Category Archives: Tangent

This Blog Is on the Move

I’ve moved this blog from a self-hosted WordPress.org site to WordPress.com, which will require a whole lot less maintenance. I  also noticed what’s called a “high degree of latency” on my self-hosted site. That’s fancy talk for it was way too freaking slow. I’ll add a post later on the pros and cons of each approach to blogging. (I will seriously miss Google Analytics.) But just wanted to get a quick note up to say that regular posts shall resume shortly. WordPress.com allows me to keep my original domain, so it appears that none of the links to the blog have changed. It’s all just backend, boring stuff that’s different.

Oh, and there is a new blog theme for the new year too. Whadaya think? Kinda spiffy, ain’t it?

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Permanence of Paper: Letters from Dickens, Burroughs, and Hawthorne

I recently came across the University Archives site, and then promptly got lost in its literary offerings. It’s a testament to the staying power of paper. We’ve all heard about how dastardly ebooks are compared with the paper variety. They aren’t bathtub proof. They don’t have concrete solidity. They don’t smell good.

But eBooks aside, what about e-mail? Has it not already threatened paper? And what about future collectors? Will they horde author e-mails? Aside from the facts that there can be infinite copies of any particular e-mail and that most e-mails don’t live much longer than a few milliseconds, there is something that doesn’t feel nearly as worthy of future attention.

Not like paper.

Check out this remnant from Charles Dickens, where he “begs to inform Mr. Scholl that he spoke to Mr. Scholl’s man” about getting some changes made to the lighting outside his house. I love that Dickens writes of himself in the third person. Though apparently Dickens never did get his new light. Not surprising for someone who scribbled all day, he has terrible handwriting. My suspicion is his letter may have gone unanswered because poor Mr. Scholl (or his man) couldn’t read this note.

Then there’s this letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s typewritten, and on stationary from Tarzana California. I think at one time I knew Tarzan was a comic strip back in its day, but interesting to see how much Burroughs promotes his work. My thinking is he would be doing a fine job on Twitter if he were still writing today.

Going even further back than both of these bits of paper, here’s this one from Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s more of a receipt, than a letter, but a super fancy one which Hawthorne signed while plugging away at his day job. He apparently worked as surveyor in the Salem Custom House, before he was ousted when the Whigs came to power. Even then, getting laid off could often be a boon to the writing life.

Each of these bits of paper undoubtedly survived way past the time their creators ever imagined they would. Will anyone be able to say the same about e-mail a century from now? Maybe. Perhaps none of it is ever really deleted, and historians two hundred years from now will wonder why all the fuss was made over free shipping and low-interest loans.

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Max the Cat, 3 Months, Lands a Mega Deal for 81 Books

A cat that lives in my neighborhood, aged 3 months, has won a multi-book deal worth almost 20 dollars.

I write in the wee hours of the morning, getting out of bed before sunrise to eek out a few words before heading into the day job. Imagine my frustration when a neighborhood cat, named Max, discovered that I’m the only one around who’s up at this hour. A few loud meows outside the window of my home office, and he’s lonely no more. Why write when you can go outside, in the dark no less, to play with the neighbor’s cat?

One day I took my laptop with me only to discover something phenomenal. Max is a writer too. After a cup of black coffee, he’s a total keyboard hog. Watching his little paws fly over the keys is truly an inspiration. That kitty can write circles around me!

Once I realized his talent, I shared his WIP (work in progress) with an agent I met at a local writer’s conference. Well, not at the conference itself but in the parking garage. He promptly sold the book to Illustory Press as part of an 81 book deal, 9 books for each of Max’s lives.

Max the Cat’s first book Me & The Squirrel will soon hit at least one bookshelf.

From the Mount Baker neighborhood, this cool cat couldn’t be more thrilled. After I informed him of his mega deal, Max proceeded to thoroughly clean himself, then drink more coffee. Finally, he typed this response to the acclaim: “Writing makes me very, very happy. It’s so interesting. I like writing about squirrels. And birds. And people, since they all bother me so much. I would like to be more famous than the GalleyCat–even more famous than Publishers Weekly and the Mirror.”

Max is following in the paw steps of the immensely talented 6 year old whose story is best told on Writer Beware. I couldn’t be more proud of him.

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Glacier National Park in Montana

This past week I ventured inland to big sky country, spending most of it in and around Glacier National Park in Montana. It’s huge, and amazingly unspoiled–though the glaciers are sadly little more than remnants of what they were just 70 years ago.

We did still see an abundance of wildlife, including deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, and black bears (though thankfully the bear sightings were all from the car, rather than while hiking). There were many squirrels too, much nosier little guys than the type in my back yard. How can such a tiny thing squeak that loud?

And then there were the mountains.

Glacier National Park Mountains

And the hilltops above the tree lines.

Glacier National Park Hilltop

And the lakes.

Glacier National Park Lake

There was even a double rainbow. The second one to the left of the first is a bit dim here, but I guarantee you it made me far more excited than this guy’s infamous reaction to double rainbowhood.

Glacier National Park Rainbow

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What’s Up with Ticker-Tape Parades?

After coming across multiple references to ticker-tape parades in the last few weeks, I got thinking. How did this whole ticker-tape parade thing ever get started? One of the wonders of the internet is that any question, no matter how random, can be answered in moments. Wikipedia does an admirable job of explaining the phenomenon:

The term originated in New York City after a spontaneous celebration held on October 28, 1886 during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, and is still most closely associated with New York City. The term ticker-tape originally referred to the use of the paper output of ticker tape machines, which were remotely-driven devices used in brokerages to provide updated stock market quotes. Nowadays, the paper products are largely waste office paper that have been cut using conventional paper shredders. The city also distributes paper confetti.

Admittedly, waste-office-paper parade doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Still, there is something that just feels wrong about a ticker-tape parade that employs anything other than ticker-tape. Also, having a city hand out confetti so the whole thing can come together feels disingenuous. Though, I do understand the spontaneous thing for the first parade in 1886. Want to celebrate that shiny new statue by chucking all this paper out the window? Sign me up.

My original question answered, I moved on. Are ticker-tape parades less popular now that we don’t have all that ticker-tape? Wikipedia to the rescue again. Yes, there has indeed been a serious decline in the number of ticker-tape parades in New York since the obsolescence of ticker-tape in the 1970s. Here’s a swanky graph I made from the data:

Ticker Tape Parade by Decade

I found tons of other interesting tidbits too. Amelia Earhart got two ticker-tape parades in her honor before she went missing. Lots of royalty got them in the old days too, though now they seem reserved for sport teams. As you can see above, there was a huge surge in the 50s and 60s. My hunch is ticker-tape obsolescence was widely predicted, and that it held on for much longer than anticipated. Everyone thought: we better get one last ticker-tape parade in before it’s too late. There were three-ticker tape parades in June of 1962 alone. How can a single month ever offer that much worthy of so much celebration?

Oh, and in case you can’t tell. I started writing a new novel, and I’m willing to accept any excuse at all to not work on it. Perhaps we should have a ticker-tape parade?

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Halo 2600: Embrace Your Inner Geek

My inner geek got a boost this week when I discovered the best thing to hit the interdweebs so far this year. As Craig Harris originally posted, Halo has been re-imagined for the Atari 2600. The game is pretty simple, but it has all that you’d expect with Master Chief, aliens, a force-field suit, and of course… a big ole’ gun. I love the period graphics and music.

It’s the work of Ed Fries, former vice president of Microsoft’s game publishing division. As he details on AtariAge, Fries created the game to learn the Atari system and for the challenge of cramming something fun into 4KB. Are these Atari 2600 programs to the world of gaming what flash fiction is to the world of literature? It definitely shows that video games have spawned not only classic games, but whole classic paradigms.

Check out Halo 2600.

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$2 Portraits Project: Seeing the Unseen

As a friend mentioned in the comments section on my post on The City & the City by China Miéville, you realize how much you intentionally work to unsee, unhear, and even unsmell parts of your day-to-day life as you read the book. At about the same time, I first came across San Francisco photographer Thomas Hawk, and what he is calling the $2 portraits project. When anyone asks him for money, he agrees to pay $2 but on the condition that the person pose for a picture in exchange. Hawk captures true portraits, and he writes down a piece of the life story that goes with it.

The project has since expanded to include other photographers in a photo pool on Flickr. I love the portraits, but the stories are what really brings it home. Justin Beck added an audio clip on his blog, detailing his meeting with a man whose name is way too interesting to not record. Looking through the portraits, I’m struck with the idea of how rare it is that you see a homeless person smile. They always work so hard at putting on the miserable act to elicit charity, while most of us work so hard to unsee them. This project humanizes these people, shows where they came from and what family they might (or might not) have. All around, it’s a fascinating slice of the web.

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