We had a few pretty common meditations in MPub, and two of them were about the future of digital media in publishing and how digital media could be used creatively to tell good stories. At the time many of my classmates were enthralled by The Wilderness Downtown, a song by Arcade Fire and HTML5 website.
Personally, I wasn’t that impressed.
This week though, I happened to catch a website that I thought was doing really interesting things how they told a story using a website. Thin Ice: Exploring Mount Hood’s Glacier Caves is a big project set to kick off the 25th anniversary of Oregon Field Guide. Click that link and read the story. Scroll down and take note of images appearing as you read, and how multimedia ancillary material is presented. Background images are possibly the most thrilling thing about this page, as the photography is beautiful and the background actually changes as you scroll into each new chapter of the story.
Bestill my beating heart! In my mind, this site is a far better use of digital media and way more compelling than ebooks. As an ex-employee of Oregon Public Broadcasting, I am not surprised they’re leading the way in terms of both quality content and innovative use of media.
Yesterday I listened to my beloved Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! podcast, and the weekly guest for their game “Not My Job” was none other than Henry Winkler. You know—the Fonz. Cool, shark-jumping Fonzie. (As well as Yale School of Drama grad , which makes me insanely jealous, as they rejected my application to their dramaturgy program in 2003.)
There are a number of celebrities, as it turns out, that have spent time in Montana. My landlord used to work for Jim Nabors (aka Gomer Pyle), whose home is in Whitefish. Andi MacDowell used to have a home in Missoula near the University of Montana, as well as a ranch down in the Bitterroot Valley. Keifer Sutherland and Emilio Estevez used to spend a lot of time around Whitefish—my landlord met Julia Roberts when she and Keifer were a thing. Infamously, the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski lived outside of Lincoln (and I visited his place!). Joe Montana’s son Nate currently plays football here for the University of Montana (which I found out about when he was arrested for drunk driving.) Then there are the notable people who were born here, such as Dana Carvey and David Lynch. Gary Cooper and Myrna Loy lived just a few houses apart as they grew up in Helena.
It seems there are notable people everywhere. Not too bad for a state with a population fewer than one million!
While I had considered a trip through Yellowstone on my way back to Portland, since summer is over it’s unlikely I would be able to meet Henry. Besides, if I caught up with Fonzie—the coolest guy on the planet—I might end up like Tom Hanks, just kinda making an idiot of myself. 🙂
Northern Exposure, an adventurous, charming, intelligent, amazing television series fully captured my heart, brain, and soul way back in 1994. Three books I’ve never considered getting rid of are the NX trifecta that was released while the show was on the air:
Not only did I buy The Northern Exposure Cookbook, a wasteland for vegetarians like myself, but I’ve kept it for several years now. The Northern Exposure Book has a handy episode guide, and the Chris-in-the-Morning book continues to inspire whenever I read a quote from KBHR’s philosophical, gentle, and smoking hot DJ.
My love for NX has persisted through hardship. When I first started watching the show, it came on at 10pm when my parents were going to bed. So I wouldn’t disturb them, my dad would turn the volume down so low on the television that even I had a hard time hearing the dialogue from six feet away. But still I watched. Then in August 1996, when my dad and I were heading home from Yellowstone, I convinced him to find the illustrious Roslyn, Washington, where the series was filmed. However, as we drove around town it didn’t occur to him that I might want to get out and stay a while. It was really hard for me to ask favors of him back then, so I never got any quality time with the town of my dreams.
After fifteen long years, I recently rectified that situation on my way to Missoula, Montana. Part of my decision to make the drive in two days was that I could do side trips…and it wasn’t long before I was dead-set on visiting Roslyn again. It would be a chance to finally bury one of my big regrets.
When I arrived, I brought Atticus out for a bathroom break, and we passed by Cafe Cicely. The two women inside came out to meet Atticus and give him treats. One of them runs the local animal rescue, and graciously gave us a bowl of water which we could continue to use on our journey. After I enjoyed an inexpensive mango sorbet ice cream, Atticus went back in the car and I headed over to Cicely’s Gift Shop, inside Dr. Joel Fleischman’s office.
Like the women across the street, the man tending Cicely’s Gift Shop was extremely friendly and had lots of time to chat. As the entire gift shop is a shrine to NX (“Dr. Joel Fleischman” is still painted in the window, and the structure has not changed since Universal filmed the show), he told me tales of how far people had come to see Roslyn (Israel was the furthest as of five days ago). He had moved to town from the east coast after becoming a fan of the show.
After seizing the opportunity to support the local economy with the purchase of a KBHR pint glass, NX long-sleeved T-shirt, and a legitimate copy of the “More Music from Northern Exposure” CD, I walked around town and shot some photos of buildings used in the show, and some that weren’t. The man at Cicely’s Gift Shop said that town opinion was divided about which town history to embrace: Roslyn’s past as a mining town, or its rebirth as the set of NX. There are scads of mining towns in this region, but it seems the people embracing the NX connection have it figured out, and are keeping their businesses afloat because of it.
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander (his real name!) is the landmark theoretical work of the anti-TV movement. As I whittle down my bookshelf, this is a title that I haven’t been able to part with yet. Instead of telling you just how much television I watched growing up, let’s just say this book blew my mind with its revolutionary anti-TV thinking.
The four arguments, each of which comprise a section of the book, are 1) The Mediation of Experience, 2) The Colonization of Experience, 3) Effects of Television on the Human Being, and 4) The Inherent Biases of Television. Sounds a bit wordy. The book is rather academic, but Mander goes places that others don’t. Awesome places.
One of the more abstract concepts he discusses, which took my brain a while to comprehend, revolves around what’s physically happening when someone watches television, from the type and patterns of light entering the eyes to the fact television viewers are being socialized to be passive participants in the world. Much of what he discusses has nothing to do with content–it doesn’t matter if you’re watching a game show or a documentary–another reason his book is an important read.
After discovering this book in 1998, I undertook my first TV fast, where I didn’t watch any television for a week. It went well–I seemed to gain a lot of time in the day, and even got to cross a couple other books off of my to-do list.
In the years since, I’ve done the TV fast several times, often as long as a month at a time. (I didn’t discover TV Turnoff Week until later.) One time in September 2003, I kept a log during the experience. Here’s an excerpt:
It seems to me that how my relationship with television works…is that when I come home, I eat, and there’s not much else I can do when eating except watch television. Then, it just sucks me in for hours. I could turn it off, but then I might forget to turn it on again for that great documentary on in a half hour, etc. Ultimately the nights fly by, and all because it’s hard to do things while eating. Then again, eating while watching television isn’t very healthy…
That particular TV fast was spurred by having read The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn. Focusing more on the effects of television and advertising on children and families, Winn discusses television’s impacts on child health and development. Television’s influence on kids’ creativity, the lack of physical exercise leading to obesity (the edition I read was published in 1977…the problem has only gotten worse!), kids becoming über-consumers early in life because of targeted advertising. Although I’m not a parent, it’s easy to recognize how my own childhood was influenced by watching television, and how it even impacts me today. As an adult, I was given food for thought about how television discourages connection with other human beings and the world around them.
These days the telly at my house is off way more than ever before.
Feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? Feel kinda blasé and numb during your “free” time? I’d recommend exploring the relationship you have to your television. Read more–there’s a great list of books here, or check out Kill Your Television. Do an experiment–give up television for a week and see what happens. Clean your house. Go for a bike ride. Read to the kids.
It’s amazing how much more you can do when television isn’t sucking up so much of your time.