Tag Archives: seriously — another thing you want us to care about?

The Very Exciting Thing That Is About To Happen To Me (or: M-I-Z).

This post was originally published over on Stry. It’s actually a speech that I intended to give in Columbia, Mo., last week. I didn’t know I was supposed to give a speech, and then I decided to read the itinerary of events I’d been sent, and saw very clearly the words “Dan Oshinsky” and “five-minute speech” linked together, and suddenly, hastily, began writing. Turned out that they decided to not have me speak — wise move on their part, I should say — but I’ve regurgitated the vague outline of my would-be speech here:

Motion is kind of an amazing thing.

I feel like I should know. I went skydiving last week.

I’m not exactly the skydiving type. I’d never been skydiving before, or bungee jumping, or heliskiing, or anything that involved a significant amount of free fall. I’m also not a fan of heights. So you can guess how strange it must have been for me to be sitting on the floor of a four-seat Cessna, 10,000 feet above Warrenton, Va., strapped to a guy named Dave — white hair, white eyebrows, used-to-be-a-roadie-in-Joplin, Mo., Dave — when the door to the plane opened, and I looked down.

And I surrendered.

Surrendered to the overwhelming, crippling fear, for one. But also to Dave, because he was literally harnessed to my back, and he was going to throw me out of the plane whether I was ready or not, and he was also the guy who controlled the parachute, which meant that he would be deciding whether or not we landed.(1)

I surrendered. We jumped.

I was thinking about that last week. I think there are two types of media organizations out there: Those willing to surrender to the current media climate and move forward, and those that aren’t.

It is not enough to merely acknowledge that things have changed for newsrooms and news organizations. Some fight what’s happening, some fear it.

Some surrender.

That’s the smart choice.

One type of new media organization gets me especially excited these days: The startup. These are organizations that sense opportunity, chance, uncertainty — and are putting themselves in motion to chase their ambitions. I find that to be a remarkable thing.

So this year, I’m going to get a bit closer to them.

The University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) has invited me out to Columbia, Mo., in the fall to serve as a fellow.(2) For a year, I’ll be studying news-centric startups, trying to catalog the choices, successes and failures made during their early stages. I’ll be applying those lessons to Stry, the startup I founded last fall in Biloxi, Miss.

Despite all the success I had in Biloxi, Stry has been idling since the fall. RJI is giving me the chance to kick-start Stry once again. During the course of my fellowship, I’m going to try to take Stry from concept to realization. The goal is to build out an organization that can begin reporting and syndicating stories starting in the spring of 2012.

Better yet is that I’m going to try to bring transparency to the process. I’m going to put Stry inside the fishbowl for others to watch and participate in the startup process. My successes, my failures — they’ll all be public.

My hope is that by opening up the process, we can give other could-be founders the chance to see how challenging the startup process can be. If we do it right, we’ll give them the chance to start their company at a place greater than zero.

Do that, and we give them the chance to put their company into motion faster.

And motion — motion is kind of an amazing thing.

photo at top by Dak Dillon

  1. Well, safely, at least.
  2. The list of former fellows is long and distinguished, and I am not entirely sure how I now find myself among their ranks.

When I Wear This T-Shirt With A Giant Sandwich On It, I Am Doing So Effortlessly.

I have a friend from Kansas City. Her name is Angela, and she did something kind of unusual the other day.

She started a blog.(1)

Angela’s always been one of those girls who seemed out of step with the Midwest. She’s a fashion nerd who grew up in Kansas City, which is like being a Jamaican bobsledder. She’d fit right in on either coast, but in KC, she’s got a style that does nothing but clash.

But it’s hers. I don’t know entirely how to describe her outfits, but I can tell you that you always know when Angela shows up in a room. Whatever her style is, she owns it.

So it made sense when, at the top of her blog, she put this quote:

Style should be effortless. If it is not effortless, then it is not yours.

And I thought: that’s it! That’s the word I’ve been looking for!

All these years, I’d been told that my style was lazy. But lazy’s such a loaded word.

Effortless.

Effortless.

Effortless.

That’s what I’ve been going for.

See, I take a fair amount of crap for my own personal style. It’s definitely a style — there are certain types of things I wear, and certain things from a certain time period that I like — but it’s the kind of style that wouldn’t necessarily show up at New York Fashion Week.

I tend to wear two types of things:

1.) T-shirts from sporting events that took place more than a decade ago.

2.) T-shirts from restaurants that serve massive quantities of food, preferably featuring images of said massive quantities on shirt.

Like, here’s one of my favorites: that’s me wearing a shirt from Krupin’s, a DC deli that my Uncle Jimmy used to work at. You couldn’t find a better pickle inside the Beltway.

Or how about this one: that’s me, in Beijing, wearing a shirt I picked up in Alicante, Spain, at my favorite doner kebab place. Sultan Kebab doesn’t sell t-shirts, but I ate there almost twice a week for an entire semester, and my friend CG and I begged the kebab guys to give us their spare shirts. They eventually did:

But nothing tops my original food shirt: it’s for Peter’s Carry Out, the counter I’ve been frequenting since I was 12. “Frequented” doesn’t really do the place justice; Ned and Bob, the guys on the griddle, were invited to my bar mitzvah. That place is the Oshinsky family’s version of “Cheers.” Best cheeseburger sub in America, as far as I’m concerned.(2)

What I like about my style is that it’s weirdly unique. I don’t see a lot of other guys wearing such shirts a non-ironic way. But I have hope.

I was flipping through Hulu yesterday. I like to check out the late night shows and see if any bands I like have been playing. And I came across one that intrigued: indie soft-rockers One eskimO had played Leno two weeks back. I’d seen them in Denver a few months earlier and enjoyed their sound. (3) I clicked play.

And at the end of the set, I noticed something about the trumpet player’s shirt:

I’d eaten there.

The shirt is from a place is called Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse. It’s down on the Lower East Side in New York. It’s one of the only places in the world where they put schmaltz on the table as a condiment. They serve a hangar steak that flops over the edges of the plate, and an egg cream that you really can’t find anywhere outside of New York City.

How a British indie band’s bassist/trumpet player found that place? I’ve got no idea.

But I looked at that guy. I looked at that dark blue shirt, the big beige lettering from a Lower East Side kosher food institution.

Effortless, isn’t it?

  1. On Blogger, no less! How decidedly retro! You can read Angela’s blog over at maybeyesterday.com. It’s quite good, actually.
  2. Incidentally, they don’t actually sell the giant sandwich that’s on the shirt. I’m trying to change Ned’s mind on that front.
  3. Because you’re wondering: At the show, I was wearing a shirt with a giant arrow on it. Got it while taking on a five-day hike that guaranteed me passage to heaven as long as I convert to Catholicism before I die. But that’s another story.

How Far Can 100 Really Good Books Travel?

That’s the question I’m asking in a new project that will soon be launching over at BooksAround.org. It’s a spin-off on the old dollar bill experiment: if I send 100 interesting books out to people around the country, and ask those people to read and pass the books along to friends, where will those books eventually end up?

To get this off the ground, I’ve enlisted the help of Kickstarter. You’ve probably got a dollar or five lying around. So watch the video below, click the link and help get this experiment off the ground.