Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reminder: Submit Your Restaurant Review

The restaurant in The Palace Hotel (37.7880° -...
The restaurant in The Palace Hotel (37.7880° -122.4019°) in San Francisco, California, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)








Excerpts from Village Voice Article on 2nd Malcolm-Masson Trial

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. Español: Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, fumando. Česky: Zakladatel psychoanalýzy Sigmund Freud kouří doutník. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Malcolm lost the first trial badly, and it was only the jury's inability to agree on the damages Masson had suffered-their proposed awards spanned from $1 to several million-that forced a
mistrial. In answering a detailed questionnaire, the jury found that all five quotes were false, and that two of them fulfilled the additional requirements needed to find that Masson had been
libeled (those requirements being that the quotes defamed him and were published with "reckless disregard for the truth"). Malcolm was shocked by the outcome, since going to the trial she had the confidence (some would say arrogance) to believe that her journalistic
methods and general credibility were beyond question. After all, she wrote for The New Yorker-the citadel of American journalism, whose reputation for factual accuracy was virtually unassailable. Much to her surprise, she found that the jury was extremely skeptical about many aspects of her defense: they doubted the accuracy of the four typed pages, on which three of the five disputed quotes appeared; they believed that the quotes had been
deliberately altered; and, in the end, they couldn't come up with a reason why Masson would have said the damaging things he had denied saying.


Borrowing a strategy from Bostwick's own playbook, Masson used the theme of "a friend
betrayed" to press his case. In Jeffrey MacDonald's suit against Joe McGinniss, Bostwick had
made a lot of the fact of McGinniss's blatant dishonesty in pretending to be MacDonald's friend
long after he believed he was a crazed killer. Now it was Masson's turn to play the role of
betrayed intimate, as he complained that he had never expected Malcolm actually to use much
of the unflattering personal information he had shared with her. Although a huge portion of
their interviews centered on his sex life, Masson claimed he had believed Malcolm's article
would confine itself to his scholarly work, and that his personal revelations had been little
more than friendly, off-the-record chitchat. He was shocked, shocked, that she went ahead
and printed them.


Examining the three massive, unedited volumes of transcripts made from the taped
interviews, it seems obvious that their relationship was fated to end tragically. Their
expectations were tremendous: In Masson, Malcolm thought she had found the perfect,
completely uninhibited subject; in Malcolm, Masson believed he had an all-forgiving confessor.
"You are the absolute, the most open person I've ever met in my life," Malcolm gushes
gleefully of the suicidally compromising material Masson so obligingly offers. "I'm perfectly
prepared to say anything - including my sexual feelings for you," he responds. "I really feel
that I've committed myself to you," he adds.


The third, and most effective, part of  Bostwick (her lawyer's) plan required that he trick Masson into
opening up a line of inquiry Masson would just as soon have avoided. Since Masson was
complaining that Malcolm had made him look foolish by taking only the most unflattering
information from their interviews, Bostwick wanted to show that she had used some of the
really damaging information Masson had told her, the article could have been much, much
worse. The notion that Malcolm had actually spared Masson's feelings will come as a surprise
to anyone who has read "Trouble in the Archives," but this is precisely what Bostwick set out
to prove.


For Malcolm, whose practice of "compressing" quotes and rearranging scenes has been
questioned, The Silent Woman (her book published just before the second trial)  sometimes reads like a response to her critics. As if to reassure suspicious readers that no scenes were concocted she tells us exactly where everything happens–"on a train to Cornwall, "in the Indian restaurant," - documenting each step of her journey. In a finale of stupendous literary circularity, Malcolm concludes with a scene that shows her taking the notes she will later use to write the book. "I would want evidence that Ihad not merely conjured it up for the purposes of my plot but had seen it as well," are the book's final words.

The fact that Masson agreed to be interviewed and talked so freely fails to alleviate Malcolm's
dilemma. In her uncompromising moral universe, the moment the tape started to record, so
too began the betrayal. Her legal vindication, while significant, does nothing to resolve the
murky ethical quandary that is at the heart of all journalism. Her refusal to flinch in the face of
our moral chaos is unnerving. "The freedom to be cruel," she reminds us in The Silent Woman,
"is one of journalism's uncontested privileges."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Downside of 'Storytelling'

The Art of Storytelling
The Art of Storytelling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From Salon

We Americans have always loved stories, and we’re going completely overboard for storytelling at the moment. I’m not surprised. Telling stories is not a value-free strategy. They are, in my read, a way of avoiding authentic history. You can say they are history privatized, if you want to put the point another way. In the final episode, the narrator mentions guilt and “lessons learned and not to be forgotten,” moving straight past what these might be and continuing, “but meaning can be found in the individual stories of those who lived through it, stories of courage and comradeship and perseverance, of understanding and forgiveness, and, ultimately, reconciliation.” A Purple Star there for Geoffrey Ward’s writing, I have to say.

This is almost perfectly upside down, if you ask me. In all these stories, we find precisely an evasion of guilt and understanding. And this givenness to stories goes back very far. All of the “great” historians of the 19th century — Parkman, Bancroft, the other big names — took great pride in turning history into a long line of stories. I object strenuously to stories. You have a clear example of why in this film. They’re a way of avoiding all kinds of things: causality, responsibility, human agency. 

I don’t agree entirely. I do like stories. I wrote a whole long oral history of the war that was based on 135 stories. But it’s in the way they are used. I agree with you that they don’t clarify history in the way they are summed up at the end as stories of perseverance and courage. I don’t know what any of that means, really.

Within the stories that are told, there are some moments that do reveal important things about the history of the war. For example, there are a number of American soldiers who speak to the insanity of American military strategy: They’d be ordered to seize some hilltop, to try to kill as many people as possible, and then abandon it. So those soldiers were really, I think, effectively trying to tell us that this war was not to be determined by force of arms, that there were other factors involved.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Anatomy of a Pitch

Nieman will do a series on how to pitch a story

Magazine pitches are an elusive species. You hear talk of them at journalism conferences and in freelancer forums. You see evidence of their existence in the stories they beget. But it’s rare to catch a glimpse of a specimen in the wild.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Writing Exercises for a Nonfiction Class

Some of these are useful.

21. What event in your life has angered you the most? Write the scene where it happened, and tell us what you would do if it happened again.

New York Times suggestions on how to "prompt" personal writing.

3. Narrate a photo: find a picture that intrigues you from the Times, perhaps from the Lens blog, the ongoing feature One in 8 Million or the Multimedia/Photo archive. Then try writing about what the photo reminds you of or makes you feel or think about.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rubenstein Finished Story

English: Red Arrow Park ice skating rink in Mi...
English: Red Arrow Park ice skating rink in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Example of manipulating film exposure time to emphasise movement in a 'still' shot. Français : Patinoire de Red Arrow Park à Milwaukee, dans le Wisconsin. Exemple d'utilisation du temps d'exposition pour metter en valeur le mouvement dans une image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the world's greatest ice skaters was gliding through Union Square the other afternoon, watching the mere mortals topple like tenpins.
Whomp. Thump. Plop. These are the sounds of the holidays in Union Square. Ice skating may be a lovely thing, every four years on television. In the real world, it looks a lot like tag-team wrestling.
The great skater, otherwise known as San Francisco's own Brian Boitano, had secret knowledge to impart to the wobblers. That's one reason he drops by the Union Square holiday ice rink. He seeks to buck up newbie skaters and avoid bloodletting, which is every bit as bad for the sport as whacking your opponent's legs with a club.
"If you start to lose your balance, lean forward and grab your knees," he said, softly, to the fresh troops. "That way you don't fall backward and hit your head on the ice. Beginners who hit their head on the ice never want to go ice skating again."
Boitano glided over to 8-year-old Lyndi Minniti, who was wobbling less than most and who had no idea that she was about to get a free lesson from the former Olympic champ. He got her to plant one toe, kick to the left and try a spin.
"You're a natural," Boitano said. "Pretend you're throwing a ball from one hand into your glove in the other hand," he said, and Lyndi tried it and, all of a sudden, she found herself going all the way around, and when it was over she was smiling about the whole thing. Lyndi's mother was at the rail, snapping pictures like the paparazzi.
Hardly anyone else recognized him. Partly it was his attire - old jeans with rips in them, and no spangles or spandex. (And he was skating in his crummy, $500 pair of skates - the good skates he had just sent by overnight mail to his official skate sharpener in Boston, the only person he trusts to do the job right.) And partly it was because Boitano won his Olympic gold medal in 1988, which is 22 Christmas shopping seasons ago, or forever in the celebrity business. These days he hosts a cooking show on the Food Network, to keep his hand in. "Hey, look," said one skater. "It's the chef on TV."
And then Boitano did some stuff in the middle of the rink that few TV chefs can do, such as the one-legged flamingo move and the "Swan Lake" leap and a frantic spin that could have passed for a smoothie in the Jamba Juice machine. A lot of people who were looking at the Union Square Christmas tree and at the colored lights and at a couple of girls in short skirts started looking at him instead.
Nearby, a big guy in a plaid shirt had just fallen, for the second time. The whomp could be felt from Geary Street to Grenoble. Boitano gave him a friendly smile and headed over to help another fellow, Raul Ramirez, who was ice skating for the very first time in his 23 years.
"You're a natural," Boitano said, and he got Ramirez to try to turn around, which he did, but not before losing his balance and falling like a Food Network souffle. "That's great," Boitano said, as cheerful and bouncy as a Labrador puppy. "You only lose eight-tenths of a point for touching the ice."
Along the edge of the rink, shutterbugs began clicking away and fans began to gather. One of them, a fellow named Vadim Shabenko, was no ordinary fan. He was a former member of the Russian skate team who told Boitano he once tried to copy Boitano's classic triple-Lutz-with-extended-arm jump, and wound up landing awkwardly with one skate cutting into the other foot, and blood all over the ice. Boitano said that had happened to him, too, and the two skaters compared horror stories and numbers of stitches. Boitano's knack for comforting lesser skaters was boundless.
"My boot gushed with blood," Boitano said, trying to cheer up his new friend. The two skaters shook hands, happy as could be. And then Boitano set eyes on this wobbling reporter and proclaimed him to be a natural as well, and there was nowhere to turn for cover. A rotation was attempted, slower than Saturn's. One of us found himself grabbing his knees.
Boitano graciously declared it to be all the fault of the second-string rental skates and then, just as graciously, said they were actually splendid rental skates, for rental skates, because Boitano wants everyone to feel good about skating, including people who rent second-string skates.
It was then the guy in the plaid shirt fell, for the third time. Boitano said he could feel the ice shake, but he didn't say it very loud. The fellow got back up and gamely kept at it, because a guy will do a lot of things before admitting he had blown a $9.50 skating fee, plus $4 for the rental.

"It's a real honor to fall on the same ice as Brian Boitano," the fellow said. He was 17-year-old student Frederik Schjaerff, who had traveled all the way from Copenhagen to find himself prostrate in Union Square. "Those were great falls I made. Some of my best. What an incredible experience to fall next to him."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Here's a Trend Story

From Vox

Consider a few recent poll results:
You should always take issue polling with several grains of salt. Most people don’t have strongly held views on most subjects, and poll results on these kinds of questions are normally highly sensitive to question wording. But opinion trends on identically phrased questions do tell a story, and the story they are telling is that on issue after issue the tides of opinion are shifting against Trump. That’s true on big, slow-moving policy topics like climate change, it’s true on hot-button controversies like the NFL protests, and we’ve seen that it’s true on big congressional controversies.