Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

April 2008 Archives

An odd experience.
Driving home on Memorial Drive after several hours' worth of playing Mario Kart Wii, I kept thinking "FIRE THE RED SHELL!  FIRE THE RED SHELL!"  Also tempted to rev the engine at red lights, just waiting to press and hold the gas at just... the right...  moment.

In other words, Mario Kart Wii is awesome.  

What?  I work in a game lab.  You don't think I spend all my time writing and consulting, do you?    :)


Catching up, kind of.
Five new poems posted today, and I'm still five behind.  I've halved the gap between me and being caught up, but I need to get another flash of inspiration here if I'm going to finish 30 poems in 30 days.  It's my own fault this year - last year I wrote them all on a specific theme (character sketches) and banged out a whole mess of tiny little poems.  This year they're longer and often more esoteric.  I really like where some of the poems this year have been going, and they're more representative of my current state of mind (a mix of art, mythology and technology, natch) but yep, definitely more time has been going into this year's batch.

I know I have to get these finished up soon, because it won't be long before the summer movie season kicks off and my brain will turn to mush.  There's only two weekends between now and August 8th when there isn't a new movie opening that I'm excited to see.  That's seventeen films opening up this summer, and if you assume $20 a pop ($10 a ticket for me and Laura, and that's before popcorn or other munchies), I have to pencil in a $340 movie budget.  Ouch!
30|08:13 Baba Yaga
It was her fingers that undid me,
long, spidery things half again too long
and knotted with extra knuckles,
skittering things, scratching things,
grasping, grabbing, groping things,
they took hold of my pleasant delusions
and unraveled them with a harsh nasty tug,
popping loose the seams of my amorous intent
before continuing on to my very heartstrings,
drawing them out from between the meat of my ribs
until nothing remained inside myself
but thread and yarn and red.
30|08:12 Mad Hettie
The ghost beside me shudders and shakes and swears,
clutching her purse in crabbed old claws,
wracked and wrecked with something old and cold and fatal
I'm grateful I'm not permitted to know.
There's a tiny something knotted in her hair,
a kink, a snag, a snarled ball trapped in her snakes,
and with a start I realize it's a tiny baby bird,
killed before it ever opened its eyes,
the blue marbles on its odd featherless head
as still and sightless as the lady's own,
rolled back in her head, placebos, placeholders,
seeing naught now but memories and the future.
30|08:11 MBTA
Longing for release and it's not even Wednesday,
I close my eyes and blink to better coordinates,
folding myself through a tesseract and squeezing through
the tiniest sliver of an escape clause,
I renege on this weather,
I reject the contract that keeps April cold,
I turn my back on the bullshit compliance
that maintains this ridiculous hegemony -
I stand in this subterranean expanse,
leaning heavily against a squat, tattered column
and spluttering in these failing fluorescents,
I shift from foot to foot, I curse, I sweat,
I swallow my frustrations, no good, no good,
my feet scuff the concrete and my teeth grind to razor points,
honing calcium into furious fangs,
with each passing minute I devolve, more feral,
my hair growing long and my nails unsheathing sharp from quicks,
I am this beast that prowls beneath Harvard Square,
a minotaur's path worn deep into ragged bricks.
30|08:10 Protest
I will spin my hair into silver,
my skin into leather,
my eyes into milky marble,
my senses into stillness
and my days into memories of ghosts.

I will grow and weather and buckle and fold,
collapsing in on myself as the trongest of towers
finally yields to the subatomic cracks endemic to its mortar.

Get Kurzweil on the phone, ring up Gray,
tell them I have complaints to lodge,
pleas to make, petitions to file.

I rail against the fading of my genetic sequencing,
the collapse of such simple bonds
and infinitely fall fractures,
the flaw in my design
that fails to render me
30|08:09 R
The boggart stands in the center of the room,
feet apart, jaws agape,
glaring defiance and astonishment at his loss,
spun gold mountained in each corner,
and the stolen babe still in its mother's traitorous arms.
The fury in his eyes is iridescent,
his last hope for an heir spoiled,
his secret in the open and his enemies well-funded
through his own dearest tricks of the trade.
His arms are empty, his stomach full of ice,
he trembles at the thought of what his wife will say,
or if she will even open the burrow door to him,
or if she will simply silently up and leave,
searching out a better man with a more virile name.


On writing.

So I'm currently six poems behind in the 2008 edition of 30, my semi-annual '30 poems in 30 days' experiment for National Poetry Month. Hopefully I can make up the difference this weekend, or as this week goes along; ironically, it's not because I haven't had the time to write that I'm behind so much as I've been writing other things. This week I wrote two ~1800-word essays for the Convergence Culture Consortium, one on the blogosphere's reaction to Flickr Video and the logic behind niche web applications and another, behind C3's content firewall in the C3 Weekly Update, about HarperCollins' new publishing imprint that's attempting to do away with the author advance. Then, this morning, I woke up to an email from a mother on Facebook curious about what her son might expect from four years at Kenyon, which resulted in a ~1200-word essay of a response.

I'm also hard at work on some consulting projects which I'd write more about if they weren't still in development, but suffice it to say that those projects are helping Laura and I to dig out from under some unexpected vet bills and theoretically helping to pay for us to go to Greece this summer – I've had a paper accepted to the 2008 International Toy Researchers Association Conference, as have my friends Barry Kudrowitz and Philip Tan. There was a little while there this week where it looked like the trip might not happen for Laura and I, but now I'm feeling optimistic about it again. Woo! Greece!

So, yes. More details as they develop, and more poems as I get 'em done. :)


Video: the Flickring Image
Something is afoot in the land of online imagery. My Twitter account has come to serve as the CNN crawler to my RSS feeds' feature stories and interviews: little bits and snippets of news with tinyurl pointers to the latest events. As I scrolled through my account this morning, I saw that at 5:31 PM yesterday, Derek Powazek tweeted "Are you resistant to change? Join the EVERYTHING NEW IS BAD army!", which was my first clue that something was up. I thought Derek was just being snarky, so I didn't take the bait -- but at 5:57, Matt Howie followed suit with "Man, just when you think nothing can top Livejournal user drama, Flickr "no video" people go and redefine the term 'user drama'". The topic died down for a while (evidence that my circle, now in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties, are getting more interested in things like cooking and kids than teh Intarwebs in the evenings), but then at 1:01 AM EST my photographer friend Rannie Turingan tweeted "What do you think of Video on Flickr?". Molly Wright Steenson's tweet "all your base are belong to Flickr Video" was the next on the topic at 11:07, followed by my "Holy crap Flickr Video" at 11:15 and Kevin Smokler's "Flickr video kicked my kitten..." at 11:24. Right now the blogosphere is discovering something new and, like a bunch of curious kittens (thanks, Kevin) we're poking it, prodding it and figuring out what we think of it. A lot of the reaction so far has been negative, as Derek's tweet seems to have foreshadowed. (This isn't surprising; Derek's wife Heather Champ Powazek works at Flickr, so both Derek and Heather are sitting at ground zero for this one -- in fact, Heather posted a video on the official Flickr blog called 'Video on Flickr' that served as an official teaser for the feature on April 8.) Ryan Gantz posted an interesting Obama-meets-Anti-Flickr-Video mash-up image titled 'leave flickr alone', which is only one image in the pools We Say NO to Videos on Flickr (25,239 members), NO VIDEO ON FLICKR!!! (10,544 members) and We say NO to Videos on Flickr UNCENSORED! (27 members). It's the last one that's particularly interesting; aside from the fact that yes, you do have to click through Flickr's safety screen to get to it (Flickr's CYA clause for NSFW images), it's the only one of the three to have a number of actual videos appearing on its initial page. In fact, six of the thirty images on the pool's initial page point to videos, all of whom seem to be illustrating the point that – shocker! – adding video to Flickr opens the door to questionable content. Actually clicking on them, though, shows that the content isn't that questionable – the first one, a short video called 'Genesis in Reverse' by a user called Claudia Veja is straight out of art school, featuring what appears to be a naked woman wandering through a city, but the film is shot in such a way that it shows no 'questionable' body parts aside from some ankle and some collarbone. The second, Easter Photowalk 2008' by ♥ shhexycorin ♥, is a hyperaccelerated autobio piece with the most questionable bit being a guy trying to kick a pigeon or two. PETA might be annoyed, but they'd be hard pressed to file charges. The third, Genesis in reverse part 2', also by Claudia Veja, is a continuation of the first that is somewhat sexier (featuring a risque outfit, a cigarette and, later, some cross-gendered makeup) but still isn't what I'd deem NSFW. The others? A dog getting peanut butter off his nose, a cat drinking from a toilet and a dog named Gilligan running at double-speed around a yard. Titillating stuff, that. So what's going on here?


30|08:06 Otaku
Pink dye in my braids streaks my fingers,
Fuzzy Pikachu pack strapped to my back,
String of Hello Kitty charms accompanying each step
With a jingle-jangle symphony of tiny bells.

My home is a continent where I've never set foot,
My mother tongue is something I cannot speak,
My seinen thoughts read right to left,
My dreams come with tiny white subtitles.

Would that I could replace my bones with steel,
Stretch myself into an Eva six stories tall,
Stride through oceans to the depths of the earth,
Or spread jetpack wings and soar through space
Unshackled, unchained, unbound, unleashed.
30|08:05 Boom Baby Boom
Like a rock concert in the middle of winter,
Like leather pants on a man old enough to be your daddy,
Like a convertible in a thunderstorm,
A pop reference still too recent to be retro,
A line from a sitcom nobody ever watched,
This is the way she would walk into the room,
Too cool to be cool,
More heebie-jeebies than CBGB's,
Stepping way outside what my little mind could handle,
Refracting the culture of a thousand other places
Through the pretty pretty prism of nineteen, twenty, twenty-one,
Sashaying down the corridor like nobody's business,
Standing in the street like nobody's daughter,
Dancing in the field like nobody's home,
Leaving in her wake a trail of nothing more
Than scattered, heartbroken, bewildered stares.

(Late due to veterinary emergencies yesterday.)


30|08:04 V to V
Tell me a story of swords and sandals,
Set in the Vatican, the Pope versus the Devil,
The streets cloaked in fog and the sun long gone,
Long sweeping shots establishing the mood
Just as keenly as the eerie tinkling tones,
Philip Glass in the background.

From V-1 to V-2:
The deep canals covered in moss,
The whispering trickles of water now still,
No boatmen poling their ways home,
No cats crouching on stone windowsills,
Time is frozen in this darkened silent second,
As still and as cold as blood,
Tricksters lurking behind darkened carnival windows,
Peering out from behind a hundred marionettes,
Winged lions aching to surge,
Waiting for word from the City of God.


30|08:03 Ilinx
I stand a hundred feet above the sand,
lifeline cinched about my waist, 
feathers quivering at my fingertips,
the towering mast beneath my feet 
raising me up beside the deified dead.

The sunset horizon stretches out behind me,
casting we Totonac into sharp relief,
voladores silhouetted against the Mexican twilight.

I put my head down and stretch out my arms,
weaving my destiny between my toes,
and step off into my downward spiral,
a thunderbird or a phoenix.

Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.

(Inspired by a passage in Robert Callois' "The Classification of Games.")


30|08:02 Femto
Blink, no, too slow by far, not F-16 fast, 
throttles full open and engines at full rip-roar blast,
still not fast, not ultra-fast laser fast,
moving an atom's breadth, dancing in femtoseconds, 
weaving and cutting and welding and building,
erecting great monuments on the surfaces of semiconductors, 
entire civilizations on the backs of things too small to be perceived.
In Michigan 300 terawatts flex through titanium and sapphire,
primed to divide cell from cell, bond implants to bone,
change the limits of time and freeze electrons in motion,
actions so small as to be nearly infinite,
not unlike the minutiae that drew me to you.


30|08:01 Sunteeth
Tiny bits and pieces of something removed,
Artifacts that hint at a larger thing, a greater device,
A clockwork the size of the sun, perhaps,
Its warmth and fire generated by eternally grinding gears,
Shooting plasma plumes each time a tooth catches,
Darkening sunbathers a million million miles away,
A cancer machine crouching between clouds
Growling and gnashing its comfortable jaws.

These are the pieces of it that fell to earth,
Tumbling in the wake of David Bowie,
Granting us hints at its true malevolent intent,
My daughter scoops them up in the folds of her dress
Snatches them up in tiny fists, 
Ignoring their heat and their smell,
And rushes to my office to thrust them into my hands
And insist that I string them into a necklace,
Sunteeth jewelry to impress her friends at school,
And I take them from her, one by one,
Holding them up in the light streaming through my window,
And they glint as they are reunited with their parent radiation,
I swear they glow red and gold with trembling frustration,
Yearning to gnaw through my fingers, the sky and space.

They'll make such pretty, hateful things.