Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian Peaks photo post

Since I was made to choose one day a week to take off work (and chose Wednesday), I've been doing my best to make the most of them — and succeeding wildly.

Yesterday I ventured up into Indian Peaks Wilderness (part of Arapaho National Forest) and did a three-hour hike between Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake in an open valley at around 11,000 feet... and it was the most breathtakingly beautiful hike I've done here. I went by myself, because that's how I roll.

Mind you, all of these photos were taken with a 2-megapixel camera on an old iPhone with no zoom function.

The colors on these rocks were absolutely jaw-dropping.

Needing to capture myself in the moment, of course, with pretty flowers.

This picture has everything you can expect from Colorado: mountains, snow, greenery, flowing water — and a brewing afternoon thunderstorm.

Such an amazing trail. I am so lucky that I happen to live here.

Rolling home solo in the mountains, Camelbak in the passenger seat — just the way I like it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Newsweek: a great example of what journalism needs

I have been thinking this for a while now, and it's time I come out and say it: Newsweek—I am so, so proud of you.

I remember seeing piles and piles of the old you lying around my mother's house in New Jersey, sandwiched between the Asbury Park Press and old paper napkins scented with her gin and tonics. My mother had a fairly ambivalent attitude toward you, and I took that on as I grew up, even as I became a journalist. I didn't understand the point of you, and I don't think my mother did either. I adored the Washington Post, especially their Sunday magazine, but something about you... I just didn't get what you and TIME contributed to the conversation.

But now, things have changed.

“There’s a phrase in the culture: ‘we need to take note of,’ ‘we need to weigh in on,’ ” said Newsweek’s editor, Jon Meacham in a New York Times article. “That’s going away. If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.”

I could feel that doggedness in the magazine even when I was younger, that sense of obligation that made the publication seem more like an informed citizen's duty to read rather than a pleasure, rather than something that could provide enlightenment and spawn fresh discussion.

With Newsweek's redesign starting with their May 18, 2009 issue, the magazine overhauled the format they had going for 76 years and replaced it with something perfectly packaged for today's ever-changing journalistic landscape.

Think about it. How are most newspapers and magazines trying to stay in the game? They're starting Twitter accounts and begrudgingly keeping up with them, or finding an intern who's only requirement is to be under the age of 21 to do it.

But Newsweek rethought their entire publication and executed it not in small doses, but all at once—which made the entire thing that more stunning.

They had an entire issue where political satirist Stephen Colbert was their guest editor. He inserted his humor into bits of the magazine (which were clearly pointed out as his work), such as: "Recycling magazines, catalogs and newspapers is one of the easiest ways for liberals to feel good about themselves." And in his editorial piece where he discusses the topic of this week's issue, he writes: "Americans have many lingering questions about Iraq. (For example: where is Iraq?) I wanted to find the answers."

Publicity stunt? Maybe, but it worked, it was damn hilarious, and the issue still had wonderful content. For those of us who respect high-quality journalism—but can also enjoy the humor of publications like the Onion—this was absolutely perfect.

The magazine is now divided into four clear sections: "short newsy items, essays and commentary, longer features and cultural coverage. It is printed on higher-quality paper, which instantly will make it feel better in your hand. I think the new design is sophisticated and airy, and makes the stories we work so hard on seem more inviting," said Assistant Managing Editor Kathleen Deveny in the "Reinventing Newsweek" column.

But it's more than the content. Newsweek has finally figured out that design can make or break a publication.
The new magazine is loaded with style. The palettes are softer and more elegant. New fonts are used in the magazine, including Archer, a signature font of the most un-Newsweek of all magazines: Martha Stewart Living. Cerebral and direct, unsnarky and anti-ironic, with cool hues and fonts to match.

“It’s so beautiful and open and a very modern serif font,” said Bonnie Siegler, the founder of Number 17, the design firm Mr. Meacham hired to redesign the magazine, speaking about the use of Archer in the magazine.

— from an article in the New York Observer

And these things, like font choices, do matter and it takes a great editorial team to really get that. Writers tend to want to believe their writing will rise above the need to have stunning photographs and compelling design. Unfortunately, in today's world—it does not. It just won't be noticed as much.

What's more—Newsweek does use Twitter, and they do it right. Before their issue on July 13, 2009 on books came out, they held a roundtable with six authors and live-tweeted the discussion. The quotes were incredible, things like Elizabeth Stout's reason for writing: "It's just a compulsion. It's absolute madness in a way, I think. The few times that I contemplate not doing it, it's almost like there's a flavor that leaves ordinary life." Now that is something you'd want to see on your Twitter home page.

Most importantly—they're bringing a necessary lightheartedness into journalism, which has gotten way too serious in this seemingly desolate landscape. In the Colbert issue, he writes: "I sent Newsweek's reporters to find out whatever happened to Iraq. Unfortunately, this meant cutting the cover story they had planned: 'Hey, Have You Heard About This Thing Called Twitter?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wend Wednesdays

Wend (wěnd) v. To go one's way; to proceed on or along

I am in a tea house, writing fervently and padding barefoot upon the wood floors, letting the day flow by, smooth and unruffled like a long, silk skirt. I am a low tide, calmed by the sounds of the beautiful rock, plant and water sculpture beside me, sipping green tea, the taste of it dry and grassy, as though I am tonguing the earth.

I have felt things changing lately. I am likely leaving the country in two months. I am only working four days a week now due to company finances; Wednesday will be my day off. I am getting in touch with the feminine sides of life in more ways than I ever have; I even prefer the company of women to men, whereas in the first 20-something years of my life it was quite the opposite. I am reading books to learn more about my sex.
Woman the bowl, the urn, the cave, the musky jungle. We are the dark mysterium! We are hidden folds and primal wisdom and always, always the womb, bearing life, releasing life, and then sucking it back in again, into those moist, chthonic plaits.
— "Woman: An Intimate Geography," Natalie Anger

I have gone twice to see a man in the mountains that my girl friends and I call "the Oracle," or Boulder’s version of a therapist. The first time, I genuinely wanted to know about every aspect of my future, past and present, and allowed him to do his job and contact my spirit guides.

The second time, I went to see him more as a distressed patient, due to a painful and unexpected personal interaction. I listen to the recording of this session and hardly recognize myself. My emotions were a pendulum caught in a tornado, wild and with many strong, opposing answers. I felt alternately faint and boiling, flickering between a thunderstorm and a generator defeated by one.

Through breath work, visualization and encouragement to communicate (and perhaps not in the way I originally intended, which I scrapped, as it was peppered with insults and nothing but negativity), I released it. It worked, it all worked. I became sea-worthy again, in the way that I always have. There is no slow build up with me, but a ferociousness followed by the quickest calm you will ever see. It is because of my mother, and I thank her for it, and I don’t at the same time.

I asked the Oracle if I should take an east coast road trip to see friends before I leave for Spain in November. Going to Spain is my only plan right now, and one that can only be halted by a salaried journalism/writing job. Although he told me quite strongly that Spain was the right choice (and that I had three past lives there, however you want to take that), he told me not to do the road trip.

"If you have things to say to people from your past, call or write them. But you do not need to go backwards," he said. "Save your money for Spain or go somewhere else for that time, but keep moving forward. Your soul is excited by travel, but it does not like to go in reverse."

I was okay with this, although there still were some people I felt I wanted to see in person.

Less than two weeks later, I unexpectedly got sent on a business trip to Washington D.C., where I got a chance to be with those people. Even someone from the North Carolina portion of my life drove up to see me. Things happen this way.

And now all I hope for is that in Spain, I am able to write consistently. That I will have access to post my writing so that others may read it, so that I may be able to funnel my energies and intentions and, basically, remain sane.

I feel like my writing is a laser inside of myself, and my daily life can make me cloudy. But when I’m in the right place, and I touch that laser, the only thing I can do is follow it to its end, and it is a path I am more sure of than anything else in my life. It is carved, it is set, I just need to follow it. Sandy, smooth, fiery or calm — whatever I need to be to do so.

Ray Bradbury writes in his essay, "The Joy of Writing," about doing what he loves from the core of his being, with passion and pride, even if some editors didn’t adore his work:
"But a lot of readers did. I claim no victory. But there was blood on my gloves when I hung them up."
Blood on my gloves. In the spirit of Spain’s greatest (and most controversial) sport, bullfighting: olé to that.