Maguire Online – the web site of James “Jamie” Maguire
I’m a journalist and author whose pen travels far and wide. Here’s an Op-Ed I wrote for The Wall Street Journal; an investigative piece for Wired; an on-scene report for the Washington Monthly. I’ve written about the National Spelling Bee, the birth of television, Britney Spears, the John Lennon bot, vaudeville, and scads of other stuff.
I’m the Senior Managing Editor of Datamation, America’s first computer magazine, founded in 1957. I oversee a team of writers and reporters covering the tech sector. I’ve written copiously about technology, including a 5,000 word overview of cloud computing and a humorous piece about the iPhone. I’ve interviewed legions of tech executives and analysts, like IBM’s Jeff Jonas and HP’s Christian Verstraete. I also moderate panel discussions about emerging tech. Working at the intersection of media and technology is fascinating; this confluence is changing our world faster than you can say “there’s an app for that.” And yes, I’m on Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn.
Two projects I’m particularly proud of are Impresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan (published by Billboard Books) and American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds (published by Rodale).
For the Sullivan biography I interviewed scores of performers, including the vaudevillian Paul Winchell, The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, and comics Joan Rivers and George Carlin. Aided by access to Sullivan’s personal papers and cooperation from his family, I wrote the book as a cultural narrative of America in the mid century. The New York Times called the book “impressive…a page turner.”
For my book about the National Spelling Bee I traveled all over the country, profiling five young spellers (11 to 13 years old) as they prepared for the annual Bee in Washington, D.C. I wrote about the hopes and fears of these bright talents, as well as the odd but wonderful niche culture of the Bee. The book’s high point is the big spell-off in the nation’s capitol, as these virtuosic orthographers go toe-to-toe before a huge television audience — and their nerves are stretched taut.
I was a music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the now defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat, covering pop-rock, R&B and jazz concerts. If memory serves, I once dissed Barry Manilow’s music as having the maudlin sweetness of a six-pack of warm Coca-Cola. (Years later I find myself enjoying his sugary confections; go figure). When I first got the critic job, I visited all the senior critics and asked them how they formed their opinions; none of them had a substantive answer. Critics, like the rest of us, fly by the seats of their pants.
In a prior career I was an audio engineer, mixing sound for radio and TV commercials and corporate uses. I was twice nominated for a regional Emmy for Excellence in Audio production. It was an interesting job and a stressful one, balancing clients, budgets, deadlines, creativity and technology. I remember once we worked on a project for two days, then my clients in the studio played the almost-finished version for the home office in Oklahoma. The verdict: the lead announcer “sounds gay.” We had to re-do the whole thing. Oy-vey. Opinions; everyone has them.
My audio career grew out of my love for music. My first college degree is a Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition. My instrument is piano. In addition to writing a fair amount of semi-classical modern/improvisatory stuff, I composed, arranged and produced an album of my own music, Take The Power, mostly pop, with rock-jazz and a touch of rap.
I’ve written and performed two one-man shows, Vibrating White Light and Making Candy. Both pieces are serio-comic explorations of identity and spirituality. I performed Vibrating White Light at the Orthwein Theater in St. Louis, and it was also performed by two theater groups. I performed Making Candy at the St. Marcus Theater in St. Louis. I did both shows while I was working as an audio engineer. After all the hours of rehearsal and organizing, I realized: Hey, if I just focused on writing, I could earn my living as a writer instead of an audio engineer. That realization began the process of my career switch.
I live in Blacksburg, Virginia, right next to the campus of Virginia Tech University, with its 33,000 students. I’m a Senior Fellow in the University’s Honors Residential College, a volunteer position. I also volunteer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, through which I mentor a 14-year-old boy.
In sum, the dude abides. I enjoy a dry Pino Grigrio, bright sunshine, the sound of a distant train whistle, the cooing of babies, gatherings of loved ones over dinner. And I love good writing. Oh I live to read and to write. I’ve been a read-aholic since I was a very young boy. For me, the English language is a sacrament. It’s also the ultimate musical instrument. I love the sound of it, the deep lyricism of the language, inside my inner ear or spoken out through the air. Like:
“…yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” [James Joyce, Ulysses]
“Even though you was a crack fiend mama, you always was a Black queen mama.” [Tupac, Dear Mama]
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave / I am the dream and the hope of the slave / I rise / I rise / I rise” [Maya Angelou, Still I Rise]
Yeah, that’s all musical, it all sings. Love it.
Okay, thanks for visiting – ya’ll come back now, ya hear?