Tag Archives: The Atlantic

Who’s Been Commenting?

A great reward of blogging is making connections with professionals whose work I respect. Here’s a look at some recognizable figures commenting at rsmithing.com in the past 12 months. Check out the posts to see their remarks:

Mack Collier

Mack Collier

Mack Collier commented and said thanks in my post, Blogchat: Sundays on Twitter. As a strategisttrainer and speaker on social media, Collier helps companies better connect with customers. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time has helped businesses of all shapes and sizes better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. [Mack’s Site]

Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss commented a couple of times on my post, Last Book Read: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. Strauss is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and also writes regularly for The New York Times, having repeatedly made its bestseller list with books such as The Game, Emergency, and Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. [Wikipedia]

John Boswell

John Boswell

John Boswell generously answered my questions in this post: Interview with MelodySheep and Symphony of Science Mastermind. Boswell is the artist behind autotune projects Symphony of Science and MelodySheep, gaining international recognition and millions of YouTube views for his inspiring musical tributes to Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Julia Child, among others.

Mike Sager

Mike Sager

Mike Sager said thanks for my quick post inspired by his writing, From Music and Words into Movement – The Fun of Art. Sager is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. He has been called “the Beat poet of American journalism, that rare reporter who can make literature out of shabby reality.” [Wikipedia] In thirty years as a journalist, writer at large Mike Sager has immersed himself in the lives of pit-bull fighters, heroin addicts, Tupperware saleswomen, and an actress named Roseanne. [Esquire]

Jay Baer

Jay Baer

Jay Baer stopped by after I reached him on Google Plus to weigh in on my post, How to Talk About Social Media In Business: 5 Points, Video Interview. Baer is a social media strategist, author, speaker and President of Convince & Convert. Founder of five companies, he’s worked with over 700 brands (including Nike, Cold Stone Creamery, Sony, ExactTarget, and ConocoPhillips) since 1994, including 25 of the Fortune 1000. His blog is ranked among the world’s top marketing resources, and was named #3 social media blog in the world by Social Media Examiner. [Wikipedia]

Alexis Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal noted his use of contrast in my analysis of his work: Contrasts Make Connections. Madrigal is a Senior editor at The Atlantic, author of Powering the Dream, and has previously contributed to WIRED, covering science and technology as a contributor to the Wired Science blog. [Twitter]

Also engaging via brand representatives were McDonald’s Corporate in: Fast Food and Fast Lessons in Public Relations and, as a bonus from 2011: Delta Airlines in my post, An Airline Gets it… Right?

What do you think? Have any well-known figures or organizations commented on your work? Have you ever had any brushes with celebrity? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever

Hoo boy, this is some incredible corporate-speak – as in, “repositioning” out of the company… (via The Atlantic):

Cittigroup Layoffs Image

Image and link via: Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever – The Atlantic by Derek Thompson.

My heart kind of goes out to the person/team who had to draft this statement – an unenviable task, ripe for ridicule, no doubt subject to hours of agonizing revisions and edits. My heart goes out even more to the newly “repositioned.” But the fact that this missive captures this much attention (mentions on The Atlantic and Twitter, for example) says something – somehow, a nerve has been touched…

Citigroup Jargon on Twitter

It Is What It Is

This is just a lose-lose all around. The company has to do what it has to do, and no amount of careful wording will lessen the blow. Companies can’t stay alive if they have more staff than they need – that’s just a reality of business. And it’s a lousy reality for the newly-jobless that isn’t helped at all by corporate-speak. Maybe there would be less flak coming in if Citigroup at least expressed some kind of gratitude or regret – but would that really have made a difference? Maybe there would be fewer blogs or tales of PR about it, but the repositioning just “is what it is.”

Man, do I hate that phrase.

What do you think? Ever had to be the bearer of grim corporate news? What are your favorite corporate-speak phrases? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Contrasts Make Connections

It’s contrast that makes art interesting. Chiaroscuro, juxtaposition, or as Charles Atlas might call it, “Dynamic Tension,” whether in visual art, writing, or music. I noticed this recently in a superb story in The AtlanticEarth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World, by Alexis Madrigal.

Click for full story by Alex Madrigal. © The Atlantic

Mr. Madrigal’s story has plenty of contrast, metaphorically and literally.

Contrast is the basis of nearly all humor. We love it. Subversion, exaggeration, things that should not be but for some wacky reason are — it all works thanks to contrast. Three Stooges? Ridiculous. Grown, yet idiotic men slapping each other around? Pure genius.

It’s this kind of juxtaposition that establishes scale in our minds’ eyes, and it’s a very efficient way to deliver a punch. Why is it so dramatic when a rock band takes things down for a minute? It makes the heavy parts heavier. Just ask Black Sabbath. They weren’t known for being fast, but no one wielded mightier riffs for that time (and not much since). And when they did it slow, it had maximum impact.

Many times, Madrigal works contrast into the text: describing how small he is in the photograph he has his fiancé take of him outside the station (“at its base, I was almost too small to see”); showing some genuinely human yet long forgotten documents emerge from a backpack then go back again, across the creek with a couple of scavengers — or rather, heroes.

The contrasts in this story drive home the underlying theme, as Madrigal himself states:

That story is about how jagged technological advancement is. People received images from the moon feet from a saloon locals rode horses to.
-Alexis Madrigal

From the moon to a saloon. There you go: contrast. (Also my favorite dive bar).

Yet in this contrast Madrigal shows a real connection, bound by geography. I would add to his description above that the story is also about connections: past-present, Chinese-American, lunar-saloonar… and as Madrigal elegantly phrases it, society and technology:

No technology stands outside society, and no society exists without the people who build it.

This point about connections is illustrated with the example of a utopian space colony described alongside the boring tedium required to make it possible:

Space Colony

Beautiful, yes. Now just imagine the meetings and spreadsheets behind making this happen.

Again: contrast, making connection happen as we take in the details.

It really hit me when I laid eyes on this photograph:

The whole article is worth reading for just this photo. See the story for full effect. © The Atlantic

As I state in the article’s comments:

My jaw dropped upon scrolling to the image of the Chinese visiting. With the scene painted so vividly by the preceding text, I fully appreciate the enormity of what those files revealed, as I can imagine Mr. Madrigal also did, seeing through his lens what another photographer captured four decades ago. The contrasts between then and now are astounding, as are the connections.
-Wow, did I say that? Huh.

This is a fascinating read and I highly recommend taking a moment to enjoy it, noticing the contrasts and connections as you go. It’s great writing and an inspiring story. It certainly got me appreciating how far we’ve come with technology and how human we will always be.

See also: Slideshow from New York Times. Outstanding photography from Annie Tritt (annietritt.com, @trittscamera)

Jamesburg Earth Station

Old communications equipment at the station. The Operational Room was where Jack Ramey, a retired technical supervisor at the station, said that he had listened to astronauts on a mission. © New York Times

What do you think? Do you notice contrast making things interesting? What are other examples? Could you live in a former Earth Station? Do you have designs on this piece of real estate to set up your evil lair? Let us hear from you in the comments!