“Where’s the Boundary Between Public Art and Advertising?”

How the reaction to Fearless Girl exists somewhere between advertising and public art, and how the discipline of public art pushes back on the statue, for CityLab (May 2017)

Fearless Girl properly is properly described as experiential advertising, a nontraditional way brands reach audiences in public spaces. “It really engages consumers and encourages them to participate in the real world, the physical world,” says Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer and partner at San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the agency behind the “Got Milk?” campaign. “More often than not, it’s something that has never been done before.” But the emotional connection Fearless Girl inspires and the dialogue it creates with Charging Bull are more reminiscent of public art.

“Why It’s Such a Struggle to Find an In-Network Therapist”

Reporting on health care policy and a personal look at its real-life consequences, particularly regarding mental health, for Tonic (December 2016)

This wasn’t my depression telling me I wasn’t worth the trouble, or even an unusual problem overall. And it doesn’t stem from skullduggery, as one weary doctor who suspected companies padded their networks told me. In fact, the insurance industry and regulators are knee-deep in a multi-front struggle to do something very simple: keep their provider databases up to date.

No one could ever accuse the American health care system of elegance, but it’s almost impressive how frustrating and costly this issue can get for everyone involved.

“What Agent Carter Gets Right About Grief”

Personal essay with media criticism for Hello Giggles (January 2016)

For a TV landscape filled with murders, police procedurals, legal dramas and Game of Thrones, the fallout of loss doesn’t get much play. Sadness is not really a ratings draw, unless it comes out as extreme behavior. Grief in the media, if it shows up at all, tends to be cursory at best and unrecognizable at worst. It doesn’t have to be this way, though — of all things, a superhero show proved that. On Marvel’s Agent Carter, dealing with grief wasn’t just the foundation of the first season; it became our protagonist’s hero’s journey.

“Matt Bellassai’s guide to drinking (and whining) your way to the top”

Print edition cover story, with original photography and video, for Chicago RedEye (January 2016)

There was never any possibility of using another beverage (“I hate tequila, so I won’t do Tequila Tuesday”), but “I don’t like particularly like wine either,” he said. (He told the New York Times last month that some fans get upset when they spot him ordering beer.) Wine is strong enough to get him into character, but not enough to knock him flat, he said. He really is getting drunk in those videos, though.

“Whine About It” films on Monday afternoons, so Bellassai still needs to get through the rest of the day. His 35-episode run of day-drinking does have its perks: “I think people expect me to be more not-together afterwards, and I don’t know if this is a good thing, but I am now quite able to function after drinking a full bottle of wine.”

“Meet the Real-Life Tony Stark Whose Tech Is Changing the World”

Profile of John Underkoffler, CEO of Oblong Industries, for Tech.Mic (June 2015)

Underkoffler’s goal for Mezzanine is to bring computing into space. “We’re experts at using the physical world,” he said. “Space is important because that’s where we live.” Yet we’re still using all the power of contemporary technology with the maximum capabilities of the early age of computers: a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a single device. Even our smartphones are a limitation — Underkoffler compares it to confining your creativity to a 3-inch-by-5-inch card. Our problems, he says, are room-sized and require collaboration. “We know how to get stuff done with other people when space is the medium,” he said.

“When We Arrive at Home”

Profile of the Sacred Harp folk singing community in Chicago; unpublished long form capstone project, full text available on request (December 2013)

Adena Rivera-Dundas, 25, has been organizing the Logan Square gatherings since August. She’s a soft-spoken redhead with clear gray-blue eyes. During the week, she’s a writer for Groupon. She claims she’s not a musician, that she has no musical background at all, but today she teaches her beginning singers with a natural ease.

“The circles are sol,” she says, using consonance to cement the mnemonic. “The squares are la, the two L’s put together. The triangle is fa, with a flag, and then the diamond is mi, ‘cause it’s special, like you.” Rivera-Dundas smiles at the group’s laughter, then adds, “If you cannot remember what the letters are, it does not matter. You can say la for everything and you’ll be mostly right.”

She’s not armed with much. The Xeroxed packets. The table of snacks and hot water for tea. The folding chairs that face each other. The 23 singers waiting to hear what comes next. But in a few minutes, they’re all going to make a sound that has shattered windows, shaken atheists and cemented obsessions that some pursue for decades.

“Get ready,” Rivera-Dundas said to me before the singing began. “You’re gonna be right in it today.”

“Military suicide epidemic compels survivor families to speak out”

Profile of the Weiss family after their son, Lt. Danny Weiss, died by suicide after three tours in Afghanistan, for the Medill News Service. Contains multimedia. (June 2013)

“He had just done his latest evaluation,” said Julianne Weiss, 62. “We saw a copy of it, and it was, ‘Stellar, shining, ready to be promoted to captain immediately.’”

On the day Danny died, 21 other veterans and service members also committed suicide, according to a widely cited statistic in a 2012 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study. More U.S. military members died by suicide last year than died in combat in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.

“What are we going to do? All we can do is run toward the disaster at this point,” said Andy Weiss.

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