Now Reading: digital video and Bloomberg Media, Anne Hull reporting tips, Bounty

A few things I read around the Web today …

Bloomberg Media’s new direction

Relatively new Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith recently detailed his vision for the company and its strategy for expanding Bloomberg beyond primarily financial news and into a more general global business space.

Give what Justin published is driven by digital, I think there are some interesting things to learn for anyone who creates content or manages/directs the creation and distribution of it. Read the full post for Justin’s complete vision, but I’ll highlight one of his points here: digital video innovation.

To me, one of the most fascinating developments were currently seeing in media is the evolution of television and its alignment with digital platforms. Until now – and I suppose this is still the case in some ways – TV and digital video have been treated as two different buckets, and rightfully so to some degree, as they can vastly different audiences and sensibilities.

But I think we’re moving to a place where there the divide is broken down, and TV programming and digital video might be described as simply “visual content.”

Video content that runs on the Web should be compatible for TV, and TV content should be compatible for the Internet (at least a healthy chunk of it – not all things will cross all platforms, of course). This will happen with the continued integration of television and digital, where we see both outlets as “screens” that pump content out to users. As Justin noted in a Q&A with Ad Age, Bloomberg’s TV unit will likely produce packages that run on the Web, and the digital unit will produce packages that run on TV.

It’s sort of liberating to think of television networks now as not standalone entities, but powerful engines that can drive audience across all platforms. There is a challenge from a content creation perspective in blending audiences that have existed separately until now, but there’s also a sense of simplicity that should be enticing. The overriding goal is to just create a bunch of good stuff, give users with different habits multiple options for consuming it and adjust from there.

12 reporting tips from Anne Hull

Sometimes diving down those Internet sinkholes aren’t always a waste of time, as was the case recently when I came across this post on Michael Kruse’s blog.

I don’t remember how I got to it, but it’s from February 2013 and it’s pure gold: 12 tips from Anne Hull, a former Pulitzer winner from The Washington Post. They are snippets from a talk Anne gave in 2003, and I highly recommend anyone who cares about writing to read and digest it. A couple of my favorite tips from Anne:

“Forget about the Q&A model of reporting. This is about standing in the middle of a hurricane.”

“Quotes are overused in journalism.”

“Know the ending you are working toward. The ending is the most neglected part of every story, when it’s probably the most important element in the story. It’s what you leave the reader with. It means everything.”

I’ll let you read the rest, but what makes the tips so good, I think, is they strip away much of the formality of reporting – what you’re “supposed” to do, what it’s “supposed” to look like, etc. – and just cuts to the skill’s guts. It’s no damn how-to book, as often taught in school, just brilliant nuggets cloaked in clarity.

How Bounty was done

One more link from Michael Kruse, and this is another treat. He details how his three-part Bounty story came together.

If you haven’t read Michael’s Bounty series, you can find it here. You need some time to get through it all, but it’s superb and highly recommended.

I don’t think you need to read the story before reading his post about how he put it together if you have limited time now and are interested in the reporting process, but I’d say it’s best to read the story first if possible. You’ll appreciate the incredible amount of work put into it before getting the “inside baseball” view of it.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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Now Reading: Malaysia Airlines flight 370, Beats music, Scarlett Johansson

A few things I read around the Web today …

A simple theory about the Malaysia Airlines jet

We’ve all been fascinated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. It’s impossible not to be interested, if not obsessed, with the outcome. How an airplane – a big ass jet, in technical terms – can just be lost in 2014 is, quite literally, unbelievable. And because it is unbelievable and currently unresolved, the public, via the media and our own twisted imaginations, have been subject to rampant theories about what really happened to the plane.

So it’s interesting that Wired has a piece written by Chris Goodfellow, an experienced pilot and thus easily among the 1 percent most qualified people to construct a possible explanation for the missing plane, that disputes all dark conspiracies and offers the simplest explanation of what happened to the plane. No, Goodfellow does not believe it was hijacked. He does not believe a pilot went rogue. He does not believe there was some murder-suicide at work.

Instead, Goodfellow believes an electrical fire resulted is the cause for the plane’s disappearance. I’ll let you read his piece for the full explanation, which makes as much sense to me as anything. But I’m willing to concede it’s only the most plausible explanation and not actually what happened – because we don’t really know.

Goodfellow acknowledges he doesn’t know for sure what happened and is open to further evidence if someone has a conspiracy to fling at him, but then he states, without a doubt he says, he knows the intentions of those flying the plane or what their thought process was. That seems like a stretch to me, but again, I certainly give Goodfellow’s opinion the most weight of any theorist on television or the Internet.

That’s the other entertaining part of this. Television networks – or mainstream media in general – want no part of a logical, conspiracy-less explanation like Goodfellow’s, because they’re going for their ninth helping of ratings by now. They want drama and speculation, as they capitalize on the nation’s captivity with this story.

Hopefully, a definitive conclusion is eventually reached – if only so the families of those on board don’t have to wonder about what really happened like those in “Vanished” did.

Beats’ new model for serving up music

Beats Music is diving into the streaming music business, which is becoming crowded but not oversaturated quite yet, with a model it believes will be the best and most unique.

Instead of giving users the autonomy of creating their own playlists, Beats is offering playlists created by industry stars. What this is supposed to tell you, I suppose, is two things: 1) Let us save you time by taking the curating process off your hands 2) These music experts know what you will like better than you do, so let them show you.

It’s a cool concept – sure, Dr. Dre, I’m open to your advice about which rap songs I should put on my playlist – but I wonder how much weight the “industry stars created this playlist, therefore you should like it” thing will hold in the end. The convenience is nice, but once the music starts playing, I don’t think I’m going to remember the artist who curated the playlist; I’m only go to care if the music is good.

The one streaming music idea I’d like to see someone try, as I’ve written before, is a curation model attached to emotions and/or moods. If I say or type “lonely” into my music app, it should quickly curate a playlist of songs designed to uplift me. If my word is “workout,” the songs should motivate. If it’s “party,” they should be fun and energetic. Users could create profiles with and submit a baseline of information – what music you like, don’t like, artists you really love, etc. – to give the technology some guidelines, and then within those guidelines it could curate based on mood.

This idea has offers the same convenience as others (taking the work out of your hands), but it provides an intimacy to music listening that seems absent in the streaming world. At best, it really does become the soundtrack to which people live their lives, with the songs in step with your emotions, helping you through various stages of your day.

(If this is being done somewhere, apologies – I just haven’t seen it. If not, well, let’s try it out!)

The unstoppable Scarlett Johansson

Not much to say here, other than superb writing and a fun profile by Anthony Lane on the wonderful Scarlett Johansson.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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Now Reading: True Detective, journalism in the new media world, Elisabeth Moss, Peter Lanza

A selection of stories I read around the Web today …

True Detective finale

Slate’s David Haglund and Willa Paskin exchanged emails immediately after the finale and break it down … Haglund is more OK with all of the show’s loose ends than Paskin is, who was bothered by the final and how things were left, particularly how Maggie, Audrey and, to an extent, the Yellow King were basically irrelevant. We were all set up for surprises and didn’t get much of one at all.

Paskin followed up later on Monday with a thoughtful post on the show’s “woman problem” and how its infatuation with men and masculinity is a primary factor in True Detective’s overwhelming success. Most premium cable dramas, Paskin writes, are like this, which means True Detective didn’t coincidentally leave Maggie and the other women as nothing more than caricatures.

I was disappointed that Maggie, in particular, wasn’t explored more. She was a fascinating character to me, and when she was pulled into the interview room with Papania and Gilbough a couple episodes ago and asked about Marty and Rust, I thought that was a ramp to what would be an acceleration of her involvement in the remainder of the show.

I thought she was a lynchpin of sorts, the strongest thread between the show’s two leads and one of the Internet’s suspected criminals (Maggie’s father). Except none of that happened, and we were left were her drifting away in the finale without further contemplation. Too bad.

Vulture’s Kenny Herzog touches on the answers we didn’t get in his recap and has one line in his outtakes about something I haven’t seen discussed much – that conversation between Marty and Rust about Maggie!

It bugged me that after Marty and Rust reconnected and began spending all these hours in Marty’s new drab office, that wasn’t one of the first things they addressed, even awkwardly. Wouldn’t there be, you know, some air to clear between two men when one slept with the other’s then-wife?

So when they did discuss it during a car ride in the season finale, it moved one stone to the side, at least for me, and delivered another of Rust’s dry lines of wisdom when he tells Marty everyone has a choice – just as he did when he had sex with Maggie. Glad that’s out of the way.

After the season finale, Alan Sepinwall did a Q&A with Nic Pizzolatto, who wrote the show. Nic adds some additional depth to the series, and it’s interesting to hear how, in a script that’s so violent and repulsive in so many ways, it’s not really the crime or unsolved case that interested him. He has his reasons for making it a child murder case, but as we saw from watching the episodes, everything existing around Hart and Cole serves only as another tool to tell their stories. It’s sort of funny how a guy who wrote such a vivid and complex crime script sort of looks at that genre of content and goes, “Ehh …”

Lastly, a Daily Beast interview from last month with Pizzolatto about his creative process, the challenges of writing True Detective and the pressure to now deliver a second time (and possibly a third).

Margaret Sullivan’s advice to journalism students

The New York Times writer and Columbia University instructor has a column on some advice she recently gave journalism students about entering our murky media world. Margaret’s words are certainly valuable and worth a read.

I’d offer this to journalism students listening to the repeated mantra of doom that surrounds so many parts of the industry they’re studying: You’re not entering the journalism business today like reporters pre-Internet were entering the journalism business – i.e. small papers with little money are the only entryways to the industry. A better way to think of what you’re entering today is the “content business.”

Things evolve. Television networks are becoming increasingly aligned with digital platforms and focusing on “screens” of any kind — be it a 60-inch in your living room, a 13-inch on your lap, a tablet or a phone. They’re all vehicles.

I would think of journalism in the same way. Old principles of integrity and truth, which Sullivan underscores, of course still apply, but the infrastructure of the industry is much broader and more accepting. Media is the business of delivering content to users, and content is consumed everywhere. So “journalism” isn’t done only at local town halls; it’s done anytime content delivers a story, which is happening, quite literally, in your hands in all locations. That’s an exciting proposition.

The bright future of Elisabeth Moss

One more Willa Paskin link: She has a great profile of Elisabeth Moss, the actress who plays Peggy Olson in Mad Men.

Willa’s always great, and Moss was refreshingly self-deprecating about her line of work.

Father of Sandy Hook shooter speaks

This is a brutal piece to read, one that sat as an open tab on my laptop for three days before I decided to read it, because it digs up the horrific Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012 that left 26 dead at an elementary school, including 20 children (not including the shooter or his mother). So feel free to pass, but I’m including it here with a brief note because I think there’s something for writers to learn.

Andrew Solomon of The New Yorker got Peter Lanza, the father of shooter Adam Lanza, to speak for the first time since his son’s rampage and has a long piece that’s driven by Peter’s life after his son and first wife were among those left dead in the shooting. But there’s really four stories here, all of which are superbly reported and weaved together.

There’s the story of Adam as a child with autism and the struggles he endured to become anything like a normal young man. There’s the examination of Adam as a killer and the signs that were missed. There’s the tale of a failed marriage, between Peter and Nancy, and the wreckage that can be left on a family when parents split and a divorce distances one, if not both of them, from their children. And, finally, there’s the terrorized life of Peter Lanza and how this mass shooting has come to define his name and his life.

No comments or opinions are needed here. If you’re a young writer, I would just suggest reading the story with an eye on how Andrew executed the reporting and the storytelling and ask yourself how you’d handle a similar assignment.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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“Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” part II: David Sedaris’ book of essays

For part I of my “Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls” review, click here.

***

Instead of posting something midway through David Sedaris’ latest book of essays – “Let’s explore diabetes with owls” – like I intended to do, I plowed through the final 190-plus pages in a handful of sittings over the last week or so because I was committed to answering our initial question.

What in the hell could a title like that possibly mean?

In the first post, I wrote “I suspect I’ll have an inkling” at the end of the books as to what the title means, and here I am, with no more pages left to parse through for clues, and … I don’t have a great answer for you.

Here’s my best wild guess: “Diabetes” could be taken as a representation of Sedaris’ relationship with his family or, more specifically, his father.

It’s a disease. Some days it makes him deathly ill. Other days it’s merely an inconvenience. Curable? No. But it’s manageable with the proper amount of care and attention.

If you really want to stretch the metaphor, Sedaris’ wit and self-deprecating nature are his insulin, the only things that allow him to survive a lifetime of barbs and condescending remarks without being pushed to the point of vacating all sense of heritage and ancestral connection.

The “owl” part could be taken a couple ways. The chapter “Understanding Understanding Owls” begins with this:

Does there come a day in every man’s life when he looks around and says to himself, “I’ve got to weed out some of these owls?” I can’t be alone in this, can I? And, of course, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Therefore you keep the crocheted owl given to you by your second-youngest sister and accidentally on purpose drop the mug that reads “Owls Love You Always” and was sent by someone who clearly never knew you to begin with.

In this context, the owls could be pieces of a preexisting life that you adopted for various disingenuous reasons. It’s what you thought your parents want; it’s what you believed was necessary to fit into a desirable crowd; it’s part of a young dream that you’d grow to realize was nothing more than fantasy.

Not until you grow older and come into yourself as an adult do you see the shards of adolescence that must be shed if you’re going to live your life and not another’s version of it. I suppose this could be one interpretation of “owls” in the title.

I prefer to see the “owl” here as David himself. He describes a time in the late 1990s when he was living in New York with his boyfriend Hugh, who had a painting business. Here’s the next part, quoted from the book:

One of his clients had bought a new apartment, and on the high, domed ceiling of her entryway she wanted a skyful of birds. Hugh began with warblers and meadowlarks. He sketched some cardinals and blue tits for color and was just wondering if it wasn’t too busy when she asked if he could add some owls.

It made no sense naturewise – owls and songbirds work different shifts, and even if they didn’t they would still never be friends.

Through the contentious interactions with his family and the serially awkward events of his childhood, it’s clear Sedaris struggled to fit in with the warblers and meadowlarks of his younger days.

He worked his own shift and for a variety of reasons – from his sarcastic intellect to his sexuality – didn’t mesh with the primary occupants of his life at that time (i.e. father, other family members, neighborhood kids his dad wish he’d be like, etc.)

So through my admittedly liberal translation of “Let’s explore diabetes with owls,” I read it as exploring Sedaris’ relationship with his father/family through all the uncomfortable ways Sedaris could never be what he/they wanted him to be, but only his own imperfect, estranged self.

This is the point where I self-consciously envision Sedaris laughing his ass off in a London coffee shop, as I carelessly put words and meaning in his mouth and publish them to the world, and thinking, “You idiot – you’re not even close to understanding what I meant.”

I blush at the mere taste of that shame. But, alas, I’m grasping at short straws and this is my best shot at interpretation. So please, Mr. Sedaris and readers, forgive me if this is a woeful failure.

***

I want to end, appropriately I think, with a note about the second-to-last chapter in the book called “The Happy Place.”

On the surface, it’s about getting a colonoscopy. Sedaris’ father told him for years to get one, but it wasn’t until his sister, Lisa, told him how great it was – because of the drugs they give you and the wonderful feelings those induce – that he decided to do it.

When the anesthesiologist is loading patients up, they tell them to go to their “happy place” right before they pass out. For Sedaris, that ultimately was a place with much deeper meaning. Here’s Sedaris, in his words, after he got home from the procedure and his father called:

I wanted to thank him for all the years of pestering me, to concede that he’d had my best interests at heart, but instead, unable to stop myself, I said, “Dad, they found something. And Dad … Daddy … I have cancer.”

It’s horrible, I know, but I’d somehow been waiting all my life to say those words. During fits of self-pity I had practiced them like lines in a play, never thinking of the person I’d be delivering them to but only of myself, and of how tragic I would sound. The “Daddy” bit surprised me, though, so much so that tears sprang forth and clouded my vision.

This made it all the harder to see Lisa, who was listening to me from the other end of the sofa and mouthing what could have been any number of things but was probably, emphatically, “You will go to hell for this.”

“The important thing is not to give in to defeat,” my father said. He sounded so strong, so completely his younger, omnipotent self, that I hated to tell him I was kidding. “You’ve got to fight,” he said. “I know that you’re scared, but I’m telling you, son, together we can lick this.”

Eventually I would set him straight, but until then, at least for another few seconds, I wanted to stay in this happy place. So loved and protected. So fulfilled.

There’s both tremendous beauty and pain in that passage.

Your first reaction is negatively visceral – how utterly horrible it is to lie to anyone, let alone a parent, about having the deadliest of illnesses.

But, for me, that quickly morphed into empathy for Sedaris.

All along, there’s this great distance between him and his father that has never closed and likely will never close, and Sedaris does a masterful job of crafting a self-serving façade with the uncanny sharpness of his humor. But tear that down, and what’s left is universal: a son seeking a love and validation that can be passed down only from a father.

Sedaris has a great talent for making fun of the oddities of his life, for creating humor at the expense of his own ostracized character, but his true gift is a poignancy that reminds us all lives share the simplest of bonds.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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True Detective’s women

My consumption of the consumption of the latest True Detective episode began like it usually does, with a read of Alan Sepinwall’s review in Hitfix, but then quickly veered into the first broad-view discussion that has gained traction with Nic Pizzolatto’s crime series.

The discussion coming out of the series’ sixth episode, “Haunted Houses,” drifted away from direct plot-related questions and took up an examination of True Detective’s treatment and usage of women.

It’s not a coincidence that a few prominent reviewers of this show latched onto the same theme after episode six, and I suspect it’s because ‘Houses’ is the first episode where a woman – and not the two male stars, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart – is handed the keys to the story.

In this case, Hart’s wife (and/or ex-wife, depending on the time period), Maggie, is brought forth with the development in her role as a narrator and as the linchpin of numerous relationships – hers and Marty’s, Marty’s and Rust’s, perhaps the police’s relationship with their currently unsolved case. Let’s run through the different perspectives quickly, as they’re all thoughtful and unique.

Emily Nussbaum has a strong criticism in The New Yorker of the shows total mishandling of female characters, writing that there isn’t one complex female character but rather only shallow, soulless caricatures who are merely props for the game the men are playing.

I appreciated Emily’s subtle sense of humor in warning that if you’re enjoying True Detective, which most people seem to be, then you won’t like her subsequent analysis, before proceeding to obliterate the story’s purpose and objective.

True Detective’s resistance for developing a female role beyond a vengeful wife or a hooker (at least up until now) clearly has taken away from Emily’s enjoyment of the show, and she compares it to “The Fall,” a crime series on BBC that she argues empowers female characters and broaches this discussion with much more tact than Pizzolatto’s vicious slog through desolate Louisiana lands.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the show and also thoroughly enjoyed Emily’s take – it’s certainly fair and reasonable.

In something of a rebuttal to Emily, Tom Hawking wrote a terrific piece for Flavor Wire, beginning with a sensible foundation: That while, no, the women don’t come off well, we should remember that nobody comes off well in True Detective. Hart and Cohle are a pile of soulless thoughts and reprehensible deeds unto their own (which, of course, doesn’t in itself refute Emily’s premise).

The larger point Tom delicately made is summed up nicely by this line: “Above all, the thing to remember is that it’s a mistake to conflate what a show depicts with what it endorses.”

The reason we may be seeing the female characters in the way we are is because that’s specifically how the twisted, egotistical Hart and Cohle see them. That doesn’t mean the show in its entirety is about the degradation and mistreatment of women.

Willa Paskin in Slate, however, writes that’s the whole point of True Detective, this sickly display of female roles and the wasteland that’s left behind the detectives and the case they’re pursuing. (Willa had a particularly good analysis of the “female hierarchy” Marty is continually oblivious to.)

I also liked Molly Lambert’s piece in Grantland, as she went in a different direction than Emily and wrote about the complexity of Maggie.

I would lean with Molly on this one – Maggie, to me, is fascinating. If we’re ranking characters based on personal investment of how this all ends for them, Rust would be far and away my No. 1, but Maggie would be second ahead of her cheating husband, Hart.

The possibility of her holding the code to seemingly every meaningful plot line in this show – certainly the relationships regarding both Rust and Marty, and who the hell knows what she knows about the case or the Yellow King or anything else – is tantalizing in the way that there’s still time for a female character to flip most everything that’s been established. I’m ready for anything with Maggie and am all in her continued development.

One more thoughtful piece worth reading on this subject: Alyssa Rosenberg’s take in Think Progress on why what’s good for women can also be good for men in this show.

How come it took us six episodes to make the women of True Detective the centerpiece of a nuanced discussion?

I don’t know for sure, but two thoughts:

One note Sepinwall makes in his review is that every character besides Hart and Cohle have been two-dimensional and therefore little more than roadside cones passing by in a blur as we remain fixated on the two rugged and thoroughly screwed up detectives.

This show is so heavily driven by their viciousness and failures that even in the scenes that draw more attention to women (such as Maggie having revenge sex with Rust, thus driving a dagger into her relationship with Hart and Hart’s relationship with his soon-to-be ex partner), we’re left wondering what it says about the male character, Hart or Cohle or a killer.

The second thought: “Haunted Houses,” an episode that stepped back from tension-filled scenes and applied glue to the broader puzzle, is the first time we’ve been able to breathe and contemplate anything (at least for me, anyway).

Hell, the fact we’re still talking about the six-minute single shot at the end of the previous episode is one clue as to why we haven’t yet delved into something deeper:

Until now, True Detective hasn’t been a delicate crime show for the thinker as much as its been a five-episode blast furnace on our sensibilities. The fight against visual paralysis has left little time for the fight against misogyny or gender classification of any kind.

In this way, it feels like Emily – and the others who chimed in today – pushed ahead of the game and brought us to the second tier of True Detective discussion.

I’m admittedly slow to analyze anything – choosing first to let the show, movie, book, whatever, wash over my senses – so maybe I feel more behind than others and the role of women and every other twisted moral line has been gnawing at most prior to episode six.

Try as I might, the only question I’ve been able to muster after each episode this season is, “Wait, WHAT!?!?!” (Alas, this is probably why the pros write about this stuff for a living and I just enjoy it with the rest of you).

But finally, with two episodes to go, we’ve reached a place beyond grisly killings and Cohle’s endless supply of cigarettes. As Emily and Tom and everyone else has noted, it’s not fair to nail the final judgment down before the series is over. So we can wait a couple more weeks for that.

By then, maybe Maggie has changed the female tune.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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Now Reading: Internet ruining TV, write like Hemingway, dating apps, LeBron James in GQ, bullet wounds

A selection of stories I read around the Web today …

How the Internet sucks the joy out of TV shows

Vijith Assar had an interesting essay on Wired the other day about how the Internet, and how we align social media with our consumption of television content, is ruining House of Cards for him.

Like many, Vijith likes to follow Twitter while he watches a show, enjoying the jokes and the barbs and general snark the platform provides in abundance, but in the case of House of Cards, he would quickly fall behind as he stopped and rewound the show to watch scenes again. He found two competing desires – participating in the social conversation and giving a show the attention it requires – that struggle to coexist. And so he explains the ramifications or this for him, among delving into other points.

I don’t know if I agree with Vijith’s premise – I’m leaning towards not agreeing – but it’s a thoughtful piece. My feeling: Twitter and the Internet in general is a huge net positive in how we consume stuff. It enhances, enlightens, enrages, enriches and otherwise engages in such a variety of ways that wouldn’t be possible without it. This isn’t to say it’s all good; it’s to say engaging with these is a choice, and choices are good.

I say this as someone who has largely stopped engaging with social media while watching something live, be it a TV show or a sporting event. The enlightening moment came for me during the Super Bowl. I pretty much shut off Twitter during one of its busiest times in the sports world and found that I enjoyed the Super Bowl experience (the game itself wasn’t good) more than I could ever remember.

The reason is simple: I actually watched the game and listened to the broadcast and paid attention to details and thought about things in real time – you know, consume the product. I wasn’t spending 70 percent of my time scrolling through my Twitter feed like I had done during most games on most nights for quite a while. I was a bit surprised how much I didn’t miss it and how much more I enjoyed watching a game again. I regret I didn’t do this during the 2013 MLB playoffs, with Boston’s superb story unfolding.

I watched and enjoyed – and Twitter did add a positive element to the experience – but it didn’t feel the same. The whole reason for having a second screen is to improve how you watch, to make the time more valuable, to give it more weight. In many ways, I experienced the opposite – hollow, fleeting, unsatisfying. It was pretty weird.

Anyway, it’s a simple decision to put the Internet aside, enjoy your show or game, and then go back to the Web for reaction, analysis, jokes or anything else that makes following something fun. All of that is still there. No, the real-time commentary isn’t an option, but it’s also a small price for connecting with material in a way you probably haven’t since social media didn’t exist.

Hemingway app makes you a better writer

As a writer, reader and someone who just cares about and appreciates good work, I don’t know how to feel about an app that can make some write like Hemingway.

It truly is an incredible creation and use of intellectual and technical ability.

And yet … this just shouldn’t be allowed. Sucks to be a creative writing professor now, I guess. Cheating’s never been easier.

Relationships in the tech age

These are presented without further comment: There is an app that lets you bet on friends’ relationships, and there is another app that listens into date conversations and tries to offer advice.

This world we live in …

GQ cover piece on LeBron

I really liked this GQ cover story on LeBron, written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. It’s an interesting look at LeBron as a mature man – the differences from his Cleveland days to now are incredibly, particularly his self-awareness and commitment to being someone people from his hometown can look to as an example of how to make it out of non-ideal circumstances.

Cynical people are probably thinking, “What, be blessed with 6-foot-8 height and otherworldly basketball talent?” But that’s not the point. It’s more about empowering yourself and making choices to change something you don’t like, rather than feeling controlled by it.

Also liked his thoughts on African Americans and change. Here’s a snippet:

So, second of all, regarding change, of course he’s changed. “Good! That’s like a good thing,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Thank you.’ Shit. I’m 29 years old with a family—I’m married with a family. I—of course I’ve changed. The problem is, you haven’t changed. And that’s why you dislike what I do, you know.”

He leans forward. He’s not going to be interrupted on this point. “As an African-American, we hear it a lot where we grow up. You’ve changed.” He’s sick of hearing it used as a criticism. “Because you’ve tried to better yourself and because you’ve made it out. ‘You’re not the same person that we used to know.’ Of course I’m not. I’m trying to better myself. Change is not a bad thing. Thinking that it’s bad, you know, that’s one thing I think is a downfall for African-Americans for sure.”

Really good read.

A new tool that seals bullet wounds in seconds

This is a cool development – a sponge-based tool that plugs bullet wounds almost instantly.

The military is looking into developing it into a product that can be widely used on the battlefield.

Bret Easton Ellis interview

Acclaimed author and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis on writing, the film industry, our social culture and a generation of mentally soft people is worth a look.

Rob Harvilla profiles Eric Church

When I posted a Now Reading the other day with an Eric Church piece in it, one of my buddies said to check out Rob Harvilla’s profile of Church in spin.

Good advice, as it’s a really entertaining read. Check it out.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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Now Reading: Eric Church, Bill Murray’s career, Netflix vs. HBO, Michael Sam, amazing photos, Roger Angell

A selection of stories I read around the Web today … What did you read?

Eric Church profile

I stumbled across the profile linked above through this shorter post from Patrick Doyle in Rolling Stone on Eric Church, and both are worth a read, although the profile from a couple years ago is particularly interesting and should be read first.

It captures Church as a still-rising star in the country music business, an aggressive rough cut of the man he will become a couple years, and millions of records sold, down the road. He’s edgy, vulgar and projects the aura of strained artist, a craftsman who promises to never be softened by fame and money and forever driven by his work.

He’s a drinker, a hard-liver, a personality inevitably headed for burnout. “Once your career becomes about something other than the music, then that’s what it is,” he says. “I’ll never make that mistake. I don’t care if I f—ing starve.”

After spending a little time with that Church, it’s wild to read the second post about the Church who’s just produced his fourth album, “The Outsiders.”

“S—, I don’t know if we’ll make another one,” he says. “I can’t imagine continuing to try to push the envelope. How do you keep doing that?”

Church is 36, a young man in both life and business. Does that sound like the same guy who said he’d “starve” for his music? Not at all, which isn’t to suggest Church has softened. Just that he seems exhausted, which makes this parallel look from the profile to the recent post fascinating, the wearing down of an entertainer’s treads.

They’re both good reads, and I particularly enjoyed Church’s almost obsessive competitiveness for his music and selling more tickets than some of his industry brethren. Good stuff.

Bill Murray’s career timeline

Nathan Rabin at The Dissolve went through every movie Bill Murray has ever appeared in and analyzed his career arc. It’s an incredible well of information for those who aren’t experts on Murray’s career and an astonishing commitment from Rabin.

I thoroughly read some pieces of it and skimmed others, as it’s very long, but just the sheer amount of work Rabin poured into this makes it worth the click. Bill Murray himself probably thinks Rabin is crazy for this project.

The battle between Netflix and HBO

David Carr and Ravi Somaiya of The New York Times dig into the increasingly public battle for premium television’s No. 1 spot between Netflix and HBO, a good look at the most compelling TV content competition.

What makes this fun is both companies are producing a high-level content currently, and yet it feels like the programming “arms race,” as one source in the story put it, is just beginning. That, of course, means great things for consumers of television. I’m fascinated by the dueling approaches to creating content these two companies take.

Netflix offers more autonomy to writers and directors, allowing them more editorial control over the product, while HBO and its executives are more heavily evolved in the development of content. Both have proven to be successful paths, but I wonder if in the future that will be one of the tipping points in this battle – if more prominent writers and directors and actors choose the great freedom (without taking a cut in pay) Netflix offers or if HBO’s long history of success provides an element of security for a small price in control.

Michael Sam’s marketing potential

Good info from Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick on how Michael Sam announcing last week he is gay will affect his marketing opportunities as he’s, presumably, selected in May’s NFL Draft and embarks on a professional football career.

Some thought that Sam would see an immediate boom in endorsements given many companies are interested in partnering with a high-profile gay athlete, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not initially. Sam’s agents told Soshnick they want to limit the opportunities in the interim, and Soshnick nails the whole thing with his opening line: “Michael Sam’s income from off-field activities will be determined by his on-field performance and not his sexual orientation.”

As it should be.

The stories behind 2013’s best news photos

This is really cool: Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger for The Washington Post, collected the overall winner and the five news category winners in World Press Photo’s 2013 competition and included the background story for each.

Given my professional obligations in sports and heavy interests in content and digital media, I don’t get a chance to consume as much writing as I’d like outside of those areas. I get to as much as possible, but inevitably I miss a ton. Anyway, this is quick snapshot of the incredible humanity seen across great content every day.

Good reminder of the power of content when created to tell a story.

Roger Angell on life in the nineties

This man is 93 years old and writing like THAT?

A master at work.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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