Crumbs of The Internet No. 5: Pussy Riot, Demon Possession and Storytelling

'Pussy Riot Putin' photo (c) 2012, AK Rockefeller - license:

As I wrote this post, I’m sitting in a crowded Starbucks shop. I’ve been spending a lot of time in coffee shops this week, mostly trying to work through writing.

I would interview sources and ask very dumb questions. I collected too much information. And now, as I work on getting the rough draft of this story into something I would be okay showing another human being, I find myself working against writers block.

I attribute all of this to this one article by Poynter: What you can learn about video storytelling from the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial [Video]. Al Tomkins goes shot by shot through Budwiser’s commercial, “Puppy Love,” and shows why it’s a good story. Although he talks towards people telling stories through video, us scribblers can learn a thing or two.

You’d think crafting a story with all of the elements described in the video would be simple, but no. Gotta work with the material that’s given you, and it’s hard to compete with puppies and horses.

Another piece of “inspiration” I found was this video of Malcolm Gladwell in which he describes the strategies underdogs can use to succeed. And that’s why I’m pulling longer hours in coffee shops these last few days.

It’s purely coincidental that I read two stories about demon possession this week. The first one comes from Esquire Magazine where it profiles an exorcist in the Catholic Church.  On its own, the story is mildly interesting, but don’t you ever wonder why demon possession is never documented? Most of those accounts boil down to hearsay.

But the story in the Indianapolis  Star titled “The exorcisms of Latoya Ammons has some weight to it: it cites medical documents, third party witnesses. After reading, it’s hard to form an opinion about it afterwards. The comments at the end of this GetReligion blog post helped.

Let’s end this post with a true longform piece by Buzzfeed about the band Pussy Riot. The piece doesn’t just explain the origins of the “band” and why it’s music is almost nonexistant. It continues deeper to explore the connection of the Orthodox Church and government in Russia, and to explain the culture of Russia.

Now, if I can only write a longform piece like that…


Crumbs of the Internet is a weekly post where I link to some of the interesting stories I read online over the last week. 

Crumbs of the Internet No. 4: Superbowl Sunday and Southern snow

'MetLife Stadium Prepares For Super Bowl 48 (XLVIII)' photo (c) 2014, Anthony Quintano - license:

This post is book-ended by two notable events: Superbowl Sunday and the snow that froze the South. Not surprisingly, the more interesting articles that I found online spoke to both these events.

Rebecca Burns, editor for Atlanta Magazine, explains in Politico Magazine the fault for the paralysis in Atlanta last week lies not with southern drivers, but by political moves made years before.

In Chattanooga, the snow is melted off the road. Today was warm, with remnants of snow clinging onto the sidewalks that lie in the shade. While Tuesday’s storm is now a cautionary tale on preparedness and snow driving, it’s the weekend. Superbowl weekend.

Every year, the game takes a backseat for me so that I can focus on what sport fanatics may see as the peripherals to the game: food and commercials. I see commercials as a window to the values of the audience. How is Coke defining what happiness is this year? How are filmmakers telling stories in 60 or 30 seconds?

So in that same vein of cultural analysis, I bring to you this post by Slate in which they “cover” the Superbowl as if it was held in a foreign country. The writer’s knife of wit is less than razor sharp but don’t let that dissuade you. The post brings an interesting perspective to the game.

This year’s game is the 10-year anniversary of “nipplegate,” the infamous half-time show with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This ESPN Magazine piece  says that performance was a watershed moment in American culture, that American media now is different than it was then. (A word of caution, the ESPN piece is intended for a mature audience.)

Rounding out this week, I was reading a bit of The Village Voice, the alt-weekly paper of New York City. While mainstream media zigs, the alternative publications zag, providing a fuller view of the world. The Voice’s profile of Dee Farmer, a transgender inmate whose Supreme Court case is a landmark case on how prisoners are treated, shows just how that is done.

Finally, I’ll finish with a piece about John McCandlish Phillips, a Christian journalist who was at one point the best reporter at the New York Times. I first learned about Phillips in the Introduction to Journalism at Bryan College, where he became one of the journalists I admired. I read more about him through his obituary when he died April 9, 2013. This feature written in the 90’s shows yet another side to the man.

Crumbs of the Internet no. 3: toast, photos and a Sundance film

When toast is more than a piece of bread (Longform) — I like this food story. It goes deeper than a fun story on high-end toast (How fluffy! How silly!) and digs into the heart and raw past of the trend starting on the West Coast. (h/t Buzzfeed) 

The sentence that created the national security policy we have today (Longform)  — This is the PSA article for the week. This story by Buzzfeed helped me understand the start of it all: NSA spying, Edward Snowden, Guantanamo Bay, drones.

How the Internet changed writing — Let’s get past the obvious: the Internet has made it easier to get something — anything — onto a page. This Q&A with the founder of The Awl shows the more things progress, the more they stay the same. Work hard, my friend!

Photographed breaking news? That picture may be worth more than you think — I wish I knew about this back at the beginning of 2012 when I photographed the National Park Service evicting Occupy protesters from McPherson Square. Time to start reading up on copyright law. 

Notes on Blindness,’ a selection from the Sundance Film Festival (Video) — This New York Times film explores the meditations of John Hull, who lost his sight in 1983. Like a good film, it has many layers. Instead of spoiling any part of it for you, I’ll let you watch it.

Crumbs of the Internet is a weekly post where I link to the notable stories that I read the week before. Its a mix of longform pieces, journalism advice and other things I found on the Internet which I found helpful. 

Crumbs of the Internet no. 2: Cookies, bounty hunting and mad skilz

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the second time that I compile a bunch of articles that I found helpful or interesting, just in time for the weekend.

A history of everyone’s favorite cookie — Thought the chocolate-chip cookie was always part of American food culture? Think again because the idea of paring cookie and chocolate has been around for less than 100 years. The New Yorker dives into the history of this cornerstone cookie.

Bounty hunting in the 21st Century (Longform) — Wired Magazine called Michelle Gomez the best bounty hunter in the world. The 4-foot, 11-inch-tall woman does not appea like she could track down and turn in criminals on the run. However, her expertise in computers makes her able to crack the toughest cases. This article shows us how.

Should you type two spaces after a sentence? — This article should settle once and for all why you should never type two spaces after a sentence. (Hint: it’s because they  said so.) The correction at the end of the article is pretty interesting, too.

Skills you can learn for free right now — I included this story because I want easy access to this link and I figured you would too. While you could always Google “how to code Ruby” or “how to learn Excel,”  this Buzzfeed article has it all on one page. Sure, this article came out at the beginning of the year when everyone was making New Year resolutions, but I’m going to return to it when I want to learn about game theory.

How to fight death (Essay) — New York-based writer and paramedic Daniel José Older muses about saving life, fighting death and coping with the pressure. It’s a gritty read.

In which I offer you some of the interesting crumbs of the web

While in college, I tried to create an email blast which gathered interesting stories from around the web. It went out a few times to all the students on the Bryan College campus before the school official in charge of managing the college’s enrollment shut the project down.

You can read how this started here.

Well, the whole episode is in the past. I have that piece of parchment paper somewhere in my room and I’m on my own.

I enjoyed those precious few weeks of pouring over longform journalism, sharing what moved me with the rest of campus.

I decided that I’ll do the same here on this blog. Every week, I’ll post a list of stories, videos and infographics that I found helpful and well done.

How will this look? Well, look below:

How to use the F-word (opinion) — This comes courtesy of one of my friends on Facebook. Writing coach Roy Peter Clark writes on CNN about the history, grammar and use of the F-word. (And yes, this link is one that could not have been distributed on a Christian college campus.)

The real secret life of Walter Mitty (short story) — The movie starring Ben Stiller has been out for a few weeks now. This is the second time that Walter Mitty has graced the silver screen, with his first time being portrayed by Danny Kaye. However, this is short story is where it all began. Less is more in this instance, because I found the short story more thought-provoking than either film.

The shadow-king of e-commerce — This long read from The Atlantic delves into the life and business practices of Jesse Willms, the man behind the internet ads touting that “One weird trick to a slimmer belly” and other ads offering items and services that look too good to be true.

How to do better food journalism — I expect only the journos will be interested in this article. Yes, this article is old (2004), but I think it sets a vision for what food journalism could be.  Around that time, the coverage of food changed from recipes to something more substantial.