James Maguire

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. Since this is my About page, I need to toot my own horn. So I’ll leave out my stumbles, my existential dread, my hours spent in the twitterverse. Let’s cut right to the marquee razzmatazz.

Okay [takes a deep breath] here goes….

I’m a journalist and author whose pen travels far and wide. Here’s an Op-Ed I wrote for The Wall Street Journal; a cover story for The San Francisco Chronicle; an investigative piece for Wired; an on-scene report for the Washington Monthly. I’ve written about the National Spelling Bee, the birth of TV, pop divas, 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 analysts covering emerging technology. Analytics Week lists me as one of the Top 200 Thought Leaders in Big Data.

I’ve written copiously about technology. My article, Artificial Intelligence: When Will the Robots Rebel, won a 2018 AZBEE Award of Excellence for feature writing. In 2013, with three other writers, I won the PRSA Award for Excellence in Technology Journalism.

I produce and moderate panel discussions about emerging tech, leading discussions with experts like Tim O’Reilly (the future of tech), Michael Liebow (cloud computing) and Miceaj Franz (blockchain and AI).

I have a Master’s Degree in Interactive Communications, focusing on the Internet. I’m fascinated by the confluence of media and technology and the chaos/promise it entails. Can the human tribe survive being connected via our omnipresent mobile devices?

I’m a lover of story and narrative. I’ve written and performed two one-man shows, Making Candy (performed at the Orthwein Theater) and Vibrating White Light (performed at the St. Marcus Theater and by two other theater groups). Both pieces are serio-comic explorations of identity and spirituality (whatever that means).

I’m also a huge aficionado of American culture. I’ve authored two narrative nonfiction books:


jamesmaguire-sullivanImpresario: The Life and Times of Ed Sullivan

For the Sullivan biography I interviewed scores of performers, including The Doors’ Ray Manzarek and the comics Joan Rivers and George Carlin. Aided by 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.”

 

jamesmaguire-beeAmerican Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds.

For American Bee I profiled five spellers (11 to 13 years old) as they prepped for the annual spell-off in Washington, D.C. The story’s high point is the contest’s final rounds, as these virtuosic orthographers go toe-to-toe before a TV audience. Publisher’s Weekly found my portraits of the spellers to be “amusing, occasionally touching and always impressive”

But Wait – is James Maguire…Just His Achievements?

I hope the text above sufficiently promotes the James Maguire personal brand. Whew…I’m exhausted by all the self-puffery.

(In truth, I enjoyed it. Who doesn’t like a sweet cup of vainglorious, “gosh I’m great” hot chocolate?)

But there’s a funny question about life, and the achievements on an About page: does a person’s life matter beyond what they achieve?

Does the very texture of life matter? The hurly-burly of every day, the smell of coffee, the look of people on the street? Does a long walk at dusk matter?

Or do we only tally the bridges we build, the books we publish? Surely those things matter dearly; I want my doctor to have labored mightily to pass those difficult tests.

Still, what about what we feel, what we dream? What about the longings that drive us more than we realize?

I know a man who works in hospice care. As he talks with the dying, sometimes they talk about the company they built or the big gallery show they had. But sometimes, he tells me, what they talk most about is…that moment on the beach. Or some random moment, when the feeling was more real than real; the cosmos embraced them, everything was there.

So…who can say exactly how life is measured?

That’s the kind of Deep Question that’s answered by philosophers and Hallmark greeting cards. I guess the answer, ultimately, is that it’s a balance. We need to pull the barge up the river, and hopefully we enjoy the river as we huff and puff.

As for me, true confession: there’s much that I value that has nothing to do with achievements.

I enjoy a dry Pinot Grigio, bright sunshine, the echo of a distant train whistle, the cooing of babies, gatherings of friends, funk dance music and, oddly, junk food: I relish anything crunchy and filled with chemicals. Cheddars puffs with disodium phosphate? Who doesn’t love a good dose of disodium phosphate?

And I adore good writing. I live to read and to write. I’ve been a read-aholic since I was a very young boy; books have been my spaceships to a zillion worlds.

For me, the English language is a sacrament, the ultimate form of music. I love the sound of it, the deep lyricism of the language, inside my inner ear or spoken out through the air.

Like this excerpt from the 20th century’s most heralded novel: “…yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” Damn, that’s righteous.

Goodness, James Maguire Won’t Stop Sharing His Opinions 

Wow, this About page has yet another section? Does James Maguire not get enough attention at home?

True, my About page is a festival of bloviating, a celebration of logorrhea. Plus, it uses large vocabulary words gratuitously. (Almost as if the author is compensating for gnawing self-doubt. Hmmm….)

But please indulge me a bit more. I’d like to zoom out to a larger context, to talk about what matters to me, and to us all.

I do wonder about the world and where it’s going. In particular, we’ve pushed the planet to the breaking point; global warming may be irreversible. My trip to South Florida, where I saw (and smelled) the Red Tide, was dismaying.

I truly worry about education in the US. We’ve allowed our public schools to deteriorate, a tragic mistake. As corporations get a deep tax cut, public school teachers work two or three jobs. Really, that’s a formula for a sustainable democracy?

I’m heartened by the #MeToo movement; it’s long overdue and I cheer the advance of women. It’s essential for all of us – men and women and families and the working world. The surge in female political candidates is a massive step forward.

I’m also encouraged by a historic milestone. Barack Obama, in both his presidential elections, won the state of Virginia, whose capital Richmond once headquartered the Confederacy. That a black candidate won a former Confederate stronghold is a trumpet blast of positive change – even as the process remains agonizingly incomplete.

They say that demographics is destiny when it comes to shaping political leadership. Younger voters lean left, as do people of color and women. With that in mind, allow me this bit of wishful thinking: as demographic shifts refresh our leadership, we’ll more fully enable and care for our people. We may even get decent government-assisted healthcare like the rest of the developed world.

Who knows, maybe optimism is justified?

Could it be that humanity, which has always faced abominable challenges (Bubonic plague, I’m looking at you) will be okay after all? That one hundred years from now, two human beings will still fall hopelessly in love, then go out for ice cream with silly grins on their faces?

Hmmm…not sure, actually. But I sincerely hope so.

But enough about me. What about you? Feel free to drop me line.