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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

Death of a Hard Drive

Yesterday, my hard drive died. There was no way it could be restored. All 40Gb gone-never to return. Me and another guy did all we could do, but alas, death visits us all. For the rest of the afternoon I felt stunned, hollow, empty at the realization that seven months of work just disappeared. No trace that I had every initiated several new marketing ideas. No remnant of the project I'm developing called The Repository. Nothing. Nada. Gone.

No formal ceremony announced the passing of my hard drive. It was simply removed from my presence the way a body is removed from a field of combat. Grieving was internalized as another hard drive slide into place. Machine back online... work must continue... ignore the fallen pieces... only deadlines remain looming on the horizon. And in that moment I am comforted by the fact that this is a new opportunity, a new day dawning, a new clean white page, a new adventure... a new cliche.

William Matthews on Money

Finished Time and Money last night. A line that keeps rolling around my head is from his poem "Money":
What's wrong with money is what's wrong with love:

it spurns those who need it most for someone
already rolling in it.

On the bus to work this morning I thought about that as I read today's Times. And again as I waited for a transfere at the bus station. Most people were there to make money--going to work. A peculiar exchange I watched as I read the paper. A man walked up to a seated woman and handed her a folded note and motioned away from the station. She waited until he left her and then she unfolded the note, read it and then lit a cigarette. Over her shoulder, I read a name and a phone number. He held the bus he was waiting for until he realized she wouldn't follow him. Then bus 20 arrived and she boarded.

Things don't always follow the path I might have imagined. Like the poem I wrote during Monday night's writers group. I thought about posting it but it turned out a bit darker than I planned. It was a simple excercise: write about an empty glass.

Even this post didn't follow the path I intended...

Personal Branding

Listening to The Music's Bleed From Within and reading Halley's Comment about Blogging v. Journalism which lead me to another blog which posted this observation:
"The cognitive gap that I see: The media folks (generalizing) still think that the important effect that blogging is having on them . . . comes from bloggers who are sorta kinda journalists. But that's a tiny percentage of the blogosphere. . .

The other big gap between us is easy to state but hard to explain: The media is owned. The blogosphere isn't. We together are building it. The media have to try to get us interested in what they do, but the blogosphere is constructed out of our interests. It's ours not (just) in the sense of ownership but in the sense of what we care about and what we are."

I always get uncomfortable when a writer (blogger) refers to a group as "we" and assumes he/she represents me. David Weinberger's observation does represent the phenomena of the blogosphere. There is an increasing desire among internet surfers to rely on bloggers for an honest, biased approach to new and views.

Listening to Alice in Chains's Get Born Again on iTunes now.

For example, Michelle Malkin readers and David Weinberger readers may be at the opposite sides of the blog universe, but they share one common trait--a need to belong, support and sustain their blogosphere community. In a way, it's personal branding or positioning. In Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, positioning is defined as:
A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institute, or even a person. Perhaps yourself . . . you position the product in the mind of the prospect.

Another way of relating this to the blogosphere is positioning your blog in the mind of the blog reader. Why else would bloggers list books they read (support), music/movies they enjoy (lifestyle), and the ubiquitous BlogRoll (community)?

Listening to Good Charlottes's I Just Wanna Live on Radio Wazee.

Seth Godin's "Rules for Failure"

Rarely do I visit Seth Godin's website without learning something important. Allow me to share his...
Rules for Failure
1. Secrecy
2. The conviction that someone is about to steal your idea.
3. Focus on selling your idea to the government or a big corporation.
4. Loss of humility and focus on fame
5. Belief that... businesses... will hail your discovery.

Most of this relates to business and marketing, but I think it is general enough to be applied in many facets of life.

Notes from "World's Fastest Readings"

In a previous post I mentioned that I would give a review of the "World's Fastest Readings" featuring faculty of the Warren Wilson MFA program. Jane has been diligently requesting a review the event (down in the comments section). I've been telling her to wait because I'm waiting to hear from a very nice, overworked editor if his magazine would like to publish my review/commentary of the event.

It hasn't been two weeks yet and I'm getting impatient or obsessive. Every five to ten minutes (okay, maybe it's not that bad) I catch myself clicking the "mail" tab on my Hotmail account hoping to see something beside a "JC Penny Winter White Sale" web banner and a "Meet Sexy People on Passion.com" web ad.

I don't think it will hurt possible freelance efforts if I post some of my notes from the "World's Fastest Readings." Here ya go:

- Malaprop's cafe very full, people standing outside café area
- sitting mid-section near condiments counter
- Malaprop's staff member reads last lines of each writer's book as a tribute
- Pete Turchi - dark blazer, red button down shirt, glasses, salt and pepper goatee
- 20 writers reading for two minutes from their work
- Rick Barot began with his poem "study"
- Kevin McIlvoy read "the complete history of new mexico"
- Steve Orlen reads his poem "blind date"

New Writering Group

Monday night I visited a new writers group (new to me anyway) which meets at a local university. After quick introductions, the small group (four of us) got right to work with a writing exercise. We wrote for about a half hour and then read the results of our exercise. Oddly, I didn't feel out of place like one might expect. So, I read my selection first (thought about posting it here, but it needs a lot of work) and then listened as everyone else read their work. A talented little group... I'm looking forward to returning next Monday (if they'll have me). It got me thinking about something I read awhile back:

There's the poet, the audience, and the poet's... it seems to me that the poems and poets that I love all participate in this tri-axil relationship with the audience, the poet and this third party. In Emily Dickinson, it would be the Master. Rilke's angels. Lorca's duende. Whitman's America. Ginsberg's mother. With ancient T'ang Dynasty poets it would be the Universe.
--from an interview with Li-Young Lee, American Poet, April 2004

I'm not sure I have a tri-axil writing relationship. I barely know my audience (thanks to all three of you who keep returning day in and day out). But it was nice to be in a group of writers that boldly share their work among each other. I suppose that's a start, at least.

Six Million Blogs

Listening to The Divorce's Redcoats and thinking about how
Technorati tracks over 6 million blogs, (according to their Web site). How are magazine publishers ever going to make any money with Web logs flooding the information highway? Is this the end of print?

I scan through at least a dozen blogs daily (if not more) and I subscribe to at least four magazines (five if you include The New York Times). Why would anyone buy a paper copy if they can get the same info online for free? Halley's Comment addresses this idea to some degree. She was pointing out that some Web sites share information while others charge you. Where would you go to get your information fix?

Do you subscribe to a magazine? If so, why?

"You can have it all... and still you have nothing"

Listening to Pat Benatar's "Have It All" on iTunes.
Reading Halley's Comment.
Drinking the office's colored water called "coffee."

Wish I was at Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe reading William Matthews and listening to Pedro The Lion's Achilles Heel.

Wisconsin Thawing

Being that I am originally from Wisconsin, I found Michelle Malkin's post last night particularly interesting. To sum up the post: WI is no different than FL or OH in that the election was closer than forecasted (and reported). "George Bush lost Wisconsin by 12,000" votes maintaining the Blue State status. However, WI seems to be turning Red because:
"Wisconsin Law allows voters to register at the polls the day of the election... By law all same day registers are to be validated by mail immediately after the election."

Bottom line:
"10,000 voter registration cards could not be sent because they have no addresses or incomplete or inadequate information."

Oh, I so miss my Blue State. The controversy is so exciting. I can't believe the 2004 election is still dragging on into the next year. Now that they are "fixing" the election, maybe they could do something about that winter weather as well.

Graphic Design Lecture

I've been invited to give a lecture at a local teahouse concerning Graphic Design. For persons who know nothing about graphic design, it can be very technical, which is where I hit my first roadblock.

Graphic design is not exclusively pounding away at the keyboard to design a concert poster or marketing self-mailer. There are the expensive software upgrades and digital hardware cost, but also sketch and tracing papers, pencils, markers, paint, and other art supplies. A well renowned designer put it this way:

I was always personally interested in the idea that you could draw, you could design, you could do three-dimensional work, and so on… It seemed to me that one could practice a broad spectrum of activities and learn from those activities so that one informed the other.

--Milton Glaser, Art is Work

Magazine covers and book designs don't appear over night. The magazine cover design represents the content and desired message. Who is the speaker (product company)? Who is the target audience (consumer)?

I usually start with a series of thumbnail drawings.

Many factors contribute to translating a design from graphite to pixels. Is the audience 20-somethings or 40-somethings? Is the content copy heavy? Illustration versus photography? Should I use stock photos or contract a photographer? Should I use serif or san serif fonts? Is this a traditional audience as opposed to a modern audience? Is this a high budget job or a low budget effort?

A lot of these thoughts are cooking on the back burner of my brain as I draw thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook or tracing paper. Eventually, the jump is made to full size digital "sketches" using Photoshop and Quark Xpress.

Then I try to harmonize the image colors with the other design elements (color fields, typography, etc.)

Is that too technical?

My Writing Corner

From the corner counter in the kitchen, I write.

The Writing Life -- Lesson Nine

I've been following Sarah's story and how that relates to Jane's post concerning weeping with friends. I am overwhelmed with helplessness. Karagraphy posted a photo of the Jimmie Wallet family and I think of how that could have been my family this past summer—buried under the weight of a huge oak tree.

" Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

Write about winter in summer. Describe Norway as Ibsen did, from a desk in Italy; describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris. Will Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford, Connecticut."

--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I think every writer does that to a certain degree--projects him/herself into a scene. Write about death when you're living because the dead cannot write about life. Or can they?

The thing that gets me... is that I read about all these tragedies (Sarah, Jimmie Wallet & tsunami victims) and the writer in me cicrles the stories like a vulture. "Hm," I think to myself, "that sad story would make a great backdrop for a poem I'm working on." Or, "I wonder if it's going to get worse?" I hate myself for thinking so indifferently about these situations.

Maybe that's why so many journalists are hated... even killed. They write for the story... everything else is nouns. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in 2004 56 journalists "died in the line of duty or were deliberately targeted for assassination."

"Write as if you were dying," writes Annie Dillard. Vita Brevis. There is no other way to write.

The Traveling Bonfires

This week's issue of Mountain Xpress features an article by Alli Marshall entitled "Playing with Bonfires." It's an article about poet, foreign journalist, and editor Pasckie Pascua and his organization called The Traveling Bonfires.

Pascua, with the help of communications assistant Marta Osborne, technical advisor Dale Allen Hoffman and graphic artists Justin Gostony, Matthew Mulder and Jon Teeple, has created a music community drawing bands from as far as Texas.
--Mountain Xpress, "Playing with Bonfires"

It's always nice to be recognized for behind-the-scenes work. A lot of long hours designing gig posters, emceeing shows, reading poetry and driving to NYC were shared between Pasckie and myself. The first time I met him was at a cafe a block from my apartment. It was an open mic event and he read his poem "Nameless" from his laptop.

World's Fastest Readings

Previously, I had mentioned that I would provide a review of Friday night's event. The reason the review didn't appear Saturday is that I submitted the idea to an editor and am waiting to hear if he wants to publish it.

Without giving too much away, the event at Malaprop's was billed as the "World's Fastest Readings" featuring faculty of the Warren Wilson MFA program. Twenty persons had two minutes to read a selection from their work. The group represented several award winning poets and writers.

Dogs Die at Night

My son has recently learned from his mother that when it is light outside it is called day. And when it is dark outside it is called night. This morning as we left home together, I commented that the weather (being sunny and in the mid 60s) was nice enough to play in the backyard. My son said, "Nice day. When it's light it's day. When it's dark it's night." After placing his bucket of toys on the floor of the auto he added, "Dogs die at night." My wife and I glanced at each other realizing he remembered that we had buried the family pet at night. That was a couple months ago. We chuckled nervously at the revelation that his little eyes and ears observe our clandestine efforts.

Center of the Universe

"When it was discovered that the Earth was not the center of the universe, astrology became impossible," said Hawking... "One can suppose" that information is "known to God, but hidden from us."
--British physicist Stephen Hawking, from a lecture in India, [AP]

I guess I'm a bit of a romantic. My wife and I enjoyed a red sunrise this morning at breakfast. The magenta sky seemed to burn through the trees east of our cottage. Science has correctly taught me that the sun does not rise but rather the earth rotates. So, technically this morning my wife and I enjoyed a colorful early morning earth rotation.

The other night my three-year old son asked where the moon went. Instead of explaining that it had entered the new moon phase and that is waxing toward a full moon, I simply told him the moon was sleeping that night. "We'll look for the moon later," I told him. He seemed to think that was sufficient and told me he wanted to go inside. I stayed outside for a few moments and watched as he entered the warm glow of an opened door. I looked up at the mysterious "diamonds in the sky" and say Orion and the Pleiades. As long as mankind has existed there has been the desire to know everything and predict the future. But I think I like the idea of God hiding things from me.

Priesthood of the Press

I thought I'd share an interesting portion of an essay I recently read.

There is a high church in journalism, with high ceremonies, like the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize, joining the panel on "Meet the Press,"... Bill Moyers once said this while moderating an event at Columbia: "I think of CJR and the J-School as sort of the 'high church' of our craft, reminding us of the better angels of our nature and the demons, powers and principalities of power against which journalism is always wrestling." -- Jay Rosen, Journalism Is Itself a Religion: Special Essay on Launch of The Revealer

The Repository

As I mentioned earlier, I'm collecting unpublished comics as well as comics previously published in another magazine for a comic/zine called The Repository of Neglected Things or (The Repository for short).

Here's an alternate cover design. I think it more accurately conveys the art style which will be represented on the interior pages. As I stated in the comments: "I'd hate for someone to enjoy this cover art, pick the issue off the shelf," and then be disappointed that the interior pages look more like the art above. Does that make sense? Or am I too close to the trees I can't see the forest?

Warren Wilson MFA faculty Book Reading

Just received this email this afternoon. "Malaprop's Bookstore is sponsoring a reading tonight by Warren Wilson MFA faculty."

M'Press Cards, 61 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801
Tel: (828) 254-6734
Friday, January 7, 2005 5:30 PM

It's short notice, but I'm planning on attending. See you there!

Repository of Neglected Things

Almost two years ago I helped launch a literary magazine with a friend of mine. It lasted four issues and folded. Since it's demise, I have kept busy contributing writings and comics to another magazine.

I'm currently in the process of collecting previously published and unpublished comics as well as unpublished essays for a comic/zine I'm calling The Repository of Neglected Things. The first issue cover design is posted above. What do you think?

This first issue will include several pages of a comic strip I featured this past October plus unpublished essays and a couple other features.

Here's my two-fold dilemma: does comics and serious literature mix? And if they do, should I feature guest writers to contribute essays (or non-fiction prose)?

The Writing Life -- Lesson Eight

This holiday season I spent a large amount of time reading and thinking and writing. Now, in this late hour, I sit in a dark kitchen in front of my iMac and write. With a very active three year old, it is the only time where solitude affords time to type. Books and magazines surround the machine which rests on a kitchen counter that has been converted into my "writing office."

Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. When I furnished this study seven years ago, I pushed a long desk against a blank wall, so I could not see from either window. Once, fifteen years ago, I wrote in a cinder-block cell over a parking lot. It overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof. This pine shed under trees is not quite so good as the cinder-block study was, but it will do.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

That'll do, I think to myself as a rub weariness from my eyes. There's a pine tree out front of the little yellow cottage where I live. But I can't see it from where I sit facing the wall, facing the computer screen, facing my own words. I always had this romantic notion of great writers at large walnut desks writing with fountain pens under candle light. I've changed my views. This cheap kitchen counter top is the ideal place to write (or type)--in the darkness of the night.

7-11 Worship Songs

Sunday morning I visited a church about an hour from where I live. I stood between my wife and The Neanderthal as spiritual songs were song. Most of the songs I have never heard, but they were easy to learn. The most refreshing quality to these new spiritual songs is that they were not what my brother-in-law calls 7-11 worship music (songs with seven words sung eleven times).

The sermon that followed avoided the typical religious rants and presented an intelligent pursuit of the truth. I guess I'm a little burnt by election year sermons that claim God is a Republican. Claiming a political party for God denigrates His very nature. So, I was interested to listen to a minister who honestly searched for truth in an intelligent manner. Rarely found is a church fellowship like that.

The Writing Life -- Lesson Seven

The writer knows his field--what has been done, what could be done, the limits--the way a tennis player knows the court. And...plays the edges.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Automobiles intimidate me. It is not my field of interest. Cars merely transport me from one point to another. My Dodge seems to tell me, “Use the bus--you don’t know me.” I possess an operating license. I can start the car, put fuel in the tank and turn the radio on. But when it comes to routine maintenance or repair, I take it to experts on automobile behavior.

This past weekend I sat helplessly in a parking lot while my wife called her father and brother to find out how to introduce ATF +3 to our mechanical chariot. Fuming at my lack of automotive aptitude, I watched Walmart shoppers walk by my auto with its opened hood. Sure, I can design a mass market direct mail campaign but I can’t figure out where to pour transmission fluid.

Trying to look like I know what I’m doing for the sake of my son, I got out of the car and began to poke at caps and cables and important looking metal blocks that operate my auto. Each one the mechanical organs has a purpose just as each word and sentence brings life to prose and poetry. The last thing I wanted to do was pour ATF +3 into the wind shield well or something even worse.

The writer studies literature, not the world. He lives in the world; he cannot miss it.... He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

My wife later informed me where ATF +3 was to go and I was grateful for the knowledge. My mechanical chariot even seemed to forgive me--good had been done. That simple act did not make me an automobile behavior expert. Equally, the fact that I can type doesn't make me a writer.

Happy New Year!

Mankind has an incredible desire for new things. Whether it is be a new year, new job, new car, etc, we all have this inner restless search for newness. An excerpt from Bob Coy's writings summarizes this idea: "When our desires for newness is not tempered by an appreciation and gratitude for the plans and purposes... we fall into the pit of disappointment and discontent." It's good to keep a New Year in perspective.