The 50 Year Argument
Directed by Martin Scorsese, the HBO documentary “The 50 Year Argument" examines the history of The New York Review of Books. Wow.
The Sense of Style
Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style, may be a bit of a departure for the author but I’m still excited to read it. (In fact I’m already on page 57.) The subtitle offers further description: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Pinker is a wonderful writer himself. As he states in his introduction, the book isn’t a reference book or a style guide. Instead it highlights what makes good writing and why it is still so important to be able to communicate clearly, with a bit of style and personality. Here is a partial book description from Barnes and Noble.
“Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?
“In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.”
Marie Howe On Being
Krista Tippett’s recent guest on her show, On Being, was Marie Howe, the State Poet of New York and instructor at Sarah Lawrence College. It’s a wonderful interview about the power and mystery of poetry. Here she reads a new poem called “Magdelene-The Seven Devils," her interpretation from the only mention of Mary Magdalene in the Bible.
“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” —Luke 8:2.
Stunning Writing Studios
I believe I would find myself to be very comfortable in any of these ten stunning writing studio, from Flavorwire.
Living Inside Stories
Jonathan Gottschall comes the closest to fully articulating a theory that I’ve long been interested in, and one that has probably not been given its full due: that science and storytelling are indeed connected. As he says in this interview at Edge: No matter where you go in the world, stories are universal and “universally the stories are more or less like ours: the same basic human obsessions, and the same basic structure. The structure comes down to: stories have a character, the character has a predicament or a problem—they’re always problem-focused—and the character tries to solve the problem. In its most basic terms, that’s what a story is—a problem solution narrative.” We live inside our stories.
I look forward to reading his most recent book: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. Here’s a partial description from Barnes and Noble: “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why? ... Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?”
And here is the interview from Edge:
Sponsored Content Trust
A quick study conducted by Chartbeat reveals an ongoing concern about sponsored content: Readers aren’t quite sure whether they trust it. According to their data collected earlier this summer, only 24 percent of readers scroll through online sponsored content, compared to 71 percent of readers who scrolled through normal content. Paid posts, sponsored content, whatever name you give it, such material just doesn’t quite resonate as it should. The data reveal answers, but also raise further questions. Is it due to the quality of the content that is sponsored? Do people really know what “sponsored” really means?
Joe Lazauskas at Contently, a company that actually works with companies to help them produce their own custome content, writes about the data in a blog post: “While a plurality (48 percent) of respondents believe that “Sponsored Content” means that an advertiser paid for the article to be created and had influence on the article’s content, more than half (52 percent) thought it meant something different. But that’s not where the confusion ends. Some of the most striking revelations include:
“Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.
And yet, respondents rated branded content as more trustworthy than Fox News, and nearly equally trustworthy as MSNBC, indicating that content has a mistrust problem overall.”
The post addresses many of the questions that continue to challenge both readers and publishers alike.
Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman on happiness: “I would definitely say that pleasure is not happiness.”
Push v. Pull Media
A recent post at the Atlantic Wire shows that visits to the New York Times homepage fell by half over the past two years. A variety of data shows that readers no longer seek out media, but rather read only what is sent along on social media. In other words, media no longer attract readers (pull) but instead find readership through links, texts, social media and other alerts (push). From the story The News Homepage is Dead:
“The decline in mobile app usage is also significant, but probably related. Home pages, section fronts, and apps are pull media—that is, they rely on readers actively requesting them. But the new news habit is no habit at all ... Pull media has quickly been replaced by push media, as the Times report makes clear in so many words. Information—status updates, photos of your friends, videos of Solange, and sometimes even news articles—come at you; they find you. And media that don’t are hardly found at all.”
All the Great Prizes
I’m looking forward to getting into John Taliaferro’s book called All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt. Young John Hay was an aide to President Lincoln. Throughout his career, he became friends with the important people of the era: Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, Henry Adams, Henry James, and “virtually every president, sovereign, author, artist, power broker, and robber baron of the Gilded Age,” according the book’s description at Barnes and Noble.
“John Hay was both witness and author of many of the most significant chapters in American history— from the birth of the Republican Party, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the prelude to the First World War. Much of what we know about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt comes to us through the observations Hay made while private secretary to one and secretary of state to the other. With All the Great Prizes, the first authoritative biography of Hay in eighty years, Taliaferro has turned the lens around, rendering a rich and fascinating portrait of this brilliant American and his many worlds.”
Here, the author speaks about his book and John Hay’s remarkable life:
The Illusion of Life
This video came to me from a link provided by Jeremy Zilar, blog specialist and content strategist for the New York Times. It is called The Illusion of Life, and it was posted on Vimeo by cento lodigiani: “The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the ‘old men’ of Walt Disney Studios, amongst them Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, during the 1930s. Of course they weren’t old men at the time, but young men who were at the forefront of exciting discoveries that were contributing to the development of a new art form. These principles came as a result of reflection about their practice and through Disney’s desire to use animation to express character and personality. This movie is my personal take on those principles, applied to simple shapes. Like a cube.”