Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

February 2004 Archives

Writing journal under (re)development.

This page is largely broken, still – if you'd like to see samples of my writing, please use the category links at the upper right. Thanks!

This makes me cranky.

It's leap day. Today happens only once every four years. And I woke up with a stomach bug. The heck.

On the upside, the stomachache has subsided thanks to my Mom's astonishingly simple-yet-effective Jell-O water cure. Essentially, you take a box of Jell-O gelatin and dump it into a pitcher full of water, and then you sip it. The slightly gelatinous mixture has incredible healing effects on upset stomachs, both soothing the liner wall and cutting down on the amount of acid bubbling about in there. It sounds weird, but it works.

Since it is leap day, and since I am sick, I am continuing my resolution from yesterday to do no major work whatsoever. I've been working so furiously these last two weeks that I've actually been dreaming about code and Photoshop – something that happens to me every so often and is usually a dead giveaway that I need a vacation. I have therefore turned to my other nascent career as a storyteller this weekend, designing some characters and sketching out some plotlines. I may be abandoning one old idea for a newer, more exciting, more, um, TV-friendly one. We'll see.

One of the things I've been thinking a lot about lately is the types of storytelling available to us as a culture. I've always wanted to be an author, but I'm beginning to suspect that my strong visual streak might be a sign that I should do comics or movies or television or video games. You know, something more multimedia. I believe that video games truly are the next big "Hollywood industry," as my generation and Generation Y age and start raising our kids with new systems and games. For a huge chunk of my generation, we're not outgrowing video games the way we outgrew our other toys. They're growing right along with us. And that's funny, because there's not a ton of games out there that have really fantastic stories. There are some, like, the Final Fantasy games and the Metal Gear Solid series, but for the most part there's all these RPGs out there that at the end of the day are little more than electronic AD&D campaigns with the same staid stereotypical characters. I've done enough roleplaying (full disclosure: I used to LARP with my friends in the College of Wooster Vampire: The Masquerade group for a while back in high school) to know that you can create some kick-ass stories using those systems, but after a while you get this feeling of, "Yeah, yeah, zombie, giant spider, Beholder, zombie, giant spider, Beholder..." It gets old.

So I'm going to spend a good part of the remainder of leap day here in bed, with my Jell-O water at hand, sketching out a videogame story. I have an idea. Let's see if we can make it fly. And, hey – neat story ideas aren't constricted to one medium. If I can't make it work as a videogame, maybe I can turn it into a graphic novel or something. Geeky hope springs eternal.

Another week, another bug.

Sick as a whole pack of dogs for the second time in ten days. Man, flu/cold season sucks.


This is the coolest tool ever.

Well, until it abruptly quit working on me, Teleport from Abyssoft is/was one of the best plug-ins I'd ever seen for those of us with multiple PowerBooks. Essentially, it lets you control the old PowerBook using your main PowerBook's keyboard and mouse, which in effect lets you use the old laptops as secondary monitors. How wicked cool is that? I'm going to have to go break my old, OLD boxen out of storage now. I wonder if this would even run on a 400MHz G3?

The cat with hands.

Man, I love this. A perfect little folk tale done all creepy and right. Fan-tastic.


The cinematic nature of Flash.

So I recently got a chance to spruce up one of the very first sites I did for this voiceover client of mine out in Chicago. Its previous version had a very simple little Flash animation to make his name rise up over a city skyline. Upon setting out to clean up the design, though, I was drawn to polish up the Flash animation as well. The Chicago skyline is such a cinematic image that it just seemed to need a cinematic introduction. So I gave it one.

It's always cool to see definitive, real-world proof of how much you've grown in a year.


Ben Brown: The Next John Styn.

There's something about Ben's new haircut that makes me think he's trying out to be the next Halcyon. What's up with that, brother?

And no, I will not be attending SXSW this year due to financial constraints. Not happy about this, but hey, them's the breaks.


Alzheimer's care by Arbor Place, website by yours truly.

Today's Washington Post has a terrific article on one of my new clients: "They Can Dance to It: One Small but (Alas) High-Priced Facility Is Taking New Steps in Alzheimer's Care". Arbor Place is run by a wonderful couple who also happen to be the parents of one of my previous clients. Last week I got an email from them saying they had a big article on them to be published today, and could I create a new, rich-media website for them in five days?

Yup. Check it out: is a beautiful little site with a great set of photos, some neat Flash animations (including a Flash-powered background music widget). We're already talking about nifty additions for version two, but the site goes a long way towards bringing the vibrancy and "homeyness" of the place to the web.

With luck, I'll have some more projects to unveil here this week. Stay tuned.


Withdrawing for a little while.

I'm having a difficult personal time right now, so if posts around here are kind of sparse for the next little bit, that's why. I'll see you guys later.


Steven Tyler is an idiot.

Just one more quick note before I take off today. Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, has won my award for all-time dumbest rock song lyric. The band is responsible for some fun songs (and he himself is responsible for an amazingly hot daughter), but yesterday their song "Crazy" was on the radio. This is not a new song, it's practically a "rock classic" now (gag, choke), but there's this one rhyme...

What can I do?
I feel like the color blue...

"I feel like the color blue"!?!?! You make millions of dollars off of this schlock? Musicians are the bards of the era, the popular poets, and this is the dreck that makes up the weekly top 40? C'mon, man, you can't do any better than that? Put down the whiskey and pick up some Tennyson, for crying out loud.

If I had some more free time, I'd start up a how-to site for poets on how to use GarageBand. Poets, take up your keyboards! If this is the best American music has to offer, there is a veritable trasure chest of opportunity waiting to be seized.

(Actually, that's not a bad idea. Kate, Nick, Derek, Scott Andrew and company, anybody want to help build a Music Theory 101 site for the hopeful?)

V-Day Fray Rerun.

It's worth noting that The Things We Do For Love, the {fray} group story I contributed to last year, is up again for a Valentine's Day rerun. Check it out. My piece is called The Indian Princess and the Cowboy King.

And happy V-Day to all of you out there. Single, quirkyalone, coupled, or quirkytogether – have a good one.



Lots going on. Brief updates follow.

  • Kind of bummed about Kerry Clark (thanks, Mike Mike) dropping out. Not too bummed, but, y'know, not as satisfied as I was to see Liebermann leave the game. I thought Clark was kind of cool. Not as cool as Dr. Dean, but, y'know, hey.

    What I can't figure out is why the hell Kucinich is still around...

  • The Taurus is still ill. Dad came out to help diagnose the problem, and after a day's worth of tinkering we (well, he) determined that it's a bigger problem than we'd hoped. Rats. If medical insurance covers medical parts, why doesn't car insurance replace car parts?

  • Briefly back to politics, I'm just not excited about Kerry. I need to go read that Time article on what kind of President he'd be, I guess, but he's just so uninteresting. Remember the episode of The West Wing where Leo explained to the then-Governor Bartlet why he thought Jeb should run? That whole schpiel about how tired he was of trying to decide between two candidates that he really didn't care about? Yeah, it's like that. A Kerry vs. Bush election isn't going to be that exciting. C'mon, Dean, get it together – you're acting like you've already lost this thing. (Well, maybe you have, but what the hey.)

  • I think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole Flash thing. I didn't use to like Flash, but it's starting to grow on me. I'm finding myself saying to clients, "Hey, we could do this in Flash and it'd be really cool," instead of my previous "You want to do what in Flash? Uggggh..." Ah, how the tides do change.

Right. Back to work. Ten thousand things to do before I can get on a train to New York tomorrow.


It galls me to admit this, but...

So it really rankles me that Microsoft's new ad campaign strikes such a chord in me. I mean, I love the message, but I don't believe for an instant that it's true. "Your potential. Our passion." I'm just not buying. ==

Ladies and gentlemen, Norah Jones.

In conjunction with the release of her new album, Feels Like Home, has posted her new video, Sunrise. The band looks like they're having so much fun. I love the sun and the tree.

Right, right, back to work.

Let the marathon begin.

Somehow I haven't gotten anywhere near as much done this week as I need to. Once again I'm going to wind up taking myself offline in order to try and finish up a bunch of projects. This would be easier if so many of them didn't feel so interminable. Yeesh.

In good company.

It would appear that I'm in the same tribe of dissent as Bill and Kasi. Surprise, surprise.


Feeling all ADHD.

For some reason I've been bouncing around all morning, and not in a good way. I mean flitting from project to project, tweaking this here, twiddling with that there. Sometimes days like this can be useful – if you get enough steam built up, you can finish multiple projects in a single day. However, so far this isn't shaping up to be one of those kinds of days.

I think I'm going to go offline, grab a Flash book (for some reason I've been doing a lot of work in Flash this year) and try to focus. This may or may not involve my installing my butt into an armchair at the Bethesda Caribou Coffee, which has a much better work vibe than Starbucks, for some reason, and isn't nearly as distracting as Xando/Cosi or Barnes and Noble. Common Grounds in Arlington is still an amazing place to go and hang out, and is hands down the best place to meet with a client, but is too far away for a simple afternoon's work session. Tryst in Adams Morgan is another amazing spot, but when the weather sucks it's a pain in the ass to get to. Parking's awful and it's a hike from the Metro. This is one of those times I wish I had one of these. Or these or these, for that matter.

Yes, I have become a connoisseur of places to work other than the home studio/office. And of daydreams, of course.

Right. Back to the Flash book.

Demon Turtle

Because sometimes you just have to draw a demon turtle.


GarageBand for poets.

Late, late last night I did what just might be the most pretentious thing I've ever done. I cracked open GarageBand, linked up my iSight, and did a reading of "Ghost", one of the poems I published in our Fall edition. (Yes, I know our Winter edition is running way behind. Sorry about that.) I took a jazzy stand-up bass loop and slapped that behind it, and then noodled quietly on the grand piano track for effect. The resulting MP3 is pretty cool, but I'm not quite ready to share it with the world yet. On relistening to it, it's very quiet, to the point where you have to strain to hear it, and the iSight microphone picks up a lot of background hiss. I'm not sure how to whack that ambient hissing noise, but I think I'll be able to figure it out sooner or later.

This is a neat portent right here. I'm thinking about posting a call to poets and storytellers for our next edition, and do a posting of Inkblots where all the poetry is available on MP3. How cool would that be?


On pop literature. And, maybe, art.

Today I spent a couple hours with Nick F. and Kate in the Barnes and Noble over on Rockville Pike doing research. I've been waffling on the novel I've been working on. I'd sent first draft copies out to a couple of friends and had two positive reactions, one negative one and several deafening silences. The novel is kind of clunky, of this I'm relatively certain (and no, it's not my first written novel – I probably have about two or three others that predate this one) but my big question is why. I want it to be a pageturner, something that's fun to read, and I'm afraid that my tendency for long passages of character dialogue and investigations into the interpersonal relationships over, say, stuff blowing up, might be sort of a drag on the pacing. To test this theory, I went and started flipping through a couple bestsellers by authors that Kate recommended: Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson.

Both of them write relatively short, straightforward sentences, and have paragraphs that are only about two or three sentences long. Readers of this weblog will recognize that this not the way I tend to write. Now, all is not lost – I've realized that as far as that tempo is concerned, I have more in common with authors like Neal Stephenson and Stephen King, who like to write long, winding sentences and paragraphs. (Note that this can also be a Very Bad Thing – I picked up a book by Tim Powers which looks very good indeed, but I was having a hard time sorting out what exactly his sentences were meaning to say.) So there is hope. But Kate made an interesting point: this occasionally-languid writing style may not be suited for pageturners, but may be more suited for art.

Longtime friends of mine will be able to imagine a fairly accurate reproduction of my silent scream.

Could it be that I'm accidentally creating art when write these things that attempt to combine light sci-fi plots with more intense interpersonal relationships? Dear sweet Jesus, I hope not.


Almost there.

I'm this close to a big announcement, the launch of one of the biggest projects I've worked on in the last three years. With luck, it'll happen sometime this weekend. Stay tuned.

Oh, these are just wrong.

Cribbed from k10k, check out these redubbed G.I. Joe public service announcements. Oh, Lord. Haven't laughed that hard in way too long.


That's a lot of fish sticks.

Holy cow -- Pixar Earnings Soar on Popularity of Finding Nemo. As in 400 percent. As in $84 million compared to $17 million in the year-ago quarter.

Maybe Pixar will be just fine without Disney after all.

Lessons from Japan.

Sometimes the Japanese are very, very wise.


I am Bennett Cerf.

I just keep thinking about Bennett Cerf.

There's this thing in our culture where if you're going to make it, you have to do so while you're young and handsome and hip. You've got to be one of the "Top Thirty Under Thirty". And to do that, you often have to do one thing to the exclusion of all else.

I'm having a hell of a time picking a grad school program because everyone always says, "If you're going to go to grad school, you have to be sure that's what you want to do."

And I'm looking at them, and I'm just thinking, Crap.

Because I don't want to do just one thing. The people that interest me the most are the Bennett Cerfs, the people who go out there and do a whole bunch of interesting stuff. The people who are the writers and the designers and the musicians and the personalisties and the people making new stuff and making life interesting. That's what I try to do every day. Play with something. Make something happen. Make something real that wasn't real before. You know? Tell a story, make up a song, keep it new and cool.

So many of the young hip media darlings are so one-dimensional. You know why I like Ethan Hawke? Because he published books. You know why I like Russell Crowe? Because of his band. These are people who are doing more than one thing. That's cool. That's what I want to do.

How many aspects of me would be helped by going to, say, the NYU Master's Program in Publishing? Some. A bunch, maybe. Design? Marketing? Storytelling? Business? Check, check, check, check. Sounds like fun.

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

New music.

A brief note to send a heads-up to all y'all looking for good new music. Harry Connick Jr. has a new album out today, called Only You, which is mostly his standard crooning, but veers off in a fantastic direction with the next-to-last track, "Other Hours," which has a sound almost like Spanish guitar. It's very cool.

Also, this week I finally picked up These Are the Vistas, the debut album by The Bad Plus, who snagged a bunch of awards last year. It's easy to see why – the disc has a bunch of really excellent grooves on it, like the oddly-named-but-deeply-cool "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass". Also, any jazz group that attempts – and pulls off! – a cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" deserves some cred.

Finally, I picked up a track called "City Boy" by Keb' Mo', which is a deeply moving, sweet and sad soul track. Check it out.

Personal design trends.

I've got a couple projects I'm hammering on right now, and a couple of common threads are emerging. This year I'm doing a lot more 'modern' work, using grays and blues and greens and fonts like Helvetica and Myriad. This is a shift away from my usual 'classic' style, which tended to use a lot darker, richer colors and fonts like Adobe Garamond. With luck I'll have examples to show you very soon, and then you'll see what I mean.

Oh, and the new Dreamsbay site is still under construction. Not... Enough... Hours... In... Day...!


Man versus machine.

I'm having one of those days where I'm being constantly frustrated. As I mentioned yesterday, my car has broken down and is sitting stubbornly in the driveway with a glare in its eyes and its jaws clenched. It's like it's daring me to even try to fix it. Furthermore, it's put out a call to its network of friends out there in the universe, exhorting them to help befuddle and frustrate my every move.

Now, in my family, cars are a thing of pride. We Long men do not go to mechanics. We fix them ourselves. Well, most of us do. I, of course, am the exception. It's long been a point of shame for me that I have trouble changing the oil. My dad's a genius with cars. I've seen the man do things with antique cars that would make Jesse James nod in admiration. I've seen him assemble cars out of nothing but piles of boxed parts, and seen him chop 'em back down again, like some kind of mad ginsu chef with a blowtorch. Somehow, though, that particular gene didn't make it down to me. All my kung fu comes in the form of words and pixels. When my cars break down, I find myself calling Dad and reverting back to a little boy, holding up my broken toy truck and pleading with him to fix it.

Since I moved from Ohio to Washington, DC, this has become something of a problem. Usually I can limp a dying car home, but this time the trouble is either in the transmission or the computer. I've destroyed one car's transmission before just by trying to limp it to a gas station, so I'm scared to try and even drive it to a dealer. The weather outside right now is awful, so I'm not about to ask Dr. Dad to come make a housecall in the middle of an ice storm. Besides, I'm twenty-six frickin' years old. And I'm a Long. And someone said something about this problem maybe being with the computer. I should be able to fix this myself, dang it!

No dice. Every way I've turned in the last week has been another dead end.

I drive a 1996 Ford Taurus, a car which ranks negative on the sexy scale but it's got a pretty good stereo and it's been decent about getting me to point A to point B. (Until recently, that is.) The trouble with this beastie is that it requires something called an OBD-II diagnostic scanner in order to figure out why it's acting up. AutoZone has apparently just started renting the ODB-II, but apparently not everyone on their staff had gotten that particular memo. I called every AutoZone in the DC area this weekend, and I either got adamant denials that this was an option, someone who didn't speak English, or – finally! – one place who said, yes, we do rent them. This place was in Hagerstown, an hour and fifteen minutes up I-270 on a good traffic day, but they were there. However, I – duh – didn't have a car. By the time I found someone who could give me a lift, they'd rented them all already.


At this point in the game, I'm beginning to research just buying one of the damn things. After all, this car may break down again, and God only knows where I'm going to be next time. Yeah. Great idea. Except that these bloody things sell for a couple hundred bucks. No thanks. I have found one that sells for way less than that, but apparently you have to import them from Europe. An option, but I'm not entirely willing to go that far yet.

So here I sit, staring out the window and glaring at the car, nursing my wounded male ego and thinking that it's long past time for me to start taking up the Long family traditions. Like learning how to fix old cars. You know, the ones that don't have hard drives. The way things are going now, I'm going to be driving down the road one of these days and get the blue screen of death plastered across my windshield. No thanks. This whole experience has made a '59 Caddy look pretty darn good.

Hey, dad? Pass the wrench.

What I want out of life.

Now, this sounds just about ideal to me. From The New York Times: Habitats | East 62nd Street: All in One: Town House, Fun House, Pun House. It's about the life and lovely home of Christopher Cerf, son of Bennett Cerf, who founded Random House.

Wow. That sounds so idyllic to me it's stunning.