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Alec Cowan

Earlier this year, in a time now alien to many of us, I attended a Seattle XR conference on assignment. The event was hosted by Vulcan, a local and globally recognized documentary company started by the late Paul Allen, with the goal of increasing awareness toward conservation, scarcity, and injustice around the world. The main event space was crowded with makeshift booths advertising VR experiences, lines of over-the-eye headsets dotting the perimeter with opportunities to climb tropical flora, view traditional dance rituals, and see whales just off coral reefs.

This conference was about the future of immersive storytelling, featuring the…

It’s fair to say that anime, especially in the United States, has somewhat of a negative image. This may be partially due to what’s called, in the lexicon, a “weeb” (short for weeaboo): someone obsessed with Japanese culture, arguably to the point of wanting to be Japanese themselves. Most commonly, it connotes an obsession with the food, language, and imagery of Japanese culture, often fed by a prospectively unhealthy (and sexualized) consumption of anime.

This image has become distended to anime viewership broadly, especially in the United States, where cartoons are seen as childish. …

Since I crossed over 20, life has been inextricably tied to the internet, meaning my choice to participate in digital recreation isn’t voluntary. Especially since kicking off a career, it’s rare for me to tweet or post or story because it all feels so exhibitionist, so cumbersome, because at any moment it could devolve into a tweetstorm, or an employer could see my seemingly harmless thoughts on The Dark Knight and believe it’s grounds for termination.

Stranger things, I’m sure, have happened.

But that’s me now, a decade down the road from the first posts made by a very different…

Before the time of air travel, when the radial boundaries of the world were ever-expanding, the sea was promise. A ship was the only way to see the world, and the wayfarer’s journey manifested a deep-seated belief that the sea was possibility — possibility being made of success and failure equally. For writer Joseph Conrad, the nature of the ocean was that it was consequential.

Conrad himself was famous for denying that he was a “writer of the sea.” And yet, each of his stories gravitate toward bodies of water, to lagoons and bays and rivers and oceans. Why?


Two weavers, both cunning with an eye on royal gold, are devising a plan. The Emperor is searching for a new, decadent set of clothes, one which will separate his valiant power from any other citizen or noble in the land. But the weavers are not men of means — they can’t spin gold thread or purchase the luscious dyes.

That’s where the plan turns devilish. The weavers convince the Emperor they’ve created a garment out of beautiful invisible thread, a robe so pristine it can only be seen by the wisest. He doubts them, but not wanting to appear…

Note: I’ve spent my professional career as a reporter and producer in public radio newsrooms at KLCC, NPR, and KUOW. Dr. Chris Chavez is also a mentor and former colleague.


Journalism as an industry is experiencing intense growing pains. Newsrooms are laying off dozens of employees as megacompanies buy up local papers. Advertising revenue, once secured between the folds, is gaining near non-existent traction in digital spaces. Trust in the industry’s staple institutions is beginning to crumble as fake news floods the corners of the internet; antagonisms to the industry are rising and are regularly espoused from an increasingly bullysome…

Sunset falls on the German Bundestag in Berlin. (Alec Cowan)

Tucked on the outer edges of East Berlin lies a series of complexes. They’re typically modern, massive blocks in the shapes of Ls, Is and Ts — an alphabetic topography built by the Soviets. Step into the building at address Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 31/33, and you’re greeted by a nostalgic palette of pale yellows and retro wooden furniture. In the left side of the room is a bronze bust of Karl Marx.

In the center of the foyer is a glass case spread out over a table you could fit a family of five around. Inside you can see a scale model…

Alec Cowan

Alec is a journalist working in podcasting and public radio. Current interests include: parsing through old college notes and a cure-all for procrastination.

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