Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

April 2006 Archives

30:30 Bill

When he first heard the news on the radio
he couldn't believe it --
so he switched on the television,
since visuals were harder to fake than words.

When he saw it on CNN he still didn't buy it,
so he enlisted in the service to see for himself.

He went through the training, received his orders,
went halfway around the world and still didn't believe.

He completed his tour of duty but still wasn't satisfied,
so he enrolled at University in a country he couldn't pronounce.

He learned everything they taught but still wasn't convinced,
so he took a job that would het him observe
as much as he wanted, as often as he wanted,
whenever and wherever he wanted,
whoever he wanted, for any reason he wanted,
but still he didn't believe.

At the end of his days he'd seen all he could see,
did all he could do, went everywhere he could go,
but he couldn't bring himself to believe.

Finally he did the only thing he could do --
he returned to where it all began.
He went into the house,
he went into the room,
he climbed into the bed,
he turned off the lights,
he closed his eyes,
he held his breath,
and he waited for him to come home.


30:29 Cody

She tries to tell him it's a good thing,
tries to make him smile,
but all he hears is her desire to leave
and he stares at his hands on the table.
She tries to promise she'll be back
but the words stick in her throat
because who is she to say such things
when she's the one who's already found someone new?
He stares at his hands and thinks of his dad,
wonders if this is how he felt when Mom left,
thinks that maybe someday he could use this
in some overwrought writing assignment,
maybe even use it to get into college,
and he forces a smile –
maybe it is a good thing after all.


30:28 Kevin

The taste of sawdust is heavy in the air,
mixed with sweat, grease and oil.
The polishing rag sits abandoned where it fell
smack in the middle of the half-gleaming hood
of the 1939 cherry red Ford de Soto
cut and chopped and remixed into the precide hot rod
that the coolest kid in school had driven to prom
twenty-odd years ago.

He stands in the door of his garage
and looks out at suburbia
and wonders where the hell his son is
this late on a goddamn school night
and wonders briefly if maybe just maybe
his son has learned some important lesson
that he himself somehow missed
along the way.


30:27 Brian and Sherry

When she came home she couldn't find it,
When he left home he couldn't stand it,
When she tried to make a home she failed
Because he wouldn't have any of it.

Some of us are homemakers,
Some of us are homewreckers,
Some of us carry our homes with us
Like so many turtles, or gypsies,
Or starry-eyed explorers constantly searching
For someplace, anyplace, to go.


30:26 Tats Cru

The graffiti on the overpass on the edge of town
is letter-for-letter the same as its sister
located on the other side of the world
and linked by some arcane tag magic
known only to the artists of gates, doors
and liminal spaces.


30:25 Mike

They found him leaning against the bridge,
staring at the sky and mouthing words,
his eyes flicking back and forth
as if he were watching the gods play tennis.

They swore he was a prophet,
they spread his legend far and wide
and across the country millions followed suit,
beating wide paths to the nearest bridges,
turning faces upward to trace invisible patterns
and make up silent lyrics as they went.

Eventually every single one of them saw it,
although none of them knew if they saw the same thing.
The language escaped them,
as did the motor skills,
but since each one saw what they were looking for,
none of them could be bothered to care.


30:24 Shantel

She sweeps the floor of the bus station
with the same broom she's used for years,
nothing's different, it's all the same,
the kids are all right and her health is good,
she has no need to wander or travel,
and that's what perplexes her –
why oh why has she worked for so long
in the temple to coming and going
when she herself is so content?
The posters on the walls of far-off cities
hold no fascination for her, no allure –
the bags clutched by the returning passengers
trumpet their exoctic sources to deaf ears.
You'd think it would rub off on her, but no –
she simply keeps sweeping every night,
working the same old shift,
circling in identical migratory patterns
forward and back across the floor.


30:23 Karen

She leans in close for the kiss but when he responds
she loses all interest, she loses focus;
her mind wanders because she's caught his scent,
not body odor or any cheap cologne
but the very same smell she'd caught once
when walking down some back street in Takayama,
and instead of being aroused or transported
she's instantly frustrated because she cannot recall
the name of that street in Japan.


30:22 Phantom Carnie

The ghost in the theme park
is really and truly pissed
because no one will take it seriously now
because of that fucking Great Dane
and those meddling asshole kids.


30:21 Hipsters

The two hipsters walked hand in hand
in the moonlight down by the canal
laughing at the irony of the cheesy cliche
and falling in love in spite of themselves.


30:20 Dave

The glasses he wore were purely cosmetic,
he wore them to appear smarter,
bookish, even, although he hated to read.
He wore them every day, every place he went,
he internalized his look as a nerdy man,
he would blink and squint in airport lines
although his eyes were perfectly fine.
In time he managed to attract a bookish girl,
he bluffed his way through chitchat
to woo and seduce and win her,
and he brought her back to his place
he managed to convince her that his library
was still at his parents' place in Wisconsin.
He took her to bed, kissed her and caressed her,
but the jig was up when the alarm rang in the morning
and he reached for his glasses and got hers –
and found, to his horror,
that he could see perfectly fine.


30:19 Beth

She'd always been fascinated by numbers,
not as an accountant might be,
but as a painter.

She loved their curves and lines,
loved the patterns traced by the empty space
that yawned between them when you ran them
in random strings and sequences.

When no one was looking
she would fish through the trash
in the shiny metal bins
by the ATM machines
not to steal accounts
but to steal art.


30:18 Todd

He wished to God he couldn't watch her move,
wished he was oblivious to the way she walked,
wished he was deaf so he couldn't hear her voice,
wished he had no sense of smell or taste or touch.

He wished he was stone, wished he was dead,
wished he was anything else in the world
and not her grandfather.


30:17 Michel

The filmmaker sits in the barbershop chair
counting to a thousand and fifty.
The stylist trims as fast as she can,
knowing that he hates this part so much,
but the publicist demands the perfect coiffeur
for the glossy magazine mandatory shot.
He keeps his eyes on the circular hypnosis
of the patriotic candycane of the spinning pole spiral,
listening to 70s country music on the tinny old stereo
trying to remember just how much he tipped last time
and swearing this time to leave even less.


30:16 Allie

She wished she looked half as good in tight pants,
wished the cellulite fairy would appear and poof!
Suddenly her too-round ass would be neat and perfect,
and then every boy in school would line up
for a chance to hit that, a chance to party,
they'd overlook how dull she was, how normal,
how perfectly plain except for her J-Lo ass.
She wished she was "one of those rap guys' girlfriends",
or however the song went,
she wished she had curves like the autobahn,
some junk in the trunk,
something just a little more spectacular,
something to jiggle, to shake, to flaunt.
Eventually she'd grow out of it, of course,
she'd find a nice boy or a new obsession,
but none of these truths did a single thing
to ease the pain on these lonely, interminable nights
spent alone in her baby girl room.


30:15 Cafe People

Nobody knew where the sign came from,
what the words meant or why it was there,
but it scared them for some reason they couldn't say,
it made made them uneasy, and made them afraid.

They took it down, of course,
but another one took its place the next day.
The doors were locked, the shutters drawn,
but still it appeared just the same.

It was something stupid, a cliche, a bore,
an excerpt from a B movie or a late-night thriller,
except it was real and in the room.

Eventually the signs started to change,
one letter or symbol at a time,
but by the time its strange cryptography grew lucid
they'd found something else to talk about.


30:14 Becky

The flowers he brought her were too nice, too pretty,
the sungs he sang were pathetic and sad,
the clothes he bought would never impress her,
nor the car, nor the hair, nor the dad.

The lies that he spread would never upset her,
the names that he called her weren't bad,
she would only smile and keep her distance,
because distance was all the she had.


30:13 Charlene

The notebook she kept was a gift for her son,
the explicit descriptions of drugs and sex
a sort of how-to manual for how to do it right.
She wanted to save him the embarassment
of not knowing what tossed salad meant,
or how to raise a vein properly.

She wanted him to be the kid who already knew,
who had it on good authority on how to do it,
where to stick it, when to touch it,
she wanted him to be the kid who laughed at others
and would never, ever be fooled.


30:12 Diane

On the wall of her studio apartment
she'd hung license plates
from all the states she'd never seen.
She swore it was the next best thing to being there,
but all he ever thought when he saw it
was how sad and small her life had been.


30:11 Kevin

Every time he told someone he liked rap music
their eyes would widen and they'd chuckle
because he was such the polar opposite
of the demographic

He wasn't from the city,
he wasn't a minority,
he was too well-spoken
and he'd never fit in.

The scene wouldn't want him,
it couldn't stand him,
but though he'd never admit it,
that's why he loved it.

First you see it...

I'm having a sort of weird time with the migration of I managed to get everything moved over to the new server, get the DNS entries updated, and then on campus tonight I successfully installed Movable Type 3.2 on the new Dreamhost account while – no joke – I watched a Bollywood version of Macbeth. Once that was done and I finished debugging it, I headed home with every intention of installing the new templates and things while watching 24 on the TiVo. Much to my surprise, however, while the MIT DNS servers had updated, the Comcast ones had not; which meant that the new was pulling up on campus and the old one was pulling up in Somerville. Sheesh.

On a completely different note, while I was previously somewhat dubious about the two new Hellboy animated movies coming down the pike, things like this statue/maquette makes me want to believe, as does the continuing quality of the Hellboy Animated Production Diary. That's a must-read for all animation, filmmaking and Mignola geeks in the crowd. How much of a Mignola geek am I? I spent about an hour this weekend after I finally got my desktop machine's third monitor resuscitated from the grave making a mammoth Hellboy desktop – and by 'mammoth' I mean over 5000 pixels wide. It's pretty damn impressive, even if I did have to blur the hell out of it in order to defeat the pointellation of the graphic novel's printed pages; to be fair, I'm sure Dark Horse never intended the page to be blown up to something like 15 times its original size... Anyway, the Hellboy movies are supposed to hit Cartoon Network next year, so I'm wondering if there's any way I can network myself into some kind of research here through C3. Time will tell.

All right, true believers, time for yours truly to hit the highway. Today's going to be a long day – I'm meeting with a fellow C3 fellow (heh) and Joe Little from the Chief Technology Office of the BP Group, then running off to teach a class about violence in superhero comics, then dashing from there to a presentation by a high muckymuck at Midway, then racing over to a lecture by none other than Sherry "Second Self" Turkle, then from there on to – I'm sure – something else that's slipping my mind at the moment. Whoof.

No rest for the wicked, lads. I'm off!


Goldworld pitch animatic posted.

For the interested, I've just posted the Goldworld pitch animatic that I created for my video game design class a few weeks ago. The idea here was to craft a thirty-second elevator pitch for a game idea, so I put together a 30-second rough animatic. (An animatic, for any of you who might not be a big movie dork like me, is essentially an animated storyboard used to pitch the general feel of a film.)

It's rough as hell, but not bad for being thrown together in less than 24 hours!

30:10 Tricia

For their anniversary she took him by the hand
and guided him to the steep old hill
where they held the Soap Box Derby every year.

She told him the races always made her think of him,
sleek and smooth and gathering speed,
but always downhill and headed nowhere.

Attack deflected.

Anybody wondering where this weblog's been for the last couple of days has a couple of anonymous jerks to thank for the server's slowing to an absolute crawl. Apparently someone decided that our server was an excellent target for an attack. Luckily Nick seems to have solved the problem, and I'm in the middle of transitioning everything over to a new server on Dreamhost anyway, so things should be settled down relatively soon.

By the by, I'm probably going to migrate this weblog over to when the changeover goes through. It's something I've been thinking about doing for a long time and it seems to make sense, given how the rest of Inkblots is in deep hibernation. (Well, except for Ken's weblog, and we're probably going to move that to a site of his own too fairly shortly.) More to the point, it makes sense from a "building Brand Me" POV. Alas, to do so would take a small pile of time I don't have right now, but it's definitely on the list.

Last week I was offered a possible part-time gig working for the CMS department over the summer. If my hoped-for internship of choice falls through, maybe I'll do that and use the summer to catch up on the ten thousand things I've been putting off for so long. I could definitely use a couple weeks of solid maintenance, that's for sure.

Things on this end are really pretty excellent, though. I may be teaching a class early this week on violence in superhero comics, so that's going to be interesting, and I'm slated to meet with a high executive from Midway this week as well, so that should be very interesting. I might also be making a flying trip home this weekend on a train, which has me all excited. I love train rides, especially long train rides where I can sit and think and work. Much preferable to planes, which just stress me out something fierce. It'd be good to see Mom and Dad and Nick and my extended family again, not to mention raid a couple of different hometown resources (like the bargain book shop in Columbus for some references on Mayan artwork for Goldworld and Coccia House for pizza). I'm not 100% certain I can justify the loss of time that trip would represent... On the other hand, the train ride sounds like the perfect opportunity to catch up on my reading. Hmmm.

The life of a grad student is a crazy and busy one, my friends, full of opportunity and sleepless nights. Speaking of which, as it is now 3AM, I must bid you adieu for now.

Oh, and check out the first batch of photos from my Japan trip, now up on Flickr!


30:9 Caroline

Caroline sat at the edge of the dock,
kicking her Doc Martens back and forth –
she couldn't remember if it was the fourth or the fifth,
and he'd pleaded the fifth when she'd asked.

The fit she threw was all for naught
and like it or not they were through.

It was something he'd read, perhaps –
and as his face grew so red
she knew she had to face it –
this was no new routine.

Things had been so light when they'd met,
but that light had changed its tone,
tone, or shade, or hue, or fade –
thought Caroline as she sat on the dock.


30:8 Steve

The thing that finally got him wasn't the cancer,
nor was it the heartbreak or the cross-town bus,
it wasn't never finishing the crossword in the Sunday Times
nor was it never having finished his novel.
It wasn't the way his mom looked in that dress
or the way his dad looked in it three years later.
It wasn't the empty bottle she left behind
or the way the cat looked at him when he came home.
It wasn't genetics, it wasn't environmental.
It wasn't reasonable, it wasn't eventual.
It wasn't a coffee stain or hpster glasses.
It wasn't the promise and it wasn't the blood.
There was something else –
but he never found out what it was.


30:7 Tammy

Her fingers catch fire so easily,
Every time she lights up or takes a drag,
It's almost as if she were a paper doll
Or a bunch of sticks bound as kindling,
Or at least that's what her lover tells her,
And God knows she's been called worse before.


30:6 Geoff

There once was a boy from Ohio,
Who couldn't find a rhyme for 'Ohio',
He tried all night,
But try as he might,
He couldn't find a rhyme for that state.

Death to User-Generated Content?
My friend Derek Powazek is the founder of {fray} amd JPG Magazine as well as the author of several books, including the excellent Design for Community. As a result of this, I tend to respect just about everything that comes out of his mouth. This week, however, I took issue with one of his weblog posts, which he'd titled "Death to User-Generated Content":
Can I make a suggestion? Let's all stop using the phrase "user-generated content." I'm serious. It's a despicable, terrible term. Let's deconstruct it. User: One who uses. Like, you know, a junkie. Generated: Like a generator, engine. Like, you know, a robot. Content: Something that fills a box. Like, you know, packing peanuts. So what's user-generated content? Junkies robotically filling boxes with packing peanuts. Lovely. Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online "user-generated content" is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, "Hey baby, let's have intercourse."
When I read this opener, I naturally bristled. Much of C3's research this year has been dedicated to user-generated content, so to hear Derek blow it off so easily made me a little annoyed. However, Derek continues:
Lately the notion that the web is about "user-generated content" has been getting more traction. With the success of MySpace and Flickr, pundits are looking for a trend. And they've found one in this hateful phrase. But "user-generated content" is nothing new online. In fact, it's what the network was designed for. So let's not give in to the buzzphrase du jour. Let's use the real words. Those people posting to Amazon pages? They're writing reviews. Those folks on Flickr? They're making photographs. And if we must have an umbrella term to describe the whole shebang, I have a suggestion. Try this on for size: Authentic Media.
Which, of course, is perfectly correct. However, it's not exactly what we mean when we say 'user-generated content'. To clarify, I shot him the following reponse:
The trouble is, there really is such a thing as user-generated content -- things like people designing furniture for The Sims and clothing in Second Life, which is then circulated online. It's not "authentic media", it's users generating content for a specific system. A user that spends their time replicating IKEA furniture that they'll then upload to the Sims website for other users to download isn't a furniture designer. They're a user generating content for the Sims environment. I think the problem isn't the term, it's the rampant misuse of the term. Anyone who refers to the photos uploaded to Flickr as "user-generated content" isn't looking at Flickr the right way -- Flickr isn't primarily an art environment like a museum or a visual entertainment system, it's primarily a tool, like Blogger or Movable Type. Users aren't generating content for a system, users ARE the content of the system! Or, more specifically, the USE is the content of the system. To say these photographers are 'generating content' for Flickr is like saying that webloggers are content generators for Blogger, which is utter malarkey; you can navigate weblogs through the "recently posted" list as easily as you could surf Flickr, but no one's going to view Blogger as some kind of massive zine. The same should be asserted when dealing with MySpace, Friendster, and so on.
Derek's reponse:
Ask the person (not user) who is designing furniture for The Sims what they think they're doing. The answer is going to be "designing furniture" - not "generating content." ;-)
Which got me thinking. In a seminar tonight most of the C3 grad student researchers spent some time examining fan fiction, and while watching an interview with someone who writes fan fiction I found myself wondering if she thought of herself as a writer or as something else. Derek's right: studio heads at Paramount would view any fan fiction written about Star Trek to be either a copyright violation or 'user-generated content', and I doubt that the fans who create fan fiction think of themselves would bill their creations as such. So should there be another name for someone who generates IKEA furniture for Second Life or writes slash fiction about Kirk and Spock? Are you a furniture designer if you're just rearranging pixels to resemble existing furniture? Are you an author if you never create your own characters or worlds? Or are you just a user generating content?


30:5 Katherine

The problem with blasphemy isn't that it's unholy,
nor that it makes the baby Jesus cry
or that your poor grandmother, five years gone,
certainly sheds a tear from beyond the grave
every time you utter one – no,
it's that it's so goddamned funny,
it's fun to use the Lord's name in vain
for something as mundane as a parking ticket
or to call down the Almighty's holy wrath
when the pizza place runs out of mushrooms
and the mental imagery of the only son of God
bouncing happily along on a goddamn pogo stick
is enough to make even the most die-hard atheist
chuckle just a little if she really, really
thought about it.


30:4 Sam

The androgynous person sitting beside me
Is wondering too loudly at the color of the trains
And why they paint them this color or that
And not in patterns or textures
Or something else specific only to trains
And for a split second I think
Fuck, there might be a thesis in that.

listen to the mp3


Big in Japan.

So I'm back from my Asian excursion, which has me a little blue. It was really hard to leave Laura at the airport, since I won't get to see her in person again for somewhere between two and four months. Given the amount of stuff wating for me in my inbox, though, I know I'm going to be spending every day wishing I had more time, so I guess that's something.

The vacation was, by all measures, a rip-roaring success. It gave me a great chance to pause, think and reorient myself a little, which was something I drastically needed. I'm going into the third quarter of my first year at MIT (my fourth eighth?) with a renewed dedication to storytelling and greater vigor for not allowing myself to be too distracted by other projects like websites and whatnot. I had one small new client project go live last week that was an excellent example of how something that should have taken a weekend wound up sprawling out over 2-3 weeks. If I'm serious about remaking my career as a storyteller, I need to be damn sure that sort of thing happens as infrequently as possible.

Of course, I also just spent the last four hours catching up on emails and whatnot, so I'm beginning to feel the first twinges of schedule-despair already. Jesus.

30:3 Laura

Separation anxiety is the worst –
That tough breathless catch at your lungs
That seems to strike the instant
You pass through airport security
And she disappears from sight,
Lost on the other side
Of the point of no return.

listen to the mp3


30:2 Patrick

He owns a shoe store down on 32nd Avenue
That only stocks one pair of each kind
You have to know a secret to shop there
Not to find the place, no,
But because he doesn't take cash
Or plastic
Only words.

listen to the mp3


30:1 Suzanne

She peeled the sticker free of its cellophane backing,
Kissed it once, twice, three times for luck
And then pressed it just a little too hard
On the secret place
That only the three of us knew about.

listen to the mp3