Amanda Ripley

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Obama, Palm Trees and Plane Crashes

8th Apr 2008 posted in General

I have a great job. I parachute into people’s lives and ask them questions. I cover risk and homeland security for Time Magazine, but I get to define the beat broadly—so broadly that I often write things that have nothing to do with anything at all.

This week, for example, I’m writing a story for dead-tree Time about the intimate details of the life of Barack Obama’s mother. I asked the man questions that are just none of my business, and he answered them. I met his sister under a palm tree in Honolulu, and we talked about their mama’s rice-paddy hat collection. I read a book about the traditions of Indonesia just to get a sense of why their mother loved the country so.

But most of the time, I write about things going wrong—about terrorist attacks, hurricanes and assorted acts of villainy. I recently wrote a book about how people behave in disasters and how we can learn to do better. I had my brain examined for signs of weakness; I interviewed a man who survived the worst sea disaster in modern European history, a woman whose wedding was cut short by one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history, and a physicist who models crowd behavior in plane crashes.

I can’t argue that the world needs another blog. I am writing this mostly because the space now exists. I am writing it because I want to share the shiny curios that I find between official stories and hear what you think.