Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

August 2006 Archives

Back in Boston, burdened with bulky baffling boxes.

Laura and I arrived safe and sound in Boston late last night, with little to no trouble from Fawkes the Benz (that we didn't *totally* bring upon ourselves, anyway). I am now sitting in a mild disaster of a house half-disassembled from one roommate leaving, staring at today as the one day that serves as the empty square in one of those tile-sliding puzzles. Today my goal is simple: move as much of my stuff into its new homes to clear room for the other stuff to slide around afterwards. Hopefully this will not be as nightmarish as it sounds; mercifully I'm only moving rooms inside of one house this weekend, as opposed to actually swapping entire houses; one suspects this will make life exponentially easier, but one has certainly been wrong before...


Vienna Teng.

Wow. Wow. Courtesy of my friend Adam, check out songstress Vienna Teng, who has a beautiful Tori Amos vibe – only with plain-language lyrics. Wow.



One life, as a whirlwind.

My world right now is something of a crazy blur. That post I made last week about slowly going crazy? I am now going quickly very very quickly.

The problem is this: each of my projects wants me to drop all of my other projects and work on their project exclusively. This clearly doesn't work. I am therefore trying to multiply my productivity. This also is only barely working. As a result I am highly cranky, and friends and family that suddenly pop up with otherwise perfectly normal requests (like, you know, dinner) are getting unduly irritated responses. I apologize to everyone involved, and apologize proactively to anyone that pings me in the next ~7 days.

If you need something from me, I'm working on it, I swear. Please be patient.


I am slowly going crazy...

The amount of work I've been doing this week is nigh-inhuman. I should have a bunch of nifty stuff to show for it when it's done (kind of; mostly a bunch of MIT-related portfolio pieces) but still... Ohmyfreakinglord, I'm just about destroyed.

I am one man, doing the work of an entire design agency, for eight different projects. Sleep is for wussies.


The Ambience of Caffeine.

So right now I'm alternating between heavy-duty crunch mode and heavy-duty nesting mode. I suspect that if I stay at MIT for more than just this next year, most of my Augusts until I'm well into my thirties will be like this. I'm trying to finish up all the open projects that I've been working on this summer while also prepping for the new semester, both mentally and physically.

In addition to a bunch of client work and the White Paper(s) From Hell, I've been doing a lot of thinking about interior decorating from both a functional and aesthetic POV. Our house is getting reshuffled (Laura's moving in, woo-hoo!) and I'm trying to figure out how to rearrange my studio so I can do more work at home instead of at Starbucks (to cut both costs and calories). Some lessons I've already learned:

  • A Studio Needs a Door. This may change once I have kids, although I suspect the addition of a baby monitor and some judiciously-placed videocameras will keep the "needs a door" rule intact. But, yes. One of the biggest troubles I had last year was my studio area was positioned directly between the kitchen and the stairs to the laundry room, so I had a near-constant flow of traffic streaming through. Not only that, but the lack of doors between my studio and the kitchen (and the living room directly beyond that) meant that peace and quiet was rare. My roommates are awesome and I won't begrudge anyone the right to watch 24, but according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it takes about twenty minutes to get back in the flow of development once you've been interrupted. It's so true. So, so true.
  • A Studio Need Not Be Huge, But It Needs Some Space. At the recommendation of both my mom and my girlfriend, I've been reading a lot of books by Sarah Susanka, who advocates the 'Not So Big' concept of homemaking. At one point I'd fantasized about making a home that was sort of a cross between an enormous train station and an old farmhouse, but Susanka (and Long and Thomas) convinced me that it's much much cooler to build with details in mind than just space. For me, this was definitely one of those things that clicks as soon as you see it, but you needed someone to show it to you: it's more about intimate nooks and crannies than wide-open wasted spaces. A studio needs a little of column A and a little of column B; it needs both a sense of intimacy and safety, but it also needs lots and lots of open desk space to spread out one's drawings and plans, and to keep one from feeling claustrophobic and overwhelmed. One's studio should not trigger panic attacks.
  • Make Your Third Place Your First Place. So this is the real kicker for me, the concept of making my studio feel more like the places I run off to in order to get my work done. My Third Place is usually Starbucks, with occasional stopovers in places like Panera Bread, Borders, Caribou Coffee, Barnes and Noble... To that end, I'm starting to take notes on what it is about each of these places that I find so appealing, and what, occasionally, detracts from each of them. Very cool research, some fun thinking, and potentially a good book or magazine article. Hmmmm.

More on this topic as the room develops, but for now I gotta get back to work... School starts up again in a little over a week and it is zero hour. Lock and load...


I'm still contemplating buying the Simplehuman single cup pod brewer for my home studio. I've been resisting it because none of my favorite coffee providers make pods (a direct result, I suppose, of pods inherently brewing suboptimal coffee) and the deivce's inexplicable lack of a timer. I suppose if it only takes a minute to brew a cup then a timer is sort of superfluous, but I'd still like to have the coffee ready and waiting for me in the morning, so the smell can assist in the waking process.

Another point of irritation: I prefer espresso drinks, but it's damn near impossible to find an affordable espresso machine with a timer. Not sure what the thinking is there – probably the same notion that anyone who drinks espresso probably wants their coffee freshly brewed, and not ground the night before and dumped into a machine. Still... What the hell, people? Why is this so bloody complicated?

If anyone knows of a good espresso machine with a timer that a man could obtain for under a grand, please let me know...

The Atlantic: So You Want to Be a Writer...

A nice piece in Atlantic Unbound on the writing life: So You Want to Be a Writer. Currently available for free, but probably slipping behind the subscriber wall shortly, so skim it while you can...

The only piece of advice I'd add: don't tke a gig that will freely suck all your time in addition to your writing career. Stick to a 9 to 5. My freelancing design work has been the biggest pain in the butt because it staunchly refuses to stick to a fixed schedule. A bunch of this is my own lack of self-discipline (something I'm working furiously to fix) but still – one only imagines what my creative output might have resembled over the last couple of years if I'd only worked at Starbucks instead.


Major Lodge Victory!

I'm way too excited about the news that there's a new album out from the Gin Blossoms, "Major Lodge Victory." This is awesome. The last new full Gin Blossoms album I know of was Congratulations... I'm Sorry, which came out back in 1996, the same year I graduated from high school – and the clips I've listened to on the band's official site sound like they were recorded in the same sessions. Excellent.



Ugh. One of the "perks" of having to upgrade to a new MacBook Pro is now I can run Windows on it.


I've run Windows on a Mac before, in the eternally-pokey Connectix/Microsoft "solution", but now that I can run Windows natively using Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop, 'm hoping it will be somewhat less arduous. At the very least, I'm hoping it's less arduous than installing Parallels Desktop and WinXP has been. I've spent the last two hours trying to get this working, and only after I made a disk image of the Windows install disk did I get past MS-DOS. Jesus, people. All this to just run Internet Explorer for some client work. Jesus.

Oh, well. Always look on the bright side, right? Bring on the Windows games!

Wait. WhaddayaMEAN, 3-D acceleration isn't supported yet...!?


Second season of the new Doctor Who coming to Sci-Fi.

I'm not sure how I feel about Sci Fi airing the second season of the new Doctor Who – on the one hand, I loved last year's episodes with the ninth Doctor, but I'm not sure how I feel about the tenth Doctor, nor am I sure how desperately I need to surrender another hour of my life every week to the idiot box. We'll see. Nothing like grad school to make one realize the import of really high-quality diversions.

One more step towards the perfect studio.

Very, very cool. Check out Gizmodo's First Look: Belkin Surge Protectors, Good for Cable Management Fiends. I totally want to grab a couple of the Concealed models...


Florida Styx.

To all friends and strangers in the Chicago area between now and August 20 – go see Florida Styx, the new play by Caitlin Montanye Parrish being presented by Hypatia Theatre Company. It's the third play in a loosely-affiliated trilogy (meaning the three plays only really share geography, thematic content, certain semblances of structure and, well, a playwright), and like its predecessors, is sharply written and stylish as hell. In a way, it's sort of like a Gen-X/Y Southern female twist on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, served straight up with a shot of Southern Comfort. Sort of. The prose crackles, the visuals are striking (and sometimes mildly shocking) and it leaves its audience slightly disturbed but feeling like they've seen something noteworthy. (I refrain from saying "something special" because of the Dana Carvey-esque overtones of that phrase, but at the same time, it definitely is something special.)

I'm biased, of course – Caitlin is a friend and a member of my tribe – but even if I didn't know the playwright, I would have still walked away from that play thinking, Daaaaaaamn. So, yes. Go. Hie thee to the PROP THTR in Chicago. Now.


A good haul!

The crew and I just got back from WizardWorld Chicago, which was, unfortunately, smaller than last year – but I still walked out with a heck of a haul. For about a hundred bucks, I walked out with all the following:

  • Issues 2, 3, and 4 of How to Self-Publish Comics by Josh Blaylock and Devil's Due
  • The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender (which replaces my copy, which disappeared somewhere a couple of years ago; picked this up for half price)
  • Conversation #1 by James Kochalka and Craig Thompson from Top Shelf Comics
  • The Arabian Nights Sandman mini-statue from DC Comics (which I'd wanted years ago at its original $45 price, but I got today for $15)
  • A Mantenna staction figure from the new MOTU Wave 3
  • Hellboy: The Bones of Giants novel by Christopher Golden (also half price)
  • Hellboy and Abe Sapien Qee figurines (picked up at something like 40% off)
  • A hardcover version of Neil Gaiman's 1602 (picked up for $10; normally $25)
  • And some surprises for some of the people who read this weblog...

Talon picked up a ton of comics from the 50-cent bins, which were everywhere, and our traveling companions also walked out with some fairly full bags. All in all, a very successful day. :)

My kind of town, Chicago is.

So much travel, so little time. After picking Laura up at the airport, we spent a week bumming around Boston to get her a feel for the place, and then we turned around and rocketed back to Ohio to reunite her with her family for the first time in eight months. I'm really glad that Fawkes, as the Mercedes has been dubbed, behaved herself so admirably all the way home, despite the air conditioning not working. And the gas gauge. And the odometer. And the power locks. And the driver's side rear window. These are the quirks that make a car a car.

So impressed was I with Fawkes' performance, in fact, that not 24 hours later I was already heading back out again, this time for a whirlwind trip back to Chicago to visit with Talon and Andy and my Chicago brood, and to pay another visit to WizardWorld Chicago later today with Talon, Nathan and some of Talon's other friends. I'm psyched. It's not Nerd Prom, but I can definitely use a good comic con. Right now I'm lying in the guest room at Talon's new place (which is huge and beautiful and gloriously haunted) and trying to get to sleep, but I feel a little bit like a kid on Christmas Eve. Soon, I'm sure, the weight of the day's travels will come crashing down on my head and I will simply drop off right in the middle of a –



Batman: The Dark Knight.

So, according to Cinematical (and countless other film blogs this week), the next Batman movie will be called The Dark Knight and will star Heath Ledger as the Joker.

Heath Ledger. The Joker. Well, somebody's sure joking around. I dunno – seeing Ledger play a villain would be kind of cool, but I'm not sure the guy has what it takes to pull off the Crown Prince of Crime. So far word on the street is that Nolan is going super-dark with his Joker, which is good, but Heath flippin' Ledger? How not-dark can you get? The guy's a good actor, sure, but the darkest I've ever seen him was in The Order, which was a great movie but didn't really make me tremble at his darkness. Meh. We'll see.

Whatever. Let the Brokebat Mountain jokes begin!