Things we like: March 2014

Our monthly round-up of longform stories that have got the Mosaic team thinking.

Ghosting (London Review of Books)

Andrew O’Hagan tells all about working on Julian Assange’s autobiography. It’s 26,500 words, so it really does tell all – but does it merit such length? There are repetitions in the way Assange is portrayed: are they redundant or does the repetition compound our understanding of this character? And, when writing about someone else in such depth, how did O’Hagan deal with having to portray his own character so prominently too?

When we are called to part (Atavist – paywall)

A wonderful, character-rich tale of the last leprosy colony. Brooke Jarvis spent a few years living with this community in Hawaii and returned to tell a story only she could tell. We like the sparing use of multimedia – between some of the chapters, you can hear audio of one of the main characters speaking, adding to your understanding of her place in the narrative.

The Waiting Room (Pete Nicks, via PBS)

Director Pete Nicks was inspired to make this film because of the stories his wife came home with after working at Highland Hospital in California. He wanted to capture the resilience of the patients and caregivers in this large, under-resourced, urban public hospital. It was a great place to observe and a powerful way to explore human struggles in life and death situations.

The drone that will sail itself around the world (Wired)

Our Editor likes sailing and gadgets and fast things, so this story was a winner for him. We all liked the fact that it was an alternate, non-military (or Amazon) take on drones. Well written and easy to read, but could there have been more tension in the way the story was told?

Ski jumping (New York Times)

One of a series of scrolling video explainers created for coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the New York Times: we like this clean, effective format for showing step-by-step what’s involved in these events.

The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (Werner Herzog)

Continuing the winter sports theme, this profile of Swiss ski jumper Walter Steiner features director Werner Herzog as an existential sports reporter. Beautifully filmed, using the best high-speed cameras that the mid-1970s had to offer, it is about pushing the boundaries of human endeavour and why we find that so compelling.

A brief history of the snowball fight (The Paris Review)

Certainly not long in terms of word count but a piece that rewards spending some time and thought on. Ostensibly a list of archive pictures and reports of snowball fights through history, it builds into something more poetic.

The Arbor (Clio Barnard)

The story of playwright Andrea Dunbar and her daughter. This 2010 film uses Dunbar’s writing and audio recordings but also actors to recreate key moments from her life, blurring the boundaries between documentary and narrative fiction to create a true, and haunting, tale.

Visitors (Godfrey Reggio)

Creator of such delightfully mind-expanding works as Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio has a new film out which we are really looking forward to seeing. Visitors is a filmic poem that makes us observe ourselves and our relationship to technology with an unflinching eye.

What stories have caught your eye recently? Do share in the comments.

Michael Regnier

Michael is a staff writer for Mosaic and the Wellcome Trust.