A nice cuppa and a good long read

I’ve recently enjoyed two long reads that are very much worth a bit of your weekend time. The first is just a travelogue, but it happens to be a travelogue written by a smart, observant 19-year-old who was handed the opportunity of a lifetime.

Bill Richardson, former Governor, US Ambassador to the UN and backchannel freelance diplomat extraordinaire, was planning his 8th trip to Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea. He invited my father Eric, who invited me.

“My father Eric” is Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google. He accompanied Gov. Richardson to North Korea to speak about the benefits of a free, open internet. (Raise your hand if you thought that would work.) But his efforts have been completely eclipsed by his daughter Sophie’s travelogue, which is packed full of photos and the wry, irreverent observations of a young writer who is concerned with neither diplomacy nor the red pen of an editor. She writes what she thought, what she saw, and what she felt, and the result is the most genuine, interesting account of a North Korean tour that I’ve ever read.

At the other extreme of professionalism is the New York Times account of the Stevens Pass, Washington avalanche that killed three expert skiers. I’m not sure if this should even be called a newspaper article, because it is so much more than that. It combines Pulitzer-level reporting with state-of-the-art web page coding, resulting in an interactive tale that grabs you by the throat from the first sentence and does not let you go. The interactive components are simply marvelous, including small photos that expand into slide shows, videos, recordings of 911 calls, three-dimensional “flying” maps, animations, and my personal favorite: the map of skiers’ tracks that builds itself as you read.

All of this makes the story vibrantly real — I felt as if I were there, experiencing it myself. And I particularly appreciated the 3-D maps, which enabled me to “see” every aspect, including precisely who was where at what time.

This story is a showcase for the educational possibilities of interactive books. After reading it, I retained far more details than I ever would have from a text-only article, and began thinking about how that could play out in university textbooks, or nonfiction books…or heck, even fiction. The potential is enormous, and I had not fully realized that until experiencing it with this article.

Pour yourself a nice cuppa, get comfortable, and treat yourself to a couple of good long reads. It’s the weekend, after all.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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3 Responses to A nice cuppa and a good long read

  1. Jason Cleaver says:

    Just started reading Sophie’s travelogue. “One person suggested announcing “I’m awake” to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you” Gave me a laugh. Wonder if there will be more…

  2. Power Wench says:

    Thanks for the link to the avalanche story. At the time the story was in the news, I wondered why on earth that group of skiers went backcountry right after a heavy snowfall. Didn’t they know the danger? Appreciate having the background, and interesting to know how many of the survivors had misgivings they didn’t voice because they thought if the locals/experts were doing it, it must be OK.
    Also enjoyed seeing how well an interactive story can work. Till now the concept of interactive books seemed like a gimmick. This changed my mind.

    • oregon expat says:

      I was also startled — at first — by the collective silence on the part of so many participants. One would think that at that level of expertise, people would be more apt to speak out, but apparently peer pressure and the desire to fit in is stronger than we realize.

      Also thought it was interesting that the one person who did back out, and took a different route altogether, was dismissed as a rookie.

      And I’m with you on having my mind changed about interactive books. I too had had my doubts, but wow. This can be powerful.

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