Vonnegut has a good quote about this.

I can’t talk about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Some famous deaths hit you harder than others, and you can’t always tell why, and this one — not to mention the conversation going on around it — is hitting me hard. This morning I also read ‘In God We Trust—but We Have Put Our Faith in Our Guns,’ an interview with a Florida mother who, like Trayvon Martin’s parents, lost her son to a Stand Your Ground-defensible (supposedly) incident. From God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Some links:

This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory comes from Kirby Ferguson, the guy behind the brilliant Everything Is a Remix. This new venture is going to be subscription-supported, but right now you can buy one for $12US, which will later go up to $15, but which is good for the whole length of the project. Apparently you can also pay in Bitcoin too, which I find fascinating.

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age, by Clay Shirky, is simply and dispassionately written, but it’s seething with frustration. Its thesis, which seems eminently reasonable? We live in institutions perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists.

Art of the Title is a whole blog that breaks down and analyzes title cards and opening sequences from films and TV shows, which is a thing I love like I love blogs about designing book covers.

The Biggest Misconception About Birds is, it turns out, about where they sleep. Let me just say, the thing about unihemispheric slow-wave sleep makes me wonder why we don’t have fantasy creatures or aliens that work like that.

Work out at home like a superhero! Like, an actual superhero of your choice: there are moves for that. You may have seen these charts floating around on Tumblr, but did you know you can do all kinds of fancy sorting on the artist’s website to find the one you need?

Are people more open about life when running? Two British filmmakers sets out to do some interviews, and the result is — well. Alluring and engrossing.

This Is Danny Pearl’s Final Story, by Asra Nomani, is a wrenching look at the facts about the kidnapping and murder of journalist Danny Pearl, who was abducted and beheaded while chasing a story in Pakistan. It’s also a story about a colleague of his and how his death shook her and followed her in the years after, and what she did about it.

The Borderlands Project follows a trip along the borders of India and South Asia “to better understand the human dimension of political borders.” When it’s finished, the reporter will have traveled 9,000 miles.

Why News Matters works to promote news literacy for kids, which, given, I don’t know, everything about the way news is going, they’re going to need more than ever going forward.

I don’t mind Mondays

Okay, okay, I promised I would check in and stay accountable on Mondays, so here I am, accountable-ing. The above video is “Hans,” a track by David Ummmo, which used to be on the OmmWriter software, and which I find ambient and soothing in a totally unironic way. You might like it! I know between this and Rainy Mood, I can use all the help focusing that I can get.

This week, I:

  • Applied for a few jobs, which is a small start, but hey, small starts are better than not starting at all. I still hate cover letters and LinkedIn, but I don’t think that’s anyone’s big, dark secret.
  • Took advantage of Chicago being 40 whole degrees Fahrenheit yesterday and picked up Zombies, Run! again, for the first time since basically early December. I spent most of the (very slow, occasionally wheezing) run very proud of myself for not slipping on the sheets of ice all over the sidewalk nor drowning in the gigantic puddles at the corners of streets, which of course meant that one block from my apartment, I took a balletic spill with audible sound effects. I’m fine, if sore, but hey, once again, a hilarious start is better than no start at all.
  • Began the Code Academy lessons. It is frustrating to put yourself through the “Basic HTML” bits when you learned some of this stuff in 1999, but then again, it’s also possible that 1) code has gotten a little better in the intervening 15 years (which it has!), and that 2) you can unlearn some bad habits that won’t help you down the line. I was quite pleased to see that Code Academy includes in-line CSS very early on, so — I’m encouraged for the stuff I don’t know, is what I’m saying.
    • I don’t know how social Code Academy really is or gets, but if you want to follow my progress or be coding friends or somesuch, I’m pyBlaster10597.
  • Watched a lot of Leverage, which is a perfect show about running cons and found families. I love everybody, but I might love Hardison the most. The first season is available for free on Hulu, for those for whom Hulu is an option, IP-wise.
  • Wrote some fiction. Doing it in 750-word chunks is really good for me, it turns out. That covers just about one scene, at least for a first draft, and if it needs to go beyond that, I’ve already got my momentum going.

We’ve been having a little weather in the Midwest this year so far, so I have not accomplished much on the photography front (though I have been rediscovering the glories of the slow cooker, as well as the possibility of chocolate stout and bacon brownies; cooking more has also been a goal!). Temperatures are looking a little less surface-of-Martian for the next week, so that should help.

One nice link-drop to end on: “STEM Needs a New Letter” and “Why Her Will Dominate UI Design Even More Than Minority Report are two articles about the same story, at heart. Good timing, journalism imps (or whoever it is that ensures synchronicity in the news world).

You can pick it up if you come down with ID.

This month is — who knows why — supposed to be the month for stories. I’m a big proponent of (Inter)National Novel-Writing Month, and I even said I would be sort of trying it in bits, even as my time at Medill winds down to its final weeks and the final project–a long form narrative piece that I’m rather excited about–looms ever larger.

Part of that has been The Shallow Project, which has been a blast, even if the photo element has proved easier at maintaining than the writing part; and part of that has been a side Tumblr I’m keeping for a story that I know very little about. Which is interesting, because usually when I start (or even fail to start [yet]) a story, I generally know some salient facts about the end, or the premise, or the characters. Right now I’ve got a setting, the barest amount of backstory for the two protagonists, and a vague idea of how writing this story is going to be intensely personal in that way that may or may not be obvious from the outside.

To be fair, I didn’t have any ideas about my half of The Shallow Project before we began, and all I needed for that was to move the story forward every single day. With writing, though, I want to be more certain. I’ve got some bits and bobs — I originally set myself a 750 words a day goal, but then, well, school — and I’m pleased with myself for just writing scenes or character moments, rather than obsessing about plot. When I make the time for it, though, I’d like to sit down with Chuck Wendig’s foul-mouthed and actually perfect questions to answer for character enrichment (which seems more doable than making my way through this comprehensive list of other great ideas). One thing I love about improv is that the story comes from character interaction, not a plot determined by an outside force. I have some plot points in mind, but more than that, I just need to know enough about my characters to set them loose and let myself be surprised.

It should be interesting. I’m not explaining much in public, but if you’re curious:

If you want to ask me (in comments, on Tumblr or over email) any questions about this project, please do! It will probably help me, in all truth, and that I always appreciate.

So! Who wants some links? Internet privacy and democracy, actual spoken Akkadian, unpaid internships and a cello-piano hybrid beyond the jump, plus more!

First I would like to mention that I remembered that I finally have a really nice camera that makes even my messy apartment look amazing. Hurrah DSLR!
First I would like to mention that I remembered that I finally have a really nice camera that makes even my messy apartment look amazing. Hurrah DSLR!

Continue reading “You can pick it up if you come down with ID.”

Phenomenal and charming: The Martha Raddatz Story (and some links)

That's my hand! P.S. She totally digs this photo.
That’s my hand! P.S. She totally digs this photo. © Medill

My day on campus was supposed to be over at 12:20, but I figured I’d stick around, since Martha Raddatz was speaking. You should remember Ms. Raddatz as the moderator of the 2012 vice presidential debates; she’s also a very accomplished political and foreign correspondent. I’m only a Medill student for (ulp!) less than two months, so I have to take advantage of opportunities when they come up, right?

Martha Raddatz, as it turns out, was awesome. She was beyond lovely and had some great, great stories and advice. You can stream the event (about an hour) here, and/or read about it in The Daily Northwestern. After she spoke, students were lining up to talk with her and take pictures with her. I was going to skedaddle and catch my train, but I figured I’d thank her, especially for her words about covering military and veterans’ issues. Except I couldn’t find my phone! So I just said hi, and went on my way. There’s always a reception after these things, so I snuck in for a cupcake and a quick chat with one of my classmates. At which point… I found my phone. Right in my pocket, where I’d put it, on silent, before the talk.

No, augh, really, don't look.
No, augh, really, don’t look. This is enough.

Luckily I did get a chance for a selfie with Ms. Raddatz, who was gracious and friendly even though her handlers were tapping their watches. (Alas, I think it’s one of my less flattering photos, which… happens a lot when you’re taller than everyone else, including the person taking your picture. Oh well! It’s not like I don’t have selfies covered. They’re an evolving art form and a means of sociopolitical expression, after all.)

So, now my weekend starts! Time for more reading, writing and reporting, and maybe a little bit of fun too. Maybe. For the meantime, some link-mongering! Below the jump, we’ve got stories about radical education in Matamoros, Mexico; portraits of pre-Taliban Afghanistan; access to live shows at the Globe (yes, that one); a breakfast recipe I need to adapt to be egg-free (stupid allergies), because it just sounds that good; diversity in comedy, and more!

Continue reading “Phenomenal and charming: The Martha Raddatz Story (and some links)”

Not entirely swanlike

I’m feeling a bit swanlike over here these days — not in the sense that I’m graceful, or secretly vicious and cranky, but in the sense of appearing to just float when in fact I’m furiously paddling. Is that swans? It might be ducks. As you can see, I’m consumed with big questions.

When I’m not banging my head against my outline for “Innogen and the Hungry Half,” I’m trying to come up with ways to provide background on the project for my readers. I don’t expect everyone coming in to know anything about Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays, and even I don’t have all the answers when it comes to explaining steampunk. True fact: for about five minutes at the end of college, when I was desperately grasping for some idea of a career to pursue, I thought I might be interested in dramaturgy. I sought out some theater internships, though the one I got was in New Works, which may have been right for me anyway. Anyway, I believe one of the responsibilities a storyteller has is to teach the audience about the story and how to read it. In the story itself, this comes from good world-building, but since this is the internet, I’m also kind of excited to put together some subject guides for the curious. (Anything that gets more people to read my secret favorite play!)

Some of this means to turning to my friends, who are a collective of riches in every respect. When I talk to people outside my general group about this story, I find that very few of them have heard of steampunk, probably because not everyone is, like me, on the internet for most of their waking hours. I could send them to Tor’s Steampunk Week page, which ends today, or the fantastic and fascinating Beyond Victoriana. I could try and ramble about pseudo-Victorian alternate histories and how the most interesting of these stories deconstruct and subvert power structures and conventions. Or I could go with one friend’s quip that steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown. In the end, I’m still learning myself, and while the decision to set “Innogen” in a steampunk universe is a conscious one, maybe I’d be better served writing that essay when the story is already out there.

These are the things I think about! I’m also in the process of trying to explain Cymbeline in a straightforward manner, because it’s one of Shakespeare’s most ridiculous, overwrought plots, and that’s partly why I adore it. Wikipedia actually has a fairly good rundown, but really, if you want to appreciate how gloriously convoluted this play is, take ten minutes with this fantastic video from The Geeky Blonde:

If you liked that, one of the reasons it’s been a bit quieter over here (other than my constant scheming about this story) is that I’ve been playing around with Tumblr and Twitter a little more. I am definitely looking for more ways to interact with people and share neat things I’ve found, so if you’ve got an account at either or both sites, I would love to hear from you. The Tumblr especially is a great adjunct to this site, because it’s such a great curatorial tool for finding nifty things around the web. Some of my favorites so far include street art from around the world, real airship hotels shaped like whales, real places that shouldn’t exist, one hundred years of fashion in 100 seconds and any number of stories I would like to read or write.

So yes, please keep in touch! Things are fairly churning behind the curtain, even if I’m mixing metaphors there, and you might even get some nifty Magpie & Whale goodies before they make it over here, if they do it at all. Hey, it’s happened before! Hope to see you around, lovelies. Esther signing off.

Tumblr: magpieandwhale.tumblr.com
Twitter: @magpiewhale