Selections from an Upcoming Thesis

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

To spare you from having to read more garbage, I’ve decided to let loose a few more paragraphs from the thesis project. They come from just about the dead-on middle of the piece and are rather emotionally drippy, but since they form a complete little story by themselves, I though they’d work well here.

Without further fuss:

Wednesday Morning

Bbeep. Bbeep. Bbeep.

Knock knock knock knock. Knock knock.

I come halfway back into consciousness and then realize that the alarm’s going off and someone’s knocking loudly on the door to my room. I glance at the clock. 10:47. Shit. I flick off the alarm switch.

Knock knock.

I rub my eyes and get up to answer the door.

It’s Molly. “You’re alarm’s been going for an hour, James! We can hear it downstairs.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry about that.” I smell terrible. “Thanks for getting me.”

“No problem.”

She walks off and I shut my door back. My class started at ten. Depressing. I stand at the window for a couple minutes, watching the gardeners. I only see two of them, but they’ve got a couple shrubs planted, now, and a patch of pink flowers on one side. The street’s quiet, otherwise.

When I’m messy, everything in the room feels messy. Like, the dirt in my hair and the funk on my clothes accentuates each bit of dust on my books, each scratch on my desktop, the disorganized pile of papers by my bed, making them unpleasant to be around. Normally such things don’t bother me much.

I sit down at my desk to evaluate my options. I could declare the day a waste and wander down to FastMart for a forty of malt liquor. That would be rediculous, but would have a certain amount of style to it. My head’s so sleepy. Or, I could try to counteract the damage done by missing class by spending a couple hours going over the missed content and catching up with some other work.

Food would be good, but I hate going downstairs so late in the morning looking like such a mess — my hair messy, my eyes red and half-open. I take an Oreo out of my desk drawer and eat it. The sugar helps wake me up.

A small packet of photographs lays underneath the Oreos — photographs taken last Spring at a party in Julia’s back yard. I look at a couple of them. Nothing much. Just a few of us grilling sausage and vegetables. Julia and most of her friends eat meat — always a shock after spending so much time in this house. Here’s a shot of Julia fencing Carlos with sausage forks. Here’s one of Philip and Micah sitting in lawnchairs with cups of beer. Here’s one of Julia and her housemate Laura dancing on the patio. Here’s one of Julia and I standing together, looking like the cute couple that I guess we were.

We dated for a little more than a year. Maybe fourteen months. The relationship — the latest of a string of about four I’d had college — ended about eight months ago, back in August. Julia graduated the May before and had been accepted into a very nice graduate program in comparative lit out at NYU — an opportinity she’d been preparing for since she entered college and just couldn’t turn down.

Through most of the summer before her departure we skirted the issue — swimming, seeing friends, enjoying ourselves — and acted as if the day she would leave town would just never arrive. And August 24th seemed like a lifetime away from April, May, and June. Less distant from July. And by early August the reality of the matter had dawned on us clearly, culminating in the wrenching afternoon of August 22nd — two days before she had planned to drive out to New York for good.

I remember the date well because after the fact I wrote about the whole event in detail inside my coffee-stained cardboard composition notebook journal. The journal lives on my bookshelf, now, stuck between a Victorian Lit reader and a Milan Kundera novel I haven’t read.

We spent that sunny Sunday afternoon on a secluded park bench up at McLaren park, which overlooks campus and some of the buildings downtown. I knew what we would be talking about just by the tone of Julia’s voice on the phone when she invited me to come out with her. Cold. Like I frightened her.

Our conversation probably ran like a million other such circumstantial-break-up conversations have run over the course of the millenia. Of course we did not want to split up, but Julia couldn’t turn down NYU and I had to finish my degree here — and who knows where I might end up after graduation. I could end up going for a graduate degree, as well, and it might be five, six, or seven years before we would get the chance to live in the same town again together. A long-distance relationship spanning the rest of our forseeable lives would just not work. She dated a guy for a few months who just lived across the state and found that uncomfortable enough. I never have, but I could predict that I would not enjoy it.

Part of having a boyfriend or girlfriend is actually being physically near the person, doing the otherwise normal, mundane things of life with them. Having to set aside entire weeks or weekends to visit her, just hearing about her life and not sharing it — it wouldn’t work, no matter how strongly I felt about her right then, sitting on a park bench in McLaren park on a cloudless August afternoon.

Our conversation lasted about an hour, I guess. Neither of us had on a watch. The next couple hours and into sunset we just sat there quietly and watched the human traffic: guys playing frisbee in the grass, cars driving near the park and on the streets below, the few Sunday night lights flicking on inside buildings like earthly constellations as the sky truned from pale blue to purple to navy.

We leaned against each other a little, but didn’t make much eye contact. When we did, I felt as if I were already looking into the eyes of some faint ghost, some former someone already living only in some hazy sentimental picturebook of my memory — hardly real.

That was the last time I saw her before she left.

She called the night she arrived in New York. The new apartment was really nice — and close to campus — and her new apartment mate, a girl coming to town from Chicago to study dance, was very nice and cool and Julia thought they’d get along well. For a couple months we talked on the phone weekly, then those calls petered out to about once a month, and now I haven’t spoken with her at all since January. I think she has a new boyfriend, now, and is (for good reason) reluctant to talk to me about him. She has someone new to share her experiences with.

These days she really does just live in my mind and on the few photographs I have of her — and the few journal entries I bothered to write while we were together. I haven’t written in my journal since then.

[ Cut ]


Miscelleneous Bits & Gravy

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Late. Always. But I have a good excuse, this time. I had to be at home to accept a FedEx package — and I have no way to blog from home. Just the WebTV, and that really doesn’t work with Blogger.

I couldn’t use my laptop from home because I was waiting for my laptop to arrive via FedEx. Now it’s here — a brand new bouncing baby iBook. So, as I sit here and poke around at it I’m going to record a few of my thoughts and observations.

First, I’m at the Flightpath because they offer free wireless internet access. Since my new machine has the AirPort card included, I figure I might as well make use of it.

Cool thing #1: No internet set-up. I opened up the iBook at the Flightpath, and — bingo — the operating system automatically recognized the network and set itself up appropriately. Apparently (according to the manual that came with the computer) OS X is designed to auto-detect the fastest connection possibilty and auto-configure itself to use that. So nice! No more opening up the TCP/IP settings control panel each time I go someplace new.

So, I mean, I’ve had this little bad-boy for about an hour, now, and I haven’t really gone all the way through it. You’ve probably heard about some of the sassier features of the new OS — and as far as I can tell, all the rumors are true. Except the operating system doesn’t seem to run any slower than OS 9.1 on my older PowerBook. Maybe my standards are low to start with.

Cool thing #2: Everything is pretty. So far I haven’t found one part of this entire machine that I would consider unattractive. Even the connector that connects the power supply to the computer glows a pale orange or lime depending on what it’s doing.

So, I’m excited to use it some, now.

Took about six days to get here. Not too shabby. I placed the order on Wednesday, they sent the package out the door from Cupertino on Friday, and it got here today at about 12:30.

So far, it has beat my order, my James Stegall minibook that I’ve been so excited to take a look at, from So New Media by six days — and I still haven’t received that. And So New Media is in Austin! I feel like grumping about this for a bit because it seems so rediculous. I understand that SNM’s a small affair, run in the spare time of a couple guys just trying to have some fun. And that’s totally cool — I admire that, in fact — but, you know, I want my book. I think I get excited by something I see on the web, order it, and want to have it or that excitement might wear off some and I won’t be quite as happy to receive my package. Maybe other people work this same way.

Especially when you’re competing with content that provided for free anyway on the web, seems dangerous to wait so long to ship an order.

I will give SNM credit, though: Cote’ got his order last week and Ben Brown e-mailed me to let me know that I had just barely missed the tail-end of their last shipment cycle, so my order will take longer than most.

(See their site for a photo of the current shipment. Wow!)

A solution to this problem might be to make available a .pdf file of the work — or maybe just HTML-ified or plain-text versions of the work ordered — that can be downloaded and looked at while the physical minibook is on its way. Or maybe not. I can see problems with that, too. So, I don’t know how to help. Maybe there’s no good solution. Or maybe there’s no problem and I’m just being pissy.

Either way, I’m still excited to receive my So New Media minibook. I hope it comes soon!

(And, you know, it’s not as if I always deliver material when I say I will, right? It’s, what?, 3:00 by now?)

But, I have been going to the So New Media site on a regular basis to poke around. Found a couple interesting things.

First, Joshua Allen, who I slapped around for his lousy introduction to Strain 17 (a book SNM distribute), has a web site called Giant City that he has been working on for quite a while, it looks like. Concept seems to be this: Giant City’s a fictional city, and every so often (weekly?) Josh adds another story to the mix, feature different characters — and not, as far as I can tell, contributing to any major plot line (which is cool). I haven’t read many of the vignettes yet, but they seem well-written and, actually, quite apropos in style for the web. Well done.

Another quick observation about the iBook, before I continue: the screen’s still 1024x768, but it’s only 12.1” (rather than 14.1” of my older machine). So: everything’s tinier — and this will take some getting used to. The miniscule type I used to favor now sort of hurts my eyes to read. I know what this means: time to get another pair of glasses. Okay…

Second, SNM “friend” Alexis Massie has started something called AfterDinner, an attempt to create a criticm community on the web. Writers submit drafts of work, which readers the comment on using the AfterDinner web interface. An interesting idea. I would like to go into greater detail about it, but I can’t right now (unfortunately). Check it out yourself and maybe write something in your blog. I admit, reading about AfterDinner, I had a few opinions and impressions but I won’t share them now. They start with: I feel really uncomfortable commenting on anyone else’s art. I’ll share them after I hear a few other opinions, first.

But, everyone likes links — so there are a couple links for you.

In other news: I’ve been putting a lot of effort into the old thesis this past wek, despite not having a computer. I feel good about it — just a matter of getting it in on time.

And tonight is another AMODA Digital Showcase. I expect to see none of you there.


So New Media
Giant City


Burning Memory

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Sorry I’m late! Actually had time-sensitive tasks to take care of between ten and two. Like junkies, you guys. “Where’s my hit!”

A couple things, first:

* Got e-mails from both Ben Brown and James Stegall of So New Media about my last post about indy publishing (which will be available again soon). The power of the web at work — awesome. More on that next week, hopefully, once I get the book I ordered from them (like, a week ago).

* I might make an archive this afternoon. Later. So you can look at past stuff. Until then, scroll to the bottom of the screen and go to one of my other pages.


It’s been an exciting week for my laptop. The hard drive decided to break on Sunday, leaving me in the lurch as far as completing my thesis and doing other computer-related projects are concerned. Ugh. I regularly back stuff up on my web server, so I knew I hadn’t lost the world — though some newer works (including the most recently written twenty pages of my thesis!) had not yet been saved anywhere else.

Fortunately, it turns out that the data on the drive will be recoverable (I can boot off of a CD-ROM and see all my files), and I spent some time at CompuZone this afternoon with a couple floppy disks backing stuff up once I’d booted the machine using a CD-ROM of theirs.

As an aside, these guys at CompuZone have been awesome. Charged me five bucks to hang out and use their equipment to back-up — and only that because I offered it. CompuZone’s an old-school Apple dealer up on Shoal Creek near Steck. Good people.

Anyway, the fear of loosing some of my work and the last six week’s worth of e-mail jostled loose some older ideas I had about memory, events, and recording devices. Most of these ideas owe their existance to the Burning Man festival I attended with Cote’ and Mason a couple summers ago (August 2000, I believe).

You read stuff on the web. So I know you know about Burning Man. Chances are, you’ve been there (if you’re reading this and consider yourself any sort of web-enabled hipster). And you know what it’s all about: women wearing nothing but body-paint, large scultpures of genitalia, and fire. Lots of fire. And laser-lights. And, you know, just, like, being part of this big things that’s really, like, beyond description and, like, a whole new way of living free and shit. Dude. I saw this chick this afternoon…

So, yeah, tens of thousands of colorful people. Beyond that, though, were two concepts I loved (not that I didn’t have a great time experiencing the result, though I make fun):

* the dictum that you come not to watch but to participate, and

* the request that attendants please check all recording devices at the front gate (Burning Man Corporation, or whatever, like to keep tabs on all footage of the event, prefering that MTV not show up and ruin the whole thing by introducing it to throngs of vidiots).

These two items are obviously connected.

As far as life philosophies go, I think the first (participate, don’t just watch) is great. (Ignore the rest of this paragraph if you’d rather not hear me bitch.) I don’t understand people who get completely absorbed by music but don’t ever experiment with creating their own. I don’t understand people who read all the time, who love Stephen King or looking at every day without (seriously) trying their hand at a short story or some web writing. I don’t understand how people can become all firey over the Israeli / Palestinian conflict without trying to include some formulation of “what can I do to help?” It’s okay if you’re just getting started, just learning about something — but once you’ve got a grasp on what’s going on, I feel it’s a person’s responsibility to either figure out where they fit in, or leave it alone. Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m shouting at the wind. I’ll tie this back to writing by saying: you vote with your eyes and dollars, when it comes to the world of literature. If you think and act like you’re just a spectator, off the grid, you’re wrong — so don’t act like a spectator. Act like someone who has some power and the ability to choose how that power affects other people, because that’s what you are. That’s how society and community work. Shut up, Josh. Okay. End rant.

Now my mind’s tangled up in the last paragraph. Rarr. Okay.

The second concept: please check your recording devices. I don’t know if they officially expressed this, or if I surmised it from the general mood of the event, but here’s what I thought this meant: Don’t record this. Don’t show recordings of this to people who were not here.

I’m sitting here staring at the screen because I have a difficult time deciding how to explain myself, here. Maybe I haven’t had enough caffeine this afternoon. Anyway, I don’t think I need to get into great detail by just saying that I feel not worrying about the recording allows the present moment to be better. And present moments being all we have, we should take time to improve those. Oftentimes, survival doesn’t allow this: you have to go to work, which is okay but not that great, because you need to buy food and pay for an apartment — the basics. The Burning Man festival is a giant toy — that’s actaully a fine way to describe it, I think — something to be experienced in the moment, without any sort of concerns for the past or future.

Another feature of the festival aids this point: with the exception of one small coffee stand, vendors are not allowed at Burning Man. You bring your food in your car, and for one whole week, you can forget you even have a wallet or bank account. Trading for stuff’s okay, but you are not how much money you have. You are not the star of a t.v. show on MTV.

There’s a certain amount of ego-stripping that occurs as a result of this. A certain ecstatic shock that occurs when the rules suddenly change, with happy results. (Like being a college freshman.)

So, I’ll tie this back to the threatened destruction of the data on my hard drive. Not knowing for a couple days what I might have lost, but thinking I’d lost at least six week’s worth of e-mail, a couple nascent audio tracks, and a few pages of journal- and thesis-writing gave me a strange sense of freedom. Like, not only did I not have the option of, say, checking my e-mail every ten minutes from home or browsing the web for long periods of time, but I found that when I thought about the ideas I had put into the computer and the memories recorded in e-mail (or how ever), I realized I still had them. And, strangely, I think having them in liquid storage upstairs in Cafe’ Josh rather that in concrete form on the machine allows them to be more useful, more dynamic.

Makes me think I might just delete a bunch of old stuff if I decide to recover the old drive. (There is some work I would rather not have to redo, given the option.) I’m normally such a pack-rat. I have e-mails dating back to 1999 that are about nothing in particular.

Sorry. I think this post just turned into long-winded babble that probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone but me. Doesn’t make that much sense to me, either.

But there you have it, anyway.

Man, this post sucks.


Independent Publishing

Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Between the extremes of the ubiquitous free content on the internet and the pricier words that the major publishing houses bind up and sell and Barnes & Noble, there exists a realm of independent publishing that seems to be fairly extensive and somewhat difficult for me to understand.

Seems to work not unlike music and record labels work: These three tiers exist — doing-it-for-free, doing-it-independent, and doing-it-major — and artists shuffle around as they get started and wind up in one tier or another. They probably about evenly split between the first and second (based roughly on skill), with a fortunate handful rocketing to the top (based on skill, but often times somewhat arbitrarily based on current trends and elements unrelated to the music such as the good looks of the lead singer).

I digress.

So, considering that it’d be great to get paid some money for writing, and knowing that getting attached to a major publishing house may not be something within my realm of control (right now), I figure I need to start digging around in eclectic indyland to get a sense of who and what I might have to deal with. And to round up some good ideas about what makes for good publishing.

Like I said, I don’t really know anything about it, yet, except from what I’ve gleaned from perusing the web and poking around bookstores. But I won’t let that stop me from commenting, anyway, on some recent independent publishing finds. (I’m concentrating on fiction, by the way, so you’ll have to wait to see my reactions to Badaboom Gramophone — which deserves a lengthy discussion of it’s own.)

Pure Sunshine (published by Push) Push happens to be a subsidiary of Scholastic Publishing, interestingly enough, considering that Pure Sunshine is about high school kids doing bunches of acid and acting like nutty high school students. (Doesn’t Scholastic also publish Highlights magazine for eight year-olds?) I’m sure Brian James has embellished his own experiences for the sake of the novel, but it reads the same way a photograph at a party looks, as a kind of reality shot less interested in being completely in focus and nicely composed and more interested in capturing the vibe of the times. Nothing feels exaggerated (except the time-compression which writers almost always have to use to tell stories like this — allows them to focus on the one issue at hand rather than the eight different things that would be going on simultaneously in a real high schooler’s life). Anyway, enough rambling about this. It’s short. It’s cheap. And it’s a good example of mid-level publishing, though Scholastic is involved and I did find this at Barnes & Noble. Maybe Push could be compared to, say, Sony Picture Classics — an indy art-label inside a major.

McSweeney’s 7 Also, I know, not purely independent considering that it’s published by staggering genius Dave Eggers who has had one heartbreaking work already top the bestseller charts — published by Vintage. But McSweeney’s answers to no one — truly independent, though probably financed by some of the Heartbreaking proceeds and bought on the good name of Eggers and the other big names (William Vollman, Michael Chabon, Chris Ware) stuck on the cover. That’s why I bought it in the first place, at any rate. I should say that McSweeney’s has been around since before Heartbreaking Work hit the big time (I think).

Now, McSweeney’s 7 is exciting because of the whole package: from point of purchase to final read. First, you get the names of authors on the cover, but no other indication of what might be inside the shrink-wrapped package. It’s got a ragged cardboard cover with the world’s fattest rubber band holding the works together at the waist. Inside are nine seperate books between 30 and 150 pages long, each with a nice cover — really, each just a nice publication alone. The stories don’t seem related except that they tend to be dark and strange in some way. Another unique part of this quartly publication is that lack of: letters to the editor, introductory bits, advertisements, and other magazine filler I’m used to getting along with the meat articles I want. Not all McSweeney’s are like this, but 7 sure is. It’s nice. So, I’d call McSweeney’s an indy, but an indy on the high-end of the indy scale.

McSweeney’s also publishes books of fiction, but I have not dug into any of these yet. (I have flipped through the Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature and found it a bit cutesy-self-absorbed for my tastes. If a sweeping criticism of Dave Eggers can be made, “a bit cutesy-self-absorbed for my tastes” would probably be it.) And McSweeney’s runs a website with copious amounts of clever writing.

If I had to generalize what I liked about these two pubs, I’d have to say I found the pocket-sized portions to be great. I enjoy reading fiction that’s between 30 and 150 pages. Makes for a good afternoon or couple afternoons and then it’s over. Not that longer works aren’t worthwhile and sometimes refreshing, but lately I’ve been enjoying works that don’t take a huge investment of my time or money to read. (Anyone care to make a wager about what the ratio of people who’ve read the first page of Infinite Jest to those who’ve read the last page is? I bet 4:1.)

Now, I would have already ordered something from SoNewMedia, a publisher run by Austin’s own Ben Brown, but PayPal’s treating me goofy, and it looks like I’ll have to wait. Fortunately (for me, but maybe not for them, because if I get my fill before giving them money, I may not give them money) they have plenty of SoNewMedia writing available on the web in various places.

I started by taking a look at an excerpt from Strain 17, by Josh Allen. Let me quote a couple things for you to demonstrate how to make Josh Knowles totally lose interest in your writing.

From the author’s description: “So I selected a structure that would reward both a lack of planning and a limited time-frame: the first-person fictional autobiography. I heartily recommend this format for all writers looking for an easy out.”

The first sentence of the free sample on the web: “I’m asked to stay late one day and the van leaves without me, shrugging, and I feel like I’ve been socked in the gut. The teacher’s lounge has orange fluorescent lights overhead. The table is shaped like an egg, a brown egg. ‘Son, we just want to try something real quick here and please rest assured that it’s completely by the book.’”

So, you happily wrote crap and, oh!, look — there’s the crap. Good for you. Next.

Next, I decided to get interested in The Brick, a serial written by James Stegall, one of the SoNewMedia crew, I gather. Thankfully for my wallet, turns out it’s also published online — in its entirety — at Serialtext.

Let me talk about Serialtext for a sec — as an aside. If you check out “About Serialtext,” you will be greeted with these bold words: “Dickens, Flaubert, et al. It’s how they started.” This is the most succint argument for web publishing that I’ve come across to date. Maybe you think otherwise. I wonder what parallels could be draw between magazine publishing in the 19th c. and web publishing in the 21st… I don’t know enough of the history, but any site that leads itself off with such a title wins my attention. For a few days, before I get distracted by Fox TV, again.

Serialtext has a philosophy obviously drawn from the normal continuum of literature (meaning, not web lit) and they attempt to execute that philosophy without much fluff. Right on.

Anyway, The Brick reads, unfortunately, sort of like weblog entries do: each “chapter” is rather short and they don’t glue together exactly right. Seems to be a short-attention-span Thomas Pynchon approach to pop culture. Each “chapter,” though keeps my attention and tells a story well enough on its own. I’ll probably keep reading this.

Back to SoNewMedia itself. I like that they publish “Minibooks.” Like I said, I like the minibook concept (and “minibook” sounds much better than “novella,” in my opinion.) I would like to have more minibooks. Also, they accept minibook submissions (7000-8000 words — that’s about 30 pages of 12pt Times) and have a good deal for indy writers — they split the $3 they get for the book with you 50/50. I don’t know for sure, but I bet Random House gives authors… 5% or gross sales. Maybe 10%. (At least, this is the case if book pubishing economic work anything like record label economics.)

So, I like SoNewMedia. but I don’t like the book designs (at least as they look on the web). They look like O’Reilly programming textbooks, mostly. To me, books are unified pieces of physical art, with the packaging, cover art, font, margins, et al all being quite important to communicating the content of the book. Of for at least making the book more pleasurable to be around. A publisher can ignore these things, but to me, it’s like a publisher not checking the spelling in the book. Sure, a book with spelling errors still makes as much sense as one without, but it’s just not as “nice” or “professional” or whatever. Most books, in my opinion again, don’t have good physical design. McSweeney’s sure as hell does.

So that’s all I want to write about that right now. I also looked around at Henry Rollin’s 21361 and 4 Walls 8 Windows, other “big name” indies. Look for yourself, if you’d like. Tell me what you think.

Internet Explorer just crashed, so we’ll leave it at that.


Push Publishing
Excerpt from Pure Sunshine
McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies
Excerpt from Strain 17
The Brick
4 Walls 8 Windows

(I stick the links at the end instead of inline as a way to convince you to read all of what I have written before jumping around like the hyper-caffeinated web monkey you are.)


Mixed Bag

Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Okay, you greedy little monkeys. Sorry I’m late posting this week — I had a meeting with my thesis advisor this afternoon that lasted until about 2:30.

It’s been a busy week.

The most significant advences made, though, have been in the field of Cote’ Simulation Technology (CST) — an area of study which will become highly valued as the total amount of media space (hours of programming available multiplied by the number of media outlets broadcasting) increases and exponentially more viable filler must be developed to create the illusion of non-commericial content.

The current version of the CST app is designed for talk radio usage. Using a looping function that smoothly extracts fragments of prerecorded audio, a composite can be built that will be perceived by a radio audience as a continuous ranting and babbling of the sort they are most likely already used to. But since the CRT only requires one minute of input audio (instead of the several hours a traditional radio program needs), production costs can be cut dramatically.

Some examples of CST in action:
The Cote’ Morning Zoo Radio Show (2MB)
The Cote’ Late-Night Crazy Conspiracy / Alien Show (2MB)

If you wish to license CST technology for your company, please contact This software can be used to auto-generate radio programming, academic lectures, political speeches, calls home to mom — and more!

And in other news…

I’m sitting at the Spider House feeling rather groggy. Having completely addicted myself to Dr Pepper and Pepsi during the past month, I just can’t summon up the energy to take on the world without a fizzy caffeinated soda in hand. Life is okay without pop — I mean, if I didn’t have to be productive in any way, sleeping in the grass all day, only waking to record the few sun-bleached thoughts that occur to me, would be fine. But living, as I do, in an environment that asks me to produce stuff or do work every once in a while, I have to jack myself up on the sugar-water to set the brain in create-mode. Is this good? Doubt it. Bad? Sodas have tons of empty calories and there are four-hundred reasons no one should go near them, I know. Probably compensating for a lack of exercise or, possibly, just a general lack of exciting external stimulus. So…

Finally, I’ve been putting together some very simple piano pieces this past week. It’s just really relaxing. I recorded one and you’re welcome to take a listen:

Game Over (4.1MB)

Thanks for coming. Drive safely!



Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Charles sent me back a message about my last post (“Back to the Blog”). I haven’t responded to him, yet, but I want to pull out one of his paragraphs to write about here:

“Anyway, between the people of whose blogs I read, I think that we generate enough content, such that if it were revised, reviewed, paired down such that the irrelevant crap were eliminated, that we should have our own publication. I dunno how it would look, etc… but now that I’ve been blogging for awhile, I’ve gotten interested in increasing both the quality of my posts and readership. but to do this, one needs to have a steady stream of content, but after looking at how much shit we spew., I’m sure it’s there. it’s alot easier to keep the content flowing between 5 people than 1, becaues let’s face it: writing something creative takes a lot of energy. I may be a loser, but I find that writing 2 pages of good prose is exhausting, but you get my point…. which is why don’t we band together to make something worthwhile instead of wanking ourselves individually.”

My first reaction: “Wow, yeah, that would be cool!”

But, you know, on second thought, the zine idea has been brought up so often (in my world, at least) — and I always think it’s a great idea. It never works out, though. Never. Coté and a couple other friends have managed to put together one- or two-off publications, but only since weblogging has been the trend have any of my friends posted new thoughts to the web (or anywhere, for that matter) with any regularity.

So, sitting here now, I find myself highly skeptical towards the idea of putting together a zine. I fear that my excitement over making something worthwhile — something that people might enjoy enough to, say, pay money to read — stems from arrogance and will actually become disappointment as I realize that, no matter how high-minded my intentions may be, I’m still just wanking. Except spending a lot more time and energy doing it. And, to be completely honest, I’m rather busy right now. You are too, I’m sure. I hardly have time to get a wank in before I go to bed. I must wank with purpose.

Plus, I worry that spending time and effort on the planning stages of zines or websites or content management software (or whatever) actually detracts from the intended activity: writing. I’m much less interested in the organizational side and much more interested in the words themselves. One of the great things about Blogger is that it lets you forget about having to manually update HTML or create your own management system: you set the sucker up and go. It’s easy to do and that’s why people do it.

Keeping that last sentence in mind, I still like the idea of creating a zine — sort of.

Let me describe my ideas for how I would change my weblogging habits, first. I came up with this last week, before hearing from Charles. (Evidence that we’re thinking along the same lines, here.)

1) I will write one weblog post per week …

Instead of allowing my brain to spazz out in ten different directions every week, I’ll channel that weblogging urge into a single post. About one thing. Creating long, organized chunks of text can be difficult (and frustrating), I know quite well. But that’s usually because the ideas are foggy. If I spend a couple hours over the course of a week hammering my way through a piece of writing, I almost always enjoy the feeling I at the end of having created something and of having understood something new.

(Whoa — bikini-clad lesbians fistfighting on the Jerry Springer show. The terrorists have not yet won. Um…)

2) … to be published on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

I first chose this time rather arbitrarily, thinking it’d be nice for anyone who regularly reads my posts to know when to expect new material. Saves them time having to go to my site, see nothing new, think “god damn, why doesn’t Josh write something new?,” think “Josh sucks,” and then repeat the process fifteen minutes later. (You know you do it.)

Another healthy side effect of this post-time, though, is that I can sleep on my post for a couple nights and come back to it fresh to make sure it says what I want it to. I totally overhauled this post this morning, for example, because when I came back and looked at it I realized that it did not say what I wanted it to.


But my one weekly post doesn’t a zine make. Aren’t we talking about zines here? Right. But what if you also did this? What if, say, Coté took Monday at 9 a.m., Charles took Friday at 3 p.m., Zane took Sunday at noon, etc? (I pick these times and names somewhat randomly.) And then what if someone made a page that just listed all the participants and when their new posts would show up? Poof! Zine, essentially. And wouldn’t it be kind of cool to go through the work day thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait until Charles’ new post gets published at 3!” It’d be a nice predictable break in your afternoon.

I think it sounds like a good idea, and anyone can participate by just doing it. You could even still run your regular weblog, if you liked having a raw-thought dumping ground. In fact, in the past twenty-four hours I’ve come back into appreciating weblogging that happens at 2 a.m. after four beers — weblogging that has to happen right then, without editing, when the feelings are real. But that doesn’t preclude also having an outlet for more organized writing.

So there you have it.

Thank you Kim and Charles for sending me e-mail about my last post! I’m glad people pay attention to what I write. And the deal still holds: Pay me by responding to my posts with your own thoughts (in whatever form is most convenient).

And let me know if you want to try out this one-post-per-week-at-a-specific-time scheme.

Shut up, Josh.



Back to the Blog

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

With no help from Blogger — which has screwed up 2x in the past ten minutes.

So, several people (including Mr. Michael Coté) noticed that I destroyed my previous weblog. Well, not destroyed exactly — just removed. I hadn’t been updating it and I thought the last few posts I made blew, so I decided in a fit of general frustration with the world to just abandon the whole project. And not without reason. Let me explain:

First, I’m not a programmer (right now) like most of you and, as such, I actually don’t spend most of my working day in front of a computer. When I take mental breaks at work, I don’t hunt down cool web sites, and I don’t check seven different weblogs. I can’t. I have to do decidedly unhip things like go get a Dr Pepper and look out the window at downtown Austin or go take a walk to Congress and get a cup of coffee. A couple weeks ago I got my library card renewed on a break (since I’m right across the street from the Faulk Library). This doesn’t really prove anything, just that I find myself, these days, usually going to the web to accomplish specific tasks and not for the semi-random roaming about that most weblogging seems to cater to.

Second — and this is probably the more important issue — I consider myself to be (in some form) a writer. Like, a guy who thinks about words and tries to polish his own style with the dream of someday becoming published, and I think most web writing and, in fact, the web browsing experience as a whole is essentially antithetical to the art of creative writing. Writing on the internet (and weblogs, especially) is generally 1) draft-level writing, posted quickly (like this), 2) geared towards the shortest possible attention span, living in a world where the reader can (and will, no doubt) click away the moment his or her thoughts get grabbed by something else, and 3) rarely about anything relevent to my world, to my trying to learn about and finish the projects that I work on in my life (with the exception, of course, of friend’s weblogs, which I actaully appreciate because they let me keep up with the friend — I’ll come back to this in a sec). So, in my cranky mood, I read over my more recent posts, decided they sucked, and I decided that I wasn’t going to help perpetuate this nonsense. Other people can create and consume this crap, this mental fast food, but I’m outta here. The world doesn’t need another Metafilter or Memepool. And (with the few exceptions of my friends) the world doesn’t really need to know about Josh’s latest thoughts about driving across town in inclement weather or eating dinner with his family. You really don’t, world. My thoughts aren’t really that profound.

A maybe a new air of mystery will make me seem sexier in a rebellious sort of way. Do you find yourself experiencing the unexplainable urge to sleep with me? That’s what I thought.

So anyway. Everyone and their band’s bass player has a weblog these days and most of them don’t have much to say. But I’ve decided to keep up the weblog, though in a less webloggy way. I feel that one of the coolest things about the weblogging experience is being able to keep up with the lives of friends who you no longer get to see in person regularly. Brenna and Eric Parent, in particular (for me) and Zane (though he’s in town quite often). And, then, as Coté points out, those of you who do surf at work might rather take the time to check up on friends instead of taking the latest hip “What * am I?” test. So I’ll preiodically update this page with what’s going on in Joshland, keeping the content strictly to happenings off the web. You’ll probably read about the Austin Museum of Digital Arts some, my highly-stressful thesis (a source of some of the angst coming across right here, no doubt), my experiences as the hottest local electronic act since Fat John and His Fabulous Box, and possibly some talk about movies I’ve seen and books I’m reading. I will not fucking comment on the latest news article about some shitty thing George W. Bush is doing.

Maybe my posting style will degenerate back into quick little two-sentence quips, but I hope not. I’d actually like to turn this into something that will help improve my writing style instead of destroy it.

Okay. If you’ve read this far, great. I hope you understand where I’m coming from and, before I end this, I want to make one more point: Posting to a weblog is like dumping words into deep space where, as far as you’re concerned, they’ll probably never be heard from again. With a few exceptions, I never get any feedback one way or another about what I say (though I did get a bunch of interesting feedback when I removed the blog). If you like what I write, send me a message every once in a while responding to some stuff I say. That’ll be the currency with which you can pay me to continue writing here.

So. Yes, I’m cranky. No, not at you.


Bike Accident at Flightpath

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

I’m sitting on the front porch Flightpath reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. About fifteen minutes ago I heard a screech and crash and stood up to see a bicyclist on the ground in the street near a pickup or SUV or some sort. I guess this tall guy in a blue hawaiian print shirt biked out from behind a bus and the driver didn’t see him and whacked him as she drove the opposite way (south) down the street. The bus was stopped at a stop sign facing north and he, I think, was biking across teh street from the strip mall that Flightpath is in. He seemed okay right after it happened — stunned, sort of, and clutching his shoulder. His mouth was all bloody and it turned out that he’d lost several teeth and knocked in several more. I offered my cellphone to him when he walked up, but he didn’t want it. He went inside to use the coffeeshop phone. The girl was a young dredlocked girl. She didn’t seem very shaken up about the incident.

— Oh, now the ambulance has left so the only evidence of the event is the sole police car parked across the street with its lights on. —

The biker claimed he was at fault.

Actually, the ambulance is gone, but the driver girl and biker guy are standing behind someone’s hatchback (with the hatch open) talking to a cop about what happened. And some fourth guy is watching. He seems okay — minus the scrapes and tooty-loss, though she looks more concerned, with her hand at her mouth kind of chewing on her fingers. She looks like she belongs at the House of Commons, with the dredlocks.

One of the guys biggest concerns seemed to be whether he’d permanently made himself ugly in the mouth, having done so much dental damage. The girl told him that she’d been hit in the mouth with a basketball in school and that had flattened her lower front teeth, but they looked okay. I don’t know if that was consoling. He seemed pissed off about it more than hurt.

The conversation has broken up and the cop’s back at his car. I think the girl is in her old black SUV, and I don’t know where the guy is. He probably took off. Now the cop’s walking back to the hatchback. Biker guy was just sitting on curb out of sight. He’s getting into the hatchback — I guess the older guy driving the hatchback is a friend or relative.

About eight minutes after the accident the first firetruck drove by, then an ambulance showed up a couple minutes later and the firetruck and a couple cop cars parked nearby. The paramedics came and checked the guy out. He went into the street with the oriental chick who seemed like she saw the accident most clearly (I turned my head at the sound of schreeching tires). They went into the street to look for his missing front teeth. I hope they found them. If not, there may be some souveniers still laying around out there.

At 4:50, life seems to have returned mostly to normal.

Marty Kang just came by, a girl from E325M that I seem destined to run into once every few months. She’s been teaching English in Korea and is back for a few weeks in February. She’s got a boyfriend who’s a tall white guy with slicked back hair and a big smile. Wearing dark slacks and a neat-and-clean dress shirt.

Adam seems to be the biker guy’s name. He and the girl are standing in front of me, now, talking about what to do next. He’s missing his front teeth but I guess that doesn’t make smoking a cigarette impossible. They’re exchanging insurance information.

Sucks that this will turn into a huge paperwork/phonecall mess in the coming weeks and months. That, to me, would be the real injury — having to fucking deal with it for so long. Maybe it’ll turn out to be simpler than I think. They seem to be laughing and talking cordially. They’re both cute — they’d make a good couple. “Adam and I met one afternoon after I hit him with my truck. Struck by love, you could say.”

The older friend is trying to convince him to go to St. David’s. A good idea, I think.

Well, as far as paperwork mess goes, I guess that’s okay. The cool thing, to me, is the quickness of emergency resonse. Those guys were here. Right away. And this was a minor incident. Makes me feel better to know that this service is available for us and people, I think, for the most part take it for granted. Like it just should exist, like the air and sun. Hard to even think about life without 911, it’s so ubiquitous. Good thing. One of the perks of living in the United States that can be taken for granted.

No everyone has left including the police. If you were to arrive at the Flightpath right now, you’d never know anything had been wrong… Like this big, slow-walking gentleman who just entered the establishment. No idea.