Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stream Of Consciousness No. 2

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Today was New Jersey Collegiate Career Day over on the College Ave. campus at Rutgers. I wasn't planning to go---I had looked at the employers list last night, and had only seen one employer that was remotely journalism-related---but, in spite of today's mad mugginess, I decided that maybe it'd be worth it just to see that one employer in person, and see if there were any other interesting possible internships on offer.

It was a pretty fun few hours I spent there, even though I'm not sure how much I really got out of it. I gave out a handful of copies of my resume to some of the employers, and basically walked around the rest of the time in my white suit shirt, black pants, and tie (which, I'm fairly proud to say, I basically figured out how to tie around my neck all by myself in about 15 minutes this morning just before I got picked up by a friend to go to Rutgers).

Most of the employers there were business-related: insurance companies, accounting firms, some technology companies. (My friend cracked, "I guess your mother was right." Of course my mother was right about the fact that there is a lot of demand for business majors; of course she's right that it's a "hot" field. What she was wrong about was assuming that I'd be all right with her pressuring me to go into a "hot" field that I was particularly, uh, "hot" over.)

The one employer that genuinely interested me when I went to the Career Day was Time, Inc. Obviously, they publish TIME magazine, which I subscribe too (and occasionally read)---but I didn't realize they published a lot of other stuff too. Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated---all Time, Inc. publications. (Am I stupid for not knowing that beforehand, journalism majors?)

In addition to offering the usual financial and marketing internships, they apparently offer editorial internships for the spring, summer and fall. I'd definitely like one in the spring; fall looks to be a pretty busy semester for me, not least because I am to be working on the first draft of my senior thesis for the Livingston College Honors Program (more details on that later, I guess). And this is a pretty big opportunity, one that I don't feel like I can pass up so easily.

Not much else of interest there, really. A few book publishing companies were there, although most of them---including McGraw-Hill, the only fairly big-name publishing company there---were looking for graduates wanting to work on the business side of publishing. (I guess that makes sense, though; publishing is a business, really. Writers write the books, but publishers actually have to sell it to the public. So it really is almost all business, now that I think about it.) There were also some staffing companies there, two of which had offices right here in East Brunswick---one of which I visited after returning home from Career Day. More on that later...

I did see a few people I knew there, which was nice. After listening to my mom accuse me of being antisocial all-too-frequently these days---not that I've necessarily done anything to recently to prove her wrong, to be fair---it was nice just to hear myself say "Hey, how're you doing?" to people I knew.


Speaking of internships: I wonder if I should return to Brad Balfour at, maybe for some kind of internship?

I'm not sure how deeply I got into the rather rocky relationship between Mr. Balfour and I in my previous LiveJournal; I think one of my final entries on the LJ was basically a link to a review that he edited and got published on the website.

The story goes: one of the Inside Beat editors alerted me in my fall semester this past year that, at a press junket in New York, he had spoken to this guy named Brad Balfour. Mr. Balfour, according to that source, told him that he was looking for writers to write reviews for his website, Looking for an opportunity to get published outside of the college newspaper, I jumped at the chance and got Mr. Balfour's attention: I e-mailed him and sent him samples of my work.

I may have made one mistake, though: I depicted myself as perhaps too eager to do anything to get published on the website. Eager enough to get sucked into becoming a transcriber for Mr. Balfour: transcribing many of his interviews for eventual publication on the website.

Now, granted, most of the interviews he asked me to transcribe were actually fairly fascinating to listen to. How he gets interviews with such big-name stars and directors, I don't know (and I haven't really asked, although, in hindsight, I guess I should have). But get them he does, and he asks pretty sharp questions to these big-dog actors and directors and such. He's a pretty damn good interviewer---better than me, for sure!

However, it was just a pain to do all this transcription for him---and not get paid for any of it either. His rationale, as he explained it to me, was not only because he thought doing these transcriptions might somehow help me do good interviews in the future (yeah, right), but also because my transcribing his stuff would give him more time to edit my stuff for possible future publication on the website.

I guess that sounded reasonable. Nevertheless, even after I actually went into the city to meet Mr. Balfour in person one day during Winter Break, I could never quite shake the feeling that he was kinda using me to make things easier on him. He came up with some solid justifications, of course: this is the kind of gruntwork any aspiring writer such as myself has to do; I know, because I've experienced this as a freelance writer myself; etc. Still, I guess I never felt comfortable or confident that he was really interested in me. (When I expressed these reservations to him, he said, "Oh, I'm interested in helping you, believe me. But you have to tell me what you want. I can't read your mind.")

So after a while---after sending a bunch of reviews written expressly for the website to him, after doing more of those transcriptions---I stopped. Told him that I didn't really have time to do transcriptions for him on account of my busy class schedule---which essentially put a question mark on the possibility of getting those many articles I had sent to him published in the future on

That wasn't technically the end of things between us. A few weeks later, he e-mailed me one day asking me how I've been. Fair enough. I explained to him about all the busy work and the newspaper writing I had been working on, including the interview piece I did with film/TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz which was published just before the weekend of this year's Oscar ceremony. His response, to me, sounded more superficial than genuine (regarding my published interview piece: "hope the transcriptions helped," or something to that effect). Anyway, I flirted with starting up our relationship again---especially when he said, in an e-mail, that he could possibly pay me a little for the transcriptions---but at the time finals were coming up, so I figured I'd tell him to wait for another two weeks or so before I could start up with transcribing again. Which I did, after he sent me a link to something he wanted me to transcribe. (Didn't waste a minute trying to start me up with that again, didja?!)

I haven't gotten back to him since. Guess I'm not sure if that's the route I want to take at this point. He hasn't gotten back to me either.

Today, though, I started briefly flirting with the idea again of possibly reaching out to Mr. Balfour one more time, this time in the spirit of perhaps seeking an internship with him. I'd probably still do transcripts for him, sure, but maybe I should suggest working something out where I could observe him doing interviews once in a while, maybe trying some interviews myself, something like that. That, to me, sounds like something more valuable than spending two hours transcribing thirty minutes of audio for him (yep, I'm a pretty slow transcriber, especially if I'm doing everything by ear).

Sound like something I should do? Especially if we could work something out for a spring internship, rather than for the fall.


Some progress on the job hunt: today I dropped by the office of one of the staffing services that had set up a table at the Career Day. I filled out a bunch of paperwork, took a lengthy computer test---testing my expertise on MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint---and then got a chance to talk with one of the ladies there to discuss what types of jobs I was interested in. So I'm basically asking someone else to help find a job for me at this point---even if one job lasts only for one day or something. That's the nature of temping, I guess.

I might still look online and see if there are still some fairly interesting, relatively new job openings that I could apply to on my own. Not sure if I should put all my faith behind this staffing service to get me working at this point, so I'll continue searching anyway.

Lorelei Personnel, Inc. is the name of the company, by the way. Actually, a friend of mine referred me to it, so I had heard about it before seeing their table at Career Day and talking to one of the ladies standing behind it. In fact, it's the same lady that I ended up talking to later in the day. "Long time no see," she joked when she saw me. Nice lady.


The massacre and subsequent cover-up in Haditha---in which a few Marines opened fire and killed two dozen innocent Iraqis in an Iraqi village---has been in the news recently, since the military is investigating the incident, and President George W. Bush is publicly encouraging the investigation and saying how "deeply troubled" he is by it.

Now, obviously, if these Marines are found guilty of killing innocent Iraqi civilians, they should be punished. To not do so would perhaps be "hypocritical," as one lady said to a reporter on a BBC World News broadcast that I caught today. Especially after American soldiers were caught torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, to do anything less than punishment would be just plain ignorant and wrong.

But if there's anything I got out of reading Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century this past semester for my philosophy seminar, it's that, in times of war, even people who keep telling themselves that they'd never snap and kill innocents in a war zone eventually do. Whether it's because of extreme stress, or out of even peer pressure (the "yellow" soldier who's constantly made fun of my other soldiers, who snaps just to show how manly they really are), war practically dares people to commit these atrocities. Remember the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War? Granted, the Haditha massacre may not be on nearly such a grand, terrible scale as the My Lai Massacre, but I imagine similar forces are at work here. It's like a kid daring another kid by saying, "How long do you think you can go without snapping and killing innocents? Huh?"

Not that that justifies what those Marines apparently did---and apparently didn't want anyone else to find out. But I had to agree with another interview subject who was featured on a report about a similar Iraqi atrocity on tonight's BBC World News broadcast: this kind of stuff just kinda happens in war. Brings real substance to the cliched-but-all-too-true saying, "War is hell."

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