March 31, 2011

Early cherry blossoms.

Click the shutter, & your photo is online.

Thom Hogan and others have been calling for camera makers to make "social cameras". The idea being that since your cellphone can take snapshots and upload them to facebook, why would you want to carry a point-and-shoot camera that can't, but that instead requires messing with memory cards and cables, etc.?

Well, the "social camera" is here: It's any camera (that takes an SD card), with an Eye-Fi card loaded in place of a normal SD card.

Remarkable and revolutionary. We've tried it, and we can report that it really works.


[Use of trademarks & product names is by fair use and does not imply endorsement or sponsorship.]

March 28, 2011

March 27, 2011

Something about a story is not a story.

If, upon watching a video on an organization's web site, your description of the video is, "It's the story of what they do", or, "It shows what they do", you've viewed a message, or a description, or lots of information, not a story.

If your response is, "That's a great story about what the organization accomplishes," or, "I could really relate to [the protagonist]", or, later that day, you find yourself sharing what you have seen, now that's a story.

March 25, 2011


To make a bicycle work, we have found that it is not sufficient to pedal it, you must also keep air in its tires.

To put air into our bicycle tires, we got a great big floor pump with a silly name, which, to our surprise, came with a magazine subscription.

At least, that's what the magazine told us, when we asked then please why are you sending us your magazine, they said, you're getting it as a gift from the big online retailer from whom you bought that great floor pump. Maybe among all those papers we recycled along with the box that had the pump was one paper that said thank you for your business we are giving you a magazine subscription. No problem. But no thanks. We don't need to recycle that magazine every month.

So, we went to that magazine's website and entered the subscriber ID from our subscriber's label and selected 'cancel subscription' – and were offered three more free issues:

"Would you consider not canceling at this time if we offer to extend your current subscription by 3 issues at no extra cost"?

What was that old joke? The two old ladies are at dinner, and one says, the food here is so bad, and the other says, yes, and the portions are so small.

March 22, 2011

Beer warning.

Beer drinkers, be wary!

You might be offered something called "Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout" without being properly warned that the stuff is dominantly flavored with vanilla, giving it a relationship to actual beer which is perhaps not entirely dissimilar to that enjoyed by root beer. Or cream soda.

Same magnolia, different day.

Change, movement, & friction.

Just one sentence from "Democracy 101: Mark Twain's farewell address" by Lewis H. Lapham in the April 2011 issue of Harper's Magazine:
Democracy is a dangerous business; it allies itself to change, which engenders movement, which induces friction, which implies unhappiness, which assumes conflict not only as the normal but also as the necessary condition of its existence.

March 21, 2011

A long, long time ago in a faraway land...

As opposed to giving background prior to sharing a story, jump right in and set the scene. When your listener hears a list of facts, or a description of relationships, or a reason why you are in this place at this time, he or she tries to hold onto all that information, and gets caught up in trying to remember it, wondering in what context they will have to apply the information, and how he or she might have to string all the facts together.

Being confronted with a long list of facts, especially without any context, can be anxiety-producing. Peter Gruber, author of the newly published book,
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, says, "Facts give you perspiration, stories give you inspiration."

When you start your story by setting the scene, the listener is immediately transported into the story. There's a reason why stories start, "A long long time ago in a faraway land..." When we hear that, we're there. As listeners, we think, "Great, I'm going to hear a story, and I can relax now, because all the information inherent in the story will be presented in a context I can easily understand. It's a story; all I have to do is listen."

As Brian Boyd writes in On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, a story "simplifies the cognitive task of comprehension....It does so efficiently because it acts as a superstimulus by focusing on intense experience and concentrated change. These not only hook attention but rouse emotion, which in turn amplifies memory."

A client with whom I am now working on developing a strategic story, to be used with a potential donor, began to share her story by stepping backward, and throwing lots of content at me: this is what I do; let me introduce the character and tell you why I was speaking with her; let me tell you how this person and place relates to all the other people and places with whom and where I work. In other words, she was in effect saying, "You have to know all of these things before I can share, and you can possibly appreciate, my story."

No. You have a story to share, and I want to hear it. Engage me. You have strategically chosen this story, so I will relate to the characters and the content. You are not asking me to completely redirect my thinking. Do not insult me, or underestimate yourself, by thinking a lot of background is necessary for my understanding. Help me to reduce what Boyd calls my "comprehension costs" and whet my curiosity.

I asked my client to imagine, instead, starting with, "In early of January of this year, I met with Connie Hernandez at Dynasty, the beauty salon she runs in the Clearview strip mall. Connie is a small, vivacious, woman, who has been struggling to keep this salon open... "

Reader, did you just picture Connie? The salon? The strip mall?

March 20, 2011

A Sunday prognostication.

We suspect that we are not alone in having a dog in order to walk around talking to ourself without being stopped and detained for evaluation; so, we suggest that the evident proliferation of cellphones, earbud headsets, & bluetooth earpieces presages a decrease in dog ownership.

March 19, 2011

Behind every great X is a Y.

Here again is the magnolia we brought in:

Studio background? Just a thin kitchen cutting board, with a dialed-down SB-600 speedlight behind it:

... another magnolia ...

[We cut one off and brought it inside to shoot, 18 March 2011].

March 18, 2011

Spring's early blossoms...

[A magnolia in our side yard, yesterday; photo taken using our camera from Sendai.]

March 17, 2011

Long-Form Storytelling in a Short-Attention-Span World

Last night, I attended Long-Form Storytelling in a Short-Attention-Span World, the first public event of the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, in conjunction with The New School. The panelists were:
Ira Glass
, Host and Producer, This American Life
David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker
Raney Aronson-Rath
, Series Senior Producer, Frontline
Stephen Engelberg
, Managing Editor, ProPublica
The moderator was Alison Stewart,
Co-Anchor, Need To Know.

Here are my notes from the discussion

If it's a really great story, you wind up in a place you couldn't imagine at the beginning.

Sometimes you have to publish a writer's B piece in order to get their A piece.

Great stories happen to those who can tell them.

Glass said that his mentor, Keith Talbot of NPR, told him: "Every story is an answer to the question, "How should I live my life?"

The new era of all these choices tends to crowd out poorly done, bad journalism.

We used to save the good stuff for the end, because we thought everyone would watch all the way through. Now, we're seeing that we need to know more, earlier.
[On the use of iPads, etc, to watch Frontline]
People want to be more engaged in the content. We need to move from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional storytelling. We need to let people see eyes and pores.

Language is still the greatest invention we have...I'm not sure I want readers to leap out of language and into video just because the technology is available.

We use the other media to take the viewer 15 feet deeper. How do you use the other media, righteously?

I'm not sure I agree with the premise of this panel: that we live in a short attention span world. People listen to us for an average of 48 minutes!

If the story is good enough it's going to reach 2 degrees deeper than the surface stuff and change somebody's life in a significant way.
We have to think about the density of a story. I mean density in the best sense, like chocolate cake.

I try to outwit the reader...I try to give people enough candy to keep them interested.

It can't all be brown food.

The Kindle, the iPad, etc., is about to make long-form journalism incredibly accessible.

The New York Times is elitist because it tries to do the greatest thing possible.

Radio is reporting on things that have happened. In order for TV to be compelling, it has to be emotionally compelling; something has to be happening. TV is like reporting on the future!

March 16, 2011

Sometimes, a brain does "light up"

Energy-efficient brain-shaped light bulb by Solovyov Design.

From Sendai to K-Town.

As we photographed early blossoms of Spring yesterday, we paused, thinking of the people at the Nikon factory in Sendai who made the camera we held in our hands, and of their friends, family, & neighbors – surely some have been affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and on-going nuclear crisis. You can help.

March 7, 2011

Brown, Grey, & Green.

"Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees."

- John Berger

Vincent Grey is the recently-elected Mayor of Washington, DC. During the campaign, candidate debates were regularly marked by another candidate, Mr. Sulaimon Brown, proclaiming "Vote Brown, vote Grey, vote any color you want, just don't vote [for incumbent Mayor Adrian] Fenty!"

After Mr. Grey took office, Mr. Brown was given a job in his administration, but was soon fired, when some facts about Mr. Brown's past came out.

To support these contentions, Mr. Brown has made his cellphone records available to the Washington Post, which has assembled a data graphic summarizing calls between him and Mr. Grey, and between him and Mr. Grey's campaign chair, Ms. Lorraine Green.

We at NeuroCooking today celebrate the key, or graphical legend, to the Washington Post's fine data graphic:

March 6, 2011

Small harbingers.

[Crocuses beside the driveway, yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.]

March 3, 2011

You read it here first!

We "predict" that, this Saturday, Mark Trail will wind up on a secret island inhabited and controlled by nasty drug smugglers.

March 2, 2011

Correction of the day!

"An article on Tuesday ... misstated the amount of energy needed to keep a 100-watt bulb lighted for an hour. It is 360,000 joules, not eight million joules."


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