[I'm a huge fan of Bill Barol's podcast, HOME: Stories From L.A. It's the first podcast Bill has produced, and he knocked it right out of the park. HOME is one of the best narrative podcasts I've ever listened to. If you haven't listened to the six episodes from the first season yet, you are in for a treat. I'm very excited that for its second season, HOME has found a home in the Boing Boing podcast network. Thanks for sharing your work with Boing Boing's audience, Bill! – Mark]
HOME: Stories From L.A. asks the questions: What do we mean when we talk about home? And what does it mean to be at home on the edge of the American continent? In Season 1 we looked at the midcentury house on a hill where a forgotten genius from Hollywood's Golden Age lived out his last years; the empty spot on a Hawthorne street where Brian Wilson first dreamed of the harmonies that would make The Beach Boys great; the chicken magnate who's trying to keep a desert town on the old Route 66 from vanishing; the wandering that led an ex-Buddhist monk to the tech sector of Venice Beach; what it means, and what it meant, to grow up in the San Fernando Valley; and the fight to keep a venerable old Hollywood apartment building weird.
This week, to kick off Season 2:
When an elderly parent dies after a long life of lovingly acquiring things, she leaves behind more than memories for her kids. Read the rest
Read Maria Konnikova's gripping article about con artist Sammy Azzopardi, whose new identities and wheezes seem impervious to detection until a technical fact or failing becomes impossible to ignore. Azzopardi's gift, Konnikova writes, is a perfect combination of narrative insight and total lack of scruples. She knows exactly what will trigger empathy, and exactly how to exploit sympathy.
Con artists lie for a very specific reason: personal gain, financial or otherwise. They lie to set the play in motion, so that they can gain your confidence and then lead you down a reality of their making. And their lies are believable, whereas a pathological liars’ are often too big and elaborate to be taken seriously. Azzopardi lied in a very deliberate fashion: she took advantage of a social taboo. She ventured into an area so rife with emotion that to lie about it would be to betray our trust in humanity.
The remarkable thing seems to be that no-one will jail her. Despite many convictions, she receives suspended sentences (and new passports) over and over again, then walks out and hits the next mark. Read the rest
At Wired, our Laura writes about the emerging media cycle surrounding rape scenes in TV shows and the euphemistic bullshit used to justify the bottom-shelf storytelling they embody: "If you’re a woman in media, you’re basically the sexy Halloween costume of human beings in a world where Halloween never ends." Read the rest
Foxxfur has published "The Theme Park Trope List," a first approximation attempt to summarize the narrative gimmicks used in theme park attractions to move the action along, for example, "the book report ride," which "shows exactly the same events which occurred in the source film in the same order."
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James Renner on the modern answer to classic Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks
"The Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses
(BAH!) is a celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory" — in other words, it's a festival dedicated to the ability to bullshit in a plausibly scientific way. And it sounds fantastic. If you're in Boston October 6th, you should totally go. But you'll need a ticket. They're $5 for MIT students, $10 for non-students. Read the rest
John Walker argues, irrefutably, that games are a great place to tell stories
: "There are some who have argued that games just aren’t the right medium for telling stories. ... But this argument is entirely flawed, failing to understand that gaming is home to a completely new form of storytelling, and one that is perhaps more potent and powerful than any other." [Rock Paper Shotgun] Read the rest
Yesterday was Mother's Day in the US. I spent the day at home in Los Angeles, still recuperating from chemo, gearing up for the next phase of my cancer treatment. After I called my mom on the East Coast to wish her a happy Mother's Day and thank her for all she has done, I shared a few thoughts on Twitter about moms and cancer. I invited my followers to do the same.
One by one, 140-character-length tributes came in about moms who survived cancer, moms who helped their kids through cancer, and kids who lost their moms to cancer. I retweeted a few, then a few more, but—they did not stop. A flood of personal testimonies to the power of motherhood in relation to cancer followed. I read every single one, and tried to share every single one with my followers.
Josh Stearns kindly collected many of them into a Storify: Mother's Day Memories of Love, Loss and Living With Cancer. It's embedded below.
Above, a photograph of me and my mom, the day before one of my chemo infusions. I draw a lot of strength from my mom. And you need all the strength you can get to get through this thing.
She adds a tribute of her own today:
My Mom died of melanoma (skin cancer) at 54. Her doctor never knew it was cancer until the autopsy. All of us (3 girls, 3 boys) still carry her spirit in our hearts.
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In the wake of Mike Daisey's exposure as a fabulist, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human arrives at the perfect moment. The Atlantic's Maura Kelly examines Jonathan Gottschall's argument that storytelling's deceptions emerge from deeply human needs:
When we tell stories about ourselves, they also serve another important (arguably higher) function: They help us to believe our lives are meaningful. "The storytelling mind"—the human mind, in other words—"is allergic to uncertainty, randomness, and coincidence," Gottschall writes. It doesn't like to believe life is accidental; it wants to believe everything happens for a reason. Stories allow us to impose order on the chaos.
And we all concoct stories, Gotschall notes—even those of us who have never commanded the attention of a room full of people while telling a wild tale. "[S]ocial psychologists point out that when we meet a friend, our conversation mostly consists of an exchange of gossipy stories," he writes. "And every night, we reconvene with our loved ones ... to share the small comedies and tragedies of our day."
Regarding Daisey, what I found most upsetting were not the lies about his visit to China, but those about storytelling itself: he lied about the nature of the lies we love. He expected others to accept his claims as journalism, and when exposed, excused this by appealing to dramatic license, to our acknowledgement that stories' truths may be complex and counterfactual.
This wasn't an attempt at rebuilding confidence in the underlying truth of his narrative. In his contempt for storytelling's subtle consensual boundaries, Daisey's only real demand was that all stories be seen as no more truthful than his. Read the rest
This data visualization of the Apollo 11 moon mission gathers social and technical data from the 1969 lunar landing in video form. The horizontal axis is an interactive timeline.
The horizontal axis is an interactive timeline. The vertical axis is divided into several sections, each corresponding to a data source. At the top, commentators are present in narratives from Digital Apollo and NASA technical debriefings. Just below are the members of ground control. The middle section is a log-scale graph stretching from Earth (~10E9 ft. away) to the Moon. Utterances from the landing CAPCOM, Duke, the command module pilot, Collins, the mission commander, Armstrong, and the lunar module pilot, Aldrin, are plotted on this graph. The graph is partially overlaid on a composite image of the lunar surface.
More about the data presented, and the story told, at the project's Vimeo page. The project comes from the MIT Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society, and was directed by David Mindell. Via Maria Popova. As noted on Flowing Data, my only disappointment is that they didn't get to the "One small step for [a] man" part!
Additional credits: Visualization Design by Yanni Loukissas, and Francisco Alonso served as Research Assistant.
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