Let me preface this with the admission that I haven’t used Google+ nor am I a tech blogger. I’m just a guy whose fiancée happens to be on the other side of the continent. And I think “Hangouts” are brilliant.
I think this “Hangouts” feature of Google+ is brilliant in that it addresses one very core problem with video telephony: the expectation of interaction. While you’re on the phone, you can be doing plenty of other things. While you’re on video chat, in a way, you’re on stage. You feel like your full attention should be given to the chat at hand. Which is a real bummer if all you want to do is…well…hang out with the other person.
My fiancée is beautiful. I love to look at her. But I’m in Washington and she’s 3000+ miles away. Thanks to video chat seeing her is no longer such a barrier. The problem is that we always feel like video chat forces us into having a “conversation”. What if all we want to do is enjoy each others’ company? I can still look at her when we’re not talking, but after some time “looking” turns to “leering.” And no one wants to creep out the woman they’re about to marry!
So we came up with a solution: We watch TV shows on our laptops together. (Everyone facing a long distance relationship – here’s a big tip for you.) We make sure we’re on the same site (Hulu or Netflix) or buy from the same online store (iTunes or Amazon) and then we sync up our strikes of our respective play buttons. And there we are, in each others’ company, just watching TV. To “hang out.”
Hangout isn’t new technology, it’s just a new framework for existing technology. And that can be just as revolutionary. Kudos to Google.
Spot Leonardo strutting:
Via the always entertaining chinaSMACK: a collection of Photoshopped images of Leonardo diCaprio strutting. Some really great ones in here.
Pinktentacle posted a collection of Japanese medical woodblock prints from the mid-nineteenth century that are awesome. Many of them seem to essentially be advertisements for different medical products. I particularly love the personification of disease. That cholera beast! Here are a few of my favorites.
Pills for syphilis and gonorrhea:
Chasing measles away:
I know it’s basically already the weekend, but here’s a little data porn (SFW) to lose yourself in while you’re sneaking whiskey from your filing cabinet to wind down the late afternoon hours.
Zach Seward pointed out this big giant data dump from Mint! From anonymously collected transactions they’ve put together averages for venues in cities around the country. Here’s one from San Francisco for Rainbow Grocery:
[Ugh. Embed fail. Here's a link. The salient point here is that the average Rainbow Grocery bill is 75.54.]
Now I’d expect Safeway, the not-so-granola grocery chain, to come in with a higher average. They sell meat, for example. And meat is more expensive than vegetables, right? But Safeway comes in at a $40.11 average. ‘Spensive produce at the old Rainbow. (Though I think that has more to do with the fact that Safeway sells booze and all those folks are in there on the weekend buying twelve packs of Corona before the BBQ (#youbrosknowwhoimtalkingabout)).
Go play with it. Awesome.
Gawker’s got an “emotional timeline of 9/11 courtesy of Wikileaks”. This is based on an analysis of 573,000 pager intercepts. (Yes, “pager” intercepts.)
Well that’s for all of you who, like me, are probably going to spend the first night of your weekend hunched over your laptop trying desperately to eke out a few thousand words on your novel of ridiculous scope.
For everyone else – enjoy the weekend:
Behind “Andrew vs. The Collective” on Kickstarter & an update
The Kickstarter Blog has just posted an interview with me about Andrew vs. The Collective. Here’s a quote of myself, in block quotes from another site, selected by myself:
The way I see it, each Kickstarter project’s backing period plays out like a story. You have the main narrative arc (“Will this project reach its funding or not?”), but in order to keep attracting new people, you have to build in some subplots. Some story beats.
Andrew vs. The Collective was essentially a seven-act story: the introduction and then each of the six short stories. Each week the narrative was: “Can Andrew finish this week’s story?”
Go read it!
Meanwhile Project Lazarette is going swimmingly. The book is outlined in detail and I have been cranking through the word creation. It is, like its subject, a monumental task that requires a lot of time just working on it. No silver bullets, just hours of work.
This is what I can tell you so far: There are two main characters. Their names are Daniel Penn and Meg Percy. There are three total parts to the book. I am, today, closing in on the end of the rough draft of the first one.
Word count: 32,093.
A new look for Current and 48 hour magazine
It’s been a while since I blogged, and boy have I been busy. I had all those books to mail for Andrew vs. The Collective (address-sending stragglers, yours’ go out this weekend!) and things have been busy-busy at the old office.
A personal highlight: I had a story picked up for 48 Hour Magazine! It’s called “Meet, Prey, Kill” (thanks Alexis for that title) and you can read it in print if you buy the magazine!
And then then on professional side: I’ve been running the homepage editorial for Current.com for the last few months and just last week that took an exciting new turn: this beautiful creation:
Look at that marquee! It’s gorgeous! The new design is courtesy Current’s longtime online designer Rod Naber who after five great years is leaving at a high point to go join the startup Rdio. Congrats Rod!
That’s not all the big news for Current. Last night we premiered a half hour special where Laura Ling talked about her imprisonment in North Korea. Powerful, heart-wrenching stuff. (You can watch that online here.) And next Wednesday the Vanguard documentary series starts up again with Missionaries of Hate about the Uganda anti-gay legislation and the influence of American evangelical leaders. That’s reported by Mariana van Zeller who just won a Peabody for her work last season. (Go Mariana!)
All right, all right, enough work-stuff. What about me? My book-designing, printing, shipping hiatus from writing is at last coming to an end. I’m beginning research this weekend on what will be my next novel.
I’ve decided with this one to pursue a relatively traditional path both of writing (no Collective, no NaNoWriMo) and distribution (agent –> publisher –> your local bookstore). So, if anybody has any agent/publisher friends/acquaintances they’d like to introduce me to – I’m looking!
In my endless cascade of open browser tabs I found this post by author Pamela Redmond Satran on Novelr. It’s called “Reinventing the Novel” and I think I didn’t bother reading it before “Clean Out Browser Tab Day” because every week there’s another slate of ‘reinventing the ____’ stories that I open, skim, and close. But there was actually an idea in this one that really struck me:
…my husband, after watching the DVD of American Gangster, [told] me he found the movie good enough but ultimately unsatisfying. “It was a movie,” he explained, “so you knew from the beginning that everything really interesting was going to happen to Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, and that it was going to build to this big climax at the end.”
That was the problem with conventional novels too, I thought. They were predictable, limited and finite in form and scope. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to write – and read – a novel that unfolded in a way that was both more leisurely and more compelling, the way TV shows like Mad Men and The Wire did?
Yes! Totally right. Even as I was writing The Collective, my goal was to tie up the ending in the way that felt right. In other words, that would resonate with readers as the appropriate ending. (I won’t tell you what that is.) But that was because I wanted to fit into the format of the novel. Now, one could write a format buster – a novel in episodes (like If one a winter’s night a traveler… or Cloud Atlas) or one that subverts the reader’s expectations (and probably leaves most feeling unsatisfied). But then you’re looking at a slimmer audience.
But what about new formats? In the way that The Wire (and The Sopranos and others) took the “television drama” format and the “movie” format and melded them together into something exponentially longer and exponentially more interesting?
Satran’s attempt is called Ho Springs. It’s an online novel. And I was too excited about this initial idea to read through it before posting, but I’m going to be checking it out.
Any other examples out there you guys know of?
UPDATE (one minute later): Now I’m thinking about the worlds of video games. Robin convinced me over the holidays to buy Dragon Age: Origins, the first video game I’ve bought in about ten years. He sold me on it because the story was so dense. Maybe the format buster of the novel is something more along these lines?