Starlings

2017-10-22 20:46
[syndicated profile] huskyteer_lj_feed
And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
All the way down the Telegraph Road.


(Read more ...)
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
A few weeks back I started this series (part 1, part 2, part 3) referencing a running gag from the movie Throw Mama From the Train, where one writer is hung up on his opening line, trying hundreds of variants of “The night was…” instead of just concentrating on the story itself, then fixing the opening later. The opening is important, of course. When your story is published, you won’t be there to whisper in the reader’s ear “It gets really good once it gets moving. Keep reading and scroll down. It’ll be worth it.” Your opening line (and paragraph, and scene) must do that for you.

The three classic openings are...

(the rest of this post about opening lines in fiction is at FontFolly.Net.)
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
I drink coffee in the mornings and usually switch to tea in the afternoon. At least when I’m in the office. When I’m home (whether it be a work from home day or simply a day off), I’ll make a pot of coffee in the morning, and since I’m the only coffee drinker in the house, that’s usually more than enough for me for the day. Most of the time...

(The rest of this post about beverages, weather, life, and inspiration is at FontFolly.Net.)
[syndicated profile] coyotetracks_feed
Introducing the first iteration of the Apple TV with an app store, Tim Cook (in)famously declared, “We believe the future of TV is apps.” The Apple TV stands out from its competitors for only two things: the App Store, and a much more powerful CPU than its competitors. So it’s safe to say that Apple genuinely does believe this is the future of TV.

It’s also safe to say, though, that it doesn’t appear to be panning out. Pretty much nobody buys Apple TVs for much other than what other streaming boxes do.1 We’re watching Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon Prime. (Well, we will be watching Prime. Later. Theoretically.)

What we want from TV is—sorry for the buzzword—content. In practice, it doesn’t matter how we get Game of Thrones or Star Trek: Discovery as long as we can get it easily on demand. Apps are arguably less help than hindrance. Imagine having a storefront that had all the shows, and we just paid per episode or per season for permanent access to our favorite shows–we could stream them or download them. Wouldn’t that be much better?

Ha ha! I’m pulling a fast one on you. Sorry. We had that from Apple and Amazon by the mid-2000s. Have you ever bought a TV show on iTunes? No? Yes, but only because it wasn’t available on Netflix? Once we got “all you can eat” streaming for $10–12 a month, we all said fuck this à la carte thing. We’ll just wait for all the networks and all the studios to put all the things on Netflix. Everybody wins!

But studios don’t make as much selling to Netflix as they used to in old syndication deals. They make a lot less. So what are they going to do? Start their own streaming service. Yay! You know Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, and HBO Go/Now. Maybe you know Walmart’s me-too Vudu service. And you’ve recently heard Trek nerds bitch about CBS All Access. But there’s also Crunchyroll, Feeln, Acorn TV, Filmstruck, BritBox, Shudder, Screambox, Youtube Red, and others that I’m certainly forgetting–and that’s without counting the “cable replacement” services like Sling Orange, PlayStation Vue and Hulu Live. Disney is gearing up for their service, with plans to pull their stuff off other streaming services. And there’s whatever the hell Apple is doing.2

“But nobody’s going to subscribe to all those streaming services!” Not if you’re already paying $100+ a month for cable before you add any streaming services, no. But imagine a world (it’s easy if you try) in which you’re only paying, say, $50 a month for network access with no bundled television. All your shows now come from streaming services. So the chances are you’re going to end up subscribing to more than just Netflix and one other.

If you look at cord cutting as a money-saving move, this sounds depressing: it’s painting a picture of a future where the money you save by going data-only gets eaten up by streaming services. Well, true. But now you’re paying for everything on demand, in most cases commercial-free. Honestly, that’s still a win.

“Okay, but even if you get me to pay for five or six services, you listed eighteen services and claimed you were probably forgetting some. That is not gonna happen.” No, it isn’t. Most of those services aren’t going to survive long-term. They’re going to merge with other services or just quietly vanish. (SeeSo, we hardly knew yeeso.) But streaming video will likely never consolidate to a point where you can get every show you want by ponying up for one or two big names.

Is this just about money? Is it just greed that stops networks and studios from making it easier on all us consumers by just putting everything on Netflix or Hulu? Sort of. But it’s also about control.

Giant aggregators kind of reverse the way we think of monopolies working: instead of giant companies gaining control over a market and gouging consumers at retail, they lower retail prices and deliver the real pain to the suppliers. Walmart is the original giant aggregator, and it’s not hard to find stories of companies driven to bankruptcy by “success” selling through them. Twenty-First Century Walmart, Amazon, is remarkably cavalier about counterfeiters selling physical goods on their site. And you don’t have to be on the take from Penguin Random House to wonder whether it’s particularly healthy for self-publishers to rely on Amazon for three-quarters or more of their sales. If they decide they’d rather only give “indies” a 50% cut of the cover price instead of 70%, well, what are you gonna do about it? Pray they don’t alter the deal any further.3

The music industry still blames Apple’s iTunes ecosystem for destroying the once-lucrative CD market. So it’s not surprising that studios have decided that if on-demand streaming was truly going to be the future of television, they did not, in fact, want to chill with Netflix. Think about streaming music: artists say that unless they’re Taylor Swift, they’re making bupkis from Spotify, yet Spotify pays out so much for music that they’re still not profitable. These sound mutually exclusive, but they’re not: Spotify and friends should have charged $15 or $20 a month for unlimited music streaming, not $10.

Does that mean that Netflix should be charging us more than $9.99 $10.99? If they wanted to be the video version of Spotify, yes. But they don’t: they want to be a network. Amazon wants to be a network. Hulu wants to be a network. Apple (probably) wants to be a network. CBS wants to remain a network.

And at the end of the day, that’s what this boils down to: video streaming services aren’t the new airwaves, they’re the new networks. And since we’ve pretty much all collectively decided we can’t stand commercial breaks–how we “paid” for most network programming for sixty-odd years–we’re going to end up paying those networks directly.

So the future of TV is not apps–the future of TV is, just like the past of TV, networks. The key shift is a move from an advertising-supported model to consumers paying the networks directly.4

But will this future last as long as what it’s replacing? The network-and-affiliate broadcast model has been with us for nearly a century, predating television itself. That’s a lot harder to say. The model definitely needs tweaks–streaming services need to stop treating their metadata as proprietary secret sauce and let companies building streaming appliances build comprehensive cross-service program guides, for a start. But it seems to me like this future, even if it’s not precisely the one we wanted, has legs.

It’s much less clear to me whether this model will work well for software, as more and more programs take cues from Adobe and Microsoft and move toward subscription models. That, however, is another post.


  1. The Apple TV is arguably most of the way to being a solid “casual” game console, but it’s become clear that Apple has no idea how to make it attractive to either developers or consumers in that space. 
  2. I suspect Jason Snell is correct: Apple will take an “HBO approach…offering a dozen original series and a curated collection of films and classic TV shows.” 
  3. This is what much of Amazon’s stock price was historically based on: investors bet they would do exactly what Walmart did. That this hasn’t come to pass may well be due to Amazon Web Services becoming the company’s biggest revenue driver. 
  4. Advertising-supported services that are free to watch will stick around, but there’s a strong antipathy toward services with monthly bills and ads. I doubt that “blended” model will be with us long-term. 
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
I’ve seen the opinion expressed more than once that there is nothing more boring than reading about other people’s dreams. But I have also noticed that the people who say that frequently are the sorts whose blogging consists of long cynical (and boring) discourses on how horrible every single person they have ever known is and/or how every book/game/movie/TV series episode they watch is horrible. So, I’m going to ignore them...

(The rest of this weird post is at FontFolly.Net.)
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
I fully admit to being addicted to gadgets. I spend a lot of my time at home writing, reading, and researching on a Macbook Pro, but I also own one of the big Mac Pro Towers with an Apple Cinema Display for a monitor, and I own an Asuratek Ultrabook that runs Windows 7. Plus I have an iPad Pro with the Apple Smart Keyboard, upon which I do a surprising number of tasks that previously required a laptop, plus my iPhone and Apple Watch, and did I mention my Kindle? And that doesn’t even get into the more than half-dozen iPods of various models that I load up with music and rotate through the car. Plus there is a dizzying array of accessories for all of the above. The number of different types of headphones I own (even after purging a whole bunch during the move) is enough to make most people’s heads spin...

(The rest of this post about how different people's needs require different tools is at FontFolly.Net

Inktober For Writers

NSFW 2017-10-14 13:22
joshuwain: (Artistic)
[personal profile] joshuwain
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
The second Friday in October already. Where is the year going?

This week we have what is probably one of the shortest collections of Friday Links I've ever done (unless you count the few times I've missed the day). One reason is that I've been very busy and a little bit under the weather this week. So I just didn't collection many. But another reason is that I've been thinking about how much time I spend on various activities and considering making some changes. There was a time, not that long ago, where the weekly round up of links was one of my most clicked on posts every week. And that's just on my personal blog. I can't get stats from the places where I cross-post the full text, so always assumed the actual numbers were higher. But now Friday Links is one of the least click posts on the blog, consistently.

This isn't just about click. I've always rationalized the weekly round up based on the fact that every day I spend some time reading news and such on the net, and collecting the links of the stories I think worth sharing isn't a big effort. However, assembling the post takes several hours every Thursday. Even those time when I try to limit how much time I spend, it always takes longer because I'll reach the time limit and think, "But there was that one story about..." and go looking for the link. Sort of, "Just one more, oh, and that one! And we can't forget this one!"

It took much less than an hour to assemble this one, and I still spent more time arguing with myself about whether I should go looking for more links so it wouldn't be so short.

Anyway, here are the links I gathered this week, sorted into categories as accurately as I could.

Story of the Week



Rose McGowan's Temporary Twitter Lock-Out Inspires #WomenBoycottTwitter Movement.

Science!



Which Sounds Better, Analog or Digital Music? The answer is subjective, but the underlying math is not.

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!



WHERE I THINK THEY ARE NOW: HOCUS POCUS EDITION.

This week in awful people



Las Vegas Shooter had ‘No Political Affiliation’.

News for queers and our allies:



Experts confirm gender identity is biological and say insurers should cover trans health needs.

This week in Writing



New Hire: Talking with DW about moving to Seattle, publishing his sketchbooks, and finding cartoonists from every continent on Earth.

This Week in Covering the News



ESPN Suspends Jemele Hill Two Weeks For No Good Reason.

News about the Fascist Regime:



GOP embarrasses Trump, accidentally admits Obamacare was a huge success.

This Week in Foreign Enemies



Could we reverse a hacked presidential election?

Things I wrote:



Celebrate Indeginenous Peoples Day.

What’s not to love about Halloween?

No one deserves to live in a closet.

The Night Was Sultry, part 3 — finding the emotional hook.
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
Two weeks ago I started the discussion about beginnings in fiction by referencing a great running gag in the movie Throw Mama From the Train. I’ve covered when (in time) to start the story (The Night Was Sultry, part 1), and how to select an internal conflict to go with the external plot (The Night Was Sultry, part 2). In other words, we’ve talked about the narrative hook and setting the stakes.

But in addition to the narrative hook, you need an emotional hook...

(The rest of this post about the craft of writing is at FontFolly.Net.)
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Sorry, My Give-A-Damn is Broken
So the thing with the rebel tendency, at least for me, is that I am motivated by desire. That is to say, I have to want something in order to make it happen– which is why grief and depression are my kryptonite. Depression makes it hard to take pleasure in anything, and grief makes it hard to be willing to engage in things you like because you don't want to risk facing the pain of loss again.

But I can't just spend my life wandering an emotional wasteland like Hipster Percival. Besides the fact that we live in a pay-to-play society, there's a more primal factor in that I need to be creating in order to be happy. But attempting to create when my heart isn't in it, true to rebel nature, is just an exercise in frustration and resistance.

This creates a kind of feedback loop– I have to be happy enough to get excited about what I want to create, in order to do the creating that will make me happy.

It's kinda like a fusion reaction: once the cycle is up and running, it's nicely self-sustaining, but if something comes along and stops it (or it runs out of fuel), it takes a vast amount of external energy to get it started back up again.

Which is roughly where I am emotionally at the moment. I need to restart my emotional pilot light– what I refer to as my Give-A-Damn. When you hear about artists wailing to the muses for inspiration, same deal. Some writers sneer at this notion, saying that "real writers write whether they feel like it or not." I would argue that those writers have probably never had to really deal with a broken Give-A-Damn, and have no idea how debilitating it actually is.

(They may also be hacks; but that varies wildly from writer to writer.)

There is some truth to the adage that once you start moving, the energy and enthusiasm will come, but it isn't an absolute. Sometimes "shut up and write" works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, a mental vacation is what's needed. Other times, you need to actually get inspiration from a new experience or from some great piece of work that's new to you.

So far, my Give-A-Damn has been very stubborn about not letting itself be fixed– but I am more stubborn than it is.

-The Gneech

(no subject)

2017-10-11 22:14
jayblanc: (Default)
[personal profile] jayblanc
Having a panic attack because I updated my twitter profile to include "Queer romantic ace (probably?)."
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
It’s National Coming Out Day! And just for the record, in case it isn’t clear: I’m queer! Specifically I am a gay man married to a bisexual man. For many years I lived in the closet, and am ever so happy that those days are far, far behind me. So, if you’re a person living in the closet, I urge you to consider coming out. Being in the closet is scary—you live in a constant state of high anxiety about people finding out and what they might do when it happens. Studies show that this affects us the same as extended trauma, inducing the same sorts of stress changes to the central nervous system as PTSD.

The problem is that coming out is also scary...

(The rest of this post, with quotes from others and a link to an awesome comic about coming out, is at FontFolly.Net.)
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
I’ve written a few times before about my love of Halloween and my fondness for a certain type of spooky movie. Some years I have done elaborate decorating for the holiday. I often spend time planning a costume to wear to any Halloween party we might be attending. I always spend at least part of the month of October listening to what I consider Halloween music while planning what kind of movies I might watch on the actual night. And then, of course, there is trying to decide how much candy we will need to hand out that night...

(The rest of this post is at FontFolly.Net.)

Random Blugh

2017-10-10 13:18
the_gneech: (Default)
[personal profile] the_gneech
Feel like crap for no good reason today. Trying to grind through because there's a lot of stuff I want to get done and there will always be things trying to prevent me from doing them, so when those things are my own internal bad wiring I can at least say "no" to that.

Through a roundabout path I recently happened upon Gretchen Rubin's concept of "four tendencies" and discovered that, true to form, I have the rarest and most problematic tendency, that of "rebel." The tendencies are based on how you respond to expectations, whether internal or external.

  • Upholders respond strongly to both internal and external expectations. They tend to be sticklers for the rules, but also self-motivated and with a moral code that can override the outer laws and traditions of the world around them. Hermione Granger is listed as an archetypal upholder; I'm not sure if I actually know any personally.


  • Questioners respond strongly to internal expectations, but not so much to external ones. They always want a satisfactory explanation for anything– if they don't think there's a valid reason to follow a rule or complete a project, they won't. [personal profile] laurierobey falls into this category. I suspect Sirfox is as well, but it's harder to tell.


  • Obligers respond strongly to external expectations, but not so much to internal ones. These are people who can stick to an exercise regimen if they've got a buddy or a class, but will immediately stop as soon as nobody's "checking up" on them. Sandy Rathbun was in this group, and I suspect so was Mammallamadevil.


  • Rebels do not respond well to external or internal expectations. They can be summarized as "You can't tell me what to do– and I can't tell me what to do either." Once they decide they want to do something, there's no stopping them, but until they want to do something, you can expect them to resist with all they've got. That includes things they decided a month ago that they wanted to do, but that they don't want to do right now, which can lead them to be just as frustrating to themselves as they are to the people around them. Like I say, I am a rebel. So is Hantamouse, which is simultaneously why the two of us get along and why the two of us fight.


There's a lot more to the framework than just this, and it's also just a tool, not some magical solution to figuring out personality quirks and interactions and things. But within the framework, I think there's some interesting insights.

I was at a presentation by Ms. Rubin, and I tried to ask (but didn't get called on), "If a rebel instinctively says 'no' to any expectation, even their own, how are they supposed to keep from eventually sliding into a Bartleby-esque catatonic state of just never wanting to do anything?" I hoped that her book might have an answer for that question, but I have since discovered that... no, not really. The book had very simplistic reverse-psychology suggestions along the lines of "I bet you can't lose 20 pounds in ten weeks!" Seriously? What am I, seven?

But this is a problem that I have found myself facing over the past few years since being effectively self-employed. I used to hate my day job fiercely, and come home to work on my writing/art/etc. with the zeal of a workaholic because it was what I wanted to do. Now, the writing/art/etc. is my day job, but instead of being energized and excited and kicking ass, I am now fighting with the constant desire to sleep all day or play video games or whatever else instead.

A devotee of the four tendencies would say that's my rebel nature, and it may very well be. But that just puts a label on it, it doesn't actually give me any tools to combat the problem.

I have contemplated going back to a day job just to give me something to channel my resentment back into other than my own work. But as I get older, I don't have the endurance I used to. That Starbucks job I had in late 2015 was only part time and still left me feeling dead most of the time. I can only imagine how wrecked I would be trying to go back to 40 hours of writing code or something similar at 6 am in the friggin' morning. I can't deny the pay would be better, but if it left me too tired to do my real work, it would be literally selling my soul.

I know that I am motivated by desire. Everything I've accomplished was because there was something I wanted to happen. I created Suburban Jungle because I wanted there to be a comic like Suburban Jungle for me to read. I wrote Sky Pirates of Calypsitania because I wanted to read a book like Sky Pirates of Calypsitania. But right now I'm in a mental and emotional spot where desire is hard to come by. Grief has damaged my ability to feel enthusiasm. Frustration has damaged my ability to feel hope.

So right now, I am operating on almost 100% pure stubbornness. Which is frankly exhausting. So I guess on reflection it's not quite so random a blugh, nor quite a case of feeling like crap for no good reason. I'm fatigued.

-The Gneech
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
[personal profile] typographer
America was inhabited already when Columbus blundered his way into the West Indies. They are called the West Indies, in case you didn’t know, because he thought he had sailed all the way around the world to Japan, China, and India. Seriously. He was convinced that San Salvador was Japan, and Cuba was China.

Columbus wasn’t a great thinker...


(The rest of this mildly pedantic post about a holiday is at FontFolly.Net.)

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