Get Your Freedom On

freedom1

I am here today to tell you about two pieces of software that, combined, might just be saving my life right now. Hyperbole? Not even. I’m deadly serious.

The first is called Freedom and I’m afraid it’s for Mac users only, though there may be a PC equivalent. What Freedom does is block your access to the internet for the amount of time that you specify. It’s that simple. Free yourself from your internet addiction! Ditch the distractions! Write without checking your email every five minutes! Get your Freedom on! Download it here!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had the self-control to limit our own internet use, without the need for a technological intervention? Sure — but when every coffee shop in the metro area seems to have free wireless, to do that you’d need the will power of a superman. I don’t know about you, but that just ain’t me. I’ll take the help, thanks.

Freedom is also, um, free. But please consider making a donation if you use it and like it. In the immortal words of George Michael: You’ve got to give for what you take.

The second piece of software that is rocking my world right now… Continue reading Get Your Freedom On

Just Check Your Future Memory Online

So there’s this great website called Wordle that makes wordclouds out of websites. Here’s mine:

justcheckfuturememory1

False Memories

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine “…are closing in on the exact procedures for creating false memories in individuals in a wide variety of circumstances”

Scary! But fascinating! Read more here.

Update: Of course this idea is already at play in popular culture — hello, Dollhouse! Check out this excellent blog post about why this series is and yet isn’t and yet is worth watching.

I Love Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s true, I do. Check this talk out — she has some great wisdom to share.

I tried to embed the video and once again, failed. It’s not me, it’s WordPress…honest. Anyhoo, follow the link. It’s worth it.

Do Modern Memoirists Dream of Electric Memories?

Back in December ‘08 I visited an exhibition staged by the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. This is when all the ITP students showcase their work. My NYS (New York Sister), Amanda Bernsohn, is a student in the program. Just for background, the ITP website describes the course as “a living community of technologists, theorists, engineers, designers, and artists uniquely dedicated to pushing the boundaries of interactivity in the real and digital worlds.”

To which I can only say: Yay! Looking at all the exhibits was like walking around inside a bunch of intelligent, creative minds. Now, I’m not an overly technical person, so much of the programming part of what these people were doing was totally beyond me, but what I found so fascinating was that they were all making interesting connections. Taking a concept from one area of thought and applying it somewhere else. Twisting ideas around to get new, more interesting ideas. And, along the way, quite possibly coming up with products that will be part of our daily lives in the near future.

Take Amanda’s project for example: Urban Windchimes. It’s so awesome. Check out the website for more info, but the basic concept is that, in our urban environments, people don’t always want to listen to other people’s windchimes. With this invention, you can place a wind sensor on your window ledge or fire escape and pay the chimes through your computer. There’s the possibility of placing sensors all over the world — ever wanted to listen to the wind on Mount Fiji? Or in the Bahamas? How cool would that be?

Then there were a few projects that were dealing, in one way or another, with memory. And this got me thinking about the connection between memory and technology, and how the digital revolution means we might well remember things differently in the future. This, in turn, has some pretty interesting consequences for future memoirists.

Continue reading Do Modern Memoirists Dream of Electric Memories?

For the Love of Blog

I have come to a realization: in order to be a successful blogger, you have to blog for the love of blog. Doing it as a professional development exercise doesn’t work. Guilting yourself into it out of loyalty to your readers (Hi Alison!) doesn’t work. You have to find rewards in the process itself. It’s like writing that way. Perhaps this is obvious to some people — it only took me, um, six months to get there. This is hard won wisdom, guys!

This realization reminds me of when I started online dating. My first profile was so obviously reluctant, making it clear that I wasn’t comfortable with the process of putting myself out there, that I got very few responses. Then I figured it out, revamped my self presentation, and met my husband. Again, basic writing lessons apply: in order to make it as a freelance writer, you have to match your content and voice to the task at hand. Ecce signum.

The Tubes

That’s where the publishing industry is going, apparently. As in, down. Way, way down. Deep into them there tubes.

Massive lay-off and some resignations, and entire trade divisions being wiped out. As gloomy as this might seem — especially for young writers, signing up for MFA programs and laboring over yet-to-be-sold first books — you can be sure of one thing: The human need for story will never diminish. How people buy and consume those stories, though, is likely to change, perhaps beyond recognition. This metamorphosis is going to be painful (what metamorphosis isn’t?) but whatever emerges might well be stronger, more efficient and actually better for writers.

In the meantime, information is power, people! KNOW what you are getting into. Be informed. To that end, here’s a helpful links round up. All hail the death of book publishing as we know it!

Read Galley Cat for breaking news. In particular here, here and here.

Things are not much better in the UK, in case you were wondering.

The Times weighs in, with some good common sense, about what new technologies mean for the demise — or not — of the book.

Booksquare has their own, ballsy take on the situation.

Then, if you really want to shock yourself, read this:

Continue reading The Tubes

Bloggers as Literary King-Makers

Adam Kirsch, writing in Poetry, about the writer Keith Gessen:

The author had claimed recognition, the critics wanted to deny it—it was as simple and passionate as that. Inadvertently, they had exposed literature for what at bottom it really is—a power struggle.

It’s a thoughtful article. Check it out here to read more. And here, on the VQR’s blog, is Jacob Silverman’s response.

You could draw all kind of conclusions from these two mini-essays, but the thing I’m thinking about is: blog — friend or foe to the serious writer? There are quite a few well-respected, high-profile writers who blog. I’m thinking of Jennifer Weiner. And Mark Sarvas, And…um…yeah, I know, I said “quite a few” and “well-respected” and “high-profile”…um…hang on, there must be more…er…

Anyone have any suggestions?

And while the two I have referenced happen to have blogs I actually like, I’m searching here. Obviously the truly high-profile — your Philip Roths and your Maya Angelous — are way too busy, you know, creating art to blog up a storm, which brings me back to my original question now restated as: is blogging good for writers or an evil time suck and distraction from the real work. Opinions, please.

The Dept. of Cross Cultural Misunderstandings

Salman's Prize

Salman's Prize (pic. care of UnBeige)

So Salman Rushdie was recently honored at the Moth Ball (a fundraising event for the popular and acclaimed storytelling forum). He got a designer statuette! There it is, above. Awesome. It’s a peace sign. Only, in my homeland, if you turn that thing around, it means something very different. No, not victory, my sweet, innocent American readers. It means F*#K OFF. He. He he he he.

Yes — I am more amused by that than I probably should be.

I'm Back!

And so is Joan!

I have actually been back for a week and a few days already but have been milking my blogging break and thinking about how I’m going to continue with my blogging adventures. I suspect there is a blogging mentality that I have yet to fully embrace. A blogging voice, somewhere deep within me that I haven’t yet found. About five times a day I come across some snippet of information, or have a random semi-interesting thought, and think: I should blog about that. And yet, no posts. Clearly this isn’t how it is supposed to work. I mean, isn’t the whole point of a blog that you don’t self censor at all? Isn’t this the medium for randomness, half-formed-ness, and personal over shares?

I think I’m having a full-blown blogging identity crisis. Mama!

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment, in which I just can’t decide what to have for breakfast. Hmmm. Maybe I can write a blog after all.