Posted by: Liz Massey | November 5, 2008

Surf’s Up: Creativity Links for November 5, 2008


Photo courtesy SXC.

No election results but plenty of creative mojo in our links this week! News about the birth of a cool new sketching blog, the death of one of the giants of the oral history genre, and tips for creating podcasts people actually want to listen to are all in the mix for this week. Plus, a couple of quick-hit bonus links about the rapid ascension of “snack-size” communication and a fun new Internet radio station.

1. Katherine Tyrell over at Making a Mark reports the launch of a new blog which she will co-author, Urban Sketchers. Katherine will be one of 45 sketchers from around the world. The blog has grown out of a similarly named and themed Flickr group started about a year ago.

Take a look at this new site, which touts itself as “a community of artists around the world who draw the people and places of the cities where they live and travel to.” Already there are posts and sketches from Germany, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States, and a variety of subject matter and styles represented.

2. Sadly, as we bid hello to the wonderful sketching blog, the world said goodbye to master storyteller and reporter Studs Terkel on Halloween. Studs lived to a ripe and hearty old age, 96, and won both awards (a Pulitzer Prize and an honorary National Book Award) and critical acclaim for his oral histories of those he called the “non-celebrated.” He picked issues that hit close to home; whether it was race relations (“Division Street: America,” “Race”), World War II (“The Good War”), work (“Working”), or even death (“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”), his way of eliciting honest, telling stories from common folk laid the groundwork for today’s narrative nonfiction authors and documentarians of various stripes.

I read Terkel’s “Working” in high school and it profoundly influenced the way I looked at oral history, journalism, documentary filmmaking and how “historic events” impact the common person. His gift for covering the full gamut of emotion around an issue, yet producing volumes that were on the whole hopeful in some way.

Emmy-winning filmmaker Steven Bognar was quoted on the All These Wonderful Things blog saying something that very closely mirrored my feelings about Terkel’s contributions to today’s media environment, particularly documentary filmmaking:

“He didn’t make documentaries, but his influence on the oral history doc, starting in the ’70’s, is unmistakable.  Many docs of that era grew out of the women’s movement, which valued the power of unknown people, rank and file folks, telling their stories.  Studs may have been the first person to start this tradition, back in the ’60’s.

“Before NPR or THIS AMERICAN LIFE, Studs Terkel innovated the long-form, in-depth interview with non-famous people.  The kind of interviews with enough room for the quirks and surprises that get people beyond sound bites, into their grainy corners and awkward confessions.

“Studs Terkel will be missed.  He was among the first of us, and the best of us.”

Amen. Good night, Studs.

3. Finally, if you’ve been inspired by the tributes to Studs Terkel and his oral history prowess, and want to add audio to your digital presence (web or blog), here’s a very interesting link you’ll want as reference: “Information Architecture for Audio: Doing It Right, written by Jens Jacobsen over at Boxes and Arrows.

The audience and slant for this article is definitely information architects (persons tasked with taking the navigational snarl and clutter out of websites and other interactive interfaces), but artists who want to work in digital sound may get a lot out of this piece. It details the best ways to organize and present your audio content, principles for keeping listeners oriented and interested during your podcast or performance, and how to boost usability so listeners can make use of your work once you’ve placed it on your site or on another platform.

Bonus Links!

A 24/7 Internet radio station featuring original film soundtracks.

Snack-Size Communication: Texting on the Rise
Americans are now receiving more texts than calls on their mobile phones! Should we keep our artistic expressions short, too?


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