Tag Archives: Writing

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

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.

Updating Word’s language canon… though social media tracking?

11 Aug
SPY by twicepix

SPY by twicepix

Or, you can’t always get what you want… but you can still complain when you do, right?

I’m always logged in to Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Evernote, and WordPress on pretty much all of my devices.  (Thank you tab browsing!)  I check my various accounts on my personal laptop, my work laptop, my iPad, and my Droid; and I’d bet that at least three of my four devices are logged into most of those accounts at any given time.  So, I get that my activity is tracked across all of my devices in all sorts of ways.

Sometime that tracking’s even helpful – like  when I go to search for an address in my phone and it knows which store I’m looking for because an hour ago I used my laptop to check if there was one near my route home.  But, today I saw such an egregious example of tracking and targeting based on my internet activity that even I was shocked. Continue reading

Social Media and the evolution of language

10 Aug
Or, Microsoft Word and the angry little green squiggly line

This is a scene from my house in about 1995.

Mom: Maggie, you need to practice your spelling words so you can get a better grade on your test this week.

Maggie: Why?  Spelling doesn’t matter.

Mom:  Yes, it does.  It’s important that you spell things correctly so that people know what you mean.

Maggie: Mom, I hate spelling words!  Spelling doesn’t matter.  Soon everything’s going to have spell check anyway. 

National Spelling Bee by erin m

Clearly, this is not me.National Spelling Bee by erin m

Okay, so I was right, but I was also wrong.  (See, Mom, everything does have spell check.)  I’m still a terrible speller.  (Sometimes so bad that even spell check can’t figure out what I mean.)

So to spare all you lovely readers the time you’d spend scratching your heads, wondering what I’m trying to say, I type my posts in Microsoft Word before bring them over to WordPress to publish.  (“Thank you, Maggie.  We appreciate that you think of us.”)

revenge of the spelling be by postbear

revenge of the spelling be by postbear

Word is one of my greatest blogging aids, but it’s also one of my greatest blogging enemies.  Why?  That angry little green squiggly line.  You know, the one that says, “That is not correct grammar.”  And here’s the thing, a lot of the time, it’s my fault.  (Somehow all the AP English classes didn’t convince me that sentences need both a noun and a verb.) Continue reading

Becoming Real: Harry Potter and The Velveteen Rabbit

12 Jul

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Book CoverIn honor of the release of HP 7.5 this weekend, I bring you an excerpt of my thesis, “The Branding of Harry Potter: How Fanfiction is Challenging Concepts of Owner and Author”.  Before jumping in, here’s what you need to know:

I love Harry Potter and I love fanfiction; not in the way that I sit around and read it all the time, but you know, if I’m ever in a really bad mood…  I love fanfiction because it teaches people how to write and encourage people, especially young people, to find their voices and develop their skills as storytellers.  Everyone knows that Harry Potter struck a chord with a generation, but not many people know how it uniquely impacted creative and bookish teenagers.  Millions of their derivative works can be found on fanfiction archives across the internet.  Their writing and art, based upon Harry Potter and other fictional stories that became touchstone cultural artifacts, made up some of the earliest examples of Web 2.0.  And they did it all because of their love of the stories that inspired them.  Here we go… Continue reading

Google doesn’t think I’m funny – Humor, headlines, and SEO

13 May

I once read that you should write for your readers first, search engines second, and your ego third.  I try to consider all of these things when writing this blog, but find that they’re often in competition.  (I try to include keywords like culture, social media, and bog whenever they fit, but sometimes it’s hard to do it without getting in the way of the narrative style.)  Yesterday, I found this on The Awl.  Apparently I’m not alone in my battle to balance all three.

Stack of Newspaper Headlines - Burns out, Storm Kills, Drugs, Recycling, Stem cellsGoogle doesn’t laugh
It doesn’t even titter
It can’t guffaw like Facebook
It won’t split its sides like Twitter

Google doesn’t crack a smile
It won’t respond to mirth
There’s not a single laughing part
Not even Google Earth

Your title might be funny
Forcing chuckles from the chest
But Google sits there stone-faced
Resolutely unimpressed

Don’t try to brighten someone’s day
Don’t aim for “smart and winning”
Your goal is catching Google’s eye
And Google isn’t grinning

Best to stick to SEO
And trade your wheat for chaff
Forget the humor, blogger boy
‘Cause Google doesn’t laugh Continue reading

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