Just in time for the weekend, here’s a little list of some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading this week, some of it online — Storyboard included, natch — and some of it on vinyl or actual ink and paper.
Two of my biggest loves are narrative journalism and music, and I’m lucky that my days are filled with both. When reading stories, I get inspired by songs I think fit the article’s theme — a soundtrack. To start out, here are a couple of this week’s Storyboard articles, and their soundtracks:
5(ish) Questions: Stuart Palley and “Terra Flamma: Wildfires at Night.” I’m really happy to be getting more image-based storytelling on the site. Not only does it take less of a time commitment, sometimes the photos are so evocative, you get to create your own story about them. Don Bartletti writes:
His photographs are remarkable because they show things that we can’t see. Palley shoots long-exposure photographs of scenes that are dark, real dark, save for the dim, smoldering beast lingering in the scorched landscape…. They look otherworldly, like they’ve been manipulated after the fact. But they’re not. In Palley’s photos, you find the world like you’ve never seen it.
The soundtrack: “Ring of Fire,” by Johnny Cash. When I saw the photo that captured the arc of a helicopter flying over the wildfire (see main image), I heard this song. Yes, it’s about love (and who doesn’t swoon when thinking about Johnny’s love for June?), but the imagery and intensity fit Palley’s photos.
5 Questions: Abigail Keel and the RadioLab episode “Debatable.” Speaking of featuring different forms of storytelling, it’s very cool to spotlight podcasts like this fascinating RadioLab episode about a black, queer student in the rarefied world of debating societies. I like this insight into how the podcast chooses its stories:
Nobody in a RadioLab pitch meeting is saying, “Wait what’s the hook for today?” They’re just following whatever they find interesting and curious and maybe something that’s difficult to grapple with. Those are the kinds of things and the kinds of feelings that they like to talk about on their show. The whole podcasting medium definitely has followed that train and is able to look into things that might not make it into the NPR newscast.
The soundtrack: “Debate Exposes Doubt,” by Death Cab for Cutie. Although my pure-pop heart belongs to their former Barsuk label mates Nada Surf, Death Cab for Cutie do have a gift for soaring melody. Speaking of which, frontman Ben Gibbard is going to cover the stellar Teenage Fanclub album “Bandwagonesque” this year. Pure pop times two equals wow. Can’t wait.
What I’m reading online: I feel like I’m not spotlighting literary journalism much these days, because it’s so vital to point out must-reads on the existential journalism front. This Medium piece by Russian reporter Alexey Kovalev was chilling from the headline (“A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media”) to the last sentence. How about this for a lede? “Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now …” I think I’m particularly haunted by the images of the journalists holding up large, multicolored placards to get Putin’s attention, like it’s a “Let’s Make a Deal” for journalists (who mercifully, at least, aren’t forced to wear silly costumes. Yet.)
What’s on my bedside table: “Journalism,” by Charles H. Olin. I just came across this in my library, and thought it was perfect for a week when journalism once again came under fire (something I suspect we’ll have to get used to). Not only is the title page a thing of beauty, it has this great line in the introduction, something as true today as it was more than a century ago when it was written: “In spite of its many faults and surface frivolities, journalism is an honorable calling, as it is certainly one of the greatest enlightening and civilizing forces of modern times.”
What’s on my turntable: Although I spend most of my time listening to music on Spotify, sometimes I want to hear the needle touching down on vinyl. This week’s vinyl: “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” by Tammy Wynette. What a pure voice she has, with that great little hiccup-catch. And who wouldn’t love some of the titles? The eponymous one, of course. But how about “Don’t Come Home a-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” and “I Wound Easy (but I Heal Fast)”? And no, I don’t love them only because they have parentheses…
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.