Saturday, September 8

Vintage Postcards for Creative Correspondence

One thing I've noticed lately on Tumblr is that a lot of youth are getting interested in "old-fashioned" correspondence. One user I follow regularly posts ads from girls aged 16-24 looking for pen pals. They're so anxious to reach out and connect, exploring postcards and hand-written letters as the vehicle.

I think this is marvelous and would do anything to encourage this. Obviously it's inappropriate for so many reasons for me to offer to write with them, but what can I do to foster this? If anything, I need to embody this practice by actually writing to the people I'm supposed to be writing to. I have excuses, but I would rather sit down and make time to cultivate these postal relationships.

But at least there is room to let people know where to go for resources. If you have someone to write to (or several someones, hopefully), you can pick up good pens at an art store, and maybe Barnes & Noble or Paper Source will have interesting letter sets. This is only a step up from the most rudimentary and basic form: using whatever pen/pencil you have lying around the house and filling up a couple pages of notebook paper. You can get as fancy or as minimalist as you like.

For people who are looking for something more interesting than a dozen souvenir postcards had from any gas station or gift shop, think about this: antique stores. If you're not too precious about marring a token of history, think about it as fulfilling an old postcard's Zen purpose. Seriously, many antique shops will have a selection of vintage cards somehow unused for the past several decades! Most of the time you'll find them neat and orderly, grouped by theme or geography, but today at Hunt & Gather (in my new neighborhood) I found, in the corner of the sprawling basement space, a disheveled bin of vintage postcards, marked down from what you can usually expect to pay for these things. It was a dream! If I didn't already have a small mountain of postcard books and vintage cards salvaged from cleaning out my wife's former childhood home, I would've just stuck two fists in and hauled my catch up, sight unseen, to the cash register.

So think about that. Find a nice pen, hit up the post office for interesting stamps, and haunt your local antique stores for amazing postcards. Every one loves receiving personal mail, and there are so many little ways to heighten the experience.

Friday, July 6

Creating Words and Worlds

Many people may not know this about me, but I love to play with word roots, like Greek and Latin pre/suffices. To borrow the vulgar argot: "It's just the funnest thing." I'd always been curious about this as a game, you know, creating new words (or discovering obscure ones, as with circumversion—thought I made it up, but it totally existed) out of these components. It's a useful exercise, not just for learning and memorizing these roots but as a creative tool: a new word can evoke images, suggest a culture or a new world.

I've been making my own lists of word components, but here are a couple resources for Greek and Latin medical beginnings and endings:
And now, a selection of made-up words that I may do something with later.
a tool to analyze and measure one's children (Ex.: Either my tocometrics are way off, or you're eating too much sugar, young man.)

one who transports corpses/carcasses (Ex.: Consarn it anyway! Whar's that blasted necrofer at? This here body needs ta git throwed into Potter's Field 'fore it 'splodes in this heat!)

adoration of the common people (Ex.: No one with that much money can claim to be a demolatrix, I assure you.)

Thursday, July 5

Geographical Philatelists Are Vicious

My original post on some stamps I found, from the Republic of South Moluccas, has received some negative press! (If one snotty know-it-all and one offensive L2 learner over the course of three years is "negative press.")

You can read about the drama here, on my other blog, Sweven Volant. Why'd I update this story there and not here? Well, I wrote the original post in 2009 so updating that entry would guarantee no one would ever see it. This way, I can share the love between that blog and this one (and I haven't had anything really startling to post in that other blog).

It's not necessary to read either of these posts to fully enjoy one's life experience. This is just a funny thing that happened. Not uproariously funny, but... funny enough.

Monday, June 18

Bic Round Stic: a Brief Declaration

I tell you, the most notable trait about the Bic Round Stic ballpoint pen is its singular ability to never retain its cap. I have five of these pens at my desk—they seem to migrate to me, as though (mistakenly) believing that I among all others in the office have a capacity to love them—and they write well enough but there is not a single pen cap between them. Therefore they may never be transported, unless you don't care what the pocket of your trousers looks like. They simply amass like an invasive species, washed up on my shore.

Tuesday, June 12

The Best of the Worst Postcards

I've been keeping this news article open in my browser for about a week. It's high time I shared it with everyone else (so I can close and refresh my freakin' browser).

Bad Postcard of the Week sounds maybe a little mean-spirited, if you have an underdoggish view of the postal system, but the writer isn't deriding postal transmissions. He's simply acknowledging that alongside the quaint, gorgeous, and touching postcards flying around the world for over a century, there are also some really bad examples too. There are postcards so ugly, they transgress the border of surrealism.

It is not the postcard's fault. Nobody's saying that.

What I like is that he accepts submissions, so his collection has got to look like the fabric from which nightmares are cut. Can you imagine? In Postcrossing, participants commonly ask for themed postcards: one girl collects black-and-white images, another retiree would like pictures of lighthouses, and some young guy is asking for anything porn-like that can legally be sent through the mail. Everyone has their preferences.

Now, imagine what would happen if you asked everyone for the most garish, confusing postcards anyone could get their hands on. Try to imagine what would show up in your mailbox each week. I'll give you a hint: you can't possibly imagine. The images that would enter your home have the advantage, in that they represent the end-product of someone else's lifetime of poor judgment and damaged aesthetics. You can't sit there for ten whole minutes and guess what otherworldly creations have been orchestrated and set to print.

But it's intriguing, isn't it? Even if you asked for something particular, like "a woman holding a candle" or "a young man in a hat," you would receive the entire world's creative interpretation of those themes. You could conceivably end up with over a hundred different images of a young man in a hat. Isn't that intriguing?

Saturday, June 9

Minesweeper Postcards

Image: Ubergizmo
Retro-tech, ahoy!

No, even more retro than playing your first game of Minesweeper on your first (office) computer. The design of these Minesweeper postcards uses the very simple occlusion technology so favored by lottery tickets around the world.

Myself, I used to get all excited about the scratch-off Pac-Man cards that came with sticker and a token piece of bubble gum. You had to uncover dots and power pellets to get all around the board without uncovering a ghost.

So while everyone else dwells in fear of which video game will next be converted into a movie, I'm wondering which could possibly be reinterpreted as a scratch-off game. Hopefully on a postcard, of course.

Saturday, May 26

Opinions as Strong as Glue Stick

I'm sure everyone's been paying attention, but I feel like I need to be clear about my preferences in glue stick.

Is it urgent? No. I just like to boost for good products and warn against poor ones.

Is that geeky? Likely, but life's too short to want to be like other people, to live others' lives in replacement of one's own. And life's too short to be embarrassed—for very long—about flying one's freak flag.

I use a lot of glue stick (a lot) so I have some opinions about it. I've used it to craft and seal envelopes, to cover Moleskine notebooks, to wrap presents, repair library books, flyer around town, &c. In the course of using a lot of glue stick, one may develop a curiosity about alternative brands and, consequently, to notice trends and tendencies of one product against another. This is fine and natural, and I believe it's important to share one's impressions with others.

I'm sure I've used other, generic glue sticks before, and if I were very diligent I would run out and pick some up. I know Office Depot has a house brand, and Target probably carries alternate brands. I'm only reviewing what I happen to have on hand.

Tuesday, May 22

Spelling Beer Names Is Tricky

I try to let local businesses off the hook. They're working hard, they're doing good work (patronizing local businesses keeps two thirds of the money you spend within the community, as opposed to funneling it off elsewhere), and they've got a lot on their mind.

Taken at the Herkimer, Mpls., MN
I don't let major corporations off the hook. When they make errors, I take no little delight in highlighting these and parading them before a public audience, whether here on my sad little blog or on my favorite message board (which shall go unnamed). I feel that they should be better than a struggling mom-and-pop, in terms of professionalism. It would fill me with dread to think that a juggernaut of ineptitude and "that's good enough, I guess" could emerge to stake a national claim and go after the checkbooks of hard-working, decent citizens such as you and me.

Is that a double-standard? I don't think so.

At the same time, this was quite a slip-up. I like the Herkimer because they make great beer right there on the premises. I like them even more now that I myself am into homebrewing. I would love to sit in and watch while their guy goes about his business, checking the vats, mixing the grains (though I suspect much of it is automated). Yet someone wrote out that chalkboard sign by hand, someone had to have sounded out the letters while they wrote it, and someone had to have stepped back to admire their handiwork. Not to mention, other workers must have looked at this sign, as well as countless customers from all walks of life. Hipsters tend to settle in at our local bars like a plague of tasteless, undereducated locusts, but the Herkimer enjoys a broad spectrum of clientele, I think.

Someone should have noticed this by now, is what I'm saying.

Sunday, May 20

Required: Moleskine as Work Journal

Considering how much I love Moleskine, I thought I should delineate exactly what I use all mine for. I have a collection of notebooks that's dominating an entire bookshelf, and each book has specific functions, whether it's the regular notebook that always appears in every selection, the Volant, the Cahier, or all the other varieties and variations they produce.

I maintain a work journal, which I urgently request everyone try. The best and foremost reason for this is that you can record your triumphs and personal victories—as well as the details of any trouble in the office—to support/defend yourself around review time. When these annual reviews come down, you know you've done a great job but the particulars of your invaluable support may have slipped your mind unless you've written them down in a work journal.

Saturday, April 28

DIY Deco: Moleskine Notebooks

Now, anyone who's read EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WRITTEN EVERYWHERE may have detected by this point that I'm favorably inclined toward Moleskine (MOLL-eh-SKEEN-eh: I correct myself whenever I say it). And I have found there are two Moleskine websites: Moleskine (Europe) and MoleskineUS. Why are there two? I dunno, maybe it's just easier to have a European headquarters that takes care of all nations outside of the U.S.

The Euro Moleskine site has what they call an Artists Marketplace: users are invited to buy Moleskine notebooks, decorate them inside and/or out, and sell them here to a global market. I decided to try my hand and take the plunge, but so far there have been no takers. None from other countries, anyway: my friend Kate met me and, over ice cream, perused my selection and decided which (of the three I'd produced) she wanted.

Let me tell you about these notebooks. I purchased the pack-o-three "large" unlined Moleskine Cahiers with kraft covers. Among my statio is a file of old maps, so the notebooks are covered in a 1965 National Geographic world map. Their covers feature the South Atlantic Ocean (pictured), the North American continent, and the Scandinavian nations and northern Europe.

Piratical Typography

The Science Museum of Minnesota, which is awesome, is hosting a historical exhibit of what pirates were really like, as seen in the above bus shelter display. But if you're like me, what you notice almost immediately is the glaring typo. How did "takover" make it past all the levels of design, editing, proofing and print? It's not even a goof in the fine print: it's large, bold, and in decorative typeface.

I work in a marketing agency, and people in such agencies seem to know what each other are up to. I asked around to find out who was in charge of this campaign and someone thought, maybe, that this work might've been in-house. Trying to confirm that, though.

Stuff like this drives me absolutely crazy, having been an unemployed copy editor for eight of the past twelve months.

UPDATE: At least they're in good company.

Saturday, April 21

Processing, Processing...

Intel billboard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Yeah, it should've been easier for me to find work overseas, red tape regardless.

Wednesday, April 18

There's More Work at the Post Office

Hmm. Out of all the organizations that could misspell "receive," I'd rather the United States Postal Service weren't one of them.

I was notified one of my change-of-address orders was about to expire. It was from an address where I was having my mail sent while I was overseas, to an address my wife and I stayed at temporarily until we could find a more permanent place to stay. Obviously I didn't need that forwarding anymore, but this typo on the confirmation screen caught my eye.

Thursday, April 12

Moleskine Loves Me, Specifically

I bought a pad of Clairefontaine once at a stationery store in southernmost Iowa. The owner recommended it because of the quality of its paper, the consistently high quality from batch to batch. The same could not be said of Moleskine: from book to book, you didn't know whether you were getting a fine grade of paper or something a little off.

Empirically, I had noticed this but I was too in love with the design of the sleek black book with rounded corners and the elastic binder. It looked professional and serious, unlike their ostensible rival, Rhodia, which used Clairefontaine paper. I couldn't get into its hyperextended, No. 2-pencil-yellow/orange covers, and the spines never seemed to fold the way I needed them to. So, Moleskine it was for me.

I began to suspect that Moleskine had identified and targeted me. I found their Charles Schulz commemorative notebooks appealing, their Pac-Man notebooks amusing. When they produced the Star Wars and LEGO notebooks, I was starting to be aware of something significant gathering momentum, but it wasn't until they came out with their Passions: beer notebook that I suspected they were actually reading my desultory blog posts and intermittent fanaticism.

Moleskine messages Postal Pocket Notebook
I thought they should make pencils and pens, and now they do. I thought a line of bags wouldn't be out of order, and they agreed with me. (Because I don't need reading glasses, I didn't foresee their generation of these.) But what is it now that makes me feel like I'm under the attentive gaze of a Big Beneficent Brother?

The Moleskine Messages Postal Notebooks. Do I not love all things stationery? In the main, I do. Have I not made my own folding pages/envelope sets? I have. Am I not impassioned about Moleskine products? To know me is to reconcile with my love of this series of handy, Euro-elegant notebooks.

And now I'm totally on board. If for no other reason than principle, I will not stray. For the most part I hold the concept of branding as misleading or at least tedious and beside-the-point, but in a few cases one manufacturer or service provider supplies a reliable product/service and they deserve recognition and, yes, loyalty. Moleskine does that for me. They are producing things I want, things I already have but with their unique spin and magical sheen, and while I'm not rushing out to buy everything they make, I will not pick up a notebook anywhere else.

As I said, I'm totally on board. Recently I bought a pack of large kraft Cahiers, decorated them with a 1965 National Geographic map, pages from a 1953 copy of German Through Pictures, and some Thai comics featuring troubled romance and ghost stories. I have put these up for sale on the international Moleskine site (they seem to have two main websites: one for the U.S. and one for everywhere else). If people find them worthy and buy them off me, why, I'll just pick up more notebooks and make more of these. I think that would be a pleasant outcome, for me.

Thursday, April 5

Minneapolis Postcard Collections

Once in a while, I discover something interesting embedded in the details of my city. I hope that such is the case with everyone, that I'm not the only one learning new things about their hometown, or that everyone lives somewhere with interesting things to uncover.

Image: Old Minneapolis Postcards
I learned a new word, for instance, when I discovered the Twin City Postcard Club of Minnesota. They describe themselves as deltiologists, "deltion" being Greek for writing tablet or letter. While I have two boxes of new postcards waiting to go out and twice that in cards I've received from around the world, I wouldn't classify myself as a deltiologist: my own collection is haphazard and byzantine, while these guys seem disciplined and focused on accruing a thematically consistent collection.

Here is an online gallery of vintage Minneapolis postcards, but if you're in the Minneapolis area, you must visit the Central Library. It's a beautiful structure in itself—one cool feature is the digital display of books being returned, broadcast on the sides of the elevators as they rise and lower—but here you will find the historic Minneapolis postcard collection in the Special Collections department. It's my intention to set up an appointment and bring some friends to check it out, because now I'm curious to learn what treasures are stored.

Tuesday, March 27

UPS is Bad For Postage

Quick announcement: Do not use UPS for international postcards.

U.S. postage rates went up not too long ago, so an oversized postcard needs $1.05 to go overseas.

I thought I'd save myself a bus trip and walk down to the local UPS outlet for stamps, much closer than any of the three post offices in my area. They carry first class Forever stamps, but they don't have them for international rate. However, the clerk offered to run them through their postage processor and I didn't know what the difference was.

The difference is, UPS marks this service up 86¢! What should have been $13.65 for 13 postcards came out eleven dollars more! I'm embarrassed by my poor judgment, but I went through with the transaction to teach myself a lesson. My wife may be upset with me for this needless expenditure, but I'll deserve her resentment, and hopefully this negative association will keep me away from UPS in the future.

I hope you'll learn from my lesson: you can buy Forever stamps at UPS, but for any other mail they are a terrible idea.

Ocean ≠ Tomato Sauce, Eh?

Seriously? Right off the bat?

Hell of a way to start an auspicious infographic: the National Post covered James Cameron's voyage to the bottom of the sea in the "Deepsea Challenger." Please note the first paragraph in the infographic, in which the brave crew plumbs the "Marinara" Trench.

Unfortunately, a quick Google search indicates this is not the first time the "deepest, most brutal part of the ocean" (Dethklok) has been confused with an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

Saturday, March 24

Gifts From the Business Class

Do you ever run a search on a topic and uncover some really relevant information on a blog or commentary page? And then you look at the date and it's the same day as your search? That, I confess, makes me suspicious. Other, more mystically minded people might say the Universe was pulling them toward that topic, or the author sent up a psychic beacon that you keyed into. I'm not averse to metaphysics, but I'm also keenly sensitive to online manipulation, so I wonder if there's some kind of program that spoofs the date or something... not that it's better to be paranoid than New Agey...

Photo: The Guardian
Anyway. Last night I was searching for topics on postcards in general and I found this really sweet little instructional guide, A Postcard A Day, written  (the same day I was searching, mind) for business travelers with families. It is touching for two reasons: it's touted as a more emotional connection with the people you leave behind. You can call, you can Skype, but it's something entirely different for a child to receive a colorful postcard of another city or some beautiful landscape, on the back of which the traveling parent has written a personal note or drawn a couple silly doodles. And to get one of these every day becomes an exciting ritual, itself a palliative to missing one's parent on a trip.

The other reason is that the author really believes in this. In this Business Insider column, Brad Feld mentions he has written about this three other times. You know what it's like, how it feels when you find a personal solution to something in your life. Through trial-and-error you discover an elegant pattern that amply satisfies a number of needs or conditions, and its not enough to implement it yourself but you have to share it with everyone. Because this is the fourth article Feld has written about this, I get the sense his heart is bursting with this simple technique of happy-making and, on some level, he feels a drive to hammer away at crustier, stodgier hearts with it. "You've got to trust me and just try this simple, effortless little thing," he's saying, "it really will make things better."

I can totally relate to that. And as a deltiologist and a postalater, I value that he is boosting for postcards.

Wednesday, March 21

English Girls Win Letter-Writing Competition

Photo: Hemel Today
ITEM: Girls show off writing skills in letter competition

How delightful! The more cynical part of me wants to gripe, yes, of course this would only happen in the U.K. and project a worst-case scenario for an American letter-writing competition: "Winners of the best-looking H have been announced. NY, CT, and NH vie to dominate the alphabet; AL and TN have been eliminated from future rounds."

Where does my bitterness come from? It's not that I believe it's inherently better to cleave to the past. Of course I believe penmanship and grammar should be celebrated throughout the elementary track, but I acknowledge those are my personal convictions. But that sets up a false argument: claiming we reject the past sets up the false dichotomy that we necessarily embrace the future, and this isn't so. Texting friends during class, during family meals, and while driving is only indulging in the fruits of advanced tech, not using these tools to build a better world.

Because I believe that's what penmanship and correspondence do: they instill a personal discipline and nurture a clarity of thought that serves one across many areas of one's life. It's one thing to have neat handwriting, but along with this comes the ability to focus on a goal and steadily work toward it regardless of the arduous passage of time.

Anyway. What were the standards for this contest? These 11y.o. English girls demonstrated an ability to address a topic (the Olympics) and expound upon what they would say to an Olympian athlete. A fun and relevant little creative exercise. Why couldn't the same exercise be implemented Stateside, where students write to and about their favorite celebrities? (Then again, who says it isn't?)

Tuesday, March 6

Look Up the Word You're Not Sure Of

You know what really bugs me? This situation: you're really good at something and no one recognizes you for it. Someone else is worse at it, and you can see how bad they are at it, but everyone loves them and they get money for it.

What could I be talking about? Oh, what could the unemployed copy editor be frothing about...

Still, Zombies have a certain caché to them.

Do they? Do they, really. Let me try the one thing this copywriter never did and look up that word, caché.

...Huh! It doesn't exist! I mean, it does if you count the proper noun, the brand name of dresses and sportswear for women aged 25-45. Yes, in that case, there is a prominently positioned Caché at the fore.

But that's not what this copywriter was aiming for. S/he meant "cache," without the acute accent, which would still be wrong as it means (noun) a collection of hidden items or (verb) to store away in hiding. What s/he meant was "cachet," no accent, plus a T. That's the word that means "prestige" or "the state of being respected or admired." (Also, "zombies" does not get capitalized in this usage.)

Ordinarily, this would rankle me. Under optimal circumstances, I'd read this and wince. But being unemployed as I am, seeking work as a copy editor and seeing someone paying good money for copy like that, that really bugs me. Insult to injury: I've applied at ThinkGeek for a copywriting position, too, but I live too far for their liking.

And yet, despite living half the U.S. nation away, I was able to pick out that error. I must be cheating somehow.

UPDATE: I felt bad about making such a big deal about at the time. ThinkGeek's a good organization and they pay attention—in fact, when I tweeted about this they responded that afternoon and said they would fix the error because they take their copywriting seriously. However, three weeks later, the error is still in place.

Monday, March 5

How to Cite a Tweet—Seriously

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has recently formalized how to cite a tweet (a post in Twitter), should one need to do so.

In many cases, no. No one needs to quote and provide citation for some illiterate youth ranting about whatever pop singer or whatever's awesome or lame on Saturday Night Live. Yet there are thousands and thousands of scientists, journalists, politicians, celebrities, and figures of authority on Twitter and many of them do deliver a quote-worthy payload. If you're writing a formal paper of any stripe and need to cite your source when quoting them, it should look like this:

  •  Christian Fredrickson (sxoidmal). "This is how to cite a tweet." 5 Mar 2012, 1:32 PM. Tweet.
The MLA article states that the time cited should be the reader's and not the time the tweet was posted. That would have been more difficult for older tweets. It took a few minutes of research to discover when exactly the below example had been posted, since Twitter didn't provide such detailed information two years ago. Recently, however, Twitter has implemented more detailed posting options so I imagine the MLA would not object to more accurate information being used in the citation, as long as it's available.

An example of an older tweet, from a twit:

  • Sierra Kusterbeck (SierraVE). "Advice from Sierra- always skip the first 3 days of school. Scheduling is definetly [sic] a mess & they'll never even notice." 24 Aug 2010. Tweet.
Note the date is not indicated in this post, no date more specific than year, anyway. I had to go through my own photo archives to find this image file's date from my screen capture, and I had to trust I'd taken it on the same day this post went out. In cases like this, the MLA suggests Twitter citations are not meant to be an accurate register of when things went live online but "approximate guides".

Saturday, March 3

The Dieresis: Not an Umlaut

Updates to the language may come slowly and without fanfare, but... I try to keep my eyes open.

Let me share something I've learned recently. When I was very young, a board game came out that was themed on the Star Wars burgeoning movie franchise. It was a simple game in which you moved from one end of the board to the other, collecting objects and overcoming obstacles. My love for the game came not from the complicated game engine, of course, but that it kept me in the spirit of the film. Playing this jejune pass-time, which had no more to do with Star Wars than the images printed upon it, gave my impressionable imagination the sensation of prolonging my existence within the Star Wars universe for that much longer, in intervals of ten minutes as I played with my cousins.

But the world of language intruded here, ever so slightly. One of the instruction cards a player could draw ordered them to dedicate all moves to arriving at Yavin-4 starbase, with the imperative "coördinate." We debated briefly as to what that meant, that single word that seemed redundant among the instructions: of course we were going to coördinate with the order just passed to us. Why that iteration?

I was bugged by something further: those two dots over the second "o". I had only seen anything like that in the word "naïve," but I didn't know what those dots were doing there, either. This was a rare application that never turned up in any other form of printed literature I had access to, as a child, and when I described it to my elementary school teachers they had no idea what it meant either. Instead, they simply assumed I was mistaken.

Years later, when I began studying German, I was made familiar with the umlaut. I thought it was cool, this extra adornment added to vowels to make an additional sound. And if you didn't have an umlaut on your typewriter, it was acceptable to tack an "e" on after the vowel that would've worn it. Our German exchange student came from Bühl, which I could've written as Buehl, and someone else had for the title Ferris Buehler's Day Off. One from Bühl would be a Bühler, just as those little sausages from Wien (Vienna) are called wieners. Oh German, is there anything you haven't thought of?

But in "coördinate," that is not an umlaut. It's called a dieresis (diaeresis in UK), and it is used to indicate that the second in a pair of vowels will take on a markedly different sound. According to Random House's The Mavens' Word of the Day, The New Yorker Magazine adheres to the strictest implementation of this convention, making it unique among all other U.S. print publications. Why they opt to retain this antiquated stylistic function is unknown to me, but I can't say I disapprove at all. Once in a while, I'll even implement it in a letter or postcard I'm writing, just to shake things up.

Thursday, February 23

Hand-Written Letters and Motivation

Oh man, oh man, I wish I'd heard of this a month ago.

While perusing Facebook (the blessing and curse to all our lives), I found mention by Postcrossing, which I subscribe to, about a blog entry centering on letter-writing. Well, I love writing letters! or, I did before I got lazy, and I also like to blame it on how other people don't write back but, really, if you're dedicated to writing letters, others' responses should not matter. Yes, it'd be nice to hear from other people, but my values are not theirs, and apparently I'm not worth 20 minutes and the latest Forever stamp.

So the above blog-author (or blauthor) touched on how difficult it was to get into, the letter-writing process, but after diligent application and persistence she gathered momentum. Indeed, she came to enjoy it as an exercise and a pastime, and her letters got longer and longer. That's wonderful, I thought, but why is an average citizen so driven to pour time and effort into a hand-written letter? I did it because the electricity in my building went out for two days. I sent out 40 postcards and letters to everyone in my address book, that's how restless I got.

Sunday, February 19

DIY: Notebook Made of Junk Mail

Hmm, here's a ridiculous little project for when you've got too much time on your hands. Maybe you had a really strong coffee and—like me—maybe you recently came into possession of a large quantity of chocolate chip cookie dough, and you make yourself piles of cookies with wanton abandon. That's where your energy comes from.

Look at this: investment companies, radio stations, and
grocery stores are just throwing resources at you.
And let's also say that—like me—you have an endless and unstoppable stream of junk mail flowing into your living space. Further, let's suppose that—like me—you don't have any paper product recycling infrastructure in your neighborhood. Glass and aluminum, sure, but not paper. Weird, right?

(Also, we seem to have a lot in common. Maybe we should hang out?)

Tuesday, February 7

The Quick-and-Dirty Short Fiction

I have a humble formula for generating short stories. It's a little simplistic, but when I'm absolutely scraping for ideas, a big, elaborate convolution of high concepts won't help me. I just need a quick-and-dirty checklist for a basic short story, just to get something written. Later, when I'm convinced of its brilliance, then I can worry about the complicated matters.

First, pick a conflict: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Circumstance, or Man vs. Self. I know there are over thirty tropes, but these three will suffice. Next, I write a little column of three abbreviations...

Sunday, January 1

My Goal (and Rationale) for Creativity

Worth reading: 33 Ways to Stay Creative. You don't have to agree with them, but they're worth reading.

I ritually seek out creative stimuli and kick-starting literature the way other people seek out other self-help material. Some of it's crap, like Caffeine for the Creative Mind. That book is full of sappy humor and self-admiration, but there are also a few gems in the heap. And even the dopey exercises are worth putting real effort into because they are exercises. They're not interesting, but they are as useful as a martial artist throwing 100 perfect punches at a padded wall.

I mean, it's the new year. The start of this arbitrary temporal bracket is an excellent time to reassess and form plans. There's nothing stopping us from doing this at any point in the year, of course, but the sense of a period of time ending and a new one beginning gives us a nudge to rethink our lives. It's a natural human function: end-of-year celebrations are ancient and global. Humans have always gathered around and expressed appreciation for their relationships, braced themselves for the responsibilities and opportunities of the new year.

As I was blessed to be born into a surplus society and first-world nation (and everyone must remember that this was solely a random result: we did not deserve to be born here, no one deserved to be born elsewhere, and nobody is of more worth for being born one place over another), it is my luxury to mull and muse about creative exploits rather than repairing my house or foraging for the next meal. It benefits no one for me to neglect the gifts of my environment, but instead is a slap in the face to anyone who lives an "I would if I could" life. So I think about cultivating my creativity, manifesting it. This year is going to be my year to focus on writing, getting published. I have terrible follow-through: at the start of this new year, I'm going to rectify that.

Thanks, everyone, for reading. I'll try to make this place more worth everyone's time—that's part of my writing goals.

May the conservatives learn compassion,
May the liberals learn loyalty,
or, failing these,
May the end be swift and painless,