O'Connell / Monday Ephemera: The Verse / Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Welcome to the first of my “bits and pieces” posts on Approximately 8,000 Words. It’s modeled after the Watercooler posts I made on Firedoglake from 2012 until my departure last week. For now, I’m calling them my Daily Ephemera. I’ll try to share a video, a link or two, and something from Twitter.

Tonight’s video is “The Verse,” a rather wonderful short fan film based on Firefly. 

Written for fans and by fans who are inspired by the cult sci-fi series Firefly, An exciting new look at this beloved world featuring a new crew, a new ship and a heaping dose of misbehavin’!

Directed by Julian Higgins (@JulianHiggins)

Hunter: Ryan Caldwell (@rycaldwell)
Stack: Jennifer Wenger (@JennyWenger)
Yoke: Peter Weidman (@PeterWeidman)
Maribelle: Tybee Diskin (@hellotybeeren)
Rusty: Zack Finfrock (@ZackFinfrock)
Annie: Alex Marshall-Brown (@amarshallbrown)
Chow: Ewan Chung (@ewanchung)
Commodore Woodruff: Vic Mignogna (@vicmignogna)


A minimalist poster showing outlined drawings of each of Serentiy's recognizable crew

Browncoats rejoice at a brand new Firefly fanfilm.

Also: Many people who know me don’t realize I helped best-selling author Steven Brust edit his FREE Firefly fan-fiction novelMy Own Kind of Freedom, some years ago.

Toronto cyclists are striking back against drivers that park in bicycle lanes. From road.cc:

Cyclists in Toronto fed up with motorists illegally parking in bike lanes are striking back – by placing stickers on cars to shame drivers into think twice about doing so in future. […] The green stickers, which cost C$5 a roll, have the words “I parked in a bike lane” on them, together with the hashtag, #IParkedInABikeLane. They were thought up by a pair of anonymous cyclists who say on their Tumblr page:

“#IParkedInABikeLane was started out of frustration for the blatant disregard for cyclists and cycling infrastructure in Toronto. The concept is simple – you see a vehicle parked in a bike lane, you slap a sticker on it. The intention isn’t to cause damage or vandalize (the stickers don’t damage anything anyway) – it’s to get drivers to think twice about what they are doing and perhaps change their actions in the future. Parking and driving in bike lanes is not only inconsiderate and selfish, but also incredibly dangerous, especially for cyclists who are not comfortable integrating with the flow of traffic.”

From Mint Press News: On MyMPN, Adam Powell’s report on how Carly’s Law could revolutionize the lives of Alabama children suffering from extreme forms of epilepsy through access to an experimental drug derived from cannabis:

Carly’s Law, which unanimously passed the Alabama House and Senate in May, allows the University of Alabama at Birmingham to research the medical uses of cannabidiol, or CBD oil, and provide it to eligible recipients.

CBD oil has proved effective in other states for limiting, if not completely eliminating, seizures and improving patient’s quality of life. Many families have moved from Alabama, Georgia and other states to Colorado just to have access to this treatment option.

Carly’s Law is named after Carly Chandler, a three year old who suffers from daily debilitating seizures, and received wide support from many families who need the medication for their children.

When moves were being made in the Alabama statehouse earlier this year, Wayne Young was on the front-lines knocking on doors and speaking with whoever would listen. While both Amy and Wayne [Young] will acknowledge, CBD oil is “not a magical drug,” but could provide [daughter] Leni Young, and thousands of other Alabama children, with comfort while also relieving her pain and eliminating her seizures.

And a Republican legislator led the way!

One of Carly’s Law’s biggest political advocates was Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who met Leni and Carly while pushing the bill through the statehouse.

He can recall the day perfectly.

“It was kind of strange when that picture (of Ball and Leni) was taken,” Ball said. “That’s the only time I’ve ever gotten to hold her.”

Ball was in quiet reflection when Amy approached him and placed Leni in his arms.

“I held that baby and we were praying and it was like we were all alone,” Ball recalled. “It’s one of those unique moments I’ll always remember.”

This was one of the most moving stories I’ve edited. Now if we can just find a way to get our legislators to hold Palestinian babies or border children.

Activism in the 21st century …

Love and solidarity from Approximately 8,000 Words to everyone that took part in Flood Wall Street today!

Continued reading >

O'Connell / Cartoon Friday: Count Duckula / Friday, September 19th, 2014

I may not be working for Firedoglake anymore but … It’s STILL Cartoon Friday!

During my two years at Firedoglake I turned the Watercooler — MyFDL’s end of the night wrap up post — into something I looked forward to assembling every night. Partway through that process, I realized I could do almost anything I wanted with the feature. And between that and my love of cartoons, Cartoon Friday was born.

Now that I won’t be blogging at FDL as much anymore it seems only fitting to bring this “tradition” to my blog, Approximately 8,000 Words.

If you’re new or want to review past installments, here’s a retrospective of Cartoon Friday 2013 and a bunch of more recent installments.

Tonight’s selection is the Count Duckula episode, “There are Werewolves at the Bottom of our Garden.” It originally aired in November of 1990.

Duckula is a British cartoon which spun off from another popular series that also saw syndication in the United States, Danger Mouse. In the original series, Duckula was a fearsome villain — at least relatively speaking when you remember the main characters of the original series were a mouse and a mole.

For his feature series, he was reimagined as something far less fierce.

A vampire rubber duck.

OK, a bit more fierce than that.

Perhaps because Danger Mouse dispatched Duckula in the original, Duckula finds himself revived through an ancient and mystic rite — only Nanny, a clumsy hen and one of the vampire duck’s closest allies, substitutes ketchup for blood. Now the mighty warrior is much closer to an Inspector Gadget-like figure: he becomes a hapless vegetarian that survives primarily through the aid of his friends and servants like the tireless but cynical butler, Igor.

So curl up with a favorite libation and get ready to get silly — from the very first moments. Oh, they don’t make theme songs like that anymore.

Thank God.

Seen any good cartoons lately?

Continued reading >

O'Connell / Goodbye MyFDL, Hello MyMPN / Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Major changes at Firedoglake mean major changes in Kit's life.

Major changes at Firedoglake mean major changes in Kit’s life.

I’ve worked for Firedoglake since April 2012, but tomorrow will be my last day. As FDL’s publisher Jane Hamsher just announced, unavoidable and unfortunate issues require that we bring an end to MyFDL, the site’s open blog. Instead of a site where anyone can post, it’s going to become a more standardized WordPress blog with a limited number of authors. This also means there is no longer a need for a dedicated MyFDL editor  — my weekday, full time job.

Jane worked hard to make sure I still had a position at Firedoglake if I wanted it, and I’m very grateful to her offer. Instead, I’ve accepted a position as Web Editor with Mint Press News. I’m already helping to launch MyMPN, the site’s new open blog. Starting tomorrow, I’ll also be temporarily in charge of Mint Press social media.

I can’t say enough about how important Firedoglake was to me these last two years. They took a chance hiring a citizen journalist and writer without formal industry experience, based primarily on my work with Occupy Austin. In a very real way, FDL let me launch a new career and taught me so much about journalism, editing, and the field as a whole. The other editors and staff at the site were, without exception, a pleasure to work with. I’ll still be dropping into that community to participate in discussions and book salons.

If I’ve talked to you in the past about becoming a blogger, I’d still like to see your writing — I’ll just be publishing it on MyMPN instead. Get in touch if you have opinions and want to see them in print, or want to share your local news and activism reports on our site: http://www.mintpressnews.com/MyMPN

Overall, I think the transition will be good for me. My work at Mint Press has already been very rewarding, and I think this change means I’ll be able to write more often. I’m hoping to revive this blog, too. Now that I will no longer be making nightly Watercooler posts on Firedoglake, I’ll share some of those videos and links here. I hope this will also encourage me to give Approximately 8,000 Words a much needed visual overhaul.

Here’s a list of my recent articles for Mint Press News by way of re-introducing my work:

Join Mint Press News as a blogger -- ask me how!

Join Mint Press News as a blogger — ask me how!

O'Connell / #ATXFreeArtFriday – Austin’s Free Art Movement / Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Professor Crochet-Os' artwork is hidden by a larger graffiti wall.

Last week’s hidden Professor Crochet-Os stencil. Will you find free art this week?

Musicians from Trent Reznor to Jonathan Coulton, even authors like Cory Doctorow benefit from giving away their creative work for free, turning altruistic sharing into media buzz. So why not visual artists too?

Though the idea of sharing free art has been around for some time, the Free Art Friday movement is blossoming in Austin, Texas. At its core are street artists like Roshi K and Man With A Pencil, part of the growing Sprax family. Each Friday, dozens of artists like them hide their art throughout the city then post clues on Instagram. Whoever finds the art first gets to keep it.

The Spratx family are street artists working in mediums ranging from traditional painted canvas to wood cut outs to wheat paste, screen printing and stickers. Their artwork frequently appears on walls around town and at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, an inspiration for Spratx as well as its frequent creative outlet.

A hidden artwork by Stella_roz

I sat down with Mouf at the new Spratx Gallery and shop on 501 Pedernales Street in Austin’s east side. While a talented multimedia artist in his own right, he sees himself as the business minded heart of the group, helping turn artists passion into successful careers.

“We want Spratx to be synonymous with Austin street art,” he told me.

And while the gallery and attached store is an exciting new way for artists to share their work, the real focus remains in the streets. That’s where #ATXFreeArtFriday comes in.

Giving away your work might seem counterintuitive, but Mouf argues that it creates a powerful link between the finder and the creator. Discoverers of free art become fans, sometimes even commissioning work later. But the value of the free buzz is immeasurable.

“Once you find a piece, you’ll know that artist forever,” Mouf said. “And you’ll talk about it with your friends.”

Anyone can be part of #ATXFreeArtFriday, but to fully participate you’ll need the Instagram app on your iOS or Android smartphone. Here’s how to play:

  • Search for the #ATXFreeArtFriday hashtag on Instagram. Artists begin hiding work and posting clues sometimes as early as 12:01am on Friday, and continue throughout the day and often into the night so be sure to reload frequently.
  • Look at the clues, and when you think you recognize a location get there as fast as you can.
  • Every free artwork will be labelled with the Instagram username of the artist. Find the clue and post a reply (“Finders keepers!” or “I found it!”) then,
  • Instagram a photo of the artwork — pose with it, or show everyone where you’ve put it up in your home. Be sure to include the #ATXFreeArtFriday hashtag and @tag the artist.

Last Friday when I was exploring the graffiti wall near the gallery with friends, I discovered this fab Mr. Sparkle stencil by Professor Crochet-os, and now it’s part of my living room decor. Maybe you’ll discover something to put on your walls, or hang from your keychain?

“A lot of people think it’s only about Spratx,” but Mouf stresses that #ATXFreeArtFriday is open to any artist at any skill level. Check out this complete guide to participation.

After you hunt for art on Friday, check out the new Mouf / BLVD show “Not Cut Out For This” over the weekend. This canvas-free, all wood cut-out show opens 6pm Saturday January 26 in the Spratx Gallery at 501 Pedernales Street, Unit 2A. Free drinks will be served.