Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

January 2004 Archives

Going on auto. Or not.

Car trouble sucks. Especially when you pride yourself on being something of a computer dork, and the problem has something to do with the car's computer, and you can't get in there to debug it. Arrrrgh.


I've so been there. Right now, actually.

Over at Michael Chabon's website, there's a nice essay about how he spent five years on a novel called Fountain City, which never materialized. This sounds like me right now. Like, a lot.

The lesson I'm taking away from this is a reassurance that good stories tell themselves, and if the two novels I have in the works are albatrosses, I should go back to square one and try something else. Hmmm.

Fixing Disney.

So everybody's all abuzz about the news that Pixar and Disney are splitting up. What's my opinion? I think that it's kind of sad, really, for everyone involved. Both Pixar and Disney are going to be hurt by this in some way, shape or form – but I suspect that Disney's going to really take the brunt of it. And that saddens me.

Sure, Disney has come to be perceived as an evil empire on par with Microsoft, but it's still depressing to imagine a world without Disney. Further, it's pretty darn depressing that Disney has come to be perceived this way. Therefore, in the tradition of my earlier essay Fixing AOL, I'd like to offer some thoughts on how to revitalize the House of Mouse, and maybe bring back the wonder and joy that I remember from when I was a kid.

Step 1: use the marketing juggernaut for good

There's been a lot of cheering for Pixar in this split, but not a lot of people are asking how much value Disney actually brought to the initial contract. People are likening Pixar to Luke Skywalker and Disney to the evil empire, but would Pixar be as successful as it is today without Disney's help?

Yes, it's disturbing that Pixar had to give Disney such a high percentage of their profits, when all Disney was essentially doing was marketing and merchandising Pixar's works of art. But the value of those services are in reality nearly incalculable. Sure, Shrek and Ice Age made a ton of money in the theaters, but they arguably haven't made anywhere near as large of a cultural impact as Toy Story. Was that because Toy Story was just a better movie, or because there wasn't the avalanche of Shrek and Ice Age toys, cartoons, plush dolls, Happy Meals, and so on and so on?

When trying to analyze something like this, it's difficult to separate the quality of the product from the success of the marketing and merchandising. For example, the best Star Wars stories from my childhood were told when we were sitting on the living room floor and acting them out with our action figures. Sure, there were these three great movies that planted the seeds in our minds and set the stages, but the really great stories were the ones that we made up ourselves.

In the old days, legends and fairy tales grew in the retelling from storyteller to storyteller – now, we've lost that form of amplification-in-retelling thanks to radically better media and copyright laws. These days, modern fairy tales are initiated in the core media event (a film like Toy Story or a book like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and then amplified virally through the use of toys, cartoons and other merchandise. Would Harry Potter be such a phenomenon without the films and toys? Possibly – but the closest things out there, the Lemony Snicket books or the His Dark Materials trilogy, don't have nearly the same merchandise or the same market penetration. Both have movie adaptations on the way, so it will be interesting to use them as barometers of this theory.

People can argue that the merchandise isn't necessary, and even cheapen the original experience. But toys are avatars of young imaginations. Kids don't need more and more canned stories, they need to tell their own. And action figures help with that. Sure, they're not necessary, but they do help – and when the business model is to insert your characters into the mass psyche in order to drive demand for more stories and product based on those characters, that helps. And this is not as insidious as it sounds. Storytellers need to eat. Storytellers freed from worrying where their next meal is coming from can focus on their art. Do I think John Lasseter was driven by an insidious plot to get rich off of controlling the minds of the world's youth? Not for a moment. Do I support the idea of Mr. Lasseter having the time and money and creative freedom to tell the stories he wants to tell? Absolutely. So, step 1: use the Disney marketing juggernaut for good, to spread the characters and stages to kids everywhere in order to seed their imaginations, fuel their own new stories, and financially support our storytellers.

Step 2: ditch the formulas

The success of Pixar is no mystery. It boils down to one thing: really, really great stories. There are some amazing minds at work over at Pixar – John Lasseter and Brad Bird, among them. These people are artists and storytellers. Trying to shoehorn in cuddly little toys and chirpy sidekicks aren't necessary – they know what makes a great story and a great cast, and have done amazing jobs without resorting to formulas.

What's especially dense about Disney's current formulaic hero-and-sidekick-and-villain approach is that almost none of the classics needed it. Mickey Mouse didn't have a sidekick, he had interesting secondary characters in Donald Duck and Goofy and Minnie and Pluto. Neither did Snow White – she had seven secondary characters with fun, indentifiable personalities. Winnie-the-Pooh (note, another creation of a non-corporate storyteller) didn't have a villain. This is not to say that the formula can't work. Aladdin is a great example of a formulaic film that blew the doors off the place – but that was due to the bombastic energy of Robin Williams. And here's the kicker – Robin Williams was that movie's John Lasseter. The script for Aladdin was okay, but it was all the creative leeway they allowed Robin Williams that really made that film. Again, stand back and let the storyteller do his job.

Now let's consider the recent stuff that has just flopped, and why. Pocahantas was the movie that really kicked off the Disney divebomb. They added a bunch of superfluous stuff to what should have been a fascinating movie about American history. This movie didn't need any chirpy little sidekicks, but it got 'em anyway. Where was Katzenberg when we needed him?

A few years later, we got Atlantis, which was a neat story but lacked any main personality. There was no real storyteller behind Atlantis, just a bunch of pretty bland characters running around in some neat Jules Verne-like sets. Would Jules Verne have been an excellent muse? Sure, but by the time the movie was done it was so diluted and crammed into a Disneyfied formula that it was uninteresting. Similarly, look to Treasure Planet – Robert Louis Stevenson doesn't need cyborgs. A big, rollicking, fun and swashbuckling pirate movie could have been a fantastic success – a fact we saw realized shortly afterward in the amazingly successful Pirates of the Caribbean.

As far as I've heard, Disney wasn't doing a lot of creative leaning on Pixar in the creation of their flicks, just letting them do their thing. Which, not-too-incidentally, is the same laissez-faire attitude Steve Jobs takes in his CEOship of Pixar. This leads one to suspect that the best thing that a studio or CEO can do is to forget the market research and leave the storytellers alone.

Step 3: nurture the young independent filmmakers

Recently, we've seen a huge increase in the technology available to young filmmakers. This is allowing all kinds of young independent creatives to make feature-quality projects out of their dorm rooms. One excellent example is Richard Linkletter's Waking Life, an animated film produced on an absolute shoestring of a budget thanks to some high-tech rotoscoping. Another source of new animation talent is emerging from the Flash community. Online animations are popping up all over, and it's only a matter of time before the first feature film is produced using a $300 off-the-shelf piece of software.

If you take the previous two steps and follow them out to their logical conclusions, the best way to save Disney is to allow it to morph into the greatest showcase for independent creative animation the world has ever seen. Disney has had remarkable success lately with its partnerships with Pixar and Hayao Miyazaki (of Princess Mononoke and Swept Away). Perhaps the deal with Pixar fell apart because it had to – once an animation studio has reached a certain level of maturity, it can go out and find its own success. Disney shouldn't necessarily feel threatened by this. As long as they've been doing their jobs and nurturing young imaginations to become another generation of storytellers, the supply of new material should be endless.

In short, Disney should reconfigure itself into an incubator for new voices in animation. They should continue to do what they did with Pixar, and even Tim Burton (who started out at Disney) – go out looking for new talent, give them a place to try out their voices in exchange for a cut of the profits, and allow them access to the marketing juggernaut. if you can strike a good deal with them to continue your partnership afterwards, fantastic – but if not, you still have a good back catalog of material to provide residual royalties. (What I don't think they should do is create new spinoffs without the original storytellers, which would be a direct violation of step number two; I think the upcoming Toy Story 3 is going to be an utter abomination without John Lasseter at the helm.)

The House of Mouse and 1,000 others

There will most likely never be a world without Mickey Mouse, but a world where Disney is no longer a major player in the cultural-storytelling scene is still pretty depressing. And, like it or not, that's what they are – a giant behemoth of a storyteller, largely responsible for spreading the myths of our childhood from generation to generation. Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin... All of these are modern-day classics. Love it or hate it, Disney is one of the greatest modern-day storytellers in the business.

Disney is faltering because of its ill-considered desire to provide "safe" entertainment, perfect little spheres of movies without any real personality or thrill. The current Disney empire would have never created Harry Potter because they wouldn't have dared to risk offending the religious right, and they probably wouldn't have come up with Finding Nemo on their own because a story about an overbearing father learning how to relax his grip on his son isn't, well, Disney. Jeffrey Katzenberg was the driving storyteller behind The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, and looked what happened to him. By consistently playing it safe and shackling creatives to studio formulas, Disney has killed the scary, dangerous, spark that makes stories interesting, what makes them real.

To remain relevant and keep their lead, Disney needs to step back and learn how to remarket itself into a benevolent benefactor for young artists, not as an evil empire consistently churning out formulaic schlock. The technology is growing so that a new generation of young voices can tell their own stories. This is fantastic. Instead of resisting it and trying to rehash formula after formula, Disney should embrace these new voices, take some chances and start some careers. Just as with Pixar, I believe they'll find it's a very, very lucrative way to go... Even to infinity and beyond.

Background reading

For more information and the general buzz on the scene, please check out the following.
Check out the following:


Something I usually keep in reserve.

There are very few things in the world that I hate. I mean really and truly hate. Macromedia Flash is one of them.

Big project I was working on before? Flash can no longer open the project file. It simply shrugs and says, "Failed to open the file."

Son of a...!

Wait a minute. What?

According to the New York Times, Bush Is Said to Seek More Money for Arts. Somewhere far below, the Devil is putting on another sweater.

I'm on the iTunes Music Store!

Hey, everybody -- if you swing by the iTunes Music Store and look under Spoken Word, the Fray Cafe 3 CD is now on sale. I'm the last track, with my story "Band Scars". Check it out!


Support Mr. Bill!

Hey, everybody – our own William R. Coughlan is participating in this tournament thingie for blogger called BlogMadness 2003: get over there and throw him some love!

Sci-fi at Sundance.

Neat. Nice to see sci-fi is becoming real, genuine fodder for the indie scene: Wired News: Sci-Fi Is a Splash at Sundance.

One small one, released into the wild.

Another little project brought to the ready-for-public-consumption stage: Kate McClanaghan Voiceover. Requires Flash.


Busy busy busy busy busy whaaaaa?

So I've been working my tail off here for the last week, which explains the sort of intermittent posts that have been being tossed up here. And then, about three o'clock this afternoon, I realized that I've got almost all of my paying clients to the waiting-on-them-for-something stage. It's like running full-tilt through a jungle, ducking low branches and concentrating furiously on not tripping over tangling roots, and then suddenly emerging into a clearing. There's a moment of pause, catch-your-breath, and saying, "Oh. Okay, now what do I do?" Or, more accurately, "What do I do first?" As I also have about four or five large-sized projects for friends in the queue. However, DC got slammed with six inches of snow last night, so I may just take a snow day.

Aside from the twin blizzards of white stuff and work, things here are decent. Among other large events, Kate came down this weekend for a nice little visit, I attended a going-away party for one of my best friends down here, my plans to relocate to the Chicago area this summer are firming up and I have obtained a new PowerBook G4, which I have christened 'Constantine,' after both the emperor and the magician. I like names that have both classical and geeky overtones. My first laptop, for instance, was named Galileo. Again, bonus points for anyone who understands the geek reference there.

Which reminds me. The answer to last week's dork quiz: the "Aliens! I seen 'em" ref was to a Trapper Keeper commercial that made the rounds back in the late 80s. There was a series of kids trying to explain why they didn't have their homework (because, of course, they didn't have Trapper Keepers). One of them was this bug-eyed little guy who declared that line with a breathless intensity that was utterly hysterical. My dad and I used to throw that line back and forth.

These are the memories of which my childhood is made. You hush now.

So, yes. Time to go try and finish up one of these nonpaying projects, I suppose, while I have a little time to breathe. With a little luck, I'll have some finished things to unveil here soon.


I'm tellin' ya, man. Aliens! I seen 'em.

So apparently scientists now say they have discovered ice on Mars. Ice is water. Water is key to life. It's only a few more logic jumps from there to Koozebanians! Or Martians, anyway. Great, huge Martians who shot down the first Mars probe and ate the second one! We send a third at our peril – anyone who's ever read basic fairy tales knows these things always come in threes. We've had two strikes. The next one brings the Koozebanian invasion!

(And bonus points to anyone who catches the reference in the title of this post!)

So I was renewing the domain this morning and realized that is open. Anybody think I should grab it?


Credibility, out the window.

I have a hard time respecting any critic that starts off a review by misspelling the author's name.


"Serious anomaly", my butt! It's the Koozebanians!

In related news, the President and a bunch of his luggage have gone missing. The only evidence left behind is an oddly-accented message left on the oval office answering machine saying, "Junior, it's time to come home!"

Man at work.

Sorry for the radio silence today, folks. I'm in the middle of a total project frenzy. More later.

Nice lantern.

So Heather Champ has been taking some wonderful pictures and posting them to her new site, I stumbled by there tonight after a long Flash-coding binge (I spent wayyyy too much time tonight doing Flash work, but here's hoping it pays off) and found he'd posted this: heather champ, Grant Street. Love the reds. Beautiful.

Right. Bedtime.


Sometimes I hate my home state.

Oh, no. Courtesy of the New York Times: Move in Ohio to Ban Gay Marriage. Good grief.

Mutants do exist!

Cool! If it's true that she started to develop early (although I don't know what the normal benchmarks are for the learn-to-speak and learn-to-read points), I wonder if she uses a higher percentage of her brain... The comics could be true! Viva la sci-fi!

Ahem. Make up your own mind after reading this: Ananova - Teenage girl's x-ray vision baffles scientists.

How apropos.

Courtesy of Dave Barry, check out the name of Microsoft's lawyers of choice in the following article: Yahoo! News - Microsoft Takes on Teen Over Web Site. Niiiice.

On gay marriage.

So apparently the buzz is that Dubya wants to lay down a ban on gay marriage. What I don't get is that we don't ban Hindi marriages, Muslim marriages, Jewish marriages or atheist marriages, all of whom consist of people who are deemed as going to hell in the Bible. Doesn't this imply that marriage is not an inherently Christian institution? And that therefore shouldn't be any more prohibited under the law as, say, gay funerals?

And, if this gay marriage ban goes down, how many of the above are next on the uberconservatives' to-do list?


Moleskine notebooks in Bethesda.

To the person who Googled moleskine notebooks in bethesda or washington, your best bets are pretty much any Barnes and Noble in the area, or The Art Store in Georgetown. Good luck!

(Hey, when you're the only result on Google for something, you feel sort of honor-bound to provide some answers.)

I'm a bad, bad man.

So on a lark I was reviewing our referrer logs tonight while watching Shanghai Knights and doing a little work. Check this out. I am now responsible for completely hosing an otherwise respectable Google search: how to make inkblots. Check out result number one.


From music to muzak in fifty bucks.

So yesterday, a nation full of pimply-faced, weaselly little nerds fell to their knees and thanked Steve Jobs for enabling them to live out their lives as rock and roll superstars. The air quivered with the dull plastic thud-thud-thud of millions of little Rosses noodling away on their new MIDI keyboards, building great cacophonies of Apple Loops, constructing crap New Age symphonies the likes of which the young men who went on to form Rush and Yes only dreamed of.

Yesterday, Apple released GarageBand as a part of its $49 iLife 2004 suite, and the web was soon bombarded with really, really bad music. See, all these newbies fail to realize one thing: music has to build. It's like a story – you need to create an overarching theme, something that builds and grows and swells through choruses and verses. Music is not a bunch of endless loops mixed together. That's the kind of stuff that makes the rest of a song work – if you create an original melody and lyrics, you can use all those Apple Loops to fill in the gaps. I, for one, am a saxophone player, and play piano by ear. I am not a drummer, or a guitarist. I'd use GarageBand to first lay down the beginning tracks with a piano, vocal or sax melody and then fill in the gaps, then upload my nightmarishly crappy creations to this here weblog.

Give it time.



Hey, folks, I need some opinions here. I'm throwing ideas around for ways to make things go a little smoother fiscally around these parts, and I'm giving some serious consideration to adding Google keyword ads to the sidebar of the site, just below that nav box. I've kept that area open for a reason kind of like this for a long time, but I've been refraining from bringing in the ads forever because, well, you know. They're ads. But Inkblots as of yet generates little to no income, can never pay its contributors, and is something of a drag on my time and hosting bills. What do you think? Will all our artistic integrity suddenly go 'poof' if a few ads start appearing on the left side of the screen?

Please comment below. Need some thoughts here, people.


Listen to this.

If you haven't heard it yet, Ryan Adams' cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" is really fantastic. It's available on the Apple Store for a buck. Definitely worth a buck.


Build crew at work.

The last two days have been really interesting, workwise. Wound up modifying a Flash page turn animation for a potential client, chatted with what feels like a dozen other folks, and hammered up a new blue-sky concept for a friend's site. All this, and worked on some new comps for a secret project Nick and I have been working on for a while. Bang, bang, hammer, hammer. Keep 'em comin'!

Ah, crap.

This was so not what I wanted to hear. Apparently one of my all-time favorite Mexican restaraunts totally tips the scales when it comes to calories. Read the bad news for yourself: Fresh Mex: Not Always Healthy Mex. Apparently one of their vegetarian burritos has over 1,120 calories. Dangit. I guess I should have expected this was coming: after all, the dang place turns out to be largely owned by McDonald's.


Sweet ride.

I do believe I have found my next set of wheels.


Assault and batteries.

So today the battery on my PowerBook G4 decided to quit taking a charge. Argh. This, right after I decided not to buy a new one after all. And batteries for these babies are a hundred and thirty bucks. I may just mentally take that $130 and put it towards the purchase of a new laptop. Apple has a trade-in program where you can get $700 off the price of a new one if your machine is deemed worthy. I don't know if a malfunctioning battery is enough to put this poor old baby over the line, but $830 off the price of a laptop (kind of, allow me some desperate mental justification) seems vaguely doable. Kind of. The biggest drawback? Their trade-in program takes two to three weeks to actually turn your machine around. I can probably work off a desktop here, but that's a long time to be inconvenienced that way. Arg.

Damn, he does good work.

So my friend Derek picked up a Canon Digital Rebel over the holidays as well, and he's already putting it to excellent use. Behold his new site, Ephemera: Photos by Derek Powazek. Very, very cool.

Two words. Fuh. Reezing.

Jefferson Davis and my aunt Mavis, it's frickin' cold down here. The windows in my room are only single-pane glass, so it's really, really cold in here. Methinks I'm going to go work from a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble this week, just to have someplace warm to sit. Jeezus.

Low-hanging fruit, not in season.

For some reason, the phrase 'low-hanging fruit' has been running through my head all day. It's a phrase we used to use back at The Advisory Board all the time, meaning the stuff that's easy pickings, the projects on your to-do list that have only one or two steps left before completion. All day, my mind kept asking itself, "What's the low-hanging fruit? What's the low-hanging fruit?" I guess I'm growing anxious to wrap up some of these open projects – but as I kept replying with dismay, "There's not a lot of that at the moment." I've got a few things just about ready for prime time, but nothing I can just go click-click-click and it's done.

Maybe my goal for Sunday should be to scale up a couple of branches, so there will be some fruit to kick off the week...


Um, whoops.

So I spent the whole day Saturday sorting, cleaning, trashing old magazines and moving things around in my room. The result? I think I liked the way I had it before better. Whoops. Oh, well – there was some desperately-needed reorganization done, a bunch of crap got chucked, and now I have a more open spot to work in,so I think it's all worked out in the end.

Now I just have three boxes worth of random papers that need to be sorted into my filing cabinet... *sigh*

Case in point.

The 20th anniversary issue of Vanity Fair, from September 2003, doesn't get to the actual content until 173 pages in. IN the first 173 pages, they get through the table of contents, the contributors' profiles, and the letters. One hundred and seventy-three pages worth of glossy ads taking up my shelf space. Ugh. See ya.

The rule of the knife.

Every so often, I pull up to my desk, reach for one of the five coffee mugs I keep full of pens, highlighters, scissors and other assorted desk tools, and select a thin, black shaft with metal at one end and a plastic cap at the other. This is no pen or mechanical pencil – this, like an asp hidden among garter snakes, is my X-Acto Gripster pen knife, and I like to think that every time my fingers wrap around it, a tiny shriek is heard from the lower shelf of my desk. That shriek comes from the magazines that have been accumulating for the past X number of months. They know what's coming. Evisceration.

As I've noted before, I am a complete and utter magazine junkie. That's what happens when you yourself are a zine publisher, and a designer to boot. My "desk" is actually two mammoth worktables brought together, gargantuan works of art that my Dad built for me back in high school. One is about five feet wide, and the other is eight or nine. Both are almost as deep as my arm. They overlap in the corner, thanks to tighter space in my current room than in my one back home, have white formica tops with dark wood edging, and have legs and feet forged from black steel. About a foot or so off the ground is another shelf, a plain white strip of storage space that I absolutely adore, because it allows me a place to stow papers, shelving units, and most of all, magazines. I have approximately six feet of magazines under the long desk. Every six months or so, I grab that knife and start hacking out the articles I either want to keep, or managed to miss the first time around. Usually, this exercise results in a pile of glossy paper about three inches tall.

That all that paper can be condensed into a tight fistful of actually desirable content is sort of sick. It's a proud moment of efficiency, when I can haul those bags of paper out to the curb and I can gaze at the wonderful openness of that shelf, but it's also a Sisyphean task. In six months, I'll have to do it all over again. But that's okay. As a magazine junkie, I don't really mind – and I enjoy the refresher course on what the last six months in the culture have been like.

Take, for example, this morning's romp through past issues of GQ and Vanity Fair. I read these because I like to "keep my finger on the pulse," as gagworthy as that phrase is, and because they usually have pretty decent articles. For instance, I just sheared an article out of a past issue of VF on the artwork of Francisco Goya. Sure, there's a ton of fluff and nonsense, but there's that three inches of worthwhile content to pluck out of there, and, as with the Goya article, there's a lot of information in there I probably wouldn't get otherwise.

Also, another interesting thing I'm noticing: the new GQ, under the new editor (although I do admit that I miss the late Art Cooper) is not too bad. Yes, there's still an absolute glut of ads, but I suppose that's the lifeblood of magazines. One reason I'm interested to see what The Atlantic will be doing in the next 12 months is the new owner's declaration to increase the price of its ads, so they can offer a better content-to-shill ratio. Here's hoping it catches on. Anyway, the new GQ has featured Mos Def (Left Ear from the recent The Italian Job remake), lured David Sedaris away from Esquire, and has been offering some nice pieces on basic men's style, which I think is wonderful. Someone in the new bullpen has realized that not every guy gives a damn when it comes to gels versus pomades – we'd rather know if we're supposed to shave up or down, and what color of flower to bring our girlfriends on some random date. (Does a constant reliance on red roses dilute the effect? Mmmmm... Probably. Probably also depends on the girl.) And, while there's still a clear trending towards the Details/Maxim end of the spectrum, they're managing to temper it with a decent dose of classic GQ style, talking about what kind of cuts to look for in a suit, what classic watches are worth, that kind of thing. Being the pretentious bastard I am, I prefer that kind of thing in my men's magazines to, say, an eighteen-page pictorial of Anna Kournikova. Content, people, content. If we want Anna, we have ESPN for that. Just give us the four best pictures of Anna, and we'll be fine.

So far, I've cleared about half a foot off the shelf already, and I have a ways to go. If you'll excuse me, my X-Acto knife is waiting.


New year, new look.

In a bout of "Designer, design thyself," I'm contemplating new looks and trends and whatnot for 2004. I just got done flipping through the new issue of GQ (the one with Orlando Bloom on the cover, whom I was appalled to discover is the same age as me), and they had this big huge multi-page article on What The Cool People Will Be Wearing This Year, and about two pages in I thought to myself, "The cool people will be wearing pretty much whatever the heck they feel like wearing, and most of it is not going to be anything like this," and chucked the issue into the trash. Ah, liberation.

So what will I, as a Cool Person, be wearing this year? I'm not sure yet, but I think it's going to involve shorter hair and no facial hair. And jeans. Jeans will be a big element in my 2004 collection.

Having just typed that, am now considering doing a "Design 2004" piece for the upcoming Winter '04 Inkblots where we get folks to do what they think the truly cool people will be wearing this year. Anybody want to play?

Interesting Friday afternoon reading.

One of my favorite designers-with-blogs Todd Dominey has weighed in with his take on the iPod mini. As always, interesting reading, and, yeah, he's just about right. The iPod mini is overpriced for its target – but now there's talk of an HP-branded iPod hybrid, which could be interesting. Will it be the same price? The same form factor? Apple-compatible? What will those HP fellas unveil? And what will it be called? hPod? (Insert appropriate groans here.)

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, John Gruber of Daring Fireball provides some insight on why GarageBand is worth getting excited about, and the PowerPage provides an interesting comparison of GarageBand versus Soundtrack. GarageBand will be added to my software collection eventually, if only because Soundtrack doesn't support MIDI. I find myself wondering if GarageBand can read Soundtrack loops and vice versa. (I don't see why they wouldn't be, but I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.)

The design scene in the windy city.

So I've been thinking about moving to Chicago, but one thing keeping me here is a fear of what the economy and market are like out there. The craigslist entries for my line of work are downright paltry, which drives the point home that DC is recessionproof and New York is, well, right up there with Los Angeles for guys like me. Chicago? More Midwestern, which I miss, and colder, and full of my friends (like Ken, Talon, Amanda, Sara, Kourtney, Jim, Ruth, and Audrey) but I'm still not sure if it's the place for me. Weirdly enough, New York keeps looking better and better the more time I spend up there with Kate. How's that for irony? Me, mister "I hate New York", seriously eyeballing The Big Apple as a possible next stop on the Life of Me Tour. Whodathunkit?

But Chicago does have its share of kickass design houses, like 37signals, skinnyCorp (of Threadless fame) and Coudal Partners (of Jewelboxing and Photoshop Tennis). I wonder if any of those guys would be interested in going out to lunch to discuss the market out there these days. Hmm.

Decisions, decisions. It also doesn't help that I'm looking to move just as I feel I'm getting the hang of things out here. Oh, well. I guess it's better to go out while you're ahead, right?



Tonight Hoser gave me some utterly kickass late Birthday/Christmas presents, most notably the DVDs of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, the BBC show he did a few years back which I've always wanted to see but somehow never got the chance. Thanks, bro. You rock.

On sleep and Adobe CS.

So sleepy. Will blog tomorrow.

Okay, quick update. Spent most of the day driving and then catching up on stuff. My New Year is starting about a week late. :) Also. Bit the bullet this week and bought the Adobe Creative Suite (the Standard edition, not the Premium, as all the PDF handling I need can be pretty much handled in InDesign and WYSIWYG editors are for weenies). Lots of neat added features. I'm stymied, though, by the way InDesign handles its palettes differently than Photoshop and Illustrator. I mean, why in the world wouldn't they have opted to implement the horizontally-oriented and collapsible palettes in Illustrator and Photoshop, when they're so freakin' cool in InDesign? I do not understand these people sometimes.

Oh, and I agree with Todd Dominey's assessment of the CS iconography. The nature icons are going to have to just get memorized, as they really don't evoke that many memories of their predecessors. They're pretty, especially on iBooks (the rounded white of the icons goes well with the rounded white of the machine), but they're not really that meaningful. Tsk.

Right. Bed calls.


So, here's a question.

We liberal-leaning types tend to accuse Bush of saber-rattling with Tom Ridge's continual tweaking of the security level. Code Orange! Code Red! Will we ever get back to Code Blue? Were we ever at Code Blue?

So why doesn't Dean or Clark or one of these fellas start asking why we're still at Code Orange or Yellow? Why can't Bush get us back down to the cooler hues? Why is Bush failing to make our country safer?


Live (again) from New York: on the Macworld keynote.

Am posting this from the Apple Store in Soho, where I just missed the end of Steve Jobs' Macworld presentation. S'ok. As I was telling Kate while we were having lunch a couple of blocks away, the old Reality Distortion Field gets a little old after a while.

Mini iPods? Eh. They're okay. Not really that interesting to me, although less pocket clutter is always a good thing. What really has me interested is GarageBand – because it's almost exactly what I needed last summer, when I was monkeying with the idea of creating an EP of music and stuff. Except I was trying to do it with a $300 MIDI keyboard that never worked properly and my copy of Soundtrack. Now Apple's gone and built themselves a piece of software designed to do exactly what I had in mind, and a $99 full-size MIDI keyboard to go with it. Jinkies. Oh, well – I've already moved on to other projects. I might come back around to this when I go ahead and buy that G5 I've been talking about forever, although that probably won't be until the second quarter of 2004. I bought myself a new PowerBook G4 instead – which, I might add, I ordered around December 15th and it still hasn't shipped. Stupid Apple. Granted, it's a refurb, and I understand those might be difficult to keep in stock, but still... I want my tools, dammit. Too much is being hung up in the meantime.

Right. I'm out of here. Time to head back to NYU, pick up Kate, and then go do stuff this afternoon before I drive south to DC tonight. Catch y'all later.


On corporate sites.

So as you probably know, I've been working on the new for a couple of months now. I'm kicking the development of that into overdrive right now in order to make a more representative online presence (translation: snare more clients). I've been looking around at a number of other online portfolios, and there are some really fantastic ones out there. Most of them use Flash, and I'm coming to realize that this will probably be the last iteration of the Dreamsbay site that doesn't incorporate Flash in some integral way, shape or form. In fact, I was planning on doing the Portfolio section in Flash, but finally opted to use a JavaScript imageswap technique instead to save time. I'm bummed because the technique I'm using wouldn't allow users to cut and paste the text out of it, or resize it (the text is almost 100% graphics, which rankles me but hey, it's the way this project is shaking out) – but I suppose accepting this compromise is just one more step towards conceding the HTML field to Flash.

Most of my main gripes about Flash are fading away, actually, as broadband penetration becomes more widespread, a fact driven home by the fact that both of my girlfriend's sets of parents have cable modems and LAN networks in their houses. (True, both her dad and her stepdad work in computers, but I'm willing to predict that broadband will account for most of the web access within the next couple of years, just as I'm confident in predicting that all PDAs/smartphones will be web-enabled in the same timeframe.) The mondo wait times are disappearing, Macromedia is making concessions to accessibility, CSS support is starting to show up, and Flash is starting to do some wicked cool things with video and application design. I have a back-burner project which might integrate some of those new features, which is cool because it gives me a reason to play. Heh heh.

First, though, the new corporate site has to get done, and these client projects have to get wrapped up, and the Winter 2004 edition has to be finished, and... Whoof. Same old story – never enough hours in the day. Maybe I need an intern, or an editorial staff... Outsource Inkblots' editorial duties, like Benny boy did with Uber. Any takers?


New photo.

By the way, Kate is responsible for the new photo at the left. Thanks, hon. (It was taken last week out in front of the Lincoln Memorial, although there's not much of ol' Abe in that shot.)

Still not much going on.

Lots of traveling, lots of hammering on the new Dreamsbay site, and, well, that's about it. Sorry to be so boring here lately.

If you want more compelling news, there's always the happy couple!