au news blog

alvan ung, keeping it simple

Jul 20

OPINION: Endless news coverage aids killer’s anti-hero fantasy

The insane media coverage of the Aurora, CO shooting, is exactly what the killer wants. How do we know when too much is too much; where do we draw the line?

The journalistic frenzy over the Aurora, CO theater shooting is worrying.

I know, with every fiber in my body, that this unforgivable act is entirely his fault. That crazed, cold killer assumed sole responsibility when he decided to gun down moviegoers during a premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Yet, I can’t help but mull over the news media’s role in all this, and the potential long-term effects of this frenzied coverage.

Naturally, every news outlet is scrambling to cover this story. Journalists put the meaty details into their stories, such as the total body count, the killer’s name and picture, and gruesome photos of the aftermath. It’s how journalism works.

Much of the coverage goes beyond the standard crime story format, a format of cut-and-dry facts sprinkled with choice quotes. A shooting as devastating as this deserves to have every facet pored over in order to properly navigate the grievous losses and fragility of life.

But giving this tragic episode such over-encompassing, around-the-clock coverage inadvertently paints the shooter as a hero for the maladjusted. A pariah for the damned, glorified by all the negative attention surrounding him. In his twisted fiction, he is the anti-hero, and the media is his relentless persecutor.

Through journalists and news media, the killer has the means to show off his bloody handiwork. His kill count is the lede to countless articles. His name, picture, and even details about his “shy but intelligent” personality are plastered on papers, splashed on websites and beamed in newscasts. He has forced terror deep into our hearts.

In his mind, he wins.

We cannot aid this man in constructing his anti-hero narrative fantasy. But even without intending to, we end up doing just that. We complete the killer’s sick fiction by enabling his violent episode to reverberate throughout the airwaves constantly, drowning out other news. We give him the building blocks to construct his anti-hero origin story.

We obviously can’t just stop the presses and cease talking about the shooting. The horrors in Aurora, CO that day may be unspeakable, but the ramifications absolutely must be discussed. Legitimate debates can be had about public safety and gun control, among the myriad of hot-button issues.

But where do we stop with this media frenzy? As journalists, how much of this shooting should we cover, and when should start to pull back? How can we write stories that give the full picture of the scenario without appeasing the shooter’s perverted lust for negative attention? We may never know those answers; we may never know where to draw that line, and that’s the scariest part.

Apr 15

North Korea’s “unblemished track record of failure”

North Korea just can’t seem to get their rockets up in the air.  In a rare move, even the state-run Korean Central News Agency released a curt, terse brief admitting to the failure of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 launch:

Pyongyang, April 13 (KCNA) - The DPRK launched its first application satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38:55 a.m. on Friday.

The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.

Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.

The latest incident marks just another fallen rocket in North Korea’s “unblemished track record of failure” spanning just over two decades.

In May 1990, the first Nodong-1 short-range missile prototype was tested, to no avail.  Three years and many bungled prototype launches later, “success” came with the 500 kilometer (310.7 mile) flight of the missile harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

At the very end of August 1998, the Taepodong-1 medium-range missile launched without any advance warning by the North Korean government.  While it ended up flying about 1100 kilometers (683.5 miles), it fell way short of the missile’s intended flight of up to nearly 3000 kilometers, the reason being that one of the rocket’s flight stages outright failed to operate.

By 2006, the Taepodong-2 missile, a long-range missile with an estimated range varying wildly from 4000 kilometers to 15,000 kilometers, failed after a mere 35 seconds of flight.

And, of course, North Korea’s latest missile, launched under the pretense of being a weather satellite, lasted about 80 seconds before exploding mid-air.  Not much is known about the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 besides its spectacular nonperformance.

[News sources: Korean Central News AgencyCNN, The Wall Street Journal]

[Research/journal sources: Global Security on Nodong-1, Taepodong-1, Taepodong-2]

Mar 1

Peering into Windows 8

Yesterday, Microsoft officially released their consumer preview build of Windows 8.

I tested out this build on my trusty ASUS UL30A laptop, and so far, I find Windows 8 to be interesting, but lacking in execution.

The big thing with Windows 8 is Metro, a stylish, minimalistic tile-based interface geared towards simplicity and ease-of-use on touchscreens. I haven’t been able to test this operating system out on a tablet, but I can imagine it being slick and smooth.

But on my laptop, it’s less friendly. All the new features and gestures feel so wrong using a mouse or trackpad, and it’s patently ridiculous that Metro, a touchscreen-based interface, has completely replaced the traditional start menu.

So far, though, Windows 8 is the most interesting operating system I’ve ever bothered to install on my laptop. With Windows 8, Microsoft paints a vision of the future; a future where every screen is a touchscreen and where all your devices will be run by the exact same operating system.

The newness of the touchscreen and the legacy of Windows’ past need to find harmony if Microsoft wants their new operating system to be a part of that future.

Feb 11

The Miramonte Maneuver: removing the faculty hurts the children more

I really wish the best for all the children at Miramonte Elementary. No child should ever have to deal with the trauma of abuse, manipulation, and torture, especially by the hands of people we put in their trust. Knowing that this abuse has happened over years, by the hands of multiple faculty members, is terrifying.

Dumping all of the Miramonte faculty, however, is a drastic maneuver, every bit as terrifying, and almost draconian. Guilty before proven innocent! Burn the witch! Guilty by association! Everybody on faculty gets removed, all because of a few bad eggs. But hey, if we catch the monsters who did this, it’s all right…right?

What happens when all of Miramonte Elementary’s faculty are gone? Simple: it will hurt the children more. The mere act itself will cast a shadow of suspicion on every teacher; the replacement teachers, at no fault of their own, will have to play a harried game of catch-up before they can even hope to get back on track. That’s a recipe for immense emotional and academic damage.

All for a little witch hunt.

Hardly believable that this could be happening this day.  It’s great that we are willing to stand together and protect our children from the sick, brazen monsters Springer and Berndt.  What’s not great is that we are willing to throw common sense under the bus in our mad quest for vengeance.

[ABC7 for details on the removal of Miramonte Faculty]

Feb 5

Published by Bethesda Softworks, 2011 (PC [reviewed], 360, PS3)

"Live another life, in another world" is one of the bulleted key features in Skyrim’s promotional material, alongside mentions of epic fantasy, incredible graphics, and dragons.

Bethesda’s meticulously crafted world lights up the senses, every fiber of the world bursting with liveliness. Players can feel the physicality, as well as the weight of history, behind every piece of the game.

The grassy hills sashay as the wind gently combs through them. A lilting trickle of the nearby streams can barely be heard. Mysterious, haphazardly-places dungeons emit dankness, with skeletons and goblins skulking about. Castles emit royalty; the Jarl of Whiterun perched comfortably in a throne, while Proventus Avenicci stands around aimlessly, held subservient by the oath of fealty.

Each vignette highlights a segment of life in Skyrim, giving the world the weight of existence.

The storied history of Skyrim can be gleaned from cracking open a tome or chatting up some townsfolk. Spellbooks, journals, guides, even literotica can be found in bookshelves; people engage in small talk, trade saucy rumors, and share mythical tales at the drop a dime.

Skyrim is large in scope, with its own stories, traditions, legends, and myths. One cannot be blamed for feeling so small while living their life in another world, pockmarked and scarred by time.

Feb 2

IMO: Google+ just can’t catch a break

So, back around when Google+ introduced itself, I drooled excitedly over it.

I thought Google+ was the bee’s knees; the competition that would eventually crush Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

Now, I’m convinced otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I still believe Google+ looks and feels better.  The phone app is nicer than the one provided by Facebook, and the organizational tools are simpler, effective, and more intuitive than Facebook.

But it appears that Facebook is stronger than I thought, resilient to change and holding on to its status as the go-to social network.  Mere days after my opinion article was posted, Facebook introduced lists and groups.  Sure, it’s unintuitive and difficult to use, but it exists.

And here’s the kicker: people actually use Facebook everyday.

I haven’t looked at my Google+ in months.

Facebook has established a huge user base, and it seems that user base isn’t willing to go anywhere their friends aren’t.  Previously, I thought that, with Google being so deeply integrated into our lives with Gmail and Google Docs, they could slowly get people to switch over, eventually winning their war against Facebook.


Google’s still trying, though, recently having introduced personalized search results to their search engine results, but who’s even using Google+ anymore?  It would be more useful if these personalized search results were culled from the deep archives of Facebook.

Call it creepy, but hey, they’re already rolling out that stalker-y Timeline feature.  Why not go a little further?

Feb 1

Downtown LA’s proposed stadium may be ‘Charger’s Field’

[Original image courtesy AEG/AP]

Nobody has said it outright, but the Chargers may be making their way back to their original hometown: Los Angeles.

Within the 760 new CA laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2011, astute readers may have noticed two that could determine the future of the Chargers franchise.

  • One law pushes forward the development of the Farmer’s Field in Los Angeles by expediting environment policy review.
  • Another law gives San Diego the go-ahead to build their own stadium, given they put in place a special environmentally-friendly program within five years. 

Whoever completes their stadium first may have the Chargers on their side.

If the Chargers do come to Farmer’s Field, however, Los Angeles should expect even more traffic, due to the field being next to the Staples Center and L.A. Live.

[Map courtesy of Google Maps, via Farmer’s Field]

Also, Los Angeles would probably need to discard the team’s disco fight song, “San Diego Super Chargers.”

[News sources: The Daily Titan, San Diego Union-Tribune]

Jan 31

#tweets about Twitter’s new censorship policy

The microblog site can now censor posts when legally required. Transparency and “(respecting) each user’s voice” remain key, says Twitter.

During the Arab Spring protests a year ago, Twitter said “the Tweets must flow.” Now the Arab world is left to wonder what will happen.

Chinese paper Global Times said “boundless freedom” is impossible, “even on the Internet.”  Thailand also welcomed the censorship rules.

Users can bypass censors several ways: switching countries via settings, or reading posts in RSS feeds, due to a quirk in Twitter’s API.

[News sources: Los Angeles TimesThe GuardianAssociated Press via Fox News]

[Blog sources: ICT4Peace]