Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

January 2003 Archives

Oh, and in case you were wondering...

Yes, all of this is the outcome of the personal problem I mentioned a few weeks ago. So there's that mystery cleared up for you.


Dreams are hard to let go of.


Things took a turn for the worse yesterday evening, and after two years and some change, I'm once again – unwillingly – single. Just thought you ought to know. (And Frank, because I know you read this, she could probably use a phone call.)

To the few people who read this that I don't know personally, sorry to foist this on you. To those that I do... Anybody want to go to Vegas?



Ladies and gentlemen, please step this way to the good Mr. Zeldman's depiction of the morning-after call from Mr. GWB to Mr. SH. Heh heh heh.

Weblogs I wish existed.

How wonderful would it be if we had weblogs for Salman Rushdie, Jamie Oliver, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, "Sourpuss" Franzen, and all these other young turks? Is there a connection between what these people produce and the time it takes to maintain a weblog? Is it possible to do both? In the case of the illustrious Mr. Gaiman, the answer is a resounding yes. So where are the others?

Quick philosophical question.

Is it better to be a writer, or somebody that people write about? How about a writer that people write about? ;)

On the State of the Union.

Well, $1.2B for alternative energy research is at least a concession to all of us out here hollering for an alternative attack on our dependency on Iraq. However, note he didn't say anything truly ambitious, like the old "man on the moon" approach. While he could have said something ambitious and exciting, such as "By 2010 every new car in America will be powered by an alternative fuel source, and all of our oil needs will be met by domestic sources". Wouldn't that have been the cat's pajamas? Probably utterly undoable, but what the hey.

Where's the fire from the Democrats? Where's the American spirit? We are lackluster, tired, weak. If we go to war with this attitude, we will lose – the same way we lost Vietnam. No home support = no drive = lost war = lost face = bad juju. If we have to go to war, let's hope that Bush manages to produce some real smoking guns next week to really prove his case.


New macs = sort of wow.

Nice screen, OK machine.Well, Apple came out with a lukewarm update to their PowerMacs today, and a kick-butt update to their Cinema Displays. They introduced a new 20" monitor and cut the price of their 17's from $999 to $699, but the best part came in the form of a price cut for their top-of-the-line 23" HD Cinema Display – formerly $3499, it's now $1999. Sure, two grand is a lot to spend on a monitor, but dang – a $1500 price cut sure makes them a lot more attractive. As for the machines... They got a tiny speed bump, Firewire-800, Bluetooth wireless networking and Airport Extreme cards, and a small price reduction. Nice, but still awfully enh. It's crystal-clear what Apple's doing: they're trying to make their machines as attractive as possible while the company is still bent over the barrel by Motorola's dawdling on the G5 chips. Meanwhile, hipster geeks across the country are looking at this update and saying, "You've got to be kidding. No, thanks, I'll wait for the G5." This can't be good for Apple's bottom line.

C'mon, Steve, either bitch-slap Motorola into getting with the program or ditch them for IBM or – gasp! – Intel. Oh, and while you're at it, ditch that ugly-ass case. I recognize the value of the handles and the drop-down sides for easy access maintenance, but the front of that thing is hideous. It looks like a frickin' cyclops skull, for crying out loud. I know the good Mr. Ive could provide us with another piece of industrial art. A slightly sleeker G5, please, thankyouverymuch. And make it snappy.

Having difficulty.

I've now lost three posts to Blogger over the course of as many days. Anybody else having these problems?


No funding for TIA.

Awesome. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to block funding for the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project. It's not dead yet – the project is only being financially blocked until the Pentagon "explains the program and assesses its impact on civil liberties" – but it's nice to know that at least some people in Washington are standing up against this post-9/11 civil liberties bonfire.

Related joke: the Total Information Awareness project was originally known as the Total Knowledge Awareness project, until someone pointed out that the President kept referring to it excitedly as the T N' A project. Ba-doom-boom. Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week. The 7 o'clock show is completely different from the 9 o'clock show.

Oh, wow.

Beautiful, beautiful photography over at The Blue Sea and Sails. Bonus points for elegant use of Flash and a title nicked from Czeslaw Milosz.

Poetry on the radio.

Now there's a good idea. CNN's running a story on Scott Poole, a poet in Spokane, Washington who has a regular spot reading his poetry on NPR. He apparently shows up every Monday morning for two minutes:

His poems air on Monday because "very little happens in the news on Monday," Demarest said. "Monday is the wasteland of the radio."
Wasteland, schmasteland. I'd take that. What a cool idea.


Eno's got my back.

It would seem that no less than modern music legend Brian Eno agrees with many of my assessments on the current political clusterfuck landscape. To wit:

This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism. It seems content to do yoga and gender studies, leaving the fundamentalist Christian right and the multinationals to do the politics. The separation of church and state seems to be breaking down too. Political discourse is now dominated by moralizing, like George W. Bush's promotion of American "family values" abroad, and dissent is unpatriotic. "You're either with us or against us" is the kind of cant you'd expect from a zealous mullah, not an American President.
Amen, brother. Sing it with the choir.


The New PowerBooks.

Last night, Nick Bastin and I meandered down to Tyson's Corner, the big swanky mall down here just over the Virginia border. The Apple Store had at least one 12" PowerBook sitting out for people to poke, prod, and otherwise coddle. It was pretty cool – basically the same size and shape as an iBook, only made out of what looked like brushed aluminum. Oh, and they put the pulsing sleep light in the catch mechanism, since its usual position wouldn't have been visible because the 12" model drops the screen down behind the main chassis (again, like an iBook). In short, it was cute, but utterly impractical for my use. I also forsee the 17" PowerBook being utterly impractical for my use, as it seems just too darn big. I'll reserve final judgement for after I've seen one in the flesh, though.


Assembling components.

As I keep working on my new personal site, I may be getting close to a real, live proof-of-concept implementation of an idea I've been batting around for months. It's not the way I'd expected it to be, but it's assuming some nebulous form. Cool. This is getting closer and closer to something I could theoretically write a Ph.D. thesis on. Well, maybe -- if Dave Winer can go research weblogging at Harvard, maybe I can too. :)


An interesting experiment.

Another component I'm messing around with on my new personal site is a personal timeline. It's more an exercise on convincing myself that I'm not wasting my life than anything else, but it's really kind of an interesting experiment. You folks should try this.

Flashback poetry.

In that portfolio site that I mentioned before, I'm adding something new: my writing. I'm including synopses of a number of my fiction projects as well as something on some of the poetry I'd written. I've been plowing through some of the stuff that I'd written back in high school and college, and some of it isn't bad. I just found an old not-a-love-poem that I'd written for an ex-girlfriend, and it has the line, "For as a love may offer a dandelion and intend a rose...". Most of the rest of the poem is pretty good, but that one line has promise. Hm. Perhaps 2003 will be the year I get some of these things back on track.


(Editor's note: As part

On Big Brother

(Editor's note: As part of my New Year's resolutions, I'm going to try writing a full-fledged editorial once a week. This is probably going to be a little clunky here for the first couple of weeks, as I've gotten a bit rusty. Please bear with me.)

In the New York Times today, there's this interesting piece on Vice Admiral John M. Poindexter, who's heading up the Pentagon's new "Total Information Awareness" project. This is that thing that all of us people who like our privacy have been dreading: a real, genuine system designed to spy on all of our financial transactions and flag anything suspicious.

While some of this makes sense in the here and now – few would contest the usefulness of a system that would chirp if a couple of ex-cons went on a shopping spree in every Wal-Mart in the state, buying up enough ammunition to take out Mexico – the thing that privacy advocates fear is setting a precedent which could be easily abused in the wrong hands. Take banned books, for instance. If we found ourselves in the hands of a government who didn't have our best interests at heart, who was only in it to maintain their private finanical interests and to pass political power down along linear, even familial lines, and who engineered events in the United States to steer the public opinion towards willfully surrendering even more of our civil liberties – in other words, one like our current government only much, much worse – programs such as The Patriot Act and this Total Information Awareness project could be used to snuff out dissenting voices. Under such a government, it would be easy to track each and every person who attended this weekend's anti-war rallies by seeing where their paper trails lead, without a pre-existing warrant, and then label each and every one an Enemy of the State. Further, the government would probably be able to build up quite an interesting little file of questionable behavior on every single person in the U.S. just to have something on hand to throw the fear of God into anyone who might even consider going to such a rally. Didn't pay a parking ticket back in 1987? Guess who might come calling, if you published an essay on your own personal weblog questioning the government. Have a dissenting voice? Guess who might suffer government-sponsored harassment, maybe in something as "innocent" as an IRS audit. God knows what they'll find. God knows what they've been paid to find.

Sound idea, questionable implementation

Believe it or not, I didn't start this post to rant about the nature of this problem. I started this post to rant about the usage of the term "Big Brother", especially in this context. I'm an only child, so I can only speak to what my perceptions of a big brother's role in life happens to be. If I were a big brother, yes, I'd watch out for my siblings. I'd keep an eye on them, and come down on them like cold thunder if they did something to endanger themselves. What I wouldn't do is ruin their lives in order to further my own private missions and goals, which is what this system seems to encourage.

Do I believe our current government has our best interests at heart? No. I believe that Florida was only lost due to family connections. I believe that all our calls for election reform have been swept under the table by he who had the most to gain from the corrupted system. I believe that in an ethical system, Florida should have been forced not to endless recounting, but to a re-vote. I believe that this war on Iraq, while perhaps necessary to remove a continued threat, is being conducted like a ridiculous personal vendetta, and that Bush himself has even admitted as much ("Let's not forget, this is the man who tried to kill my dad"). I believe that it's also a ridiculous ploy for the Bush family and the other oil barons to maintain their relevance, when the billions of taxpayer dollars that would be spent to attack Iraq would be infinitely better spent on alternate-energy research, in order to hit Iraq's economy where it hurts and solve our own long-term problems. I believe our current government is acting recklessly, and the opposition has somehow been stymied into submission.

And I believe that at some point in the future, if this situation is allowed to continue, I am going to be punished for openly stating those beliefs. It may not be openly connected, it may come in the guise of some other form of trumped-up charges or something along those lines, but it will happen.

I do not have a problem with having a system watching out for me, if I could believe that the system was on my side, or if it were even just plain just. The events of the last two years, however, have made me lose all faith in the system, and in the American public. Our people here at home are still suffering from a recession that Bush seems not to care about. Osama bin Laden is still at large, something that Bush seems not to care about. Our efforts at rebuilding Afghanistan seem to be faltering, something that Bush seems not to care about. Our stepchild ally, Israel, is in the middle of one of its most violent, darkest periods in history and infuriating people around the world, something that Bush doesn't seem to care about. His own actions, naming a so-called "axis of evil," are now galvanizing a nuclear-grade arms dealer / threat in the form of North Korea, something Bush seems not to care about. And the United Nations seems to think that going to war with Iraq is a bad idea, something that – say it with me – Bush seems not to care about.

So what does Bush care about? Creating his new "investor class". Tax cuts for the wealthy. Installing his friends into high offices throughout the government. Obliterating the separations between church and state. Giving a helping hand to the oil industry's efforts to run pipelines through the Middle East. A conveniently-timed war on Iraq to help him get re-elected. Showing to the world that we are not to be messed with, 'cuz we gots da bomb, and none of all y'all kin have one, neither. This kind of blatantly self-serving, military-driven, openly destructive behavior is the kind of thing that leads – and perhaps rightly so – to World War III, and this time we'll be the villains.

So what is to be done?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not write without my own personal interests playing some part in this. As a man in his mid-twenties, living in Washington, D.C., I am in danger from two directions: first, from the draft, should it be reinstated, and second, from a nuclear or chemical attack on our nation's capitol. I do not want to die. Yet, I also do not want to live in a world where our nation is held unaccountable for our behavior, where might makes right, and the country which is supposed to be the role model for democratic countries around the world demonstrates in full view how its system can be manipulated and poisoned from the inside. If we continue along the same path that we've been following for the last two years, it won't be long before the United Nations is meeting to discuss what actions need to be taken against us. It is our responsibility as the American people to take action before they do.

It is up to us, as the American people, to stand up and say that the kind of behavior currently being practiced by our government is intolerable. I live in Washington, D.C. I have seen what is possible when brilliant people work together in concert with ambition and with vision. The United States model of democracy is sweeping across the planet like a new Roman empire, and rightly so – it is in this method that entire cultures can work together for the betterment of all. This is why our current situation is so tragic. What kind of an example are we setting for the rest of the world when the "enforcer country", the military arm of the United Nations, openly threatens to defy the will of the other members and destroy any authority this tenuous global democracy might have? What kind of example are we setting when the leader of that country, who came into power under very questionable circumstances, is obviously acting to further his own interests while ignoring the financial crisis in full bloom in his own country?

I suggest that our president publicly apologize to the Korean public for his "axis of evil" comments. I suggest that he hand over all our intelligence information on Iraq to the arms inspectors and then step back and allow the United Nations to do their job. I suggest that he do a better job of convincing the entire world that our current actions are just and warranted, not just assuring us that he knows what's best and to trust him on it. I suggest that he start giving monthly progress reports on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, and the economy, complete with Powerpoint presentations and downloadable PDFs that are understandable to the American public. I suggest that he revisit the state of the American economy and really examine what needs to happen to reinvigorate American industry. I suggest that he increase tax breaks for people who own hybrid and electric cars and the companies that make them. I suggest that he invest more taxpayer money into consumer-level renewable energy sources, flywheels, naturally-powered vehicles and other alternative forms of energy. I suggest that he prove to us that he does, indeed, have our best interests at heart.

Then, and only then, will I, as an American, be willing to allow the Pentagon and the government to watch over my shoulder; then, and only then, will I be willing to believe that they have my back. Until that happens, I will continue to believe as I do now: that Bush and company only have their own best interests at heart, and the millions of lives that the consequences may affect be damned. Until that happens, I will continue to say to them, You're no brother of mine. Now get off my back.


Portfolio site.

So I've been working on my portfolio site for the last two weeks. It's a nice little site, but this morning I had a revelation. Your personal portfolio site is where you're supposed to show off, and, well, I'm not that excited about what I've got so far. This is making me contemplate going back to the drawing board for the whole project. Actually, what I'll probably do is finish what I've got, post it, and then reimagine the whole nine yards. Hmmm.

So close...

These guys are so close, but they still don't get it. Use the watch as an interface via Bluetooth for the Palm in your pocket. C'mon.

Oh, wow -- tricep extensions hurt.

So one of the things I've been doing as a New Year's resolution is working out. I can do 150 curls (well, in two sessions), but I can only do 10 tricep extensions with even my weeniest, littlest 10-pound dumbbells. (That's where you take the dumbbells, bring them back over and behind your head, and then raise them back over your head again.) It's amazing the muscles you don't use on a daily basis, and how weak they get, and how painful it is when you do start working them out. Wow.

Vin Diesel, here I come.


Things got better, and then they got worse. I'm coming back, though. There are other things in life to deal with than this.


I'm alive.

Hey, everybody. Thanks for your concern. Just so you know, what's going on isn't health-related. Further, I think things are looking up. I still don't really want to talk about it here, though. Sorry... It's personal.


One more thing.

Although I'm not mentioned on either the So New Media site or the author's site, I designed the forthcoming book Deli Life for Mr. Brown and his ilk. You can preorder it here.

And with that, I think I'm going to go on hiatus for a little while. Sorry. Things are going down out here that I don't want to share with the world just yet, and I think those things are going to take up my time for the next little bit. I'll see you later.

Forgive the temporary absence from posting.

Hey, all – I'm going through some personal problems right now. Please stand by.


Granta publishes their new "Best Young British Novelists" list.

The full list and a commentary article can be found over at The Observer, but to save you the time, here's Granta's top 20. Keep in mind that their previous lists have included some really great talents, so these may be the folks to watch out for.

The authors, and their ages: Monica Ali, 35; Nicola Barker, 36; Rachel Cusk, 35; Susan Elderkin, 34; Peter Ho Davies, 36; Philip Hensher, 37; ALKennedy, 37; Hari Kunzru, 33 (iffy, in my opinion); Toby Litt:, 34; David Mitchell, 33; Andrew O'Hagan, 34; David Peace, 35; Dan Rhodes, 30; Ben Rice, 30; Rachel Seiffert, 31; Zadie Smith, 27 (of course); Adam Thirlwell, 25 (bastard); Alan Warner, 38; Sarah Waters, 36; and Robert McLiam Wilson, 38.


There are things I'm learning from Safari.

One of Safari's neatest features is the ability to include all the URLs in your address book in a folder in your bookmark bar. This is nifty on multiple levels. For starters, it makes me question the weblogs I read – perhaps the blogs I pay the most attention to should belong to people who have my phone number.

Comments crash Safari.

OK, so far I love Safari. It's fast, sleek and has a couple of nifty things that IE only dreams about. It's also showing me that there are some things I need to fix... Like the comments on this weblog, for instance, which crash the browser. Whoops.

Oh, and font sizes. Looks like I've got some spring cleaning to do this afternoon.

He didn't keep going.

Well, no new towers, and no new digital lifestyle device (DLD), but whoo boy, is that new 17" PowerBook sweet. Bluetooth? Airport Extreme? And a backlit keyboard? Wow. I don't know if I need the 17" monitor, but if they put all those goodies into their 15" model, I'm going to get me one of those this summer. Nice show, Steve.

So, in summation: probably not enough to really revitalize the company, but enough to be impressive... More details and commentary to come after the reality distortion field has worn off.

Year of the laptop?

Nice. Very nice. But keep going – new towers! New digital lifestyle device! Get back up there and keep going!

12" PowerBook.

Well, the lads calling for an Apple subnotebook should be happy. That thing's cute.

Airport Extreme.

Wow. Just the wireless USB print server function alone is worth the $199 price. Sweetness and light.

17" PowerBook.

Damn. That thing's an aircraft carrier! And fiber-optic backlit keys! Woot! And Bluetooth! And faster Airport! And better graphics! Rock!


Yes! Pound sand, PowerPoint!

Pant, drool. Wow. I don't normally do presentations, but now I want to start. This is some really neat stuff!


I wonder if iDVD will work with third-party burners now. I wonder if Apple will release a stand-alone SuperDrive. (Please, Steve, please...?)


Apple built a browser! Finally! Dear sweet Jesus, I hope this sucker's standards-compliant, or Zeldman's going to shit a brick.

iPhoto + iTunes + iMovie + iDVD = iDon'tCare.

Granted, the slideshow link between iPhoto and iTunes feature is pretty nice, but... And the one-click photo retouching is nice, but... And the Ken Burns effect is cool, but... But, but, but...

Well, pros like me don't care. I'm sure it'll be nice for the amateurs, but I'm more intrigued by Final Cut Express.

Final Cut Express.

Whoo, Adobe is gonna be pissed.

Blogging the MacWorld keynote.

I'm sitting here listening to Steve cast his usual "reality distortion field" in San Francisco, and I figured what the hey – let's do some running commentary. So far the only interesting thing he's announced is a Burton skiing/snowboarding jacket with an iPod pouch and a built-in controller in the sleeve. Kind of cool, but at $499 it's a bit steep for we average joes. Good idea, though – would someone create a sleeve control for other coats? Maybe built into my watch?


My predictions for MWSF03.

As any Mac enthusiast well knows, Macworld San Francisco opens tomorrow with Steve Jobs' keynote speech. Traditionally, this is where Steve announces Apple's next big thing. There has been chatter on all the rumor sites about what tomorrow will unveil, including iPods designed for video, new monitor designs, improved AirPort wireless networking stations, and speed-bumped machines. Some brave souls have even guessed that tomorrow we'll hear announcements about Apple's new PDA, or that OS X will now run on Intel chips.

My prediction: Steve Jobs will announce nothing. If he announces anything, it will be dinky, frivolous software announcements that very few people could care less about, and then follow up that disappointment with the announcement that Apple will be increasing their prices, and charging for iApps that were formerly free. As a result, the streets of San Francisco will run with blood.

All Mac enthusiasts know that the G4 towers are slower than dirt, that both the mobile machines and the towers are dying for new enclosures, that Apple's market share is slipping and so is their stock price. The former crown prince of innovation hasn't been pulling anything out of its hat for way too long; their last neat thing was the iPod, and that can only carry a company so far. Now they've let themselves get thrown onto the ropes again, and the only thing that's going to save them now is a one-two punch of innovative products and drastic measures. There have been reports for months of a build of OS X that runs on Intel chips; support issues be damned, release it. There have been rumors for years about tablet Macs, Mac PDAs, and all kinds of new Apple toys. Do something with them. For Christ's sake, Steve, do something. Your faithful are growing ever more irritated every day.

I predict that the rumors of 2003 being Apple's best year ever, innovation-wise, are all just smoke being blown up our collective behinds. C'mon, Steve. Prove me wrong.

What I'd love to do this summer.

Summer joy.Oh, man. I've got to jump on the marketing bandwagon something fierce now and land some new clients. Volkswagen just unveiled their New Beetle Convertible, and I've already got dreams of jumping in this baby and taking off for Maine, New Orleans, San Francisco... I can't begin to imagine the price tag that would have, but I could guarantee the best On the Road article ever.

State of the crisis.

FYI, I went to bed really early last night and slept for twelve hours straight. No joke. Woke up this morning feeling rejuvenated and once again able to tackle the world at large. Update may appear today or tomorrow.

Book your tickets now.

BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, presents a double-whammy back-to-back performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Chekov's Uncle Vanya, starring Russell Beale and Emily Watson (!) and directed by Sam Mendes. Yes, that Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame. Wow.

Go Bucks!

I can't believe I didn't post about this earlier, but yes, friends, the Ohio State Buckeyes rule. I wonder how many cars got trashed on High Street?

Hot damn, I'm fashionable.

According to this article in the Honolulu Advertiser, the "Emo" look is sort of what I've been all along. Well, kind of not really. I guess khakis and Oxford shirts are just 'timeless', i.e. vanilla style. That's OK. It'll help me avoid really embarassing photographs a decade down the road.


Simple questions are the hardest.

I wound up staying up absurdly late last night surfing the Net, looking for new and interesting projects. I know that my present mood is the result of too much sugar and too little sleep, but I find myself feeling highly critical of the state of things. In addition to the burglary over New Year's, which has made me rethink a few things, I've spent the last week or so hanging out with some of my oldest friends. We've been talking about plans, life goals and how the world at large is fairly ridiculous right now, politically and economically. (We've also been playing an absurd amount of video games and even a few rounds of Magic: The Gathering in a flurry of nostalgia.) It's been a lot of fun, and it's largely kept me off my computer. Now that I'm coming back to the Net, I find myself asking some disturbing questions. Is this still important? What matters? I had planned to begin publishing the new issue tomorrow, but now I can't bring myself to do it. There's too much else out there right now that's demanding my attention. Reading, for instance; if I read as many pages on paper that I read online each day, I could probably polish off a classic a week. Would that matter? I don't know. I'm not sure. Given a choice between being a freelance creative consultant and going to grad school, I know which one I'd rather do, hands down. Maybe it's time that I started dedicating more of my time to that goal.

No new issue tomorrow, folks. It's been postponed on account of a philosophical crisis.



I hate it when technology lets me down. Like cell phones when their batteries go dead, and you miss important calls. Arg.

Things out here have been less than ideal this week. I'd post more here, but since they don't really involve me directly, I'll just leave it at this: when you go to New Year's Eve parties, leave your TV and lights on. Otherwise idiots may break into your place and steal your stuff. It wasn't my place that was hit, but our whole little group of friends is pretty pissed off.


Like I said...

Um, happy new year. Never quite sure which side of the date mark to post that.