There ought to be someplace here for unpublished work! Here are some clips (mostly from college classes, as most other work is displayed on Archipel-a-gogo!) that showcase my style and voice.
The Art of Persuasion
a personal essay
Screaming and dancing wildly on their toes, with a frenzied shiff shiff shuffahshuffah of vinyl sleeping bags and a panicked zzzzzzip zip zzzzzzip, four of the girls in my Girl Scout troop burst out of their tent, screaming, “THEY’RE POISONOUS!!!”
Fifteen feet away, I had keeled over on a stump, laughing my ass off.
Of course I knew the tiny caterpillars that overran our campground weren’t poisonous. There was no way that an invasion of deadly, black centipedes in a campground specifically designated for hordes of eight- and nine-year-old girls could have gotten overlooked. If we’re going to be honest, I just wanted to see if they would believe me.
I am blisteringly aware that the personal trend I am about to illustrate paints me as a spoiled narcissist with borderline personality disorder. However, I believe everyone must confront the deep, dark, sociopathic evil twin inside herself at some point in her life, if she is to truly know herself and achieve nirvana (or whatever). So here’s a brief history of the Demonchild Inside Me, and how I live with that little brat.
Since I was on the older end of my class growing up, most of my friends were younger than I was. I was a goody two-shoes and a straight-A student. My teachers loved me; in the third grade, my teacher told my grandmother at an open house that I was one of her favorites. My mother likes to recall how frequently my friends’ parents would tell her how “good an influence” I was on their children.
This divine providence naturally made me the undeniable expert in all situations. I was older, I was smarter, more responsible—I simply knew better.
But sometimes, funny ideas would just come to me. And, contrary to my reputation, the thought would always strike me: Just go with it, see what happens. And for some reason, most times, people would believe me.
When I was 9 years old, I convinced my grandfather (with help from my grandmother) that the bright yellow wedge of Play Doh we put on a plate was a new, special kind of cheese. Interested, he took a bite. It wasn’t cheese. But it was hilarious.
Then, once in elementary school, I told my best friend, Kellye, that she should perform in our school’s annual piano recital. It was okay that she had never played a note before in her life; my dad, you see, he plays the piano. He could teach her a song, no sweat. It would be great.
To this day, Kellye has never let me forget how my father, having no knowledge of our back-alley agreement, taught me how to play that god-awful song from Titanic (which was released that year, and thus wildly popular), and how mortified she was to get up and plunk out an error-ridden “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that she taught herself.
There was a certain technique to this persuasion. Often I would invest in a co-conspirator. This person, usually a friend, sometimes a relative, would confirm my claims and sow seeds of doubt into my “victim’s” outright disbelief. Sometimes I would cite related but totally irrelevant or commonly known facts, with warped or non-existent science. And finally, I have to believe my own lie—even if only for a moment, when I would earnestly explain the logic behind my “argument.” Obviously not an exact science, but a trial and error process led me to my grand ideas about what people would and would not believe.
In other words, these weren’t just pranks. I think, in retrospect, they were sincere, pure sadism to one degree or another. But I would dare anyone to deny that they ever told a lie or fooled a friend just to see what would happen.
Sometimes, however, I let the little rat inside me go too far. In junior high, I was shockingly pale (not unlike the present). My best friend at the time had this nauseatingly perfect olive skin that tanned like the skin of a Greek goddess, and my younger brother, though his skin was just as fair as mine, had the remarkable ability to darken nonetheless. Now, there was nothing truly malicious about what happened that afternoon we spent lounging in my backyard. But as Lily and Ian chatted about going to the beach and tanning oils, two subjects virtually foreign to me, I felt instantly compelled to add my expertise to the conversation.
“You know, using lemon juice instead of tanning oil is a much more natural way to tan.”
Lily was skeptical. “I thought that was just for your hair. Doesn’t it bleach your hair?”
“Oh, no, it works for skin, too. I’ve talked to people who’ve done it before. I think there were studies done about it,” I reassured her, sticking to my own tried-and-tested Quote Science technique.
Now less suspicious than curious, both Ian and Lily were hooked on the idea. And what do you know, it just so happened that my family’s backyard was home to a hybrid lemon-lime tree.
A few blistering sunburns later, and I was in the doghouse. I had never felt so terrible in my life. Lily’s stomach had been weirdly mottled by the uneven application of lemon-lime juice, and laughing, she couldn’t help showing me at any possible moment throughout the school day: at lunch, when the teacher would turn to write something on the blackboard. It was awful. She looked like a Frankenstein experiment gone wrong. And all because of that evil little part of me that just wanted to see what would happen. You might call this an “epiphany moment.”
The people I’ve met since high school would laugh at you if you described me as a prankster. And for the most part, I learned a lesson about manipulation the hard way. However, the power of persuasion has certainly not been purged from my adult life; instead, it has submerged itself in below the surface. The art of convincing has gone undercover, and today, that Little Monster has presented me with a career.
As writers, we are constantly warned against the dangers of not researching topics deeply enough. We decry the “imbalanced” story and the “biased” report. We worry about getting “spun” by slick sources interested in their own self-image. But I tell you, as a journalist constructing a case, I am unlikely to believe any rogue “poisonous centipede” claims. In short, if I don’t know bullshit when I smell it, I’ll eat my own shoe.
Following are some notable print and multimedia pieces that I wrote that weren’t published by anyone other than myself, on my blog, Archipel-a-gogo.
Video Story: Central Square
Check it out: You might find the best-kept secret in Cambridge at one of these independent shops in Central Square. Video by me (Devon Maloney), music by The Peasantry and You Can Be A Wesley.
Audio Slideshow: Faneuil Hall A Cappella Fest
Having troubles? We know. Click here to view slideshow.
Clickthrough Slideshow: Ciderfest
Students Demonstrate How Cider is Made.
Data Visualization Story: Happy Turducken Day!
Every Thanksgiving, millions of Americans sit down to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and of course, a turkey.
There’s no historical evidence that turkeys were actually served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is more likely that the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans shared ducks and geese, which were much easier to hunt than the native wild turkeys.
Today, there are also plenty of alternatives to the traditional oven-roasted bird out there. Many Americans deep-fry, brine-soak, or barbecue their turkeys. Others bake hams, roast ducks and boil geese. Vegetarians even cut out the meat altogether, opting for the meatless tofurkey.
But one holiday meat (that number to be used lightly) stands out from the rest without question: the turducken.
It sounds like the title of a children’s book. Or maybe a science experiment gone wrong. But no, the turducken is a Cajun culinary tradition that’s been turning heads for nearly thirty years. Made popular by Louisiana Chef Paul Prudhomme in the early 1980s, one turducken can feed as many as 30 people.
But turducken isn’t a bird you’re going to find at a run-of-the-mill supermarket. It’s not even one bird—it’s three. A turducken is a boneless, skinless chicken, inside a boneless, skinless duck, inside a boneless turkey.
Ron Savenor, owner of Savenor’s Market in Cambridge and Boston, is a turducken purist. According to Savenor, the only kind of turducken worth having is one made locally.
“You can buy frozen ones online, but we make them out of local turkeys, fresh Long Island duck, and local chickens, which are all as good as it gets,” he says. “The flavor and moisture are far superior. You can really taste the difference.”
Savenor’s store is one of the only places Boston residents can grab of one of these giants, which can cost upwards of a hundred dollars.
But Savenor’s general manager Juliana Lyman says that people who buy such an expensive bird say it’s worth the price.
“These are people who enjoy the extravagance side of holiday food,” Lyman says. “They’re fascinated by the idea of having three animals in one sitting, on a big platter, waiting for them to dive right in.”
So what are turducken rookies in for when they sink their teeth in for the first time? Savenor says you can’t describe it any other way: “Tastes like turducken.”
Although you’ve probably already made your Thanksgiving meal plans for this year, here are some places around the Boston metropolitan area to find turduckens for Thanksgiving 2010:
Too expensive? Interested in making your own? Check out this how-to video:
All Material © Devon Maloney, 2010.