Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

November 2006 Archives

LOL Scott Kurtz.

It's been a while since I've literally laughed out loud at a webcomic, but this PVP strip did it. In related news, my Kenyon friends and I are debating the quality of the newly-announced PVP animated project they're trying to get off the ground over at Shannon's LJ – stop by and weigh in.


Closing tabs.

Of course, one of the primary reasons I'm feeling overwhelmed is due to the whopping huge number of open tabs that I seem to have accrued. Seriously. Safari has crashed twice in the last twenty minutes because I have literally dozens of interesting things up in tabs at the moment. I will now link to a number of them here, so that I can share them with you, oh faithful readers, and cache them for my own future consumption.


  • Secret Histories and Con-Artists: a roundtable discussion with John Crowley, Jeff Ford, James Morrow, and Tim Powers. A fun conversation between some of my favorite contemporary authors discussing a common theme in their recent works, which may or may not have been sparked off by The Da Vinci Code. Given the prominence of secret histories in my own current works, I found the whole thing compelling. One of my favorite insights, from John Crowley: "Maybe you could distinguish between books that are about secret histories (like The Crying of Lot 49) and secret histories themselves. What Pynchon got was that we'd rather be titillated by the possibility of the secret history than to hear it explicated." Also, don't forget to check out the second half of the interview as well.

  • We're Not Listening: An Open Letter to Game Researchers. An interesting article in Gamasutra about the impact, or lack thereof, of academic research upon the actual games industry. Given that my friend Nick Hunter is now working as a producer at EA and my other friend Dave Edery is now working as an Xbox Live manager at Microsoft, I'd say we're having some impact... But then my distinctly mixed reaction to Jesper Juul's presentation of his new book Half-Real here last night suggests that perhaps the industry isn't listening that hard for a reason.

  • In Praise of Third Place: The New Yorker on the Nintendo Wii. " Two weeks ago, the début of Sony’s PlayStation 3 was greeted by crowds of hysterical consumers anxious to get their hands on the new consoles billed as the most powerful gaming machines ever. When Nintendo’s new console, the oddly-named Wii, appeared, a few days later, thee were excellent reviews and expectations of good sales, but no more talk about world conquest. If Sony and Microsoft are the major-party nominees, Nintendo is more like a cool third-party candidate." I'm not so sure about that. Scuttlebutt around these parts is that the Wii is by far the most fun of the three platforms. I'm the most excited about the Xbox's opportunities for indie development, but I can't wait to take a crack at The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii. The article continues, though: "Nintendo, though, has not just survived out of the spotlight; it has thrived. It has five billion dollars in the bank from years of solid profits, and this past year, though it spent heavily on the launch of the Wii, it made close to a billion dollars in profit and saw its stock price rise by sixty-five per cent. Sony’s game division, by contrast, barely eked out a profit and Microsoft’s reportedly lost money. Who knew bringing up the rear could be so lucrative?" Sounds like Mario's set to stick around for a long, long time.

  • NYT: Four Mothers of Manga Gain American Fans with Expertise in a Variety of Styles. Astounding: the four-woman studio named CLAMP is responsible for a whopping twenty-two popular manga series in Japan, including the imported-to-America Chobits and X.

  • It's Not a Graphic Novel, Percy. I'd like to welcome Eddie Campbell to the blogosphere. His Fate of the Artist books are some of the best quasi-autobio comics I've read, and of course his work on From Hell is legendary.

  • Get Ready for 24-Hour Living. Scientists are hammering away on pills that will safely "do for sleep what the contraceptive pill did for sex - unshackle it from nature". Go, guys, go!

  • Henry in Gamasutra. I love seeing these interviews with Henry, especially when they start asking him about the kinds of media he himself consumes and generates. In this article, Henry starts things off by confessing a love for casual games (ahh, Super Collapse), Miyamoto's side-scrollers (who doesn't love Mario?) and, my favorite, his experiences with us playing Guitar Hero: "These days, I am most likely to end up playing Guitar Hero, which is a favorite in the graduate student lounge here. I'm not particularly good at it, which means that students often want to play against me. Getting your head handed to you by one of your students is payback for all of the demands I make on them in the classroom." It's so true.

  • Creatives Understand. I so want one of these t-shirts. XL, please.

  • Joss Whedon on the comics-only Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. Hello, THESIS.

  • Studio Boss: Poor Game Scripts Result in Poor Acting. Well, duh.

  • The Darkening Garden: A hort Lexicon of Horror. Is it weird that this is sitting near the top of my Christmas list?

  • Preacher to HBO? Courtesy of Warren Ellis, who indicates that Garth Ennis' reaction to the story on Sci-Fi Wire is, apparently, unprintable. One wonders what that means.

  • Greg Costikyan: "Why are there no Prestige Games?" The founder of Manifesto Games ponders about the dissimiliarity between games and cinema, which trends closely to a lot of the thoughts I've been entertaining lately about indie gaming and "art house" games. "Prestige films get made, and get attention, even though they are often economically marginal or even "failures" (in a pure ROI sense), because studios understand that there are real (if intangible) benefits from being associated with prestige films. The same is true in publishing; the sorts of books that win awards are not, typically, the sorts of books that sell best. Yet publishers are eager to be associated with award-winning books, and trumpet books and authors who do win awards. They understand that having a reputation as being a publisher of fine literary works will make authors and agents more eager to do business with them, and reviewers more willing to take a look at the next book they push."

  • The Wii's Indie Future? Ian Bogost ruminates about how the Wii could open up to garage gamemakers. "Developers of serious games, art games, political games, newsgames, and other related genres often share a similar goal of expanding the possibility space of video games. This common goal may suggest a possible alliance of interests between serious games and the Wii." Again, I'm all ears.

  • First Japanese mobile phone novel award. Also courtesy of the Good Mr. Ellis – this is fascinating stuff, made only more so by the fact that there were apparently over 2,300 entries in the contest!

  • The Faux Return of Jack Ryan. As a writer, I have to say "Whaaaaaat?" Apparently a loophole in the contract allows Paramount to make new Jack Ryan films without any input from Tom Clancy. Does this seem boneheadedly wrong to anyone else?

  • Can You Create a Gaming City? The city being discussed over at Joystiq is Philly, but I'd love to see someone apply the same logic to Cleveland or Columbus. (NEO Game Initiative, I'm looking at you here.)

  • NYT: An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists. Cooooooool.

  • Reason on the Futures of Entertainment Conference. One of the best write-ups of the conference I've seen yet.

  • Disney Vault 28. Apparently it's crazy expensive, but the highly-stylized Disney stuff in this new LA-only store sounds sweet.

  • Justin Hall on "Passively Multiplayer Online Games". Check out Justin rocking the sweater vest!

Okay, that's more than enough for now – this little exercise just made an hour and a half vanish. Rats. Back to work-work now...


Last night I posted something extremely snarky, a rant sparked from frustration. I've since yanked it down. Bits and pieces will probably resurface here and there, but long story short, I'm feeling sort of beaten down by the naysayers lately. People lack vision – there's nothing new there, of course, but I'm longing for a group of friends with whom I can dream up new opportunities and then start working on implementing them, instead of having people constantly saying No, no, no.

There's some kind of conceptual contraction going on in the world right now on some of these fronts, and I'm getting tired of it. We should be driven by a sense of opportunity and experimentation, not fear and greed, but that sentiment is all too often greeted by "Yes, but that's the way it is" – a response which is, itself, fueled by fear and greed.

Sorry. Feeling fed up with the haters today.


Miscellaneous updates.

There's been a whole ton of stuff happening in me-land lately, so much so that the blog has sort of fallen by the wayside. I should be doing copious amounts of work and reading right now, but I also suspect that if I don't take 10 minutes or so to type up some of this stuff, it's just going to keep piling up to the point where I won't be able to ever update the blog again due to the sheer length of the update. So, some highlights.

Futures of Entertainment Conference

Not last weekend, which was Thanksgiving weekend, but the weekend before last weekend was the ginormous CMS/C3 Futures of Entertainment Conference, which may have been the greatest conference I've ever attended. This has taught me that, much like my experience in just about anything else, if you want something done just right you have to do it yourself – so if you want a kickass conference, help organize the bloody thing.

Instead of dozens of little short, cross-programmed panels, we offered five subsequent panels in two days – Television Futures, User-Generated Content, Transmedia Properties, Fan Cultures, Not the Real World Anymore (virtual worlds and MMOs) – and each one lasting a whopping 2.5 hours. This sounds like a horrible recipe for the auditorium-seating equivalent of bedsores, but as it turned out the panels were barely long enough! By making the panels so long, the panelists were given the opportunity to really dig into their topics of choice, and the resulting discussions were infinitely richer and more compelling than "normal-length" panels. The talking points were briefly hit, and then each conversation went spiralling off into uncharted territory before Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green opened the floor up for questions.

We'll have video of the conference up eventually, but until then you'll have to make do with the rough transcripts compiled by myself, Ivan Askwith and Sam Ford, illustrated by our photo pool on Flickr. (Double-nifty points: one of my photos was reposted over at The Beat in Publishers Weekly.)

My personal high points were, of course, seeing the design I did for the conference plastered all over the Media Lab (including using the framed version of my poster to conceal the Media Lab's logo on the lectern in my own lame version of a hack) and meeting some amazing people. The best of the latter included lunches with Michael Lebowitz, founder of the NYC-based experience consulting firm for The Da Vinci Code and official strategy game for Casino Royale), one of the producers for Smallville and DC Comics publisher and president Paul Levitz. That afternoon alone well and truly blew my mind. By the end of the weekend I was thoroughly jazzed to not only work on the THESIS but also to start researching how to implement some of these things myself. Which brings me to...

Thanksgiving Weekend

After the conference, pretty much the entire C3 team was utterly blitzed. Luckily, the following academic week was extremely short, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. On Wednesday afternoon, Laura and I packed up Fawkes (my '86 Mercedes 190) and rolled for Ohio. Despite the traffic on I-90 between Boston at 84 south to New York being only a few mph short of a parking lot, once we got past that the traffic was actually fairly decent, and we made it back to Wooster at a moderately decent hour. (By which I mean before 3AM.) Thanksgiving day proper was spent first by missing out on a cheap xBox 360 due to Amazon's horrible mismanagement of their "Customers Vote" promotion – the site wouldn't even load from five minutes before the thing went on sale until well after the whole allotment had sold out – and then enjoying an excellent supper with Mom and Dad at the Des Dutch Essenhaus in Shreve before an evening showing of Casino Royale.

I actually have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head concerning the new direction in the Bond franchise – Daniel Craig did a much better direction that I'd feared, but the film's working title of Bond Begins felt much more apropos after I'd seen the film. Before, I'd simply likened it to Batman Begins because they're both prequel/relaunches of existing franchises, but now additional similarities emerge. Casino Royale, like Batman Begins, takes a somewhat cartoony character and renders them in a much more realistic, gritty fashion that makes the story feel more plausible. The problem with Casino Royale, though, is that Bond doesn't have the same alternate forms of distribution that Batman enjoys. Aside from the novels, the films are pretty much it – there is no Bond TV show, no Bond cartoon, no Bond comic books. This is kind of sad, because I think that there's room in the world for both a gritty Bond (which is arguably the void that Matt Damon's spin on Ludlum's Jason Bourne aimed to fill) and a more stylized Pierce Brosnan Bond with a John Cleese Q. My hope is that the producers may seize upon this as an opportunity to create new Bond stories in other media, perhaps even using the wildly popular games and creating new old-Bond stories kind of like E.A.'s From Russia with Love video game, which drafted Sean Connery himself to do some new voice work. They've already done a little of this; Everything or Nothing, Nightfire, Agent Under Fire and the wildly popular Goldeneye all do sort of this type of thing already. Here's hoping for more.

Anyway, Friday found Laura and I going to two Thanksgivings in rapid succession. First Laura made her debut at the big Long family Thanksgiving, which was a solid success in part because the family already kind of knew her through her Dad working for the company Grandpa Long and my Uncle Bill used to own (I'd link to it, but the website is astoundingly weak) and partly through Laura just being Laura. We got to play a little with my new second cousin Samuel (my cousin Phil's baby boy, and the first Long great-grandkid), which was awesome, ooh and aah over Grandma's new tile floor for the kitchen, and generally gorge ourselves on good food. After that we hightailed it across town to Laura's house, where we had dessert with her family and a houseful of practice kids puppies. Her sister and her husband have two puggles, and her brother and his longtime girlfriend just got a new puppy, so the three of them chased each other around the house while the adults humans played Apples to Apples. A good time was definitely had by all.

On Saturday, I met up with my old brother-in-arms Nick and the two of us drove around Ohio for most of the day, talking and making grand schemes for future projects. We hit the Pottery Barn outlet south of Columbus (which was pretty picked-over) and then headed back North to poke around Columbus. My Ohioan tribesmen know about the awesomeness that is the Village Bookshop in the outskirts of Columbus – it's a huge bookstore specializing in used and remaindered books that was opened in an old United Methodist Church in 1969. It's one of my favorite bookstores in the world, and whenever I visit I either walk away with an armful of books or nothing at all (because I hadn't given them proper time to restock since my last visit). Lucky for my library but unlucky for my wallet, this time was one of the former. Oh, well – there are much worse things. After that we hit Easton, then headed north to pick up Laura and some Coccia House pizza to munch on while playing Dragonology and Word Thief at Nick's place while he watched the Notre Dame game in the background.

Sunday was the return drive, which was mercifully largely uneventful until I threw my back out somewhere just over the NY state line. I've been on Advil and heating pads ever since, and although it's starting to let up it makes for a fairly cranky time. Oh, well – I'm plowing through numerous books for the THESIS and other research, so I have more than enough to keep me occupied while 'm semi-bedridden. To that end, look for some more THESIS reports in the next couple of days.

In short, we're barrelling down on the end of the semester, the end of the year, and the end of my 28th year in all too rapid a fashion. Once more unto the breach, dear friends! Life is great – hectic, but great.


Genre in 3 Lbs (or less).

Yesterday William Uricchio, the other co-head of CMS, forwarded on a New York Times review of the new medical drama 3 Lbs, which includes the following nifty tidbit on genre:

A procedural, be it a crime series like Law & Order or a medical show like House or 3 Lbs, is a genre that works by staying within well-marked boundaries. These series wrap a fillip of surprise (patricide, ulcers) into a comfortingly familiar framework. Each episode begins with an average person guilelessly going about the day until fate strikes. On Law & Order, cab drivers, joggers and quarreling couples stumble on a dead body and set off a whodunit. On medical shows, a housewife, soccer coach or a concert violinist suddenly keels over, setting off a whatdunit.

I should try writing one of these just as an exercise. Neat stuff, even if the wholly me-too nature of 3 Lbs makes me completely uninterested in tuning in (Tucci or no Tucci). What can I say? I'm a House man.

THESIS: Panel One.

This is the first in what I'm hoping will be a long series of entries here that serve as mini-reviews of the texts I'm reading for my THESIS. For the first batch, I'm going to be focusing on writing for comics; I'm taking a class on comics this term with CMS co-head Henry Jenkins, so this entire section should come together into some form of a final project for that course.

First up is Nat Gertler's Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers. The text is little more than what the title advertises, but that's enough to make for some compelling reading when the "top writers" include Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith and Kevin Smith. A full rundown of the authors and their scripts are as follows:

  • Kurt Busiek, Astro City
  • Neil Gaiman, Miracleman
  • Nat Gertler, Degeneration
  • Dwayne McDuffie, Deathlok
  • Trina Robbins, GoGirl!
  • Greg Rucka, Whiteout
  • Jeff Smith, Rose
  • Kevin Smith, Jay and Silent Bob
  • Marv Wolfman, The Man Called A-X

The two main takeaways from this text, as Gertler notes himself in his introduction, are that one, "there is no standard format for comic book scripts", and, two, comic book scripts differ from TV, film or dramatic scripts in that they're only intended to be read by one person: the artist. This comes through in Gaiman's Miracleman script, which often addresses his artist (Mark Buckingham) directly by name, and refers to previous conversations between the two. Panel One is instructive in how it shows the different writers each playing to their strengths; Kevin Smith uses film terminology (like INT. and EXT. for interior or exterior locations) due to his film background, and Jeff Smith, who did all the wriitng and pencilling for his series Bone, delivered full rough pencils of the prequel book Rose to Charles Vess.

I'm not wholly certain what my takeaway is here for the THESIS itself. I want to say something about the way that comics tell stories as opposed to how film or television or books tell stories, but Panel One, while instructive in other ways, doesn't prove very illuminating in that regard. Each included script is prefaced by somewhere between a few paragraphs and a few pages of context, usually by the writer, which provides some insight. Marv Wolfman goes into the details of "full script style" and "plot style" (the first reading like a very specific screenplay and the second being little more than a concise overview) and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Kurt Busiek passes on a tip he picked up from Frank Miller. Irritatingly, though, Gertler himself writes the intros for Jeff Smith, Neil Gaiman and Kevin Smith – three of the people whom I'd most like to hear discuss their writing styles. Much similar content can be found elsewhere, like Gaiman's notes on the Sandman scripts in Dream Country and the new Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1 but still – more of that is always welcome.

Also mildly disappointing are the inclusion of a script from Gertler himself, which smacks of narcissism (although indeed informative in its own right) and a script from Trina Robbins, whose GoGirl! isn't on my embarassingly long books-I've-heard-of list, and I suspect was included only to give the anthology a shot of estrogen. A better choice might have been Jill Thompson, although I (of course) don't know if she was available. Ah, well – c'est la vie. I'm planning to pick up the sequel, inevitably named Panel Two, as well, so we'll see what improvements Gertler makes on his second pass.

All in all, Panel One is useful to have in one's library not as a reference so much as an artifact. Seeing the actual work of other comics writers makes the notion of writing for comics much more tangible and plausible, which is arguably worth the price of admission.


Thoughts on zines.

For multiple reasons lately, I've been thinking about online magazines. As many of you have noticed, Inkblots went down a while ago. It hadn't been updated since 2002-2003, aside from the blogs of Ken and I, but a perfect storm of catastrophes first brought the site down and then prevented me from bringing it back online. (Perfect storm = server dying + stolen laptop + corrupted archive + grad school.) Finally tonight I posted a simple "Inkblots is on hiatus" note. This makes me extremely sad, but I'm not sure what else there is to be done. Perhaps next year I'll have the time to resuscitate it, but for now I have things like my thesis to worry about.

That said, I've still been thinking a lot about webzines, in part because I'm looking for places to publish my work. What I've noticed is that the webzine as a format has grown ridiculously stagnant. What has arisen in their place is the blog – weblog empires like those that have flourished around Engadget are one thing, but it seems to me like there's an enormous void left in the world for honest-to-God zines that integrate new tools and tech. Derek's JPG is one of the few examples of new Web 2.0 zines doing it right.

A bunch of the zines to which I'd planned to submit are now dead and gone. Fuzzynet, Haypenny, 28MM, The Black Table, SerialText, Punchline, 3rd Bed, Cutbank, Blaze, Koi, Meomore, Galactica, Dirt, all have dissipated – and weirdly, Iron Circus has, I think, somehow transmogrified into a webcomic I just recently discovered and fell in love with, Templar, Arizona. I am, however, delighted to find a new crop springing up in their place, including the delightful Potion. I'd always known that the literary zine scene was ephemeral, but having edited one of these now-ghostly publications it makes me a little sad.

I need to take a closer look at the scene, that's for sure, but I'm not wholly positive that the game hasn't completely changed since I was an undergrad. What it's changed to I'm not sure, which is both exciting and unsettling, but that's life for you. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Or something like that.

Work in progress.

One of my great failings as an artist, if not as a human being, is that I'm almost constantly running behind with my projects. This is due to a number of reasons – I'm still learning to say "no", I occasionally get burnt out and have to unwind for a couple of days to get my brain unkinked, and I'm also often a horrendous perfectionist. Still, when something does come together it makes me really insanely happy.

Tonight I think I finished a project that's been on my back burner for months – a new recruitment poster for CMS. Not a minute too soon, either – we need to start sending these puppies out to universities to get some new blood for the 2007-2008 school year. (Bizarre that I may not be around to see the people my work recruits, but oh well.) I'm still learning how to really use Illustrator, but this project certainly helped. A preview:


I'm really hoping they go for this. I like it quite a bit, and I think the streaks in the back of the art coupled with the more elegant design at the bottom of the page (which I cut off for the excerpt, so you'll have to trust me) capture the dual nature of CMS – dynamic, yet rooted in classicism. Wish me luck!

And now, since it's almost a quarter to 3 in the morning... Bed.


Convergence by Design.

So next weekend is the Convergence Culture Consortium's fall shindig, the Futures of Entertainment Conference. I've just finished putting together the program for the event, which looks sort of like this:


The aesthetic is an attempt to capitalize on what is actually a drawback: the art that C3 manager Joshua Green found for the event (which can be seen on the Futures of Entertainment site, which I also designed) doesn't exist in anything higher than ~72 dpi at a small size, which renders it pretty much unprintable. There are plugins available that upsample art like that, but they cost too much for our present needs. Therefore, I decided to drop the photo into Adobe Illustrator CS2 (which the department is running in its lab) and use the software's auto-trace function to produce a vectorized version, which I then blew up to a near-ridiculous size. It's still pixelated, but the idea is to make it look pixelated on purpose.

There's more new design work that I've been doing for the department which I desperately need to add to my portfolio (such as a redesigned In Medias Res, a promotional poster for the department and other such projects) but they'll have to wait. There's also a question in my mind as to how much I actually want to keep updating my portfolio moving forward, but that will, I suppose, hinge on how difficult it is for me to find a decently-paying gig that doesn't require Photoshop when June rolls around. We'll see.

Joshua Davis on Illustrator CS2.

I've been reluctant to upgrade from Adobe CS1 to CS2, but now SXSW alum Joshua Davis has been interviewed by Adobe, and he makes it sound pretty sweet. There may be reason not to wait until the Flash-integrated CS3 after all.


My very own coffeehouse.

Yesterday I fulfilled one of my great lifelong dreams: I bought a coffeehouse.

It is now sitting on my shelf.


True, this is probably the least masculine thing I've ever done, but I have harbored a secret love for those little Dickens Village holiday buildings for years. I know they're tacky and ridiculous, but when they're done right they're absolutely beautiful – and when Laura and I wandered into the Christmas Dove, a little holiday shop down by Fanueil Hall, we stumbled onto a whole mess of the things. The shop had multiple series all set up there, from the quintessential Dickens Village to the Halloween Village, but there in the New England VIllage collection was the Green Dragon Coffee House. It was a 2006 exclusive, they only had a couple left, and despite it being way way way too expensive I had to buy one. I know it was a good purchase because every time I see the silly thing squatting up on my shelf beside my collection of pen mugs, I grin like an idiot. It's a little tacky, but it's also cute and charming and heartwarming. Also schmaltzy. I don't care.

And now I have one more thing to check off my life's to-do list. :-)


Shilling for JPG.

So my friend Derek just started offering subscriptions to his new JPG Magazine, and I'm helping to shill for it. Keep reloading the page, and you'll get me eventually. I mean what I say in my soundbite – as a magazine editor/publisher myself, I can honestly say that what Derek's doing with 8020 Publishing is changing the way magazines are produced – and it's inspiring as hell. It's easy to imagine how other magazines could be produced on a similar model, and it's exciting to think about. Go, D, go!


Rummy got pwn3d.

Man, it's like Christmas came early: Rumsfeld is stepping down. I'm not entirely surprised – after the Dems thrashed the Republicans largely thanks to voters tired of the war in Iraq, Rummy is an obvious target.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, you warmongering bastard.

Promises, promises.

Interesting piece in The Washington Post on what the Dems are planning:

Early Democratic priorities will include raising the minimum wage, boosting homeland security spending, shifting the nation's energy policy away from oil and gas exploration toward alternative fuel sources, and reversing cuts to education spending.

Meanwhile in the committee chambers, aggressive new chairmen, such as Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), promise a series of investigations and hearings into matters that have largely gone unexplored under GOP control, such as allegations of waste in Iraq and mismanagement of the war.

That alone could dramatically change the political atmosphere during Bush's final two years in office.

While "increasing homeland security spending" doesn't sound very Democratic, the rest of the list had me grinning from ear to ear, especially the bits about alternative energy sources and increased education spending – and the thought of finally hoisting Halliburton on its own petard. C'mon, Pelosi – light the way!

Hooked on a feeling.

After last night's nail-biting results, even if the Dems don't take the Senate (which they might not; Montana is still 49%-49% with 100% of the precincts reporting, with the Dems only up by 1,735 votes and Virginia is Dems up 50%-49% with 100% precincts reporting – both of which sound fantastic but are definite recount material), there's only one way to express my emotions.

dancing baby

Oogachaka, baby!


Mourning a friend of a friend.

So yesterday afternoon, my friend Aurelia's dog Daphne passed away.

It's a little odd to be writing about the passing of a friend's pet, but Daph was around for so much of the time that I've known Aurelia that I'm struck by her passing a lot more than I expected. In fact, Daph was around for pretty much all of the time that I've known Aurelia – Daphne was the fuzzy little friend that accompanied Aurelia just about everywhere, to both places that allowed dogs and places that definitely didn't. Aurelia had trained Daph to silently ride around in a duffel bag specially designed for canine concealment, so we'd ride on trains or eat in restaurants or, well, just about anything with Daph sitting patiently in her little blue prison at our feet, and then when the coast was clear Aurelia would unzip the bag just a little and up would pop Daph's head, peering out from under a little curtain of white hair to see what she'd missed. In the abstract, carrying a puppy in a bag everywhere may seem a little Paris Hilton, but once you got to know Daphne and Aurelia it became obvious that Daphne wasn't a fashion accessory, she was a best friend.

Daphne lived a long and rich life. She probably went to more classes at Kenyon than some Peeps, and she had probably seen more of the world than most people ever will in their lifetimes. By the end of her long life she was weak and frail and confused, and had even lost an eye, but she stayed by Aurelia's side for far longer than just about anybody else. At the time of her passing, she was an amazing sixteen and a half years old. In actuality, dog years translate more into 10.5 dog years for the first 2 human years, then 4 dog years per human year after that, which puts Daph at 79. If you follow the more traditional 7 years per human year, she would have been a hundred and fifteen and a half.

G'night, puppy. Sweet dreams.


The Ravenous Friend of Carson Bell.

The ravenous friend of Carson Bell
Ate what he ate, and he ate very well.
He rolled into town at a quarter to four,
And by six-twenty, our town was no more.

There was no early warning of the size of his lunch,
He said not a thing, just started to munch,
Knelt down his lips to the edge of the curb
And, yes, I think "gobbled" is exatly the verb –

God knows there is needed some simple word
For the way this friend ate I say was absurd!
He passed up the bread, peanut butter and jelly
Indeed, 'twas the buildings he meant for his belly!

He devoured the clock tower, hour by hour,
As if minutes were sugar, as if seconds were flour!
The giant chronometer went straight down his gullet
No tock, no tick, just as fast as a bullet!

The train station was next destined for gastric attack,
The friend chowed down every train, every track,
He tossed it all into his mouth with a sneer,
Every poor passenger! Each poor engineer!

When his eyes alit upon the old town library
You could see in his eyes he mistook it for cherry,
Crunching the bricks between his mighty jaws,
He slurped down every page without a belch or a pause!

Oh why, oh why, did you, Carson Bell,
Bring us this friend, this cousin of Hell?
Was it some obscure form of culinary revenge?
Or was it the result of a mind off its hinge?

But Carson, that Carson, that lovable puck,
Chuckles and cackles at his friend run amok,
We may never know why he unleashed this assault,
For Carson says nothing – just passes the salt.

(Please forgive the sudden burst of poetic doggerel; I was writing a report on my trip to China this summer and I swear my mind had a mental burp. This was the result. I felt I had to share.)


Other things to remember.

Aside from the Gunpowder Treason and Plot, there were other reasons why this weekend was memorable. Last week was heavy, what with two different major writing projects being turned in, and next week is erratic, what with two of my regular classes not meeting and last week's two writing projects almost certainly requiring some rewrites. Therefore, I took this weekend for some much-needed downtime. A good chunk of it was spent finally playing Final Fantasy XII, which has to be one of my favorites in the series to date. It's a near-perfect combination of breathtakingly beautiful visuals, sweet music and a completely compelling story. Anyone who ever asks "Are games art?" needs to play FFXII.

The rest of it was spent hanging out with my girlfriend Laura, which was well overdue. On Saturday we went out to find her a pair of boots and came back with all kinds of stuff, not just her boots but also some clothes, some candles, and, for my own personal hardware collection, an ElGato Hybrid TV tuner for my G5 and a terabyte.

There's one of those sentences I never thought I'd write. I popped down to the mall this weekend and picked up a terabyte. Yet there it is – I'd spent a bunch of precious time a week or two ago cleaning space off my G5 and still needing a bunch more, so I was going to pick up another external drive, but when I got there I ran the numbers and discovered that for the money, pound per pound, the LaCie Bigger Disk Extreme 1TB was a pretty good deal. It was still pricey, but all things considered it's still jaw-dropping to see storage space go from about $20 for a Zip disk to about fifty cents a gigabyte. So now I have plenty of room to record video interviews for my thesis. Excellent.

So, yes – all in all a great weekend, and badly needed. The new week looms large on the horizon.

Remember, remember.

For obvious reasons, I've had the following running through my head all day:

Remember remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

I knew a bit of the rhyme before V for Vendetta, and now I can't hear it in my head without Hugo Weaving's singsong baritone rumbling it through. What I now know, courtesy of Wikipedia, is the rest of the rhyme...

Remember remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.

Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

My old friends in England will be having fun tonight. :)


On GoogTube.

A week or two ago I wrote an opinion piece for the official C3 newsletter, called GoogTube: TV 2.0, or Bubble 2.0? Now Henry Jenkins, the head of C3 and CMS, has republished it (with permission, of course) over at his weblog. My piece is the second of two responses to Google's acquisition of YouTube, so it starts halfway down the page. Henry introduces it (and me) as follows:

The second response comes from Comparative Media Studies graduate student Geoffrey Long and was written as part of the newsletter we share with the members of our Convergence Culture Consortium. Long came to CMS as an experienced designer and storyteller, someone who is deeply interested in the ways that technological change will impact the ways we produce, share, and consume stories. I first heard from Long when he responded to an essay I wrote for Technology Review about transmedia storytelling and we engaged with an extended and stimulating e-mail correspondence before he applied to our graduate program. Long is now hard at work (or at least is supposed to be hard at work) on a thesis which deals with Jim Henson's film projects (from The Dark Crystal to Mirrormask) as examples of transmedia entertainment and promises to be groundbreaking research. Here, though, he takes up the question of exactly what Google is buying when it purchases YouTube and explores more generally the value(s) associated with web 2.0 companies.

I'm blushing down to my socks. The piece I wrote is fun and hopefully at least a little insightful. Check it out and let me know what you think!


IPTV: Super Deluxe!

Interesting things are afoot in the IPTV space – Turner Broadcasting is launching what might be the first high-profile IPTV "station", Super Deluxe. The beauty here is that it's not linked to any existing channel – it's its own entity. Hmmm. This is one to keep an eye on... More as it develops.

TED: Jeff Han's new UI.

Check out this amazing video of an "intuitive, interface-free touch-driven computer screen" – especially the nifty bits with resizing photos – presented by NYU research scientist Jeff Han at TED 2006. Theoretically, if one were to increase the sensitivity of the device, there shouldn't be any reason this kind of UI wouldn't work with a standard touchpad on a laptop or a WACOM Cintiq. Hmm.

On Charles Addams.

A little late for Halloween, but very cool nevertheless: an excerpt from biographer Linda Davis' Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life over on NPR. A man after my own heart.

Clifford Geertz, 1926-2006.

One of the theorists who we've been studying here at CMS, Clifford Geertz, recently passed away. The cause of death is given as complications following heart surgery. Rest in peace, professor.