Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

April 2007 Archives

First iPhone photos in the wild?

It would appear that the first pictures taken with an iPhone have just surfaced, courtesy of some EXIF data and some rabid Flickr-searchers. There are two photos, one of which isn't that great (largely due to some horrible backlighting) and one of which clobbers my little Treo's snapshots six ways from Sunday. I'm a little surprised there's no mention of any videocamera capacity in it yet; even my dinky little Treo can take video clips. Or maybe activation of the videocamera capability will come as a free upgrade...?


I needed that!

Scratch that last post. I hit an amazing panel this morning on storytelling using mobile devices (which is pretty much one of my research areas here at CMS) moderated by Michael Epstein (CMS '05), the cofounder of UntravelMedia. That was recharging, and made me extremely enthusiastic about what comes next... More on this later. Now I've got to get back to the THESIS work! The end is in sight!



So we're about 3/4ths of the way through day 2 of MIT5, and the combination of last week's THESIS craziness, this weekend's intense series of panels and discussions, and the looming defense next week means my head is well full-up. If one were to look closely into my eyes one would see two little fuel gauges with the needles buried on the Fs. After a while it all sort of fuses together into a sort of white noise drone, zzzzzzzzzzzz - media - zzzzzzzzzzzzz - Heroes - zzzzzzzzzzz - Lost - zzzzzzzzzz - transmedia - zzzzzzzzzz - theory - zzzzzzzzzz - games - zzzzzzzzzzz - JenkinsJenkinsJenkins - zzzzzzzzzzzz - Eco - zzzzzzzzzz - Brooker - zzzzzzzzzzz - Kinder - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I'm lucky to be here, I'm happy to be here, but at this point there's a part of me that just wants to go see the new Ninja Turtles movie.


Media has been transitioned.

My paper presentation this morning came off relatively without a hitch, and I now have several other likeminded individuals with which to engage moving forward. Let the academic conversations begin...

But, yes. For operating on only four hours of sleep, this afternoon went remarkably well! Doubleplusgood element: Kenyon professor Lewis Hyde is here in Cambridge as a Berkman fellow at Harvard. I did not know this before. I'm going to have to get him out for a coffee for a pint and pick his brain...

Links list: 04-27-07.


All in all, just another brick in...

It's official. I have hit The Wall.

Luckily, I hit the wall after I sent a draft to my thesis committee early this afternoon, and after Henry sent me a nice note saying that the latest draft I'd sent him was "SIGNIFICANTLY and SUBTANTIALLY improved" (emphasis his). Thank you Jesus. I may have a chance of graduating on time yet. Maybe.

So, yes. This is what the wall feels like. So far today I've done scattered bits of random research, preparing for my presentation at MIT5 tomorrow on Demon Circles: Radial Maps and Mike Mignola's Hellboy, which also happens to be section 3.4 in my THESIS (which is right near the end, actually; the 'sections' are each somewhere in the vicinity of 50 pages long). This is good, because it means I am still technically working on the thesis, even if I'm moving at a snail's pace. I'm also buying random crap off the Internet. Oh, Internet. How I love thee. You let me buy things like a Kia Asamaya Evil Batman and a Willow Rosenberg (!) on deep, deep discount. Bless you.

The last time I was this whacked-out and surfing the Net with my credit card I wound up with a Hayao Miyazaki Princess Mononoke t-shirt that was a size too small. I think Shannon has it. I seem to recall she was getting good use out of it, last time I checked.

And now, on a completely unrelated topic, some bloke found a mummified fairy in Derbyshire. Creeeeeeeeepy.

Yes. This is what the wall feels like.


Okay, I know I have to be writing THESIS stuff here, but dear sweet heavenly host have you guys seen the trailer for The Bourne Ultimatum!?

Man, this summer is going to rock for movies... The Bourne Ultimatum, Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Shrek the Third, Stardust, Ratatouille, Oceans 13, Pathfinder, Evan Almighty, The Simpsons Movie, Transformer, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Live Free or Die Hard... Seriously, people, and I still haven't seen TMNT, Grindhouse or Aqua Teen Hunger Force yet! I swear, when this damn THESIS is done I'm going to spend an entire Saturday with my butt planted happily in a theater...


Oh, man.

The last time I posted a 'score' (read: wordcount) about my THESIS, it was up to 28,712. This was before my advisor laid into it. Now, less than a week later, I've sliced out big, huge chunks of text and added in even bigger chunks, grafted in an all-new framework, including six subclasses of hermeneutic codes based on Barthes' S/Z that should prove useful for understanding how we author types drive readers through a narrative and a proposal for a four-question formalist analysis to be applied to any extension in a franchise to evaluate its value to the larger whole. I've also done an almost shot-by-shot reading of both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, applying those six codes to each one.

The current THESIS score: 40,471. That translates into approximately 160 pages, even after having chopped out great huge parts.

Basically, the feedback that Henry gave me has turned this into a prototype for a doctoral thesis. I am not the least bit certain as to whether or not this is a Good Thing. Maybe I'll know in the morning.

Justifying HD-DVD.

I don't think anyone has written extensively yet about the great boon that high-def DVD could be to academic media studies. I'm currently re-(re-re-re-re-re-)watching Labyrinth and trying to make out exactly what it says on the clippings in the notebook in Sarah's room. Not the headlines, mind you, the text. If I had this in HD-DVD, I could probably read those clippings. Oh brave new world...

Aside from that, I'm struggling to not hit the wall here. I'm on the right track, I know it, but uber-close readings of things take a lot of time! I now have nine pages of notes on the possible migratory cues in The Dark Crystal, but creating those notes makes watching the film take about three times as long as normal. Jeez...

Well, "if it tweren't a challenge, it twouldn't be worth nothin', would it"?



That's it, it's official – my THESIS is far and away the nerdiest thing I've ever written. My most recent draft includes Barthes, Genette, Lévy, Umberto Eco, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, Indiana Jones, Hellboy, Neil Gaiman, the Muppets, Stephen King, Batman, Superman, Stargate, Final Fantasy, Star Wars, and, as of this morning, the Battle of Wolf 359.

I can't wait to write the index for this thing.

Birthing Athena.

I'm in a very weird place with my THESIS. On Thursday night I got 3,000 words' worth of feedback from my thesis committee chair that pretty much eviscerated most of what I'd given him – or at least that's how it felt. Looking back on it now, it wasn't only not that bad, but it was also necessary. The trouble is, I'm supposed to have a draft of this thing to my entire committee tomorrow, so I've been working my ass off on it in every spare minute I can grab. The timing's not great, either – Friday and Saturday were dominated by the annual Convergence Culture Consortium conference that I was required to attend, and Sunday I got up early and jumped a plane to Ohio for a surprise birthday party for my Dad. That was totally worth it (the look on Dad's face was priceless), and a plane ride and an evening in my old room both helped me plow through massive amounts of literary theory. Monday morning I took the red-eye from Akron back to Boston and I spent all day yesterday hammering away, chugging through more literary theory and reworking Great Huge Bits of the THESIS.

It dawned on me this morning that this might be how Zeus felt, attempting to birth Athena fully-formed from his brow. My brain is killing me.

That said, I'm encouraged by a couple of things. First, over the weekend I reread parts of Marie-Laure Ryan's Narrative Across Media, a collection of essays on narrative theory and comparative media studies that the department sent all of us before we arrived on campus. Back in the summer of 2005, I hated that book. Every other sentence made a passing reference to some theory or theorist that I'd never encountered, it relied heavily on academic jargon that was all gobbledygook to me, and it was, to my mind, largely impenetrable. Fast forward two years (and most of a Master's degree) later and now, much to my delight, I can read through the text with little difficulty. The concepts make sense, the framework is in place... I speak the language. It's similar to the feeling I had when I was teaching myself how to think in HTML code for the first time – new mental processes are being forged and new wrinkles are being jackhammered into my pulpy gray matter. It hurts, sure, but it's a good kind of hurt. I'm even coming to appreciate Barthes with the help of additional references to serve as translators. I'm also looking forward to doing a closer reading of Gerard Genette somewhere down the road – his thoughts on intertextuality, especially the bits about hypertext and hypotext, are really fascinating...

A quick tip: anyone interested in doing any kind of media studies or literary theory should pick up a copy of the Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory and just start reading anything that interests you, following the cross-references and seeing how it all fits together. That's something I wish I'd done as an undergrad, rather than trying to plow through Terry Eagleton on my own. My brain needs to have context in which to place all this stuff, which is something that a lot of professors seem to shun. I'm not entirely sure why. When and if I ever become a professor, I'm going to make these types of things required reading – any text I assign will come with context stapled to it.

I'm also developing an even greater appreciation for Umberto Eco. I knew I admired the man before, but now moreso than ever – he manages to pull off exactly the same kind of thing I want to be doing down the line, albeit perhaps a little more accessibly. Eco writes both important critical essays and important literary novels in the same vein as Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think that's what I want to do for my next book, especially if I can't sell Bones of the Angel. BOTA was pretty 'poppy' – now I'd like to do something that applies some of the things I've been learning here. With what time, I'm not sure, but I'll have to carve some out somewhere.

Right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm still having labor pains...


Putting a price on transmedia.

Ever wonder what a good transmedia, or at least cross-media, brand is worth? According to the 2005 piece Star Wars' Galactic Dollars, the pricetag on that little story by George Lucas breaks down as follows:

  • $700M in books and other publishing
  • $1.5B in games
  • $2.8B in home video sales
  • $9B toys (holy crap, no wonder he's worth $3.5B)
  • $6.52B in box office ticket sales

Finish punching all that into your calculator yet? Here, I'll save you the trouble: if these numbers are correct, Star Wars was, in 2005, worth $20.52B, or $20,520,000,000 for those of us who like to see all the zeroes.



My THESIS advisor hates me.

I thought Henry liked me. The man's my mentor, my fearless leader, my department head and my thesis advisor. He's also currently the bane of my existence.

Anyone who says, "You know, you really should read Roland Barthes" as input on one's THESIS clearly has it in for you.

I didn't like Barthes when all I'd read of his was his "Death of the Author" essay. After reading as much of S/Z as I can stomach, I really don't like him now. Anybody who belittles the entirety of literature before him instantly qualifies in my bag as a ++Toolbox™.

Roland Barthes. The original prententious bastard.

(On the upside, the piece by Marsha Kinder he pointed me to, and the old favorites of Janet Murray and Umberto Eco, are all very good, relevant and – most of all – readerly. Barthes. Toolbox.)

Amazon Prime is a waste of money.

If you're considering ponying up for Amazon Prime, don't. It's a waste of money and a complete rip-off. Early yesterday morning I ordered two textbooks that I needed immediately for my thesis research and ponied up the extra $4.95 a book for Saturday delivery. Today I get an email saying that they shipped today and I'll get them on Monday.

What the hell? If I didn't need them on Saturday, I wouldn't have ordered them for Saturday delivery. has clearly grown to the point where they no longer feel obligated to deliver anything approximating even decent customer service. This is a clear message that they don't need our money. From here on out, I'm using Powell's.


The lecture tour continues!

I have just received word that I will apparently be appearing on a panel at Future Play 2007 this November in Toronto, Canada. Boo-yah!


Links list: 04-18-07.
Congratulations, Martin!

Wow – Martin Espada, the poet who taught one of the Governor's summer workshops I attended in high school and who had a lasting impact on my writing poems at all, was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, nominated for his newest collection The Republic of Poetry. Wow. Wow.


Going for the gold?

After finishing my taxes this afternoon, I was feeling relaxed and positive about life in general, so I swung by the mall near campus to take a stroll. While there, I paused at LensCrafters to look into getting some badly-needed new glasses. After having the same silver frames since 2001, I'm now considering these Brooks Brothers frames in antique gold. What do you guys think? Are they me?


This is patriotic?

For those of you living outside the Bay State, today is Patriot's Day, a holiday here in Massachusetts. This means that all classes are cancelled, and I supposedly have the day off. It also means that poor Laura had to report to work today at 7AM, since apparently these quasi-holidays have a way of becoming hella busy shopping days. Therefore, all the things the staff would normally do during slow periods in the day (straightening up the shop, dusting off the merchandise, making sacrifices to the gods of interior decorating, that sort of thing) must be taken care of beforehand. I have resolved to be extremely nice to the poor girl when she gets home, as she is likely to be both very, very tired and very, very cranky.

Me, I've been spending the entire day struggling to catch up on all the various garbage that's been falling by the wayside while I've been entrenched in THESIS mode. While I'd hoped to spend the day goofing off and playing Super Paper Mario, I have instead been plowing through the piles of old papers on my desk, sorting through last year's receipts, and putting the finishing touches on my taxes. I think I could click the 'submit' button now and be fine, but I like to make sure all my T's are dotted and all my I's are crossed. Or something like that.

So, yes – I'm sitting here in my office with the window open on a gray, yucky day, plowing through paperwork and trying to determine how much money I owe The Fed this year. I'm not entirely sure this is how our founding fathers would have wanted to spend their day of rememberance, but whatever. At this point, I'm just grateful for the breather! And boy, my desk needed a good cleaning...

There's a quote from Louis L'amour that I have taped above my desk where I can see it every day. It reads as follows:

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

I think Louis had more of an "everything's gone to pot" sense of 'finished' when he said that, rather than an "everything's been ticked off the to-do list", but I like it anyway. I'm nearing a new beginning now, I can feel it – how much of a change that beginning will be has yet to be seen. More as it develops...


This stage of the THESIS-writing process is kind of weird, and significantly less than streamlined. I'm trying hard not to have the document 'fork' too badly; as in software development, forking here is where you have multiple people working on the same document at the same time, which threatens to have the thing develop in two different directions at once. I sent an early draft of Part I to William last week, then a draft of Part II; he sent back his thoughts on Part I, which I duly incorporated, but didn't hear anything back from him on Part II. I handed off a draft of Part I (revised) and Part II (rough) to Henry on Friday morning, then worked like mad on bits of Part III in the afternoon, so I handed that off to Henry as well. Then, over the weekend, I worked on more revisions, so Ivan and I went into campus last night and dropped off new versions of our stuff for Henry to review instead, since Henry hadn't gotten a chance to look at either of our documents yet – that most recent document had revised Parts I & II and a half-revised Part III. Then, today, when I woke up I found an email from William in my inbox with a long list of suggestions and questions about Part II, part of which I probably handled in the revisions and part of which I'm sure I didn't.


Programs, programs, get yer programs – can't tell one THESIS draft from another without a program...


Not done yet, but definitely getting there.

I'm still waffling back and forth as to whether or not Part III is a good idea, but I've at least polished it up so it's pretty dang near what I want to say. Most of the THESIS is "pretty dang near what I want to say", actually, with most of it fortified by academic research, close readings, and 19 essential vitamins and minerals. Yes, friends, my THESIS is officially a breakfast cereal.

What's also somewhat disturbing is the fact that despite I've been working on it like crazy, adding bits and deleting bits and moving bits around and so on, somehow the word count is hovering around 28,641, which is down from Thursday's previous high of 28,712. The THESIS giveth, and the THESIS taketh away. or something like that.

Oh, and I still don't have a conclusion or a bibliography. Fark.

Somehow the conclusion has become ridiculously impossible to write, since I've been lobbing in little multi-conclusions all the way through. I suppose I could just reiterate Long's Law and leave it at that, but that seems awfully weak. Ugh. Oh, well – I'll think of something.

Geoffrey Long: the brand.

Wow, I absolutely pwn a Google search for Geoffrey Long. Almost the entire first two pages are me. This makes me feel better about one particular aspect of my future professional path: the rising popularity of another writer, Jeff Long, who actually writes the same kind of stuff that I do! His novel The Descent is especially up my alley. I've been wondering about what would happen if a would-be reader walked into a bookstore, walked to the L's , and then saw books by Jeff Long and Geoffrey Long right next to each other. At first I was concerned that they'd get us confused, but the more I think about it the more I think that it'll be fine as long I don't start publishing as Geoff Long or he starts publishing as Jeffrey Long. What do you guys think?


Xbox 360 and DVD-HD on an Apple Cinema Display.

I've noticed that for some reason things in my life tend to conclude in waves, which I call "finishing seasons". I'm definitely in a big one right now, what with nearing the completion of my master's in CMS at MIT, but what has me jazzed this morning is my final victory in a fight I've been waging since last December – how to get an Xbox 360 and its DVD-HD drive to play nicely with an Apple Cinema Display. It's been a long, hard battle, but friends, it was worth it.

The Backstory

As some of you may know, I've been doing some research into storytelling in games. When Microsoft announced their XNA initiative, I got all excited because lowering the bar for game development and market entry increases the likelihood that new types of games will be created by new types of gamemakers. For guys like me who prefer games with really solid stories, XNA theoretically opens the door to storytellers that might not otherwise get into game development. Like, well, me.

So, last December I went out and bought myself an Xbox 360, and while I was at it I splurged and bought the DVD-HD drive. I have a massive Apple-based workstation in my office with a 23" Apple Cinema Display, so I figured I'd hook it up to that and start messing with XNA when I found some time. (I also live with three other people, with our TiVo, PS2, original Xbox and Wii hooked up to one non-HD TV, so I wanted to decrease the amount of fighting over the living room.)

My first plan was to just buy the Xbox VGA cable, hook it up to a Belkin VGA-to-DVI adapter and be done with it. I picked up the parts, brought them home, put 'em together and fired it up. No picture. At first I thought I might have a dead Xbox, but no – it turns out that the core and premium Xboxes both output analog signals, even over their HD cables. An Apple Cinema Display, however, requires a digital signal. So, even if you used the aforementioned VGA-to-DVI adapter, like I did, it doesn't work because it doesn't convert the signal from analog to digital. (For more information, Google 'DVI-I' and 'DVI-D'. An Apple Cinema Display only accepts DVI-D.)

My second plan, then, was to use an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid. The EyeTV Hybrid is a fairly humble device, but it's also elegant in its own way. Don't be confused by its list of features – while the EyeTV Hybrid does support both video game consoles and digital signals, it only accepts over-the-air HD television broadcasts and input from consoles via a coaxial cable or an S-Video cable. Its elegance comes from managing its input purely in software: to play the Xbox, I just fired up the Elgato TV application, turned on the Xbox, set the Elgato software to play in full-screen and both games and DVD-HD playback worked fairly well. As advertised, the Elgato system has virtually no latency making games definitely playable, and it also works fairly well for watching TV on your Mac. For the price, it's a decent solution.

The trouble with this system is the 'weakest link' flaw. In this case, it was the cabling. There's no way to get a HD signal out of the Xbox and into the Mac through an EyeTV Hybrid, and the SD signal displayed on a Cinema Display is less than pristine. Some games are dark and murky (Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a seriously brooding, almost Gothic experience when played this way) and while they're playable and fun, it's not an optimal experience. A DVD-HD movie watched in this fashion offers very little improvement over a regular DVD played in Apple's own movie player, if any at all. The additional interface widgets are nice, but what I really wanted was to be able to watch movies in HD on my HD monitor. I often work on my laptop while playing a movie in the background, and despite the divided-attention factor I'm enough of a media snob to really notice the quality drop when watching standard DVDs on an HD display. I was also irked by Apple's advertising the 23" as a 'Cinema Display HD', when Apple's lack of hardware support for commercial DVD-HD or Blu-Ray movie playback, coupled with the lack of HDCP support in this model and the lack of alternative video-in ports like those offered in comparable (and cheaper) DELL displays, meant that I couldn't actually display any HD cinema. This was definitely a case of 'the early Christians get the best lions', since I bought my rig in 2004, but I was still reluctant to replace my display to make this work.

Plan three, then, revolved around a specialty company from Woodland Hills, California. At MacWorld San Francisco in January of 2006, Gefen demoed their HDMate Scaler, a gadget about the size of a Mac mini that would serve as a combination upscaler and switch. An upscaler does precisely what the Apple Cinema Display needs – takes an analog signal and converts it to digital. The switch function enables users to plug in two component sources and one DVI source, output them all to one DVI display, and switch between them using an included remote control. The HDMate was stuck in development hell for over a year – in a burst of frustration, I even called the product 'vaporware' on their forums once, an accusation I now sheepishly retract – but they finally began shipping the devices this month.

The verdict? It was worth the wait, and the third time's the charm.

The Pictures

It's true that the Gefen HDMate is over twice as expensive as the EyeTV Hybrid, but the value difference becomes apparent when you compare the resulting images. The following pictures were all taken indoors with a Canon Digital Rebel, but they're a fairly accurate representation. Click each photo for a high-res version. (And yes, my gamertag is Dreamsbay – it's the name of my consulting company from my pre-MIT days. Say hello if you see me online.)

Xbox Live Logo – EyeTV Hybrid
Xbox Live Logo -- EyeTV Hybrid

Xbox Live Logo – Gefen HDMate
Xbox Live Logo -- Gefen HDMate

Gamertag – EyeTV Hybrid
Gamertag -- EyeTV Hybrid

Gamertag – Gefen HDMate
Gamertag -- Gefen HDMate

Marvel Ultimate Alliance – EyeTV Hybrid
Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Marvel Ultimate Alliance – Gefen HDMate
Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Marvel Ultimate Alliance Detail – EyeTV Hybrid
Marvel Ultimate Alliance Detail

Marvel Ultimate Alliance Detail – Gefen HDMate
Marvel Ultimate Alliance Detail

Where the difference really becomes apparent, however, is in the details on DVD-HD. As far as I know, the combination of an Xbox 360, an Xbox 360 DVD-HD drive and a Gefen HDMate is currently the only way to play commercial DVD-HD movies in high quality on an Apple Cinema Display. The Gefen HDMate is HDCP compliant, but the HDCP signal is only sent over digital cables, like the HDMI cable on the Xbox 360 Elite. I don't know what the HDCP status will be on the Elite, but early reports are that PS3s hooked up via HDMI to an HDMate (using an HDMI-to-DVI adapter) downsample Blu-Ray signals to 1080i – the real high-end signal you're looking for on this kind of a display is 1080p. I expect the Elite may do something similar.

That said, when an Xbox 360 and Xbox DVD-HD drive are hooked up to an Apple Cinema Display via component cables through the HDMate, the quality is jaw-dropping:

Serenity DVD-HD Logo – EyeTV Hybrid
Serenity DVD-HD Logo

Serenity DVD-HD Logo – Gefen HDMate
Serenity DVD-HD Logo

DVD-HD Logo – EyeTV Hybrid

DVD-HD Logo – Gefen HDMate

The Conclusion

Obviously, the quality of the display differs from disc to disc, but last night I watched Sahara in HD on my Apple Cinema Display and it was simply breathtaking. After four months of research, several false starts and way too much money thrown at the problem, I finally have the setup I set out to build. I can also finally understand why the cinema chains are running scared – for the first time I really honestly might prefer watching movies at home rather than in the cineplex. Mac fans, Xbox fans, HD fans – while this setup doesn't come cheap, and there's always the chance that something might yet screw it up, it is certainly something to behold.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my Xbox is calling.

(Note: I've closed comments on this entry to avoid the flood of spambots and more die-hard enthusiasts pointing out how lame I am. To discuss this post, please visit its home on the Gefen forums at Thanks!)


THESIS crisis.

Okay, crisis is a bad term for it. More like 'THESIS at a time of great change.' Long story short, I'm considering dropping the entire third act of my THESIS. It's the weakest part, it feels the most like a business plan and the least like an academic thesis, and, well, if I drop it I'll pretty much be done!

Doing this would drop a whopping ~8,250 words off my final 'score' (or an equally whopping 33 pages). I might sneak some of those back into other parts of the document, we'll see, but for the moment I'm leaning towards revisiting my "leaner and meaner" model I mentioned before.

Because then I'd be done, baby, done – and it would be a return to my earlier epiphane that a thesis doesn't have to be everything you know about the thing, a justification that you haven't wasted the last couple of years, it's just one last requirement to knock out of the way...

And then I'd be freed up to finish my taxes, to boot. Yee-ha.

Closing in on Part Three.

I spent most of Wednesday focusing on Part Two of my THESIS, which is the bit that most directly focuses on the Jim Henson Company. More specifically, Part Two examines the transmedia extensions surrrounding THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH – THE WORLD OF THE DARK CRYSTAL, THE GOBLINS OF LABYRINTH and RETURN TO LABYRINTH – and considers how the use of negative capability and world-building can be considered (and evaluated) in each one.

This was the section that had the most rough text already in place. I still added a ton – I'm currently at 28,129, which is 3,826 words up from my last score posting and a whopping 5,185 words up from where I was when I woke up this morning. This shoots my previous theory that I can only manage about 2000 words a day straight to hell, but, enh, oh well. This also means that I'm pretty darn near 112 pages at an estimated 250 words per page, which is increasingly worrisome, since I still have most of Section Three to get together. And the Conclusion. And the Bibliography...

Whoof. Man. There's a lot of stuff that my committee could say about this baby, but "lightweight" probably isn't going to be one of them.


Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007.

Damn it. Kurt Vonnegut passed away this evening.

I wish I had the time to write a proper memorium here, reminiscing about how much I enjoyed his writing when I was in high school and college. For now, though, I'll simply say that I can't believe that he's gone. Damn.

The New York Times piece includes a quote that pretty much sums up why I loved Vonnegut:

There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’

That pretty much sums it up right there. Rest in peace, sir.

Two years, one sentence: Long's Law.

Hot on the heels of my euphoria of slotting in that Stephen King quote, I've had a breakthrough in my THESIS research. Two years of research into world-building, narrative creation, storytelling, and all the associated media forms have just boiled down into one fantastic sentence, which I am hereby giddily dubbing "Long's Law of Transmedia Aesthetics":

A storyteller looking to craft a potential transmedia narrative should carefully craft the world in which that story exists, and then make passing references to other events, characters or places in that world during the course of the narrative to simultaneously spark the imaginations of his or her audience through negative capability and provide potential openings for future migratory cues.

Rereading it now, it strikes me as so bone-headedly obvious, but maybe that's the sign of a great observation. I'll probably think better of this post later this afternoon and yank it down when I get back, but right now I'm going to take a well-deserved break. Be back in a bit.

Boo-yah. If nothing else comes out of this thesis, I'm going to be happy with just this.

From Keats to King.

Yes! This is still going slower than I'd like, but I've just managed to incorporate into my thesis one of the conceptual points that's been kicking around my head for the last two years: how the three-tiered model for horror stories Stephen King describes in his 1981 Danse Macabre connects to the idea of negative capability John Keats described in a letter to his family in 1817. This is a bizarre little intellectual high I've got right now, like finally clicking a particularly problematic puzzle piece into place. Excellent.

From the King:

The closest I want to come to definition or rationalization is to suggest that the genre [of horror] exists on three more or less separate levels, each one a little less fine than the one before it. The finest emotion is terror, that emotion which is called up in the tale of The Hook and also in that hoary old classic, "The Monkey's Paw". We actually see nothing outright nasty in either story; in one we have the hook and in the other there is the paw, which, dried and mummified, can surely be no worse than those plastic dogturds on sale at any novelty shop. It's what the mind sees that makes those stories such quintessential tales of terror. It is the unpleasant speculation called to mind when the knocking on the door begins in the latter story and the grief-stricken old woman rushes to answer it. Nothing is there but the wind when she finally throws the door open... but what, the mind wonders, might have been there if her husband had been a little slower on the draw with that third wish?

Current THESIS score: 24,303, or 1,124 words up over my last post. Not great, but I wound up spending about an hour thumbing through Danse Macabre to find that passage that I last read when I was riding on the bus to high school.

For the most part I have an astoundingly crappy memory, but sometimes it comes through for me. Thanks, brain.

THESIS formulas.

Well, this is slightly disturbing. I just did a quick progress check and discovered that the written version of my THESIS took 7,121 words to get through the first 15 slides of my Keynote presentation from two weeks ago. That presentation was fifty-eight slides long. Granted, I've been adding a great deal of content as I go, but if these numbers are correct that means that by the time the smoke clears my thesis will be 27,534 words long. Jefferson Davis and my Aunt Mavis. My rough cut so far is already up to 23,179, and I've still got miles to go. It may be time to either start cutting bits out or swilling more coffee.

Another interesting statistic: my 232-page novel(la) Bones of the Angel clocked in at 59,146 words. That means 254.94 words per page (rounded up), so a 27,534-word THESIS would be 108 pages long. That's not so bad, but I'm concerned that it's going to come in much closer to 150 pages by the end of the day, which is closer to 38,241 words, and would mean I still have over 15,000 words yet to go. Terrifying, and also all too plausible.

Right. About that coffee.

So much for that outline.

Okay, so here's something I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around, THESIS-wise. Why exactly is it that my initial outline made sense, and the PowerPoint presentation of my THESIS research made total sense, but now when I'm actually writing all of this stuff up, I'm continually moving stuff around into different places? The flow is so much different in the textual version of this stuff that whole sections don't want to stay where I put them. Argh!


I swear, when this beast is finished and handed in, I'm going to take a week and do nothing but sleep, read comics, watch movies and play video games. Trying to condense two years' worth of thinking about All Things Transmedia into one solid document is threatening to make my head explode.

Current THESIS score: 22,944 and counting. I may have to jettison the third part of the beast if this keeps up. I'll know more by the end of the day tomorrow (erm, today) – wish me luck.

In related news, most of our C3 team had lunch today with Christy Dena herself. That was a real treat, although I'm afraid that our group of C3 jackals didn't let her get a word in edgewise. I wish I had more time to talk to her – we're definitely on the same page about a lot of this research, and I now recognize her as a kindred spirit more than ever before based on her iconoclastic attitude towards academia alone. Hats off to her – I look forward to the next time we cross paths!


Eagle vs. Shark.

Link courtesy of the Great McNally: the forthcoming Eagle vs Shark looks like Napoleon Dynamite redone as a romantic comedy. By kiwis. Awesome.

Wait, what?

Okay, I understand that there might be something awry here, but it's gotta be a slow news day when a leading headline at the New York Times is Student Lender Planned to Woo Officials. Here's the two opening paragraphs:

The founders of Student Loan Xpress had an explicit plan for corralling a bigger share of the lucrative student loan business: “market to the financial aid offices of schools.”

That was how Robert deRose, Michael H. Shaut and Fabrizio Balestri set out, according to a 2002 regulatory filing by the company, a strategy to use university financial aid offices as the gateway to coveted placements on the lists of lenders recommended to students.

Now, to demonstrate why I think this story is an attempt to drum up a scandal that probably isn't there:

The founders of Ricky's Recliners had an explicit plan for corralling a bigger share of the lucrative armchair business: “market to the recommendation offices of interior decorating companies.”

That was how Ricky R. Richardson set out, according to a 2002 regulatory filing by the company, a strategy to use interior decorators as the gateway to coveted placements on the lists of furniture vendors recommended to buyers.

The article goes on to describe what has more scandal potential: yesterday's news that people in the financial aid offices held stock in some of the lending companies. However, even that strikes me as tenuous at best. I can see how there might be a potential conflict of interest, but the key piece of advice that got Warren Buffett where he is, which is repeated by the Motley Fools and almost every other investment advisor I know, is invest in what you know. As a designer, I might invest in Apple because I know about the company. I might also invest in Adobe and Pantone. When a client asks me which computers, software and color registration companies I might suggest, I'm likely to tell them Apple, Adobe and Pantone – not because I'm an investor, but because my high opinion of their products and services (and my familiarity with them as companies) led me to invest in the first place. Shoot, I'd probably suggest that they invest in them too. (Well, maybe not Apple now. But I'm still kicking myself for not buying Apple at $18. Stupid penniless college student days.)

Is it wrong for a financial aid officer to invest in a particular lending company and then push that company over all others because he or she thinks it'll cause the stock price to spike? Sure. But is it wrong for a financial aid officer to invest in a company whose products and practices they know well and view as exemplary, and, thus, a good investment? Probably not. The trouble is going to be in proving which line of reasoning took place here, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts ain't nobody going to come out in court and confess to doing the former.

Dresden Design.

Am I weird for watching The Dresden Files and thinking, "Wow, that's some really killer interior design right there"? Seriously. The guy lives in a converted warehouse with tons of books and old knicknacks and magical bric-a-brac everywhere. I'd like to live in a converted barn with tons of books and esoteric junk. It's not that far off, really.


Right. I needed that.

The funny thing about being me is that there are things about yours truly that, to anyone else, are patently obvious. From inside this great melon of a head, though, "patently obvious" doesn't even come near it.

The biggest of these things is the way my brain works. Or, occasionally, doesn't.

See, the upside of being me is that I'm gifted with a really spectacular imagination. Seriously. Were I presented with a Proustian questionnaire, the answer to "What do you like about yourself?" would be "My imagination." The downside, though, is that the answer to "What do you dislike about yourself?" would be a four-way tie between my weight, my temper, my memory, and, yes, my imagination.

A great imagination is both a blessing and a curse. It's a great blessing because, I swear to God, you're almost never, ever bored. If I'm sitting in an airport waiting for a flight that's been horrifically delayed, and I've somehow been caught without my laptop or reading material, I'll start to make stuff up. Usually I jot it down in the Moleskine notebook that I almost always have in my breast pocket, because otherwise my dratted lousy memory will dutifully file it away in some dusty corner of my brain and just as dutifully promptly forget where that was. However, a great imagination is also a horrible curse because it has a nasty tendency to make you freaking paranoid.

Take this morning, for example. After wrestling about 4,000 words into approximately the right places for the THESIS OF DOOM™ (as I've taken to calling it here in the last couple of weeks before the THESIS DEFENSE, ALSO OF DOOM™) I started to look over the great bloody beast and promptly started to panic. Not only is there a long, long way to go before the thing resembles a single coherent document as opposed to its current state of existence as FrankenTHESIS, but my imagination began to make some horrible harrumphing noises in the back of my head. No joke, it sounded exactly like Michael Gambon.

"You know," said imagination-Gambon, "it's really not very good. I mean, have you seen the blog of that Christy Dena woman? That's the kind of thing you should have been doing two years ago. I don't know what you've been doing – all you're suited for now is more design work, aren't you? I mean, you're woefully underprepared for any kind of academic work, wouldn't you say?"

It drove me screaming out of the house. Well, not screaming, but it did drive me out of my office and dang near out of my head.

Now, to my credit, I'm learning. Remember at the start of this post when I said that there are some things that would be perfectly obvious to anybody else on the planet, but not me? Right. One such thing would be that the only things I'd eaten all day were Easter candy and the odd Mountain Dew. Another such thing would be that I hadn't really seen sunlight in two or three days. A year or two ago, those things wouldn't have occurred to me. Now, though, I'm starting to cotton on to the fact that there is such a thing as blood sugar, and another thing as melatonin. So, while I was indeed driven out of my office, I managed to keep enough of my wits about me to pack my laptop in my bag, grab my copy of No Strings Attached and my copy of the last chapter from The Many Lives of the Batman, then get outside for a walk. I walked from the house to the train station, then took the T one stop to Porter Square for lunch at Bruegger's Bagels. Packed with protein, I left in a decidedly better mood and then walked from there to Harvard Square, enjoying the sunshine and recharging my batteries, then spent a few hours in the Starbucks at the Garage, where I read all of No Strings Attached and reread the chapter. After that, I went back outside and walked from there to the Utrecht art supply shop on Mass Ave, picked up some supplies ("our chief weapon") and then walked to Central Square, where I jumped back on the T and headed home.

As a result of all of this, I feel infinitely better about both my thesis work and my place in the universe. It also led to something of an epiphany regarding transmedia storytelling in general.

I think the biggest problem facing transmedia storytelling is that experiencing it is perceived as being work. The resistance to shifting media types is due to a combination of hierarchy of tastes (people perceive theatrical-release film as being the highest of all media types, and additional components in direct-to-DVD releases, comics, novels, video games and so on as 'lesser' forms) and plain old inertia. This is both bad and dumb – when transmedia storytelling is done right, it should be a delight. Audiences should be excited to see a story shift media forms because of the added opportunities each media type provides. There are things you can't do on film or television that you can do in comics, as Joss Whedon's Buffy Season Eight is proving right now. Once upon a time, news that a video game is coming down the pike based on a favorite property was cause for celebration, not dread. We need to produce better media in order to overcome this dual stigma, and we need to develop ways to engage our audiences in the unfurling of a story in the same way that we might engage them in a game. Transmedia storytelling should be a constant string of new pleasures, much the same way that a game – or a good story in any media, come to think of it – continually rewards an audience with additional 'hits' of pleasure as they find out new stuff about the story world, about the characters, about the plot, and so on. Transmedia extensions shouldn't feel superfluous, they should enrich the world and make the audience hunger for more. Henry's right – each component should make a valuable contribution to the whole. All too often I think producers forget that, which reinforces the negative perception of transmedia extensions as cheap grabs for more money. We've got to overcome that.

That's what I have to bring to the conversation. Dena's done an absolutely bang-up job in her research in the field, but I think my own thoughts from a storyteller's perspective, coupled with my experience in game design, software design and user interface design, means that I really do have a valuable contribution to make here. I just had to give my brain the things it needed (protein and melatonin) to get me back into the right mindset to see it. With that in place, and with the reassurance that creative, positive places like Henson do in fact exist, I'm feeling recharged and ready to dive back in.

My THESIS will be good, and it will be mine. It may not be as strong as Dena's PhD research, but then again it is only a Master's thesis. I've got to leave something to do if CMS gets that PhD after all, right?



CMS needs a Ph.D program. Current THESIS score: 17,897 and rising like a rocket, and I've barely scratched the surface of what I want/need to say, much less firmly grounded it in the sociohistorical context of academic media theory. Fark.

The flop of L'Enfant Plaza.

Courtesy of my old brother Nick, the must-read piece of the year: Pearls Before Breakfast in the Washington Post. Go. Read it all. Now. It's worth it.

Fun with headlines.

Still slogging through the THESIS like tap-dancing through molasses, but I just had to post about this one. I fired up my browser this morning to read the news and my eyeballs tripped over this headline in the New York Times: "Female Briton Feared the Worst in Iran."

Friends, this is horrible English. When I was a kid and my Mom proofread the stuff that I wrote, one lesson she drilled into my head repeatedly was that ambiguity is bad. Unclear sentences are the writer's archenemy, because any time a sentence makes a reader pause and say, "Wait – What?", the reader stumbles out of the writer's carefully-constructed world. Suspension of disbelief is shot. True, this ambiguous headline actually got me to click on the story, but only because I wanted to know what the worst-feared Briton in Iran looked like. Thirty feet tall! Eyes that shot fire! Razor-sharp claws and teeth like flaying knives! RUN! IT'S THE WORST-FEARED BRITON IN IRAN!

Ahem. Yeah. The headline writer for the Times needs to have a little sit-down with his editor.


Happy Easter, while it still is.

A few quick observations and comments to post today, while it's still Easter...

First, on the topic of Easter, apparently good Catholics (and probably most good Christians) do not share my amusement at the notion of Christianity as qualifying as a kick-ass religion due to its central figure being a member of the undead. Cheerily wishing my Catholic girlfriend a "Happy Zombie Jesus Day!" this morning didn't go over so well, and my attempt to improve matters by further detailing Easter as the day "Zombie Jesus rose from the grave to devour the brains of the Jews", well, didn't. Oh, well. Me, I prefer to believe that Jesus and God both have a great sense of humor. Proof: the platypus. 'Nuff said.

Second, I didn't accomplish nearly enough on the thesis front today, in large part due to my spending most of the day chowing down on Easter candy and watching movies. In the last 24-hours-and-change I've watched Eragon, Flushed Away, bits of The Big Lebowski and, my favorite of the lot, The Good Shepherd in its two-hours-and-forty-five-minute entirety. The back of the DVD box advertises The Good Shepherd as being The Godfather of spy movies, and it may very well be right. I thought it was fantastic, and I'm now more impressed than ever by Matt Damon as an actor. While I thought his turn in The Bourne Supremacy was fairly wooden, his take on CIA co-founder Edward Wilson was wooden in a good way, bringing the character a kind of firm stoicism yet still showing just enough of a struggle just underneath the surface to qualify as a brilliant performance. Well done, sir, well done. I also spent part of the day looking at books about houses and sketching up possibilities for a house of my own, which has become something of a hobby in and of itself in the last year or two. I blame my mom, whose life has been taken over by a similar hobby in the same timeframe. Unlike Mom, I do not yet have an actual scale papercraft model of my house. What can I say? She's been doing this a lot longer than I have.

Thirdly, a belated congratulations to my college friend Jessica Edwards on the event of her wedding. I'm mildly annoyed that I didn't get invited to the big day, but I probably couldn't have made it anyway. Pesky THESIS. So congrats from the other side of the continent, Jess – I hope you and the pirate will be very happy!

Fourthly, I am more annoyed that it is National Poetry Month and I haven't gotten to do any form of non-THESIS writing so far. Last year I banged out 30 short poems in 30 days, and this year I'd hoped to throw together a short chapbook's worth of stuff, but the idea of doing that on top of the THESIS is laughable. It's too bad, too, because I had a great title for the chapbook all picked out, a phrase that's been bouncing around my brain for the last couple of months: The Ghost of Something Better. I even have the beginnings of an opening stanza for the titular poem, but oh well. I suppose there's still a chance that I'll get to work on it sometime before National Poetry Month is over, but for now, it's all THESIS, all the time. Tomorrow I have to make up for lost time; if I can have a Monday that's as good as yesterday's Saturday, I'll be in good shape. Wish me luck!



I'm beginning to think that the title of my THESIS, Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company, might be something of a misnomer. True, the entire middle third of the paper is dedicated to Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and all their respective transmedia extensions, but the paper's index will also include references to:

  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Sandman
  • Hellboy
  • Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt
  • Stephen King
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Final Fantasy XIII
  • Dr. Who
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Harry Potter
  • The Matrix
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Bible
  • Stargate
  • Apollo
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Peter Pan
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Mobile devices
  • Joseph Campbell
  • Manga
  • Keats
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Greek mythology
  • Web 2.0

In other words, when it's finished it's going to be a pretty solid map of my head. Kind of. Good grief, it's going to be a mess...

Current processed word-count: 13,605, and about half of that is brand new stuff, not just spliced-in stuff. Man, I need a break.

Coming attractions.

Feeling better about the THESIS – it's remarkable what a good night's sleep will do for one's state of mind. I woke up early this morning and went back at it, and now some clarity is beginning to emerge. I'm chopping out a lot more of my existing work than I'd hoped, but again, leaner and meaner isn't at all bad in this context. I still doubt I'll have any trouble hitting the 60-page mark. At all.

A taste of the thesis in general:

I was born in December of 1977, which means that I was four when Jim Henson's THE DARK CRYSTAL came out in 1982 and eight when LABYRINTH was released in 1986. As a result the Henson 'dark fantasy' films struck me right between the eyes – if anything, I discovered them just a little too early, as evidenced by my memories of sitting in a friend's living room to watch THE DARK CRYSTAL on TV and being scared out of my mind. What were these huge, lumbering monsters that looked like rotting vultures in dresses, these "Skekses" things? What was this alien world, this alternate universe? My discovery of LABYRINTH at age eight was more forgiving, although I still feel the same odd fearful twinge I got from the Skekses when I watch David Bowie perform, well, anything. Where is this Labyrinth located? Who built the Labyrinth? Why doesn't Jareth, the Goblin King, appear to be a Goblin himself?

Henson's worlds are so rich and enticing that audiences often find themselves longing to know more about them, and Henson is happy to oblige. Each of these films was accompanied by a companion book, THE WORLD OF THE DARK CRYSTAL in 1982 and THE GOBLINS OF LABYRINTH in 1986, that fleshed out the world introduced to audiences on the screen. These early examples of transmedia storytelling serve as exceptionally useful examples of the aesthetics of transmediation, especially when examined in the context of the futher transmedia extensions the Jim Henson Company created for these franchises in the mid-2000s, the manga series RETURN TO LABYRINTH and LEGENDS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL, as well as the film sequel THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL.

First, however, the question must be addressed: what exactly is transmedia storytelling? The first section of this thesis will begin with Henry Jenkins' 2003 MIT Technology Review article "Transmedia Storytelling" and the relevant chapter in his 2006 book CONVERGENCE CULTURE, then expand on his thoughts to provide more examples of transmedia storytelling, some suggestions for possible useful distinctions between types of transmedia storytelling, and list some recent transmedia franchises, hopefully demonstrating that transmedia storytelling is a rapidly-growing (and maturing) form of entertainment.

The second section turns to the Jim Henson films. By closely examining how THE WORLD OF THE DARK CRYSTAL and THE GOBLINS OF LABYRINTH extend the original films, and how the later extensions relate to these books, a sort of 'aesthetics of transmediation' begins to emerge. In this section I'll argue for the importance of what the poet John Keats called 'negative capability' in the crafting of a story that might be considered for transmedia extension – which, in our current franchise-hungry entertainment industry, is essentially all of them.

The third section of this thesis digs deeper into the challenges facing transmedia storytelling. If transmedia storytelling is to further flourish as a viable technique, or potentially evolve into a narrative form in and of itself, what are the obstacles it needs to overcome? Further, what are some possible solutions to those challenges? This section will suggest some possible directions that transmedia storytelling might develop in the next few years and describe some tools, for both storytellers and audience members, that might assist in its growth.

I grew up enjoying stories that slip and slide across media forms like water. This thesis begins to explore both the financial and aesthetic factors of crafting these types of stories – the business, aesthetics and production of transmedia storytelling. Examining the basic underlying principles of transmediation leads to a better understanding of the unique opportunities afforded by films, television, books, comics, video games, and emerging media forms like mobile devices and alternate reality games. This thesis aims to provide each of the four camps of people associated with transmedia entertainment – the storytellers, the suits, the audiences, and the academics – with increased insight into the crafting of compelling narratives that lure audiences across multiple media forms and through cohesive worlds of true transmedia entertainment.

You know you're doing something right when you want to read it! Maybe a new credo should be "Never believe your own hype, but always write what you want to read..."


Death by THESIS.

It's official. My THESIS is kicking my ass.

I've been writing the THESIS in bits and bursts all semester, if not all year. As a result, I have multiple documents that are each somewhere between 2000 and 9500 words. I thought that at this stage, it would be fairly simple to stitch all these together. Hah! instead I found myself driven out of my favorite writing spot this afternoon, tearing my hair out due to the inconsistencies between the different pieces, since they were all written at varying stages of my comprehension of the topic at hand. Add to that the sheer scale of trying to wrap your head around Transmedia Storytelling at all and it makes a grown man choke.

This is all distinctly odd, actually, because prior to this I thought I had a good handle on things – and, all told, I think I actually do – but I'm going to take this weekend and first write up everything that I've been talking about in my recent presentations, then try to figure out where (and if) all the other artifacts from this year's research fit in. After that I'll go back through my clippings of quotes and other such things and work those in where appropriate to support my arguments. Once the dust clears from that, I'll see where I stand. The THESIS only has to be between 60-120 pages, which should be a cakewalk; I have 20 pages in one document alone, 30 in another, and a whole pack of smaller ones snapping around their heels. The trick is getting them all to play nice with each other, and then chopping out the cruft, refining them into one single sleek, devastating intellectual requirement-killing machine.

So, yes. Death by THESIS. The trick is turning it from my death into the requirement's...


Man, I love teaching.

Me and Ilya

Suffice it to say that teaching Barry's Toy Design Workshop went extremely well. I had a couple of technological hiccups when my laptop initially refused to play nice with the projector, but those got themselves sorted out in short order and I proceeded to present the first ~20 minutes of my thesis lecture on transmedia storytelling. I've discovered that the first third of my presentation, before it veers off into Henson territory, serves well as a sort of transmedia primer, so I've gotten tons of mileage out of that in the last couple of weeks. The other guy in the photo up there is my friend Ilya, who lectured on the wild, wonderful world of advertising. Between the two of us, I think we gave a pretty good show – the students seemed to enjoy it, anyway, and there was a ton of laughter and camaraderie by the end of the evening.

Dear sweet heavenly host, I wish CMS had a Ph.D.


Announcing LIT@MIT.
I'm not entirely sure if this is public knowledge yet, but we're close enough to the actual launch that I think I can make the announcement here (so my small readership might get a sneak peek). This week we've finally pushed one of my major MIT projects live: the new (and greatly improved) website for the Literature Section at MIT,

I first started working on this project when I arrived at MIT last year, and while it was only supposed to be a part-time one-year RAship here (along with my work for C3), it wound up going through numerous revisions, reinventions and other snags along the way. Working with academics can often be like herding cats – getting the entire faculty of the literature section to agree on anything proved to be impossible, but at the end of the day I think we managed to create something that's both very beautiful and extremely useful, as well as a platform upon which my successor, Belinda Yung, can build out a really amazing experience over the next couple of years.

I'd like to thank my close co-workers on the project here at MIT: Professor Shankar Raman was my closest conspirator, along with the head of the section Professor James Buzard and Professors Mary Fuller and Ruth Perry. Professsor Diana Henderson was a joy to work with, as always, as were Professor Wyn Kelley, Professor John Hildebidle, Professor Stephen Tapscott and Professor Sarah Brouillette. I had a great time working with almost the entire section, to be honest. Great folks with a passion for their work – usually a recipe for a fun project.

When this eventually makes its way into my portfolio, it'll fall into both the 'interactive' and the pending 'identity' sections. The new LIT@MIT logo I designed, above, made its debut last year and has been trickling its way out across all of the section's announcements and materials. It's designed to feature multiple colors (as evidenced by the website) and be easily recognizable at a distance, with the 'L' shape of the pages echoing the L in 'literature', of course.

This evening I'll be attending a LIT@MIT event as a photographer, as the section hosts Jamaica Kincaid for a guest lecture and reading. I'm looking forward to this – I greatly enjoyed Kincaid's A Small Place as an undergrad and I seem to recall my Mom enjoying her copy of My Garden (Book). I'd like to think that the event was being held to celebrate the release of the website, but I know better. :)

After that, I'm rushing off to teach my second class this week, the Toy Design Workshop of my friend Barry Kudrowitz, where I'm co-lecturing with another of my friends (and old C3 colleague) Ilya Vedrashko. I'll be speaking on transmedia storytelling (natch), and Ilya will be speaking on product design and branding (also natch) – the curious can get a sense of my talk by reading an essay I posted to this blog nearly three years ago, "On Toys and Transmedia Storytelling." Rereading it now, it's funny to see how my ideas both have and have not changed during my time here – if anything, my graduate school experience has honed and expanded my thoughts at the same time. Which, I suppose, is exactly what grad school is supposed to do.

Anyway, gotta run – still a ton left to do in the next couple of hours before the evening's events. Enjoy the site!

If Apple made vacuum cleaners.

Over Spring Break I splurged a little and bought something I've wanted ever since I first lid eyes on it last fall: the Dyson Root 6™ handheld vaccuum cleaner. Definitely the winner of the "you spent what for what?" award in our household recently, but I love this thing. It's not a Dustbuster, it's a weapon – complete with gun-style trigger and sci-fi styling. Hefting this baby in your hands makes you feel like Master Chief gunning for aliens. Ladies, if you want your men to do more cleaning around the house, buy him one of these.

Now, granted, the Root 6 isn't perfect – its suction isn't quite as powerful as I'd expected and the battery ran down a lot faster than I thought on its first use, but still, this thing is pretty dang cool. Plus, anything that helps me keep my studio clean is a big win.

Wow. I think I just took the whole "clean-to-procrastinate" thing to a whole new level.

David's got a brand-new reel!

My old friend (and I do mean 'old') just posted his new 2007 portfolio. There's some great stuff in there, and I love the way he spliced some of the dialogue in his pieces together into a conversation. Anybody need an animator?

Caitlin at

Wow. My ex-girlfriend Caitlin just got a nice little writeup over at Attagirl!

Links list: 04-04-07.
New Apple upgrades?

Word on the street this morning is that Apple just bumped their top-of-the-line Mac Pro to an 8-core system, meaning each one sports two 3GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processors. It's been a while since I've been in the market to upgrade my tower – it's a dual 2-GHz PowerMac G5 – but I'm waiting to see how well it handles CS3 and Leopard. Part of me wonders at exactly what the power increase would be; if Leopard and CS3 really destroy these old processors I might consider it, but as superficial as it sounds (hey, I am an Apple designer junkie) I honestly doubt I'll upgrade until they redesign the exterior. The Mac Pro is still essentially a G5 tower, which is feeling really, really dated by now. Well, to me anyway. I'd love to see Apple do a complete surprise at their next unveiling and reveal cherry wood cases or something completely bizarre for their next iteration, but I get the feeling Ive's gang has its hands full with the iPhone
and the rumored iMac redesign and views the Mac Pro as more or less a 'perfected design', which is kind of sad. Resting on one's laurels is almost always fatal in this industry.

Also of note, Apple also lowered the prices of their Cinema Displays, which brings the 23" down to $899 from $1299, which is impressive, but not as impressive as the bargain-basement prices for ACDs in the refurb department: $550 for a 20-inch, $749 for the 23-inch and the 30-inch for $1599. $1599 for the 30-inch behemoth that debuted at three grand! Of course, this is probably just an attempt to clear out this stock before the new revised line of displays drops this summer, which will likely sport HDCP, integrated iSight cameras and potentially a thinner bezel (they always seem to sport a thinner bezel). If Apple were clever, they'd also add some additional ports – my old blue-and-gray Studio Display had video-in ports on the side and a toggle switch to choose between the Mac and my VCR or game station or whatever. To get that same functionality back, I'm now eyeballing a $350 HDMate adapter to plug in my Xbox 360. Not cool. Apple giveth and Apple taketh away...


Great day!

Wow, my first full day back in Boston after break and so far it's shaping up to be a great day. First, I came back to find that my facelift of Henry's weblog has finally gone live, and, perhaps more importantly, people really seem to be digging it, Henry among them:

Over the past few months, I have been working with Geoffrey Long, a CMS Masters Student, to develop a look and feel for the site which preserves the familiarity of the original but gave it a little more polish. I hope you like the results. Long by the way has also been responsible for the redesign of the Comparative Media Studies homepage and for the logos for the Convergence Culture Consortium and is currently finishing up work on the MIT Literature Section home page. He's certainly left his mark as a designer on MIT! And his thesis research which centers on transmedia storytelling, negative capability, and the Jim Henson Company will make his own kind of splash before much longer.

Then today I guest-lectured Henry's class, which was an absolute blast after I actually found the class. I'd discovered way too late this morning that I didn't know where the class actually was, but I found it, hooked up my laptop and gave the first part of my thesis presentation, and then we wound up spending about an hour talking about transmedia concepts, modeling and creation. It was fantastic, and reminded me how much I really do love teaching. Man, I wish CMS had a Ph.D. Maybe sometime in the next couple of years – I really do love teaching this stuff...

Anyway, then I found out my 2 o'clock was cancelled, so I now have a chance to polish up a couple of things here on campus before heading out to a haircut at 5:30. Also, today's Laura's first day working at Pottery Barn, so I'm excited to hear how that goes. All things considered, life is really good right now – onward!