Tag Archives: Storytelling

On Being The Hero Of My Own Story

1 Oct

Or: The Blog Is Back

True Story sign

Photo credit to NCinDC.

In the last few months, this blog has taken a bit of a hiatus.  True, it’s because I’ve been lazy, but it’s also because I’ve been busy.  I got a new job and move to Chicago!  (Yeah, I know, way to bury the lead…)

So, what’s the new job?  It’s digital marketing for Baxter Credit UnionSo, basically, now I get paid to do what I love – and what this blog is about.  And it’s fantastic.  I’m part of a great team of people who are smart and funny and passionate about what they do.  I couldn’t ask for better co-workers.  But, man were they intimidating the first week.  (“I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.”) Continue reading

Reclaiming Mary Poppins and the Characters We Love

28 Jul

Or, The Opening Ceremony Challenges Copyright Law, Whether it Means to or Not

Mary PoppinsLike millions of others around the world, I spent last night watching the Opening Ceremony.  Unlike millions of others, the part that captivated me wasn’t the parade of nations, but the “Second Star to the Right” theatrical sequence.

In this bit of public theater, director Danny Boyle reclaimed the British people’s ownership of their children’s literature, the rights to which have long since been sold off to various corporate interests.  Depicting Mary Poppins battling Captain Hook, Voldemort, and the Queen of Hearts, Boyle claimed these beloved characters as part of the broader British narrative.  In doing so, he challenged the idea that these characters, or any characters, can belong to someone. Continue reading

Go Ahead, Have that Affair with Fox Mulder

10 Jul

Or, In Defense of Binge Watching

Boy Watching TVYesterday Jim Pagels published an invective on Slate’s BrowBeat blog urging us all to stop binge watching TVPagels argued that binging on TV – watching, say, a whole season in a few days or a series in a few weeks – ruins the TV viewing experience.  He argued that TV shows have multi-layered structures, each of which must be respected.

TV series must constantly sustain two narrative arcs at once: that of the individual episode—which has its own beginning, middle, and end—and that of the season as a whole. (Some shows, like Breaking Bad and The Wire, operate on a third: that of the entire series.) To fully appreciate a show, you must pay attention to each of these arcs. This is one of the defining features of television as a medium and one of the things that makes it great. Continue reading

An Angel On My Left Side and a Tech Nerd On My Right

18 Jun

Or, I Stole a Book

ebook reading by TheCreativePenn

Photo credit to TheCreativePenn

Oh, the twisty world of the internet, where a few clicks can take you somewhere you never intended to go…

The other day, I learned that Deadlocked, the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, had recently been published.  I love the books in that series, low brow and trashy as they are.  Reading them is the equivalent of having wine and chicken fingers for dinner.  Delicious, comforting, terrible for you, and not something that you’d generally like to advertize about yourself.  They’re a Southern, sexed-up Buffy, with an even greater wink at the audience. Continue reading

The Tyranny of Battery Life

15 Dec

Or, Books shouldn’t self-destruct.

Photo credit to Mike Baird.

The other night I was in a race: me vs. my iPad’s battery life.  And I lost.

I’ve recently discovered reading on my iPad. Now that there’s an app that lets you check out library books pretty seamlessly, I’m hooked.  I checked out (is it really checked out when nothing’s physically leaving the library?) a mystery novel on Monday night, and had since spent almost all of my free time reading it.

An iPad only comes with one charger.  And they want about $30 for a second one.  As I am cheap, I only have one – it lives on my desk at work.  So there I am on my couch Thursday night, way after my bedtime but close to the end of a book – clearly it’s a legitimate excuse to stay up late.

Photo credit to RiverRatt3.

And it beeps and tells me that I’ve got 10% battery life remaining, and then only 5.  And snap, the book’s a race.  I can speed read, and with most mysteries I do. (If you don’t spend the time required to write well, I don’t spend the time required to read well – I’m looking at you, James Patterson.)  But this book is different – it is beautiful and wonderfully overwritten, clearly written by an English major.  It has sentence structure that I’ve never seen before and more m dashes than belong in any piece of writing.

Photo credit to theloushe.

It’s a book that deserves the time, but I don’t have it.  (It’s like I’ve just gotten a note: this book will self-destruct in thirty seconds.  So I’m flying through the book, picking out the subject, verb, and object of the sentence and leaving all the other words behind.  But it’s too late – and I run out.  Desperately searching for a charger that I know’s not there, the iPad dies and I’m left without resolution.  Sure they’ve already caught their guy and know who done it, but it’s that final twist, that hallmark of all good mysteries, where the information revealed in the last few pages makes you think about the whole book in a new light.  And I don’t get to read it.  At least not that night.

Books are meant to be immutable.  They’re not meant to self-destruct.  There’s something about reading that’s completely liberating – you enter a new world, and only leave when you choose to.  There’s a conscious act of leaving, that moment when you lift you head, look around, and slowly close the cover.  But suddenly, I was unceremoniously thrown out of the world that I’d been in.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200; the book you’re reading, the world you’re in, no longer exists.

Photo credit to Gael Martin.

I’m learning to love reading on my iPad.  It’s great the gym; it’s great to be able to carry a library in my purse.  And you’d think that 10 hours of battery life would be great to.  But, I can lose myself in a book for much more than ten hours.  I can lose myself in a book for a weekend, or in a series for days on end.  And yes, that lovely and beautifully-written mystery novel that I was reading: it’s the first in a series.  So, here’s to many more battles with my battery life.  Wish me luck.

Questions of the day:  Do you have an eReader?  Have you been thwarted by the battery life?  Do I just need to suck it up and buy a second charger?


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (that’s such a lie, maybe once or twice a week) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of tech, culture, or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Sharing Scribblings in the Digital Margins

30 Oct
#360 perhaps you do not need to write all over library books by romana klee

Photo credit to romana klee

I’ve had a hard time getting excited about things recently, but was lucky enough to stumble across Findings and its gotten my head buzzing.

The newest advancement in digital, literary culture, Findings is a website/app/digital service/what have you that allows you to share your margin notes with others across the community of readers, opening up the potential for reading to be a more dynamic and engaging experience that ever before.

WritingEven since reading Good Omens, I’ve been interested in the possibility of interactive marginalia.  In the story, a family passes a book down through the generations, each scribbling his own notes in the margins, often having contentious discussion of particular passages that last for generations.  (Yes, I recognize that that’s a very selective telling of Good Omens, but I thought it’d take too long to explain angels, demons, and the new four horsemen of the apocalypse.)

Although it’s always seemed like marginalia was a conversation, it never truly was, it was always uni-directional.  The first person that reads a book writes something and the next is left to either ignore the comment or reply to it.  (I guess the first person could then read it again and they could go back and forth ad nauseum, but books that are worth that level of attention are rare, indeed.)  So, with marginalia, as it currently stands, there’s no true back and forth; there’s acting and reacting.  But, Findings allows us to all have our own clean draft to respond to, and then the ability to selectively turn on (and off) others’ comments.

As a society, we talk about where were you at certain moments, at those historical moments that so define our collective psyche (9/11, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), that the divide our lives into before and afters.  But, I’d argue that there are moments in books that can be those defining moments in our lives, too.  Especially those pivotal moments in the the bildugnsromans that we read as teenagers.  The stories of growing up that are part of every high school English curriculum.  How did you feel when they murdered Piggy?  Or when George killed Lenny?  When you first read The Lottery and realized what exactly the “prize” was?   Or when Boo saved Scout?  (Personally, I was really confused on that one and had to read it over a few times before I could get passed my initial reaction: Why is she dressed as meat?)  For readers, those are defining moments, but we analyze them after the fact, in a generalized way.  Respond to the events of Chapter 5.  What was the central theme of the novel?  Was this novel romantic, realistic, or naturalistic?  Discuss.

Marginalia by serikotik1970

Photo credit to serikotik1970

I want to have conversations with people’s real honest reactions, not those that they prepare for a teacher after the fact.  I want to get to know my friends (and thoughtful strangers) through their books and through their notes.  I want to read their scribbling in the digital margins.  I’ve written that I worry that the move from paper to digital paper will fundamentally change the way that we read, that sometime tactile and beautiful will be lost.  I still fear for the loss or musty paper and old fashioned type faces, for judging a book by its weight as well as its cover, but maybe well gain something wonderful in the move to ebooks, too.  Maybe books will become vehicles for true multi-directional communication.  Just think of the possibilities for choose your own adventure books…

Questions of the day: What book moments stand out in your life?  Do you write in your books?  And why is Scout dressed as meat?


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

OpenGraph and Conformity

14 Oct

Or, Invasion of the Brain Snatchers

kid listening to headphones

Photo credit to vagawi

Recently, I read a post called “Is it time for an anonymity movement to challenge Facebook?”  Although the (very great) points of the post ranged far and wide, the part that stuck with me was this section about Facebook and conformity:

But having the ambition to display the whole life of their users is just insane.  Take Spotify, for example!  Sharing the music you’re listening to seems great, right?  Just put yourself in the shoes of a shy 16-year-old guy; what is he going to do to impress others and fit in?   He’s going to listen to the same music that everyone else is listening to, so as not to seem “weird” at all via his very public Facebook profile.

Imagine that he may stop listening to what he really likes because he will be ashamed to share his real taste in music, unless he is one of the rare users that figures out how to stop the feed from Spotify to Facebook.

Now take this concept and duplicate it for tastes in TV, movies, places to eat … maybe with just about everything.

Facebook is on track to homogenize society, which conversely, and ironically, may “weaken” the database that Facebook is building and the advertising targeting that they are offering! Continue reading

Harry Potter Poked You Back

8 Oct

Or, SocialSamba brings characters to (digital) life

Last Action HeroRecently, a new social network launched.  SocialSamba gives you a social media space to interact with your favorite characters.  (Social media, characters, fanfic overtones … obviously I am way excited about this.)

The Social Times article that introduced me to SocialSamba started off with:

“Have you ever wished that you could be friends with the characters from your favorite movies and TV shows in real life?  Until recently this was impossible—after all, these characters don’t actually exist outside of the TV shows and movies you love.”

Wait what?  You’re saying that they’re not real?!  Must I introduce you to Six Characters in Search of an Author? Continue reading

Frictionless sharing and the end of Social Media Curation

2 Oct
Sharing by talkingplant

Photo credit to talkingplant

In my last post, I discussed how frictionless sharing without context was meaningless.  How an app posting that “Maggie read this” really only meant “Someone on Maggie’s computer clicked on this”.

But frictionless sharing means a lot more than meaningless oversharing, it’s also the end of social media curation.

Since the rise of social media, we’ve all become curators – we’ve become the scrapbookers and librarians of our own lives, learning to research, present, and display material in a meaningful and engaging way.  Continue reading

Memory as Augmented Reality

6 Sep

Pennellwood Water Tower, OvergrownOr, Pennellwood: Years Later

Pennellwood was summer.  It was childhood.  It was long days of sunscreen and endless nights of bugspray, weeks that seemed to last for months – it was summer camp, for the whole family.

Pennellwood was underwanter; the business plan wasn’t sustainable.  It closed, but our family traditions didn’t.  So we looked for something else, a new place in which to continue.  We found it, but it wasn’t the same.  We spent days by the pool and nights tending bar.  (Some things about family camp change when you grow up.)  But a large part of the time, we spent talking about Pennellwood.  Remembering it, missing it, wishing that we were there instead.  Leaving the new camp today, someone suggested that we go to Pennellwood.  Just to see what it had become. Continue reading

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