Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category
“I have a feeling every good writer, regardless of background, doubts his own voice just a little, and his own right to have that voice heard. It’s the simple effrontery of the thing. Who died and made me Storyteller?”
— David Simon
“The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.”
— George Orwell
If you’d like to read what I’m writing for COSMOS, check out the Articles page from time to time. I’ll update it regularly as more stuff is published, rather than make a new blog post for each individual article, which would be wearisome. Though I will still tweet the ever-loving daylights out of them.
In other news, I am inordinately amused this week by aggressively declaring my intent to tweet things. This will probably pass.
I encountered a stunning phrase in a call-out quote from a fiction story in an issue of COSMOS: “the refined hedonism of virtue”.
In the past three days I have also have encountered chicken feet (for eating), (too) loud and wonderful music, Australian spelling and a magazine with an office dog, whose name I have forgotten but looks like a romping black mop and who has yet to warm up to me. Tulip?
Pictures from work to come; didn’t want to be that guy on the first day. I think I’ll have a story up tomorrow. If so, I’ll tweet the shit out of it, along with subsequent stories. I don’t think I’m going to be bored anytime soon, and I couldn’t ask for a more relaxed, welcoming, or stimulating workplace. It’s going to be a good (Australian) winter.
Today in SF Sunday — loosely interpreted — we have a lovely post from the ever-insightful Brainpickings. Ray Bradbury, grandmaster of science fiction, offers advice to Snoopy (and by extension, us) on persevering in the face of rejection.
I’ve come to realize that no amount of success really takes the edge off of the fear or the sting of rejection. But it builds character, as Calvin’s dad was fond of saying, and makes success not only that much sweeter but possible in the first place. Mostly everything that’s done is a failure, and mostly everyone is bad at everything. That’s why talent stands out. And even if you have talent, you’re still going to produce a lot of crap. And even the best things you produce, the best things that anyone will ever produce, will eventually sink, all but forgotten, into the boiling sea of archetypes that is the collective human imagination.
I’m going to expand the concept of SF Sunday to include videogames (and probably every other field of creative endeavor). I very recently – as in two days ago – “rediscovered” videogames and what a balm to the soul they can be. I put “rediscovered” in quotes because I never stopped believing in the power of games — I just stopped availing myself of that power. From a life-consuming obsession in my formative years, to a mild Tetris obsession and then to virtually nothing during college (the odd Nintendo DS game being the rare exception), videogames were gradually edged out of my life.
Now the smartphone has remedied that. If you have an iPhone or an Android you can get Temple Run for free. The game is simplicity itself: run, jump, duck, and turn for your life, collecting coins and staying one step ahead of the weird demon-monkey creatures who want to devour your still-beating heart. And as an added bonus, you can (in the Android version at least) turn down the game sound and play your own music. Fleeing from the restless dead with an unholy relic in hand while “White Tooth Man” by Iron and Wine is one of the finest pleasures civilized life has to offer, if you ask me. It would be nice if you could select different avatars, but this is a relatively minor complaint**.
**Just checked the store. Minority characters are available, for a price payable in gold coins. Touche, Temple Run. Touche.
And for a mellower but equally addictive gaming experience, Osmos HD lets you guide a galactic mote into becoming bigger by absorbing smaller motes and avoiding larger ones. It sounds Darwinian, and it is. But it’s also calming, compelling, and a hell of a lot of fun. I don’t know if you can play your own music, but even if you could, the in-game music is no afterthought but a definite part of the experience. Osmos HD probably is as close to a meditative experience as you can have on the subway without decades of meditation under your belt chakra.
Finally, for those who love videogames but want to know what’s under the hood, Harvard is offering a free online course in computer science. Wired ran a review of a similar course offered by Stanford not too long ago, and if that’s any indication, the Harvard course is no lightweight offering. Extensive programming is part of the curriculum.
Finally, on a personal note, I have to start packing. Having a blog is a great excuse to procrastinate, by the by. Really looking forward to interning at COSMOS. Expect pictures and stories.
There is a great article about a hospital in Kabul that treats the wounded on all sides of the conflict, run by the Italian NGO*** Emergency, on the NYT website and in the print magazine this week.
Emergency works all over the world in regions riven by conflict, refusing to take sides but focusing especially on providing treatment at no cost to civilians who are caught in the crossfire. I do some editing work for them from time to time. It really is a wonderful organization and worth checking out. You can get involved by donating to Emergency USA***, an independent U.S. non-profit that raises awareness of, and funds for, their programs.
***CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post, I conflated Emergency, the Italian NGO, with Emergency USA, the American nonprofit.
Today we have two improbable virtual realities, each more mind-blowing than the last.
The first is Walden:The Videogame (probably not the actual title). This virtual simulation of Henry Thoreau’s book of the same name, wherein he lived in the woods to escape from too-busy society, has stirred up a predictably snarky/cranky reaction.
But I would play it. I also read books and go out of doors from time to time. They are not mutually exclusive, snark notwithstanding.
Roger Ebert, whose specially-developed artificial voice software is discussed in the SmartPlanet article, proposes an interesting variant on the Turing test – to create a synthesized voice capable of telling funny jokes.