The Week in Review: Torture Report Debated

A debate over American interrogation techniques reignited this week with the release of the long-awaited terror report. The document, submitted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, detailed the steps used by Americans against terrorists after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

According to the report, prisoners endured waterboarding, frozen conditions, being attached to a wall and put in a box, among other measures. The roughly 6,000-page document concluded that the program led to little valuable information from the prisoners and stated that the C.I.A. misled the White House and Congress about the success of the program.

Defenders of the program said the CIA was advised that the methods used were not torture and that the program was instrumental in dismantling al-Qaeda. Michael Hayden, who served as CIA Director under former President George W. Bush, said the tactics were not legally torture and said they led to important intelligence.

“Information gained from this program, and from detainees was absolutely part of the fabric of information that the agency used to go after Osama bin Laden,” Hayden told NBC News. “Frankly, in my experience, we learned so much from these people. It kind of created this Home-Depot-like warehouse of knowledge about al Qaeda to which we continually referred.”

Current CIA Director John Brennan said the detention had value, but said it is “unknowable” if the information received was valuable.

President Obama formally ended the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program when he took office in 2009 and said the tactics “did not serve our broader counter-terrorism efforts or our national security interests” and did “significant damage to America’s standing in the world.” The president’s sentiments were echoed by politicians across the aisle this week. Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a former prisoner of war, said the CIA’s conduct “stained our national honor” and did “much harm and little practical good.”

The policy debate and political jousting will continue. Our nation’s leaders will likely never agree, but the report will impact the way history is written and our future tactics. Delve into the debate and issues raised through magazines on Flipboard.

Foreign Policy by Keith Fitzgerald: The latest foreign policy news surrounding the terror report and relations with Iran, China and the Middle East.

Terrorism News by KJH: Reports on the hazards and worry felt in the U.S. and abroad.

Moral, Ethics and Politics by micronanopico: Examine the cross-section between our politics and convictions.

ISIS Threat & Uprising in Iraq by thenewsdesk: News about the latest threat facing the United States.

The ISIS Threat: Analysis From CFR by Council on Foreign Relations: Hear the experts at CFR explain the nuances of ISIS and the global response.

Keep up with the ongoing debate around the terror report with the “interrogation” topic tag.

~GabyS is reading “Political

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On the Red Couch with Ghostly’s Sam Valenti IV

Photo credit: Jessica Miller

If you’re into electronic music, Ghostly International’s Sam Valenti IV is terribly exciting to meet. He grew up in Detroit, the birthplace of techno music, going to raves as a teenager. He’s a DJ himself and runs two imprints, Ghostly International and Spectral Sound, whose signings include buzzworthy acts like Tycho, Matthew Dear, Com Truise, Phantogram and Gold Panda.

That’s impressive enough, but Ghostly does more than just release cool music. The brand is a platform for creative people and has extended to things like The Ghostly Store, a music discovery app and a subscription platform called “I thought there was a need for an American label that had a wide range of styles and tastes, and was able to connect music and design in a thoughtful way,” says Valenti, on why he started his company 15 years ago. “I really loved the idea of a label as a philosophy, almost like an art gallery where the work changes, but the ethos remains.”

We sat down with Valenti to discuss how he, as a “small publisher,” has been able sustain a healthy business despite tectonic shifts in the music industry. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the scene that so inspired him in the first place has finally been embraced by American culture at large. Let’s dance to that!

How is running Ghostly today different from running it, say, 10 years ago?
Everyone thinks the music industry’s been in this sort of downward spiral, but I really think it’s actually been kind of a healthy change. When I started Ghostly in college from my dorm room, I was using Napster at the time, and the writing was on the wall that things were changing pretty dramatically. However, I think it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for small publishers like Ghostly and others. When you are relying on word of mouth, fan support, direct sales and things like that, the Web’s been able to unlock that power.

Can you talk about the interplay between free and paid, and how they support each other?
It’s a really big debate right now, mainly because we think we have the ability for fans to pay for content and for people to enjoy stuff for free. I’m a fan of SoundCloud’s and a lot of the services that’ve made music routine on the Web. People understand how it works. People know they can get a stable playback method that won’t disappear—that was largely lacking in music culture.

I also love the idea that there’s more bespoke ways to buy music. The return of vinyl—people are excited about purchasing artifacts and even just having a more intimate experience with music. We’re in a golden age where all kinds of music fans can be satisfied. However, we feel that some fans, the wild ones, could use some more attention, that’s why we started, where we now look after the fan communities for artists like They Might Be Giants and labels like Stones Throw, Sub Pop and Mad Decent.

What’s your criteria for signing someone to Ghostly?
I think a lot about the humanity of the work. It’s easy to make music these days. The artists we work with have to have a really strong grasp of who they are. Even if it’s instrumental music, you feel them at work; the work is not overwhelmed by the technology available. It’s still very much a personal statement to make and release music.

What do you read to stay in touch with what’s happening in music?
I’m trying to read less music journalism because I find it sometimes changes how you hear things. I like the idea of a raw experience. I read a lot of the tech blogs, the daily ones and the sort of more long-form ones. I’m back to The New Yorker again; I just really find it a satisfying experience. I still read a lot of the design blogs: Selectism, Design Milk, ISO50 and The Fox is Black.

What do you make of electronic music’s huge growth this year?
We’re totally past genre now. I don’t know if it was file sharing, the iPod/iPhone, or just the Web in general that sort of disintermediated the idea of genre from our conversation. [It’s more like] “How does it make me feel? How does it related to other things I like? Do any of my friends like it?” It’s a very social experience—that’s why festivals and dance music culture have gotten bigger. People are more interested in just experiencing it.

How will electronic music continue to evolve in 2015?
Electronic music is having a disco moment, where people are trying to sound more electronic and utilize the aesthetics of electronic, so I expect a lot of copying, but also a lot of young producers who are coming with a fresh voice and perspectives that we haven’t seen yet.

What’s the scene like in Detroit now?
Detroit has a hope that is phenomenal. A lot of people who are choosing to stay in Detroit and develop their careers there (when I graduated, people wanted to leave). So the hope on the entrepreneurial level is pretty high. There’s a lot going on and a lot of work to do as well. Musically, it’ll always be a place for creation. It just has too much history, too much power not to deny, whether you’re looking at back to Motown or as recent as the last five years.

What are some of the tentpole events on your social calendar?
I go to:
– MoogFest in Asheville, NC
– Sónar in Barcelona
-MUTEK in Montreal
For our 15th anniversary this year, we did shows at Berlin’s Berghain Panorama Bar, Seattle’s Decibel Festival and of course Movement in Detroit—the places that have been really supportive of Ghostly artists.

Which artists or albums knocked your socks off in 2014?
From our roster, I thought that HTRK and Tycho delivered career-best albums. I love a lot pop R&B (Tinashe) and hip-hop (Hit Boy & DJ Mustard beats) faves and some leftfield or non-trad faves like the harpist Mary Lattimore. We tried to pick our favorite artists of 2014 for Ghostly Swim 2 compilation with Adult Swim, which is out Christmas week so you can stay sane when dealing with your family.

What can we expect from Ghostly in 2015?
Some great debuts like Fort Romeau from London and Matrixxman from San Francisco. Continuing the #ghostly15 collaborations with people like Warby Parker, Blk Pne, Void Watches, and Makerbot. Just trying to find and share some great artists. That’s it.

Browse Ghostly’s magazine on Flipboard:

~MiaQ is curating “Riddim Freak

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Wonderland Twinkles With Holiday Advice and Inspiration

With Hanukkah starting next week, and Christmas close behind, it’s show time for this holiday season. Are you ready? Wonderland, our holiday magazine, is—it’s all gussied up with articles on how to create sparkling memories you won’t soon forget.

The magazine leads with gift ideas because it’s time to finalize all that, and expert guides from publishers like VOGUE, Dwell and Huffington Post, can help narrow your choices. There are also articles about making your home guest-ready and beautiful; getting yourself primed for parties and host-ing with the most-ing; and a new section, “Thankful,” about how to give back this season. The entertainment guide has no shortage of suggestions of what to do with all that down-time coming up.

After the holiday, Wonderland will move into a health and wellness mode, with articles about healthy eating, fitness and goal-setting. Tap “follow” to ensure your holidays go smoothly and your year gets off to an excellent start.

~MiaQ is reading “2014 Music Links

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The Week in Review: #GivingTuesday Grows

We have Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now, for the third year in row, Giving Tuesday.

The day dedicated to giving back started when a group of individuals at the 92nd Street Y in New York City decided the days of excess needed a counter balance. What began as a campaign in 2012 has since grown into a global event.

“What we’ve really seen over the last couple of years is just a real surge of engagement and interest in people thinking about how they give, why they give, and what they give, too,” Henry Timms, the founder of #GivingTuesday told The Huffington Post.

This year’s push raised $45.7 million, a 63 percent donation increase since last year, according to estimates released by the Case Foundation. Sixty-three countries and over 20,000 organizations participated, contributing to the 32.8 million Twitter impressions and 698,600 hashtag mentions.

Celebrities, athletes, politicians, business people and philanthropists raised awareness for their favorite causes. Bill and Melinda Gates matched, and doubled, every contribution up to $200,000 to Shot@Life, an organization focused on improving vaccines. The NFL designated St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, their chosen charity for the day. Ten meals were donated to Feeding America from each tweet that used the #YouGiveWeGive hashtag.

“Much like everyone anxiously awaits…the amount of online spending on Cyber Monday and Black Friday as a measure of our nation’s economic health, measuring the amount of online donations every #GivingTuesday serves as a gauge of our nation’s philanthropic health,” the Case Foundation said in a statement.

Giving Tuesday added to a successful start to the holiday season that included a record-breaking Cyber Monday of $2.04 billion in sales and a Black Friday that continued expanding into other countries.

Read about those giving back to their communities and organizations dedicated to change.

Bespoke Philanthropy by Josephine Tan: News about philanthropic efforts from the individual to the corporate level.

Global Poverty 101 by ONECampaign: Discover ways to help fight global poverty and disease, from the perspective of the ONE Campaign.

Women’s Health by Doctors Without Borders: This world health organization looks at the biggest issues facing women.

#GivingTuesday and all year long by Colleen Pence: Get ideas of where to invest your time and/or resources.

Blackfriday and Holiday Shopping 2014 by charlie seanez: What to buy for your friends and family this season.

Volunteering by Jelenko Dragisic: News about who’s volunteering in the United States and around the globe.

~GabyS is reading “All About Violin

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On the Red Couch with Fantasy Novelist Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson was “anti-books” until an eighth grade teacher introduced him to fantasy novels. He went on to write seven novels during his undergraduate career at BYU while juggling the night shift at a hotel. After many rejections from publishers, he received a fateful phone call from fantasy book editor Moshe Feder of It had been a year and a half after he submitted his manuscript for Elantris and he had almost given up.

Now he is known for his bestselling series Mistborn, co-hosting the podcast “Writing Excuses” and was chosen by Harriet McDougal to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, a seminal epic fantasy that heavily influenced Sanderson himself.

As part of our iBooks author series (iBooks powers much of our Books category), here’s what Sanderson had to say about his ongoing projects. Fantasy enthusiasts and aspiring novelists, take heed!

Publishing and distribution has really changed since you began writing in 1997. How did you adapt to a more digital world?
One thing that is very different is you can take a shorter piece, like a novella, and reach an audience much more quickly. With social media, it makes the business feel less lonely. Book length is less important, which is a big advantage for both readers and writers. For the longest time, you had to publish a book at a certain length. You can now tell the story that you want to tell and include color illustrations easily.

How did it feel to carry the torch and finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series?
It was a like becoming stepfather to several million people. Fortunately I was part of the fandom, so I understood it to an extent. Robert Jordan had been good at interacting with his readers. I had to bone up on my minutia of Wheel of Time and I was nowhere near as good at it. Otherwise, it was a deep honor to take over on this series. But it was so difficult, I don’t know if I would ever do anything like it again.

The Stormlight Archive will be 10 books long and your third in the series, Stones Unhallowed, is due out in 2016. How do you stay on top of it?
It’s on track for 2016. Those books take a lot of work to write. I found that they come out better if I take a break in between them, to let the ideas continue to flow. My plan is to do one every two years. I like to have a solid plan for every story I’m working on. Beyond that, I do have assistants whose jobs are to focus on continuity.

Allomancy is very tactile power in Mistborn. Did spending time outdoors or living in Utah inspire that?
It was definitely inspired by my time outdoors, but at the same time, great magic in a book will often be one that has a strong tactile sense to it. Some newer writers go wrong in their magic in fantasy books by making it cerebral. Giving that extra boost, where you make it easier to see yourself doing it, makes for a stronger story.

How do you personally encourage young writers?
I like dropping by schools. I, unlike a lot of writers, didn’t enjoy writing and reading when I was a teenager. It took a teacher, who focused on me as a person to get me excited about fantasy novels. I had such a wonderful experience that it changed my life. If I can reach that same age group and say, “You may be thinking that you hate books, the truth is that you probably haven’t found the right books yet.”

How did you get involved with the game Infinity Blade?
The guys who make the Infinity Blade games live down the street from me. They were big fans of my work. I’ve been a gamer all my life. It was me getting a chance to experiment with a new type of storytelling, while they were getting a chance to see first-hand how a writer goes about developing a story. Maybe someday I’ll have video games based on my books.

Do you play games? What have you played lately?
The last one that I played all the way through was Dark Souls 2. Lately I’ve been into a mobile game I found called Badland.

Any recommended reading from students you’ve taught?
Brian McClellan‘s Promise of Blood, Peggy Eddleman’s Sky Jumpers and Janci Patterson. I’m am lucky to have had these students in my classes because they are people I learn from.

Flip through this magazine for more about Brandon Sanderson and to see his titles on iBooks:

You can also watch some of Mr. Sanderson’s BYU lectures on Youtube!

~ jdlv is curating “Toolkit

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On the Red Couch with Food52’s Amanda Hesser

Tis the season to be eating—so what better person to, ahem, grill than Amanda Hesser, a founder of the mouth-watering site Food52 (that’s “52” as in 52 weeks a year). Hesser and her co-founder Merrill Stubbs have created a kind of cook’s nirvana by bringing together every aspect of a chef’s life, including inspiring recipes, advice on cookware and table decor, and a community of cooks eager to help each other out.

While all these things are presented in a beautiful manner, with must-make-that-now! photography, the real beauty of Food52 is that it’s just plain useful. That’s because both Hesser and Stubbs are thoughtful but easygoing about food. “We cook locally, we cook seasonally, but we’re not preachy about it. We’re also happy to go and eat a burger,” Hesser says.

Food52’s alluring practicality also comes from the fact that real home cooks drive most of what you see on the site. Reader expertise is harnessed via callouts and contests, and they respond in droves: Hesser says 98% of the site’s recipes and 70% of blog posts come from passionate reader-chefs. “We felt like while food blogs were growing in importance, they’re very diffuse, so the way we think of Food52 is very much like a platform for talented home cooks, bloggers and professional cooks,” she explains.

In this interview, Hesser let us in on the site’s secret sauce—just how they’ve managed to cultivate such a vibrant community around food. Their Flipboard magazines contain not-so-secret tips about how to make your Thanksgiving feast—or any culinary experience—delicious and fulfilling.

Do you vet the community’s recipes before you publish them?
Anyone can upload any recipe to the site, so the short answer is no. But it’s a little bit more complicated than that. That’s the secret to our model—there’s vetting on a number of levels. For example, we don’t make it easy for you to upload a recipe. We make you put in all the ingredients and steps. That’s a reason that so many of our 31,000 recipes are of very high quality. It’s not something that you’re going to do on a whim; it’s people who are wanting to compete and they feel like their recipe is great.

Once the recipes come in, a team selects a percentage to test. (We have testers all over the country and in Canada.) We photograph [the finalists], and then the community votes on the winners. We designed the site for the community to participate in lots of different ways. High touch would be participating in a recipe contest. Low touch might be voting on a recipe contest, commenting on a recipe, favoriting a recipe, favoriting a blog post or favoriting a product. The community is constantly curating the site without realizing it. We want people to naturally interact with the site and have those interactions be meaningful.

What kinds of things have you learned about cooking from your community?
So many things! Quinoa and kale happen to be two of the most search ingredients on our site, which tells you something about our audience. This recipe was on the site before those two became really big. It has a little bit of goat cheese. It has Meyer lemon zest, a little bit of nut oil. It’s one of those recipes that’s very simple to do, and the flavors really come together in this interesting way. It’s the kind of dish where if you took it to a party everyone will ask the recipe for it.

That’s the kind of thing we find over and over. Because our recipes come from home cooks, they’re very resourceful; they’re not going to dirty a billion pots because they’re going to be the ones who have to clean them. It’s often about toasting something to give it a little extra flavor or texture. It’s those tiny details that really do amplify the flavor or character of a recipe. That’s why the recipes on our site are very accessible: They tend to be five or six ingredients, a few steps, because they’re they’re cooking after work and on the weekends.

Do you think home cooks are an endangered species?
Absolutely not. I think home cooking is going through a major renaissance. I think people cook differently at home. Part of the food revolution that’s happening is that people are so excited about food and all the cool things that you can eat, and they want to know more and more about it. I think the thing that’s different is that it’s not cooking Monday to Friday and going out on the weekend. It’s really cooking here and there, more out of curiosity than necessity. It’s cooking by choice as opposed to it being a chore. That’s great, in my view, because that will make the kitchen much more welcoming to a larger number of people.

How do you get your kids to try new foods?
We basically decided when they were born that we were going to serve dinner, and that’s dinner. There’s no “I don’t like this.” I mean yes, anyone has the option to not like something, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to eat it. We kind of took the old-school approach. Food is a joyful thing. Eating what was made for you is a way of showing respect to each other and the person who made it. You might not like mushrooms but your sister might. You eat mushrooms this time and the next time you’ll get something that maybe she doesn’t like. It’s about compromising and truly sharing with others.

Do you have any tips for working parents on how they can meal-plan for the week and eat healthfully?
I don’t feel like I’m the master of any of this, but what has been working for us is I will shop and cook on the weekends and I’ll plan out the meals for the week in a sort of old-fashion way that my mom used to do. She would shop for the week. I find that if I try to figure it out on a daily basis; it doesn’t happen or the results aren’t pretty. As a result, I’ll cook bigger batches of some things and try to use the leftovers from this to mix into that. In fact, we have a column on the site that’s like “one tub of yogurt, six meals” to get at [this idea]. I don’t cook one thing and hope it’s going to last for the week because I feel like by the end it’s “I never want to see that dish again.”

Aside from deliciousness, what do you look for in a meal?
Something that feels joyful. I’m increasingly interested in food that you can assemble. I like serving things more family-style now so that people can interact with what you’ve cooked as well. Maybe that comes from having kids, and they want to get their hands in stuff which is really exciting. You realize that this is a natural human desire to touch the food that you’re eating and have a part in it. It has changed the way I think about what I make.

Check out Food52 on Flipboard.

~MiaQ is reading “Balancing Time & Energy

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Flipping The Wall Street Journal and Factiva

For 125 years, it has been read by the leading business influencers in the world. It’s won 35 Pulitzer prizes, for topics including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and corporate scandals. And it has the largest paid circulation of any newspaper in the U.S. Today, The Wall Street Journal comes to Flipboard, where it’s been paginated and designed for easier reading.

The newspaper will make a selection of stories available free to our readers; but paid subscribers to the Journal also will be able to authenticate their service and read premium content as well. (Simply tap your User Profile, then tap the Settings gear in the upper right, then find the Journal under Accounts and enter your login and password.)

The Wall Street Journal’s sister and fellow Dow Jones property, the business information and research service known as Factiva, will launch shortly on Flipboard. This service, a global collection of licensed news, web content and company data from more than 32,000 sources is only available to Factiva subscribers, who can authenticate under the same Accounts tab, described above.

The Wall Street Journal provides more than just business and financial news, of course. You’ll find U.S. and world news, politics, technology, lifestyle, sports and entertainment in its pages, as well. Its business today encompasses news bureaus in nearly 50 countries and employs nearly 1,800 journalists. Its distinctive front page—from the “What’s News” digest to the “stipple drawings” or “hedcuts” of prominent business people to the “A-hed” feature—are instantly recognizable to newspaper readers around the globe.

You can start reading the Wall Street Journal by tapping the badge below.

You can find The Wall Street Journal on Flipboard in the New & Noteworthy area of the Content Guide on tablets or tap the search icon on phones for quick access.

~JoshQ is curating “HYSTERIA Magazine

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The Week in Review: A Very ‘Vape’ Year

Per its annual tradition of picking the most significant word of the year, Oxford Dictionary chose “vape” as 2014’s winner. Originating in the 1980s, “vape,” in verb form, means to “inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” In noun form, the device and action can be referred to as “a vape.”

Some 150 million current English words are analyzed by use, geography and frequency before a team of lexicographers and Oxford Dictionary staff make the final call. The team chose “vape” over other finalists like “bae,” (n. used as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner), “budtender,” (n. a person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop), “indyref,” (n. an abbreviation of ‘independence referendum,’ in reference to the referendum on Scottish independence, held in Scotland on September 18, 2014), “normcore,” (n. a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement—see Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the movie Her) and “slacktivism,” (n. informal actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause).

“As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity,” a statement from OED read. “You are 30 times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.”

The usage of “vape” has increased with the usage of e-cigarette, sales of which doubled in 2013 to $1.7 billion. Cultural trends have also mirrored winners in prevous years. “Selfie” was in the winner in 2013, “GIF” took the honor in 2012, “unfriend” won in 2009 and in 2005 the pick was “podcast”

Learn more about vaping and other 2014 Word of the Year finalists in these magazines:

Keep calm, Vape on by suomaf: News about the vaping industry.

E-cigarette News by Dave Brooks: Who’s using them, who’s buying them and how the industry is changing.

Yes Scotland #indyref #yes by iKen Stuff: This magazine encouraged a “yes” vote for Scottish independence.

Beyond Slacktivism by Juleen Keevy: Those making a difference in our communities.

Marijuana by Gavin Newsom: The affects and legal actions surrounding marijuana, from California’s lieutenant governor.

90s by fifere: Get into the “normcore” spirit with this 90s dedication.

~GabyS is reading Awesome ’80s!

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On the Red Couch with Actress/Author Evangeline Lilly

She’s perhaps best known as Kate Austen from Lost and the pointy-eared elf Tauriel in The Lord of the Rings films. But Evangeline Lilly has another, lesser-known talent: children’s book author. Her first publication is The Squickerwonkers, just released on November 18th, a cautionary tale about a spoiled girl named Selma who gets more than she bargained for when she meets a band of colorful marionettes (aka The Squickerwonkers).

“I don’t like the polarized worldview propagated in traditional children’s stories where there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ and ‘we’ are good and ‘they’ are bad,” she says. “I think it’s important to teach children that there is good and bad in each of us and that the choices we make can come to shape the consequences that befall us and how we perceive ourselves. So, in The Squickerwonkers, I turn roles on their heads.”

Below, hear more about her literary life, plus the roles she’ll forever be associated with. And then don’t forget to flip through her Squickerwonkers magazine for more about the book and the inspiration behind it. The magazine also includes a Flipboard exclusive letter to the editor on the book, the characters and her writing process:

Were literature and storytelling a big part of your own childhood?
No, not really. In fact, I didn’t learn to like reading until I was a teenager. I actually wrote more than I read as a child. My parents weren’t big literature buffs and I don’t have any memories of them ever reading to me. I’m sure they must have, but it wasn’t prominent in our home. It was my grandparents on my mother’s side who opened a window into literature for me because they always bought me and my sisters such strange, quirky, incredibly illustrated books for Christmas. That really appealed to my sensibilities. Those books were a window into the potential that story has to inspire and transport you.

What were some of your favorite books as a child?
I had very eclectic taste. I liked fantastical books like Dinotopia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Hobbit. I liked dark books like The Rainbow Goblins and the Dwindling Party. I loved nursery rhymes—Mother Goose, of course, and Dennis Lee. I liked simple, sweet books like the Mr Men series and the The Giving Tree. And, of course, I loved Dr Seuss. He is in a category all of his own.

What do you want kids who read The Squickerwonkers series to take away from the experience?
I want children to come away more accepting of themselves, vices and all, but also to come away with a sense that life is not as simple as fairy tales lead you to believe. Bad things can befall good people, good things can befall bad people, and we all have a dark side. I want kids to wonder about themselves, because there’s nothing more dangerous than being ignorant of your own stumbling blocks. I want kids to start asking their parents tough questions about what happened to Selma and why. I want parents to help kids to reflect on their choices and how those choices can hurt or help them. I want parents and their children to be able to have discussions about how nobody is perfect and that that doesn’t make you a “villain” or unlovable. I want kids to come away from the whole Squickerwonkers series realizing that people who look “odd” or might not seem appealing can be fun and lovable.

How about acting—what’s been your favorite role to play so far?
Tauriel—because she was the greatest challenge to play. Learning to be an elf (and the incredible pressure I put on myself to get that right), the Elvish, the English accent, the knife and bow and arrow skills all while nursing my first child…it was the hardest I’ve ever had to work to create a role.

But also it’s the only role I used to fantasize about as a child! Stepping into Middle Earth wearing that costume, those ears, that wig…surreal.

Why do you think Lost was such a phenomenon?
The world was ready for it. Family sitcoms and college-aged comedies weren’t satisfying the appetites of a digital world. When you spend almost every spare moment you have looking at a screen, you want more and more out of that screen.

Lost was the first big show to put the kind of money into its production quality that films do. Our pilot cost more than any pilot in history. We were one of the first to really create highly complicated, highly intellectualized material with a continuous plot. Lost took that immeasurable leap into asking audiences to never let up, to always tune in, or be…lost. Before that, most weren’t brave enough to create a six-season-long movie that you HAD to tune in for (now every other show is structured this way). It was so risky and could have just as easily fallen on its face, but, as it turns out, the timing was perfect. About the time that Lost aired, DVR showed up and people starting TIVO-ing our show if they couldn’t be home to watch it.

Where you satisfied with how it ended?
I was so, so relieved and proud that Lost ended with yet another question. It must have been so tempting for our writers to wrap it up in a pretty bow of answers, but then we would have made ourselves no different than any other doctrine in the world. Instead, they honored our audience with the ultimate question and, once again, our viewers had to turn to their families, their friends, their co-workers and themselves for the answers. I was always so proud to be a part of a show that brought people together and made them ask the really big questions of life.

We’ve heard that you’re happiest outside and consider yourself an environmentalist. What drives this passion?
Well, you’ve answered your own question: what drives my passion for the outdoors is that I am happiest there. Look, there are two sides to my person: One is super rational and no-nonsense, and the other is a total head-in-the-clouds hippie. And, on the issue of the environment, both sides agree…and that never happens.

The rational side of my brain SEES with my eyes the destruction and damage all around us: the yellow-gray skies, the polluted lakes and rivers, the disease and damage and says, “Without rich soil, biodiversity, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, without healthy oceans, we’re all dead.” Then the hippie side of me pipes up and says, “Seeing what we’re seeing makes me feel dead already.” A little piece of me dies every time I recognize how we’re abusing the natural world and ourselves.

In this day and age, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, man or woman, black or white, old or young, whatever side of whatever divide you’re on, I just can’t imagine ignoring the truth of what needs to be done. We need to fix it. And we can if we can all just work together to get it done.

I recommend reading the INCREDIBLE book Weather Makers by Tim Flannery as an introductory book into the issues at hand. I did and it sat me up and lit a fire under my ass.

What inspired The Squickerwonkers? Find out here:

~MiaQ is curating “Ten for Today

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On the Red Couch with Ebola Photographer Kieran Kesner

Earlier this year, photographer Kieran Kesner graduated from New York University when he got the break of a lifetime: The photo editor from The Wall Street Journal, whom he’d met socially, offered him a chance to cover the unfolding Ebola epidemic, in Liberia. It’s often been said that news photographers are the only people who, when they see a mob running away from something, will run toward that horror. Kesner jumped at the chance to cover one of the most gruesome, virulent and fatal disease outbreaks on the planet. This week, we’re featuring his work in The Shot, Flipboard’s photography magazine. We recently caught up with Kesner in New York, and chatted about his experiences in Africa.

How did you prepare for this assignment? What kinds of things did you bring to Liberia?
I reached out to John Moore who had already been covering the outbreak for a few months and I am grateful he responded with a list of gear, which included multiple sets of Tychem suits, goggles, masks, gloves, rubber boots, duct tape and chlorine. Most of the supplies [purchased at Amazon] I brought with me but I was able to resupply basic goods like chlorine, spray bottles and hand sanitizer at local grocery stores in Liberia.

Were you scared? Describe the general scene. Was Ebola in evidence everywhere, or was it hard to find?
I wasn’t scared until the first day—specifically when I saw the first dead body. I spent my first day in the district of West Point, a slum in Monrovia, Liberia, that at the time was under a government-mandated quarantine. By midday I had been in and out of a local health center where I stood a few feet away from people visibly sick with Ebola-related symptoms. By the afternoon, a body removal team had entered the Ebola holding center, once a school but now a series of vacant rooms where people came to die. It was here I saw my first dead body. I began by photographing her from afar, moving closer and closer until I was just a foot or two above her. It wasn’t until then that I realized the severity of the situation, the threat of the invisible virus in the room and the perpetual fear that if I had been infected, I wouldn’t know until days later.

How did you protect yourself day to day?
The difference between making a mistake here versus home is that a mistake here might kill you. I often think back to times that I entered a room or interacted closely with people visibly sick with Ebola. When you are working as a photographer, your instincts encourage you to go make the image and it’s not until you step back that you think, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”

People in the West tend to have this vision that all doctors and journalists in Liberia are walking around in hazmat suits all the time. This is impossible. Between the heat and humidity of the rainy season and your added anxiety of working in the face of Ebola, protective equipment can only be worn for 15-20 minutes at a time before it must be removed. And you spend about an hour recuperating from the heat and dehydration.

That said, gloves can be worn regularly and play as a friendly reminder not to touch your face and limit where else you place your hands. And of course, hand sanitizer and chlorine are used daily, perhaps upwards of a hundred times a day. It becomes second nature: see a chlorine bucket, wash your hands. Have an itch on your face, wash your hands.

What was it like returning to the U.S. in early September?
[At U.S. Customs at JFK in New York] an officer approached me and asked where I was coming from. I told him that I was a photographer covering the Ebola outbreak for The Wall Street Journal. He proceeded to look through my documents to confirm, and then said “welcome home.”

I was incredibly fearful my baggage and equipment would still be infected. My larger backpack, which held my ruined clothes (stained and bleached with various disinfectants throughout the week) as well as some camera gear and protective equipment, has still yet to be located. To this day, I call JFK and Royal Air Maroc and have yet to receive a reply. It wasn’t so much that my gear was lost that I was fearful it was contaminated and was being handled by workers unaware of the threat.

When I made the connection home to Boston, I couldn’t seem to get home fast enough. I got to my parents’ house and filled a little kiddie plastic pool from my childhood with water and an unnecessary amount of chlorine tablets. I then proceeded to throw everything in I had left—passport, notebooks, you name it. So here I am, disinfecting my gear in the backyard, wiping down my cameras and lenses one last time with hand sanitizer, when I go to take my temperature and my heart drops when the screen reads 99.5.

I immediately called my local hospital and instructed my family to stay away. The call went something like this, “Hi, I just returned from West Africa where I was covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia for the WSJ and I am running a slight fever.”

Needless to say, they were incredibly responsive. Two epidemiologists from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health called me back, stated that anything under 101.5 wouldn’t even be tested for Ebola and I was probably overheated from exhaustion and working outside in the heat. Thankfully, they were right but for the next 21 days I maintained a rigorous quarantine in the guest room of my girlfriend’s apartment limiting contact with anyone and anything.

Would you ever go back? Why do you think the Ebola story is important?
Yes, I would go back. This is one of the biggest health stories of our time and people’s individual stories still need to be told. It is a huge and dangerous responsibility to bear witness to the suffering and share it with the rest of the world, but it’s incredibly important work that I would like to continue doing.

You can see Kieran’s work in The Shot magazine:

~JoshQ is curating “HYSTERIA Magazine

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