I want a nicer desk

Right now, my primary writing surface is an old kitchen table set up in my office.  This is fine -- I'd rather have it than have nothing.  But I do spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of desk I would have, if I had totally free choice about it. This is not the first installment of my notes on a fantasy desk, nor will it be the last.  This one, in particular, was sparked by a Wiki-walk beginning at the Standing desk page, and proceeding from the bottom of that to the List of desk forms and types.

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1.  My desk should be of standing height, but have an accompanying stool.

On the Wikipedia page for standing desks, the various research in favor of standing rather than sitting all day is there, but the page also references claims that standing all day without pause may be worse for a body than sitting all day.  It seems to me like a reasonable compromise would be to have a seat, and just try to keep the habit of not using it unless my feet need the rest.

2.  My desk should have compartments.  Many, organized, labeled compartments.

A lot of the desks listed on the page have some pretty cool arrangements for compartments.  The Carlton Carlton House desk , for example, has a beautiful layout of drawers.

But, even better than that, the Tambour desk has cool, rolltop-style wooden slat screens that conceal the compartments in a very pretty way.  Some combination of those two styles would probably be ideal.

3.  My desk should have a reasonably sized, but not massive, work surface.

I would want enough space for a keyboard or a tablet on the actual surface, but ideally I would have my monitors wall-mounted in front of the desk, rather than on it.  That said, I'd like enough space to work comfortably with larger sheets of paper.  I'd want to be able to work with a 9"x12" drawing pad, for example.  But the compartments and space above them should make room for the supplies, so they won't get in the way.

4.  My desk should have whatever cool features I can fit into it.

One of the desks that came up on the list was the Liseuse desk, which has a central panel that can be adjusted to whatever angle the user wants.  I think this would be an incredibly useful feature.  It would also be cool if I could have the speakers elegantly inserted into the desk, and possibly have the whole thing wired for sound.  It would be cool if there were a headphone jack right on the edge of the desk, or if I could take calls just by being in the room.  (A webcam would also be nice, but I'd prefer that be more mobile.)

Obviously, I'd want that part to have some kind of indicator light attached, in a way that makes it physically impossible for the desk to record sound without turning on the light.  I'd have no idea how that could be done, though.

5.  I would make the desk myself, or with the help of friends.

I think this desk would be even more incredibly cool if I got to make it on my own.  I don't really have the skills to do that, though, so I would settle for making it with the help of some of my friends who are more capable of manipulating physical objects in such a way as to add value.  That way, the desk would be totally unique, I could work hard to maximize the quality and not cut any corners, and it would have a cool story.  It might even last long enough to be an heirloom.

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If there were a maker space very close to where I live, and if I had the money to buy the wood, I think I'd want to get started on actually building this desk.  Eventually, I think it could be a really fun and rewarding project.

Unfortunately, right now, I can't even settle for buying a desk with just some of these features.  But in the meantime, I can always get the plans ready enough that, when the day comes, I'll have ready all the things I need to know.

Idea Channel covers postmodernism

In their new video, "Is Community A Postmodern Masterpice?"  Mike (the host) opens up by explaining what postmodernism is.  I mean, not really.  That's not how postmodernism works.  But he does a pretty good job of covering the major reasons it's not easy to explain, and leads into the general idea enough that viewers might be able to distinguish postmodernism from other philosophical perspectives.  It starts at the 1:00 mark, with the perfect introduction, "What is postmodernism?  I'll give the philosophy and art history students a moment to finish their collective 'Ugh.'"

I'm posting this because I will be referring back to it regularly in otherwise usually frustrating conversations with my extended family.

"Hats off to beautiful femmes" by Ivan E Coyote

One of the troubles with the internet is that sometimes you come across something incredibly awesome, and then you forget all the identifying details about it.  Maybe you remember a few phrases that really stand out, but the major pieces of information -- title, artist, source -- are gone. One of the advantages of the internet, when you have a blog[1. Literally a contraction of "Web Log," a record of all the things one sees when browsing the internet] is that you can create new permalinks to that stuff, where you know you'll be able to find it.

Today, I decided to try to track down one of those lost items, a poem that I remember made me choke up when I first heard it.

I started by throwing out all the search terms I could think of that were broadly related: beat poet, gay beat poet, lesbian poet video search, and so on.

Then I tried the couple phrases that really stood out to me.  "Matching bra and panties" got a lot of results, but I think the search may have been a bit too broad.  Adding to that a handful of other phrases didn't help, it eventually whittled down to "Did you mean...?" results for broader, unrelated searches.

I tried: closet "Made of glass"; but that didn't work.  Then, pretty sure that I might have remembered the exact phrasing, I tried "My closet was always made of glass," and I found this link.

The poem is by Ivan E Coyote, and is titled "Hats off to beautiful femmes" on that site I just linked.  There are actually a few youtube videos of the reading, but I found the one that I remembered, the one that I wanted to find again.  It's titled To all of the kick ass, beautiful fierce femmes out there...

1993 in New York

(via Laughing Squid) Apparently, 1993 was an incredibly important year in the history of New York.  Important enough that the New Museum has put together a museum instillation, running until May 26, 2013, that's all about stuff that was going on in New York in 1993, featuring all art that was debuted in 1993.  But apart from that, they've got a really cool ad campaign/instillation piece set up on 5,000 pay phones around the city.

If you go to any of the relevant payphones in New York (which are marked with stickers) and dial 1-(855)-FOR-1993, you'll hear a recording of someone who lived there in 1993, about what the block was like then.

Recalling 1993 from Droga5 NY on Vimeo.

I can't tell if this was going on when I was in New York in January.  It probably wasn't, but either way I'm sad I'm not going to get the chance to find a couple of these pay phones.  For one thing, it's 5,000 stories about life before the internet.

 

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

(via Boing Boing) This list comes form a post on Aerogramme Writer's Studio (a blog I am now following), and, they write, "were originally tweeted by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist."

I've heard some of these rules before, but I'm republishing them all here, because they're awesome, interesting to read, and I'm going to need to refer to them like fifty times in the next week.

Also, Mark Frauenfelder, the Boing Boing editor who reblogged this, picked his favorite (#13) and so did Aerogramme (#9) so I figure I should contribute my favorite, too.  It's #4.  I'm trying to figure out how it maps to a lot of my stories, and it's depressingly difficult to work it out with some.  This illuminates a lot of room for improvement.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Cory Doctorow on the human narrative

(via Boing Boing) Cory Doctorow has written a new post for Locus Online that primarily deals with the fact that he's just written a sequel, and may at some point in the future write a prequel.  The prequel he's talking about writing would be for "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," a utopian novel, and in the article he talks about the nature of utopias, and the nature of stories that aren't set in utopias.  This was my favorite part:

This is a narrative we desperately need to hear. In crisis – in the horrible, slow-motion, global economic/environmental catastrophe that we inhabit – we form theories about how everyone else will react and plan accordingly. When Katrina hit, people nodded when soldiers and mercenaries shot ‘‘looters’’ in New Orleans, convinced that looting was the sort of thing that transpired after disasters. That was news. Hardly noticed, months after the fact, was the truth that there was practically no looting in post-Katrina New Orleans, and that those shot – particularly those shot by Blackwater mercenaries – were innocents who’d been killed in the service of a lie: the lie that human beings are bad, and that the first thing we do when the veneer of civilization falls away is kill, rape, and/or eat one another. This lie was a racist lie, and it was a speciest lie, too.

This is the worst kind of lie: the lie that makes itself true. When enough people believe the libel against the human race, the vile calumny that ‘‘human nature’’ would have us all at each others’ throats were it not for coercive force, it becomes a truth. If you are sure your neighbor will kill you when the lights go out, the natural thing to do is kill him at the first flicker – and even if you’re more reasonable than that, you still won’t want to let a potential killer into your shelter; you won’t want to share your food with him; you won’t want to take in his children when they need it.

ART! And mental health.

I'm not very good at doing art just for the sake of art.  I mean, like, I can do art for the sake of the creation of the art I'm working on, but I have a great deal of difficulty doing art for the sake of the activity, regardless of its product.  This is a topic I cover frequently with my art therapist. Today, we talked about the difference between creating art in order to get 'in the moment,' and creating art without a concrete purpose in mind.

The first one, I can do.  I'm comfortable with it.  I'm comfortable with it even if I ultimately fail to create the product I'm going for.  The trouble is, it's not easy to find specific, concrete reasons to create art.  There are a surprising number of conditions that I need met:  I have to have a specific goal I'm trying to achieve, and there has to be something I'm going to do with it when I'm done -- someone I'm going to show, or somewhere I'm going to post it, or something.

If I don't, that's fine.  Maybe I don't like it at the end.  Maybe it's outside my abilities.  Maybe I decide that the whole project is a waste of time.  But if those two conditions aren't met, I find it nearly impossible to even get started.

the other kind of art we talked about involves both of those conditions being unmet.  Not having a project, not having an audience.  Just trading ink and paper for an emotional state.

That activity makes me really uneasy. It makes me uncomfortable, and the fact that I can't handle that discomfort is probably a pretty big part of the reason I have a therapist.  I should be learning how to cope with that discomfort, because it's the same kind of discomfort that I have to figure out how to cope with when I go in for job interviews, or wait for acceptance/rejection letters, or submit stories to magazines for publication.  It's the discomfort that is the default state of a progressing life, and the fact that I can't deal with it is a huge problem.

...

But this post isn't about how I'm going to start facing that problem, head-on, every other week in art therapy.  This post is about how I'm going to start making art there with the intent to post it online.  Sometimes I'll probably post with an explanation about its significance, sometimes I'll just post the art, without context, and sometimes, when I don't think it's good enough, I won't post it at all.

Sitting with discomfort is productive, but it's also sort of an all-or-nothing activity, and I can do it on my own time, not my time with my therapist.  So I'm going to need to start doing that.  But I also need to find ways to connect my art that has emotional significance with my art that I can actually convince myself to do.

Awesome post on an awesome AMA

Comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick did an AMA on Reddit that just recently got linked by bestof.  Specifically, they highlighted this comment (excerpt):

Okay, last one and I'm done:

Why do you think it's been so difficult for Marvel to establish a female hero who isn't 1.) based of a male counterpart, 2.) made to give gender balance to a team or 3.) made to be the love interest of a more popular male hero?

Marvel is a publicly-owned company. They exist to make money. Period. If there was an idea that extra dollar could be made with female-led comics, Marvel would have more lady-led books than Avengers titles--with multiple variant covers, no doubt.

Why are there so many Avengers titles? They sell. Reliably.

[...]

The publisher's customer is not the reader. Follow? The publisher's customer is the retailer. Once the retailer orders the book, from the publisher's standpoint, THAT IS THE SALE.

Those sales figures you see on icv2 or whatever? Those do not indicate the number of readers who pick up a book, they indicate the number of copies ordered by stores.

The whole comment is an in-depth explanation of the mechanics that perpetuate sexism in the comics industry.  The best part, I think, was when she covers manga:

Think about the manga boom for a minute. The American notion had always been that women would not buy comics in significant numbers. There was even a commonly bandied about notion that "women are not visual." Who bought manga in the US? Largely women and girls. At ten bucks a pop, no less. Women spent literally millions of dollars on what? On comics.

[...]

Well, for one thing, they didn't have to venture into comic book stores to get it. No risks of unfriendly clerks or clientele, authenticity tests or the porn basement atmosphere that even if it's not the reality of most stores, is certainly the broad perception. They could buy manga at the mall. What's more, they didn't need a guide. All they had to do was find the manga section, flip the books over and read the description (just like they'd done with any book they'd ever bought in their lives) and then, once they found one that interested them, find the volume with the giant number 1 on it and head to the check out.

And, her solution:

So what can we do? As readers, the most powerful tool we have is the pre-order. PRE-ORDER, PRE-ORDER, PRE-ORDER. Why? Because when you pre-order with a store, that is a sale to the store. The store is not assuming any risk. Therefore they bump up their orders with the publisher, which is reflected in the title's sales, which then becomes a cue to the publisher... hm... maybe these books will sell? Let's make more!

Gavin and Stacey: an American adaptation

I don't know whether I've talked about it here before, but Gavin and Stacey is/was a British comedy series about a couple meeting up after a long distance relationship, and the culture clashes between a guy from just outside London and a girl from Wales.

 

Apparently, they're adapting it to an American version.  That link covers all the major facts of the remake.

I have no idea how the hell this adaptation is supposed to work.

I mean, I don't deny the possibility that the remake could be good.  I don't think remakes are inherently awful.  But, and maybe this only seemed like this because I'm an American watching a show from the UK, but it seemed to me the central plot of Gavin and Stacey is the culture clashes between working/middle class Wales and working/middle class England.

There have, apparently, been previous attempts to remake the show in America.  The attempted NBC version was going to cast Gavin in New Jersey and Stacey in South Carolina.  This upcoming one is via Fox, and production "is tentatively set to begin in Los Angeles in March 2013," but Wikipedia doesn't say anything about where the main characters are going to be from.

And, again, this show could be good.  I'll certainly give it a shot.  I just don't know in what sense it would be a remake of Gavin and Stacey.  It seems to me like the only thing the remake status could do is hold it back, forcing the cast to repeat stale and out-of-place jokes rather than develop themselves as characters native to their own story.

I hope that doesn't happen, because I regret the fact that Gavin and Stacey ended after three seasons, and I want there to be a new series that's engaging and satisfying in a similar way.

And whoever Stacey's friend is, it'll definitely hurt the show that, rather than being however good a character she is in her own right, she'll come off, at least at first, as a disappointing Nessa.

400 Years: a surprisingly short game

Boing Boing linked today a quick, fun flash game called 400 Years, Here's the link to play, in which you play a strange little stone totem who has only 400 years to stop some great catastrophe. It took me a little playing around before I realized that you didn't just get to wait forever -- that whenever you waited, you were wasting time before the catastrophe hit, and you could conceivably wait the whole four hundred years, and lose.  I did fine the first time through, then I decided to check out what happens if you don't make it.

At top waiting speed, you only pass about a year a second, so it took a while.

While you're waiting, you see the world change before your eyes.  Where I stopped to lose the game, I saw two trees grow from saplings to extraordinary heights, then fall down, and new saplings sprouted in their place.

The game involves waiting for huge periods of time, but it also occasionally involves doing stuff -- manipulating physical objects like seeds you need to plant.  These seeds dry out and go away if you hold them while you're waiting, so sometimes you need to figure out how to get around without using the tricks of the long time scale.

Loss-condition spoiler below the fold:

You don't actually get to see what the catastrophe was that you failed to stop, if you don't beat the game.  The waiting stops suddenly, the earth begins to shake, the screen goes white, and then you see an image of burning trees, and the message,

TOO LATE... THE WORLD HAS BURNED TO ASHES.

GAME OVER

The win/lose conditions are pretty cool, but the story you see unfolding on the timescale of centuries is even more beautiful.  I highly recommend this game.  Here, again, is the link.

Printer's type, stamps

 

Above is pictured the only set of stamps I've been able to find, after about an hour's looking, that contains an @ sign.  It's thirteen dollars, currently out of stock, and kind of ugly.

What I really want is a moveable type kit, because I want to be able to construct words, phrases or sentences that I can stamp a significant number of times, then disassemble and use for something else.  (What I want even more than that is a full moveable type workshop, with all the necessary equipment, and enough of all the letters, that, if I wanted to, I could hand-assemble one of my short stories and put it out on a broadsheet.)

What I don't want is a set of rubber stamps that come with one of each letter, in a cute font, that would require me to spell out each individual word every time I want to stamp it.  That would be awful.

Isn't there some hipster company, somewhere, that makes home printer's type kits?  Seriously, I want to know.

Transitions from knowledge to literacy (as regards Comic Sans)

I just watched the new VSauce video about Comic Sans, which made a lot of points I already knew (like that Comic Sans is incredibly readable on aliased screens) and a lot of points I didn't (The British Dyslexia Association recommends Comic Sans for children who struggle with making out letters.[1. I checked out their Dyslexia Style Guide, I'm doing pretty well here, I think, but there's room for improvement.  I will keep it in mind next time I make changes to the website design.]). One of the things he talks about is that Comic Sans hate might be a symptom of increasing design literacy following the digital revolution, the way there was increasing regular literacy following the invention of the printing press.

This inspired a wild speculation that I wanted to expand on here:

Every time new types of media come out, there are people who complain that it's going to ruin knowledge, because people who write things down will stop bothering to remember them / people who watch TV are going to forget how to read / people who get all their entertainment on the internet have no attention spans anymore.

And, in fact, there's some science to back some of that stuff up.  Not all of it, but some.  The Google Effect, for example, describes a tendency for people to not bother remembering things they believe they can easily find out online.

My thought is that, as humanity's knowledge grows, and our base of understanding progresses, we do start to forget the earlier layers of stuff.  Rather than trying to know everything that an individual would need to have known a hundred years ago -- stuff that's still important, but that not everyone needs to pay attention to -- instead we learn a system for acquiring that information, and entrust it to our civilization to continue to provide the infrastructure that backs those skills up.

And that's what I mean by literacy -- it's a systematic replacement of specific knowledge with a general method for acquiring that sort of knowledge.

Now, I think there's a lot to be gained by having a lot of stuff in your head.  But there are types of things that are easier to leave to Google, and types of things that are better to store all together in your mind.  You often learn the first chunk to move on to the second -- learning who various politicians are in order to understand a political system -- but if it's not part of your everyday job, it's okay to just understand that system, and be ready to Google a name you know you recognize but you can't place.

I really like the idea that we're acquiring design literacy as a civilization, because it means that individuals are taking into their own hands the responsibility of making their lives and their world beautiful -- which is, like, super-important.

George W. Bush's leaked paintings

I've seen some paintings of George W. Bush around the internet today, and I really had no idea what was going on with them.  I didn't particularly care.  I had also seen some stuff about someone hacking Bush's email account.  I didn't care about that either, and also it sounded like too much effort to read about while I'm sick.  (btw: I'm sick.) But the Daily Kos wrapped it up in a nice, short piece, and here's the gist of what happened:  Some douche hacked into George Bush's email account and publicly distributed a couple of paintings he'd done of himself, in his free time, which had been sent to his sister.  Other douches around the country are making fun of the paintings, criticizing Bush as an artist, and photoshopping stuff into them.

This strikes me as an obvious breach of ethical boundaries:  yes, email hacking of political figures can have positive effects, re: journalism and important leaks.  But these paintings aren't important political information.  They're really obviously part of the private life of a person who happens to also have a significant public life -- or, at least, used to have.

Apart from the fact that it's Absolutely Not Cool to make fun of a non-expert artist for being not an expert at art, this also reflects on the screwed up idea in American culture that notable people are public property.  It should be a no-brainer that responsible citizens of the internet shouldn't encourage this distribution and mutation of Bush's paintings.

If you're really curious, you can go googling, but I'm not going to embed the pictures or link to anywhere that posted them. (The Daily Kos article embedded them, so no link, but they were at least critical of the fact of their release.)

Portal: the movie?

(via Reddit) According to Polygon.com, J.J. Abrams is in talks with Gabe Newell about making movies about Portal and/or Half Life.  This conversation took place during a Keynote talk about storytelling across platforms at the 2013 DICE summit, which before today is a thing I didn't know existed.  That talk took place today, and isn't up online yet.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.

My first thought when I read that Portal might be a movie was "No way."  I'm a little embarrassed that I had that reactionary response, because it's not fair -- the response under it, the thing that makes sense to me, is "How the hell would you make a movie out of Portal?  It's such a game."  The medium of the game, specifically the game, Portal, not just the medium of 'games,' tells the story of Portal better than any other way I can imagine, because the story was written specifically to fit the game, not the other way around.

Obviously, there's a huge difference between "I don't know how this could be done" and "This shouldn't be done."  I think it definitely should, if J.J. Abrams is on board and Valve is fully involved.  These are people with a real interest, investment and history in demanding more of their chosen media, and a Portal movie might be an avenue into new revelations for both games and film.

Or, I mean, they could make the Half Life movie instead.

Review: Pretty Monsters: The Wrong Grave

The book I started this weekend, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, is a collection of short stories.  So, I think I'll review them one by one.  Mostly because the first one was awesome, and I have loads I want to say about it. ...Below the fold.

The Wrong Grave is about a teenager who puts some poems in his dead girlfriend's casket, then later on decides he wants them back.  So he digs her up, but finds some other dead girl in her grave -- a dead girl with a snarky attitude and pretty intense supernatural powers.

I've been watching a lot of Adventure Time lately, and I cannot begin to explain how much this story reminded me of Marceline. 

I don't just want to gush about Adventure Time, though.  (Well, I kinda do.  I'm getting there.)  I read some of Kelly Link's work a few years ago, and I found it hard to follow, and fun, but only after a great deal of unpicking.  The everything-going-on-all-at-once aesthetic offers an extraordinarily complex sense of otherworldliness that, at the time, I had no experience with.

Now, though, I have Adventure Time to compare it to.

A couple years ago, I had very nearly no experience with narratives that implied huge, complex backgrounds that are totally alien to the intended audience.  Most of the stuff I'd read or seen very carefully spoon-fed all the necessary information to me before it relied on it for plot purposes.

Since then, either this screw-it attitude to explaining things has gotten a lot more mainstream, or I've just bumped into it a lot more.  Adventure Time is full of this kind of apparently uncoordinated backstory, and for a while I thought it was just thrown together randomly.  But the more I watch, the more it turns out there's a huge, coherent narrative, almost all of which we're just not being told.

I think this experience has made Link's work way easier to follow, and so it's way easier to enjoy.  (Not that I didn't enjoy it before.  Just now it doesn't take me several days.)  I'm glad I'm there now, too, because apparently that's the kind of writing that's getting popular.

Thomas O'Brien playing the piano

I was reading one of Dan O'Brien's advice articles on Cracked -- Dan O'Brien is in close competition for being my favorite Cracked writer[1. The other candidates are David Wong, John Cheese, Christina H. and Michael Swaim.] -- and he linked to this dick:

For example, here is one of the greatest piano players in the world. He puts a cover song on YouTube once a week that he shoots in one take, with no rehearsals, playing from memory and by ear. Maybe you're jealous of his skill, but you need to remember, you have to be jealous of everything. So, if you covet his skill, you also have to covet the years he spent practicing and studying and learning instead of doing anything else.

Also, if you're jealous of his talent, you have to be jealous of his physical limitations, too. See, he got so good at the piano because he had a hard time moving around as a kid, because his entire lower torso was butt. No legs, just stacks of butt. Butts on butts. You may want his musical talents, but would you give up your legs? And replace them with butts?

The editor disclosed at the bottom of the article that this guy is, in fact, Thomas O'Brien, Dan's brother, and that he has working legs and the normal amount of butts.

He's got nine videos up on YouTube.  As of right now, I have watched all of them.   And I subscribed to his channel.    I think it may have been an overstatement that he's one of the greatest piano players in the world, but nine videos each shot in one take and played by ear isn't much to go off of, and it's not like I'm remotely well-enough versed in piano to fairly judge anything more complicated than "This does/doesn't sound like a recognizable musical pattern."[2. And even then, I'm not qualified to distinguish between "Bad at piano" and "Doing brilliant, avant-garde things that other pianists listen to in awe but that I don't get."]

But he's definitely really, really good.

Slate's Spoiler Rules

I love reading rules for spoilers.  Working out an etiquette for when, and where, and how much it's okay to talk about art that came out recently, or art that isn't too popular, isn't the biggest ethical debate on the internet.  It's not the biggest problem posed by the changes in media over the last ten or twenty years.  But, maybe for that reason, I think it's the most fun. Slate is tackling this question specifically as it relates to the new Netflix original series, House of Cards. House of Cards was released all at once, today.  There are 13 episodes, apparently 1 hour each.  It seems to me that makes this show, as far as consumption etiquette is concerned, more like a book than a TV show or a movie.

Sam Adams, the author of the article, draws a distinction between "Push" and "Pull" messaging that I hadn't thought much about before, and that I really like.  Posting on Twitter or putting a spoiler in a headline is a push.  writing in the middle of an article or deep in a comment thread is a pull.  I feel I was intuitively aware of this difference, but it's nice to see it spelled out.

The usual discussion of expiration dates turns up in the form of "by next Thursday, it’s fair to expect that those who care most about not having any detail of House of Cards revealed in advance will have worked their way through the entire thing."

The other two bits are just basic rules about life and art:  Don't be a jerk, awesome advice, and great art can't be spoiled.  Or, great art can't be ruined by spoiling.  It might lose a little bit, but experiencing a good story is worth it even if you know how it ends.  Nobody watches a show just waiting to find out what the last plot point is.

Relatedly, Slate is starting a podcast explicitly about spoiling movies for the purposes of discussion.  Now, they're doing Warm Bodies.  If you've seen it, check it out.

Youtube paid channels might be a thing I guess

There's a website called AdAge.com.  I didn't know that. SourceFed's latest video, YouTube To Unveil Paid Subscriptions?!, is about the rumor that YouTube may, soon, be offering paid subscriptions.  Link to the video. Embedded below.

This sounds like an awesome step up past the sponsored channels that YouTube has been funding this past year.  I love Crash Course and SciShow, and I don't mind Felicia Day's channel so much that it makes me want to unsubscribe.  Of course, I don't want those channels to jump up to a pay model -- especially with Crash Course and SciShow, that would kind of defeat the purpose.  But they do make a great proof of concept that YouTube creators can generate consistent, high-quality content that's worth a greater investment than just "You have access to our upload page."

Imagine if Tor had a YouTube channel, that financed quality adaptations of sci fi and fantasy books, the way HBO is doing for Game of Thrones.  Imagine if getting enough subscribers and jumping over to YouTube had been an option for Joss Whedon when Firefly got cancelled.

According to AdAge.com,

It's not clear which channels will be part of the first paid-subscription rollout, but it is believed that YouTube will lean on the media companies that have already shown the ability to develop large followings on the video platform, including networks like Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen. YouTube is also looking outside its current roster of partners for candidates.

I don't think it would go over very well with fans if old channels threw up a paywall for all their new content.  But I think those channels could expand into higher quality, higher production-value work, that would go up on a new channel, and I think external producers of higher-level content might be able to step down on the payscale the way groups like Machinima would be stepping up -- like, imagine if Pixar had a channel, that just produced those shorts from the start of their movies?

This is a great example of the kinds of things that the internet and companies like Google are doing, not just to open up new opportunities for existing art to thrive, but to create new levels at which art can be successful, unpinned from the constraints of pre-existing time slots or demand based on which advertisers were willing to pay.

(via Boing Boing) There's an artist named Michelle Vaughan, who has recently come out with a series called "100 Tweets."  It's 100 cards printed in different, randomly selected colors, featuring personally selected tweets.  This one is $90, but if it were much cheaper I'd get one for everyone in my school studying Journalism or Goverment.

Many of them are funny, but for the record, here are a few of my other favorites:

Is magic art?

Cory Doctorow posted a video, embedded below, that asks that question: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNGDoroJtYw]

A lot of the magicians interviewed draw a distinction between hobbyists, or birthday party performers, and the people who "raise magic ... to an artistic level."  This distinction bugs me -- particularly, it bothers me because in more mainstream artistic professions, we acknowledge that practitioners are artists even if they aren't creating their own art, even if they aren't very good at it.

Acting is a good example.  A performer who is in a school production of Romeo and Juliet is participating in the creation of art.  If they do a bad job, then they do a bad job.  But you can't fail to create art of some quality if you're trying to do something artistic.  Reproducing other peoples' art is art.  Reproducing banal, overwrought art is art.  Doing magic tricks that you learned in a book, badly, is still art.

art v. pornography

One of the magicians said, "If a person doesn't feel, there is no art."  He dismisses pornography as not artistic, because it's too visceral, and drew the analogy between that and magic.  He called most magicians 'magic pornographers.'

This highlights the biggest problem I have with arguments about what is or isn't art -- people dismiss the kinds of emotions that seem to relate most to our bodies, or our visceral experience of life, as not-art.  People say that cooking isn't art, that porn isn't art, that, apparently, magic isn't art, because the emotions and experiences they evoke are present, rather than evoking something less present, some sort of sense about the future or the past.

I guess what they're defending is a sense of art as immortality -- for example, they dismiss any artist that does other people's tricks, and argue that what makes a trick artistic is trying to put your own emotions, your own story, into it -- but I think we're seriously missing out if that's all that we consider art.

Art doesn't have to be a unique expression of the person creating it.  Art can be a more general expression of an idea, by someone who just wants to help that idea along.  Amateur magicians who want to help create a sense of wonder in the world are artists because they're working to encourage and promote the importance of an emotion.

Not everyone has something new to say, and there's power and significance in creating art that's just there to say "I agree," or "Hey, remember, this is important."  That's why cooking is art.  That's why porn is (granted, sometimes extremely problematic) art.  That's why magic is art.[1. I should note that there are certainly examples of self-immortalization in cooking, porn, and magic.  Unfortunately, the case that usually gets made in this argument is "That's not really porn," or "That's not really just a magic trick," and I imagine there must be cases where someone or other has argued, "That's not really food."]

I think that we have an intuitive understanding that art is important, and I think that dismissing things as being not-art is an attempt to avoid accepting responsibility for one's relationship with culture.

That is all.