Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

February 2007 Archives

Beneath the Gaze of the Old Man Cliffs.
Beneath the Gaze of the Old Man Cliffs


Links list: 02-26-07.

And... A special subset of links from Beyond Broadcast 2007:


Is that a mic or a mobile transmitter?

Separated at birth: the Center for Public Democracy's Drew Clark and Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo. Uncanny.

To Broadcast and Beyond.

I'm writing this while sitting in the 2007 Beyond Broadcast Conference going on today at the Stata Center's Kirsch Auditorium here at MIT. At the moment the director of Four Eyed Monsters is adressing us live from LA via an iChat video conference, tossed up on two 30-foot projected screens at the front of the room. On the same panel is Kenny Miller from MTV Global, Elizabeth Osder from Yahoo! and Jesse Walker from Reason magazine.

It's funny. People in the audience are slurping all this up like oxygen, and to me this stuff is like water to a fish – it's so ubiquitous and obvious that the majority of it is just "Well, yeah." It makes me hopeful about the imminent job search – but it also makes me think some more about what's involved in actually implementing these insights.

I'm also highly amused by the idea that I'm taking fashion tips from a conference. "Kenny Miller is wearing a dashing black blazer over a chocolate-brown Oxford button-down shirt, under which is just a touch of color from a cranberry-red t-shirt. Jeans and designer shoes complete the outfit. Our host, Steve Schultze, cuts a fine figure in a slate-gray blazer over a light chocolate Oxford and a black t-shirt, again over jeans and brown dress sneakers." There's a ton of usual schlubs in the audience as well, of course, but I'm impressed by the dozen or so characters here that are similarly dressed. Apparently I need to go polish up my wardrobe a little before going on the conference-and-interview circuit.

"I don't look a lot at the competition. I look at what we want to do, what the audience wants to see from us... Is the audience liking what we're doing, and is it growing?" - Kenny Miller

(A brief aside: I grew up with a Kenny Miller being the local rich guy in our small town. Nothing against that Kenny Miller, but I like this Kenny Miller a lot better.)


Links list: 02-23-07.


I'm a bad friend!

Oy, how bad is it that I'm just now getting around to respond to Bill's meme baton-passing? Oh, well – such is life in the state of THESIS.

Four Jobs I've Had

  • Professional lawnmower
  • Reinforcement label affixer
  • Media specialist (my first paid design job, at RBB)
  • Graphic designer (no shock there)

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over Again

  • The Italian Job (modern remake)
  • Ocean's 11 (also modern remake)
  • Ghostbusters
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Four Eight Places I Have Lived

  • Shreve, Ohio
  • Gambier, Ohio
  • Exeter, England
  • Gaithersburg, Maryland
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • Bethesda, Maryland
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Somerville, Massachusetts

I extended this one because I was suddenly curious. I haven't moved around a whole lot – that's the entire list of places I've lived, I think, and everything from #2 on down has been since 1996.

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch

  • The Venture Brothers
  • 24
  • House
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (RIP)

Four Places I've Been on Vacation

  • The West Coast (from LA to Seattle and back)
  • Ise, Japan
  • Paris, France
  • Venice, Italy

Four Websites I Visit Daily

And about 350+ others via RSS feeds...

Four of My Favorite Foods

  • Lasagna
  • Chicken biryani
  • Pizza (sausage, pepperoni, mushroom; occasionally green peppers)
  • Overpriced foofy coffee drinks at Starbucks

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now

  • London
  • Seattle
  • Wooster, Ohio
  • Bed (hey, it's 2AM)

Four Blogs I'll Tag

There. Baaaa.


Links list: 02-17-07.


Links list: 02-16-07.


Seeding the archives.

I just added a couple pieces from late January and early Febuary to my writing archives. For the interested, these pieces are as follows:

The wisdom of Bill Moggridge.

More wisdom from IDEO's Bill Moggridge can be found in an interview with Newsweek, Of Mice and Multimedia. Near the end, Moggridge explains his vision of the future of interaction design:

The thing that was surprising about the Internet was that suddenly you move from dragging and dropping a file into a folder to the idea of a locomotion interface, where you go someplace. People started to think of files being located on Web sites in space where you went to visit them. In the early days of the Internet that was very appropriate, to be able to feel you were going somewhere and moving through this virtual geography. What’s happening now I believe, and we will see increasing in the future, is that [Web] 2.0 is coming along. It’s allowing us not just to go to a Web site and look at it, but to go to a Web site and then do something. So we’re getting to the point where you have a locomotion that takes us there and manipulation when we arrive, and also community things like YouTube and MySpace. That will mean that we will have more conversations when we get there. That’s the future of the Internet itself and it seems that’s very close.

I'd agree with that to some extent, but I think there's more there – and it's a rich vein to explore. Hmm.

Links list: 02-15-07.
The Muppet Matrix.

Microsoft has just opened up its new "YouTube killer" (yeah, right) site, SoapBox. At first glance, it looks like it has a long, long way to go before it could topple YouTube, but it does have some fun stuff on there, including The Muppet Matrix, a spoof trailer rendered with the Muppets instead of Keanu and company. Completely unauthorized by either party, of course, but it's still kind of fun – although I would have loved to have heard attempts at the Muppet's voices instead of straight dubs from the film. Imagine Kermit saying "Whoa," or Rizzo saying "Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy..." Room for improvement, but still promising. Kind of like SoapBox, actually.


Links list: 02-14-07.


Things with Wings.

Jefferson Reilly sits on the loading dock,
currogated metal cold through his jeans,
scribbling syllables across the back of a postcard
in failing ink from his manager's pen,
struggling to capture just what it is
hes sure he doesn't mean.

Jefferson Reilly lets out a long, low moan,
buries his face in his hands,
smudges his cheek with a smear of blue
and listens to the traffic slouching by –
a rumble parade of Chevys and Suburus
each piloted by a soul whose fractured mind
is faraway lost on distant things.

Jefferson Reilly thinks catamaran, and cannonball,
he thinks daffodil and diplodocus and Duran Duran,
he thinks everyone and everywhere and everything,
he thinks failure and falter and philosopy
and scratches out the last with a curse and a smile.

Jefferson Reilly sits, purses his lips,
scratches his chin, clucks his tongue,
lets loose a sigh that rattles his ribs,
shakes his head to release his thoughts,
closes his eyes, and starts to write.


Don't call it a comeback.

Jesus, what a waste of a day. After attempting to get FastCGI up and running on this MT install, I spent the rest of the day fixing a broken system. Ugh. I'm just grateful this blog is back at all after that little fiasco.

Word to the wise – don't try to upgrade Movable Type to FastCGI on Dreamhost unless you're absolutely sure you know what you're doing.


Touch-up job.

A big shout-out to my brother Talon, who just landed an excellent new agent in Chicago. To celebrate, we've polished up his website a little. Check it out over at – and if you happen to be looking for some smooth vocal talent for an ad campaign, animation, game or something similar, hey, here's your boy!



Good grief. Courtesy of my research manager Joshua Green, Die-Cast is After Effects abuse at its best. 1980s playground flashback, totally.

Hella im-pressed.

I'm seriously impressed by the recent facelift that Dan Cederholm gave his website, SimpleBits (well, I don't know exactly how recent it is, to tell the truth; it's been a while since I checked up on my web design links). It's no secret that Dan and I have similar tastes in aesthetics, complete with little brackets, dark palettes and little flourishes – so when I saw his new business cards I was immediately flush with designerlust. Dependable Letterpress may get a call from me any day now.

Oh, thank heavens.

Last week I got a scare that The Power of the Dark Crystal, the sequel to Henson's The Dark Crystal that Genndy "Samurai Jack" Tartakovsky has been prepping for two years, had been axed. Now this morning's jog around the Internet reveals news from the Muppet Central Forum that the hiatus was just a rumor. There's still enough murkiness around the whole scenario to make my magic 8 ball claim "outlook unclear", but at this point I'm going to hope and pray that Brian and Lisa and Genndy are still, as the report suggests, on track to debut the film at Cannes in 2008 -- both for the sake of my personal fanboy nature and for the sake of my THESIS!

Links list: 02-05-07.

Just a couple to share with you folks today. Cut me some slack, I'm working on the THESIS.

It's the little things.

A couple of days ago, MacNN rolled out their newly-redesigned forums, and I have to say I'm impressed. The level of detail involved in skinning what's normally a standard, boring element across many websites is serious points. The rounded edges across the board are really sweet, and the style switcher popup is beatiful, but what really gets me going are the rollovers at the top. Rather than a binary state, the hover states are gradual, resulting in a nice glow-and-fade combination. Check it out. It's such a simple thing, but it's a wonderful effect nevertheless.


Lyric, echo.

These things she said, then said again,
this life he led, no matter when,
the lives we lived those miles away,
inside my head, where we could play,
the dream she dreamed, each night that year,
the coat he wore, that smelled like fear,
the snow that fell, upon the ground,
and fell some more, when we weren't around,
this all is that, her father said,
all that is this, his mother read,
with nothing left to hold us tight,
but a mother's kiss, and a daughter's light,
this dream I dreamed, a dream of snow,
a dream before, a dream below,
nothing less, naught left to tell,
but something more. Goodnight. Farewell.

(I don't know why, but the thought of an 'echo poem' bounced into my head about fifteen minutes ago. Apologies to those of you getting this in an RSS reader that might not parse the HTML correctly; swing by the permalink to see it as designed.)


These things she said,
this life he led,
the lives we lived
inside my head,
the dream she dreamed,
the coat he wore,
the snow that fell
and fell some more,
this all is that,
all that is this,
with nothing left
but a mother's kiss;
this dream I dreamed,
a dream before,
nothing less,
but something more.

(Just a bit of doggerel that popped into my head while surfing about the web this evening. Please carry about your business.)

Jeepers! Creepers!

My old comrade-in-arms David Seitzinger is moving up in the world! He just finished the DAVE School program in Florida, resulting in the short film Creepers, the story of a group of forest critters who are also superheroes. Cool stuff, and as a result he's just landed a gig working for an animation studio in Wisconsin Minnesota (thanks, David, duhhh) on a new show for Nickelodeon! Go Dave!

Man, that's fantastic. Now how in the world can I justify a trip to Milwaukee Minneapolis to visit...?

Update: I'm an idiot and misread David's announcement email; still, one barren wasteland is as good as another, right? (I can hear Kori glaring at me from all the way over here!)


Numbers for dark fantasies.

According to, Guillermo del Toro's critically-lauded film Pan's Labyrinth was produced on a budget of $19M and has, so far, taken in a domestic total of $19,188,000 and a foreign total of $25,941,961. This means that the film has a worldwide total so far of $45,129,961 for a profit of $26,129,961 (I think). In its opening weekend the film took in $568,641 on a total of 17 theaters; the wider release in 609 theaters brought in $4,502,243 for an average of $7,392 per theater and 23.5% of its total gross to date.

Del Toro's Hellboy, by contrast, had a budget of $66 million, a total domestic gross of $59,623,958 and a foreign gross of $39,695,029 for a worldwide total of $99,318,987 and a profit of $33,318,987.

My math may be wrong here, but I think this means that after its entire run from April 2, 2004 through July 1, 2004 Hellboy had approximately a 33% profit margin, and currently, after only 36 days (although this is only for domestic; I think it opened overseas much earlier), Pan's Labyrinth already has a 67% profit margin. Is that right? Or did I botch a formula somewhere in here?

Further interesting numbers emerge when comparing Pan's Labyrinth to Mirrormask. Also according to, Mirrormask was produced on a shoestring budget of $4M, but only made $866,999 in the theaters. This might be viewed as a catastrophic failure, but a little further exploration reveals that at its widest release, Mirrormask was only shown in 42 theaters. Pan's Labyrinth, by contrast, at its widest to date was being shown in 1,082 theaters. However, Pan's Labyrinth spanked Mirrormask in its opening weekend; Labyrinth opened on 17 theaters and took in $568,641; Mirrormask opened in 18 theaters and only took in $126,449.

There are a number of factors that throw these numbers off, of course; for instance, Mirrormask had the misfortune of opening on the same weekend as Joss Whedon's Serenity and Pan's Labyrinth had its marketing juggernaut rolling with a international release already in full swing. Also, Mirrormask was never intended for a theatrical release at all; sadly, its sales numbers in DVD aren't currently available. (I don't think – if they are, I haven't found them yet. has the VHS rental numbers, but who the hell rents movies on VHS anymore?)

What does all this mean? I'm not entirely sure, but they're interesting numbers nevertheless.
Another interesting bit of data: According to, Pan's Labyrinth is a statistical anomaly in that each of its 5 weeks in release has been better than the last. Of course, it's also been open in more theaters each successive week as well, so take that as you will.

Success in media.

The followup to my previous post is sort of thesis-related (excuse me, THESIS related) so I thought I'd scribble my thoughts down here. The main direction of my thinking here is simply, "What does it mean to succeed in media?"

We've heard a lot about Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory, which suggests, at heart, that a company can make a large amount of money by supplying niche audiences with content that is affordable to produce, distribute and consume. My personal followup to that observation is that a company can make a small amount of money by supplying one single niche audience with content – but if that content is affordable to produce, distribute and consume, then said "small amount of money" may prove, dollar for dollar, more 'profitable' than a large enterprise. If an enterprise costs $5M to produce and makes $6M, you have $1M profit – if it costs $100M to produce and makes $101M, you still have $1M profit, and if it costs $10K to produce and makes $1,010,000, you still have $1M profit. It is possible to make "enough" money by catering to smaller audiences when the overhead is low enough.

Lately I've been captivated by the idea of "enough" money. Laura is really good for me insofar as she knows the meaning of "enough". If she has enough food, money or anything to get by from day to day, she's happy. I myself worry if I have less than a solid amount of cash in the bank and enough food, clothing and media in my personal collection to last me through Doomsday. (Which is funny, because I often get anxious about having too much media to consume. My mind is broken.)

This notion of 'enough' comes into play now because of something that's bothering me about my particular demographic and my favorite creators. My favorite creators right now, in various media, are probably Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Smith, and Warren Ellis. I should also include Guillermo del Toro, Hayao Miyazaki and Shigeru Miyamoto. And J.K. Rowling. And Stephen King, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg and Clive Barker. Maybe. And Jim Henson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco, Jonathan Carroll...

Long story short, most of these people are artists in the fantastic. My hyper-specific demographic is dark fantasy, preferably trending towards the real – I dig 'portal stories', ones that start in the real world and go careening off into someplace else. Sometimes these work in mass media (The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland...) and sometimes they don't, but these types of stories are more often found in lower-budget systems like text and comics. Text and comics are good fields for guys like me (and, I'd argue, the creators on my list) -- they afford more control, more experimentation and more catering to a specific demographic. They also afford more direct 'authorship', or association of a story with its creator. Authorship in mass media is an interesting phenomenon – you have very distinct creators in films (directors) and texts (authors), but only a few TV shows have distinct 'authors' (like Whedon and JJ Abrams, for example). Comics have an increasingly solid authorial association in place as well, which is directly attributable to the creators' rights movements in the last couple of decades.

Let me wrench this train of thought back on-track. New techniques make it possible to produce content for smaller niche audiences affordably, but the hunger for impossibly huge profit margins renders this possibility 'untenable' according to the perceptions of mass media. This is why it's arguably easier to produce niche content in text or comics – the lower cost of production and distribution means it requires a smaller audience to 'succeed'.

So what does it mean to 'succeed'? What is 'successful' media?

This is a much harder question to answer than it seems at first blush. The New York TImes Bestsellers List is usually the source we turn to for validation of the success of a book – but this list doesn't offer sales numbers. I'm still tyring to chase down what it means to be a bestselling novel; what interests me is how those numbers compare to the DVD sales of Firefly or the ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate. Quantitatively speaking, are there more Gaiman fans or Whedon fans? Are there more Gaiman fans or Lost fans? If everyone who bought a copy of American Gods went to go see Mirrormask, would the film still fail at the box office because the Hollywood people demand such a ridiculous turnout?

I think that despite the widely-perceived 'failure' of Firefly and Serenity, people shouldn't view Whedon as a failure as a storyteller. Whedon attracted a number of dedicated fans that may be considered small in such a massively overblown media form as television. If he'd had the same numbers in print he'd've been a phenomenon. I'm afraid that as Gaiman continues to make inroads into film, he may fall flat on his face because the demographic that likes his types of stories may only be large enough to be considered successful in smaller media.

These are successful storytellers with tons of talent and fans lining up to throw money at them to tell their stories. These are the people primed for 'Long Tail' niche markets that utilize new technology to make it affordable to create, distribute and consume their content. The failure of the system comes in when Hollywood studios addicted to ridiculous profit margins scorn $1M profit centers for $100M profit centers. This damages the storytellers, their audiences and the business as a whole.

I want to see a system in which Whedon makes enough money. There was a line in Studio 60 a couple of weeks ago in which Sorkin makes a thinly-veiled snide response to claims that The West Wing might have fared better on HBO. He claims, "All good things should run to the avenue," which means that he feels like his stuff, despite its catering to a niche audience, should be broadcast on mass-distribution TV because the best stuff should be made available to the masses. I'd argue that Sorkin himself is just addicted to mass-distribution attention, when he'd probably find a much more sustaining system in place on HBO or IPTV.

What burns my tailfeathers is how canceling something like Studio 60 is perceived – the show failed as a moneymaker, therefore it failed as a story – and if Sorkin can't make the money, he doesn't get to tell the story. What this also tells mass America is that if their tastes run more towards niche content, their favorite shows don't deserve to exist. Only the mass moneymaker, the lowest common denominator, gets to survive. Which is dumb. New technology allows for that niche content to survive and flourish with smaller audiences, insofar as they still prove somewhat profitable. Even if it's not a $100M profit, if it makes a $10M profit, then it should still continue to exist as long as it isn't taking up a spot that could be used to make $100M. That's the difference between IPTV and broadcast – no more "Studio 60 is costing us $90M because it's only pulling in $10M in a slot where American Idol could be making $100M".

I dunno. This is spiralling off in a weird direction and is losing focus, so I'm going to post it here and come back to it later. I want to say that the size of a niche audience is fixed, and storytellers knowing that they're catering to that audience can choose which media form in which to work based on that demographic. This is probably impossible, but it's an interesting position. I also think that IPTV and direct-to-video, despite the stigma of direct-to-DVD (although people should look to the OAV market in Japan for examples of how this could happen successfully) provide possible avenues of distribution that storytellers of this type should consider for future development.

Enh. Like I said, post now, come back later...

No Whedon Wonder Woman.

Today is shaping up to be a Very Bad Day and I've only been up for about an hour and a half. WTF. I wake up to take my morning jog around 'teh Internets' and discover that they've
canned Joss Whedon from Wonder Woman. This sucks. Hard. It also gives support to my current feeling of artistic persecution for Things That Don't Suck.

I still think Whedon needs to seriously consider IPTV as a better distribution route for content. Old TV model = many low-value eyeballs. New IPTV model = fewer high-value eyeballs.

Hrm. I wonder... Hang on, another post pending.


Screw Osama, fear Ignignokt!

MooniniteAs you may or may not have heard, yesterday Boston was shut down when a bunch of "suspicious devices" were found on a number of buildings and bridges here in Boston. I found out about it when I called Laura after the end of the day's Sony Game Workshop sessions, and my reaction was, in short, horrified. You have to remember that I was in Washington, DC on 9/11, which is nowhere near as horrible as being in New York, but was still fairly traumatic. Now, when I heard that one of the devices was found on the bridge leading into Kendall Square here on campus, I had a mild panic attack. Wham! Mental flashback to walking around DC while rumors were flying that the State building had been exploded by a car bomb, that the White House had been destroyed by a hijacked airliner, that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon... (Oh, wait.) Now the Coast Guard had closed the Charles River, traffic had screeched to a standstill, the cops and the National Guard were sweeping the city... I freaked out for a second or two, but then when it sunk in that the devices had been "a hoax", according to the Governor, I was pissed. First at whoever had done the thing ("Was this just some asshole showing how crappy Homeland Security actually is?") followed by indignation that the government had allowed this to happen ("Homeland Security? WHAT Homeland Security?").

Laura and I agreed to meet up in Harvard Square a little while later, and I hopped the T from Kendall to Harvard. The train was, of course, running slow ("suspicious devices" are just another excuse for the T, which throws up its hands and panics any time a fly sneezes on the tracks), but I still had enough time to swing by Million Year Comics to pick up my books and chat briefly with Tony Davis, the owner and one of my favorite Bostonians. We chatted about the bomb scare, the two of us and a couple of other customers, and then Tony pulled up on his computer -- where, just a minute earlier, the story had been posted that the 'bombs' were actually a promotion for the new Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie.

Enter appalled indignation, Stage Two.

If this had been a student demonstration thing, I would've been pissed. Since this was Adult Freakin' Swim we were talking about, I was absolutely infuriated. Turner Broadcasting is one of C3's partner companies, and one thing that C3 talks about at great length is new forms of advertising, including ARGs and guerilla marketing. Sure, the Aqua Teens are basically an oddball spoof of a superhero show, but if Turner had leapt from guerilla marketing/ARGs to building fake bombs from which the Aqua Teens would potentially save us, we needed to have a serious talk with these guys. Now.

After Laura and I met up, we grabbed supper at b.good, a great little healthy-fast food restaurant that offers free Wi-Fi. I whipped out my MacBook and pulled up myself, which was the first time I got a look at the 'suspicious devices'.

Enter appalled indignation Stage Three: The Motherload.

These 'suspicious devices'? They were LED outlines of the Mooninites, a couple of recurring villainous characters from the show (of which Ignignokt is one, hence the title of this post), attached to the buildings through magnets. There were no sticks of dynamite, packs of plastic explosives, countdown timers, or anything else that would suggest 'bomb'. If anything, these damn things were as dangerous-looking as Lite-Brites. The story I'd heard was that a bunch had been found attached to bridges, but in truth they were found at intersections, under bridges, on the sides of buildings (including one there in Harvard Square)... In short, everywhere one would find graffiti -- which was, I think, kind of the point. When I was in China last summer, I met a toy designer whose new thing was making vinyl 3-D mini-statues that were meant to be attached to graffiti walls, a sort of graffiti statuary. This was a similar concept.

Let's recap: Wave of Fury One was directed at an anonymous bomber whose nefarious plot had been foiled. Wave of Fury Two was directed at Turner Broadcasting for misusing an art and advertising ploy in such a nauseating manner. Wave of Fury Three was directed at the people of Boston and the Government, for both mistaking these innocuous childrens' toys as a three-alarm threat and honestly for being so damn asleep at the wheel that, according to Turner's report, they'd been up there for two to three weeks before anyone noticed them – and in ten different cities: Boston, New York, L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Two. To three. Weeks. In ten freakin' cities.

I know some of you people hate it when I rip mercilessly on the President (hi, Mom) but Bush's War on Terrorism is nothing less than a War on American Liberties, and it's failing miserably. The governor of Massachusetts now wants to throw the twentysomethings that Turner hired to put the things up in prison for 2-3 years per device, which is absolute bullshit, and despite Turner's explanation, isn't backing down. It doesn't take an idiot of anywhere near the governor's magnitude to see that the governor is only doing this because he doesn't like being made to look bad. If the devices had been found the morning after they'd gone up that's one thing, but their being present for so long demonstrates that the security here in Boston is so piss-poor that a terrorist could attach twenty pounds of C4 to a bridge and attach a series of blinking lights to the package and the police still wouldn't notice. You hear that, Al-Qaeda? All you have to do to blow up a bridge in Boston is paint a cartoon character on the bomb.

I'm annoyed with Turner. I'm absolutely infuriated with the government. When the feds force us to surrender our civil liberties in exchange for 'greater security', and then screw up this goddamn badly, somebody needs to pay, all right – but it sure as hell isn't a couple of twentysomethings working for the Cartoon Network.

"Can you see this? I'm doing it as hard as I can!"

Related Links

Links list: 02-01-07.