28 January 2008


Today (or very recently), Mr. Sante posed the question of what Greek-derived term refers to the collecting of rejection slips from publishers. I'm pretty sure those count as ephemera, but I don't know how to suffix the word to mean "collects it as a hobby."

Years ago, when all information about music came in print form (either cheap pulp covered in severe attitude, or slick pages obfuscated by marketing), I read an article about R.E.M. and in particular, I was struck by the mention of Michael Stipe carrying a paperback book and a few old envelopes with him to the interview. In retrospect, it doesn't sound so impressive, but the notion it implanted in my head was that ephemera could become a fashion or decor accessory. The idea spun out into a full-blown fetish, and I eventually ended up amassing a few old manual typewriters, boxes of 'zines, comic books, and paperbacks, some old postcards and boxes of correspondence, and at one point, a large crate of unused stationery. I never believed that such stuff was required for or facilitated writing, but it did help.

Actually, it also caused problems. The process I developed became so ritualized that when I was removed from those trappings, and was discouraged from keeping tobacco or liquor in my desk (or on my person), writing became needlessly difficult. It was only finding a copy of Roughdraft and the VTPortableRemington font that I made peace with the idea of word processing again. If there were only a way I could set the font for the "notes" pane of the window, I would be really happy. And such thinking leads me to look at the Ion X Window manager, and then at installing linux, in case I can't make cygwin conform to my vision, and pretty soon, I discover that I've started looking at Forth sites, because it's obvious that I have to write everything myself to get exactly what I need, and I might as well learn that language once and for all, but then I would have to figure out either linux or windows APIs, so I get the latest version of WinUAE and start looking for development kits I can download for free, and by that point, the vacation is half over, and jumping from the window to my death starts to appeal to me more than I'm comfortable admitting.

So, I found a really good, really cheap fountain pen, and a bottle of black ink that's scented, so it stirs scent-based memories. I had a dozen moleskines shipped here at one point, but now I find that A4 paper, cut in half and stacked on a clipboard, works just as well for my purposes. It all has to get typed afterward, and edited, so I no longer care that the scrawled first drafts are incoherent shit. Maybe someone in the distant future will find some of that material and be able to read English and my handwriting, or perhaps they will only be entranced by the exotic markings on the really old paper. Maybe they'll be inspired to write something themselves, or just set about collecting strange paper debris and making collages.

06 January 2008

Happy New Whatever whatever

Depressed alcoholics are less likely to stop drinking, so it says here. How much did someone budget to come up with that stunning breakthrough? Yeah yeah yeah, you have to go through the motions rather than accept conventional wisdom, but don't write it up like you expect a Nobel prize. You just make a brief note saying that you found that results were in line with expectations, then get on with trying to accomplish something of value, like finding a way of treating the depression that won't lead to a worse condition.

Finally, someone else said what I couldn't about Asimov's three laws of robotics. Warren Ellis hit it exactly, and in a tone that assures me that when the robots finally reach a level of sophistication where this issue becomes relevant, they will be closer to Bender than Data. Usually, these discussions draw out the deviated septum, overweight dwellers in Mom & Dad's basement (no, I will not call it your "Dungeon") who argue at laughable length and ferocity about why all androids must be built to adhere strictly (maybe they repeat "strictly" three times in case you possibly didn't notice how they emphasized the term) to the triad of commandments (the SAT is coming up, so it doesn't hurt to get in those synonyms).

On a personal note, I will now point out the absurdity of sending an email, in 48-point, red letters, demanding that I phone you about something vitally important. The fact that I don't answer my phone is a hint that I can't talk on the phone for some reason, like when I'm in class. When I look at the email, you have my attention, so the giant red text, in all capital letters (I hope to God gmail doesn't support the blink tag) is unnecessary. Tell me, politely and concisely, what your trouble is, and ask your question. Remember that when you are asking someone a favor, even a tiny one, being polite will expedite matters; criticizing my grammar, calling names, or telling me I "better get back re:this piece of shit software" I recommended pretty much guarantees that I have something much more important to tend to for the rest of your life.