Story Ideas 10.31.10

What would you make of an ad like the following (found on craigslist in wanted section)?

Looking for someone to help me with “History Of The Movies” community college coursework. Project consists of reading, writing, weekly quizzes, and tests. Course is 100% online. I’m 50% finished with it, just got hit with a ton of stuff in life making it near impossible now for me to finish.
ABOUT YOU
– Passionate about the movies, or at least interested in their history
– You can access movies via BitTorrent or Netflix on the spot
– Daily access to a computer and the internet
– 100% committed to finishing project from now till Dec 8th
TIMELINE
– Starts immediately and ends Dec 8th
– Coursework is due weekly and will be tracked with online project management tool.
– Course is 50% completed, need someone to help me out with the remaining workload.
– Coursework is 100% online.
PAYMENT
– Pay is $100 plus a $50 project bonus for receiving a B- grade (2.75) or higher
TO APPLY
– Send short cover letter highlighting our requirements. Candidate will be selected based upon writing quality, interest in the project/movies, Netflix/BitTorrent access, and likeliness to see it through from start to finish (now through Dec).

What I get from it (and others similar) is that someone wants to buy your brain to take an online class for them. I’ve seen (and tagged) others where the “wantee” wants you to take a sit-down class for them (you have to generally match their physical description) or provide answers to tests. The best offer I’ve seen so far was to take an English class with pay ranging from a few hundred for passing to $700 for getting an A.

Story idea: is this happening in your neck of the woods? Are students so strapped for time (and intellect and ethics) that they want to pay someone to take classes/tests for them? What meaning does this have beyond just paying someone for a job (well done)?

Let’s see…would you see a doctor who cheated her way thru school? Or lawyer, or any professional for that matter?

What does this do to folks who do it the old fashioned way – on their own, studying, working hard? Does it devalue their grades?

And what, ultimately, does it do to the “wantee” in the ad? Yes, it shows lack of ethics…but if they need help with bonehead English…how the heck are they going to pass more difficult courses. Skip Algebra I and how are you gonna do in Geometry?

Lots to delve into the ponder on this one.

And along the same line, here’s another idea from Peter Brown. Folks who go for fake are liars and cheaters. Vastly oversimplified, but those who are attracted to ripoffs of reality have trouble with the truth and the reality of life. In one study, see the results:

The women wearing the fake Chloe shades cheated more–considerably more. Fully 70 percent inflated their performance when they thought nobody was checking on them–and in effect stole cash…

Brown’s blog posting is based on a psychological study that seemed to indicate that buying fakes and personal behavior are closely linked.

Story idea: can you replicate some of these experiments done by the researchers in your own area? Are people even aware of the link between what they buy and behavior? Can these behaviors be recognized and possibly even reversed?

Good luck with it…see ya next week.

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Story ideas (from Oz) 10.24.10

I “friended” a random person on facebook recently…and since have been reading his postings with great interest. So this week’s story ideas are courtesy information garnered from him.

Peter Brown is a clinical psychologist in my hometown, Brisbane, Australia.

Today he posted a Courier Mail story on how fear of pedophiles is putting all men in the danger of being accused. This story has been done over here…but some good quotes nonetheless.

But moving on…

I LOVED this one. How long does it take to form a habit?

Story idea – everyone, but everyone, has bad habits they want to lose and good habits they want to start using. Want to loose weight? Stop smoking? Be a nicer person? Quit chewing your fingernails? In order to be successful, you have to get in the HABIT of doing what cha wanna do. And that takes time. How much time? According to Brown’s posting:

Ask Google and you’ll get a figure of somewhere between 21 and 28 days. In fact there’s no solid evidence for this number at all. The 21 day myth may well come from a book published in 1960 by a plastic surgeon. Dr Maxwell Maltz noticed that amputees took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and he argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes.

Good facts…interesting too because it explains why so many fail…they just don’t have a winning habit.

Here’s another one. Do you have a blankie? A bear or some over-loved worn-down object from your childhood that you just can’t let go of?

Psychologists call these items “transitional” objects…

objects that people feel a bond with, despite the fact that the relationship is, by definition, one-sided.

And these emotional attachments to objects is intense…the research Brown quotes shows that people become disturbed when they just cut up a photograph of the object they are attached to.

So the story idea here: are there folks in your community who (will admit to) have a “transitional” object they still hold on to. Who are they – why do they still have this lovey, blankie, bear? Do they hide it – are they ashamed of the child-like attachment? (what shape is it in?)

That’s it for now…but if you want to develop your own story ideas, never be afraid to listen to everyone you know. Last summer I was reading a reprint of a story from the LA times in my local paper…the story connected with me…and is now in my sights for shooting in the next month. Last night my husband and I were playing cards with his college roommate from 38 years ago and I found a story in his workplace – he owns a leather factory, making primarily belts but also fashion items with machinery more than a century old. Yes, we newsies are vultures…we eat our own young. But we provide great stories for our audiences!

Oh…and thank you Peter from some food for thought. I really do enjoy your blog and facebook postings.

Story Ideas 10.10.10

Procrastination is the game this week…

…what’s YOUR excuse. I have many, but that’s not the point. Why do folks procrastinate? Put off stuff for a few minutes (not bad) or days, weeks, even years (my brother got a three year old Christmas gift once, but he lives far far away, I didn’t have time to get to the post office, I kept misplacing it…you get the idea).

Story idea: what IS procrastination and why do people do it?

It might simply be forgetfulness or it could be avoidance. So, with my brother’s gift, I did forget about it…and then when I remembered, I just didn’t want to deal with taking the time to run over to the post office and wait in line.

Find out what the answers are in your area. And by the way, I did (for some unknown reason) keep mailing the gifts in between the one I forgot. It became somewhat of a symbol to me eventually, that forgotten gift.

Moving on…

OCD or CDO as a relative likes to call it. Obsessive compulsive disorder. (The reason for the second acronym is that folks who are truly OCD HATE to see the letters out of alphabetical order).

OCD is when you are compelled (for reasons onknown) to perform tasks in a certain way, a certain order…to keep items exactly aligned. Everything MUST be perfect according to your inner dictator. If it isn’t, you become uneasy or even frantic until order is restored.

My middle daughter went to culinary school and once had a chef/teacher who was OCD. For fun sometime in class she’d move one of his knives (all perfectly lined up on the counter) just a fraction of an inch…and when he turned around he would always move it back. Didn’t even realize he was doing it I bet.

Story idea: is OCD a good or bad thing? How can it benefit a person or – how can it create problems?

Organization does help make the world move in a more orderly fashion. Getting work done efficiently is good. Knowing where to find what you need is good. Libraries have filing systems just for that (thanks Mr. Dewey). People even make a living as efficiency experts.

But OCD can be a monster, consuming time and distracting from more important work. Constantly re-aligning pictures that are just a hair off, picking up lint, performing minor, even useless tasks before moving on to actual work can be crippling. Think Monk of the TV series. Somehow it worked for him, but it also made him an oddity.

I’ll rejoin you next week, assuming I remember and don’t put it off. Now let me get back to rearranging my spice rack in both alphabetical order and by size…

August 22, 2010 Story Ideas…

Each week I hope to post a short list of ideas for stories which you can develop into something your audience can relate to. Some may be obvious and others may be a stretch. If you have ideas you’d like to contribute, send them over to me at cyndyg@mac.com.

Fresh in the garden - a pumpkin in waiting.
I will admit to frequenting farmers markets in my area. Besides the benefits of exercise (all that walking) and really really fresh veggies – there are some equally interesting folks wandering around. Both in the crowds out front and the folks behind the tables.
One of my special weaknesses is onions. Stockton reds. A large sweet onion..somewhat flat and a rich burgandy color. So last month I saw an especially mouth-watering pile, grabbed a bunch (3 large ones to the bunch) and started talking with the man behind the counter. He is the farmer and took over his dad’s place and is raising the same crops dad did. I asked if his were real “Stockton Reds,” and he replied yes. A resounding yes – he can no longer find the real “Red” seeds, so raises his own crop just for seed each year in addition to the crop he sells at the farmers markets. He says only those he raises from his own seeds have that real taste – and customers can tell the difference.
Story idea: farmers markets are a treasure trove of people who love fresh food, gardening, recipes. Don’t just buy…ask questions. I plan to track my farmer down and see if he’ll allow me to turn up to his farm from time to time over the next year to document his labor of love. Stories such as this one are not quick turnaround stories. Like the plants grown by farmers, they must be given time to grow to fullness.

Times are rough and folks are turning back to Mother Nature…raising their own backyard food, canning, making to. What year is this? Well since my childhood in the 1950s and 60s I’ve been through the 60’s Hippies Back to Earth Movement, the Eighties Back to Earth Movement, and now the 2010 Return to the Roots Back to Earth Movement. Each of these movements is a totally new concept to those who embark on them. Fueled by rejection of mainstream American to financial necessity, they seem to come, take hold, and then fade away.
Story idea: Do some research and find out why folks do this…and does it have a lasting impact on their lives or the community around them? What is the motivation for each movement? Does each movement include moving to the outback and really being a pioneer or just making do with a back yard garden and learning how to sew, buy used, and cut back to cooking real food, not just pre-packaged food.

Every summer has its share of tragedies – drowning is right up at the top. When I was a kid here in California’s Great Valley, swimming was a MANDATORY high school class. There are so many levees and rivers and lakes and resevoirs that waterproofing kids was a great idea. I continued this thought with each of the Green kids, taking them to summer swim lessons until I knew they could float long enough to be pulled out. (They also were forced by evil parents to wear life jackets to all water functions until they were fourteen.)
Story idea: what are the practices in your area? Are swim lessons mandated, left to the parents, or no big deal? What is the death rate by drowning? How many of these deaths were preventable, either by use of life jackets or by knowing how to swim?
Or does your community gasp in horror and allow this bizarre game of removal of genes from the pool to repeat it self annually?

Big Box in the Big City. Big Box Stores. Big Box Schools. Big Box Housing Developments. Big Box Churches. The more the merrier and the better a deal for everyone. Right? Buy in bulk, live in packs, life is cheap and easy.
Only part of this list is true…and even then, there is a downside.

FCC Stockton - Dedication planned for September 26, 2010
Big Box Stores – lots of stuff at reasonable prices. (Though I question how much “stuff” we really need and how much is a good sales job.) Downside: generally it’s what the masses want…and not all brands are represented and choice is somewhat limited.
Big Box Schools. Elementary schools with 500-1,000. High schools with thousands. Big boxes holding hundreds and thousands of young minds, all being taught in lock-step. How many bodies can we cram into a classroom as we downsize staff? How can learning proceed when teachers are crushed by numbers while at the same time being pressed to make sure every student succeeds.
Big Box Development – large housing tracts, each its own community with shopping center and theme. (I swear I will never buy in a development called “Countryside” anything. Give it four or five years and that countryside view has disappeared, crowded out by the next development.
Big Box Churches – the more the merrier. Churches with congregations in the thousands. Overwhelming. Did these churches spontaneously grow or was this a studied plan?
Story idea: is there room in Big Box Development for a community church? Are these developments planning for everything but spiritual needs? I’ve watched my husband’s church struggle for the past seven or eight years, looking for a home. One of the issues they faced was the possibility of becoming a “destination” church – a church so big and with so much to offer that people would come from all over just to take part in it. I won’t say they rejected it – however, the new homesite precludes any major development. They want smart growth, not unbridled growth. Check out your local developments…see if they have in place plans for churches, mosques, synagogues, places for souls to gather and reflect.

Nothing really novel to this first list…just some stuff that’s been bouncing around in my head looking for an audience. Hope at least one takes root in your imagination and grows.

Seeking story ideas…

I will now state the obvious: there are stories everywhere. Everyone has a story in them. Look out your window, in a mirror, anywhere. Turn brain on to questioning mode…step outside of your box and pretend the world is new. Now – take a hard look and see how many stories you can come up with.

In order to tell a story, you need data…a foundation. Too many (broadcast) newsrooms rely on the print media doing the footwork and they all walk the same walk. All media follows the big story, the one you can’t miss.

Real storytellers find worthy stories everywhere.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and am giving myself the next five minutes to come up with a few ideas as a challenge.

So here goes.

Idea number one (and I’m sure this has gotten play already) – spent Saturday garage sailing with the husband. Kind of fun…and the estate sales are best because of the oddities and antiques. Pause for a moment…an estate sale is the remnants of a person’s life. What the family…friends…those who knew the person felt wasn’t worth keeping, for whatever reason. I see a slow, somber move with details…questions. Who was this person? Why did they buy this particular knick-knack? Was it passion? A trinket for a child? A gift with meaning only known to the deceased?

Idea number two…and I’m running outa time here cause I’m typing slowly (for me). I bought two magazines a few days back. Don’t laugh. Chickens magazine and The Herb Quarterly. I swear twenty years ago I might never have seen these rags. And I recall something from the past month or so about how magazines are faring pretty well compared to other media. Hmmm…Are there more niche zines out there? Are the actual number of magazines increasing in these dire times? Heck, let’s even ask if in addition to more mags if the total number of magazine readers is up…maybe take a look at early mags (when exactly did this medie become mainstream?) and their evolution.

Either of these ideas could be taken in many other directions. Just follow one magazine and its readers. See if there are any local/regional mags. Talk with family members about stuff in the sale…neighbors. Juxtapose what is left of their life with a re-telling of their life story.

Time is up…but the lesson here is approach everything with a questioning mind. My ideas are smears…roughs, undeveloped. Given more time, more ideas and hopefully more solid ones. Hopefully one day you’ll be the leader…not of a pack, but of the new generation of VJs producing original stories.

Warning: in real life this does not always work. If you’re stuck in a pack-mentality newsroom, original thinking can get you banned to the weekend ghetto or banned from the morning meeting. Hmmm…is that necessarily a BAD thing?

Chastity and chickens…

…or purity and poultry. Just a couple of story ideas I’ve been mulling over. Tonight a couple of teens I know are getting “purity” rings as they pledge to restrain from pre-marital sex. Good for them. They’re battling society and hormones, but I know they will be strong enough to win.

Ahhhh…and my long love affair with chickens (aka poultry) continues. There is a movement to allow chickens inside city limits of our Golden State’s capitol city as part of the path to healthier living.

Two random thoughts.

Both pretty solid story ideas…a well- used brain stays sharp…as a videojournalist you should always be on the lookout for ideas.

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