Thursday, October 18, 2007

10 Reasons for Why I Stay In Dupont Circle

Sometimes I wonder why I continue to live in this overpriced neighborhood. I've been in my condo 15 years, and in the 'hood for 18, and I'm jonesing for a different lifestyle. Or so I tell myself. I find it tougher and tougher to battle winters here, not because they've gotten worse, but because I've lost my patience with being cold. A post on Brazen Careerist got me jotting down notes on why I stay here, and I've come up with the following 10 reasons:

1. Low mortgage payment. I bought my condo when you could get a great place for under 100K.

2. WalkScore of 97. I don't think there are many other places in this country that can top that. Although it does contribute to the still-high condo prices here.

3. Fast access to great bike trails. And stretches of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park are closed to cars on the weekends.

4. Family nearby.
Close enough to visit without traveling all day, but far enough so that they don't drop in unexpectedly.

5. Escape of urban escape. A few minutes of driving and it looks like you're out of the city altogether.

6. Close to beaches. Rehoboth is only a three-hour drive away.

7. The gay thing. Although I have seen more and more young (straight) couples with strollers (and stroller inhabitants) over the past year, 17th Street is still home to four gay bars in two blocks, and the Dupont Circle area is still known for its acceptance of "alternative lifestyles." Those of us who have been here a long time refer to the hood as the ghetto. I've gotten comfortable here, although we can still experience gay bashing nearby.

8. Close to the Metro. I'm about three blocks (or so) from the subway system.

9. Nearby friends. It's just a quick hike to where we all hang out.

10. Tons of employment possibilities. Tons.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Antarctica, Part 2
(Click here for what I previously wrote on this subject.)

The New York Times kept me in my seat on Sunday when they took advantage of "new media" capabilities with their arts section article "Unraveling the Knots of the 12 Tones."

Author/critic Anthony Tommasini contributed a video in which he performed examples of spiky, unpopular 12-tone music. Although his presentation may not be fully comprehensible by the general public (he uses words like "tonic" without much of an explanation), he is effective at showing us how the revolutionary 12-tone composition method pops up where we least expect it, and convinces us that we don't complain all that much when it does.

This is a great way to provide us readers with a better understanding of the article. However, the Times probably won't go as far as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which actually provides links to YouTube videos supporting articles.

The Milwaukee example shows us that newspapers can add even more interactivity and cross-media resources. In producing their own video, the Times keeps us on their site, but probably runs into time constraints which keeps them from providing even more to readers. (Anthony sits at a piano the entire time you watch the video.) It's quicker and cheaper to research and provide links to a greater number of media sources than it is to produce a video on one's own. For instance, I found this video on YouTube, which is a great companion piece to the Times article.

And I hope no one thinks I'm stalking Chris Brogan when I suggest you see what he has to say and link to on the topic of "finding information."

Of course, there's nothing stopping us from going to YouTube ourselves and doing the research. So, we're going to leave the Times's site anyway. But it makes me wonder when the Times will realize it's more than a newspaper and a media creator?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Improving Public Radio Fundraising at the Local Local Level

I'm listening to WETA-FM's pledge drive - that week of programming public broadcasting inflicts on us in order to stay in business. The station's promised a shorter drive this time, and is playing more music during it than they used to. Every so often they include a story from one of their announcers, reminiscing about how they discovered and grew to love "classical" music. And I wonder:

Why doesn't the station catch and air listener stories?

The idea grew out of Chris Brogan's post on creating microcontent and hyperlocal media. I thought it might be easy for WETA-FM to set up a blog* to encourage listener's stories. During the fund drive they could scan the blog comments for stories, and promise to include some of them on the air. In fact, they could say "If you make a donation at any amount, and you've contributed a story to our blog comment section, we might just read it on the air." They could continue by contacting a few of the best storytellers and have them record their tales for broadcast after the fund drive is completed.

They're not doing that, though. They're not even reading contributor names on the air. Over the past weekend I heard one of the announcers mention "Of course, we can't read names on the air, because that would take too much time."

I tried to analyze exactly why WETA is not using "new media" to improve their fundraising, and I came up with these possible explanations:

they tried it once before, but the return on investment was nil;
they were still discussing it by the start of the fundraising drive;
they haven't thought of doing it;
they thought of it but weren't interested;
they came up with the idea but found too many internal controls to make it work.

I think it has a whole lot to do with the fact that so many people still don't know how to use "new media" and Web 2.0 applications, much less figure out how to make them work the micro, or neighborhood, level. However, I just heard the WETA-FM announcers mention that many people are pledging money online, at the WETA Web site. Now whether or not that's a sales tactic, I don't know.
*or some other Web 2.0 online application.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

There's a phrase I've had trouble understanding for most of my life: Hard Work. I hear it all the time, as in "she worked really hard to get where she is today." And there probably are very few of us who haven't received the exhortation "you're going to have to buckle down and work hard on this."

In its many guises, the term Hard Work always conjures for me the same mental scenes: shoveling dirt out of a ditch, slamming rocks with pickaxes, and human pack mules transporting heavy loads. What's missing from this picture? Any sense of joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and excitement.

But they must be there - otherwise, actors would not wait tables to finance their lives while going on auditions, mathematicians wouldn't continue to solve Fermat's last theorem, college students would stop registering for classes, and I would have never started writing a single play.

It's almost like we use the term Hard Work as a major plot point in a simple story about our lives. That story is really a fairy tale, consisting of the same motifs as Cinderella's resume: cleaned ashes from kitchen fireplace, kept physical order in country cottage, responded to customer's multiple requests (i.e., stepmother and stepsisters). We think that by grunting through life, we'll be assured our own versions of the pumpkin coach, couture gown, and glass shoes, not to mention marriage to the handsome prince.

I mean, Cinderella sure didn't get what she wanted by working. Someone came along and gave it to her, because she was downtrodden. Pretty much the same way that Extreme Home Makeover gives a custom-designed house to a "worthy" family down on its luck.

Truth be told, simple "hard work" is no guarantee of success - not even if you term success in a variety of creative ways, and not just by the barometer of money. I've come to believe that what most of us mean by Hard Work is really Work That Takes A Long Long Time - And Then We Get The Reward.

The tales we've been told are wrong, and it's tough to give them up.