Category Archives: ?!?!?

vestigal pedagogy: Pure Design and Storytelling Design

from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, June 1915:

CREATIVE designs by children, from six to fourteen years old, connected with the Greenwich House and the Little Italy Neighborhood Association, were shown in the small class room of the Museum, Saturday, May ist, to Monday, May loth, inclusive. After a mid-week lesson at the settlement the children visit the Museum Saturdays to verify the principles of design learned in the class room.
The first phase deals with the arrangement of straight lines, lines with angles, dots, and areas or “spots.” These, used in balance, harmony, and rhythm, show a knowledge and appreciation of the fundamentals of Pure Design.

The Story-Telling Design, or second phase, trains the memory and inventive capacity of the child in vivid and pleasing expression. A fable or fairy tale read to the children is conceived by them as a motif in lines and spots. This little motif, discouraging as a unit, often grows into a decorative all-over design, when used as a repeat, which frequently shows a sense of humor and a grasp of animal nature. The basic principles of design are employed in the story-telling designs also.

With evident grasp for movement and a logical rendering of the whole mass, they have drawn animals as a spot which has a meaning; to increase the sense of form this spot has been inclosed within a definite space, called a” puzzle box” by the children.

The second part of this is fascinating. It feels so antiquated and contemporary at the same time.

The Self-Self-Referential

In an age of unending information, basing one’s work on a past of referentials can seem foolhardy (in America). One, educations are getting worse. Two, even nominally good educations will tend to miss a lot. We are no longer in medieval universities. There is little use (or should this be in quote marks?)” in including subtle references to the minor plays of Shakespeare, or to Sun Ra, or to Lorrine Niedecker. Unless your reader happens to be a specialist, even in a general sense.

And yet sometimes with this lack of utility…there can be an excess of pleasure. But it can also create despair in the writer. If the references are unheeded, then what is the use? The audience–already small–winnows.

I suppose this is also how the Decemberists got popular. Their relying on this.

The Generalist’s Hat

(if the meaning of the title of this post is unclear, read this story by Kelly Link. Nothing to do with the post at all, but still worth absolutely reading!)

Speaking of unclear, the way that my interests wax and wane has never been something I’ve been able to pin down. They rotate–usually for a period of 3 weeks or so I’m intensely interested in a subject than I meander off to something else. Occasionally a new interest will enter the rotation, and occasionally an old one will be retired.

And of course I am (well, more or less) able to subsume this drift when, say, working on a novel, or revising something on a deadline.

But it is a denial of my desire, absolutely.

But when I have been working on a project for 3 weeks or so–say, working on a long poem–I see something else on the edge of my sight. It’s a little glimmer of hunger for a Something Else. Say, teasing out an essay on spiritual poetics. Sure, they’re related. But in terms of actual practice, there is an actual shift and flurry of activity.

This is why my bedstand is literally and figurative a mess with books. I pursue new books, but definitely perform a ‘catch and release’ policy. My only hope, if I am unable to finish a book in those 3 or so weeks, is to catch up with it during my next cycle with the passion in question. This of course is in itself problematic, since it’s difficult to jump into the middle of a hazily remembered book.

This cycle is what I know. It’s who I am. It’s life for me. I’ve pretty much learned to accept it, but there are times when I’m feeling more ambitious that I wonder–am I doing something wrong? Why the hell can’t I focus on just one thing? I am able to finish projects such as novels much of time, but it’s not easy. (Yeah, it never is…but it’s difficult when I feel the urge to, I don’t know, develop a role playing system in the midst of the third to last chapter. Problematic.)

It also doesn’t really make for a really nice, laser-focused blog, you know?

There is also another way of looking at it, that these different projects and interests are all part of a Great Work, representative of different chapters of the Work of My Life (without getting too grandiose), different rooms in the memory palace which my thoughts and emotions call home. They are oftentimes unruly, competitive houseguests, but more or less they get along, I would like to think.

And no one gets voted out of the house.


I’m trying to make my blog posts less monumental.

save the swales!!

David Moles has the definitive word on swalegate as well as a passionate plea for sf’nal content in 2010 not to self-immolate in a cauldron of nostalgia and false-positive victimization and pseudo-religiosity. (I would add R.A. Lafferty to the list of spiritually minded sf writers of honesty, integrity and non-sloppiness.)

All I could come up with was this:

That’s all I’ve got.

A Night Inside the Lost Mountain

Goofing around with YouTube, random beat generators, open source sample databases, and poem fragments in iambic tetrameter will lead to this:

Definitely the “first pancake is always the lumpiest” syndrome going on here, but there you go.

The First Apps

A great article on 18th century almanacs as ur-iPhones:

By now, I hope you’ll forgive the ahistorical slip that led me to enlist the iPhone as a way of imagining just how resourceful an early almanac could be. It was so much more than a book. Comparing it to the iPhone helps expand our vision about how an almanac worked and what it could do for its buyers. It wasn’t simply a compendium of reading material. Just as an iPhone connects users to an outside world and provides a feast of tools designed to make our lives easier, the almanac held the same promise. More than that, it was central to early American life and culture because it had so little competition. There was nothing at the local book shop that could do all the things the almanac did.

I don’t mean to suggest that almanacs did not contain anything worth reading. After all, Benjamin Franklin’s most famous parable linking time and money first appeared in the 1758 edition of his Poor Richard’s Almanac. And even if Jeremy Belknap did not consider Dr. Ames’s poetry any good, almanac-makers routinely borrowed material from the great English poets to “decorate” their almanacs. Others, including Ames and Franklin, sprinkled the calendar pages with proverbs and aphorisms.

(via Steve Himmer)


Fair reader,

Long have I been dormant on this matter, and indeed, I had harbored the secret hope that the transmissions of this nefarious document were a thing of the past. However, look at me, a fool! How could I conclude that the Palinomicon’s logorrheic THIRST could not be vanquished? For what is the span of a year, a decade–indeed, any unit of time known to man and woman–in the clockwork mind of an Infernal Being? Less than a blink. The patience, reader, is NOT HUMAN.

However, with that said, I nevertheless feel compelled to share these findings, in hope that one person, perhaps not in my lifetime, will be able to find the elixir to unwrite this diabolical tome.

I do have to admit that this particular fresh entry, sent to me once again from Alaska, is unlike any of the others. Do not think me sensational, but it is a photocopy of a creature’s hands–long-fingered, enclawed, yet smooth-skinned, upon which this incantation was written with a fine-tipped “magic marker.” I cannot imagine how the arms, the torso, the head of this creature could be envisaged, but with trembling hand I transcribed the words. The palmistry must be left to your imagination.

A Makeshift Form of Diplomacy that Falls Upon Me

Hello everyone I’ve made it to the Kyoto accords!

I come with a message of peace from the Underwater Institute of Lacanian Sorcery, a non-governmental gang strike force.

Here is the message:

“Heated motorcycle storage during the winter of your endless desires.”

Also, my child soldier choir has put together this bad-ass PowerPoint of their illegal
dumping exploits and there are
no resources within this Holiday Inn that can contain it.

No mercury, no soot, no anomalous clouds cuz that would be embarrassing.

Note that are all in the “Lacuna” conference room, but in opposite corners
for purposes of water rationing.

Then there will be a recital. Hands will be held. Be it resolved that.

What the fuck? The restaurant downstairs, The Jenkem Grille, has been bombed by ecoterrorists
and twenty are dead, including a team of mercenary climatologists! Fuuuuck, now

our hands are really tied.

Those plushie polar bears on the ice floe, drifting from Juneau stuffed with Acapulco Gold
toward our melting minds?

Talk about fucked.

The nsfw Bible is very soft on this matter

like the pillow that conforms to the red assassin’s face.

Next, a panel: Strangling Whatever Instills a Lifelong Love of Reading “the Data”
(Which Must Not Be Named).

Focus on my projector.

Hello, ozone mother!

What’s on the Table

So, just wanted to ask a few questions:

1. In nominating works for awards, is it ethical to do so with friends? In what instances?

2. Is it ethical to do so consciously, deliberately, and in a block?

3. Is it ethical to do so with members of your writing group?

4. Where is the dividing line between expressing genuine interest and excitement about the work of one’s peers and compatriots; and expressing one’s ambitions for publicity within, and upon, the field at all costs?

5. What should be the feeling behind navigating through all these questions? What are we trying to accomplish? (OK, that’s two questions.)

6. What are our responsibilities as writers to the field as opposed to our peers? Are they one and the same? Do we have a responsibility to history? Or is it delusional to think that ye olden Grand Masters were anything more noble? (OK, that’s a lot of questions.)

7. And yet the field is very different than it was in 1959, isn’t it?

(OK, not really a question.)

Everyone have a good night!

Maps by Touch

Research on weird maps led me to this:

“…wood was, and is, the most distinctive medium used by the Greenland Eskimos in mapmaking. Blocks are carved in relief to represent the rugged coastline of Greenland with its fjords, islands, nunataks and glaciers, the shapes of the various islands being linked together with rods. In order to reduce the size of the blocks, the outline of the coast is carried up one side and down the other.”

Leo Bagrow, History of Cartography. Revised and enlarged

By R.A. Skelton. Cambridge, Harvard U. Press, 1960, p. 27.

Three-dimensional maps of coastlines were carved of wood as long as three hundred years ago. These Inuit charts were usually carved from driftwood and are made to be felt rather than looked at.
The land is very abstract. It is limited to “edges” that can be felt on a dark night in a kayak. Since they are made of wood they are impervious to the weather, and will float if they are dropped overboard accidentally.

really can’t fathom a title for this.

What is geekier on the part of my early nineties self?

1. Writing fanfic based on Moria (a Roguelike)

2. Playing Magic the Gathering with others over a TELNET BBS. (honor system in describing the cards textually).

Both on a VAX/VMS system.

You decide!


The paradox of progress is that imagination is always linked to style, and yet it also provides the seed for innovation that changes the face of function. —Bethlehem Shoals

My rss feedification seems to be broken. I really need a new blog platform.

a Hugo nominee for sure

I can’t wait to watch that documentary about sending Tom Cruise back in time to kill Hitler.

Palinomicon: coda

This was in my comment spam queue for this blog. Coincidence? Or the colophon of the book of nightmares?!? (which will perhaps rear its head — um, pages — in 2012:

Hello Id Like to bid you this barbarous apogee !

How relating to we try something a impecunious a handful this without linger ?

as the casing may be something like this ?

perfect stocking stuffer…

…for the horror fans on your Christmas list!!

an uncontrolled substance

Consciousness is decay.

Neurons are sandcastles.

House Speaker Seeks Independent Bookstore Bailout Bill

WASHINGTON–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for “emergency and limited financial assistance” for the battered U.S. independent bookstore industry today, and urged the outgoing Bush administration to join legislators in reaching a quick compromise.

Five days after dismal financial reports from pretty much everyone, Pelosi backed legislation to make independent bookstores eligible for help under the US$700 billion bailout measure that cleared the U.S. Congress in October.

In a written statement, the California Democrat said the aid was needed “in order to prevent the failure of one or more of the major American independent bookstores, which would have a devastating impact on our economy, particularly on the men and women who work in that industry.”

“Congress and the Bush administration must take immediate action,” she added. Administration officials have concluded that the bailout bill that passed earlier does not permit loans to the independent bookstore industry, but lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol for a brief postelection session beginning next week.

The plight of independent bookstores has drawn attention from the White House and the incoming Obama administration in recent days, as well as among members of Congress.

Last week, President-elect Obama prodded the Bush administration to do more to help independent bookstores, and on Monday, aides said he raised the issue with President Bush in an Oval Office conversation meant to underscore a smooth transition of power.

Before adjourning for the elections, the U.S. Congress passed legislation providing for US$25 billion in government-backed loans to the independent bookstores to prod them to retool their stores to make them cozier and brighter and to provide living wages.

Since then, executives from Powells, Dreamhaven, Mac’s Backs, and Other Change of Hobbit have called for more than that to avert a possible collapse of one of the nation’s most basic industries.

In her statement, Pelosi said any assistance to the industry should include rigorous oversight on poor customer service and clumsily promoted author events.

(apologies to the Associated Press)

Lory pointed to the way that doctors of Islamic law have, over centuries, debated whether or not it is possible to enter into a legal marriage with jinn. Regardless of their legality, such marriages do happen. Men may even marry a jinniyya princess, though in order to do so he must forswear sexual relations with other humans (except perhaps his wife if he is already married, though even then he must alternate nights, one with his wife, the other with the jinniyya). It almost goes without saying that the consequences for breaking such an arrangement are severe.



Just like laughing at one’s jokes, is it bad form to laugh at one’s blog? I was combing through the archives, looking for aphorisms/epigraphs, and came across this post. It feels like it was written 10 years ago but it was less than 3! I forget the original context–something about young writers who made pro sales, whatever–but I was reading the comments and thinking, wow, a lot of comments on here by people I don’t know! Then I remembered: oh, right, I wrote 85 percent of the comments on this post under pseudonyms (bonus trivia: see if you can discern who wasn’t a sock puppet on here…shouldn’t be that hard).

Good times, 2005, good times.


Many times have I started writing this. My iBook is gimped and I still haven’t figured out comments on this fucking blog. It kind of dampens the “exchange” part of this exchange. You have to register on this site to comment, which I want no one to have to do. I can’t find the right toggle, and I don’t have the wherewithal on aforementioned gimped computer to upgrade the WordPress. It’s a holding pattern. And on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter. My cell phone is 3 years old too–I need a new one (the pause in the words appearing after my hands hit the keys…that is the creaking machinery, I see it); omg it’s hard work keeping up…up with being relentless! I could use those things but I don’t need them. No one’s starving here.

In other news, God hates our coffeemaker. The….what is it called? Beaker? Beaker shattered when Kristin dropped it, and then a few days later one of the cats went on the stove, toggled one of the burners to ON, and the cord of the coffeemaker also went ON, as in, caught on fire, which spread to the coffeemaker. 2 foot high flames ensued and Kristin was quick and calm and put it out (foam everywhere for a few days…still everywhere, really, in the nooks). That was at 11:30 at night about a week ago, we were very lucky because Kristin was out earlier and I was asleep. She just happened to be at home and not asleep at a very odd time of the day. So it might have been very very bad. God 1, coffeemaker 0.

Whirring and stalling, whirring and stalling…

Oh this frustration–when “it just has to work!” Oh, this frustration is so…damn frustrating!

Time to drown ourselves in gadgetry.

I just came across this nugget from the Wilderness Survival Guide (AD&D, 1st ed., p. 103, don’t ask):

But if you create a world where “mountains” are made of wood (for instance), your players are going to ask questions and you’re going to have some explaining to do: Are these wooden mountains slippery? Do they burn? Can the characters get splinters if they’re not careful?

To which I say, yes, yes, and yes!!!!

I think I figured it out.