Tag Archives: Self-promotion

Minor improvements on the Space/Time Directory

This morning I read about the New York Public Library’s Space/Time Directory, an interactive Google map that will employ historical data to walk users through a virtual Manhattan of yore. This is a terrific idea, and I should know because I thought of it way back in 2008 when I was snorting amphetamines, day-trading away millions of dollars, and decoding the lyrics to Britney Spears’s “Womanizer.” [I was a happy housewife at the time, but my internal biography reads more like David Carr’s (RIP).]

Granted, my idea was a little more inchoate than the one with a $380,000 grant and the full support of the NYPL juggernaut behind it. Let the historical record show that I wasn’t envisioning a simulated time machine for New York City alone, which would have been a good place to start. I was thinking of one for all of human civilization (much harder to beta test). I imagined people being able to wander digitally through their neighborhoods 200 years prior to see what the land looked like back then. Or, if their homes were standing 50 years ago, they could virtually knock on doors to see who lived in them. They could look at photographs and read diary entries, birth certificates, obituaries, etc., of the people who once inhabited those domiciles. And while all this historical data was being explored, contributors would be populating the present moment with the same material, so people could rest assured that they’d exist in time and space long after they were gone, even if they hadn’t left behind a bestselling memoir or a compelling Twitter feed or something.

But this is basically what the NYPL plans to do. The Space/Time Directory is an aggregator of information, information that is then applied to an interactive atlas in limitless layers. It’s a way of taking everyone’s photos, documents, and personal histories and bringing them back to life in one interactive organism. The directory has the potential to revolutionize the entire concept of the past. I foresee people moving to the S/TD (ha) like they moved to Second Life, and watching their great-grandparents grow up as avatars.

Which is all well and good, but I have my own system-wide improvements to propose to the NYPL:

1) Once you’ve compiled the history, so the entire human journey is contained within a single computer program, hit the button that will determine whether or not any of it makes any fucking sense.

2) Let’s say it does make sense. Then you can build an algorithm! Out of math. And the algorithm will give S/TD users the option of messing things up in the past and consequently changing the future, a la Marty McFly. I imagine this will be a fun learning experience for the kids, so they’ll stop putting their grubby little fingers all over everything.

3) Include astronomical data so we can know what the moon was doing at the exact moment of our conception and we won’t have to pay our astrologers so much money.

4) Make cemeteries interactive so zombies actually pop up when you scroll over graves.

5) When your users click on a virtual movie theater in the distant past, they should be able to watch the films that were showing at the time. When your users click on a virtual bookstore that’s since gone out of business, they should be able to read digital versions of the books that sold best on the shelves. That would be the way to attract nerds, as if nerds weren’t the only people cruising the past anyway.

6) Other entities that should be in the Space/Time Directory: dogs, bugs, extinct mammals, Best Buy phone booths.

7) The S/TD as conceptualized by the NYPL has 4D but if we could step it up to at least 5D then we could see different universes that might have arisen in human history and they might be awesome and this whole project might merge into World of Warcraft oh my god.

8) I suspect that 6D might just be pornography and very few people want to see their great-grandparents having sex. But I’m not an astrophysicist. In this non-computer-generated life, anyway.

9) My head is exploding my head is exploding. The implications of this technology are infinite! If only I were a little smarter and could think of everything! But I’m all jacked up on speed (spinach frittata) and history is moving too fast into the future. I’ll come back to this later.

I’m so relieved that I’m not on drugs!

Just imagine how exhausting it would be to be addicted all the time! If you were reading a book in a coffee shop, you’d have to keep getting up to do your drugs in the bathroom and the book would take you twice as long to read! And just thinking about shopping for the drugs wears me out! I hate shopping! Yesterday I was sitting with a friend here in New York, discussing her graduate school thesis, and it just hit me that neither of us are on drugs, and isn’t that wonderful? Granted, sometimes I enter a dark, graffiti’d restroom in a trendy bar in New York and I imagine all the cool people who have giddily done drugs off the toilet and I ask myself if I’m making a big mistake, but I snap out of it when I recollect the time and effort and money that drugs demand from the average user. Phew! I will stick to coffee and books, thank you very much! If only these meth-addicted prostitutes could be more like me!

In which my husband solves the newspaper publishing crisis

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the future of journalism residing in “hyperlocal” news. Hyperlocal news steps in where the doomsday scenario leaves off: Newspapers fire experienced writers, writers have no place to go, newspapers die out, the end is nigh. Yet we still crave news that is streamlined and directly relevant to our lives. So instead of scavenging a national paper on its deathbed, we might read a blog written by an out-of-work reporter who lives down the street, a meaningful voice that in turn aggregates other meaningful voices.

This is where Darren Hoyt comes in. He and Ben Gillbanks, an English colleague, just launched Dispatch, a WordPress blog theme for writers and journalists. An add-on to the Mimbo Pro WP theme, Dispatch gives any journalist with $20* an online platform that looks and feels like a professional newspaper or magazine website. So with minimal effort and financial commitment, you can launch a respectable blog for posting pictures and stories of your tour in Afghanistan or your cat or whatever. God, my husband is on the cutting edge.

Tech Dirt tells us why hyperlocal news makes sense, and, by extension, why you should be interested in Dispatch:

The technological and economic constraints of newsprint meant that the whole process had to be done by full-time employees and carefully coordinated by a single, monolithic organization. But the Internet makes possible a much more decentralized model, in which lots of different people, most of them volunteers, participate in the process of gathering and filtering the news. Rather than a handful of professional reporters writing stories and an even smaller number of professional editors deciding which ones get printed, we’re moving toward a world that Clay Shirky calls publish, then filter: anyone can write any story they want, and the stories that get the most attention are determined after publication by decentralized, community-driven processes like Digg, del.icio.us, and the blogosphere.

Other tech people weigh in on hyperlocal news here and here and here.

In my own hyperlocal news, I want to punch that word “blogosphere” in the gut. And then make sweet love to it.

Here’s a “for instance”: Your wife needs a new website ASAP so she can compete with the New York literati! You just created an awesome website! What’s your next move?

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

*Keep in mind that Dispatch is an add-on to Mimbo Pro, which costs $79. Still, that totals $100 for a website with amazing functionality and versatility that you might otherwise pay a designer thousands of dollars to develop for you. I feel like I am one step away from an infomercial right now.

Sickness. Couch. Links. Confusion.

I am a creature of routine occupying a body of convention living a life of habit. So when I got exciting news this week that seems to portend my world changing drastically this summer (holy crap I was admitted to an MFA program!), I immediately got the flu. It was my body’s way of saying, “Don’t go changing on me.” And not only am I receiving conflicting signals from my ambitious brain and my curmudgeonly immune system, I am further confused by the rejection letters slowly piling up from other MFA programs. Maybe I got into the one program that didn’t read my application. Oh well – sucks for them. I’m still going. A green light is a green light even when you can see a collision on the horizon. Thank you, dear benefactors!

In other news:

I give you the Halloween costume of the future! (The future being 2009.)

Tom Perotta talks Tracy Flick: “Especially with Palin, I don’t feel as if Tracy Flick was the best comparison. I just think people are made uncomfortable by ambitious women.”

Romantic comedies might be as harmful to the developing psyche as violent video games and cheese from a can.

Are poets held to lower standards today?

What war on drugs? I don’t remember fighting a war on drugs.

I’m the last person to be wrapped up in the WTF Blanket.

A new book asks why women get short shrift when it comes to writing the next Great American Novel. (Thanks to DD for the link.)

[Elaine Showalter] has insisted that themes central to women’s lives — marriage, motherhood, the tension between family and individual aspirations — constitute subject matter as “serious” and significant as traditionally masculine motifs like war and travel. Yet she rejects the preference of many feminist literary scholars for emphasizing “culture importance rather than aesthetic distinction” . . .

This website is to sociologists what PhotoshopDisasters is to designers.

Judith Warner writes about the pitfalls of mindfulness and Anna Fricke writes about not getting the baby drunk (both from NY Times blogs).

My alma mater is looking for a new mascot. Remember that artichokes, banana slugs, and “The Fighting Quaker” have already been done.

Jonathan Ames is taking on TV and James Franco is taking on books. And I live on the moon and moon rocks live on my couch!

I’m waiting for a quiet, sad moment to read this New Yorker piece about David Foster Wallace and his unfinished novel.

[Wallace’s] goal had been to show readers how to live a fulfilled, meaningful life. “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being,” he once said. Good writing should help readers to “become less alone inside.”

Garrison Keillor learns a lesson from an unread writer.

And thanks to Edward Upward, I have decided not to take a sabbatical after all. You go off to the woods for a year and it puts you under terrible pressure to write “Moby Dick” or something worthy of having had an entire year in which to write, and the longer you work at this masterpiece the shabbier it looks, the whale turns into a guppy, and at the end of the year you have torn up almost everything you wrote and you are filled with self-loathing and bitter regret.

I’m just happy more good looking people seem to be choosing the literary profession over acting, modeling, or working at Hooters. Makes readings feel more like the talent portion of a beauty contest. Vive les letters!

Brooklyn hipster imitation is the highest form of flattery

I wanted to be supportive. I really did. The poster’s kind of cool, even if the women depicted look too scrawny and too bangly and too fashionable to compete with the likes of us. They’re also in the Break Arm Position.

Hipster arm wrestling poster

But then I visited the Classy Ladies Arm Wrestling Society (CLAWS) Myspace page and the more I examined it, the more icky I felt. CLAWS was founded by three 21-year-old Brooklyn artists and DJs who are into 1) bike ridin’, 2) whiskey drinkin’, and 3) taking publicity photos of themselves in cute outfits. Okay, we’re into all that same stuff, but at least we’re not writing excruciating copy and questionnaires like this:

Have you ever found yourself clearing off a barroom table, staring down your best friend, hands locked, nail polish chipped … a frenzy of dudes gathering around you…when the jukebox and everything you’ve ever accomplished (graduate school, solo art show, your band’s European tour) is drowned out by the sheer necessity of this moment…of your moment…when it all just comes down to arm wrestling?

Calling all classy ladies with a penchant for arm wrestling and whiskey drinking…Fill out this survey and send it in. [. . .]

1. Name
2. Nickname
3. Age
3. Locale
4. Birthplace
5. Which female celebrity would you most want to arm wrestle?
6. Which fictional character?
7. What’s your favorite ‘would you rather’ question?
8. Theme song in movie of your life at two moments, (both while walking down crowded nyc street)…1. you’re exalted, in LOVE, it’s a scorching summer day 2. you’re exalted, in LOVE, but it’s a grey winter day
9. Last but not least, why do you love to arm wrestle?

I wonder if I could make it onto the CLAWS roster with a few white lies. I dream of wrestling the fictional Madeleine, as played by Chantal Goya in Jean Luc Godard’s 1966 Nouvelle Vague film Masculin, feminin, while surrounded by a frenzy of dudes in bands who are still boozy from the night before. I dream of walking down Flatbush Avenue on a scorching summer day with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a fistful of MIA’s ass in the other to the tune of “Under My Thumb” by the Stones. And I would rather contrive to arm wrestle away my existential hangover than admit that I am ripping off the nice girls of Central Virginia.

This has all been an antagonistic preface to the following challenge: Brooklyn hipsters, we will rip your skinny arms off! We will shatter your bangles! We will mock your DJ careers! And then we will declare ourselves the original Lady Arm Wrestlers!

But all in fun, of course. There’s room for every patient in the wrestling fever ward.

Review of “Doubt: A Parable” from One Star Watt’s resident theater expert

This week’s C-Ville features my review of Doubt: A Parable, a play by John Patrick Shanley showing at Live Arts through October 11. The editors had difficulty reining me in so I did not focus my review on either the guava/vodka cocktails being served at the Live Arts concession stand or on the historical fact that Shanley also wrote the screenplay to Joe Versus the Volcano. If I had my way, the review would have been 20% Joe Versus the Volcano, 30% guava/vodka cocktails, 10% how good the play was, and 40% my byline. So way to go, editors.

From an earlier draft, my ode to opening night at Live Arts:

“What does it mean that Live Arts “forges community and theater”? For this reviewer attending the opening night of Doubt: A Parable by playwright John Patrick Shanley, it means that Live Arts’ artistic director [the dashing John Gibson!] personally reminds the audience to turn off its cell phones before curtain. It means that as the lights dim, people in the front row whisper about who they know in the production. It means that members of the lead actor’s Crozet Presbyterian congregation bought their tickets in order to get a better sense of their pastor’s extracurricular activities. And it means that after the play the whole crowd stays on to enjoy champagne [a nice complement to the guava/vodka cocktails] and pastries [yes, okay, yes] courtesy of Albemarle Baking Company and a couple local arts patrons. So that’s the community part of the forging. The theater part is first-class entertainment.”

Trying to recreate the turtle/toad/spider meme magic

Thanks to cVillain’s recent link, my blog has seen a 500% spike in traffic. It’s clear that I need to capitalize on this unforeseen fame by following up the turtle/toad/spider picture with something equally awesome. I don’t want to alienate my new fans who enjoyed the cute-tower-of-baby-creatures formula. That formula kicks ass. Why fix something that’s not broken? Therefore I give you the sequels to my triumphant turtle/toad/spider photograph (click on the thumbnails for the larger images):

Pig on Frog on Big Boy

 Pig on Frog on Big Boy

I actually saved these losers from drowning in a bubble bath.


 Pig on Monkey on Chick

Pig on Monkey* on Chick

These doofuses were riding on a skateboard about to go over a cliff, so I rescued them.

*The monkey has not yet mounted the chick, but he is planning to after I wind him up. 


Finally, my chef d’oeuvre:

 Baby on Shark on Creche

Baby on Shark on Nativity Scene

These guys were actually about to perish in a chemical explosion, but I pulled them to safety just in time. The shark has PTSD but is otherwise okay.

Moonlighting at the VQR

Here are a few posts I’ve done recently for the Virginia Quarterly Review blog:

1. Can I Get That Matisse in an Extra-Large


2. Where the Women Carry Fish on Their Heads

And I’m not being biased when I say that the Virginia Quarterly Review has the best blog in the world.

You know I’m reluctant to post about my personal life. . .

But I just discovered that my rival blogger (btw, Nate, you’re my rival blogger) posted about the wedding reception we both attended on Saturday night in Richmond. Nate already gets more web traffic than I do, so I don’t think he should have an exclusive on the party. Then again, he was a better-behaved guest:

  • Nate and I both changed our clothes halfway through the reception. I changed from an uncomfortable skirt and sweaty top into skinny jeans. Nate changed into an Elvis costume and serenaded the bride and groom. Guest advantage – Nate.
  • Nate and I both have websites. His website features pictures of naked hipster girls (nsf), which wrangles him invitations to the AVN Awards Show in Las Vegas. My website features book news, which once wrangled me an invitation to the Authors’ Reception on Carr’s Hill. Guest advantage – Nate.
  • Nate is actually a sweet guy behind his sleazy Elvis facade. I am actually a sleazy Elvis behind my sweet girl facade. Guest advantage – me.
  • Outside the reception, Nate and I saw a man simultaneously driving a minivan and shaving with a disposable razor. He had a towel, shaving cream, and by the time he was done, the cheeks of a pre-pubescent boy. Guest advantage – both of us.
  • Because we have quite a few mutual friends, Nate knows dirty secrets about my past. At the reception I drank enough to blurt dirty secrets about my past to anyone who would listen. Guest advantage – my dirty past. (My dirty past is now grounded and no longer accepting party invitations.)

But the party was not about me [Onestarwatt! Huzzah!] and Nate [Driven by Boredom. Boobs. 🙁 ]. The party was about Jamie and Laurie. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have blogs of their own. Newlywed suckaz!

Another short and sweet post about arm wrestling

I give you the best multimedia feature about arm wrestling the Daily Progress has ever done.