Wherein I Didn’t Watch the Oscars

Good morning, friends.

A weekend away from the computer.  That was good.   I don’t even know who won what last night.  I had planned on watching (that is, DVRing) just to see Franco being Franco, but I didn’t even do that.  I hope you all had great weekends.



Some Political Sequiturs: Your Extreme Pocket Guide To Political Philosophy

Aristotle Ethica Nicomachea page 1
Aristotle dedicated his most important ethical treatise to his son.
None of the following thoughts originated with me.  I’m just helping curate.
  • Fiscal responsibility is a progressive position.
  • Conservative, liberal, progressive, radical…these are labels powerful people use to keep people with most interests in common apart.  In reality, most voters have no interest in this kind of politics, no use for these kind of names, no time for these games, waning patience for these kind of political “ethics.”
  • Members of the middle class tend to identify with the upper class because they see upward mobility as reachable and good.  That’s fine, except when it keeps us from also identifying with the economic underclass from which most of us came, part of which most of us could still easily be, and to which we have human, civic, moral and spiritual responsibilities, as they have also to us.  As we all have to each other.
  • Prudence is not a reactionary or cautious position.  It’s knowing the good and know how to bring it about and then doing it. (Aristotle)
  • We have more similarities than differences.
  • Citizens of different nations have more in common with each other than they do with their own ruling classes.
  • Information wants to be free, and so do people.
  • We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

Novel Progress: 3000 Words In Three Days

Ray Bradbury
My production role model. Ray Bradbury via Wikipedia.

I’m on a roll, and I thought you should know.   I had a low day yesterday at 300, but sailed through 1700 hundred today.  There’s no finer feeling in this process than organic production, the joy of the flow, the subconscious tying together of threads and layers, the dropping of symbols, the way your brain works when you let it. But (and if you’re a writer, I know you know this), you don’t ever start there.  You have to do the grueling, embarrassing, tiring footwork to break into those times you’re writing from what our cousins the athletes call The Zone.  You’ve heard of Kevin Garnett “playing out of his mind”?  Writing can be just like that when you consciously train it to do subconscious work.  The key here is work: just ask Ray Bradbury.

Not long ago I heard a sort of writing koan that went something like this:

“If you read one hundred poets, you’ll sound like one hundred poets.  If you read one thousand poets, you’ll sound like yourself.”

In the linked post from a blog called Screenwriting From Iowa, Bradbury talks about writing 1000 words a day for 10 years before finding his voice.  Now I’m not saying it will take everyone that long, but the point here is commitment, sweat equity, effort.  The point here is to write through the desires not to, to write through to your sweet spot, to write enough crap to know what isn’t.

A huge part of my productivity comes from being forced to look at my work through different eyes via workshops, peer groups, and input from professors and my thesis advisor.  Recently, I finally took some oft-quoted, not-heeded advice about writing in general from Ann Hood.  Namely, blow it up.  For me, blowing it up means messing with structure, order, and my preconceived notions about the book’s main conceits.  I’m not saying your epic tales should be written by committee. I am saying that I know my advisor and my peers are right about what’s lacking in the story so far.  Addressing those needs s up to me.  And so I shall. And so I am.

Rest assured, friends, this novel will be finished by May 1.  Do stay tuned.

Sad 90s Music Roundup or “Whatever Happened To Alternative Pop?”

it was probably nothing like this.

I graduated from high school in 1998 and made the excellent choice of working at BestBuy that summer.  My domain was the media department, and my duties included farming CDs (I love doing that.  I started doing it at stores I didn’t even work at), helping customers make not-sucky choices (I added that to my job description), catching would-be shoplifters (the best), stocking shelves, and looking stuff up on the DOS databases. I was also expected to try to sell monster cables to people buying new media equipment and service protection plans for PlayStations.  I was better at the other stuff.

All of this is important for a few reasons:

Working at BestBuy was like what I imagine working at Empire Records would have been like if those meddling kids hadn’t convinced Joe (that really is Anthony LaPaglia, by the way) to damn the man.  At BestBuy, all the Ethan Embrys worked in media and all the Renee Zellewegers worked the registers.  We had polo shirts and BHAGs and talked about shrink.   My immediate supers, which were team leaders directly below the department manager, were in their mid-twenties, which made them world-wary and wise.  One was a Zeppelin freak, the other was bound to name his first son Sid Barrett.  DVDs were very new and DVD players were very expensive.  Where were the Liv Tylers, you ask?  Grow up, dear reader.  There’s no Liv Tyler.

Some really good music came out that summer, much of which we listened to for hours on end via the Turn On The Fun Summer Sampler.

I got to buy the biggest microfridge ever made on the cheap because of my employee discount.  To the gentleman who had that item reserved and never came for it, we did try to call you.  300 feet of rope later, my best friend and I sailed that thing down Rt 22 West in one of the more harrowing transports of our lives.  I’ll be honest, it may have been 300 yards.  If you think you can’t load two microfridges into one 12-year-old Tempo, think again, friend.  Think again.

That second point, as you may have guessed, is the one we’ll be exploring today via a round-up of archived posts from 2009 about 90s music and 90s awesome.  (I doubt you could have guessed anything after the word via, so I hope you like your surprise. I made it just for you.  If you hate it I can take it back, or make another out of tears.)

The Roundup:

Speaking of tears, here’s one of my favorite post titles ever:  How Not To Be Sad About the 90s.  The impetus for that one was that someone really did make their way to this blog by searching that term.  Bear in mind that this post is 2-and-half years old, written well before I learned to stop worrying and love the blog.  Also before I lightened up about a lot of things.  Turning 30 is now like what growing a mustache was in the 70s.

Everything to Everyone

Maybe I Just Like Sad 90s One-Or-Two Hitters is a post about whatever happened to alternative pop in the Top 40. I remastered this one a bit before re-releasing.

Sad (Great) 90s Songs, Part II is a follow-up to above, mostly because I’d finally figured out what the third song in the sad (great) BestBuy song trilogy was.

Oh, and don’t let anyone fool you.  I still can’t watch that Flys video without losing my mind about how the 2000s turned out.  Still, one thing I’ve learned since writing these old posts is that sometimes, you really can pick up with people right where you left off, and that sometimes, old contexts aren’t as important or as fleeting as what you keep on doing.

Infographic: Blockbuster For Sale, How Netflix is Like NATO

Blockbuster went up for sale today.  For a while now, I’ve been seeing some funny hacked-by-bankruptcy Blockbuster signs as embattled locations have had neither reason nor resource to change old lights or fix broken letters.

My favorite of these is one that simply says BLOC.  It’s not that the rest of the letters are burned out. It’s just that there are no other letter letters left on that half of the storefront.  I’ve been making the joke for a while that this must make Netflix like NATO.

Because I have other things to do, and because it was a lot of fun, I decided to sum up this thesis in a nifty infographic.  This is my first attempt at an infographic, and I only used public domain/fair use images and iWeb. It’s sort of a hack all the way around.  I put it together earlier today before I knew Blockbuster was officially for sale, so the timing seems right to share.  And please, share and share alike if you dig it.

The End of the Cold War as Summated by “Brands of the World”

When deep space exploration ramps up, it’ll be the corporations that name everything: the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks. – Fight Club

We all know that companies (and specifically, the economic polices set forth by mercantilism) played a huge part in the founding of European America.  It’s probably safe to assume with The Narrator that when they run out of stadiums, giant companies will, indeed, have a hand in naming the stars in the next push of industrial expansion.  Behold, friends, The Facebook Nebula.

There’s a reason “branding” has become such a ubiquitous noun-verb in recent years, and it’s obviously tied to our increasing consumption of dynamic visual media.  In a nifty meta-critical move, sites like Brand New and Brands of the World help we consumerist natives remember our lives in corporate logos even as they help curate (you knew it was coming) good and bad design features from which emerging and veteran creatives can draw inspiration or caution.

I’m working on a new infographic for the blog that I hope to put up later today.  During my research, I was struck by the succinct political history implicit in what’s going on here:

Put your shoe on, Nikita.


Considered in light of the grist-milling  Soviet system, “designer: unknown” and “contributor: unknown” become rather chilling political statements.  “Status: Obsolete” heralds the world we still live in:  Soviet weapons and technology still unaccounted for, Soviet scientists still off the grid, regional economies still shaky, but also millions and millions of people more free; in some places, truly, in others by comparison and in degree.  Imperfect, even dangerous as all of this is, we’re reminded again and again that people cognizant of their dignity as human beings will rise to demand that dignity recognized, that sovereignty civilly reckoned with if not yet fully honored.

The CCCP’s obsolescence was as far from inevitable as is the rise of true freedom in Russia even now.  Consider all that remains to be seen as revolution moves through North Africa and possibly beyond.  We have seen freedom ramp up, and if and when it coalesces into free societies and governments, it will be the people that name everything: Free Egypt, Free Tunisia, Free Libya.  Free Iran. What might these emerging societies teach us about our own bondage to the Dutch West India Companies of our day, and to entrenched political attitudes that keep us from the business of prudent, engaged, informed civil life? Might this be the end of the world as we know it?  Let’s hope.


Martian Starbucks by firexbrat via Flickr.

Great Gatsby Video Game Lets You Party Like It’s 1929

Cover of
Hello, reason I started writing.

Every now and then, the highly esteemed Shawn Rosler drops something on my Facebook wall that amazes, confounds, and renders me generally useless with fanboy delight. Maybe it’s something about Noel Gallagher or Ken Burns. And maybe, just maybe, it’s a link to an old-school-NES-style game based on The Great Gatsby.

Earlier today, I Facebook-officially liked this text art Gatsby poster, mostly because of the sublime touch of the famous green light in an otherwise black-and-and-white homage.  Major points there in my book. Like Tom Buchanan at a West Egg tennis tournament, Shawn countered with this.