Annie Proulx in praise of the happy ending

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx just won the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution, and she gave a wonderful acceptance speech in praise of the happy ending.  Here are some highlights, but you can read the whole thing over at Vulture:

“Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was 58, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

“We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth — an indescribably difficult task as we discover that the web of life is far more mysteriously complex than we thought and subtly entangled with factors that we cannot even recognize. But we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do…

“Hence the indispensable silver lining, the lovers reunited, the families reconciled, the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded, fortunes regained, treasures uncovered, stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways, good names restored, greed daunted, old maids married off to worthy parsons, troublemakers banished to other hemispheres, forgers of documents tossed down the stairs, seducers scurried to the altar, orphans sheltered, widows comforted, pride humbled, wounds healed, prodigal sons summoned home, cups of sorrow tossed into the ocean, hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation, general merriment and celebration, and the dog Fido, gone astray in the first chapter, turns up barking gladly in the last.”

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XKCD answers the question “What will new technology do to us?”

When you have questions about what will technology do to us, the first place to look at is the web comic XKCD:

XKCD comic on technology's impact on us.

Remember: New technology is always scary!

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24-hour Video Game Streaming Fund Raiser

Aaron & Michelle Blackman

My friend and occasional guest blogger Aaron Blackman is doing a 24-hour live streaming video game fund raiser for Omaha Children’s Hospital. He writes:

My wonderful wife Michelle had surgery on her heart when she was 3 years old. She received excellent care from her local children’s hospital, staying there for a week to recover. 

I owe a lot to the Children’s Miracle Network, so I’d love to give back.

On November 15th, I’ll be playing games for 24 hours to raise funds for sick kids at the Omaha Children’s Hospital!

You can watch his live stream on Twitch, and if you want to join me in helping him raise money through the Extra Life  Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser, you can make your contribution here.

Watch live video from Flagg05 on

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Why you need to pay attention to what you write (It can be spelled right and still be wrong)

Over the last few weeks there have been several spectacular copyediting errors in newspapers around the country that probably passed right through a spelling/grammar check but still managed to totally humiliate the publication and the staff members responsible.

For example:

Clemson clinches birth in ACC ChampionshipI rather doubt that the Clemson football team was having babies, but….

Then there was this one that looks like a food story…

Party divided over sex clams.

But was actually about the Roy Moore senate race sexual abuse scandal. By the way, if you search for “sex clams” in Google… well, don’t.

Then finally, there’s the headline that looks like it was written by a couple of snickering teen-aged boys.

Students get first hand job experience

It’s not often that a single hyphen will turn something from ordinary into NSFW…  Probably not the way this paper wanted a story to go viral.

Lesson of the day: Always proofread.

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In the Battle of Disney vs. The Press, The Press Won

Headline from LA Times about Disney and Anaheim.As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Disney recently entered into an ill-advised battle with the Los Angeles Times because the media conglomerate didn’t like how the newspaper was covering the company’s business relationships with the city of Anaheim.

Disney (aka The Mouse) retaliated against the paper by banning LA Times critics from attending the studio’s movie press screenings. (These screenings are so critics can publish reviews on the day that movies are released.)

But this afternoon Disney backed off from that ban after  movie critics and pop culture writers across the country responded by standing with the Times, refusing to attend early screenings or consider Disney movies for end-of-the-year awards until the ban was lifted.

The Walt Disney Company, in a statement, said:

“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.”

The company said nothing about responding to pressure from the press across the country.

Among the early writers to stand up for the LA Times was Washington Post  pop culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg:

As Rosenberg later emphasized, this was her decision alone, not that of the Washington Post as a paper.

But Rosenberg wasn’t standing alone in her support of the LA Times. Joining in the boycott were The A.V. Club and the New York Times. Four of the big critics groups also announced they would not consider any Disney films for their annual awards if the LA Times ban stood:

And then the Television Critics Association weighed in with criticism of Disney as well.

All of this only served to promote the story about Disney’s sweetheart relationship with Anaheim that the media conglomerate so desperately wanted suppressed.  But this, of course, is among the first lessons in public relations – Don’t give the press an excuse to write about the story you want to go away.  As Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff tweeted:

Or as Variety’s television critic Mo Ryan wrote:

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe) – All-Disney Edition

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Telling the story of the California fires through comics

We often think of comics as being either funny stories or super hero dramas.  And they can be all that. But many of the best comics tell intensely personal stories about life, death, and surviving the time in-between.

Let's GoI was reminded of this last week when I read the heartbreaking “A Fire Story” by writer/artist Brian Fies that tells the story of his family’s experience with the runaway wildfires still burning in California and the West. Fies is an award-winning artist who won an Eisner Award for his comic “Mom’s Cancer.” (An Eisner is commonly described as the Oscar or Grammy for the world of comics.)

Ties told The Washington Post’s comics blogger Michael Cavna:

“When I began working on my ‘Fire’ comic, my wife said the same thing she did when I began ‘Mom’s Cancer’: ‘Well, it’ll be good therapy for you.’

“It is that, but I really see my main motivation as bearing witness,” Fies says. “ ‘I was there — this is what I saw.’ I was a newspaper reporter for a few years after college and have been a freelance writer since, and this comic, like ‘Mom’s Cancer,’ feels like doing journalism to me. I’m using words plus pictures to explain what happened and tell the truth as best I can…

“One thing I think is true is that readers respond to authenticity,” says Fies. “They sense the difference between someone who’s lived an experience and someone who’s faking it. I think in order to be good, a story has to tell the truth. I did the best I could.”

I urge you all to follow the link and read the entire comic.  It’s not only a great story, but it will also give you a much better understanding of what’s happening on the West Coast right now. (Please note that the comic contains a limit amount of bad language.  Given the context, I think it’s understandable.)

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How Lin-Manuel Miranda helped boost a tweet about insulin in Puerto Rico

InsulinThe one thing you need to know about me as I tell this story is that I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic.

My pancreas checked out several years ago and no longer does much.  Which means that I have to manually control how much insulin I take in so I can process the carbohydrates I eat too much of.

The thing non-diabetics might not know is that insulin is a relatively perishable medication. You need to keep insulin in a refrigerator for long-term storage, and you absolutely must keep it from getting too hot — like hot-summer-day hot. If you run out of insulin and can’t get a fresh vial or pen of it, your blood sugars shoot up, you start feeling terrible, and, if this goes on too long, you do serious damage to your body and eventually die.

I tell you this to explain why, when I heard this story on NPR, I started to cry.

In the story, diabetic Juan Natal came to Puerto Rico to visit ill parents, and he got stranded there because of Hurricane Maria.  His trip home to the mainland was delayed about a week, and uring his unexpectedly long stay, he ran out of money, and, more importantly, insulin.

And yet, even as tough as things were for him, Natal by now is likely (hopefully!) on his way back to his home where there are refrigerators and drug stores stocked with insulin. But my heart continues to break for those living in Puerto Rico who have no idea where their next vials of fresh insulin will come from.

So I was thrilled to see this tweet from diabetes advocate Ally (who tweets under the handle @verylightnosuga) that the Lilly Corporation was distributing vials and injection pens full of fresh insulin around the island of Puerto Rico.

When I saw this, I thought about Natal’s story, and I wanted to do everything I could to help spread the word.  But what could I do here in central Nebraska?

Of course!

Ask Hamilton composer superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose family is from Puerto Rico, to help. He’s been very busy with fund raising and activism for PR since Maria stormed through.  But he’s got 1.8 million followers.  What chance is there that he will see and pass this on?  Can’t hurt to ask…

And within a couple of hours, this very simple reply pops up:

And with that emoji pointing to my request, Ally’s message took off. From Lin-Manuel’s account, within 24 hours it has been shared more than 3,500 times and liked more than 7,000 times.  From my much more modest account, it’s been shared and liked more than 400 times.

And because of that, word of the problem of insulin shortages in Puerto Rico and news of the locations where Lilly is distributing it has been boosted massively.  Ally’s message alone has had more than 1,100 shares.

So, thank you so much Mr. Miranda for your help! And thanks to everyone else who helped share this important message.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to help share the song and video Lin-Manuel Miranda composed and assembled for Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria relief. In a riff from West Side Story, it’s called “Almost Like Praying.” (Maria in West Side Story, get it…?) You can help with the relief effort your self by downloading the song from your favorite service.  I bought my copy through iTunes.




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How watching a movie leads to Facebook ad

I recently watched the movie The Fifth Element on TV at home, and I don’t believe I posted anything about it, though I certainly searched it for cast and crew information. Fascinating to see that such a low level of online engagement has produced this ad on my Facebook page… (I did, however, watch it using iTunes on my Apple TV.)

Fifth Element T-shirt

This ad for Fifth Element t-shirt showed up on my Facebook page this morning.

The trailer for Luc Besson’s  The Fifth Element:

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A few more thoughts on the Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a fairly simple test for the presence of women in movies.  It asks three simple questions:

  • Are there two or more women in the movie who have names?
  • Do they talk to each other?
  • Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

There has been a lot of controversy over the test that include the fact that movies  that pass can be quite sexist, the fact that movies with prominent roles for women don’t pass, and that the test ignores the role of women behind the camera. Here are a couple of videos that deal with these issues:

Top 10 Movies that Surprisingly Pass the Bechdel Test (From MsMojo)

The Bechdel Test is the WORST

An intersting video about the role (or lack thereof) of women behind the camera in the movies, from indie filmmaker Bri Castellini.



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