Firestorm

I’d be very interested to hear your immediate reaction to this Snow Fall-esque multimedia presentation from The Guardian.

Take a look.

Firestorm: The photograph of the Holmes family hiding from a violent bushfire in Tasmania was shared around the world. But what became of them? In a unique multimedia project, the family speak exclusively to the Guardian about the day their community was devastated, and the new breed of bushfire that is impossible to fight.

(thanks, Mark)

Dear Mr. Buffett

Gotta respect his passion:

Every Monday at 7 a.m. Andrew Davis sits down and writes a letter to Warren Buffett. His goal is to get a meeting with the billionaire and chat about the newspaper industry.

(thanks, Gerry)

A Good Reminder

Tommy Tomlinson on the core elements of storytelling:

Thanks for having me here today. I want this to be more of a conversation than a speech. I don’t need much time for a speech, because today I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about storytelling in five minutes.

But first I want to tell you a little story.

My wife (Alix Felsing, Storyboard’s copyeditor) has this uncanny gift for finding the worst possible movie on TV at any given moment. The other night she landed on the SyFy channel, on this movie called Collision Earth.

I’m gonna try to come up with a quick synopsis that does this movie justice.

The event that gets the action going is a solar flare so powerful that it knocks the planet Mercury out of its orbit and sends it hurtling toward Earth. This would be bad.

Along with knocking Mercury out of its orbit, somehow this solar flare also magnetized Mercury, so as it heads for Earth, cars and stuff start flying into the air to meet it.

There’s ONE scientist who knows how to fix this. In fact he has built this giant battering ram in space for just this situation. But for reasons I never did quite follow, this scientist was fired from NASA years before, and his giant battering ram was unfinished and left out in space to rot, and now, of course, NOBODY WILL LISTEN TO HIM.

It just so happens that this disgraced scientist’s wife is an astronaut whose spacecraft is — you won’t believe this — orbiting Mercury. But the solar flare hit the ship so hard that a little while later, the other astronaut on board keels over and dies.

So he’s on the ground trying to save Earth, and she’s up in space trying to save Earth, and they’re actually talking to each other via ham radio — I don’t even wanna get into how THAT happened.

There’s not nearly enough time to tell you all the ways this movie is ludicrous, so I’ll give you just two:

One, this giant magnetized planet that’s flying toward us is just sucking cars off the earth, EXCEPT when the disgraced scientist needs a car to get somewhere; then his car stays on the ground just fine, even as other cars are being sucked off the planet right in front of him.

And two, this astronaut up there, when she needs to move around the spaceship, she doesn’t float through the capsule in zero gravity … she just gets up and walks around like she’s at the mall.

I have only scratched the surface of how stupid on every level this movie is. But we watched the damn thing all the way to the end. When it was over, I looked at my wife and said, “Why did we do that?” But the truth is, I knew why.

And here’s where I tell you everything you need to know about storytelling in five minutes.

 

Hollywood’s Information Man

Ten years ago I bought a copy of the annual Best American Magazine Writing collection. It contained a story called “Hollywood’s Information Man,” by Amy Wallace, originally published in Los Angeles magazine. I was just out of college then, working my first daily newspaper job, and this story knocked me over. It showed the astonishing possibilities of a magazine story, the combination of wit and humor and investigative reporting that an expert could weave under just the right circumstances. Now, over at Nieman Storyboyard, Elon Green has done a version of Paige Williams’ Annotation Tuesday with Amy Wallace on the piece. If you’re just starting out, this is a road map for success. And if you’re a veteran looking for a spark, it just might fire you back up. Take a look.

Drinking And Driving And Dying

Tom Lake: Jerry Jerome Brown Jr. comes along at a strange time in history: a time when humans willingly enter cages of glass and steel that move in such great numbers at such terrific speed that a subtle turn of the steering wheel can easily result in death.

Anyone with clear eyes and a steady hand can accidentally make this subtle turn in a single moment of inattention. And every night in every county in every state, probably on every road, someone tries to avoid this mistake while drunk. In 1987 on the roads of the U.S., 23,632 people will die in alcohol-related car crashes. If today is an average day, these crashes will kill 65 more people by midnight. If the deaths come at regular intervals, they will come every 22 minutes.

A thin crescent moon rises at 5:03 a.m. over the hospital in St. Louis where a 19-year-old factory worker named Stacey Irons waits for her son. He is two weeks past due. She has been here since yesterday morning. The labor-inducement drugs are not working. Fluid builds up. The pain is excruciating. That’s gonna be a good baby, says Stacey’s mother, Theresa Clark. ‘Cause he’s takin’ his time.

Two hours and 12 minutes pass between moonrise and sunrise. Six more dead. The boy’s father, Jerry Brown, stands at the bedside. He calls Stacey his first love. In eight months they’ll be married; in eight years, divorced. Twelve years after that a state trooper will find Jerry Sr. drunk in a Chevy Blazer on the side of an interstate with his seven-year-old daughter and an open bottle of beer.

The Fabulous Fradulent Life Of Jocelyn And Ed

Sabrina Rubin Erdely (pdf): She told everyone her boobs were real, which was a laugh: They were immobile and perfectly round, and looked airbrushed, even in person. She credited her violet eyes to Lithuanian genes, rather than the purple contact lenses she wore. And on this afternoon last November, sitting in a Philadelphia hair salon with a college textbook open on her lap, she told the stylist she was a University of Pennsylvania student named Morgan Greenhouse. The name was as fake as the hair now being glued onto her head.

“I love this,” Jocelyn Kirsch declared, fingering her new $2,200 auburn hair extensions. “Don’t you love it?”

Her boyfriend, Ed Anderton, looked on adoringly. “I love it,” he echoed. The two of them returned to their murmured conversation, discussing the $400 room they planned to rent at the W hotel, once Jocelyn finished taking her final exams. After that, they planned to spend winter break vacationing in Morocco.

Jocelyn and Ed made performance art out of their extravagance. They posted photos on Facebook of their constant travels: smooching under the Eiffel Tower, riding horses along Hawaiian beaches, sunning themselves on Caribbean sand. They lived in one of Philadelphia’s most expensive neighborhoods, Rittenhouse Square, where they dined in pricey restaurants and danced on tables in the trendiest bars. Friends figured Ed must have been pulling in a big salary as a financial analyst, which seemed plausible; he was a bright recent Penn grad who’d majored in economics.

Plus, Jocelyn held herself out as some kind of trust-fund baby, with a closet full of expensive clothes – for today’s hair appointment, tight True Religion jeans, a navy cashmere hoodie and white Juicy Couture flats – and bore the expectant, impatient manner of the rich.

(thanks, Dan)

Bret, Unbroken

Steve Friedman (thanks, Don D.): You know what people think. They see jeans too short and winter coat too shiny, too grimy, and think, homeless. They watch a credit card emerge from those jeans and think, grifter. They behold a frozen grin, hear a string of strangled, tortured pauses, and think, slow. Stupid.

You learned too young about cruelty and pity. You learned too young that explaining yourself didn’t help, that it made things worse. People laughed. Made remarks. Backed away. So you stopped explaining. You got a job, got a cat, got an apartment, and people can think what they want to think. You built a life without explanation and it was enough.

What people see now, this moment, is a solitary man leaning into the wind, trudging down snow-dusted streets toward a faint, watery dawn.

Ten

Danielle Dreilinger: Ka’Nard Allen, 10, does not want to talk about what must be the longest and hardest 10th year of life in all New Orleans. He doesn’t want to talk about Mother’s Day, when he was grazed by a bullet at a second line parade in New Orleans’ 7th Ward, one of 19 people injured in a mass shooting.

He doesn’t want to talk about October, when his father, 38-year-old Bernard Washington, was fatally stabbed in eastern New Orleans by his stepmother after Washington allegedly choked and beat her. She has been charged with manslaughter.

And he really doesn’t want to talk about his 10th birthday party last May 29, when his 5-year-old cousin, Briana Allen, was fatally shot and a bullet hit Ka’Nard in the neck. The man accused of shooting Briana was arrested last month and, last week, was among 15 people indicted on gang racketeering charges in that incident and many others.

Standing on the Simon Bolivar Avenue neutral ground Monday evening, across from his grandmother’s house where Briana was killed, Ka’Nard just wants to ride his shiny black four-wheeler, a gift from his mom after his dad’s death.

He wants an adult to start peeling an orange for him because he can’t get it started himself. He wants to dunk an empty juice bottle into a garbage can and launch high, elegant roundhouse kicks at the pail. He wants to get on that black four-wheeler and drive it off the grass speckled with broken glass, watching for traffic, circling on Simon Bolivar — fast. He’ll even give you a ride on the back.

Rush-hour traffic raced by the skinny boy, dressed all in red with a Band-Aid on his right cheek. Maybe when one has endured two of the most shocking shootings in the city in less than a year, and come within a hair’s breadth of serious harm or even death each time, there are bigger worries than traffic.

Bags Of Money

Deadline is approaching on the Best American Narrative Newspaper Writing Contest. Don’t forget to submit your best work.

In an effort to encourage narrative nonfiction storytelling at newspapers across America, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and The Dallas Morning News are launching a new writing contest this year. The Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest will award prizes to three long-form narrative nonfiction pieces previously published in daily U.S. newspapers or on the newspapers’ websites.

Newspaper reporters and editors may submit one to three narratives published between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, including narratives that are part of a series.

The first-place winner will receive $5,000 and free registration to attend the 2013 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which will be held July 19-21 (Friday-Sunday) at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas. The contest’s second-place winner will receive $2,000 and the third-place winner $1,000. The three winning narratives and three runners up will be published in print and e-book form in an anthology, “The Best American Newspaper Narratives.”

All submissions to the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest must be postmarked and sent electronically in word and pdf format no later than June 1 (Saturday). The winners will be notified by e-mail on June 15 (Saturday). Editors and writers may submit a short cover letter with each entry, explaining the challenges of producing the story and readers’ reactions to it after it was published.

For more information about the contest, contact contest coordinator Tasha Tsiaperas at tsiaperas@gmail.com or 469-387-6985. For more information on the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, contact Jo Ann Ballantine at 940-565-4778 or maybornconferenceinfo@unt.edu.

The End

GBSNP Varma at a hospice in India:

Rajamma weathers these episodes one dreaded night after another. Time, for him, is measured in breaths.

What does he like about his wife?

“Goodness,” he says, after a gasp and sigh, looking toward the ceiling.

“Patience,” he says after a gasp again. They have not travelled much together. It was always work and home. “Lot of work,” he says.