Category Archives: On media

Two new words for 2014

Photo by Flickr user miguelphotobooth.

If only a mind-reading device could read our feelings, too. Photo by Flickr user miguelphotobooth.

In 2013, the word “selfie” catapulted to fame. It happened organically at first, its usage jumping 17,000 percent in a single year, according to Oxford Dictionaries’ calculations. Then it happened officially, when that great keeper of human vocabulary declared “selfie” the Word of the Year.

Which word will light up the lexicon in 2014? That’s a tough call with so many months and pop culture phenomena still to come. I recently learned a couple of words I would like to share, though. Here goes:

Telempathy (n.) According to science writer Michael Chorost, telempathy is “the apprehension of another person’s feelings, rather than thoughts.”

As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading Chorost’s book World Wide Mind, and came across it there. This is a next step in interconnectedness begun by the Internet. We know the content of others’ thoughts through blogs and emails with astonishing speed. But what about the emotions behind them? That element lags behind, or never even makes it to the other side. Emoticons can only go so far.

A dose of telempathy would really come in handy for one of my email groups, not to mention Canadians.* Continue reading

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Filed under Language, On media

Mandela and the media

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in 2008. Photo from South Africa The Good News / http://www.sagoodnews.co.za, via Wikimedia Commons

There it is, on page A8 in the World section–the part I usually flip past between reading the headlines on the front page and the latest dish in Style.

That’s it: The miracle. That’s what I want to talk about, and will get to if you’ll indulge me for a minute. Continue reading

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Filed under International, On media

Cyberspace and the community

What a week.

Thanks to cyberspace, my dear DC State Fair just garnered overwhelming community support on our Kickstarter campaign.

I also have the Internet to thank for both the topic and mode of publication for my latest story on Elevation DC, “Cyberspace connects DC with the businesses next door.

The 50th anniversary March on Washington that I plan to join on Saturday came together largely online. As I write this, buses and vans of participants are no doubt coming together all over the country through a frenzy of emails. Continue reading

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Filed under DC, Events, Gardening, On media, Writing and technology

Affliction

I’m applying to a fellowship that wants journalists who make a difference. It wants those who, in the words penned by Peter Finley Dunne and evoked by many a Mike Wallace obituary, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

This phrase pops up often in narrative journalism circles. For the first time I wondered: Does this mean that journalists should play the activist role?

The answer came partly from the program concept itself. The main draw of the fellowship is its affiliation with two highly-regarded news organizations known for painstaking fact checking — or admitting the lack thereof with painstaking thoroughness. (Oops — just gave away one of the organizations). Continue reading

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Filed under Jobs, On media

Walking the wiggly red line

Wigly
Anyone who has seen my Facebook page, Twitter feed, or blog knows that I teach college English and writing. Fewer know that the posts about my failures and triumphs would have looked like drunken freshman scribbling if not for cyberediting.

Since the semester began, I have been checking and double checking the spelling and syntax in every handout or email I write to the students. Then I sleep on them and in the morning, I check them some more.

I live and die by the wiggly red line.

In the midst of this semester, I showed up to take my ASL Proficiency Interview. Walking into the reception room, my goal was to learn where I stand in my second language. Little did I know that 20 minutes, five conversation topics, and one frumpy pink shirt later, I would be redeemed in my first. Continue reading

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Filed under On media, Teaching, Writing and technology

No small sparks from Tiny Truths

Restrictions provoke creativity, my mother (who is also a writer) always reminds me. Meanwhile, Anne Lamott, in the book on writing Bird by Bird, swears that major writing projects can begin with “just what I see through the one-inch picture frame.” So when I learned about the Tiny Truths contest in the literary journal Creative Nonfiction, I had to try it. What could squeeze the wide, flowing world of possibilities into a smaller frame than a Twitter-scale essay?

A few recent compositions, submitted publicly, as they all are, through Twitter:

@pattywetli: I take a deep breath and dial. She picks up on the second ring. Her voice doesn’t sound like cancer, it sounds like Amy.

@myurbanwild: Teeter-totter talk: Girl asks, “How do you know two people are married?” Boy shrugs, says, “They’re yelling at the same kids.”

The idea is to “tell a true story in 130 characters (or fewer)” on Twitter. With the spare 10 characters, add the hashtag #cnftweet. If you do all of that and follow @cnfonline, you have a chance to win the micro essay contest for that day. How do the winners know? They achieve a coveted “favorite” ranking from CNF. They may also find themselves featured in the next issue of Creative Nonfiction, alongside about 10 other tweeps.

I found this a delightful, bite-sized challenge that got my creative energy flowing.

Ready to try it? Okay. Go! Add your micro essay as a comment on this post. Don’t forget to tell us your Twitter handle or share a link to the tweet.

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Filed under Community of writers, On media

Which words to believe?

Haiti presidential palace and fence

Haiti's presidential palace remains crumpled in August 2010. Photo by Rhea.

January 12, 2011 marks the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that toppled Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was the aftermath of that 35 seconds of destruction that brought me to the country in August, and led to a five-part series on members of the group Friends of Deaf Haiti volunteering at a deaf tent city (see this page).

In November, Haitians voted on a new president for the first time since the quake. It is this event, perhaps more than arguments in criticism or defense of foreign aid, that have dominated public discussion in recent days. That is, until the airwaves and Web pages lit up with questions about a tragic shooting in Tuscon.

The United Nations and Organization of American States acknowledge some glitches in the election process in Haiti, but overall see no need for a rehash. Others see irrevocable flaws. Meanwhile, in the scramble to find meaning in a deadly few seconds outside of a supermarket, we debate whether slaughter originated in political rhetoric or just an imbalanced mind.

Many truths remain clouded until someone puts them into words. Facts and textures emerge through the telling. But what happens when the stories differ? I’ll leave you with that question as I contemplate a grim milestone and a bewildered country.

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Filed under International, On media