Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

January 2007 Archives

Put some color on?

So Apple just launched new colors for the iPod shuffle – the same palette, mostly, as the iPod nanos. Mostly – for some reason there's an orange shuffle but no orange nano, and (annoyingly) a black nano but no black shuffle. I myself would only be interested in a silver or black shuffle, so if I buy a new one, it'd be the silver one. The question to my mind, though, is why would I want one? After all, not buying a 1GB shuffle is essentially a $79 discount off an iPhone, and an iPhone is an 8GB iPod. True, this is a big step down from my current 60GB iPod video, which is sad, but the addition of the phone is pretty sharp. The question is whether to buy a first iteration iPhone or wait for a while until the dang thing actually has enough capacity to carry around more of my (increasingly growing) video collection...


TiVo, IPTV, RSS...

I just made a throwaway reference to Bill Gates' claim that TV will be irrelevant in five years, but I find myself wondering about what exactly we're going to see replace it.

Me, my own TV consumption patterns have changed due to TiVo in the same way that my weblog consumption patterns have changed due to RSS. It's possible to see a TiVo as an RSS reader for the web – you 'subscribe' to your favorite shows, instead of 'browsing' from channel to channel.

I don't care if the TV show I'm subscribing to is on NBC, Sci-Fi, or Bravo (especially since they're all owned by the same company). TiVo has already demonstrated the ability to suck down webcasts with Rocketboom. It's entirely possible to imagine content delivered through [webcasts/netcasts/podcasts/whatever] alongside regular network distribution completely transparently. As long as the content is of similar quality, IPTV facilitates the circumvention of the traditional network system and all the ridiculous overhead costs inherent therein.

There, in a nutshell, is why IPTV fascinates me. Plenty more of this to come, I'm sure.

Links list: 01-29-07.


Morning Labor on the Seine.

Harry Van Der Weyden, Morning Labor on the Seine
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

The great best lumbers on the river's near bank
while the spires emerge from the other side's fog,
the day is breaking as sure as the backs
of the men assigned to these early chores –
the barge must be shorn of its cargo
as swiftly as a cow heavy with milk,
profits and meals await the release
of potential energies invested upstream.
The grunts and the cries of the workes
remind another passing by of other events
best left concealed in a different mist
he himself had woven to simply survive,
he quickens his pace to place some distance
between himself and the men, and the crane,
and the shadow of a man in a young French boy's
hollow bedroom door.


I remove my hat, and then my head,
detach my hands before my arms,
release my legs from hips to knees,
retire my ribs, unlock my heart,
disassemble my loose constructions,
sort the knuckles from the capillaries
and place each piece carefully into boxes,
nestling them down in nests of cotton,
tucking them in as if to sleep
until next they're needed again.
Good night, my body,
sleep well, my corpus –
I store you here among gossamer cages
to keep your shine for better days.


Tell me, love, is this your soul
that you leave so casually on the armoire,
draped over the edge like a soiled skirt
waiting so long for an impossible rinse?
Is this your past crumpled on the floor,
a hope and a promise balled-up stockings,
best intentions kicked to the corner
blike threadbare tattered overworn shoes?
If these best things are now shed,
what new threads have you adorned?
A wardrobe of lies and darker things,
of compromises and acceptances and descents,
new low-cut dresses and slutty garters,
crotchless panties and knee-high boots,
crisp leather corsets and studded collars,
belts designed to receive your rent?
Are these new clothes the best you could do,
or perhaps these were the outfits
you secretly dreamt of as a girl,
while trapped seething in your pretty bows?

April Showers, Champs Elysees, Paris, 1888.

Childe Hassam, April Showers, Champs Elysees, Paris, 1888
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

She is caught momentarily transfixed,
her hurried errand abruptly paused
at the sight of a flock of men in the rain.
The horse-drawn carriage is dark bedecked
with a bristling cluster of black umbrellas,
a melancholy parade for a soul unknown.
There is no music, no drum, no chant
aside from the clop clop of the horses' hooves,
punctuated by an occasional splash
of puddles, or tears, or color –
the flower in her bonnet the only red
in a day given over to more somber hues.

(Context: this is one of the poems I've written based on works of art in museums. – GL)


Conflict Diamond.

The eagle-eyed among you my have noticed a couple of strange inclusions on my links list from a few days ago. "Why would Geoff suddenly be interested in conflict diamonds?" No, I'm not on a DiCaprio kick. About two weeks ago I was chatting with Philip Tan in the CMS office, and he mentioned the 2007 Boston Game Jam, an upcoming event that was sort of like the 48 Hour Film Challenge, only for video games. As it turned out, my friend Dan Roy was participating in it, and he had an idea for a game that was all about conflict diamonds.

Last weekend Dan and I joined forces – Dan doing the programming and game design and me doing the art – and the output was Conflict Diamond, a 'games for change' project that demonstrates that while it may be easier to sell genuiune diamonds, synthetic diamonds have a whole lot less blood on them. Genuine diamonds are often mined by the victims of wars and sold to support the regimes of their oppressors, hence the name 'conflict diamonds'. In our game, you choose one of two salesmen in a jewelry shop ('Carbontown Jewelers', in a throwaway joke). The elderly George is ethical and will only sell synthetic diamonds, while the diabolical Damien will happily sells only genuine diamonds. We didn't get as far into the development of the game as we would have liked, but it's definitely playable, and so now we're trying to figure out what we want to do next with it. I'm tickled with the avatars (mostly), but if we do anything else with it the background art still needs a lot of work. It's easy to improve the hand-drawn look of avatars by shrinking them down (which smoothes out the rough lines), but hand-drawn background art looks worse because it's displayed at more of a 1:1 ratio. Ah, well – not too shabby for only 36 hours or so.

In the meantime, the event picked up some coverage in Gamasutra, and the games themselves can be seen on the official event site at

One way or the other, I've got another game under my belt – and one for a good cause, no less. Very cool.

Links list: 01-24-07.
  • Red Herring: Apple to Battle Nintendo, Sony? The trouble with viewing the iPhone as a mobile gaming platform – for now, anyway – is the closed nature of the device, not to mention the lack of a Flash plugin for the iPhone's version of Safari. (Doesn't that mean YouTube will be broken on the iPhone?) I hope these things will change.
  • Will the Muppets Return to Primetime? Me, I'd like to see The Tonight Show hosted by one Kermit the Frog.
  • Scrivener. Fascinating-looking new writing tool. Me, I've taken to writing in BBEdit, of all things. (Thanks, Kasi!)
A New Experiment.


Links list: 01-23-07.

Again, time to close some tabs – here's what I've been reading this morning.


I knew it!
You Are Batman
Billionaire playboy by day. Saving the world by night.
And you're not even a true superhero. Just someone with a lot of expensive toys!


Closing (tabs) time.

I have to close a ton of tabs in order to reboot a suddenly unstable MacBook Pro. I have not read all of these yet, but they all look interesting, so I thought I would share.

Woof. I think I now understand why my MacBook is unstable.


One sharp Sword.
Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms is the first of two animated films based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. While these films opt for a more traditional animation style instead of a direct lift of Mignola’s trademark dark colors and ragged lines (as seen in the shorter animated The Amazing Screw-On Head, which shares Sword of Storms' DVD release date), they feature the same voice talent as Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy feature film. Ron Perlman returns as the titular heroic hellspawn, Selma Blair is once again the cute pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (although she seems to be somewhat younger in this edition) and, in an interesting twist, Doug Jones plays Abe Sapien. This is interesting because Jones was the physical actor playing Abe Sapien in del Toro’s film, but had his voie redubbed by Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce – however, rumor has it that Jones will be providing both the voice and body work in the upcoming feature sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Sword of Storms is a nice addition to the Hellboy mythos, although ‘addition’ might be pushing the term a little. Mignola’s general ‘open sandbox’ policy to his work enables the continuity for each media type to be different – so the animated films establish a canon of their own, which is allowed to diverge from the canon of the regular films, which is different from the canon of the comics, which is different from the canon of the paperback novels. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if Hellboy and Sherman have a romantic involvement, if Hellboy’s father figure Professor Bloom is alive or dead… A unified timeline across the different media types could have gone a long way towards turning Hellboy into a full transmedia property, increasing the drive for fans of one media type to explore the franchise’s installments in the others. Instead, there is a scene here which was lifted directly out of an earlier Hellboy comic, which is interesting to see animated, but otherwise feels like a rerun.

Still, Sword of Storms has moments of beautiful, if simplistic, animation – for example, a flashback scene depicting a battle in ancient Japanese mythology is done with touches similar to calligraphic brushstrokes. There are also moments of clever humor, such as a scene where the otherwise human Liz Sherman’s remarks on how her pyrokinetic powers make her a monster send the monstrous-looking Hellboy and Abe Sapien into stitches. Another chuckle comes when a new agent at the BPRD (presumably installed here to serve as a device to bring new audience members up to speed) blanches at some stories of previous adventures, which leads Abe Sapien to cry, “You made the newbie face!” Childish, perhaps, but still funny.

In short, Sword of Storms is fun and instilled with the same blend of wry, dark humor and classic mythology that makes the Hellboy franchise so entertaining. Definitely a worthwhile addition to any Mignola fan’s collection.

Hellboy: Sword of Storms and The Amazing Screw-On Head will both be released on DVD on February 6, 2007.

Media diet.

I love the way Leia ha arranged her consumed media list, which appears to be simply a MovableType miniblog with its RSS feed aggregated into the homepage. I tried something similar using allconsuming a while ago, but its syndication didn't really do that much for me.

What I really need is a way to push my consumption and comments to multiple places, like MySpace and Friendster and so on. Lord knows I consume enough media on a regular basis – and if I can start writing some reviews about them, perhaps I can get my writing chops back.

Transmediating Stargate.

I'm trying to determine whether I can work this into the THESIS or not, but either way this is pretty cool. Fans of the long-running Stargate SG-1 already know that Sci-Fi canned the series last year, which means that this will be the show's 10th and final season. Sad, but 10 years is a hell of a long run – and the show ain't over just yet. Dark Horizons has details of the upcoming non-theatrical films (by which I mean both made-for-TV and straight-to-DVD, although this is clearly an area that needs some clarification) and the Sci-Fi channel's own news site, Sci-Fi Wire, has an interview with Stargate Atlantis star Torri Higginson which suggests at least one SG-1 regular will appear on Atlantis. There's no indication of how regularly the original cast will appear on the spin-off show, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Daniel didn't make the jump full-time. After all, there were insinuations that Daniel's been aching to study the sunken city for pretty much the entire run of the show – and after having left the show once before and returned, Michael Shanks probably knows by now how lucrative a really good recurring role can be. We'll see.

Either way, I'm just happy the original series isn't entirely over. I love the new Doctor Who and all, but my Friday nights just don't feel complete without Stargate and a pizza...

Consolation Prizes.

Courtesy of James McNally's newly-relaunched Consolation Champs (and c'mon, James, make with the redesign already – standard templates are teh suck) comes this somewhat depressing new look at blogebrity. Kineda used Technorati to reach its new definitions for what makes an "A-list" weblog, a "B-List" weblog, and so on. These new criteria are as follows:

  • D-List (Low Authority): 3-9 blogs linking in the last six months
  • C-List (Middle Authority): 10-99 blogs linking in the last six months
  • B-List (High Authority): 100-499 blogs linking in the last six months
  • A-List (Very High Authority): 500+ blogs linking in the last six months

It's probably fair to say that I am not an A-lister. What's kind of sad, however, is how quickly the lists can flip. Of Kaneda's list of blogebrities, there's not a single one that I read regularly, and Kottke isn't even on the list! A few years ago I felt like I knew a pretty decent number of the A-Listers through SXSW and was friends with a solid number of B-Listers and C-Listers, also through SXSW. Now, though, just like media decentralization has resulted in the fragmentation of pop culture, I think we're also seeing the emergence of fractured, uh, blogebrity. Either that or my circle has fallen out of favor, which is admittedly something of a possibility. I'm still mourning the loss of, although I know Derek's got more important things on his mind.

I also have to admit to feeling a little bummed about dropping so low on the rankings. I'm lucky to qualify as a D-Lister now – this shouldn't be horribly surprising, actually, since I shuttered Inkblots and moved Tip of the Quill with relatively low fanfare. (A trivia point: Tip of the Quill has always been the name of my editorial at Inkblots, which means I could arguably claim to have been blogging since 1995/1996. Heh.) More to the point, it's driven home that I haven't been blogging as much as I should, that I need to look into syndicating this blog wherever I can, that I should work harder to read and comment on more blogs out in the world, et cetera, et cetera.

Further rumination on the whole decentralization/fragmentation thing: lately I've been wondering exactly how much it would cost to live the way I want to live. If in the future we're not famous for fifteen minutes but to fifteen people, how much do we have to charge those fifteen people for our stuff to survive? How much would it cost Joss Whedon to revive Firefly on a subscription basis? How much would it cost to produce Firefly only for an IPTV channel? How much revenue could be generated by distributing Firefly only through the iTunes store?

Something tells me I'm going to be struggling with these questions long after I get out of here... This spring's project (aside from the thesis and two paper presentations): find somewhere that will pay me to do that!

The mind of Caliban Davies.

People who have read drafts of my novel, Bones of the Angel, will be familiar with Caliban "Callie" Davies, the paranoiac techno-geek who comes to the aid of my heroes. Today I sat down to get some writing done before supper and banged out about 730 words of... Something. This isn't how I expected the next novel, tentatively titled Children of Winter, Children of Wolves, to begin, but if there's one thing I've learned it's not to mess with muses. What I like about this snippet is that it gets us into the head of the lovely Ms. Davies, someplace I really didn't go in BOTA. Anyway, I thought folks might enjoy it – although please take note this is very much first draft material.


Caliban Davies awoke with a start. She sat up and tried to blink the sleep out of her eyes as she shivered in the cold wind – and then blearily wondered why there was a cold wind at all.

Callie groaned as her mind came the rest of the way back on-line. She’d fallen asleep out on the East balcony again. It had been two months since she’d moved into one of the spare rooms in her friend Vicky’s mansion, and despite the chill of the early-spring weather she’d still spent nearly a quarter of her nights in the same weathered old deck chair overlooking the East lawn. Her back lodged its usual complaints as she clambered out of the chair and stretched. A quick glance at her watch told her that it was nearly 3AM. She swore softly as she bent to pick up her dogeared copy of Neuromancer, which had tumbled off of her lap at some point while she’d slept. She’d lost her place, of course, but that didn’t matter – she had pretty much the whole thing memorized anyway. The sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel...

She looked up. Ravenswood Manor was perched high up on one of the ring of hills that circled Lake Beckett, and positioned directly above the city of Beckett, Ohio – population 25,668, median household income $37,400, 91.9% white non-hispanic, Callie mused. The sky over Beckett tonight was crisp and clear, Venus nearing the Pleiades star cluster and the moon in its last quarter. Callie scratched her ass and yawned.

Suddenly something off the right side of the balcony caught her eye. She wandered over to investigate, her bunny slippers making slap-slap-slap noises on the stonework. Another gust of wind swept across the balcony, cutting through her light Beckett U sweatshirt and flannel pants and making her shiver again. When she reached the stone railing she swept her eyes down over the hill, but she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Screw this noise, she thought unhappily to herself. I wonder if Vicky has any cocoa left in the pantry…

Wait. There.

Callie peered over the railing and squinted. Far down at the foot of the hill, near where the lawn surrendered to the thick woods that buffered the property from old Route 22, something was moving. At first she thought it was a deer, or maybe even a bear, but then it cut across an open spot between two tall pines and stepped for a moment into the moonlight.

It was a man.

Callie stepped back from the railing, strangling back a cry in her throat. It hadn’t been that long since she’d had her own home attacked by strangers in the middle of the night, and this was just close enough to trigger little flashback waves of fear and panic. She pressed herself against the wall of the house, hoping that the prowler hadn’t seen her. She edged her way back to the wide doors leading into the East hallway, fumbled behind her for the handle, and then slipped inside.

The East Hall was a long, wide corridor with massive dark walnut paneling offset by tall, square columns. Each panel bore an ancient tapestry depicting some mythical creature or other fantastic scene – the first one on the right was a picture of Saint George fighting a dragon, and directly across from it was Perseus battling Medusa. Callie ran to the left edge of this tapestry and fumbled blindly behind it. C’mon, dammit, she thought as her fingers felt around for the switch – Ah, there! Her fingertips brushed the recessed square in the wood, then pressed down hard. Instantly the middle section of the column beside the tapestry slid upwards, disappearing into the section above it like a collapsing telescope. Inside the hidden compartment was a sleek computer console with a videocamera and an intercom, which Callie flipped on. A list of room names appeared on the screen, and Callie jabbed the one marked Master Bedroom with a fingernail. The list of rooms was immediately replaced by the Ravenswood Corporation logo and a ‘connecting’ message.

C’mon, love birds, Callie thought bitterly as she glanced over her shoulder. She had forgotten to close the doors behind her, and now the wind blew down the corridor, rippling the fabric of the tapestries. Pick up the damn phone! Pick up pick up pick up pick up pick up...

A shadow flickered across the open doorway at the end of the hall. A big, man-sized shadow.


And that's all I've got so far. Fun, huh?


And I know those terms!

Over at Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden posts some modified entries to a writer's Devil's Dictionary:

Self-publishing: How authors who are slow learners find out about marketing and distribution.

Small Press: A publishing house that’s only as good as the people running it. (This applies to publishing houses of any size.)

My time with Inkblots proves both of these...!

I know those people!

From the writing weblog Paperback Writer:

"I don't see what the big deal is," Jane snapped. "Sure, I know the rules. My protagonist should have been a recovering crack whore hiding from the cops in a flop house room with a sometimes-boyfriend named Wife Beater--"

Heh. That pretty much sums up most of the people from my Creative Writing classes back at Kenyon...

The 2007 speaking tour.

Okay, so two conferences do not a 'tour' make, but I'll be presenting a paper called "Transmedia Storytelling at the Jim Henson Company" at the 2007 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Chicago on March 11th, and another one called "Radial Narrative Maps and Mike Mignola's Hellboy" at the Media in Transition Conference here at MIT sometime between April 27th and 29th.

Heh. The titles of those two papers should show that although I am peering out the windows of the ivory tower, I haven't traveled too far from my regular mental stomping grounds. :-)



If anyone out there is considering placing an order with the online retailer, don't. A few weeks ago I used the Google Checkout promotion (now ended) to pick up a bunch of stuff on deep discount after Christmas. Most of my purchases came through fine, but one of the orders has been screwed up pretty badly. Half of it arrived damaged and half of it hasn't arrived yet at all.

Now, here's the kicker – my request to return the damaged merchandise was denied because it wasn't returned within 14 calendar days of the original purchase. They also refuse to look into the undelivered half of the same order because "delivery can take up to 9 business days" after purchase.

My emails were answered as follows:

You have 14 days from the date your product left the warehouse (regardless of when you actually took delivery of the product.


Please take note that delivery process takes 7-9 business days after ship date. If you do not receive your order by that time, please inform us so we can then look into your order.

Following this? Five business days usually translates into seven calendar days. Nine business days means that it's one day short of two full weeks – and when holidays are involved, it can be exactly two weeks... And, as my own experience has proved, 'nine business days' can still not cover it. This means that according to's official policy, their return window can be shorter than their delivery window.

When I pointed this out to them, it certainly didn't seem like something they had any intention of fixing – multiple emails were all returned with the same citing of their policy. I'm going to give them a call this week, and if that fails, I'm going to call the Better Business Bureau.

The damaged object in question is less than $10 – a DVD of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan – but the undelivered merchandise is a $50 year-long membership to Xbox Live card. If the card shows up, I'll probably drop the issue, but I wanted to get my experience out there on the Internet so anyone Googling for something like " problems" or " return trouble" or anything like that sees that they're not alone.

I know I won't be buying anything else from ever again, and I'm going to warn others away from buying from them as well.


Undoubtedly so.
"Modest doubt is the beacon of the wise."
- Shakespeare

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt."

- Shakespeare


Case in point, courtesy of HBO.

After poking around a little more, I discovered this post at TUAW that shows HBO doing exactly what I've proposed. Nice proof of concept, even if I'm not that interested in Extras. Hopefully this is a sign of other, better things to come.

IPTV and Apple TV.

I am curious as to why there haven't been more fictional narratives told in the form of video podcasts and iTunes. I'm uninterested in fictional narratives told as weblog entries, and am much more interested in the use of podcasts for delivery of independent serialized stories. The release of the Apple TV device is intriguing because it means that there is now a clear-cut path from the Web to the television in a living room. Aside from the (potentially not inconsiderable) costs of production and hosting of the files, it's now possible to make true independent television. Theoretically, it's also possible to sell ads in the video file itself; I don't believe that Apple has any restrictions on that sort of thing built into the iTunes podcast directory. The potential here is huge – I'm surprised no one has done it yet, and I'm thoroughly intrigued by the concept.


Lady in the Water.

I just finished watching M. Night Shymalan's latest film, Lady in the Water, and I thought it was brilliant. The fact that it didn't fare so well in the box office ($42.2M, whereas The Village took in nearly $114.2M domestic) suggests that either the film was woefully mismarketed or that my fellow Americans have no souls. The film is a contemporary fairy tale, a story about what happens when an everyday guy (Paul Giamatti's Cleveland Heep) is drawn into a real-life bedtime story, and the whole thing is done with a wistful, beautiful tone. The monsters are cleverly designed, the proximity of the magical elements to our own reality is so close that it borders on magical realism (although nowhere near as much as Pan's Labyrinth, natch) and I finished the film with a smile and that "I wish I'd written that" feeling.

Lady in the Water felt a little like a Neil Gaiman story, and watching it made me think about how my own tastes and passions might one day fit into the mainstream media market. Neil's stuff certainly seems to be wending its way into Hollywood with some degree of success – despite Mirrormask's paltry $850K US gross on a budget of $4M, I still loved it. I also loved Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, which didn't fare horribly well in the box office either. In fact, most of the things I love aren't big mainstream successes. My recent work with MTV has shown me that I'm not that much in touch with the "MTV" demographic anymore. I think that's okay, though. It makes me think I want to try and do some kind of IPTV project that is aimed squarely at this type of content. Something for folks like me, produced on a very limited budget, and with limited expectations for ROI. A nichebuster project.

Hmm. I wonder.

If it seems like I've been quiet...

I just wanted to post a quick note here to say that if it seems like I've been extraordinarily quiet lately, it's because most of my writing hasn't been for public consumption. Today saw the publication of a 3,800+ word piece for the members-only C3 Newsletter titled "Winning the Console Wars with User-Generated Content", last month I wrote an 1800-word piece called "Uncommon Wiisdom" and C3 just published my first white paper, which was a beast of a mini-book on, um, an emergent media form that wasn't video games. I'm never quite sure how much I'm allowed to talk about C3 work here, to be honest, but I don't think the titles of two articles will get me in much trouble. I just wanted to say that I have been writing, just not as much on this here blog. Hopefully that will change soon, in some way, shape or form.


Hotel Dusk.

This is why it's a great time to be in media right now: unique, compelling, innovative games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for the Nintendo DS, which is hand-drawn in a noir style. It reminds me a lot of Deja Vu for the 8-bit NES. Ahh, those were the days.


Straight from the "Hey, I thought of that!" department: ProfileLinker, a new system for linking all your social network profiles in one central location. I'm curious to see how they did this -- I was under the impression that Friendster and MySpace weren't about to open up their APIs to anything like this. (Hat tip to the lovely MJ for the link.)

Buffett on Newspapers.

I have a ton of windows to close today, so I'm going to post a barrage of little entries. TO start: Warren Buffett: Newspapers are "a business in permanent decline". Not exactly news, but interesting to hear it from the Oracle of Omaha himself.


Quick insights.

A couple of things I need to keep in mind in the new year: one, we are who we are every minute of every day. And two, our experiences are our advantages – the key is to demonstrate how they are all integrated; heterogeny is a strength.


...Auld lang syne.

Rabbit rabbit!

Happy new year, everybody!