Archive for October, 2011

The Book of the Gist

So, as of right now, this blog totals more than 300,000 words. (For close to a decade’s worth of blogging, that actually doesn’t seem like very much—the Trail of Cthulhu campaign Jeff Tidball and I wrote for Pelgrane Press is more than 200,000 words.)

Let’s say I were to make a book out of some of that. What would that book be?

Would it be misery and doubt and movie reviews? Would it be about Lost and Battlestar? Would it be a slim sort of meditation on creative work or mental health or the point where they collide? What can I cull from the chaff that would be nutritious to more than just you and I?

I’m looking for inspiration to chase. Got any blog-derived books you especially dig?

Update: Running the numbers elsewhere, it looks my 1,125 posts total a little over 547,000 words, including the words of a few unpublished draft posts. That’s more like it.

Never Tomorrow 3: Further Title Meddling

It continues. I’m using a bout of inspiration as an excuse for meddling with titles for the cyberpunk-action adventure (formerly titled “Never Tomorrow”) that I’m running on 11/11/11, which I’ve talked about before. (Also here.) I have, also, now secured the necessary permission to publish the thing when it’s done. So, forward we go.

If you recall from discussions about this on Twitter, I’m in pursuit of something that sort of completes a triangle with William Gibson and James Bond titles. What I’m after should be a bit classy, a bit mysterious, a bit pretentious. Here are the two newish logos I sketched out for what is right now called Always/Never/Now:

Click them for bigger versions.

Both’ll undergo complete overhauls before the final product; this is sketchbook stuff, but I wanted to share.

Update: If you were a part of the font talk on Twitter earlier, you might be curious to know—the typeface is Ebisu. It’s what I’m primarily using for this project.

Music: “Breaking Protocol,” Amon Tobin

The Vanishing Blog Comment

The age of the blog comment is over. The age of the blog may be coming to an end with it. Also, novels have turned to ash, cinema has dried up on hot pavement, and no one has written a poem since 1955. (Photography, you can stay, because you’re in our phones and require no writing.)

Truth be told, this place has never been a hit magnet; it’s never been bustling. Some of you come by now and again, maybe read what’s on top, and I appreciate it. Maybe you put the RSS feed in your reader and sort of forgot about it. That’s how that goes.

Every time I come back to blogging after time away, I get fewer comments. I say this without any angst or smeared mascara. It makes sense.

First, Twitter is where the bulk of my blog-like material gets written these days. As I find things that don’t fit that medium, I write them here, but Twitter’s my go-to. It’s open in a browser tab almost all day long. (Yeah, I’m the guy who’s been using the web ‘face. You’ve heard about me.) When I do blog around here, I’m more likely to get Twitter mentions or DMs about the post than I am to get commentary here at the site. That’s just the way it is now. That’s fine.

Second, I think I write less provocative stuff lately. I admit, I’m wary of driving people away. But—and this isn’t me being cheeky—people would need to be coming here in the first place for me to drive them away. Maybe if I took more stands, wrote more about writing, was a little cussier, wrote less about struggle and depression, posted more pictures, slung some mud, picked some fights, people would swing by more regular-like. Maybe I need to piss off half of you to get the other half on my side. Maybe if I produced more work that had my name on it people could muster a damn.

Lastly, I think you’re all just too busy. Who has time to comment on every fucking blog, right? I don’t. I read a lot more blogs than I comment on—a lot more.

Not having comments isn’t such a big deal. This blog is as much an exercise routine for me as it is a traffic generator. I have a core base of readers and a few people come in now and again pursuing the odd search term. I guess that works out for everybody.

I compare this to the kind of activity I get on my Tumblr, though, and I wonder. The Tumblr thing nets a few likes now and again, maybe the occasional reblog, and that stuff convinces me that I’ve been read. That’s valuable. Here, I know that people bounce through the site, land on a few pages, but I don’t know if anyone’s read anything. Vexing.

This raises the question: Do I need to care? Who am I writing for, you or me?

Truth again: It varies, day by day.

The terrific writer, Tobias Buckell, went and disabled comments on his blog altogether. He got tired of moderating the situation, understandably so. Doesn’t seem to have hurt his readership.

That’s not what I’m doing. The point is, comments are not an essential part of blogging. This isn’t the medium for a dialogue; other things have that covered. I understand a lot of cameras have phones in them now, in fact.

Music: “Calculation Theme,” Metric

On Typos

Typos. Not Typos, the planet at the heart of the Teipograffeg Cluster in the Literówka galaxy but, just, you know, typos—from the keyboard of a sluggish or clumsy typist. In general, I use typos to gauge my alertness and quality of work. As the night wears on, I commit more and more typos. Eventually, my typo-to-actual-word ratio becomes all messed up and I decide that I am typing more gibberish than words and I retire for the night. Sometimes this happens before lunch.

Nights like tonight, I keep typing through all the typos, expending valuable energy and mental focus on finding and activating the delete key over and over, because Work Calls.

Maybe these give you some idea what I’m working on lately, maybe they don’t. Whatever. Think what you want.

  • Approximately 56% of the time that I attempt to type the noun, nerdist, I instead type nerdsit, which is a verb.
  • John Kovalic published a comic today about the microsecodn, a tiny unit of time which has the destructive power to ruin whole days.
  • Funshots. I keep accidentally writing about these—about the sound they make, the acrid chemical fume they leave in the air, the way they rattle the spines of neighbors trying to sleep. I try to picture little glasses or single-serve aluminum cans loaded up with a festive liquor, but then I type something about “funshot wounds” and it all goes grisly again. I picture something like the Covenant grunts whose heads explode in confetti. I imagine everyday citizens, their autumn jackets punctured by colorful slugs of tumbling plastic, trailing silly string through and through as the rounds pierce bone and splash through blood; the citizen cries out “Hooray!” and passes out from the pain.
  • Pasin. It is what I typed when I tried to type pain eight seconds ago.

That done, I’m going back to work.

Music: “The Naming of Things,” Andrew Bird

Hardwick’s Ego Satellites

Chris Hardwick, the lead Nerdist, has a new book coming out. It’s The Nerdist Way and Wired (you know I love Wired) has an excerpt from it in the newest issue. It’s a kind of cautionary self-help piece about nerd obsessiveness and the perils of nerdly hyperfocus.

Hardwick got sober and thin, cleaned himself up, and is a busy guy now. He turned things around and he’s talked about it now and again on the Nerdist podcast. I paid attention. I credit Hardwick as a factor (there were many, but stay with me) for my weight loss—I lost enough that I had to buy new jeans—due, in part, to his willingness to just talk about it. Just like that.

I got to meet Hardwick at PAX, in fact. He’s the friend of a friend of mine and he swung by the night we were playing board games and Fiasco on top of a Seattle tower. (That was a good night.) Here’s what I said to him:

“Chris, I listen to the podcast and follow the blog. I wanted to thank you, real quick, for talking frankly about turning your life around. Congratulations on all the difficult changes you’ve made in your life. They’ve had an impact on my life, too. Pursuing your kind of focus and discipline has made me sharper and happier. So: Thank you.”

Wait, no. That’s what I wish I’d said. What I said was: “Hey, great to meet you.”

Here’s an example of proof that Hardwick knows What It’s Like:

A simple mantra has guided me through the darkest bouts of autocerebral asphyxiation: You don’t have to believe everything you think. I know, right?? If you are having trouble uploading positive images to your ego satellites, here is a great tactic: Ignore your fucking brain altogether.

I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again, but the thing is, in my position, you can’t always trust your brain. It’ll tell you things you don’t need or don’t even want. It’s like, “You’re going to fail anyway, so quit now and do something fun.” And I’m like, “Fuck off, brain.”

I don’t know about ego satellites, exactly, ’cause I think ego’s a bad word (it’s not, but I can’t tell the difference between confidence and arrogance, remember), but it’s true that not believing everything I think was a breakthrough for me, too. Understanding real cognitive dissonance, really knowing two things at once, helped me out a lot. I can simultaneously believe that confidence is healthy but know in my brain that it is the same thing as unwarranted asshole arrogance. If I could somehow boil that trick down into a five-minute pop ballad, I could place on American Idol—I’m that good at it.

So, yeah, the excerpt did its job, insofar as now I want the book. This piece walks the valley between straightforward advice and the ugly truths of real practice. Hardwick warns about the dangers of following your brain’s every impulse, but he also says, “Nerds tend to spend a lot of time in the past and future, but to achieve happiness you have to cultivate the skill of living in the present.” I’m hoping the book talks a lot more about the art of living in the present without succumbing to impulsivity. I’ll let you know.

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