Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

November 2002 Archives


Well, this is me reporting live from my home in Ohio, where I am officially conceding defeat in NaNoWriMo 2002. My grand total for the year (so far) is just over 18,000 words, or fifty pages, but I still consider this whole experiment a fantastic victory. NaNoWriMo got me moving again on a project that had been stalled for way too long, and helped reinstall one of the core elements of my brain. I hadn't realized just how much I missed writing, and this allowed me to forge ahead with one of the most basic elements of being a writer: namely, overcoming the fear of writing badly. (I wound up putting Caliban back into the novel, by the way, because it turned out he was necessary after all. Insistent little bugger, that one.) I'm at a cliffhanger right now, which is cool, and I have a good idea about where I want part two to go.

So, yes. There's this line in that Josh Joplin CD I've been raving about, that says "We are ourselves, eventually, eventually, eventually." Eventually, the novel will be finished. I hope to even get it published. More importantly to myself, though, is that I feel like I'm finally back on track for this part of my life.

Word of advice to anyone out there: if you take a creative writing class in college, don't listen to the other kids. Don't even listen to the professors. Just use it as a chance to learn. If things come up that can be useful, learn them. Just don't let them convince you that what you're doing isn't worth doing. One of my teachers once sniffed that if you're writing something just because you want to read it, that's fine -- just don't expect anyone else to. This is bullshit. The first and most vicious critic of your own work is yourself. If you're writing, it's probably because you haven't found what you wanted to read yet, and felt compelled to write it yourself. That's great. If you enjoy reading what you're writing, if you find yourself typing to find out what happens, then people will most likely keep flipping pages for the same reason. And at the end of the day, isn't that what it's all about?


Off to the homeland.

Well, as you might have noticed by now, the Autumn Inkblots is live! We just snuck into Autumn, right at the tail end, but we made it. ;) Now, the girlfriend and I are about to hit the highway for the homeland. Turkey Day calls, and scuttlebutt has it there's going to be four inches of snow on the ground tomorrow, so we're taking off as early as we can. Have a great Thanksgiving, everybody, and I'll update you all on the novel progress and whatever else ASAP.

One step forward, two steps back.

Driving in the car this morning, I came up with a way to exorcise Caliban from the novel altogether. Which is good, since I was only using him for one scene, and he was faintly ridiculous.

And then there were eight. And 700 words just vanished... Darn.

I am the Godfather of online publishing.

Every time I get out, they keep pulling me back in. In other words, the new issue will be posted as soon as I get done with all the submissions that showed up in my inbox this weekend. Argh.

While you're waiting, swing by the Polyvinyl Records web site and grab the MP3 of "The Ghost of What Should Have Been" by Owen. Good stuff.

Ho, ho, ho, har, har, har.

Check it out: two holiday-themed Switch ads from Apple and Will Farrell. Heh.


Naming conventions.

The characters in my new novel are as follows:

  • Pi St. John
  • Michael Coldman
  • Jack "NeverJack" Walker
  • Victoria Ravenswood
  • Vincent Ravenswood III
  • Dr. Simon Blacknail
  • Dr. Jonathan Nautonnier
  • Grant Nichols
  • Caliban Davies
Yes, I definitely think I read Pynchon too early in my development as a writer.

And one other thing about the novel.

It's strange. I've got all these notes from previous ideas, and most of them are being chucked out the window as the story unfolds itself. There are still some things that are a little far out, but most of the wildly Pynchonian elements that I'd been considering including are winding up on the cutting room floor. One of the characters I'd been contemplating, for instance, was a three-armed carnie magician, who is the most recent edition has become an older conspiracy theorist living in an Gulfstream trailer. Yet another tip from The X-Files, I suppose, considering the Lone Gunmen, but I think my fellow is a little more realistic. The only thing that really remains of his former self is the name: Caliban Davies. A little touch of Pynchon, a slight brush with Shakespeare, and there you go.

I am now a card-carrying member of the storytellers' union.

Well, not exactly card-carrying – I hope they print up cards, though. Today I sent in my dues and registration for the DSA. I can't wait to see what shows up in the mail. I'm hoping for a decoder ring.

Chalk up another 5,000 words.

On the NaNoWriMo front, I think I'm going to have to kiss this idea goodbye. I dillied and dallied all weekend on other things, then buckled down today and wrote another 5,000 words, bringing me over the 15,000 word mark. Which means I have to write 35,000 words in five days. It might be doable, but one of those days is Thanksgiving, and at least two of them are going to be booked with travelling back and forth to Ohio. Fark. I may simply resign myself to being happy with finishing it by my birthday, which adds another six days to the mix.

More disturbing is the nature of the words being written. I'd sworn to myself that I was going to try and keep the number of characters in this one low, but I'm already up to nine more-or-less distinct characters: there's the two Holmes-and-Watson, Mulder-and-Scully main characters, the catalyst/love interest daughter, the daughter's father, the two might-be-bad-guys, two friends-of-the-main-characters-called-in-for-help, and this other guy that just showed up out of nowhere. It's the last guy that's got me reassured about the vitality of the project – when the story not only tells itself but invites people you hadn't even intended to be involved into the fray, that's a good sign.

Damn, I need to update the project site.

Wouldn't it be great if...?

This morning I set pen to paper and sketched my thoughts of where the next generation of personal digital equipment is going to be going. There are limitations, of course – AirPort and Bluetooth don't play well with each other, for example – but all the components are there and just waiting to be put together. Once again, I find myself wishing this were 1997... Back in the days when I could take four pages' worth of scribbled notes, stand on the side of the street and yell, "I HAVE AN IDEA!" And whammo – investor city. Especially since I really think this idea would sell... The RIAA might not like it too much, due to the inclusion of MP3s in my plans, but hey, Rosen can bite me. :)


The labs.

I'm trying to decide the best way to build a public posting area for some of my projects. I'm thinking about redesigning to incorporate other things. Hmmm. I've designed a new splash page for it that's really beautiful, but I don't feel like it's the right feel for me. Or maybe it is, and it's just representative of the somewhat darker mood that I've been in for the last little while.


Hot on the heels of the announcement of the DSA comes this: SBI and Co. to buy Razorfish for $8.2 million. Every time I see one of the old new-media shops go down, I'm filled with a mix of odd feelings. On the one hand, it's just that much more proof that the optimism of the tech boom is over. On the other, it's that much more proof that true quality projects from small shops like Second Story and The Chopping Block are where it's at these days. :)


Ask and ye shall receive.

This is awesome. I just received an email from old friend Denise Atchley, a cofounder of the Digital Storytelling Festival that I attended way back in 2000. Announcing the Digital Storytelling Association, located online at This is great. And they've posted one of the best definitions of digital storytelling I've ever seen:

Digital Storytelling uses digital media to create media-rich stories to tell, to share, and to preserve. Digital stories derive their power through weaving images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, and insights. The digital environment provides a unique opportunity for stories to be manipulated, combined and connected to other stories in an interactive, and transformative process that empowers the author and invests the notion of storytelling with new meaning. Using the internet, and other emerging forms of distribution, these stories provide a catalyst for creating communities of common concern on a global scale.

Sign me up.

Oh, and in other you-asked-for-it-news: in the new issue of The Atlantic Monthly currently sitting on the newsstands (not online) readers will find a very interesting article called "Our Genius Problem" by Marjorie Garber, which addresses almost perfectly that which I was yammering on about earlier this week. Go to, go to. Hie thee to a bookery.


The new issue is now being held up by three people. I think I'll hold off on publishing the work of the person in India until the next edition, which just leaves me and Nick. Oh, Niiiiiick...

Oh, and on the NaNoWriMo front, I'm going to attempt the impossible and still pull this out of my arse. We'll see. I'm so far behind the game it isn't even funny, but I just dashed off about 1500 words in about 90 minutes, so I guess it's possible if I can keep up that level of output. We shall see. If one could produce 1500 words in 90 minutes, then theoretically it's possible to produce 50,000 words in 50 hours. And I have less than 40,000 to go. Yee-ha.


Hey, wait a second...

I don't know why I didn't catch this before. Yann Martel's Life of Pi is told by a narrator named Pi. So is Bones of the Angel, my novel that's failing badly at NaNoWriMo. D'oh!

New release from my favorite web shop on the planet.

This is wonderful: Circle of Stories, a celebration of Native American storytelling, from PBS and Second Story. I love those guys.

Oh, wow.

Check it out: is really beautiful these days. Perfect use of Flash.

More thoughts on digital storytelling.

You know, I keep poring over some of the programs offered at these grad schools, and I'm astonished by how myopic many perceptions of digital storytelling actually are. Lots of people are declaring e-books "dead in the water", without even beginning to assess exactly why e-books aren't that interesting. First, the media isn't right yet – reading books on a low-res screen sucks. When digital paper actually works, then you may have something. Second, e-books in their current generation don't offer enough to a reader. You've got to expand your ideas of what the media offers in order to really advance it. I'll expound more on this tomorrow.

What astonishes me are the great stretches of apparently undiscovered country that extend between where the research is actually being done and what's dying on the open market. Walter Bender's electronic publishing group at MIT (which is where Cameron Barlowe of Blogdex fame is doing his work) is interesting, but they seem to be only focusing on the news. The news! There's so much more to electronic publishing than just the news. What gives?


Oh, one more thing. The new issue is being held up by four people. One of them is vacationing in India, one of them is working on getting his contribution to the soundtrack sorted out, one of them has an excuse because he just finished getting our email up and running ( finally works! Woo!) and the last one is me, who still has to do piddly edits on a number of things. Soon.


I've been working on some marketing materials for Inkblots, to really pump up our output after the first of the year. This afternoon I made a bunch of snarky postcard designs – white postcards with a single quote right in the middle and our logo and URL at the bottom. My favorites:

  • "Like McSweeney's on crack."
  • "Like a union for people with useless degrees."
  • "Liberal arts majors, unite!"
  • "Demand an explanation for the Modern Library."
  • "Like The New Yorker on two dozen shots of espresso."
  • "Bitch-slapping literature since 1995."
  • "Literary magazines suck. Fix that."
  • "Because literature must be caffeinated."
It's kind of a bummer that I don't have any pictures of 'Ffeine Boy, our sorta-mascot from the mid-90s editions, lying around here that I can post. He looked like a weird cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man, and sported a great big smile and a quote that said, "Drink your vitamins!" He also had what I believe may have been the first prototype of the Dreamsbay star logo plastered across his shirt. Ah, 'Ffeine Boy. Go in peace.


Philosophical question of the day: what is intelligence?

One of my friends once remarked that someone we knew was a genius, which caught me off-guard because the person in question is largely a memorizer, and has never (to my knowledge) actually synthesized anything new. I agreed that he knew quite a few things, but I had a problem calling him a genius. This, of course, got me thinking. Does being knowledgeable make you smart? Does it make you intelligent? Does it make you a genius? What do these things require?

To my mind, knowing a great deal of things requires only good memorization skills, and memorization (to me) is little more than teaching a dog a trick. It's programming yourself to perform a certain action without thinking. And it's that last part that concerns me.

I've pissed off more than one musician with this theory – and if the musician doesn't feel any inclination to add any interpretation to the music, to bring any of themselves to it, then I argue that the analogy stands. It's the difference between being a performer and a translator. A performer performs something exactly the way he's told. A translator thinks about it, analyzes it, and brings their own solution to the problem. I personally respect composers more than translators, and translators more than performers, and I respect composers who perform their own works more than anything else. To me, the act of creating something from nothing is far more respectable than merely placing your own spin on a previously created work, because it inherently requires more creativity. It requires more thinking.

So, to return to our supposed genius... If this analysis is true, then a person who memorizes a great deal may be a useful librarian, and even a useful teacher, but until that person demonstrates that they really think about what they've learned, usually by making something from nothing, they're no genius. It's the thinking that requires creativity. Therefore, in order to be considered a genius, you have to be able to create as well as memorize.

So the question becomes: is this correct? Is 'being smart' merely having memorized a great deal of things, while 'intelligent' means having the ability to put them together into something new? Please comment below to help me sort this out.

(And mad props to the wild and woolly Ben Brown for his input this morning.)



So today two of my best friends get old. A great big birthday shout-out goes to Ken and Jesica. I love you guys. Congrats on surviving another year. :)


Piss me off some more, Apple.

Anybody else see this story on Wi-Fi wireless touch-sensitive screens that are meant to be unveiled at Comdex? They're from Microsoft. While the Tablet PCs are pretty cool, the idea of a touch-sensitive detachable screen that I can carry around in my house, without the bulk of the keyboard, hard drive or anything else, that's connected to my main box? To surf the net from anywhere and take notes? This rules. And, goddamn it, it should have come from Apple. They built Inkwell into Mac OS X, and then did nothing with it! Steve, you'd better come up with something sparkly at MacWorld New York, or else you're going to have a lot of pissed off disciples. It makes it difficult to hold your head up high when your beloved cutting-edge Porsche of a computer company is lagging behind Yugo.

Paging Mr. Plummer.

I got an interesting email the other day from one Mr. Plummer, warning me to steer clear of the Premiere Wireless Headset. This has me a little confused. I'm assuming this has to do with the posts I made a while back about Bluetooth-enabled wireless phone headsets, but I'm not sure. It's either that, or one of the strangest pieces of spam I've ever seen. Has anybody else gotten anything like this?


Well, that was fun. Jen had to make a flying trip back to Cincy in order to ask one of her old professors for a recommendation letter for her grad school application, and since the University of Cincinnati is apparently letting out for Thanksgiving early, Jen had to meet with the prof during office hours on Friday – between 9:30 and 11 A.M. Lock and load and rock and roll.

All the things considered, the trip went about as well as could be expected. And, having stopped off at the Apple Store in Columbus for a car adapter for my laptop, I actually got some work done on the way home. Bonus.


We've gotta be where? When?

Sudden road trip just sprang up. I'll be back either late tomorrow or sometime on Saturday.


Yo-Yo Ma switched!

Whoa! I was just watching The West Wing, and up pops a new Apple switch ad, with a fellow that looked fairly familiar. And at the end, wham! "I'm Yo-Yo Ma, and I play the cello." Cool!

On digital storytelling.

There's a funny thing about spending as much time as I do thinking about digital storytelling. I, for one, do not believe that digital storytelling needs to be interactive. We've had interactive fiction before – anyone who has ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book has experienced it. Interactive storytelling need not be digital storytelling, and vice-versa.

So what, then, is digital storytelling? I believe that Lord of the Rings or The Phantom Menace both qualify as digital storytelling – tales told using digital techniques and forms. That the critters may have been sculpted in a model shop makes no difference; it's the bringing them to life using digital means that triggers the 'digital' adjective. And yet this idea does not properly contain what it is that fascinates me about the phrase "digital storytelling".

To me, what's exciting about the phrase may not even be that it's digital. I'm excited by the notion of using other means than simply placing carefully-chosen words in sequence. I'm fascinated by the idea of multimedia storytelling, by the idea of making new hybrid works of art. I had an idea a long time ago about how to create an installation performance poetry piece by setting up a dozen TVs and VCRs with carefully choreographed video clips. Nothing too extraordinary, in and of itself, but at the time it seemed much more interesting than some of the spoken-word performances I've seen. How can blending of recorded art and live art revitalize each other? Can it be done in a manner that isn't hokey? Even Laurie Anderson, she who many consider to be the closest thing to a respectable multimedia artist, often strays into the mire of intellectual pudding.

What's fascinating to me about weblogs is how they actually embody many of these same principles. You see audioblogs, like the ones that Jish and Min Jung have done, and even videoblogs. The idea of people publishing online diaries of any form is a great and wonderful thing. What else can we play with?

Carrie returns!

My friend Carrie has returned to the web with a new weblog, this one posted from her new home at Biosphere 2 out in Arizona. I have such cool friends.


Feeling sort of disassembled this morning for some reason. Woke up first thing this morning and started looking at grad school programs, which has been both weirdly inspiring and fairly depressing. I want a combination of the humanities and technology. I want something that will allow me to explore ways that history can be re-examined, that will allow me to spend at least a year exploring a couple of my own concepts of digital storytelling. Several programs at MIT look fascinating, but I'm afraid that since I'm more of a writer/designer than a programmer, I won't get in, or I won't fit in. Then again, maybe they need more writer/designers than programmers. And places like Berkeley that offer purely writing programs probably won't want someone who's also a designer/programmer.

Wanted: graduate program for writers/designers/programmers/culturehounds interested in hiding somewhere with interesting people to explore how these four elements can be combined in interesting ways. Program will preferably result in a Ph.D. which will allow graduates to gain employment in small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, where said graduates can teach and write and build their own hobbit-holes.

Yes, I'm still on a Lord of the Rings kick. Sue me.


And you know what?

The extended edition is actually somehow way better than the original. There are only a couple of places that the re-added scenes are mildly questionable. Almost all of them are real character development moments, or are just too much fun (the added bits for Merry, Pippin and Sam are fantastic). You all have to see this.

Returned with plunder from the video store.

Ducked out to Best Buy with David Seitzinger this afternoon and picked up my own copy of The Lord of the Rings. Wonderful. Absolutely, positively wonderful. The extended edition is a little slower to get going, as it spends more time in the Shire, but that really reinforces your idea of what these people are fighting to defend. And the documentaries – five hours' worth of documentaries – are so far really nice. And I bought the four-disc version, not the five-disc one. Heh.

I did not, however, buy Star Wars: Episode II. I couldn't think of any really great scenes in Episode II, save for the lightsaber battle at the end, versus the nonstop series of great moments that make up The Lord of the Rings. Even at three hours and eighteen minutes (the length of the extended edition), Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings goes much faster than Episode II.

Of course, it helps that I consider myself to have far more hobbitish inclinations than Jedi-ish ones. Now, where's my pipe?


This is the week to end all weeks for those of us with a slightly dorky inclination. Today, both The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition and Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones came out on DVD. Then, on Friday, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets hits theaters. Huzzah!

God bless Canada.

Best dang switch spoof of the season (well, after Ben's, of course). Link properly ganked from Metafilter.


Couple of things.

First, Sam over at explodingdog has three very nice signed prints available for sale for $65 apiece through Thursday. Prints are usually $125, so this is a nice discount on three of the most popular designs. That, and it's nice to support artists before they're dead.

Second, all Inkblots alumni are invited to send track suggestions (and CD reviews) for our upcoming Soundtracks for Life 2002 DIY compilation CD and feature article. The notion here is to showcase music that has really shaped our last 12 months. It doesn't have to have been released in 2002 – if you just now discovered a Simon and Garfunkel song this year that's really taken on some personal significance, that's cool. The idea is to gather up music that you'll always associate with 2002, whether it was playing in an outdoor restaurant on the last walk you took with a friend before they moved away or if it's just a song that was on the radio while you were driving cross-country on vacation, whatever. Pick a track off a CD, write up a short paragraph that explains its import and, if you feel so inclined, pen a 500-750 word critique of the CD itself. Then email me and I'll put them all together. Then, we'll print up a track listing and a downloadable piece of cover art for our compilation, and readers can run down to their local record stores, acquire the albums and mix and burn their own CDs. Turnaround time on this project is kind of short, though – if everyone could get their submissions to me this week, that'd be great!

Third, as long-time readers are aware, I've been toying with the idea of adding a forum to Inkblots for a long time, to give people a public place to post feedback or their own work, or just a place for readers to talk with each other. I'm not sure that people would use it, though. What do you guys think? Please post your comments below. Thanks!