Long=distance operator Elizabeth Keener poses with Princess phones in 1959.

Long=distance operator Elizabeth Keener poses with Princess phones in 1959.

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:

A busy telephone exchange, somewhere in England, in 1943.

A busy telephone exchange, somewhere in England, in 1943.

Annotation Tuesday! Ron Rosenbaum and “The Secrets of the Little Blue Box.” This annotation of the 1971 classic about the “phone phreak” forerunners of today’s hackers is one of my favorites. Not only is the annotation truly epic, but as Tom McNichol points out in the intro: “Rosenbaum’s article is the rare magazine story that not only chronicled history, it also shaped it. A tech enthusiast named Steve Wozniak read Rosenbaum’s piece, and then showed it to his friend Steve Jobs. Before long, the two collaborated on building and selling their own blue boxes. It was the first product release of what would eventually become one of the world’s most valuable companies – Apple.”

The soundtrack: “Call Me,” by Blondie. OK, it’s a bit obvious. But it’s a great song, and this lyric fits: “Call me on the line/Call me, call me any, anytime/Call me, my love/You can call me any day or night/Call me.”

One Great Sentence:

“The fences insured against a time when a scavenger in Gautam Nagar might learn that a shot of rare Scotch consumed in ten minutes at the Sheraton’s ITC Maratha cost exactly as much as he earned in seven hundred fourteen-hour days picking up aluminum cans and used tampon applicators, and find that information too much to bear.”

Katherine Boo, “Opening Night,” The New Yorker, February 23, 2009. Read here why we think it’s great.

A protester at the women's march in New York City last month.

A protester at the women's march in New York City last month.

5(ish) Questions: A Saudi feminist’s spoken-word performance finds its power in protest. I like getting different types of storytelling, and different types of perspectives, on Storyboard. In this piece, Jasmine Bager speaks to Waad Janbi, a fellow Saudi woman, about the spoken-word performance she put up on YouTube after last month’s Women’s March. I was struck by how Saudi feminists have protested the gender inequalities in their homeland with their fingers, typing away on their smartphones and laptops, but that this was the first time Janbi had protested with her feet. Empowering.

The soundtrack: “I Shall Be Released,” by Nina Simone. I love (the FIERCE) Simone’s covers of Dylan songs.  I’ll give some more lyrics: “I remember every face/ Of every man who put me here/I see my light come shining/From the west onto the east/ Any day now, any day how, I shall be released.”

What I’m reading online: Getting close to a year ago now, I decided to drive across country as a marker between my old life in L.A. and my new one in Maine. It took a lot of planning to avoid the soullessness of  endless interstates dotted with depressing flashes of corporate America. So “Driving America,” by Jacob Hoerger for The Point, resonated with me. He writes, “It begins to make sense why Kerouac’s journey had to be enhanced by drugs and sex, Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert had to gratify Lolita daily with candy and magazines and John Steinbeck needed the company of his dog Charley: they were all trying to distract themselves from the road’s emptiness.”

IMG_6595What’s on my bedside table: “Great Granny Webster,” by Caroline Blackwood. Reading about Blackwood is almost as entertaining as the book itself. A great beauty herself, she was the daughter of an even greater beauty, and heir to the Guinness fortune. Blackwood was muse to poet Robert Lowell and artist Lucien Freud (she married both). The introduction to this novel says it was a Booker finalist, but lost on the “decisive vote cast by Philip Larkin, who reportedly insisted that a tale so autobiographical could not stand as fiction.” Which is patently absurd, because it takes the skill of a great writer to transform a miserable childhood into an acutely observed black comedy.

wellerWhat’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: “Saturns Pattern,” by Paul Weller. A kind friend gave me this album, which thrilled me because 1) Paul Weller is a god; 2) I figured out from the sleeve photos that the album title comes from a retro/vintage mic, which shows the brand name — Saturn — and the knob for “pattern select”; and 3) that red-licorice-colored vinyl. Oh, and the music isn’t shabby, either. He’s still got it.

If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), you can reach me at editor@niemanstoryboard.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.

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