Parth Kotak: In pursuit of perfection

Media Credit: Olivia Columbus | Senior Staff Photographer

I’m a big fan of Jackie Chan’s movies.

There’s a lot to like about them: they’re fast-paced, they’re fun, there’s action, there’s adventure. Jackie, usually both the lead actor and director, sets himself up as the underdog, cracking quips and fighting foes in creative scenes using whatever’s at hand, from a ladder to Legos to construction equipment. The stunts are legendary, and the soundtracks aren’t half bad either.

But my favorite moment from any of his movies is a moment in the first Police Story film, where Jackie answers a phone with his hands full and uses his foot to flip a pencil hanging off his desk to take a caller’s information. 

It’s a quick throwaway gag, but what sells me on this moment is Jackie’s choice to show the outtakes from this practical effect during the end credits – each painstaking attempt to nail a four-second clip. All of this effort is wholly unnecessary for the plot, but the gag contributes tangibly to the audience’s visual enjoyment. This isn’t unique just to Police Story – Jackie will reshoot a scene hundreds of times, blow through hundreds of takes, just to shoot that needle-in-a-haystack moment.

Jackie distilled this ethos of his at a film festival: “Whatever you do, do the best that you can. Because the film lives forever. [Other directors make excuses, like,] ‘No, because you know, that day [it was] raining, the actor [didn’t] have time…’ I said, ‘Would you go to every theater to tell the audience? No. What the audience sees at the theater – good movie, bad movie – that’s all.'”

What I find admirable about Jackie’s mentality is the willingness to go the extra mile, to take the extra step – even if it seems unnecessary – just to produce a marginally better product that lasts the test of time. From quibbling with copy about the placement of an errant piece of punctuation or with design over line spacing to going back and forth with Sarah over editorial judgment, it’s an ethos I’ve tried to embody during my four years at the paper, even if it did earn some groans from the room or bring the gears of production to a screeching halt. 

My advice to Volume 118 – and to volumes beyond – is to carry the torch. 

Before I get into individual remarks, there’s one more thing I want to add: Follow @henryfdotson on Instagram. He’s an upstanding guy who makes great art that you should check out.

Without further ado:

My first news team:

Olivia Columbus | Senior Staff Photographer

Liz: What’s left to say to you that I haven’t already told you at 4 a.m. from your couch? You were my shepherd to the wide and wacky world of The GW Hatchet starting with the academics beat and our true passion, blogs. I can’t thank whoever assigned reporters to news beats in 2017 enough for randomly placing me with you, because you became so much more than my editor – you’re one of my best friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are only so many dice rolls in life that are natural 20s, but that was definitely one of them. You’ve taught me so much about how a respectable adult should conduct their life just by modeling perfect conduct – aside from occasional larceny. I’m still in denial about you moving to Philadelphia, but make sure your couch out there can fit me. I’ll send you measurements. 

Elise: My other Hatchet mom. I was so surprised to come back from winter break freshman year to find another brown person in the townhouse! Kidding. First as my editor, later as my managing director, and finally as my landlord all those times I did crash on the aforementioned couch, some of my fondest Hatchet memories are associated with hijinks I got up to with you – and all the times I lied and said we should do a work hang and then bothered you the whole time. I don’t know how you do it, but you have this ability to make the people you hang out with feel like the most special people in the world, an effect I’ve been on the receiving end of many a time on a long walk to who-knows-where talking about god-knows-what. I can’t wait for our next one.

Leah: Christmas. Just gonna go ahead and put that out there to start the waterworks. Now, to keep them going – Leah, I’ve spent the better part of the last three years deeply skeptical and cynical about a good portion of life. And while being beside you for the better part of the same hasn’t changed that (seriously, when weren’t we hanging out in 2018-19?), it certainly has blunted some of my excesses. To this day, it blows my mind how intensely and genuinely you care about the world and all creation, from the smallest bee to even the worst among us, and I am fortunate to have a friend gifted with infinite patience and an unparalleled joy about the little things in life. 

Meredith: How does one do justice in a brief paragraph to the legendary Meredith, whose reputation precedes her after dozens of staff meetings rehashing her greatest hits? Our friendship got off to a rocky start, but now I don’t know another person that goes to the lengths you go to in support of the people you care about, from being available to hang any time I ask, to helping out with literally anything whenever I need a hand. You’ve got a dedication to the bit unlike anyone else – and you know how much the bit means to me, senior staff clown. Keep unabashedly being yourself, and if anyone has a problem, let me know whose kneecaps to break.  

To the four of you: I’ve been phenomenally lucky over the course of my life, but the events that conspired to bring us together is among the greatest stretches of good fortune I ever experienced. The kindness y’all have afforded me through the ups and downs over the past four years is absolutely unmatched. Thank you for that. 

Cayla: I couldn’t have predicted that I would make such a close friend in transition. From cracking down on Meredith’s or Sarah’s antics to obsessing over Stebon, we really are kindred spirits. But when I think of you, what stands out to me is your unbridled talent at what you’ve chosen to make your career – it’s so undeniable, and I’m lucky to have gleaned even a little bit of that talent two years ago as I took your job. I’m excited to see where you end up in the future – and eternally wishing it’s somewhere within driving distance.

Danielle: You really do live up to your last name, which is something I’m sure you’ve never heard before. Looking back, our two-SNE setup was such an interesting scenario, but I would say it lived up to its Star Wars-prequels-meme potential. I’m sure Sarah might have other opinions about it, but our two-man comedy routine clowning on her added some much needed levity into long days at the townhouse. And our good cop-bad cop-routine clearly whipped some much needed shape into our clown editors too. Maybe it’s time we came clean about some of our super secret planning docs. Then again, maybe not.

Sarah: Sarah, working with you for the past two years has been a pleasure. Watching you grow from the awkward bumbling editor-in-chief to one that’s confident and in command has been impressive. Although this second year really knocked the wind out of both of us, the time and commitment and blood and sweat and tears you’ve poured into the paper to make it a greater product is remarkable. From late nights in the townhouse – 5 a.m., can you believe it? – struggling to put together something we’re proud of – the pull quote issue! Jesus Christ! – we’ve been through the ringer, and I’m glad I shared that backbreaking experience with you. It’ll be weird not hearing from you routinely from here on out, so give me a call every once in a while. Expect my invoice for two years of unpaid therapy in the next week or so. 

My second news team:

Jared: It’s great that you’ve chosen to delay your graduation a year because as your senior news editor, I always felt like I was older than you, when that’s very much untrue. What I admire most about you is your loyalty to an organization that you will give more years to than anyone I can remember, and you’ve given your time selflessly in pursuit of creating a better paper.  

Zach: It’s so surreal to think your start was in the metro section, and to think that you’ll be stepping into management next volume, because no one has embodied their beat in the same way you’ve lived and breathed coverage of GW’s administration over the past few years. How you focus on and dive into the topics that interest you astonishes me, and I hope you keep it up.

Ilena: Your natural talent is something to behold. You came to The Hatchet with a resume more impressive than most existing staff members and will leave with a set of skills most graduates would find enviable. I’m glad I was able to pass the blogs torch to someone as gifted as you are and will never forget that you stepped up to the metro editor position in a time of need.

Lia: We’ve come a long way from when you drunkenly interrogated me about which news beat was my favorite at our last prom. You’ve got a magnetic personality and a kind heart that will serve you well, assuming you can get over your crippling fear of being called a weenie in public. But seriously, you’re a natural leader, and I’m thrilled that you’ll be the one calling the shots at the paper next volume. Denver’ll be a blast.

Lizzie: If we were doing senior superlatives this year, you’d have to win it for Hatchet mascot or most liked staff member or something. No one receives as many shout-outs as you at hotseats by a mile and for good reason – your willingness to give some of your time to ease someone else’s burden is superb. It’s an incredibly noble impulse, and one I hope other staff members emulate.

Shanny: Sorry not sorry for cracking so many peanut jokes. I thought they were hilarious. We all missed your presence and sense of humor this year, but I’m interested to see where you end up. 

Makena: Like I said with Ilena, you stepped up at a time when we needed you, and I appreciated that more than I probably ever said. It’s a shame I didn’t have more time to get to know you, but it was probably for the best that you were in Dani’s happy and fun section and not in the one I ruled with an iron fist. 

Tiffany: I think most people have a fixed amount of time they can keep their pleasant personalities “on” and, after a while, they need to be turned off to recharge. You’re not most people. I’ve never met someone who keeps that knob cranked on 11 all the time, and that’s an incredibly unique skill.

To the Volume 118 news team: You have large shoes to fill, but I’m confident you can fill them. 

  • Jarrod: Have fun in your new role. It’ll be a rough adjustment as classes move back in-person next fall but relish the opportunity to improve your editors’ abilities and to improve the quality of the content we publish. The buck stops with you for all news coverage – don’t forget that.
  • Isha: I’m excited to see where you take the administration beat. I’ve talked a lot about Zach’s admin prowess, but I expect you to blow that out of the water. 

Design: 

Liv: Few people on staff have to deal with my nonsense as much as you do, both on and off the clock, but I’m thankful to you for weathering through it and for listening to the thoughts and changes I have about a section I was never formally trained for. That you’ve been willing to work more than 40 hours a week at a regular job and still continue to volunteer your time on our rinky-dink school newspaper speaks volumes to your commitment to causes you hold dear. Let’s try to have more fun on Sundays now that we’re liberated from our Hatchet responsibilities.

  • Grace: I have high hopes for you, and I thank you for stepping up to lead a section that’s front and center at presenting The Hatchet’s image to campus. Take that responsibility seriously, and keep our product professional, but remember to have fun at the margins. Every rule can be broken, if need be.

Web:

Jack & Aaron: I don’t know where you two came from to join staff, but you have improved the quality of this paper in so many ways through your talents. From web guides to landing pages to a brand-new redesign to so many miscellaneous website administration issues – sorry for crashing the website so much – your marks on the paper are indelible, and I’m excited to see where you end up.

Olivia Columbus | Senior Staff Photographer

Opinions:

Editorial Board: Although it wasn’t the ed board I expected, what with the pandemic and all, I enjoyed our time together. 

  • Hannah: No one I know has more life lived per year of life than you have. I’m sure your career is all upward from here, but at least we know if that doesn’t work out, you’ve always got your illustrious acting career to fall back on.   
  • Andrew: Your vocabulary usually gets the recognition in discussions, but your commitment to focus on issues with a tangible effect on other people is what stands out about you to me. Keep up that urge.
  • Anna: I admire you for standing your ground in discussions when you were the odd one out. I wish more people on staff shared the same fortitude. 
  • Emily: My greatest adversary. The remarks you made in your 30 are largely reciprocated, except in two regards. First, that clutch game of rock-paper-scissors sealed my victory, and I have the receipts. Second, space in my head isn’t rent-free; I expect your payment on the first of next month.

Kiran: The only person who could give Hannah a run for life lived per year. Among many regrets from the past pandemic-ridden year is that we didn’t have more time to interact in person and interrogate you more about your vast and storied past as the only feminist on ed board. I’m sure you were a pain in Sarah’s ass, but as someone who never had to manage you, your laid-back, laissez-faire attitude never failed to entertain. 

Photo:

Alexander and Grace: Thank you for bringing our news articles to life. The photos that accompany news articles usually aren’t as thrilling as those in culture and sports, but I’m eternally grateful for your efforts.

Lillian: My other greatest adversary. Thanks for injecting some levity into late-night Zooms. I almost named you as the person I’d pick to fight at staff meeting, because I know that’s a long-term wish of yours, but I’m not trying to get my ass beat.

Others:

Renee, Olivia, Kelly, and Natalie: Gone but not forgotten. Thank you for the times we had, and yes, Kelly and Natalie, there is an Oxford comma in this list. As there should be.

Crystal, Jason, Tim, Amelia, Desiree, and Maralee: Thanks for being our loudest champions within the University. It’s a kindness I won’t forget.

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