idea that vaccines cause autism.

Vaccines do not cause autism.

Multiple scientific studies have found no connection between vaccines and autism, because there is none. And the person who initially claimed there was, in a scientific study, Andrew Wakefield, falsified his research on the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, and is no longer permitted to practice medicine in his home nation, the United Kingdom.

Let me say this again: Vaccines do not cause autism.

That’s not to say vaccines don’t cause side-effects. They can and they do. Most of them are minor (itching, redness at the injection site), but in very, very, incredibly rare cases there have been serious complications of vaccines.

It is much rarer, however, to have such a thing happen than to have a serious complication from most of the diseases that vaccines prevent, such as measles.

Measles encephalitis killed the young daughter of Roald Dahl, one of my favorite children’s authors, for example. And measles has had a death rate of about .2 percent, or 1 in 500 people who contract measles. That doesn’t sound like much, but there have been between 37 and 140 cases each year since 1996.

In comparison, the MMR vaccine causes encephalopathy in fewer than 1 in 1,000,000 cases. Fevers, rashes and other side-effects are more common, and the vaccine is still far, far less likely to be fatal than that 1/500 number.

Autism is not a side-effect of vaccines.

Unfortunately, Jenny McCarthy has continued to believe that vaccines cause autism, despite all the research done since the 1990s that indicates otherwise, and she promotes this particular “view” in a big way, even speaking at antivaccine rallies.

She encourages people to believe that vaccines cause autism, that they are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.

But vaccines don’t cause autism.

And many people have protested McCarthy joining the cast of “The View” for that very reason–it could be very dangerous if she promotes her bad idea and people believe it. We could see a resurgence in dangerous infectious diseases such as whooping cough, which is especially dangerous to babies, or German measles, which, ironically, does increase a child’s risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder if a mother contracts it during pregnancy.

It has been very irksome to see McCarthy’s “view” as being “controversial.” It is not. The medical and scientific establishment is nearly unanimous on the subject: Vaccines don’t cause autism.

Her view isn’t controversial. It’s simply incorrect. It was very reasonable at one point to believe that vaccines could cause autism, because Wakefield hadn’t been caught yet, and the scientific studies hadn’t been done to show otherwise, but since then many studies have been done.

McCarthy isn’t controversial at all, she’s just wrong. And it’s easy to see why; her own public statements show a very hazy grasp on science:

“Think of autism like a fart, and vaccines are the finger you pull to make it happen.”

Yet you can pull on somebody’s fingers all day long and not cause them to pass gas, because the two things aren’t actually related at all, unless the person concerned deliberately makes that happen.

To that extent, it’s a good analogy, because finger-pulling doesn’t cause farts, just like vaccines actually don’t cause autism.

I feel so silly for even writing that sentence, but it’s not me being silly here, it’s McCarthy’s poor understanding of cause-and-effect that’s silly.

And it’s not funny at all. If even a few kids aren’t vaccinated because of McCarthy’s incorrect idea, some could be blinded, deafened, or even killed. And not just the kids that aren’t vaccinated, either. Those kids can spread those illnesses to others–children who can fight it off, but also children who can’t, elderly adults, people who are immune-compromised because they’re on chemotherapy, or just people whose vaccines didn’t provide them full immunity.

If McCarthy airs her incorrect “view” on TV, and people–not doing the research, or finding one of the many websites filled with false information–believe her, it could really hurt people. It is even possible that it could harm people if she doesn’t talk about vaccines on television–just having a position on a TV show could lead people to believe what she has already said in other venues.

And that’s a bad idea.

Invasion of the Lake Snatchers mussels have apparently invaded the lake my grandparents’ cabin is on.

This is not good news, as the mussels are an invasive species famous for encrusting everything put into a lake, including docks and boats and water outlets, and they aren’t good for native species of the lake, either. The water will get clearer, but people’s feet will get cut by their sharp shells, and they’ve even been responsible for bird die-offs.

It also means that anyone boating the Whitefish chain of lakes is going to have to be incredibly careful when moving equipment–or risk transmitting the darn mussels to some other habitat they can wreck.

This is bad news.

There’s more information here.

Dinosaur Terrorizes Very Small Part of Newsroom


So, I bought a dinosaur today.

It’s actually a Jimmiesaurus, meaning that its colors are those of Jamestown College. It matches my desktop, so I put him on top of it.

Kids are selling them, as well as a few other neat things, at the Mini-Society Summer Camp this week. The idea is for students to create their own businesses and their own “town,” and then visitors stop by, receive a certain amount of “currency,” and buy stuff with that currency.

I bought a few other cool things too, and talked to some awesome students about their work!

If you want to join the fun, visit room 107 of the Lyngstad building on the Jamestown College campus (map here). They’ll be open from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. Check it out!

How to Get Things into the News

Local newspapers hate missing things. They hate getting complaints that they missed something too, yes, but they actually hate missing things even more.

Part of the problem is that, while people seem happy to complain about a news outlet missing a story, they sometimes seem reluctant to call ahead of time and tell the news outlet about the story. They shouldn’t be! We appreciate the help.

Here’s how to get a story into the news, and some tips for dealing with reporters.

1. Call or email the news outlet with story ideas. Yes. Simple as that. Call them, and pitch the story. Be nice! Be accurate! Make sure it’s local, give several possible angles to take (if possible) and give specific contact information. We like getting story ideas! While we can’t do them all, we do like getting suggestions.

2. If a news outlet leaves you a message, call back quickly. Quickly does not mean “in three days.” If you’re calling a daily newspaper or radio station, it doesn’t even mean “tomorrow.” It means “today,” and preferably “immediately.” Dailies are called “dailies” for a reason, you know–not “occasionallies” or “when we feel like its” or “at your conveniences.”

3. Do not ask if you can read the story before it is published. The answer to this is no, and it’s not because we don’t like you. It’s because that would be surrendering editorial control–something no reputable news outlet wants to do. It’s also because we’re on a deadline (“daily,” remember?) and may not have turnaround time.

4. If you’re in a public meeting, don’t tell us “Don’t write that down.” It only draws attention to what you’ve just said, and if it’s newsworthy it’s newsworthy. If it’s newsworthy, not putting it in would be mean being a bad reporter. If it’s not newsworthy, we’re not going to write it down anyway. I understand that people do get very self-conscious about what they say at these things, sometimes, and I think that often, the “don’t put that in!” is more of a reflex than a serious request anyway.

5. If you’re in an interview, you probably sound better than you think you do. People also get very self-conscious about interviews, but the truth is, most people do pretty well in them! They sound more articulate than they realize they do. Relax, it’s okay! You don’t need to say “make me sound good!” because chances are, you already sound pretty good.

6. Be nice. Reporters are people, and we appreciate politeness just like everybody else. The “hard-boiled reporter” may be a real character somewhere, but in real life, even tough crime reporters sometimes hide in the bathroom to cry after viewing brutal crime scene photographs, or after talking to someone whose house has just burned down. Be nice to us; we try to be nice to you, too.

7. Don’t say “just make something up that sounds good and put my name on it.” We… really can’t do that. We don’t make things up. Sometimes we make mistakes, yes, but we can’t just make something up. We can paraphrase you and not put quote marks around it, yes, but we can’t say you said something you didn’t say, and the paraphrase had darn well better be accurate, too. This is why nonfiction is harder than fiction writing–you can’t change the facts to make them fit a story better. The facts are the facts.

8. Don’t give one-word answers. Granted, sometimes we’re looking for a simple answer to a yes-or-no question, but those times are maybe 5-10 percent of all the calls we make. Most of the time, we want some detail, some color, and some relevance to the people in our coverage area. That means we’d rather have you talk more than less, provided it’s relevant to the topic at hand. It’s hard to make a story out of “Yes. No. It worked good. I’m not sure. Yep, sporks. Albatross.”

9. If you’re in an interview with several people, be sure that everyone talks. I try to keep interviews to three people or fewer, but even then, sometimes I’ll have one very talkative person and two shy people. That means I’ll spend a bit of time trying to draw out the shy folks, so that I can quote everyone I spoke with, making for a more rounded story. Sometimes that’s hard–extroverted people can be so excited to talk they sometimes drown out their more introverted friends. This also happens a lot with parents, who will sometimes answer questions for their kids when we’d really rather have the kids talk themselves.

10. What you are doing is probably way cooler than you realize it is. I’ve done some really fascinating stories on all kinds of topics–scientists studying cranes, a woodcarving group, making pens, paddleboarding, the mechanics of windsurfing. Most of them were confused as to why I was doing a story–it was just their hobby, just their job. No big deal. Except that not everyone has that job or that hobby, and what they were doing was actually really neat! Teachers, I find, are especially prone to thinking what they’re doing isn’t special. It might not be front page news, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear about your cool in-class science experiment or your rocketry hobby. That’s the kind of stuff that makes reporting fun!

Superman and His Reporter, Lois Lane

Lois Lane

Lois Lane

The Lois Lane in the most recent Superman movie, Man of Steel, has received largely positive reviews.

It’s gotten hard for me to watch movies about reporters, especially reporters who write for newspapers, because they always get a lot of things wrong.

The worst is when female reporters are shown sleeping with their sources and then writing about them–unethical behavior that’s almost never called out in the context of the film.

But then there are other more minor problems as well. For example, while I have not seen Man of Steel, I have read that Lois, who is not a TV journalist, wears high heels. There may be women reporters who wear high heels, but I’m not sure why one ever would. Editors, sure. Editors usually stick to their offices and other business environments.

Reporters, not so much. In fact, most reporters I know wear crummy, inexpensive shoes, because we tend to ruin them a lot. I’d never want to wear expensive, beautiful shoes into a house destroyed by fire. I wouldn’t want to wear them wading through a mound of burned corn to talk to a firefighter. I certainly wouldn’t want to wear them during a flood situation in which the ground is covered with water(?) of dubious origin. I wouldn’t want to wear them traipsing across a mile-wide airfield to get to a plane wreck. And none of those situations is one that you’re going to know about in advance.

And even in Metropolis, would you want to wear heels while catching up with a source in a scuzzy alley? How about in the subway? I certainly wouldn’t want to be in heels while getting chased around by a trio of violent supervillains.

If nothing else, Lois would bring an extra set of shoes to work in the back seat of her car–either cheap and disposable, or waterproof with rubber soles, so that they can be hosed off later.

My other problem with movie and TV journalists is that they almost never have notebooks or recording devices. Real reporters will have one or the other, or something similar–a laptop, an iPad, a smartphone with a recording app. We’re not interviewing you for fun, although it is fun, most of the time. And we do enough interviews that we’re not gonna remember what you said unless it’s recorded somehow.

Unless a reporter is specifically noted as having an eidetic memory, he or she should have a device open and working at all times with all interview subjects.

Have you seen Man of Steel yet? What did you think of Lois? Did she ever have a recording device/notebook?